It was the balmy summer of 1997. An area of Niagara Falls known for its quaintness was to be no longer. In an instant a man lay dead at the foot of his doorstep as the smell of gun powder permeated the air. The rapid spontaneous fire erupting from the .38 caliber gun was no accident. The shooter was on a distinct mission to kill this night. As Carmen Barillaro lay dead, his killer, reputed Mafia hit man Kenneth Murdock stood above him, reveling in the last piece of contract work that had been successfully completed on behalf of the Musitano crime family. This murder was not an accident. It was a sanctioned hit from the criminal underworld of traditional organized crime, emanating from Hamilton.
A couple months earlier, May 31, 1997 to be exact, the man Barillaro reported to, Johnny “Pops” Papalia was gunned down in broad daylight on the streets of Hamilton. This mafia style execution represented a shift in power in the Canadian underworld as Ontario’s reputed top mobster was now eliminated. On this fateful day Papalia had ventured from his Railway Street offices to have a discussion with Kenneth Murdock, a ‘walk and talk’ in mob parlance, a tactic to avoid a conversation being recorded by a surveillance device. Murdock momentarily lagged behind Papalia as he brandished the .38 caliber gun firmly in his hand. With a stroke of the trigger Papalia lay mortally wounded on the streets of Hamilton. Getting shot in the back of the head at close range represents an atypical modus operandi for the mafia, to ensure the intended target has been eliminated. Murdock had successfully completed his piece of contract work as he fled into the midst of anonymity, but not for long.
Murdock became a cooperating witness against the Musitanos, the catalyst being the issuance of a sanctioned contract to now eliminate the hit man. Murdock subsequently confessed to the two murders along with a third murder from 1985. This murder was also committed at the behest of the Musitano family. An outstanding debt owed to the family led to this contract hit.
The Musitano brothers were each freed from jail in 2007 after having served close to seven years of a ten year sentence after they pled guilty to conspiring to murder Barillaro. Murdock is currently in a halfway house in British Columbia. He has served 10 years of a life sentence for the three mafia execution-style murders and will be eligible for full parole in December 2011.
ORIGINAL STORY from: 2011 by Stephen G. Metelsky (pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)
It was April 21st, 2004. A regular day in the city of Toronto. The mother of three parked her car and walked into a local sandwich shop. She would never walk again.
“I just walked in and they opened fire. Bullets shattered the glass,” says Louise Russo, the innocent bystander, caught in the middle of a botched underworld hit involving the mafia and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
The single bullet shattered Russo’s spine, leaving her paralyzed forever. The ripple effect from the California Sandwich shooting reverberates today, fraught with violence and murder. But this story isn’t about them. This is about one woman’s mission and determination to curtail senseless acts of violence in her community. For Russo, ‘violence stopped being a word and became a cause.’
When life gave her lemons, she not only made lemonade, Russo became the C.E.O of her own stand, taking control of her life. But it wasn’t an easy start after the shooting. She persevered with the love and support from her family, friends, and a determination to create change resulting in positive outcomes for her community. “My life was totally destroyed, I took it a day at a time, an hour at a time. But through this journey I have come to really know Louise and who I am, and I love who I am today, much more than before. I am mentally stronger than ever,” says Russo, reflecting about her incredible journey over a cup of tea in a local Toronto coffee shop.
Her sheer strength and determination culminated with a grass roots not-for-profit organization created in 2006 called Louise Russo W.A.V.E. – an acronym for ‘Working Against Violence Everyday.’ W.A.V.E subsequently received its charitable status three years later in 2009. W.A.V.E. works diligently at inspiring youth and members of the community to take action, make positive choices and initiate projects that will make schools and communities a safer place to live, learn and play – reads the mission statement for her organization.
Her outreach to youth in her community extends beyond the sole topic of violence. “When I go into schools I want the students to see the bigger picture. To educate them and create awareness about the impact of violence so they all have a better understanding of it,” says Russo.
Russo has also inspired and motivated youths with mental health issues, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, bullying, and issues with self-esteem. A bigger picture indeed. “I want to give kids the opportunity to express themselves freely,” adds Russo.
Louise sums up her life’s work in one word: Believe. It is inscribed on several leather bracelets she had made. Russo explains her definition of the word: “Believe is just finding that inner strength in you. Regardless of what you’re going through there is always something that can keep you going. To believe I made a difference in the life of a youth. That will make a change in their life and have them believe in themselves.”
In 2010 Russo was appointed to be a board member for the Office for Victims of Crime, an independent advisory board to the Attorney General of Ontario on victim’s issues. Russo is passionate about victim’s rights and creating change. She has an important message for others who have unfortunately been victimized by crime. “Make the most of your life. You are a victim of violent crime but don’t continue to become victimized every day of your life. In time, I hope the victim can create change and eventually be a positive role model and give back.” It is clear Russo lives everyday of her life by these words.
What about the rise in gun violence in Toronto? To date, in 2018 there have been 26 homicides directly attributable to shootings in the city, compared to 17 deaths stemming from gun violence up until July 2017. “It’s horrible. But you can’t live in fear that way. We should always feel we are in a safe environment, but we must look at the root causes, prevention, and support. Let’s look at the people that are causing this, the gangs,” Russo says, adding her support for an increased police presence in Toronto, on the streets and in the schools.
Hours after Russo was interviewed, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory held a press conference to announce a $3 million operational plan to deploy up to 200 hundred officers throughout the city, dictated by intelligence led policing, to curb the recent spate of gun violence. The eight-week initiative appears to be a short-term solution to an issue requiring a longer-term commitment in the city. “We have to work against violence everyday. Our communities need to be a safer place. Criminals need to be accountable for what they’re involved in. We need to look at some of the root causes of this violence and provide programs for our youth,” says Louise Russo, adding that “I’m thankful for the police.”
To effectively combat gun violence in Toronto a concerted effort needs to be exerted towards this issue continually on all levels: policing, financially and politically. Cutbacks due to reduced incidents and a heightened, yet false sense of security that the violence has dissipated, should be avoided. Russo adds: “We need more police officers to deal with the gangs.” We also need more people like Louise Russo – who exemplify the principles of respect, responsibility, and the role of leadership in their communities.
“I have learned so much from giving. I feel it’s important to give back. It’s been an incredible journey. If we volunteered a little bit of our time,” adds Russo. And time is of the essence in the city of Toronto. It’s time to proactively target the issue of gun violence to reduce victimization in our communities. As Russo attests, “we have to find more ways to make our communities safer. I feel it’s important to give back that way. To give people strength and encouragement.”
Louise Russo is truly inspiring. The interview ended with a W.A.V.E – and a hug.
The acronym is ISIS – the Islamic State, Iraq, and Syria. They are likely the most dangerous terrorist group to date in history. A group of highly military trained jihadists, with extremist ideologies involving destroying the West and attacking anyone in their way, particularly representations of government – such as military personnel and police officers. Given their access and possession to weapons of potential mass destruction, likely one of the most dangerous weapons ISIS has at their disposal is their ability to utilize digital social media to produce and release images that will intimidate, terrorize, and create a hysteric climate across the globe. ISIS is also adept at using social media, attempting to attract, influence and persuade some people towards radicalization and joining the jihadist cause through their technologically savvy propogandist messages strewn across the internet in several languages almost daily in various digital forms.
The violent videos projected across the globe via social media of ISIS soldiers beheading prisoners is by far the most blatantly constructed graphic images ever strewn across digital media. ISIS utilizes social media to fulfill two goals. The first, is to release their terrorist intentions to the world, capturing their murderous mantra with demonstrable, and heinous ferocity, in professionally produced graphic videos. The second, is to utilize social media to spread their extremist jihadi propaganda to not only recruit potential jihadists, but to create an aura of hysteria built on fear and paranoia across the world that a terrorist attack is imminent at anytime, anywhere. One of the main facilitators to the rise of ISIS is how they manufacture and manipulate social media to proliferate their propagandist messages to potential target audiences across the world. 1
ISIS is comprised of highly trained and educated individuals, some specifically tasked with recruiting potential new jihadists into their organization via digital media. The prolific ISIS propaganda targets and reaches an audience comprised of varying age, gender, culture, and countries of origin. 2 Having the ability to reach a worldwide audience with the strokes of a few computer keys has been an extremely effective media tool to recruit members into their terrorist organization, in the absence and proximity of being present in ISIS territory. There have been several documented cases of individuals being radicalized by ISIS mainly through their online terrorist propaganda that has prompted them to travel abroad to fight as a jihadist. Yet, ISIS utilizes an alternate form of terror attacks through their persuasive media tentacles across the globe, the seeds of terror being planted in the minds of potential radical converts whose only exposure and knowledge of ISIS has been through social media access.
“Lone Wolf” Attacks in Canada
In 2014-2015 ISIS recruiters built on this alternate form of planting and implementing the seeds of terror across the world with a new marketing message for their audiences via digital social media. The extremist campaign encouraged newly radicalized members to represent and serve the caliphate in their own home countries, without the need to travel abroad to fight for ISIS on their own turf. ISIS specifically encouraged individuals to carry out a terrorist attack in the west on their behalf. 3 This is what came to be known as the “lone wolf” terrorist ideology. A ‘lone wolf’ is an individual inspired by ISIS but acting independently without the groups support or direction. 4
A majority of the ‘lone wolf’ radicalized individuals have never travelled abroad, nor have they met any members of the terrorist organization. Yet, the ramifications of this terrorist propaganda media message would have dire consequences world wide, with several “lone wolf” attacks being carried out across North America and Europe between 2014 to present. Most of the incidents involved individuals who became radicalized through social media contacts and ISIS videos and propaganda. In 2014 there were two high profile ‘lone wolf’ incidents that occurred in Canada. The circumstances involved two tragic incidents of radicalized individuals, both of Canadian descent, who carried out separate horrific incidents, hailed as “lone wolf” attacks, inspired and influenced by the digital media propaganda produced by ISIS.
The first incident in 2014 involved a radicalized Canadian citizen who decided to run down warrant officer Patrice Vincent and a second soldier in the province of Quebec, mortally wounding Vincent. The killer was Martin Couture-Rouleau, a ‘lone wolf’ who identified with the ISIS terrorist ideology, particularly in the year leading up to this tragic event, as his descent into the dark web of terrorist propaganda inspired him to travel abroad and fight as a jihadist and die as a martyr. His passport was eventually seized, leading the radicalized lone wolf down the path of committing a terrorist atrocity on his home turf – Canada.
The family of Couture-Rouleau later claimed that his behaviour had drastically changed leading up to the tragic events, as well as his appearance – donning Islamic clothing and growing facial hair. He was also upset with the Canadian government regarding their approach and stance on ISIS. In the aftermath, it was discovered Couture-Rouleau had been spending a significant amount of time on the internet, including viewing jihadist/ISIS propaganda messages and videos via his Facebook page. Like most lone wolves, terrorist events and/or spree shooters, the planning and premeditation typically involves the knowledge that they will die during the event; precisely what occurred during this ‘lone wolf’ incident as Couture-Rouleau was fatally shot by the police. The troubling aspect involving individuals becoming radicalized on their own, in tandem with succumbing to the Islamic terrorist rhetoric, is the notion that they will be recognized and rewarded for the tragic circumstances as a ‘martyr.’
The second incident in 2014 also involved another radicalized Canadian citizen who shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo while he stood guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario. He was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, an individual with a troubled past, involving prior contact with the criminal justice system and speculation of lingering mental health issues and substance abuse. Yet, it was evidently clear Zehaf-Bibeau was devoted to Islamic rhetoric and motivated by political ideology. The video recordings he subsequently produced and documented, confirmed the fact Zehalf-Bibeau was a radicalized and articulate individual with a staunch political and ideological stance, a viewpoint clearly not pro-Canadian.
After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain a Canadian passport, to facilitate travelling abroad to Syria to fight for the jihadist cause, Zehaf-Bibeau opted to formulate an alternative plan entailing a terroristic ‘lone wolf’ attack on Canadian soil, inspired by, but not under the direction of ISIS. The attack began when Zehaf-Bibeau drove towards Parliament Hill in a rented vehicle, void of license plates. After the tragic, unprovoked fatal attack on Corporal Cirillo, the shooter stormed the interior of Parliament Hill and died in a hail of gunfire moments later near the Hall of Honour. Both ‘lone wolf’ Canadian terrorist incidents in 2014 epitomize how two Canadian born, radicalized citizens succumbed to the Islamist rhetoric and ISIS terrorist ideology, opting to carry out terrorist ‘lone wolf’ attacks in their home country as per the directions ISIS provided via digital social media.
What are the root causes that propel these individuals to carry out these atrocious, violent criminal acts? Are the motivating criminal behaviours fuelled by their ideological beliefs or triggered by a mental health psychosis, or a combination thereof?
Psychosis versus Extremist Ideological Beliefs
During the aftermath of any tragic event, albeit a terrorist ‘lone wolf’ attack or a ‘spree shooting’, investigators and researchers vehemently attempt to discern the sequence of events that led a person to commit these heinous, atrocious crimes to identify additional evidence and the motivators that propelled these perpetrators to do what they did. At times, the public perception or collective conscious of society presumes the terroristic or spree shooter was operating under duress of some underlying psychotic disorder that was the motivating factor behind the crimes they committed. As difficult as it is to discern the internal motivators of killers, whether influenced by internal psychosis or internalized beliefs, the persuasive power of people’s extremist ideological beliefs can propel them to commit these ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks, in the absence of a psychotic mental illness.
It is difficult to identify and discern if psychosis was a contributing factor and motivator in the two homegrown Canadian ‘lone wolf’ terror incidents. There is still some lingering debate about this contentious issue, particularly with Ottawa based terrorist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. However, the video messages he produced reveal an articulate well-spoken individual, appearing to be a mentally balanced individual whose behaviour is more apt and influenced by the social external influencers of ISIS, which molded his internal extremist ideological beliefs, thus forming the premeditators for future criminality.
Similarly, Timothy McVeigh, the American responsible for the largest homegrown terror attack in the United States with the bombing of an Oklahoma federal building in 1995. The motivators for McVeigh did not evidently appear to be rooted in any form of psychosis or mental disorder as he had been deemed competent to stand trial. He was solely motivated by his extremist ideological beliefs, based on anti-government resentment stemming from the government intervention during the Waco, Texas standoff in tandem with his support for the supremacy movement in the United States. This tragically culminated in the loss of 168 lives in Oklahoma on April 19, 1995 – planned on the anniversary of the Waco incident and a day before the birthday of Adolf Hitler on April 20th. The date selected for this attack was not a coincidence. Anniversary dates of previous tragedies may sometimes serve a pivotal role in the premeditated mind of a potential terrorist and/or spree killer when they are planning an attack.
Most of these terroristic, spree type attacks involve perpetrators with internal ideological beliefs so strong, albeit in the absence of a mental illness, that they are willing to act out in the most extreme way, culminating in what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders terms – an ‘extreme overvalued belief.’ 5 Tahir Rahman, an assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri school of Medicine defines this ‘extreme overvalued belief’ as: “a belief that is shared by others and often relished, amplified, and defended by the accused. The individual has an intense emotional commitment to the belief and may act violently as a result of that belief.” 6 The discussion of psychosis and ideological beliefs both involve internalized processes that may be difficult precursors for investigators, friends, and family to identify before tragedy strikes. However, there are some external indicators and commonalities that many of these perpetrators exhibit and share that need to be proactively examined, investigated, and inspected with a scrutinizing approach.
The Contagion Effect
When ISIS was actively promoting the ‘lone wolf’ ideology through a social media marketing campaign in 2014 it is difficult to discern if the terrorist organization anticipated the ripple effect their ideology would have in North America and Europe – specifically pertaining to the contagion, or “copy-cat” effect. For example, the two Canadian lone wolf terror attacks in Ottawa and Quebec occurred within two days of each other on the 20th and 22nd of October 2014. The factual evidence stemming from these two tragic instances confirms that both perpetrators were influenced and motivated to commit these violent actions due to their extreme ideological beliefs, rooted in Islamist rhetoric and propaganda-laced social media, produced by ISIS.
Both perpetrators experienced difficulties with their Canadian passports, forcing them to buy into the ISIS promoted ‘lone wolf’ ideology of instigating a terror attack on their home soil. It is a difficult theory to assert, but the contagion effect would suggest the media exposure surrounding the terrorist attack on October 20, 2014 in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec may have propelled Michael Zehaf-Bibeau to conduct his terrorist, murderous intentions two days later in Ottawa, Ontario. There is no doubt Zehaf-Bibeau was going to act on his extreme ideological jihadist beliefs in the form of a Canadian terrorist attack, but his plans may have been expedited due to the massive media exposure directed towards the Quebec ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attack.
Pertaining to media contagion, trauma psychologist Dr. Robert Butterworth suggests: “you take a person who has that predisposition. You put them in an environment where the media shows these things (violence) and it’s like a triggering effect. The media doesn’t create, it triggers these people with the disposition.” 7
Zehaf-Bibeau possessed the extremist ideological disposition to carry out a murderous terror attack. The proximity of these two Canadian ‘lone wolf’ attacks to each other suggests the media exposure on October 20th, 2014 may have triggered the Ottawa attacks two days later. The Columbine shooters, both obsessed with Timothy McVeigh, perpetrated the mass shootings at their high school on April 20th, mirroring Hitler’s birthday and anniversary of Waco, Texas, and the Oklahoma bombings. Another tragedy specifically planned to occur on a significant, yet tragic historical date. With the intense media coverage of the Columbine shootings, eight days later in Taber, Alberta another school shooting occurred, propelled, and motivated by the contagion or ‘copy-cat’ effect.
The troubling aspect to the contagion effect is the rippling effect of motivating other potential perpetrators viewing the repetitious media coverage of a violent event, with either an extreme ideological belief or underlying psychosis (or a combination of both), to act out in a violent way due to the media exposure of another violent tragedy. The contagion effect may trigger a person to act out violently who is suffering from a form of psychosis alone, without them even harboring extreme ideological beliefs affiliated to ISIS.
Precursors of Radicalization
It is very difficult for investigators to predict when a ‘lone wolf’ terror attack will occur, because most times they are not privy to the internal and external signs being exhibited by the potential perpetrator because nothing about them overtly places them on the radar as a potential ‘person of interest.’ Most perpetrators have a clean criminal record. It cannot be overstated why the family, friends, coworkers, peers et al. of potential extremists need to be proactively vigilant with recognizing, identifying, and reporting potentially troubling signs that may pinpoint an extreme ideological shift with a specific person’s mindset.
The following precursors, in no way represents a full, comprehensive list of specific descriptors to be cautious of when identifying a person who may be susceptible to, or is becoming radicalized. However, an increase in the number of precursors identified and associated with a specific person would warrant further inspection and monitoring et al. The following may be some of the common precursors to be cognizant of, including, but not limited to the following list:
• May not have a criminal record
• Possible onset or increase in alcohol and/or drug consumption
• Fluctuation in mood & overall demeanour
• Cognitive reasoning becomes more extreme (example: ‘anti-government’)
• Conversion to Islam from original family religious background
• Verbal utterances adhering to ISIS support and/or in relation to another terrorist incident
• Onset of psychosis/mental health issues
• Socially withdrawn from family and friends
• Change in employment – termination and/or resignation
• Increased travel plans (either abroad or within Canada)
• If enrolled as a student, increased absenteeism, and a decrease in grades
• Change in style of clothing
• Longer hair and growing of facial hair
• Weight loss
• New tattoos possibly symbolizing radicalism/ISIS
d) Digital/Print Media
• Increased internet usage and streaming content
• Possession of more than one cellular device
• Travelling frequently outside the home to utilize free WIFI services (re: IP address)
• Newspaper clippings of terrorist attacks or pdf files on computer
• Utilizing several online pseudonyms on various fake social media accounts
• Various social media posts, images, videos and/or comments made on their own
Social media accounts that may appear anti-government and in support of ISIS et al.
• The printing of maps of potential Canadian locations (soft and hard targets)
• Handwritten or typed notes/drawings/journals et al.
• Closing of various bank accounts
• Paying off or incurring debt on credit card(s)
• Utilizing a rental vehicle(s)
• Wiring money abroad and/or elsewhere
• Obtaining or updating a Canadian passport
• Purchase and/or possession of any type of weaponry
• Historical dates of significance (example: September 11th)
To successfully deter and prevent these atrocious events from occurring, a joint multi-faceted approach must be adopted and implemented, promoting ‘proactive resilience’ – comprised of research, investigation, collaborative intelligence, education, and awareness. This must occur on many institutional levels, incorporating joint responsibility and input from all facets of the judicial system, researchers, the family structure, the media, peer support programs/systems and the educational system to intercede and proactively prevent these tragic circumstances from occurring. Reacting after a tragic event has become more frequent today.
Not every situation is avoidable, however, with shared, focused due diligence, tragedy can be potentially deterred and avoided. This was evidenced by the successful teamwork with the recent sentencing of a radicalized Canadian citizen to 4.5 years in jail, who was communicating with and attempting to join ISIS in Syria. This came to fruition on October 31, 2017 after a joint investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The key to combatting repeated victimology is a concentrated proactive focus on ‘intervention’ and ‘prevention.’ The proactive ISIS acronym to combat terrorism must involve an: Integrative Security & Intelligence Strategy. Tackling a lone wolf, let alone a pack, will require a joint collective effort.
1-4 Investigative Report (2016). Arts & Entertainment Television Network: “ISIS: Rise of Terror.” (Video Documentary) October 3, 2017
What propels criminals to provide sensitive information to police under the guise of being a confidential human source?
Pictured: James “Whitey” Bulger
The recruitment and handling of sources involves one of the most dangerous activities a police service can become affiliated with. The first phase of assessing the viability, credibility and reliability of a confidential human source involves identifying and determining the core motivators to decipher why a person becomes a confidential source. This should involve a continual process for the duration of the source’s involvement with the police, due to motives being fluid and not fixed. The motivators of an informant may fluctuate throughout their covert tenure with the police; therefore, the importance of continually assessing and reassessing their behavioural motives is key to ensure the balancing criminal pendulum is benefiting a police service and not potentially hindering it.
The three most common types of motivators for people to provide sensitive information is:
• In exchange for judicial consideration,
• Monetary compensation,
• The civic duty to do the right thing.
Pictured: Johnny Depp portraying James “Whitey” Bulger in: “BLACK MASS” (2015)
The sources that provide information to the police merely on the grounds of “doing the right thing” typically do not seek or request compensation or consideration from the police. However, these types of sources still require a significant amount of due diligence from the handling officer(s), in tandem with adhering to respective policies and procedures.
Such handling becomes problematic when sources are more actively embedded within organized criminal groups. In these circumstances, the underlying motives for cooperating with the police may not be evidently clear to the handling officers, particularly if they are inexperienced handlers. A hypothetical scenario involving an entrenched organized criminal being handled by two relatively inexperienced handlers can potentially translate into exposing a police service to the elevated risks of confidential human source handling. With that said, the two most dangerous types of motivators a confidential human source can possess is: wanting to seek revenge (against competing organized crime groups) and/or attempting to corrupt a police officer.
Organized criminal groups, like certain outlaw motorcycle gangs and Eastern European crime clans, routinely encourage members to actively compromise and corrupt a police officer in order to snatch inside information about arrests, warrants and investigations.
The human source motivators involving ‘revenge’ and ‘corruption’ were tragically exposed in the FBI’s handling of former Boston mafia boss: James “Whitey” Bulger. Bulger did provide information to his FBI handler — agent James Connolly —but it was to eliminate his competition, the Italian mafia in Boston to facilitate the expansion of Bulger’s criminal enterprise. Eventually, the relationship between Bulger and Connolly involved the dissemination of information from the FBI directly to benefit Bulger — including the identities of other confidential sources, some of whom were murdered due to the one-way information exchange.
It’s an extreme and relatively isolated case, but it highlights the importance of adhering to the policies and guidelines for handling confidential human sources, including (but not limited to): meeting a source with a partner, protecting the identity of a source, maintaining the flow of information from source to the police (never the opposite), refraining from divulging your personal information and/or exchanging information electronically, documenting information so it can be followed up for verification, reliability and corroboration; and knowing the differences between a source and an agent.
Never task or direct a confidential human source. A confidential human source handler wants to know what a source sees and hears when they are active on the streets. Once a source is tasked with something as simple as retrieving a phone number, the handler has essentially elevated that source into the role of a police agent. That now incorporates a whole slew of additional policies, procedures and regulations.
At the end of the day, be professional and adhere to your respective policies and procedures, seek advice from other experienced handlers and/or consult with a designated Crown attorney versed in this type of intelligence work.
Pictured: Former FBI Agent: James Connolly
Meanwhile, Connolly, the former FBI agent and confidential human source handler, is now living in a federal prison where orange is the new white(y).
Illegal Gambling & Organized Crime: A Victimless Crime?
Investigative Story By: Stephen G. Metelsky
Illegal gambling – is it a victimless crime? A game of poker may seem harmless and innocent, but it isn’t. Gambling is a lucrative vice in organized crime – fraught with violence and even murder.
According to the RCMP, illegal betting is at the top of the list of income generating rackets for organized crime – and business is good in southern Ontario. And experts agree.
“Gambling is the most profitable in the criminal portfolio. Not drugs, not prostitution, but illegal gaming” says Paul Manning, a former undercover officer who infiltrated the underworld and illegal gambling in southern Ontario – the epicenter being Hamilton.
In 2014 an Our London story about gambling in Ontario revealed illegal gaming generates a profit into the tens of millions of dollars for organized crime.
William Sword, a former Ontario Provincial Police investigator with the Organized Crime Illegal Gaming Unit has provided expert testimony throughout Ontario regarding cases of organized crime and illegal gaming.
“It’s a very lucrative business, even more than drug sales,” says Sword, adding the steps to lucrative gambling profits can be reaped in the underworld with a deck of cards, some betting slips, and a book.
Why is it thriving? Police are aware of illegal gaming houses in southern Ontario but are strapped to devote significant resources to a crime, a summary offence, that rarely ends with a jail sentence in an Ontario Court of Justice.
The costs associated with the investigative front end are outweighed by the underwhelming result, typically ending with a paltry fine or conditional discharge.
“Those investigations are very costly and human resource intensive,” says William Sword.
As recent as 2015, Sword testified he personally observed crimes involving assaults and extortions in relation to gambling debt collections during his years investigating illegal gaming, at times working undercover. He is aware of shootings and homicides that have occurred in the underworld due to illegal gambling and the owing debts to crime families.
Illegal gaming has thrived in the southern Ontario area for years – leading to murderous intentions in the mafia. Musitano crime family hitman Kenneth Murdock, who murdered at the behest of brothers Pat and Angelo in the 1990’s, killed three.
The motive behind the murder of janitor Salvatore Alaimo was an outstanding gambling debt owed to the Musitano’s. Alaimo wasn’t even involved in organized crime.
The murder of former Hamilton mob boss Johnny “Pops” Papalia was rooted in outstanding sports betting, bookmaking debts and loans.
“There is use of violence to enforce gambling debts,” says Paul Manning, referencing what underworld enforcers resort to when collecting gambling debts owed to the mob in southern Ontario.
Manning contends there are mafia run poker houses presently operating in the city of Hamilton, with five or six different poker games simultaneously on the go at each location.
“Gambling is protected with their lives,” Manning says, adding an illegal gaming house is heavily protected by enforcers – menacing criminals with underworld connections, to avoid the games from being ‘ripped-off.’
“These gaming houses are controlled by traditional organized crime,” adds Manning.
“The Hells Angels provide protection at illegal gaming houses run by traditional organized crime families in Hamilton, and collect outstanding debts on the mob’s behalf,” says a former intelligence officer who investigated outlaw motorcycle gangs in southern Ontario.
The former biker officer, wishing to remain anonymous, spoke about the undercover work of Paul Manning, and his infiltration of mafia controlled illegal gaming houses in Hamilton.
In southern Ontario, “history has shown, that the Hells Angels and Italian organized crime are working together in the illegal gaming industry”, says Len Isnor, an outlaw motorcycle gang expert and former Detective Staff Sergeant from the OPP’s Biker Enforcement Unit, who retired in 2017.
“These card games are all held at locations that limit people from attending. The security is there, but nobody knows where they are. They will get an invitation the day of the game. They attend a location and a van takes them to the gaming location”, adds Isnor.
Illegal card games comprise one of many gaming rackets between the mob and the bikers. Online sports betting provides a greater, more lucrative profit margin in the underworld. Another joint opportunity exploited by traditional organized crime and the Hells Angels – with Platinum Sports book, evidenced by the RCMP/CFSEU led Project ORIVER.
The Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada reported the discovery of Platinum Sports book back in 2012 – involving organized criminal groups “using an off-shore gambling website, PlatinumSportsBook.com, to launder proceeds of crime generated in Canada and make money through illegal gambling”, reports the federal intelligence agency.
“With Project ORIVER, it exposed a little bit of what the Hells Angels are into with Italian Organized Crime. Italian Organized Crime runs Platinum Sports book, but the Hells Angels are a part of it”, adds Isnor, the biker expert who worked on the RCMP led project.
“The website was host to thousands of gamblers whose wagers allegedly resulted in millions of dollars in profit for organized crime”, according to the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada. When this much money is involved, violence is typically not too far behind.
“Hells Angels members would go out and enforce payment of any outstanding gambling debts”, adds Isnor.
Could illegal gaming be one of many underlying motives for the recently linked murders of Angelo Musitano in Waterdown and Mila Barbieri in York region involving the same shooter? A definite possibility. In the underworld, motives and murderous intentions are endless.
In 2016 the RCMP-led Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit initiated Project OEIDER – with a focus on illegal gambling machines in 11 mafia affiliated cafés in York region – seizing over 70 illegal gaming machines along with proceeds of crime in the thousands of dollars.
Pat Musitano’s vehicle was torched in the driveway of his Hamilton home. In June 2017 his house was shot at, just weeks after his brother’s murder. The same underworld turbulence is occurring in York region – arsons and explosions decimating many illegal gambling affiliated café’s.
There is palpable tension in southern Ontario’s underworld. Are the lucrative territorial profits reaped from illegal gambling a possible underlying motive for the current turbulence and bloodshed? One of many questions yet to be answered by investigators.
Odds are illegal gambling will no longer be viewed as a victimless crime.
In October of 2017 I wrote about the May 2017 murder of mobster Angelo Musitano. The article appeared in the #NiagaraFallsReview #StCatharinesStandard & the #WellandTribune – the link to the article is below:
On January 11, 2018 the Hamilton Police held a press conference regarding an update in the MUSITANO Homicide case. Police have confirmed that Angelo Musitano had been under surveillance and stalked by unknown perpetrators in the days leading up to his death.
Photo: Pasquale “Pat” MUSITANO
Global News did a follow-up story on the MUSITANO Homicide. As an Organized Crime expert, I was interviewed by reporter Catherine McDonald. The video link to the Global News story from January 11th, 2018 is below:
A tragedy in this small Niagara town at the west end of the region transformed an otherwise serene evening in June of 2002 into a day forever etched in the memories of local residents. After a brief yet tumultuous relationship had ended in May, Shannon Cruse returned to Grimsby to be close to her family after living briefly with her boyfriend, Peter Kiss, in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wis. Cruse had ended the relationship amidst revelations to friends that she was afraid of her now ex-boyfriend and to alert authorities if they ever saw her ex in the Niagara area.
On Friday June 14, 2002 Kiss travelled from Wisconsin and crossed the Canadian border in possession of an undetected firearm. His premeditated intentions became clear as he swapped his own vehicle for a rental before arriving in Grimsby.
Winston Road, western outskirts of town, bordering Stoney Creek, is within walking distance to Lake Ontario. It was dusk when Kiss travelled down this desolate road. When the reverberating sounds of gunshots permeated the air, a number of frantic 911 calls were made, prompting a tiered emergency response to the area. Shannon Cruse was located first, sprawled across the front driveway of her home, suffering from two gunshot wounds. She was transported to hospital but succumbed to the injuries inflicted by her murderous ex-boyfriend.
Investigators frantically rushed to the home of Shannon’s parents in close proximity to the first crime scene. When investigators arrived at the second Cruse home they discovered the front door had been forced open. This led police to the master bedroom of the Cruse family home where three other victims were located. Shannon’s parents, Mary and Donald Cruse had also been fatally shot by Kiss. Sadly, Shannon’s six-year-old daughter Shaniya had also been victimized. The killer was never brought to justice for this cowardly and senseless act. His lifeless body was discovered in the home, the fatal shot having been administered by his own hand.
The carnage confronting emergency personnel upon their arrival that day inflicted a post-traumatic residue that lingered beyond the echoing of gunshots and the blood-stained asphalt. Some of the neighbouring residents from this tight knit community also sought post-event grief counselling after this horrific event. The tragedy sparked an ongoing issue pertaining to domestic violence and abuse, not to mention concerns about border security and the smuggling of firearms in and out of the country.
It’s been 10 years since the innocent lives of four people were taken. Long gone are the photographers and the crime scene tape draped across Winston Road, but the memories of the murdered victims never to be forgotten.
Story by: Stephen G. Metelsky (Pseudonym: Stephen G. Boyle)