York Regional Police have revealed details on the massive bust of a traditional organized crime network, known as the Figliomeni Crime Family, that netted more than $35 million in cash and assets and led to charges against nine top members.
The arrests were part of a joint investigation dubbed Project Sindacato that was the “largest organized crime operation” in the history of the York Regional Police, Chief Eric Jolliffe said during a Thursday press conference. The Figliomeni Crime Family had allegedly been operating for more than three decades in Italy, Vaughan and across the Greater Toronto Area, laundering millions of dollars, police said. The crime family was alleged to be linked to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta crime group based in Calabria, Italy, according to detectives.
Jolliffe said York police had detected a spike in violent crime targeting both people and property in 2017 and that the violence, which included murder, drive-by shootings and arsons, was associated with traditional organized crime.
According to investigators, the group’s illegal profits largely came from 11 cafés, where members allegedly operated gaming machines and provided loans to gamblers at “astronomically” high interest rates.
“People caught in this cycle were gambling away their life savings,” Det. Sgt. Carl Mattinen, with the traditional organized crime task force, told reporters. “Members of this criminal organization used intimidation and violence, including shootings, arsons and other threats of harm to collect their outstanding debts.”
The investigation collected evidence from more than a year’s worth of wire taps, and earlier this month, hundreds of officers from eight different police services carried out 48 search warrants at cafés, businesses and residences across Vaughan and the GTA.
Mattinen said the group allegedly used casinos across the province to launder more than $70-million in dirty money in just a few short years.
Dozens of investigators from the Canada Revenue Agency and FINTRAC helped uncover some 400-500 bank accounts tied to the group’s criminal activity, which were in the process of being delisted, police said.
Nine arrests were made, including the major players of the crime group and its boss, Angelo Figliomeni. Investigators also worked with the Italian State Police, and on Thursday, warrants were executed in Calabria, Italy, where at least 12 people were arrested
Police seized 27 homes, worth approximately $24 million. Twenty-three high-end cars were also seized, including five Ferraris — one worth $880,000 — and more than $35 million in other assets.
Police also seized gaming machines, approximately $1 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry, including Rolex watches.
“It has benefited for generations of crime to live a glamorous, indulgent lifestyle at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” Jolliffe said.
“They have legitimized themselves by funnelling illegal profits through business, including financial institutions, car dealerships, finance companies and even charities.”
Those arrested face a litany of charges, including money laundering, tax evasion, various firearm offences and participation in a criminal organization, among others.