Ontario police make arrest in high-profile gangland murders linked to Mafia ‘power struggle’

HAMILTON, ONT. — Police are plotting grim landmarks of a sprawling underworld power struggle between Canadian Mafia clans — murders, bombings and arsons that stretch from suburban Ontario streets to a drainage ditch in Mexico.

The most public confirmation of the spreading feud came Thursday from a joint police task force announcing the arrest of one man for two gangland murders and an international manhunt for two others who fled to Mexico — at least one of whom is feared dead.

Jabril Hassan Abdalla, 27, was arrested Wednesday at 3 p.m. in his Hamilton home for last year’s murders of Hamilton mobster Angelo Musitano, 39, whose family has had a significant Mafia presence for generations, and of Mila Barberi, 28, who was shot inadvertently in a parking lot in Vaughan, north of Toronto. The gunfire was meant for someone else, possibly her boyfriend, Saverio Serrano, who was injured in the attack, or his father, Diego Serrano, who is known as one of Canada’s “cocaine cowboys” for his extensive high-volume trafficking.

Michael Graham Cudmore, 37, of Hamilton, the alleged triggerman in both killings, left for Mexico before he was arrested. He has since been reported missing by his family, who fear for his safety.

Daniel Mario Tomassetti, 27, who owns a travel company in Hamilton selling yacht vacations in the Caribbean, is also wanted for the two murders. He similarly left for Mexico ahead of his arrest.

Missing from the police announcement are the names of the suspected “masterminds” behind the murders that police link to a Mafia power struggle.

Adding to all of this intrigue, the same feud is now linked to yet another mob murder, that of Daniele “Dani” Ranieri — a notorious gangland enforcer from Toronto who had “Cosa Nostra” tattooed on his chest. Police said Ranieri was trussed up, executed and left in a ditch in Mexico. His body was found March 4 in the Cancun area.

From left to right: Daniel Tomassetti, Michael Cudmore and Jabril Abdalla

He had been a “person of interest” to police in the murders of both Musitano and Barberi.

Det. Sgt. Peter Thom, of Hamilton police’s homicide unit, said these murders and attempted murder are the most obvious signs of a renewed wave of underworld hostility.

“This case is about traditional organized crime — the Mafia, the mob, whatever handle you want to call it,” Thom said. “Organized crime continues to thrive in our communities; they are successful, well structured with a hierarchy which insulates those higher up the organizational ladder.

“Some of their businesses are legitimate, but others aren’t. That’s why their organizational heads drive around in armour-clad vehicles with bodyguards, unlike CEOs of other multinational companies.”

Thom said the joint police probe — codenamed Project Scopa, the Italian word for “broom” — highlights a fight for power in the province between two mob factions.

“With the rest of the incidents that’ve been happening around the province over the last few years,” Thom said, “not only with murders but arsons and bombings, there definitely appears to us, although we don’t know the exact motive, there seems to be some kind of power struggle going on.”

Dean Paquette, a Hamilton lawyer who has represented members of the Musitano family for years, said the family was notified of an arrest Wednesday.

“My client has no comment,” Paquette said. “My client and his family, at this point in time, wish to be left alone.”

Police complain the Musitanos have not cooperated with investigators.

“The exact motive is still not known,” Thom said. “We believe that members of Mr. Musitano’s family and associates will know the exact motive for his murder. They, however, have chosen to remain silent.”

The plot to kill Musitano began Oct. 19, 2016, police said.

The three accused men were involved in a sophisticated and well-organized surveillance of their targets, their family and associates before the shootings.

“It was evident from the investigation that these three individuals were not the masterminds behind the plan to kill Angelo Musitano. A number of other persons of interest were identified.” He declined to name them but said they were known mob figures in the Hamilton and Toronto area.

On May 20, 2017, 18 days after Musitano’s shooting, Cudmore left Canada for Mexico, where he hooked up with Ranieri, who was already hiding out there from Canadian charges and living under the alias Diego Ramirez Diaz, Thom said.

Police publicly revealed the connection between the Musitano and Barberi killings and released a photo of a suspect on Jan. 23, 2018. Four days later, police say Tomassetti flew to Mexico. He was already a suspect in the case but police decided it would be best for the investigation to let him leave. His whereabouts are unknown.

“I don’t know what they were involved in down in Mexico,” Thom said.

While he was in hiding, Cudmore kept in regular contact with his family, but that ended about the time Ranieri was murdered. The circumstances of his sudden silence lead his family, and police, to fear for his safety. He was reported as a missing person on April 18.

Cudmore and Abdalla have a criminal record but Tommassetti does not.

Left: A person of interest in the murder of Angelo Musitano in Hamilton last May. Right: Suspects in the killing of Mila Barberi in Vaughan last March. Hamilton Police; York Regional Police

Investigators had more than 150 authorizations for wiretaps and viewed thousands of hours of surveillance video.

Police executed search warrants at the homes of Tommassetti and Abdalla in February, and at the homes of other unnamed and uncharged “people of interest” in the case.

Musitano was part of an Old World Mafia family that took root in Canada in 1937 when Musitano’s namesake great-uncle fled Delianova, Italy, a village in Calabria, the toe of the boot-shaped map of Italy.

The elder Angelo Musitano garnered the sobriquet “The Beast of Delianova” by dragging his sister, whom he accused of dishonouring the family, through the town’s streets to her lover’s home, where he killed her on the front steps with a dagger.

That great-uncle settled with family in Hamilton, where he inculcated two nephews into the outlaw tradition, including Musitano’s father, Dominic, who built a crime family that vied for power in Ontario’s active criminal milieu. Dominic’s brother, Tony, was convicted after a frightening Hamilton bomb spree targeting bakeries.

Pat Musitano, Dominic’s eldest son, was seen as heir to his father’s mob boss mantle after his father’s sudden death from heart failure in 1995.

Angelo Musitano also grew up studying the family trade.

Both Pat and Angelo were charged for the 1997 assassination of John “Johnny Pops” Papalia, known as “The Enforcer.” They struck a deal, admitting to ordering the murder of Papalia’s right-hand man, Niagara crime boss Carmen Barillaro, in return for charges in Papalia’s case being dropped.

Friends of Musitano’s said he had turned his life around in the past four years, found God and joined their weekly men’s Christian Bible study group.

The police task force involved officers from Hamilton, York, Toronto and Niagara police, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency, with assistance from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and Mexican authorities.

National Post

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