His last name couldn’t get him out of trouble anymore. Those days were long gone. Pretty-boy Toronto mob prince Domenic Racco, 34, met his end on a desolate railway track in Milton, Ontario on the night of December 9, 1983, shot five times in the head, neck and chest after tempting fate one too many times in shady drug deals with the infamous Musitano mafia clan in Hamilton.
Tony Musitano, who provided the gunmen for the hit, died of natural causes this week at 72. He was serving a prison term for arson and extortion at the time of Racco’s slaying and dispatched a triggerman from behind bars. His conviction for the Racco murder conspiracy ran concurrent with the arson and extortion beef.
The handsome, hot-tempered son of legendary Toronto Calabrian mob don Michele (Mike the Baker) Racco, Domenic Racco was known as a wildcard in Canadian underworld circles, the kind of gangland brat who shot first and asked questions later and leveraged his lineage every chance possible. An unabashed ladies’ man, he liked drugs, expensive designer clothes, flashy cars and life in the fast lane. A staple of the Toronto newspaper gossip columns, he could be found enjoying VIP treatment at the posh restaurants and glitzy clubs in Toronto’s trendy Yorkville neighborhood on a nightly basis in the years leading up to his murder.
Mike Racco ruled his Ontario mafia empire unchallenged for 30 years, using an iron fist, a sharp business sense, and a wide network of allies in both Canada and the United States to keep a firm grip on the Toronto rackets. Finally succumbing to cancer in January 1980, his funeral attracted some 2,000 mourners and mob luminaries from around the world flooding into Ontario to pay their respects. While he was alive, the scowling, heavy-handed Godfather had a soft spot for his son and would run interference for young Domenic whenever he got himself into jams, which was frequently.
One jam Mike the Baker couldn’t get him out of occurred in 1971 when 21-year old Domenic got into a fight with another youth over a pack of cigarettes at the Newtonbrook Plaza shopping mall, pulled out his pistol and started shooting. He was sent to prison for seven years for assault and reckless endangerment. Blaming his brother-in-law for his arrest, believing he was dimed out to the cops by his sister’s husband, Domenic had him shot in the leg as retaliation.
Released in 1978, Domenic Racco dove headfirst into the flourishing cocaine trade sweeping North America and hooked up with the Musitano crime family in blue-collar Hamilton as his suppliers. Angelo (The Beast) Musitano founded the Hamilton Calabrian mafia in the 1930s. His nephew Dominic Musitano was the region’s mob don in the last part of the 20th Century and controlled large swaths of narcotics turf throughout Ontario. Tony Musitano, Dominic’s baby brother, was a top lieutenant of his and helped broker the business relationship between the Racco and Musitano mafia dynasties in the coke trade.
The Musitano brothers began providing Racco drug shipments on consignment and Racco eventually fell behind on his payments. He further upset the Musitanos by pushing into Hamilton and infringing on their territory, violating a well-established treaty between the two families dating back decades. By the fall of 1983, Racco, at that point a full-blown coke-fiend, owed the Musitano brothers a half-million bucks and the Musitanos were getting tired of waiting to collect. Racco also faced a 1982 drug-trafficking case that made certain powers that be in the Canadian mafia worried and gave the Musitanos a pathway to getting approval to have him whacked.
With Mike the Baker out of the picture, long dead and buried, his son was no longer untouchable. The Musitanos knew it was open season and Domenic Racco was living on borrowed time.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had a bug on Dominic Musitano’s phone and listened in on this conversation in October 1983 between Musitano and Racco where the growing frustration was clear:
Racco – Listen, I’m trying to get that thing cashed, so I can I get you some of the money.
Musitano – How long is it going to take?
Racco – You’ve got to have patience…..I know I would have lost patience by now myself, so I don’t blame you.
Musitano – It’s gone well beyond patience at this point, kid.
Tony Musitano had recently been sent to prison for arson and extortion tied to a series of bakery firebombings. He was incarcerated at Millhaven Correctional Institute in Lenox County, Ontario and his brother Dominic would send Joe Avignone, their nephew, to the prison to relay messages about attempts to collect on the unpaid debt and subsequently the plot to knock off the drugged-out mafia royal.
Unfortunately for the Musitanos and Avignone, RCMP had the Millhaven visiting room wired for sound. All of Tony Musitano and Joe Avignone’s meetings were recorded.
RCMP agents watched on as Dominic Musitano traveled from Hamilton to the Toronto area on December 7, 1983 and met with Racco in Oakville, Ontario at the Holiday Inn coffee shop. Musitano took a room at the hotel and met Racco for lunch at the coffee shop the next two days in a row.
On the morning of December 9, Racco cashed a check for $21,000 from mortgaging a piece of family-owned property and another one for $8,000 and brought the money to Musitano at the Holiday Inn. It bought him another 10 hours.
That night, Musitano assembled a hit team and went off to pick up Racco at his luxury apartment in Mississauga, Ontario. The shooters and back-up team were provided by Tony Musitano. Exactly two days earlier, his cell mate, a petty thief named Billy Rankin was released from Millhaven and rounded up three of his buddies for a job he was promised a $20,000 fee for completing.
Racco was last seen alive the evening of December 9, 1983 in the parking lot of his apartment complex getting into a car with Dominic Musitano, Billy Rankin and Rankin’s best friend, Pete Majeste at the wheel. A car containing a pair of back-up shooters in Rankin and Majeste associates, Graham Court and Dennis Monaghan, followed behind them. Driving to a barren piece of farmland in Milton, Ontario, Rankin and Majeste walked Racco to a set of train tracks and killed him execution style. His body was found the next morning, spotted by a passenger on a passing commuter train.
The group of mob conspirators were indicted for the Racco slaying in March 1994. Both Musitanos pleaded guilty. Dominic Musitano did five years in prison for being an “accessory to murder.” He died of a heart attack in 1995 and his sons Patrick (Fat Pat) and Angelo (Big Ange) Musitano seized control of the Hamilton rackets by orchestrating the murder of Buffalo mob capo John (Johnny Pops) Papalia two years later in 1997. Big Ange Musitano was gunned down in his driveway behind the wheel of his SUV in 2017, a victim of the ongoing Canadian mob war centered in Montreal.
Tony Musitano was released from prison in 1990 and returned to Hamilton, a self-styled retired gangster looking to make an honest living in the dry cleaning business. To his credit, he had no further brushes with the law after his prison term.