‘Ndrangheta Governing Body in Greater Toronto Area: Latest Developments

By Andrew Machin
"The ‘Ndrangheta is made like an octopus. The octopus has the head and tentacles. Today the head in Calabria can be [economically] stronger…. and tomorrow the tentacles may be stronger…"
--Rocco Varacalli, government witness, ex-full member of a ‘Ndrangheta Locale of Torino (Turin), dependent of the mother-Locale of Natile di Careri, Nov. 2012.

Giuseppe "The Master" Commisso
Giuseppe "The Master" Commisso

The following in-depth analysis of the ‘Ndrangheta in the Greater Toronto Area was written by guest columnist Andrew Machin; to see Andrew's previous story on this same topic, please visit Gangsters Inc's: ‘Ndrangheta in Greater Toronto Area hit but still too powerful – “There are 9 (Mafia clans) of us”

The latest Italian police operations against the mother-Locale of Siderno, Project Canadian ‘Ndrangheta Connection 1 and 2 (Jul. and Aug. 2019), has brought forth many results and has led to knowledge concerning the latest organizational developments registered in the ‘Ndrangheta of Siderno in GTA, its most important "projection", as the Italian magistrates call it, outside the borders of Calabria.

Before these latest findings, the panorama of ‘Ndrangheta in GTA had been described by myself in a previous article in which I highlighted two important circumstances that are believed to have contributed to breaking the balance between the Locali (crime families belonging to the ‘Ndrangheta; Locale, in the singular) that make it up.

These circumstances stated were as follows:

① the murder of Carmine Verduci (Apr. 2014), probably top rank of the Toronto’s Locale dependent on the mother-Locale of Marina di Gioiosa Jonica, based on some wiretaps collected by Italian magistrates (Project Acero-Krupy), as part of an all-internal clash with at least one other Locale, that of the Figliomenis, dependent on the mother-Locale od Siderno; contrasts that had degenerated probably due to the absence of the supreme bosses of the three mother-Locali of Siderno, Gioiosa Jonica and Marina di Gioiosa Jonica (respectively Giuseppe “The Master” Commisso, Antonio Ursino and Rocco Aquino), all of whom were imprisoned, and therefore in the material impossibility of activating the typical mediation mechanisms of the disputes that serve precisely to avoid bloodsheds among the full members of the ‘Ndrangheta;

② The Project Ophenix (Jun. 2015), which had led to the arrest and subsequent conviction of Giuseppe “Pino” Ursino, brother of Antonio, supreme boss of the mother-Locale of Gioiosa Jonica; it’s an important fact to remember since it was mentioned several times in the acts of another Italian Project called Morsa sugli appalti (Vise on contracts), the harsh reproach by Giuseppe “The Master” Commisso in person to Antonio Ursino for granting a higher rank of ‘Ndrangheta to his brother Giuseppe “Pino”, resident in “America” (to intend Canada), which was against the rules, not having informed in advance the bosses of the other Locali and in particular Rocco Aquino and Antonio Coluccio, top bosses of the neighboring mother-Locale of Marina di Gioiosa Jonica (“the brother came and he [Antonio Ursino] gave him another thing [rank of ‘Ndrangheta] without saying anything”, said “The Master” to another associate; note that, in the same intercepted conversation, dated Feb. 20, 2010, “The Master” said that “in America… they [the men of ‘Ndrangheta from Gioiosa Jonica] stay under the Sidernesi [the men from Siderno]…”, certifying the subjection in Toronto and that he too had to know about the new rank granted to Giuseppe “Pino” Ursino because, he had said to Antonio Ursino, “… there are my paesani there…”).

In the aftermath of the Project Ophenix, it can therefore be said that probably all the main Locali not dependent on the mother-Locale of Siderno had suffered serious damage and that, instead, the Locali dependent on the mother-Locale of Siderno were still practically intact, apart from the less significant loss of at least one element (we refer to the arrest and deportation to Italy, in March 2018, of Tito Figliomeni, cl. 1969, cousin of Angelo and Cosimo Figliomeni).

In this context, there would have been a fundamental evolution.

The Locali dependent on the mother-Locale of Siderno, having the majority, would seem to have decreed the dissolution of the Camera di Controllo (Board of Control) of the ‘Ndrangheta of Toronto, as it was historically composed and organized, by replacing it with a Crimine of Siderno, reserved only for the them.

Read in other terms, it was a sort of expulsion, motivated by the fact that the other Locali (as already emphasized, historically in subjection) were no longer reliable. A split, accelerated, in recent years, due to an extraordinary economic strength acquired by at least one or more Locali dependent on the mother-Locale of Siderno (even within the ‘Ndrangheta, a lot of money corresponds to a lot of power).

This development can be deduced from the two Italian Projects mentioned above that literally mention a “Crimine di Siderno” (“Crime of Siderno”) in GTA, (we repeat, “of Siderno”, thus not open to Locali from other Calabrian towns), governed by a body composed of four apical subjects: “COMMISSO Francesco, alias “u scelto”, fugitive in Canada in relation to the Projects “La falsa politica” and “Acero Krupy Connection”; FIGLIOMENI Cosimo, mentioned above [recipient of an arrest warrant issued in relation to the Project Canadian ‘Ndrangheta Connection 2 and already fugitive in Canada in relation to the Project Acero-Krupi-Connection], COMMISSO Rocco Remo, mentioned above [recipient of an arrest warrant issued in relation to the Project Canadian ‘Ndrangheta Connection 2] and a subject named Filippo, not better identified.”

Reading the three known surnames, it’s well understood how, in this new governing body, the lion's share is played by two blood families:

① The Commisso family, by virtue of its long criminal tradition in GTA, as well as the direct kinship with those Commissos who, for decades, are the supreme bosses of the mother-Locale of Siderno;

② The Figliomeni family, by virtue of the extraordinarily quick money it had been able to make on Canadian soil, as well as its “honorable” criminal tradition (keep in mind that Vincenzo Figliomeni, cl. 1937, called the “Brigand”, father of the brothers Angelo and Cosimo Figliomeni, was murdered on Nov. 19, 1988, based on recent reconstructions of the magistrates, by a Costa family member, during a bloody internal feud in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, between the Costa crime family and the most powerful Commisso crime family of which Vincenzo was a main strength).

Vincenzo Figliomeni
Vincenzo Figliomeni

A split, we said, proven by an episode found in the investigative documents of the same Projects.

In fact, in them, it's clearly reported a "lack", that is, in the language of the 'Ndrangheta, a slight fault, but still a fault “… followed by an oral reprimand against COMMISSO Francesco, alias “Ciccio di Grazia”, an important player of the Commisso clan, fugitive in Canada (Project Acero-Krupi-Connection”), to whom is complained by being too close, in that territory, to other ‘Ndrangheta clans, distinct from the Locale of Siderno.”

A precise order had therefore been issued, it can be assumed, according to which the full members of the 'Ndrangheta from Siderno in GTA had to minimize relationships with men of ‘Ndrangheta dependent from other mother-Locali.

And perhaps, it was not, and isn’t, only a question of reliability. Perhaps this decision would also be justified by another fact which, if confirmed, would be sensational. There could be needs of so much and strict confidentiality, connected to the growth, up to perhaps the highest ranks, of one or more residents in Toronto within the same mother-Locale of Siderno. An unprecedented fact, justified by the absence in Calabria of prominent elements in state of freedom, after the arrest not only of “The Master”, but also of two other subjects of the caliber of Riccardo Rumbo (cl. 1962) and Antonio Galea (cl. 1962), and, at the same time, by the extraordinary enrichment that some blood families belonging to the ‘Ndrangheta in GTA are enjoying.

Criminal skills and wealth that the following few subjects, when temporarily released after their arrest following previous investigations and convictions, didn’t have.

In reference to:
① Carmelo Muià (cl. 1972), faithful "lieutenant" (so described by the Italian magistrates) of Giuseppe “The Master” COMMISSO; Carmelo Muià was the boss of a ‘Ndrina (sub-unit of the biggest Locali; ‘Ndrine, in the plural) of Siderno, but, evidently, out of requirements to be the supreme boss;

② Santo Rumbo (cl. 1989), arrested for the last time in Aug. 2019 in Luxembourg (confirming spaces of action on international scale) and son of Riccardo Rumbo, currently detained under 41-bis regime (the so called “tough detention”), considered a top rank of the mother-Locale of Siderno;

but, especially, Cosimo Commisso (cl. 1950), the “boss of two worlds”, as he was once called, precisely for the ramifications of the Locale of Siderno in Canada (he is cousin of Rocco Remo Commisso), the previous supreme boss before “The Master”, his other cousin; however, 26 years of continuous stay in prison and, from 2015, under house arrest (to note that, in Jan. 2020, the Italian Court of Cassation decreed the definitive fall of his conviction) had convinced him to move his residence, once released, from Calabria to Umbria region in Central Italy, where he will be arrested again, in December 2019, as main target of the Project called Core business; a Project that, the magistrates wrote “represents the natural continuation of the operation “Acero-Siderno Connection””, in particular about a variety of activities set up by Cosimo Commisso “linked to the preservation of the Crupi’s assets [in my previous article I highlighted the fundamental role played by the Crupi blood family in the large-scale cocaine trafficking directly on behalf of the Commissos] from probable ablative measures of the Judicial Authority; through him [RODÀ Antonio, “entrepreneurial contact in Umbria region of the CRUPI family”], the boss sent messages to other associates in Siderno, and identified soils in the Perugia area to be used as vineyards for the production of wine to be marketed in Canada through contiguous subjects to the COMMISSOS” (please note, once again, the ubiquitous ties with Canada).

It’s therefore possible that, in this historical phase, in Siderno, the upper ranks of the single ‘Ndrine are assigned, but not that of supreme boss of the mother-Locale, an assignment that most likely attends the release from prison of an element with the necessary criminal skills. Therefore, a substantial power vacuum that, in the meantime, may have gradually been filled, formally or not, by one or more Toronto-resident subjects even though they are physically thousands of miles away from Calabria (in a mother-Locale, there are several top positions in addition to the supreme one).

After all, it would not explain why, as the Italian magistrates reconstructed, Vincenzo Muià, to find the perpetrators in the murder of the aforementioned brother Carmelo (shot dead in Siderno on Jan. 18, 2018), after having carried out his own investigations in Siderno and a literalcall to arms” addressed to his entire ‘Ndrina, in April 2019, had gone to Canada for the sole purpose, as he himself stated, to meet with Angelo and Cosimo Figliomeni (“The Brigands”) to collect information so he could have unleash his revenge (“If I don’t know who killed him, how can I sleep peacefully? How can I sleep”?”, it’s possible to hear him say in a wiretap).

An initiative that turned out to be a serious misstep, as Det. Sgt. Carl Mattinen of York police underlined: “We happened to be live [with wiretaps] when they [he and his cousin, Giuseppe Gregoracci, died by suicide in prison on Jan. 22, 2020] traveled here”, despite the maniacal attention to evade wiretapping, not only within any enclosed space, but also outdoors: “Even outside they hear you”, he said, “You put the directional and hear what you say.”

In fact, this trip to the Toronto area and the related investigations by the Italian magistrates against the 'Ndrangheta of Siderno combined with an investigation launched in 2017 by a police York task force that, since October 2018, has selected, among all, the Figliomeni clan as the most viable high-level target to focus on (Project named Sindacato).

It’s therefore no coincidence that, in perfect harmony and “direct collaboration”, the presentation of Project Canadian ‘Ndrangheta Connection 1 and Project Sindacato took place on the same day (Jul. 18, 2019), simultaneously, in Reggio Calabria and Toronto.

Regarding the Project Sindacato, it’s worth noticing the investigative strategy that was adopted by the Canadian police authorities: since it’s basically impossible to prosecute crimes such as murders, attempted murders, shootings, arsons, drug trafficking, racketeering, etc., due to the absence of witnesses and turncoats (manifestation of an intimidating force which is one of the most significant indicators for measuring the danger of any criminal organization), the investigators were forced to adopt the only possible strategy to target the Figliomeni clan that they themselves illustrated during the presentation of the results of the Project: “We needed to focus on taking down a criminal organization by attacking the finances, the laundering of dirty money and large profits from proceeds of crime that have built these organizations over decades and allowed them to thrive,” York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe explained.

And, in regards to the involvement of the Canada Revenue Agency in the investigation to help trace the money: “Like Al Capone thought he [Angelo Figliomeni] didn’t have to report his taxes,” said Stéphane Bonin, acting director of CRA’s criminal investigations division. “He was wrong.”

Therefore, an investigation aimed at hitting the capital accumulated by this clan through the well-known business chain that begins with the running and management of public places, where illegal gambling is practiced, and continues with loan sharking and the violent collection of outstanding debts of the gamblers: “Investigators targeted 11 cafes which generated much of the money for the Figliomeni family,” said Det.-Sgt. Carl Mattinen, of the Organized Crime and Intelligence Services — Traditional Organized Crime Task Force. “A large portion of this income stems from the use of video gaming machines and the loans (some as high as 60% interest) made to patrons to keep them gambling regardless of the amount of debt that they occurred,” he alleged. “The astronomical interest rate, or ‘juice’ as it’s known, keeps the organization in a continual flow of illegal funds.” “People caught in this cycle were gambling away their life savings while members of this criminal organization used intimidation and violence including shootings, arsons and other threats to collect their outstanding debts,” Mattinen continued.

Cycle that closes with the reinvestment of illicitly accumulated capital that hardly leaves no trace.

The Project identified an undisputed boss, Angelo Figliomeni (cl. 1962), and, under him, nine subjects dedicated to the running of illegal gaming houses (over a dozen, many concentrated in Vaughan, almost certainly territory within which the presence of competitors was not allowed) and to the money laundering.

There were therefore no charges in the drug trafficking field (apart from a residual warrant against one of them for possession of oxycodone for the purpose of trafficking), but this didn’t prevent the obtaining of undoubtedly enviable results such as:

- the seizure of about $35 million in luxury items, divided between: 27 homes worth an estimated $24 million; 23 high-end cars, worth $3.5 million, including five Ferraris, one of which was worth $880,000; about $1 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry and Rolex watches;

- ATM machines and gambling machines confiscated;

- the “de-listing” of between 400 and 500 bank accounts in Canada.

Nevertheless, the investigation hit only a part of the organization (note no charges made against Cosimo, cl. 1965, brother of Angelo Figliomeni), excluding, in particular, the military wing of the clan that is made up of perpetrators (as I already explained in my previous article, often composed of subjects, outside the ‘Ndrangheta, who offer a wide range of more or less violent criminal performances in exchange for an economic compensation or/and a promise of future formal acceptance within it), as well as instigators (the most difficult roles to prove in a courtroom in absence of turncoats as well as wiretaps from which the men of 'Ndrangheta try to defend themselves in every way, as mentioned above). A broad criminal context that whoever is a part of can move and operate without running the risk of being the recipient of the specific and serious accusation of mafia association, contrary to what happens in Italy.

Angelo Figliomeni
Angelo Figliomeni 

It’s therefore a Project that will likely not be able to produce long term prison sentences. Prospects well-known to the accused that, like a cat biting its tail, reduce almost completely the odds of any collaboration with the Judicial Authority.

Thus ends my exposition.

I believe that the illustrated framework remains logically connected.

It demonstrates, on one hand, the current difficulties of the ‘Ndrangheta under the continuous indictments of the police authorities in Italy, and, on the other hand, the relatively impunity it still enjoys in Canada. Impunity that could be greatly reduced by recognizing the criminal offence of mafia association in the Criminal Code of Canada so that heavier prison sentences could be imposed and additional deportations of residents in Canada to Italy could be made possible.