York police say they have arrested nine top members of an alleged Vaughan-based organized crime group known as the Figliomeni Crime Family and seized more than $35 million in various assets through a joint investigation dubbed Project Sindacato.
The bust is the “largest organized crime operation” in the history of the York Regional Police service, said Chief Eric Jolliffe at a Thursday morning news conference.
The group’s illicit income came largely from 11 cafes where members operated gaming machines and provided loans at staggeringly high interest rates to patrons, police said.
Last weekend, some 500 officers from eight different police services carried out 48 search warrants at the cafes, businesses and residences in Vaughan and the Greater Toronto Area.
On July 12, <a href=”https://twitter.com/YRP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@YRP</a> officers raided 43 mafia-owned locations across the City of Vaughan and the GTA. They made nine arrests, seized $35 million worth of property and left a mark on traditional organized crime that will be felt for decades.<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sindicato?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Sindicato</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Mafia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Mafia</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/YorkRegionalPolice?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#YorkRegionalPolice</a> <a href=”https://t.co/oabpNVBGhs”>pic.twitter.com/oabpNVBGhs</a>
The Figliomeni Crime Family has close ties to the ‘Ndrangheta, an infamous organized crime group based in the Calabria region of Italy, police said. Italian police also carried out raids connected to Project Sindacato in recent days.
The investigation was started following a string of violent incidents in Vaughan in 2017, including an attempted murder, drive-by shootings and arsons. In response, York police struck an organized crime task force and began probing what turned out to be a wide network of illicit activities.
Investigators relied upon more than one year of wire taps to build their case.
The group was laundering proceeds of crimes at casinos throughout Ontario, police said, sometimes “cleaning” between $30,000 and $50,000 per night at various locations.
Investigators from the Canada Revenue Agency and FINTRAC helped York police uncover some 500 bank accounts tied to the group’s criminal activity.
In addition to the nine arrests, police seized 27 homes, a number of high-end cars including five Ferraris and more than $35 million in other assets.
Charges currently before the courts include:
- Instructing or directing a criminal organization.
- Committing a crime for a criminal organization.
- Participating in a criminal organization.
- Tax evasion.
- Money laundering.
- Various conspiracy charges related to money laundering.
- Defrauding the government.
- Firearms offences.