Members of an Ontario ‘crime family’ with alleged ties to the Italian Mafia laundered more than $70 million in dirty money through provincial casinos in “just a few short years,” according to new allegations made by York Regional Police.
The allegations were made Thursday at a news conference announcing the arrest of nine people in connection to one of Canada’s largest-ever organized crime busts.
“Ontario casinos, they were used nightly by this group,” said York Regional Police Det.-Sgt. Carl Mattinen.
“This allowed for large quantities of money to be gambled where there would be a minimal loss incurred. The subjects could then leave with thousands of dollars each night, under the guise of successful casino play.”
According to Mattinen, reports received from casinos as part of the investigation suggested the criminal organization was able to “clean in excess of $70 million” through Ontario casinos over the past few years.
“It was not uncommon for our surveillance officers to see between $30,000 and $50,000 gambled per night at our Ontario casinos,” he said.
Millions seized during three-day raid
In total, police seized more than $35 million worth of assets they claim were obtained using the proceeds of crime as a result of their investigation. This included 27 homes, gambling machines, more than $1 million in cash, plus numerous high-end vehicles, including five Ferraris.
The investigation and subsequent arrests were made possible, in part, because of co-operation between Canadian law enforcement agencies and Italian State Police, who police say exchanged information.
According to police, the organized ‘crime family’ based in southern Ontario that includes the nine individuals arrested, plus one more person still wanted by police, has ties to a Mafia group from the southern Italian province of Calabria. Police said at least 12 arrests were made in Calabria as a result of a related investigation.
Police also said Thursday that the Ontario group has used violence and intimidation, as well as committed numerous other criminal acts, to earn millions of dollars in illegal profits. These alleged activities include loan sharking and operating illegal casinos.
The proceeds of these crimes, police say, were then funnelled through legitimate businesses and real estate transactions as a means of cleaning the dirty money.
“They have legitimized themselves by funnelling illegal profits through business; including financial institutions, car dealerships, finance companies and even charities,” said York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe during Thursday’s press conference.
“We know that they have laundered tens of millions of dollars through casinos in Ontario,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), which is responsible for the province’s casinos, said it cannot comment on specific questions because the matter involves an ongoing police investigation.
“OLG takes money laundering seriously, and complies with all federal and provincial requirements, including the reporting of transactions required by Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC),” said an OLG spokesperson in a written statement.
Six charged with money laundering
Those arrested as part of the three-day raid include Angelo Figliomeni, 56, Emilio Zannuti, 48, Vito Sili, 37, Erica Quintal, 30, Nicola Martino, 52, and Salvatore Oliveti, 52.
All six of these individuals were charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Figliomeni, who police claim is the boss of the Ontario-based organization, was also charged with instructing or directing a criminal organization, possession of the proceeds of crime and tax evasion for failing to report millions of dollars in illegal income to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
“Income or revenue generated from illegal activities such as gambling and loan sharking is taxable and must be reported to the CRA,” said the CRA’s acting-director of criminal investigations Stéphane Bonin.
Oliveti, meanwhile, was singled out by police for his significant role in allegedly laundering the crime family’s dirty money.
“Options B Solutions, a financial company run in Vaughan by Salvatore Oliveti, played a major role in the cleaning of illegal funds for this criminal organization,” Mattinen said Thursday.
Past allegations of criminal ties
This isn’t the first time Figliomeni and Oliveti have made headlines.
In 2010, both men were the subjects of media reports when Italian prosecutors issued anti-mafia warrants against seven men living in the Greater Toronto Area. Figliomeni and Oliveti were named in the warrants, which targeted alleged members of the ‘Ndrangheta, a Mafia group that arose in southern Italy.
At the time, Oliveti’s lawyer denied he had any connection with the Italian Mafia and organized crime, adding in a story published by the Globe and Mail that Oliveti was “shocked and mystified by the Italian warrant.”
Oliveti has also been tied to the family of Montreal crime boss Vito Rizzuto, who, according to a 2010 Globe and Mail report, were part owners of Olifas Marketing Group Inc., a company run by Oliveti.
In addition to his role at Option B, Oliveti is the founder and “chairman of the board” for REV IT UP for SickKids, a Vaughan-based organization that raises money for families with children who are ill.
Global News contacted REV IT UP for comment about Oliveti’s arrest and whether the organization was targeted as part of the police investigation announced Thursday.
Nadia Cerelli-Fiore, who’s listed on REV IT UP’s website as a board member and director of marketing and media relations, did not answer direct questions.
“I won’t be of any assistance in this matter under investigation,” Cerelli-Fiore said in a written statement. “I handle media relations for the charity event, REV IT UP For SickKids which to my knowledge is in no way connected to this.”
“I don’t have any further details at this point,” she said.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials at Thursday’s press conference said their investigation was still ongoing and that they are aware of other criminal activity that was not included in the recently announced set of charges. Police also indicated that the arrests “signify the fall of power for the most significant ‘Ndrangheta crime family operating in York Region.”