Adrian Humphreys | November 18, 2014 4:27 PM ET
A Sicilian gunman who helped kill two mobsters from Canada avoided life in prison Tuesday when a judge in Palermo sentenced him to 16 years — the leniency his reward for testimony against Mafia friends and leading police to their victims’ charred bodies.
Giuseppe Carbone, 45, admitted he was one of three gunmen who ambushed Juan Ramon Fernandez, 56, and Fernando Pimentel, 36, last year on the outskirts of Palermo, the capital of Sicily.
Authorities in Italy say the gunmen, who have links to Canada, killed Fernandez and Pimentel on orders from Vito Rizzuto in Montreal because Fernandez did not side with the Rizzutos in the underworld battle in Canada.
“Giuseppe Carbone was not sentenced to life imprisonment because he collaborated with justice officials,” said Lt.-Col. Fabio Bottino, commander of Carabinieri ROS, Palermo’s anti-Mafia police unit, who headed the probe.
He said investigators are satisfied.
“Most sentences for collaborators are low and he could have got less; 16 years is about as high a sentence as he could get,” Lt.-Col. Bottino said.
As previously reported by National Post, the investigation into Fernandez — both when he was alive and since his death — revealed a treasure trove of information about the Mafia in Sicily and Canada and the strong bonds between both underworlds.
Carbone said he and two brothers, Pietro Scadutto, 49, and Salvatore Scadutto, 52, lured the gangsters to a gated construction yard in Casteldaccia by saying they had marijuana seeds to sell.
When Fernandez and Pimentel arrived in a rental car on April 9, 2013, they were waved through a locked gate and once trapped, three gunmen opened fire, killing Pimentel instantly and grievously wounding Fernandez, who required a final shot in the head, court heard.
Carbone told authorities he pushed the bodies into the back of Fernandez’s car and drove it to a rural field where he dragged them into head-high grass and burned them.
Authorities did not find the charred remains until Carbone agreed to take police to the remote scene and move trash he had used to hide them.
Carbone’s undoing had been greed: before burning the bodies he stole a gold Rolex watch from Fernandez’s wrist and tried to sell it on the blackmarket. Police heard his conversations with a shady jeweler in neighbouring Bagheria on wiretaps originally installed to probe Fernandez’s activities in Sicily.
Carbone was then caught with the watch, believed to have been a gift to Fernandez from Rizzuto.
When the probe wrapped up in May 2013, Carbone was one of 21 alleged mobsters arrested in Sicily. Faced with the incriminating evidence of the watch, he agreed to cooperate, helping authorities unravel the last stand of Fernandez, described by police in Canada as “a perfect gangster.”
Fernandez was born in Spain but grew up in Canada and earned the trust of Rizzuto. When Montreal’s Mafia took control of Ontario’s underworld in 2001, Fernandez was sent as Rizzuto’s emissary. He thrived in Toronto, gathering a tough street crew involved in an array of crimes.
In 2004, Fernandez, who went by the name Joe Bravo, was convicted for drug trafficking, fraud and a murder conspiracy; he was deported in 2012 to Spain.
Once deported, Fernandez moved to Sicily, linking with mafiosi and moving oxycodone pills from Italy to Canada and cocaine from Ecuador to Italy.
Pietro Scaduto was also deported from Canada, after he was a target in the notorious California Sandwiches shooting in Toronto, a botched 2004 hit that left Louise Russo, an innocent bystander, paralyzed.
Also targeted that night in Toronto — and similarly deported from Canada — was Andrea Carbone, a mobster currently imprisoned in Italy who is the brother of Giuseppe Carbone.
The Scaduto brothers have pleaded not guilty and maintain their innocence despite Carbone’s damning evidence, said Giuseppe Farina, a lawyer defending them in court.
Their trial continues in Palermo, where Carbone is expected to be the star witness.