Saturday, 20 September 2008

If you get between the Montreal Mafia and its money, this is what can happen to you.

Richard Griffin was shot dead in front of his Terrebonne St. home on July 12, 2006, a not-so-subtle message was sent: If you get between the Montreal Mafia and its money, this is what can happen to youThe police knew Griffin, 41, had ties to the West End Gang, a group whose members emerged out of Montreal's west end decades ago, several of whom have been convicted of drug trafficking.Griffin was himself suspected of being involved in large-scale drug trafficking for years. Drug trafficking was initially believed to be the motive behind the still-unresolved slaying in Notre Dame de Grâce, but evidence gathered during the Project Colisée police investigation suggests otherwise.Much of the evidence was included in a court summary filed during Nicolo Rizzuto's bail hearing last year.In the months leading up to his death, Griffin and members of the Mafia were involved in a doomed effort to smuggle 1,300 kilograms of cocaine into Canada from Venezuela. The plot was plagued with problems from the start, as Griffin and his partners had trouble getting the finances in place to buy cocaine from a Colombian cartel.
Several months before the first shipment of cocaine was sent, the RCMP had an informant in place. The first shipment was seized by police at a South Shore warehouse controlled by Griffin.Wiretaps and hidden microphones picked up conversations in which members of the Mafia complained of losing a $10-million investment, but they seemed to accept it as the cost of doing such risky business.
The events that led to Griffin's death actually started 18 months before the shooting.In November 2004, investigators in Project Colisée were paying particular attention to an $800,000 debt a man named Francesco Faustini, 41, owed to the Mafia through its online gambling operation.On Nov. 8, 2004, Francesco Del Balso, described by police as a young leader in the Mafia, was recorded talking to one of the people who managed the organization's sports gambling operations. The two men agreed it was time to shut down Faustini's account. He was given a month to pay what he owed.When the deadline arrived, Del Balso was eager to collect. He called Steve Salam, a man described in court documents as Faustini's agent to the online gambling network, several times on Dec. 7, 2004. By the end of the day, Del Balso told Salam that Faustini had "a f--king serious beating coming to him if he doesn't pay."
Eight days later, Faustini was summoned to Bar Laennec for a 4 p.m. meeting. Del Balso and his partner Lorenzo Giordano, another young Mafia leader, used the watering hole in a Laval strip mall as their headquarters. About 30 minutes after Faustini arrived, Del Balso and Giordano were observed inside the bar with him. Giordano had what appeared to be a bloodstain on the front of his shirt. Wiretaps later confirmed Faustini had been severely beaten.Faustini was helped into his car with orders to pay the $800,000 he owed.


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