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9 people arrested, $35M in assets seized in organized crime investigation

Last Updated Jul 18, 2019 at 12:50 pm EDT

Nine members of a suspected organized crime family are under arrest and more than $35-million in cash, cars and homes have been seized as part of an 18-month investigation into illegal gaming in York Region.

Police say they noticed a spike in violent crime in the Vaughan area in 2017 – including attempted murders, arsons and drive-by shootings.

They then began investigating the Figliomeni organized crime group in early 2018, focusing on money laundering, loan sharking and illegal gaming.

On July 12, with the assistance of eight local police organizations in Ontario, approximately 500 officers and the RCMP, Project Sindacato resulted in the arrest of 15 people including nine members of the ‘Ndrangheta crime organization under the direction of Angelo Figliomeni in Canada.

Officials say with the help of the Italian State Police, 12 other individuals were arrested in Calabria, Italy.

“These arrests signify the fall of power for the most significant ‘Ndrangheta crime family operating in York Region,” said Chief Eric Jolliffe in what is considered to be one of the largest organized crime busts in Ontario history.

The other members charged along with Figliomeni have been identified as Emilio Zannuti, Vito Sili, Erica Quintal, Salvatore Oliveti, Nicola Martino, Giuseppe Ciurleo, Rafael Lepore and Francesco Vitucci. An arrest warrant has been issued for a 10th member, Giacomo Cassano.

Some of the charges expected to be laid are tax evasion, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Canadian government, participating in an organized crime group and various firearm offences.

Among the items seized by police in raids on 43 mafia-owned locations across the GTA are 27 mafia-owned houses, 11 gaming houses, 23 high-end luxury vehicles and roughly $1-million in cash.

“This stands as a message to international organized crime, we as police can work together just as they can within their own groups internationally,” said Det. Sgt. Carl Mattinen. “Cutting the source of income from this group has a far deeper impact on their future than individual arrests for individual crimes.”

Mattinen added that this approach when targeting organized crime is much more effective when it comes to successful prosecution.

“A victim has to be able to testify and to testify there is a lot of fear with this group. The way we approached the investigation was to go for the foundation which allows them to exist – not the individual crimes. Forensic accounting is not afraid. Math is not afraid. Documentary evidence is not afraid. We can tender that in court with no worry of recant.”

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