Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cash-carrying shoplifter sparks police interest

A mysterious man linked to an alleged Mafia boss based in Toronto and who has been jailed because of a shoplifting case in Montreal has organized crime investigators in both cities intrigued.
Nicola Cortese, 46, was sentenced yesterday at the Montreal courthouse to a seven-month prison term for relatively minor offences related to his bizarre arrest on Nov. 13, when he attempted to shoplift items from a Canadian Tire store in the St. Laurent borough. Cortese tried to steal a handgun holster, an ammunition pouch for 12-gauge shotgun shells, a black balaclava and another item. Despite having more than $3,000 in $100 bills on him, Cortese purchased only a flashlight while the other items were hidden in his clothes. He put up a fight when one store employee approached him and it took three others to subdue him.
When the police arrived to arrest Cortese, he claimed to be a unilingual Italian speaker named Vincenzo Sestito. But a fingerprint check revealed his true identity, including the fact he is wanted in Ontario in connection with the second-largest marijuana grow-operation bust in that province's history as well as an $8-million fraud involving fraudulent mortgages and loans.
More intriguing to organized crime investigators in Montreal is that Cortese is the cousin and former business partner of Vincenzo DeMaria, a man who is alleged by Italian authorities to be a mob leader with a seat on a board that controls the Ontario clans of the 'Ndrangheta, the proper name of the Calabrian Mafia.
The same group has clashed with the Rizzuto crime family, whose members are mostly of Sicilian origin, in the past. A story last month in the National Post quoted an unnamed police source who said that following his arrest, Cortese was asked questions about the death of Nicolo Rizzuto, the octogenarian patriarch of the family who was fatally shot in his Montreal home Nov. 10. Police sources interviewed by The Gazette have said while Cortese's presence in Montreal is intriguing, there is no evidence to link him to Rizzuto's murder.
DeMaria is serving a life sentence for killing a man in 1981. He was released in 1992 but his parole was suspended in April 2009 when allegations surfaced that he had associated with known members of the Calabrian mob in Toronto.
According to a National Parole Board summary of a decision made in October 2009, DeMaria had been returned behind bars in part due to information held by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit intelligence, a grouping of police investigators who probe organized crime. A CFSEU report filed to the parole board in June 2009 stated "the police are in possession of confidential information indicating that (De-Maria is) a member of the 'Ndrangheta criminal group, that you hold a position on the Board of Control for this organization, that you were an accomplice in the 2000 murder of Gaetano Panepinto, that you assisted Nick Cortese to flee Ontario while he was subject to an outstanding arrest warrant, (and) that you are involved in illegal drug trafficking activities."
At the time of his murder, police in both provinces considered Panepinto to be a key player in the Rizzuto organization's plans for expansion into Ontario.
The parole board decided to release DeMaria because it found the police information to be "not reliable or persuasive. Many of the allegations are not factually substantiated and are vague in nature."
However, the parole board did question DeMaria's credibility over claims of having "no direct knowledge" of organized crime in Toronto.
Cortese is expected to be returned to Ontario, where he still faces charges in the $15-million marijuana bust and the fraud case.


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