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Police say 27 arrested and $35 million of items seized in organized crime bust


July 22, 2019
By The Canadian Press

More than two dozen people have been arrested and millions of dollars in luxury items have been seized in what police north of Toronto described as a sweeping organized crime takedown.

York Regional Police said the arrests followed an 18-month investigation involving a family from Italy that allegedly operated a criminal organization in the Greater Toronto Area for about three decades.

“It has benefited for generations of crime to live a glamorous and indulgent lifestyle at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” Chief Eric Jolliffe told reporters at a press conference last Thursday.

Jolliffe said the investigation — dubbed “Project Sindacato” — was launched after the force noticed a spike in crime in Vaughan, Ont. The investigation involved about 500 officers from eight police forces across the province, he said.

After about a year of wire-tapping, investigators were able to identify suspects and collaborate with police in Italy to track them down, Jolliffe said.

“This has allowed the Italian state police to bring to justice the most heinous criminals in Italy and abroad,” said Jolliffe.

Fifteen people were arrested in Ontario — nine of whom were “key players” including alleged crime boss Angelo Figliomeni — and 12 were arrested in Italy, police said.

The suspects had embedded themselves in public and private institutions — such as equity firms, charities and various companies — for decades to hide their alleged crimes, police said. They face charges including money laundering, tax evasion and various firearm offences.

Jolliffe said investigators realized the most effective way to take down the organization was to dismantle its financial operations, which he called the family’s “foundation.” He said this involved numerous casinos across Ontario.

Det.-Sgt. Carl Mattinen said suspects allegedly gambled up to $50,000 per night at Ontario casinos and laundered about $70 million over “a few years.”

“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 of harm to collect their outstanding debts,” said Mattinen.

“The violence affects everyone in the community, not just the criminals and their intended victims.”

Police said 48 search warrants were executed earlier this month on dozens of businesses and residences across the GTA that led to the seizure of about $35 million in luxury items. That included 27 properties, 23 cars and thousands of dollars’ worth of cash and jewelry.

Mattinen said the Canadian Revenue Agency is helping in the “de-listing” of between 400 and 500 bank accounts in Canada, and investigators anticipate more accounts and suspects to be identified.

“We are aware of other families and they are going to be impacted by this,” said Mattinen. “You take the foundation out from one family, and you follow that to another family.”

– Alanna Rizza

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2019