Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. In this episode, he interviews Peter Edwards, a reporter from the Toronto Star who specializes in covering organized crime.
Peter’s Background: Peter Edwards explains his extensive experience as a journalist at the Toronto Star, specializing in organized crime. He mentions his numerous books on the topic, including an encyclopedia on organized crime. He also notes that he collaborates with reporters from other cities due to the mobility of organized crime figures.
Sicilian Mafia in Canada: The discussion delves into the history of the Sicilian Mafia’s presence in Canada, focusing on the 1950s and the influence of individuals like Carmen Galante. The conversation also highlights the role of Frank Catroni, Vic Catroni, Nicoli Rizzuto, and Vito Rizzuto of the Montreal Mafia.
Power Struggles: The conversation covers the power struggles within the Montreal Mafia, including Vito Rizzuto’s leadership and subsequent imprisonment in the United States. The murder of three Capos in New York is mentioned, and the intriguing involvement of a mob figure from Montreal in that event is discussed.
Changing Alliances: Peter Edwards discusses how organized crime in Canada is evolving, with a shift away from strict family lines. He emphasizes the importance of alliances and connections between different criminal groups, which have become more prevalent with the advent of the Internet.
Hells Angels: The conversation turns to the Hells Angels, exploring their rise in Canada. They discuss the structured nature of the Hells Angels and their complex, sometimes unscrupulous, alliances. The shift from being “thugs” to a formidable organization is highlighted.
Modern Activities: The discussion touches on the diversified activities of organized crime, including involvement in strip clubs, girls, and white-collar crimes. The role of gambling in power struggles between different crime groups is also mentioned.
Organization and Alliances: The conversation elaborates on the structure and alliances of the Hells Angels. It is noted that the Hells Angels prefer to be seen as equals rather than a pyramid structure, which is common in the traditional mafia.
Biker Clubs and Mob Associations: The conversation delves into the concept of biker clubs, their affiliations, and how they can be incorporated into the larger Hells Angels network. Peter explains how different provinces in Canada have different criminal organizations, with the Drangheta being more prominent in Toronto.
Drug Trafficking: The conversation briefly touches on the historical “French connection” for smuggling heroin into Montreal and then into New York City. The ease of drug trafficking across the Canada-U.S. border and strategies for evading law enforcement are discussed.
Changing Tactics: The conversation mentions how criminals adapt to law enforcement efforts. Criminals are now forming alliances, sharing loads, and utilizing encrypted messaging, making it difficult for authorities to track their activities. The use of GPS technology to target victims is also highlighted.
Covert Assassinations: The conversation discusses the changing tactics in assassinations, with drive-by shootings becoming more common, increasing the risk to bystanders.
Starbucks and High-End Operations: Criminals are increasingly seen at high-end locations like Starbucks. They spend on expensive coffee, reflecting their evolving operations and changing preferences.
Overall, the conversation provides insights into the shifting dynamics of organized crime in Canada, the roles of different criminal organizations, and their adaptation to modern challenges, including the use of technology and changing criminal tactics.
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[0:08] I have here Peter Edwards with the Toronto Star. He covers the mafia.
We don’t have that anymore down in the United States. We don’t have reporters seem like just focused on the mob anymore, but they’ve still got a pretty active family up there.
So, Peter, Rob, really welcome. I really appreciate you coming on the show.
And I’m going to come up and visit Canada here in about a month from the time I record this.
So I wanted to have this ready to go whenever I go up and come back to Canada. So welcome Peter.
Oh, thanks for having me. So Peter, tell us a little bit about yourself, about your books and your job covering the mob. What’s that like?
So I’ve been at the Toronto Star for a long, long time, and I’ve specialized in organized crime.
I’ve done, I think a dozen books on organized crime, including an encyclopedia with another reporter, Michelle OJ, who actually was shot by the Hells Angels, very brave guy from Montreal, and then I’ve done six other books on other topics.
We see a lot of connections, like I’m constantly talking to people in Vancouver or Montreal, even though I’m in Toronto, because a lot of our organized crime people bounce around between the cities or they subcontract someone from another city so that it’s harder to trace them down.
And so with the internet, what we’re finding is that the old mob families.
The Montreal was like a banana city. The old mob families.
If they want to do well, they’ve got to work with these newcomers, and there’s a lot of newcomers. So we’re getting all these alliances now.
It’s not as strict family lines as it used to be.
[1:37] Paul Interesting, yeah. If I remember, it was the Catronis, and like a Sicilian family, and then the Rizzuto, Vito Rizzuto, and his crew took over.
Can you bring us up to date, kind of a little bit of the history of the Sicilian mafia in Canada?
David So in the 1950s, a guy, Carmen Galenti came up from New York.
He’s a really tough guy with a pretty serious ambitions.
He organized the Montreal mob a fair bit. There was one guy, Vic Catroni. He was the eldest of a group of brothers.
He took Vic under his wing. Vic was Calabrian, but he got along with Sicilians and New York City is more Sicilian.
A lot of Canada is more Calabrian, especially around Toronto.
[2:19] Vic Catroni was smart enough to adapt to get along with Galenti, which meant getting along with the Bananos.
When Vic eventually passed on, the Rizzutos took over and the Rizzutos are Sicilian a lot more.
Things got pretty nasty at that point. There was quite a bit of killing.
Vito Rizzuto, who was the big mob guy up here for a long, long time, very good at corruption, very good at infiltrating the system.
He ended up going to prison in the States for his role in three murders in New York. And when he got out, there was a big fight for control with the Montreal mob again.
Yeah, that was so interesting. When I first learned that, that they bring this mob guy down from Canada, from Montreal to participate in arguably one of the, at the time, one of the most dramatic and biggest murders in mob history in New York City.
I mean, before Paul Castellano, the murder of the three Capos, that was huge.
That was like, Unbelievably huge to do that. They’d never done anything like that before.
Bring this guy, I guess maybe they brought him down.
[3:26] To help kind of like keep things confused.
The mob always likes to keep things confusing for law enforcement.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed that, but they like to throw a lot of stuff out in the game and keeps everybody off balance a little bit and confusing.
I just was amazed that they brought a guy down from Montreal to do that.
Yeah, we’re finding that now too.
I mean, that’s what I’ll be working on this week and the next week, because there’s a lot of subcontracting.
So the mob will want someone bumped off, but they’ll contract a street gang guy to do it.
And the street gang guy might not even know the full scope of what he’s doing.
He’s just killing someone for a generally not as much money as the other ones would charge.
And we’re getting Montreal mob guys hiring street gang guys in Toronto to do things for them, a lot more crossover. over.
Meanwhile, the Hells Angels have risen up.
At the start, they were like the guys who did the heavy lifting for the mob. Now, they’d be equal.
Like now, the Hells Angels are just as big of a deal as the mob, in my opinion.
Oh, really? Wow, that’s amazing. How does that work between the two?
The Hells Angels historically were a bunch of thugs, wore crappy clothes.
I mean, that was part of their thing was to have the dirtiest clothes of anybody and look the scruffiest.
Where on the other On the other hand, the mafia guys, they’re always like, look, clean and squared away.
Back in the day, they’d wear suits and gold jewelry and everything.
How did they ever get together like that?
And the Hells Angels seem so uncontrolled where the mob is so controlled.
[4:56] It’s funny because the Hells Angels like that scruffy image, but they’re a lot more structured than you’d think. Their image is actually copyrighted.
If you publish their winged death head without their permission, you’d be sued for a copyright infringement. They, their name, you couldn’t have Hell’s Angels ice cream without being sued.
They’re actually pretty litigious.
They like the tough image because it gets some people to underestimate them and some people scares them.
And it was true back in the sixties and seventies and Hunter S.
Thompson wrote a great book about them.
But the ones we have now, they’re, I’m looking at cybercrime.
I’m looking at those guys. I’m looking at lots of things involving the internet, those guys.
I’m looking at shipping through the port of Montreal. and if they aren’t doing it, they’re kind of allowing it to be done or thinking about doing it.
There are parts of Canada that don’t have a really big actual mafia and so…
People who normally would be inclined to go into the mafia, go into the Hells Angels, there’s a kind of a wing of the different gangs in B .C.
Who, if they had been brought up in Ontario, would have gone into the mob, but instead went into biker groups.
They don’t really ride motorcycles, like the motor, a lot of these guys don’t know any more about motorcycles than my grandmother did.
[6:10] Yeah, you got a pretty short riding season up there in Canada.
I ride motorcycles, and you got a real short riding season up there in Canada. that.
Oh yeah, it’s like a symbol. It’s funny that they like the idea of looking undisciplined, but if you look at their vests, you can tell a huge amount about them.
They’ve got to have different patches in different places. It’s very militaristic.
The Hells Angels actually came out of returning servicemen after World War II, and their rivals, the Bandidos, came out of the Vietnam War.
So there’s an undercurrent that’s very, very militaristic about them, and they’ll look you in the face when they say something.
The Quebec Hells Angels are, for Canada, the most fearsome ones.
I had a Ontario Hells Angel once, when I was talking to him, and he said, if it’s just me and you, we can talk.
If it’s me and you and guys from Ontario, watch your mouth. If it’s me and you and guys from Quebec, don’t look at me.
And because Quebec has that image, you really don’t want them mad at you.
And a lot of people from other provinces go to Quebec when Quebec needs heavy lifting or sort of deeper thinking.
There’s one guy I’m looking at now whose place was burned down a couple of weeks ago, and he went from Ontario, which is kind of in the interior off to Montreal.
And that’s really because they needed a smart, tough guy.
[7:24] So primarily, what I’ve seen over the years and past is they’re big into strip clubs and girls, but they’ve gone off into all kinds of white collar crime.
It sounds to me like they still do the strip clubs. They still kind of like the people that supply the girls and run all that in the strip clubs.
[7:41] Yeah, but then that’s something you can get caught on to. Like the guy I was just talking about, he had a strip club, but he actually lost his liquor license, which is the only thing they made stick against him.
He was charged with gambling. Gambling is a really big one.
Like right now there’s a fight between the mob in Ontario and the mob in Quebec and the Hells Angels are right in the thick of it and that’s over gambling.
Gambling is the big thing. You’re going to make a lot more money off gambling than some girl dancing around a pole.
Interesting. So is there like a particular figure how the Hells Angels in Canada is organized by province or by city?
They have chapters and so it’s funny because a lot of the chapters are in university towns.
If there’s a town with two universities, there’s going to be a Hells Angels chapel.
And generally fairly well -off places.
And a couple of weeks ago, they had a national run where they forced them all together, but it’s kind of like an awkward family picnic where people don’t always get along.
[8:38] But it is a bit of a chance to mingle. Please love those things, because it’s a chance for them to see who’s on the way up, who’s on the way down, who’s getting more respect than who else.
I’m very interested in who’s working on the docks, who has control of the docks.
There’s a lot of stolen car theft up here and I’m trying to find out how much these guys are doing in that. Interesting.
So each chapter kind of stands on its own, whereas like the Mafia will have these different families and then maybe have a commission that will settle.
Do they have anything like that? Not really. It’s supposed to be not a pyramid and the Mafia is more of a pyramid, especially the Sicilian Mafia.
The Hells Angels are supposed to be equals and that you can count it, you don’t cheat another Hells Angel or else you’re really in trouble.
So if I need help in a different area, I can reach out.
And if they don’t help me, they at least have to be respectful.
It means you’ve passed certain clearance, like you’re probably more reliable than someone else, but you don’t have to work with people.
You just need six members to set up a chapter. And then there’s a lot of support club people, like people who want to get into the club, who do a lot of the heavy lifting and the dirty jobs. So they’re the ones who get arrested generally.
[9:51] A lot like the mob. Mob has associates, they have prospects.
So there’s a lot of similarities in there.
Yeah, except you can’t pick your family members. Like if you’ve got an idiot nephew, yeah, he’s sort of a problem forever.
But with the bikers, they peel them off a lot and they’re pretty ruthless about if someone rises up, they’ll peel off a lot of their rivals in the club and they say they’re out in bad standing and they’ll accuse them of talking to police or something.
And so a couple of years ago, the young ones were ascending and they booted out a lot of the old ones who didn’t like the internet, like the old ones were kind of looking down their noses and thinking they’re spoiled little kids.
And they thought these guys are dinosaurs. And so they just booted them out.
[10:34] That’s interesting. That’s that like happens in companies. I know I saw it happen on the police department here in Kansas city.
All of a sudden we have new breed takes over most of the management positions and they start cracking on some of the older guys who had these ways about them.
And, and they even started calling themselves dinosaurs and they started retiring off pretty quick.
Yeah. And you can just make life difficult for somebody. and there’s some stuff you just can’t prove. Like how do you prove you’re not talking to police?
Yeah, really? You know, you can create a cloud around someone and then they’re effectively gone and then they get annoyed about this isn’t worth paying the dues for and you know, I’m not paying money to hang around with people I don’t like.
But it’s funny when they moved into Ontario, they sort of incorporated a lot of the existing clubs and then once they incorporated them, they got rid of a lot of the members and brought in new guys into those spots. So now you’re a tie -in.
[11:22] Traditional Italian crime families. You have the Drangheta, I think.
Was that more in Toronto or Ontario?
Just north of, yeah, that’s the Toronto thing mostly, and just by immigration patterns.
And Montreal, it leans more towards Sicilian. And part of it, I think, is that New York is more Sicilian.
And so it’s sort of a natural, you’d be more comfortable in Montreal if you’re a Sicilian mob guy than you would be north of Toronto.
But if you want to do well, you’ve got to get some sort of an alliance.
Like you’ve got to get someone to cross over from the other side.
And we’re getting a lot more of that now where people aren’t as strict about which side they’re on. I see. Interesting.
And so you go back to the French connection that was Sicilian.
That was I think Lucchese family and it was Galante part of that, the French connection when they brought the heroin in from Canada, I always wondered about the Canadian end of that, the Montreal end of that French connection heroin.
Yeah, that was great. And that was the real thing. It wasn’t something some screenwriter thought up and you bring the heroin into Montreal and then drop it down to New York and it’s 385 miles. You can drive that in half a day.
So, and it’s extremely hard to catch heroin when it’s being smuggled.
I mean, they can’t catch SUVs when they’re smuggled. They put them in containers and you don’t know what’s in the container.
So heroin’s pretty much impossible.
[12:42] What’s the border like? Is there a lot of back roads and ways to get across the border and avoid checkpoints or do they just do it like in out of Mexico, just have compartments and send a bunch of them through at one time and then most of them will get through?
[12:56] You can do both and then they started sharing loads and so you get these alliances where instead of you putting all your hopes on one load, you’ll go in with four other groups and you’ll all have a fifth of each load.
And then with fentanyl, if you do get caught, You just juice it up with fentanyl and it’s more dangerous, but the buyers will buy it.
And so between the internet and that sort of thing, it’s forcing more alliances.
It’s also extremely confusing for police because it used to be geography.
Certain people were certain areas and now they might live there, but with the internet, everybody’s connected.
I’m talking to one bad guy now, like I’ll talk to him later today.
And he had five different phones working and different phones for different people.
And with encrypted messaging, it’s pretty hard to keep up on a guy like that.
And then with cars, they would pick up a car halfway across the country.
And then you just don’t know that these guys are coming in.
You’re getting a lot of hits though, that they’re not as efficient as they used to be.
A long time ago, I talked to a guy who killed five people for Frank Catroni, who was part of the group before the Rosettos, and there’s a very definite way he was supposed to do it.
He was supposed to hit him in the body, then get him behind the year.
And now it’s people racing by in the cars, spraying out the window and missing half the time. More like the modern street gang drive -by shooting mode of murder.
[14:17] Yeah, and it’s more dangerous for you and me because chances of bystanders go way up.
The old way, unless you were standing beside the guy you didn’t have that much to worry about.
Yeah, that was always the mafia way. First thing, you try to isolate the person, get their best friend to set them in some place that nobody else was around and do it that way.
So that’s, they’ve come a long ways from the good old days of the way to assassinate a rival.
But now they’ll get someone to put a GPS in their vehicle and they’ll see where they go.
And so I’ll find out that you go to McDonald’s at 4 in the afternoon on Thursdays and I’ll be waiting there.
So the GPS changes a lot.
Yeah, they just had one of those. Mob guy going through a McDonald’s.
Is that the one you’re referring to?
No, it’s actually, there’s a lot of Starbucks. Like a lot of these guys have the higher end.
I like McDonald’s coffee, but if you’re willing to spend seven bucks for a cup of coffee, Starbucks is good.