This article originally appeared on VICE CA.
Police in Ontario have made what they are calling the largest Mafia bust in the province’s history.
On Thursday, York Regional Police announced they arrested 15 people and seized more than $35 million in assets connected to the Figliomeni crime family, one of the most significant ‘Ndrangheta crime organizations in Ontario.
The ‘Ndrangheta is a massive organized crime syndicate that hails from Calabria, Italy. The rich and often deadly organization has tentacles all over the world, including Ontario.
The Figliomeni family is based out of Vaughan and was headed by Angelo Figliomen,iDet. Sgt. Carl Mattinen said at a press conference. Figliomeni, alongside several other high ranking members, are now in police custody. Project Sindicato saw the police force work with a multitude of agencies, including the Italian State Police. In Italy, police arrested 12 people connected to the Canadian crime operation.
In Canada, Sindicato culminated with 500 officers executing 48 warrants over three days. Of the 15 arrested, police say nine of them are high-level figures in the Figliomeni family.
York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe said that the operation began when they noticed a spike in violent crime in 2017. This included attempted murder, a drive-by shooting, and arson—something the cops realized was connected to organized crime. Police targeted 11 cafes run by the Figliomeni family with almost a year of wiretapping and surveillance.
Police said the Figliomeni crime family has been operating in Ontario for over three decades and have been able to make a killing off illegal gambling. Det Sgt. Carl Mattinen said the operation was a one focused on backroom gambling operation and loan sharking.
"A large portion of their income stems from the use of video gaming machines and the loans made to patrons to keep them gambling regardless of the amount of debt they occurred. The astronomical interest rate, or ‘juice’ as its known, keeps the organization in a continual flow of illegal funds.
"People caught in this cycle were gambling away their life savings as people in this organization used intimidation and violence, including shootings and arsons, to collect outstanding debts."
The mafiosos would allegedly use legitimate casinos to launder their dirty money. Mattinen said they would go nightly to Ontario casinos and gamble upwards of “$30,000 to $50,000” per night.
“Reports suggest they cleaned over $70 million in over a few short years,” said Mattinen. “This organization was able to amass great wealth from this operation.”
The Figliomeni Family lived a “glamorous indulgent lifestyle,” said Joliffe. At the press conference, police presented what the Mafia had acquired through their alleged gambling operation. This includes some nice-ass whiskey, a bunch of top-flight sports cars, and expensive jewelry.
"We have seized 27 homes, worth approximately $24 million. We have seized high-end cars including five Ferraris, one alone worth $880,000, for a total of $3.5 million,” said Jolliffe. “We seized gaming machines, ATM machines, $1 Million in cash, and another million in jewelry including Rolex watches. The total is $35 million."
Italian State Police Director Fausto Lamparelli, who was at the Ontario press conference, said via a translator the Figliomeni Crime Family must have been significant as it was able to operate its crimes without asking permission from Italy.
“This is something we have never seen in Italy,” said Lamparelli.
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