PAUL CHERRY, MONTREAL GAZETTE
Montreal - The RCMP is carrying out a series of arrests in the Montreal area in what the Mounties are calling the third and last phase of an investigation into the Mafia in Montreal that began several years ago.
Included among the people the RCMP arrested Wednesday is Liborio (Pancho) Cuntrera, 47, a man who police sources have described as a potential leader within what remain's of the Rizzuto organization.
Cuntrera is the son of Agostino Cuntrera, a member of the Rizzuto organization who was gunned down in St-Leonard in 2010 when the Mafia clan was under pressure from rivals. While the Rizzuto organization was under pressure to relinquish control of the mob in Montreal, the older Cuntrera remained loyal to the Rizzutos. Liborio Cuntrera also represents the second generation of a group of well known wealthy international drug smugglers known in many parts of the world as the Cuntrera-Caruana organization.
Cuntrera was not arrested on Wednesday because he is currently on vacation. According to sources familiar with the investigation, Cuntrera is currently in Italy, has been in contact with the RCMP and has agreed to turn himself in when he returns to Canada in a few days, one source said.
One man named as a target in the investigation is Martino Caputo, a 42-year-old man who is serving a 12-year prison term in Kingston for his role in a cocaine smuggling conspiracy to bring a tonne of the narcotic into Canada once a month. Caputo also faces charges in Ontario related to a murder carried out in that province back in 2012.
In February 2004, Crivello was sentenced to a three-year prison term for holding a person against their will and aggravated assault.
According to decisions made by the Parole Board of Canada, Crivello hired a group of men to collect $60,000 that he believed had been stolen from him. Three men were held against their will and beaten while Crivello watched and demanded to know what happened to his money. One of the victims suffered injuries that required surgery.
While he was before the parole board, in 2005, Crivello admitted that he had been involved in drug trafficking from the age of 17.
Another man who was arrested Wednesday, Frank Iaconetti, 48, has also done time in a federal penitentiary. In 1999, he pleaded guilty, in a U.S. District court in Massachusetts, to being part of a conspiracy to distribute cocaine. According to court documents filed in that case, on March 15, 1998, Iaconetti brought $250,000 in cash to undercover agents for what what supposed to be a down payment 100 kilograms of cocaine destined for Canada. When he was sentenced in 1999, a judge was told there was very little evidence that Iaconetti knew details about the actual drug transaction. At the time, Iaconetti said he agreed to deliver the money to deal with a serious addiction to gambling that caused him to ask that he be banned from the Montreal casino.
According to a statement issued by the RCMP Wednesday morning, the arrests are the third part of Project Clemenza, an investigation into the drug trafficking activities of various Mafia clans. Project Clemenza had to be put on hold because while it was underway the RCMP uncovered evidence related to the murder of Salvatore Montagna, a Mafia leader from New York who was one of the leaders in the attempt to wrestle power away from the Rizzuto organization about six years ago.
In a sign of how long Project Clemenza was delayed because of Montagna's murder, the charges filed at the Montreal courthouse against Liborio Cuntrera and Marco Pizzi, 46, of Montreal North, date back to 2011. Both men are alleged to have been involved in a conspiracy to traffick in cocaine between Sept. 28, 2011 and Oct. 6, 2011.
An RCMP spokesperson told reporters that 15 people were targeted in Wednesday's operation and that the investigation probed drug smuggling and drug trafficking.
"The network imported cocaine through the United States and used its contacts in the commercial ground transport industry," the spokesperson said. "The investigation demonstrated that this (network) transported large quantities of cocaine. The American and Canadian authorities have seized more than 220 kilos of cocaine and placed their hands on (more than $2 million). The impact of this operation on organized crime is significant and will have an affect on drug smuggling activities in the Greater Montreal region."
Another of the men arrested Wednesday was Hansley Joseph, 36, a wel-known member of a Montreal street gang who was often seen interacting with Mafia-tied drug traffickers during Project Colisee, a major investigation into the Mafia that had a huge impact on the Rizzuto organization a decade ago. In 2007, Joseph received a two-year prison term for his role in a drug trafficking network that operated in northern Montreal.
The case brought against Joseph and about two dozen other men in 2005, was significant because it represented one of the first times in Canada that gangsterism charges were brought against street gang members.
According to a decision made in the case in 2007, Joseph was part of a group known as the "Dope Squad" and frequently supplied cocaine to a group known as the Pelletier St. gang that sold crack on Pelletier St., near the corner of Henri Bourassa Blvd.