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Friday, May 13, 2016

Mafia bust in Montreal targets cocaine smuggling ring

For the second time in less than six months, police in Montreal have struck hard at the leadership of the Mafia in the city in yet another investigation that targeted one of its alleged leaders.
Liborio "Pancho" Cuntrera, 47, was in Italy early Wednesday morning when members of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit set out to make arrests in the third and final phase of Project Clemenza. The RCMP-led investigation had to be put on hold in 2011 because the Mounties uncovered evidence in the murder of Salvatore Montagna, a New York-based mob boss who tried to wrest control of the Mafia in Montreal from the Rizzuto organization. Montagna was murdered in a town just east of Montreal, on Nov. 24, 2011, after a coalition he tried to organize fell apart.
An RCMP spokesperson told reporters that 15 people were targeted in Wednesday’s operation and that the investigation probed drug smuggling and drug trafficking. 
The four indictments that were filed reveal Project Clemenza targeted a group that was loyal to the Rizzuto organization and another group, formally led by Giuseppe "Ponytail" De Vito who died of cyanide poisoning in a federal penitentiary in 2013, who opposed the Rizzutos.
Cuntrera has long been described by police sources as a potential young leader in the Rizzuto organization. His father, Agostino, remained loyal to the Rizzuto organization when it was attacked in 2010 and 2011. That loyalty is widely believed to have cost the elder Cuntrera his life. He was shot, in June 2010, outside the business he ran in St-Léonard.
Last year, LCN, the French-language news cable station, aired a series of reports alleging that Liborio Cuntrera was part of a six-member committee that had assumed control of the Mafia in Montreal after Vito Rizzuto — a man who had maintained control over the Mafia in this city for three decades — died of natural causes in December 2013. LCN also reported that Rizzuto’s son Leonardo, 46, and Stefano Sollecito, 48, were part of that committee. The younger Rizzuto and Sollecito were arrested in November in a drug trafficking investigation led by the Sûreté du Québec. At a press conference following the November arrests the SQ alleged both men were leaders in the Mafia.
According to sources familiar with Wednesday’s operation, Cuntrera had been vacationing in Italy for a while and made contact with the RCMP on Wednesday. One source said Cuntrera has agreed to turn himself in to the RCMP when he returns to Canada. The RCMP arrested 13 of 15 people Wednesday. One is still being sought and Cuntrera is in Italy.

Charges reflect a lengthy delay

The charges filed against the 47-year-old Laval resident on Wednesday reflect the lengthy delay the RCMP had to deal with in Project Clemenza. One charge alleges he trafficked in cocaine on May 17, 2011. Another two allege that he and Marco Pizzi, 46, of Montreal North, trafficked in cocaine and conspired to do the same between Sept. 28 and Oct. 6, 2011.
A different indictment appears to involve some of the people who sided with De Vito in the failed attempt to overtake the Rizzuto organization. Giuseppe "Closure" Colapelle, 38, a man who was killed in 2012, is named as a non-indicted co-conspirator in the indictment as is Alessandro Succapane, a man who was revealed to be a close associate of De Vito’s during a previous RCMP investigation.
Ten people named in that indictment are alleged to have been part of a conspiracy to import and traffic in cocaine between Feb. 18 and Dec. 21, 2011.
“The network imported cocaine through the United States and used its contacts in the commercial ground transport industry,” RCMP spokesperson Corporal Camille Habel said Wednesday. “The investigation demonstrated that this (network) transported large quantities of cocaine. The American and Canadian authorities have seized more than 220 kilos of cocaine and placed their hands on (more than $2 million).”
One man alleged to be part of the group of 10 named in the indictment is Martino Caputo, a 42-year-old man who is currently serving a 12-year prison term in Kingston, Ont. for his role in a cocaine smuggling conspiracy to bring tons of the narcotic into Canada. Caputo also faces charges in Ontario related to a murder carried out in that province back in 2012.
Only a dozen of the people named in the four indictments appeared before a judge at the Montreal courthouse on Wednesday. Federal prosecutor Marc Cigana said the Crown objected to seven of them being released without first having a bail hearing. Below are descriptions of a few of the seven who remain detained:
• Erasmo Crivello, 36, a drug trafficker with known ties to the Rizzuto organization. In February 2004, Crivello was sentenced to a three-year prison term for holding three people against their will and aggravated assault. According to decisions made by the Parole Board of Canada, Crivello hired a group of men to collect $60,000 that he believed was stolen from him. Three men were held against their will and beaten while Crivello watched and gave orders. One of the victims suffered injuries that required surgery.
Hansley Lee Joseph in 2007.
Hansley Lee Joseph in 2007
• Hansley Joseph, 36, a well-known member of a Montreal street gang who received a two-year prison term for his role in a drug trafficking network that operated in northern Montreal. The case brought against Joseph and about two dozen other men in 2005 was significant because it represented one of the first times in Canada that gangsterism charges were laid against street gang members. According to a court decision made in the case in 2007, Joseph was part of a group known as the “Dope Squad” and frequently supplied cocaine to a group of drug dealers who terrorized Pelletier Ave. a street north of Henri Bourassa Blvd. in Montreal North.
• Frank Iaconetti, 48, has served time for a previous conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into Canada. In 1999, he pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ‎to being part of a conspiracy to distribute the narcotic. According to court documents filed in that case, on March 15, 1998 Iaconetti brought $250,000 in cash to undercover agents for what was supposed to be a down payment for 100 kilograms of cocaine destined for Canada. When he was sentenced in 1999, a judge was told there was very little evidence that Iaconetti knew much about the actual drug transaction. At the time, Iaconetti said he agreed to deliver the money to cover debts he accumulated because of a serious addiction to gambling that also prompted him to request that he be banned from the Montreal casino.

http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/organized-crime-bust-montreal-mafia

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