American Ndrangheta: Toronto's Siderno Mafia

Historic boss of Ndrangheta and a
Ndrine in Siderno, Antonio Macrì.

That the Ndrangheta's Siderno Group, composed of clans based in Calabria, Italy, is present in Canada is an established fact.

In 1971, while arresting Francesco Caccamo for possessing a loaded .25-caliber handgun and six phony $10 bills, police searched his home in Toronto and found tucked away in a kitchen cabinet a 27-page document written in an archaic Italian script that was titled Come Formare una Societa, or How to Form a Society. It was a guide on the formation of a Ndrangheta cell; it also included some of the group's rules and ceremonies.

Caccamo and wife Rosa were arrested. The court ruled that the documents, henceforth given the nickname The Caccamo Papers, were genuine. Also they were similar to only three others ever found in the entire world.




Siderno coat of arms.
Caccamo was a member of a clan that was part of the Siderno Group, an umbrella group of Ndrangheta families originating from Siderno, Calabria. The Siderno Group refers to a Ndrangheta group primarily based in Canada (including the U.S.), and Australia; members migrated to Toronto first, in the 1950s from Siderno, which is on Calabria's Ionian coast. The group also includes the Ndrangheta clans on the other side, based in Siderno.

The year the Caccamo Papers were discovered is significant; it has been reported that the Siderno Group was formed in the early 1970s, when members of the Ndrangheta, most notably the new boss of the Commisso clan in Siderno, Calabria, sensed the potential in drugs.

In a way the Siderno Group was formed in the 1970s, following the first Ndrangheta war, which was probably fought over the drug business. The earlier incarnation of the group, which arrived in the 1950s, apparently had nothing to do with drugs, but was rather focused on other traditional Mafia rackets.

(It's a little confusing working from poorly translated Italian information, but I'm trying to do my best with what I have.)

The Ndrangheta had a sort of civil war between the younger generations, who craved the swift path to money and power that drugs afforded, and older traditional members who resisted the drug trade.

According to an official document written by anti-Mafia prosecutors in Italy in 2011: “Once in charge, [the new boss] took over the direction of the illegal activities of the gang, made up of powerful relatives and friends of the Siderno Group of Crime, including one by his cousin, Rocco Remo Commisso, who initiated a continuous flow of cocaine trafficking to Toronto, using supply channels from Argentina,” the report says.

“As such, the families’ present in Canada began their climb to the top of the criminal world, turning themselves very slowly into the point group for those in Calabria interested in selling drugs." says the report.

Cosimo "The Quail" ("u quagghia") Commisso (born in Siderno, February 6, 1950), was given the reins by his father, Francesco Commisso (born in 1913), who had enjoyed prestige as the chief lieutenant to the historical Ndragheta boss of Siderno, Antonio Macrì. Francesco had been wounded in the attack on Macri and for some reason did not want the job, perhaps owing to his injuries.

Antonio Macrì (born in Siderno, 1902 – January 20, 1975), called "Zzi 'ntoni," was a charismatic boss of the Ndrangheta, and the capobastone (head of command) of the 'ndrine in his hometown. Macrì was one of the most powerful bosses belonging to the ‘old guard’. In Siderno he was well known as the true authority in his town.

Macrì held the position of capo crimine from the beginning of the 1960s until the outbreak of the first 'Ndrangheta war in 1975. Together with Domenico Mico Tripodo, the boss of the city of Reggio Calabria and Girolamo Mommo Piromalli, head of the most powerful 'ndrina on the Tyrrhenian coast, he formed a triumvirate recognized by all other family chiefs who were loyal to the trio. He also had close relations with the Sicilian Mafia, in particular with Michele Navarra, the capomafia of Corleone (and an actual physician!). In the 1950s, Navarra was banished by the Italian authorities to Gioiosa Marina in Calabria.

According to Italian research, Macrì also had connections in the United States ( New Jersey ) as well as with Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia.

Macrì opposed drug trafficking. Still, several clans from Platì, San Luca, and the Gioia Tauro plain engaged in the drug business. Apparently other clans grew increasingly interested in the business as well, which required them to break with the group's historic boss.

Macrì, as powerful as he was, could not prevent or punish what he considered violations of the traditional code, which must have exclude trafficking in drugs. Apparently, according to the group's bylaws, both the crimine and its charismatic leaders depended on the consensus and cooperation of the individual 'Ndrangheta families and relied on the good will of single family bosses to toe the line.

Reggio Calabria and southern Italy. Note Siderno on the right
toward the top.

Macrì also was not an innovator with a good business sense. Rather than expand into new rackets of a more entrepreneurial nature, he focused on the traditional Mafia loansharking and extortion schemes.

Still, Macrì made early moves that allowed for the formation of the Siderno Group in Toronto. He'd been a major player when it came to international expansion; he had his eyes in particular on Canada and Australia. He in fact initiated Michele (Mike) Racco into a local 'ndrina and sent him to Canada in the early 1950s to set up an organisation there. This led to the formation of the Siderno Group.

The formation of the Santa, a secret society within the 'Ndrangheta established in the early 1970s to maximize the power and invisibility of the most important bosses apparently led to what has been called the so-called first Ndrangheta war, in which some 300 lost their lives. It began with the murder of Macri, who for some reason opposed the formation of the Santa. On January 20, 1975, Macrì was executed in Siderno, most likely due to his opposition to drugs, and not the Santa; the interpretation of this war by the Italian authorities noted above is that it was a generational war fought over drugs.

At the same time, after the war, the Ndrangheta went full-steam ahead with drug trafficking.

It is ironic that Macri was the first one to see an opportunity in Toronto, as he had established the basis for the Siderno Group, which is basically now what's left of some of the world's premier drug traffickers.

And in a further ironic twist, in the end, Macri was murdered and then replaced by the young, dynamic Cosimo Commisso, who for a while became the boss of Siderno in Calabria, who himself remade the Siderno Group for drug trafficking purposes.


Terminology:

The ‘ndrina (plural: 'ndrine) is the basic unit of the 'Ndrangheta of Calabria, made up of blood relatives, and is the equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia’s "family" or cosca. Each 'ndrina is "autonomous on its territory and no formal authority stands above the 'ndrina boss." The 'ndrina is usually in control of a small town or a neighbourhood in larger cities, even outside Calabria, in cities and towns in the industrial North of Italy in and around Turin and Milan.

If more than one 'ndrina operates in the same town, they form a locale, the main local organizational unit of the 'Ndrangheta with jurisdiction over an entire town or an area in a large urban center.

Ranks:

At the bottom are the picciotti d’onore or soldiers. The next level is known as santista and higher still is the vangelista, upon which the up-and-coming gangster has to swear their dedication to a life of crime on the Bible. The quintino is the second highest level of command in a 'Ndrangheta clan; it consists of five privileged members of the family who report directly to the boss, the capobastone.

Far from being the "boss of the bosses" the capo crimine has comparatively little authority.

The historical preeminence of the San Luca family is such that every new group or locale must obtain its authorization to operate and every group belonging to the 'Ndrangheta "still has to deposit a small percentage of illicit proceeds to the principale of San Luca in recognition of the latter’s primordial supremacy."

Security concerns prompted the creation in the 'Ndrangheta of a secret society within the secret society: La Santa. Membership in the Santa is only known to other members.

Since the end of the Second 'Ndrangheta war in 1991, the 'Ndrangheta is ruled by a collegial body or Commission, known as La Provincia. Its primary function is the settlement of inter-family disputes. The body, also referred to as the Commission in reference to its Sicilian counterpart, is composed of three lower bodies, known as mandamenti. There is one each for clans on the Ionic side of Calabria, on the Tyrrhenian side and one central mandamento for the city of Reggio Calabria.

See copies of actual Ndrangheta code.

Next: With the recent attack on an heiress in France, it is believed the Ndrangheta is set on moving into the French Riviera.



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