Domenico Violi, a Hamilton man sentenced to eight years in prison, may be the highest ranking Canadian ever in the American mafia.
On Monday, when Violi pleaded guilty to multiple drug charges and sentenced to eight years in prison, it came to light that he may be a mob underboss—second in command—with the Todaro organized crime family, based in Buffalo. If this is true, it would make Violi the highest-ranking Canadian ever in the American Mafia world.
In a conversation recorded by an informant (who was apparently a made man in the underworld), Violi told a tale of beating out 30 people to become an underboss in the Todaro crime family based out of Buffalo, New York. The Todaros are a well-known name in the American criminal underworld, being an original member of the commission (the governing body of the Mafia) and operating in one form or another for over a century. According to the National Post, in a recorded conversation, Violi said that he made history with becoming underboss.
“This one guy … he goes, ‘Domenic, you know you made history.’ I said, ‘I made history?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, nobody ever in Canada got this position,’” Violi said in the recordings.
Domenic isn't the only Violi to reach heights in the underworld. He was the son of Paolo Violi, an acting boss of the Bonnon family in Montreal and one of the brothers who fought (and lost) against the Rizzuto family for domination of Montreal. In 1978, Domenico’s father was killed shortly after sitting down to a backroom card game when the man across from him gave him the bacio della morte—kiss of death—and a masked gunman pointed a pistol at the back of his head and pulled the trigger twice.
The act of killing Paolo and his brothers cemented the Rizzutos as Canada’s first family of crime but this didn’t deter Domenico, only 11 at the time, from staying in the family business. Following his father's murder, Violi’s mother moved the family to Hamilton where his grandfather, who had ties to the Buffalo mob, took them under his protection. Here Dom Violi would grow up and instead of taking on the family that ran Montreal and took his father, he turned his eyes south of the border.
Violi apparently ran this powerful position from his home base of Hamilton—where his mom moved the family after Paolo was executed. Violi wasn’t able to enjoy his historic new role for very long, however, as within a month of his promotion he was arrested. When he was arrested police found a litany of evidence in his office including a receipt and debt list, ammunition, fake identification, a brick of cannabis, cash, burner phones, and, keeping to the stereotype, a signed poster of The Sopranos.
The mobster was taken down by Project OTremens, a cross-border three-year investigation by law enforcement in Canada and America. At the moment, Violi is the biggest fish caught in the OTremens net. A bail hearing from May summarized the major portion of the police case against him—essentially he sold a ton of pills to a made man and trusted associate who was flipped by the RCMP.
“Over an eight-month period, [Violi] obtained and sold the police agent a total of 10,000 PCP pills and 225,000 pills containing methamphetamine and MDMA in exchange for $416,000 paid by the police agent to the applicant,” reads the bail ruling. “[Violi] further received a total of $24,600 US from the police agent as his share of the profits.”
Violi’s younger brother, Giuseppe, was arrested in connection to OTremens and in June was sentenced to sixteen years for his role in the drug dealings. According to the Globe and Mail, federal prosecutor Tom Andreopoulos celebrated the plea deal—which saw Violi only plead guilty to drug charges, not the organized crime charges—and said the case “illustrates the workings of something farther reaching and much more insidious.”
“It opens up an underworld that extends beyond international boundaries … and exposes Hamilton as one of a connected series of epicentres for organized crime activity.”
While conducting major drug deals in his home, Violi tried to present himself as a simple salesman trading in pasta, coffee, and hardwood to his community. According to the Globe and Mail, Violi was well respected in the community—numerous people attested to the man’s character—where he played the part of a philanthropist and well-adored businessman.
After he was sentenced to his eight years, but shortly before he was taken away, Violi asked for a small moment with his family and was granted this small luxury in which he hugged and kissed his wife and daughter and high-fived his son. As he was led away, his supporters, who packed the courthouse, gave him a round of applause.
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