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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Massive Montreal mafia drug case thrown out

A lengthy investigation into drug-trafficking networks alleged to be related to the Montreal Mafia came to a screeching halt on Monday as the last 11 men charged in Project Clemenza saw a stay of proceedings placed on the drug-smuggling charges filed against them only last year.
Included among the men who essentially saw their cases tossed out at the Montreal courthouse was Marco Pizzi, 47, a Montreal resident alleged to be an influential figure in the Montreal Mafia who was the target of an attempted murder last year. Another man who walked away free and clear of drug-smuggling and conspiracy charges was Antonio Ciavaglia 58, a Kirkland businessman who used to own a cargo company based in LaSalle. Franco Albanese, 50, another resident of Kirkland, saw a stay of proceedings placed on the four charges he faced.
Quebec Court Judge Flavia Longo agreed with the Crown’s request during a very brief hearing at the Montreal courthouse. All 11 of the men had been released on bail shortly after they were charged in May last year.
Besides having been charged with drug smuggling in Project Clemenza, police have alleged in the past that Pizzi was involved in drug trafficking in eastern Montreal. A conflict between members of a street gang and drug dealers with alleged ties to Pizzi is believed to have been what was behind an attempt on his life last summer. On Aug. 1, a car Pizzi was driving was rammed from behind by another vehicle. Two armed men got out of the vehicle, but Pizzi managed to run to safety before any shots were fired. Kevin Rochebrun, 27, an alleged street gang member, was arrested a week after the incident and was charged with assaulting Pizzi. On May 17, Rochebrun pleaded guilty to possessing firearms seized when he was arrested, but a stay of proceedings was placed on the assault charge. He was sentenced to an overall prison term of five years on the same day he entered the guilty plea.
Prosecutor Marie-Michelle Meloche told the Montreal Gazette that the decision to request the stay of proceedings in Project Clemenza on Monday was based on complicated demands from the defence involving the disclosure of all evidence gathered by the RCMP during the investigation. She said the Crown would not have been able to satisfy the requests made by the defence within a delay allowable by the courts. The drug-trafficking probe began more than six years ago, but arrests in the third and final stage of Project Clemenza were delayed until last year. The RCMP had to set aside the investigation temporarily because, while it was underway, investigators realized they had evidence of who was behind the murder of Salvatore Montagna, a Mafia leader who was killed in November 2011.
The main indictment filed in Project Clemenza last year illustrates how the investigation into cocaine smuggling intersected with the investigation into Montagna’s murder.
A conspiracy charge filed in the indictment alleges at least 26 people were involved in a conspiracy to import cocaine into Canada from Feb. 18 to Dec. 21, 2011. Included among the non-indicted alleged co-conspirators were Vittorio Mirarchi, Steven Fracas and Pietro Magistrale. All three men pleaded guilty last year to being part of the conspiracy to murder Montagna and are scheduled to be sentenced in September. Messages intercepted during Clemenza revealed that Mirarchi was working in full partnership with Raynald Desjardins while they plotted to kill Montagna. Desjardins is serving a 14-year sentence for his leading role in the murder plot.
Evidence that was placed under a publication ban up until Monday also revealed that Antonio Guido, 41, of Ottawa (one of the 11 men who saw their drug-smuggling case come to an end at the Montreal courthouse on Monday) was spotted on Nov. 26, 2011, two days after Montagna was murdered, in the company of Jack Simpson, the man who is believed to have pulled the trigger in the slaying. Guido was observed accompanying Simpson to a house on Queensbury Drive in Ottawa, where Simpson hid until his arrest a short while later. Simpson is also awaiting his sentence for conspiring to murder Montagna.
Other people listed as non-indicted co-conspirators in the cocaine-smuggling plot were Giuseppe "Closure" Colapelle, who was murdered in St-Léonard on March 1, 2012, and Tonino Callocchia, who was killed on Dec. 1, 2014, in Rivière-des-Prairies. The alleged conspiracy to import cocaine stretched from Montreal to Vancouver in Canada and cities in four other countries including Colombia.
The investigators discovered information they had related to Montagna’s murder after sorting through the hundreds of pin-to-pin messages they were intercepting on a daily basis from Blackberrys used by alleged drug traffickers. The RCMP has refused to divulge the methods they used to intercept the encrypted messages. Meloche said on Monday the same issue was a factor involved in the decision to request the stay of proceedings on Monday.
Charges filed against 35 other people arrested in Project Clemenza were dropped in March as well. But those cases involved people who were arrested a few years ago and the Crown was facing the possibility the charges would have been dropped anyway because it had taken the Crown too long to bring the cases to a trial.



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