Bacon Brothers – See Red Scorpions .
Bader, Stanley: Fatal Sting – The Toronto loan shark and diamond dealer went to his grave in 1984, regretting the day he ever heard of “Johnny Pops” Papalia or his associates in the Cotroni crime family of Montreal.
Papalia had convinced Bader in 1973 that the Cotronis wanted to have him severely beaten, and that he had better pay him $300,000 to call off the contract. If not, Johnny Pops darkly warned, Bader would be left so injured he could never work again.
Cotroni crime boss Vic Cotroni and his right-hand man, Paolo Violi, were not the authors of Papalia’s hoax. However, when they heard of it, they demanded a cut of the action, since their crime family’s fearsome reputation was what motivated Bader to turn over the money.
When the Montrealers confronted Papalia, he protested that he made only $40,000 out of the scam, and that the rest went to a partner who worked with him.
On Bader’s information, Cotroni, Violi, and Papalia were each eventually sentenced to six years in prison for extortion and conspiracy, although Cotroni and Violi had their sentences overturned on appeal after six months.
Understandably, Bader wanted to get far away from all of them. He fled to Florida, where he was an executive in a firm that dealt in precious gems. In early 1982, he received a string of threatening phone calls, including one that warned, “Look over your shoulder. You won’t live out the week.…”
Bader might have been nervous, but, for some reason, when someone called at his luxury townhouse around two in the morning on March 16, 1982, he opened the door – and was shot dead.
The murder remains unsolved, but police considered Papalia a prime suspect – something that made Papalia livid.
In 1986, he told Peter Moon of the Globe and Mail that he had no love for Bader, but didn’t kill him either. “Bader was a treacherous snake,” Papalia said. “But whatever you write, don’t say I ever killed anyone. I’ve never murdered anyone.”
Then he drew a distinction that only a mobster could appreciate, telling Moon: “It wasn’t an extortion. It was a swindle. That’s not the same thing. A party owed some money and I helped out. That’s all it was.”
Papalia gave the reporter a copy of an affidavit Bader signed in Florida in 1980, which stated that he and the woman he was living with at the time of Papalia’s extortion trial were pushed by the RCMP into testifying against Cotroni, Violi, and Papalia. The affidavit concluded with Bader saying that Papalia was not a part of the extortion conspiracy, a statement that contradicted Papalia’s words to Cotroni on the wiretap.
“At no time was I threatened by, or forced to give funds to John Papalia,” Bader said, “and, it is my opinion that he was the victim of an overzealous law enforcement agency whose actions were misguided.”
Ironically, as he gave the affidavit to Moon, Papalia managed to sound like a victim himself. “I will not be set up again,” he vowed.
See also: Vincenzo “Vic the Egg” Cotroni, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia, Paolo Violi .
Baker, Owen “Cannonball,” a.k.a. George Nolan: Rum-Row Killer – A West Coast rum-runner in the early twentieth century, Baker was convicted of boarding a boat, the Beryl G. Morris , in Puget Sound, killing the two men on board, tying their bodies to an anchor, and then heaving them overboard.
This was in order to hijack 240 cases of whisky in the hold of the wooden freighter. The liquor had been bought for $6,000 and would sell for ten times more in the Prohibition-era United States of the 1920s.
Blood on the boat helped steer police to Baker, who was executed on January 14, 1926, in Oakalla Prison, along with his accomplice, Henry Sowash.
As the noose was placed around his neck by the executioner (who hid behind the pseudonym Arthur Ellis), Baker said, “Step on her, kid. Make it quick.”
Bandido Massacre: Betrayed Brothers – Giovanni “Boxer” Muscedere did something truly amazing in the final seconds of his life, when he was literally staring down the barrel of a gun at death itself.
The man holding the pistol was Wayne “Weiner” Kellestine, a fellow member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club “No Surrender Crew” in Toronto. Muscedere’s crime, in Kellestine’s eyes? He stuck up for Jamie “Goldberg” Falanz, a Jewish prospective member of the Bandidos. For a Nazi-lover like Kellestine, Muscedere’s support for a Jew was a capital offence.
In happier times: (from left to right) Luis (Chopper) Raposo, John (Boxer) Muscedere, Wayne ( Weiner ) Kellestine and Michael ( Taz ) Sandham .
Muscedere was one of eight members of the Toronto Bandidos whose bodies were found in April 2006 in three cars and a tow truck abandoned in a field near the town of Shedden in southwestern Ontario, fourteen kilometres (ten miles) from Kellestine’s ramshackle farm, where they were executed one by one.
The victims were lured to a “church,” or chapter meeting, in Kellestine’s barn, about two hundred kilometres southwest of Toronto. When he realized that they had been betrayed, Muscedere told his killers: “Do me. Do me first. I want to go out like a man.”
Kellestine obliged, but not before Muscedere laughed in his face. Also marched to their deaths were Luis “Porkchop” Raposo, forty-one; George “Pony” Jessome, fifty-two, who was dying of cancer; newlywed George “Crash” Kriarakis, twenty-eight; new father Frank “Bam Bam” Salerno, forty-three; Paul “Big Paulie” Sinopoli, thirty, who had wanted out of the club for health reasons; Flanz, thirty-seven; and Michael “Little Mikey” Trotta, thirty-one, who had wanted to quit the club after finding an honest job.
Backing Kellestine that night was Michael “Taz” Sandham, a former police officer who became president of the Bandidos Winnipeg chapter. Sandham would later claim – unsuccessfully – in court that he was actually working undercover for the police, something that came as a surprise to police forces. Also in the Kellestine ranks were Winnipeggers Dwight Mushey, forty-one, a black belt and nightclub owner; mixed martial artist Marcelo Aravena, thirty-three; and Brett “Bull” Gardiner, twenty-five, who had the job of monitoring police scanners from the farmhouse as the murders took place in the barn. With them, but not firing a shot that night, was nonmember Frank Mather, thirty-five, of no fixed address, who just need a place to stay.
The star prosecution witness was a Winnipeg Bandido, publicly identified only as “M.H.,” who was at Kellestine’s farm the night of the murders and who quickly turned police agent. M.H. told police the original plan was to “pull the patches” of the Toronto members, effectively expelling them from the international outlaw biker club.
M.H. said Kellestine had expected to be named Canadian president of the Bandidos after the slaughter of his “brothers.”
The six accused were all jailed for life after being convicted of a combined total of forty-four counts of first-degree murder. They each appealed their convictions. The massacre and convictions left the Bandidos effectively defunct in Canada.
Part of the evidence that sent them to prison was an audio recording from a police microphone worn by M.H., which captured Mushey talking about Muscedere shortly after the murders. “This guy, he went out like a man,” Mushey said. “Supposedly, the first one he got, he laughed. Went like a man.”
Bandidos: Enemies of the Hells Angels – Formed in the summer of 1965 in the Texas fishing community of San Leon in Galveston County, the Bandidos were the brainchild of dockworker and former Marine Donald Eugene Chambers. There was no Hells Angels presence to speak of then on the Texas Gulf, or local bikers would likely have joined that gang rather than copy the Angels by setting up a gang of their own. Despite – or perhaps because of – their similarities, the two clubs would become bitter rivals.
For their crest, the Texans looked to the Frito Bandito character used to sell corn chips, and adopted a cartoon drawing of a portly Mexican with a sombrero, sword, and pistol. For a motto, they chose “Our colors don’t run,” and also enjoyed shocking people by saying, “We are the people our parents warned us about.”
Many of the Bandidos original members were Vietnam War veterans, in much the same way that the original Angels were made up of footloose Second World War veterans. The Bandidos grew to become the third-largest motorcycle gang in the world, behind only the Hells Angels and the Outlaws, the oldest of the gangs, who were formed under the name The Outlaws Motorcycle Club near Chicago, at Matilda’s Bar on Route 66, in 1935. The Bandidos used the Internet to tighten ties with Canadian biker clubs before moving into Canada in December 2000, absorbing the Rock Machine, who were locked in a war in Quebec with the Hells Angels, and thus entering a bloody struggle with the Angels themselves.
However, by the spring of 2004, most members of the gang in Quebec were behind bars or being sought on criminal charges that included conspiracy to commit murder. For the first time since the war between the Angels and the Bandidos (formerly the Rock Machine), one side was totally out of commission. Bikers were sought for murder, gangsterism, narcotics trafficking, and selling cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, marijuana, and Viagra, the erectile-dysfunction drug.
See also: Hells Angels, Red Zone, Rock Machine, Maurice “Mom” Boucher, Edward Warren Winterhalder .
Nellie J. Banks: Last of the Rum-Runners – The schooner Nellie J. Banks was a familiar sight in the waters of Murray Harbour on the coast of Prince Edward Island in the 1930s.
When she dropped anchor, local seamen knew they would soon be unloading a cargo of smuggled rum and cigarettes.
The rum trade arrived at the perfect time for the small villages of the Atlantic coast. They had been suffering through a downturn in the fishery, and booze smuggling meant sailors could make more money running one load of rum to the U.S. eastern seaboard than in a year of toil on the fishing boats.
The Nellie J. Banks was one of many smuggling schooners sailing the perilous route south from the tiny French outpost of Sainte-Pierre and Miquelon off the Newfoundland coast. Many of the rum-running vessels were painted in drab tones to avoid detection, and sat low in the water to provide extra storage space.
Nellie J. Banks (Public Archives and Records Office of Prince Edward Island)
Canadian and American authorities had cutters with superior speed and firepower, but like the East Coast pirates of centuries before, rum-running schooners like the Nellie J. Banks had the pick of the best crews. She would silently disappear into the coves and bays along the coastlines, and the Dicks brothers who captained her – Ed and John from Georgetown, Prince Edward Island – had allies on shore only too happy to help hide the contraband.
The peak years of schooners like the Nellie J. Banks off the shore of Prince Edward Island were from 1923 to 1938, but rum-running was a common practice long before Prohibition. In 1901, Prince Edward Island became the first province in Canada to institute strict measures against alcohol, and it became illegal for anyone to manufacture it, sell it, or have it in their possession. Soon rum-running was considered by many to be a very necessary part of life, despite harsh fines and the fact that ships and cargoes would be impounded.
The Nellie J. Banks was finally confiscated by authorities on August 9, 1938, when she became the last rum-runner seized off Atlantic Canada.
See also: Sainte-Pierre and Miquelon .
Barillaro, Carmen: Ally of “Johnny Pops” Papalia – Barillaro trafficked drugs, put out a “hit” on an enemy, and made a point of not missing Sunday dinners with his widowed mother and his brother.
Barillaro was born July 24, 1944, in Italy and moved to Canada at age nine. He lived in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and spent his career in the orbit of Mob boss “Johnny Pops” Papalia of Hamilton. Like Papalia, he was considered a “made member” (actually part of the group, higher than an associate) of the Niagara Region Mob, answerable ultimately to the Magaddino organization of Buffalo.
An innovator of sorts, Barillaro once hired a woman to carry out a contract on a man who owed him a drug debt. The hit person, Faye Fontaine, didn’t follow through and ultimately turned informer, and Barillaro was sentenced to three years in prison on January 24, 1989, for counsel to commit murder against Roy Caja of Niagara Falls, an ex-member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang. So ended an underworld version of affirmative action.
That wasn’t Barillaro’s first – or second – brush with the law. He received a two-year sentence in 1978 for conspiracy to traffic in heroin. Released on mandatory supervision in 1979, he was behind bars again in 1980 with a new three-year sentence, after selling approximately three ounces of heroin to an undercover operator.
Unrepentant and pumped up from lifting weights, Barillaro emerged from prison to extort Greek gambling clubs in the Pape-Danforth area of Toronto with Papalia, Enio Mora, and others. One of his associates in that enterprise could bend coins with his mouth, a skill that terrified some gamblers into paying up. Barillaro also ran a restaurant and bar in downtown Niagara Falls, Ontario, and was even more exacting than kitchen guru Martha Stewart when it came to food preparation, once beating up an employee for defrosting food with cold water rather than a microwave, as he had been instructed. Later, he was the silent backer of a Niagara Falls roadhouse. He had to remain off the paperwork since his criminal record meant he couldn’t have a liquor licence.
In the late 1980s, RCMP Cpl. Reg King ranked Barillaro about seventh or eighth out of 275 Mafia figures in Ontario, with his boss, Papalia, being at the top of the list. Barillaro’s prime activities with Papalia were gaming and drug trafficking.
He was back before the courts yet again in St. Catharines in May 1992. Police in Canada and the United States said that he had imported several kilograms of cocaine and 900 kilograms of marijuana, with a wholesale value of about $3 million into Niagara Falls, Ontario, from various locations, including Buffalo and Florida.
In that case, police placed a listening device in a parking meter outside his restaurant-bar but had to go back and plant a new one after a drunk driver smashed his car into the meter.
Barillaro ultimately pleaded guilty, but his was a guarded mea culpa . He admitted once meeting a U.S. drug dealer acting only as an honest broker for a relative, and he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine. For this, he was fined $10,000. That case was called a dry conspiracy because no drugs were seized.
Despite all his crimes, Barillaro made a point of meeting for Sunday dinners with his brother, a teacher in the separate school board of Welland and Niagara Region, at their widowed mother’s house. At a bail hearing, his priest, Father Malachy Smith, had kind words for him, calling him a good father to his two daughters, with solid roots in the community, a solid marriage to a woman who was active in the church, and a sincere desire not to disappoint his wife.
On Wednesday, July 23, 1997, the eve of his fifty-third birthday, Barillaro was alone in his home when a stranger knocked on his door and asked about buying his Corvette, which was parked in the driveway. The man was Ken Murdock, a street tough in the employ of Pat and Angelo Musitano of Hamilton, who were close to Montreal Sicilian mobsters who were spreading their influence into the Toronto area.
Barillaro didn’t usually welcome strangers to the door, and was particularly guarded when Murdock came to call, since his associate Papalia had been murdered by the Musitanos a month earlier. As Murdock pulled out a gun, Barillaro struggled with him, but his middle-aged muscles were no match for the hit man. When his wife and daughters returned home, they found Barillaro’s body lying inside the front doorway, shot dead.
See also: Stefano Magaddino, Eddie Melo, Enio Mora, Angelo and Pat Musitano, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia .
Beaudry, Paul: Deadly Contract – Beaudry was an RCMP constable-turned-criminal-lawyer whose life ended when someone shot him point-blank in his Old Montreal law office in September 1991.
He stumbled through a hallway in pursuit of the pair of gunmen, taking the elevator before collapsing in a pool of blood outside the building entrance. The father of two died several hours later at Montreal General Hospital.
Beaudry, an RCMP officer for ten years, had been working for a couple of months at the law firm of prominent Montreal criminal lawyer Claude F. Archambault, who specialized in drug cases.
See also: Sydney Leithman, Frank Shoofey .
Bellamy, Charles: Exploited Slaves – Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe , is also believed to have written a book on piracy, in which he described how eighteenth-century pirate Charles Bellamy used slave labour to set up his headquarters in what was likely the St. Andrew’s area of modern-day New Brunswick. The author wrote that Bellamy, who needed a sheltered area to repair his ships, drove the slaves with whips, “after the same manner as the negroes are used by the West Indian planters.”
Bellamy first appeared in the summer of 1717 off the shores of New England and the Bay of Fundy on Canada’s Atlantic coast. The captain brought with him three ships and grand visions of setting up a new nation, which – of course – he would run.
Upon his arrival, he began capturing and sinking fishing boats and trading ships near Fortune Bay, on the south shore of Newfoundland, near the French islands of Sainte-Pierre and Miquelon. One day, by mistake, he attacked a French ship in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that had thirty-six mounted guns. After a three-hour sea battle, he managed to escape under cover of the night to the west of Placentia Bay in Newfoundland, where he set up a new pirate fort.
He stayed there about a decade, and then it’s speculated that he retired with his spoils. He’s often confused with a pirate named Samuel Bellamy, who worked the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, area.
See also: Eric Cobham, Cupids, Peter Easton, High Island, Edward Jordan, Captain Kidd, Mogul Mackenzie, Henry Mainwaring, Sheila Na Geira, Samuel Nelson, John Phillips, Gilbert Pike, Pirates, Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts .
Benvenuto, Giuseppe Croce: New Mafia Strain – A native of Palma Di Montechiaro, Sicily, Benvenuto fled Italy in 1990. Authorities there wanted him on charges of killing Judge Rosario Livantino in Sicily on September 21, 1990, as well as for Mafia associations and for questioning about the murder of a police officer.
First he went to Germany, where he managed to evade arrest when two others also charged with Livantino’s murder were picked up in the Mannheim-Dusseldorf area. His associates were sentenced to life in prison, while he flew to Toronto, where he passed himself off as a businessman.
Italian authorities considered him to be a member of the Stidda (which means “Star”), a new hybrid of the Sicilian Mafia that gained prominence in international drug trafficking in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When Benvenuto was finally scooped up at the Fiumicino airport in Rome on a trip back to Italy, author Antonio Nicaso said, “This is the first case of the Stidda in Canada.” It was also the last reported case of the group operating in Canada.
The Stidda started in part because of the ferocity and autocratic ways of Sicilian Mafia boss Salvatore “Toto” Riina. Some members of the new group had five tiny marks between their thumbs and forefinger as identification.
Bienfait, Saskatchewan: Prairie Hideaway – New York City mobster Dutch Schultz (a.k.a. Arthur Flegenheimer, Beer Baron of the Bronx) spent a week in southern Saskatchewan at the Bienfait hotel near the American border during the rum-running days of Prohibition, according to a source quoted in James H. Gray’s book Booze .
Schultz undoubtedly wished he was back in Bienfait instead of at the Palace Chop House in Newark, New Jersey, on the night of October 23, 1935. There he was caught in a shootout with rival gangsters from a group with the ominous name Murder, Inc. The shooters were Charles “Charlie the Bug” Workman, Emanuel “Mendy” Weiss, and a driver known only as “Piggy.”
The gunplay left Schultz dying at the Newark City Hospital. His deathbed statements, recorded by a police stenographer, were a glossary of mobster jargon, and some scholars called them American folk literature while others might call them delirious ramblings. Among his fascinating but tough-to-decipher utterances was the comment “Mother is the best bet and don’t let Satan draw you too fast.”
See also: Samuel Bronfman, Moose Jaw Capone Tunnels, Annie Newman, Rocco and Bessie Perri .
Big Beaver, Saskatchewan – See Big Muddy Badlands, Dutch Henry, Sam Kelly, Sundance Kid .
Big Circle Boys (Dai Huen Jai): Criminal Ring – Members of the Big Circle Boys typically were recruited into the notorious Red Guards in China as children. The group’s name refers back to the height of the bloody purges of the Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, when the Red Guard overran Guangzhou (Canton) by first encircling the entire city in tents.
In Hong Kong, the gang became notorious for evading capture by throwing grenades at police. Then, in anticipation of Hong Kong’s switch from British to Chinese rule in 1997, gang members took advantage of Canada’s loose entry laws in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s.
Some gang specialists liken the structure of the Big Circle Boys (BCB) to that of a pickup basketball team, where players come together informally in playgrounds and often meet each other on the court for the first time. While it is an organized group, the BCB have a considerably looser and less-hierarchical structure than traditional Chinese criminal societies, or Triads, or than the Mafia. BCB often co-operate with individual criminals or even rival organized-crime groups.
Toronto police started to learn about them in late 1988 while investigating a sudden rash of pickpocketing on the subway and in downtown Chinatown. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of credit cards were lifted, doctored, and then used to buy luxury goods for resale, while others were used for calls to Hong Kong gangsters. Police estimated that Bell Canada was being defrauded of an estimated $10,000 a month by the gang.
The gang quickly moved into smuggling drugs and aliens into Canada, and set up strongholds in Toronto and Vancouver. In the Toronto area, Big Circle Boys ran brothels in downtown Chinatown and Scarborough that lured impoverished Malaysian women into the metropolitan area by advertising positions as maids.
More than five hundred Chinese-born BCB members, all from the city of Guangzhou (Canton), lived in Canada by the early 1990s, and many of them were known criminals who travelled frequently to New York, smuggling heroin and counterfeit credit cards.
In a 1990 sting operation, Canada’s Asian Organized Crime Squad – in co-operation with American authorities and the Royal Hong Kong Police – revealed a network that had smuggled more than twelve hundred Chinese into Canada, including at least one hundred Big Circle Boys.
In the early 1990s, the gang had an aggressive presence in Toronto’s Chinatowns, often swaggering into restaurants, dining on $300 meals, and then walking out without paying. They also collected money for “window-cleaning.” In this protection racket, the “window-cleaning” service was really a threat that they would shatter windows if the restaurateurs didn’t pay.
Gang members also entered Asian immigrants’ homes, pistol-whipped them, then stole jewellery, money, passports, credit cards, and anything else of value. Gaming houses and wedding parties were also targets.
The gang tried to murder at least one Toronto police officer with a bomb, and ventured into kidnapping-for-ransom. Victims ranged from poor waiters to millionaire businesspeople. For the Canadian police, it was a challenge to convince victims that the police forces in their new homeland were different from those they had experienced back in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and that they didn’t take bribes from gangs.
By 1996, the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) – which gathers and analyzes crime from across the country in order to spot trends and assist police – issued a report on organized crime that described the gang as a major importer of heroin, adding, “There are clear indications Asian heroin traffickers such as the Big Circle Boys (BCB) are co-operating with Vietnamese gangs, Laotian, Fukienese and Taiwanese criminals, Italian organized crime, Hells Angels and with any criminal organization that will buy drugs.”
By 1999, the Big Circle Boys were working in Toronto with Russian organized-crime groups to sell drugs and weapons and pass counterfeit money. They had spread across Canada and that year, police pointed to the Big Circle Boys as part of the reason why Edmonton then led the country in the number of drug-related gang shootings. They were also linked to crimes in British Columbia including exportation of stolen Native art.
A 1999 CISC report noted that organized crime in Alberta was linked to highly mobile criminals based in Vancouver and Toronto, including the Big Circle Boys, the Lotus Gang, and numerous other Vietnamese and Chinese gangs.
In December 2000, a White House report complained that Chinese gangs were using Canada as a gateway to enter the United States illegally. The International Crime Threat Assessment report by key American security agencies pointed at Canada as a key venue for Triads engaged in credit-card fraud, heroin trafficking, illegal migration, and software piracy.
The report highlighted what it considered Canada’s lax rules for newcomers, particularly a plan aimed at attracting foreign investors, and pegged the Big Circle Boys as the most active Asian criminals in Canada.
In January 2001, police named Vancouver a leading centre for credit-card fraud after the Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia. raided what they called a factory for creating counterfeit credit cards, which they suspected was run by the Big Circle Boys.
Such crimes were unheard of a decade before, but now fake cards made in Canada were approaching the quality level of the Asia-Pacific region. The card-makers were able to use data taken from genuine credit cards by corrupt merchants, gas-station attendants, and restaurant staff in the Vancouver area. Police said money from credit-card fraud helped pay for the gang’s operations in prostitution, illegal gambling, the smuggling of handguns and aliens, and the drug trade.
By 2002, the Big Circle Boys operated across Canada, in possession and production of illegal drugs, in credit-card scams, and in extortion and immigrant smuggling. A group broken up in British Columbia that year had made some $200 million in fake credit cards and trafficked hundreds of kilograms of marijuana into Washington State from a Vancouver Island marina, while a gang in the Eastern Townships of Quebec smuggled 200 to 500 pounds of marijuana into the United States each week.
They were also then involved in the large-scale manufacture of counterfeit credit cards, computer software, CDS and DVDS , and had almost cornered the market on heroin importation, human smuggling, and significant sales of ecstasy and domestic marijuana.
See also: Born to Kill , 14K Association, Lau Wing Kui, Lotus Gang, Kung Lok, Kwok Ka, Lai Changxing, Sun Yee On, Trung Chi Truong .
Big Muddy Badlands: Criminal Retreat – Antelope, white-tailed deer, coyotes, golden eagles, and prairie falcons love this sandy region that lies just north of the international border between southcentral Saskatchewan and northeastern Montana.
Fugitives have also been drawn to the Big Muddy Valley, a 55-kilometre (35-mile) gap that’s up to 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) wide and 160 metres (500 feet) deep where the Big Muddy River ran south into Montana and the Missouri River basin. Dotted with prickly pear cactus, it isn’t great for farming, but for years has offered an excellent hideout from Canadian and American authorities.
Sioux chief Sitting Bull went to the Big Muddy Badlands to live after his victory over Custer and the Seventh Cavalry in the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn. The valley was also an attractive retreat for outlaws like Butch Cassidy, Sam Kelly, and Dutch Henry.
Cassidy made Station #1 on the Outlaw Trail a ranch just south of Big Beaver in Saskatchewan’s Big Muddy Badlands, and just north of the Canada-U.S. border, which stretched from Saskatchewan to Mexico. Cassidy borrowed a concept from the Pony Express, and had fresh horses at friendly ranches every ten or twelve miles along the route, so that lawmen chasing him were almost always left in his dust.
A landmark in Big Muddy is Castle Butte, a 70-metre-high (200-foot-high) sandstone-and-clay formation just outside the hamlet of Big Beaver, which was used for navigation by Indians, surveyors, North-West Mounted Police, outlaws, and settlers. The butte is dotted with caves, which are ready-made hideouts. Even when the North-West Mounted Police set up a detachment, it was no easy matter to patrol the area on horseback.
Outlaws would steal horses in Canada, move them through the Big Muddy Valley, and then sell them in Montana. Then they’d steal more horses in Montana and take them back through the valley to sell in Canada, where they knew there was a horse shortage of their own making.
Big Muddy Badlands
Black Bart – See Bartholomew Roberts .
Black Hand: Early Mafia – A letter sent in 1904 to the Montreal office of Antonio “King” Cordasco, a banker, steamship agent, and labour recruiter, displayed a menacing drawing of a black hand, pointing to the letters M and A. It was accompanied by a crude sketch of a coffin, two skulls-and-crossbones, and what appeared to be a snake under the hot sun.
Cordasco knew it was an extortion threat by the Black Hand, the forerunner to the modern Mafia. The Black Handers were small, potentially violent groups that preyed upon their own immigrant community. How Cordasco dealt with the threat remains a mystery, but it’s a safe bet that he didn’t take it lightly.
In 1906, a Hamilton grocer named Salvatore Sanzone began receiving Black Hand extortion letters, and they continued for the next three years. Finally, in the fall of 1909, the Black Handers found themselves in court. Ralph Rufus and Joseph Courto turned King’s evidence, with Rufus telling the court that he was ordered to write the threatening letters by John Taglerino, who ran an “Italian boarding house” and store on Sherman Avenue North in Hamilton.
Courto told the court that he also wrote threatening letters on orders from Taglerino. According to his account, Courto was forced into the gang because he owed money to Taglerino. When the extortion attempt against Sanzone failed, Courto said the gang decided to hold up the store instead. He felt badly and went to the grocer to warn him of the upcoming robbery. The men were all convicted of extortion.
In 1908, a baker named Louis Belluz was targeted by Black Handers when he received a letter in the wilderness town of Fort Frances in northwestern Ontario. This letter was written in red ink and demanded $100. If it wasn’t paid, the letter warned, he would be killed and his buildings burned. There was an odd postscript to the letter, saying that the Black Handers would, however, settle for $50, if that was the best Belluz could manage.
A year later, during a housebreaking investigation, the Ontario Provincial Police learned of the inner workings of the Black Hand society that had targeted Belluz. They were told that two men, Frank Tino and Frank Muro, forced a number of Italian immigrants to pay $25 to join the society, although Nicholas Bessanti said he could only pay $10, and that was accepted.
Bessanti told the police, “In joining the Society we took a solemn oath that we would obey our leader’s orders: would rob, burn, kill, as he directed, that we would protect one another from the hands of the law, to disobey these orders we would expect to be punished by death or otherwise decided upon by the Society. The Society met every Saturday night in the west end of a freight shed and there they decided what to do to raise money.”
Tino and Muro didn’t do so well with the scheme in Fort Frances, so they moved on to Port Arthur, and then Duluth, Minnesota. Finally, they were deported back to Italy.
Toronto got a taste of Black Hand violence in 1911. A man named Frank Tarro was shot to death by Frank Griro in the city’s downtown, near Front and Church Streets. Griro said he was being extorted by Tarro, and that he acted out of fear. Chief Justice Falconbridge clearly took his words seriously, and issued a stern warning to any organized criminals who might be operating in Canada:
He [the defendant] will urge that he was being hounded down by members of the Black Hand, or Camorra, as they commonly are called. Now, I may say here that if there are any importations of these people to this country, this is not the clime nor the soil for them. These people need have no doubt of the result of their operations. They will be vigorously wiped out. There will be no comic opera accessories and they will be dealt with severely and sent to the gallows or behind prison walls as the case may be.
The accused Griro was acquitted by a jury.
See also: Joe Musolino, Rocco and Bessie Perri .
Blackwood, Robert ( a.k.a. Errol Codling): Nasty Tune – He was a musician of sorts, recording the 1980 reggae dance-floor hit “Hey Fatty Bum Bum” under the name Ranking Dread.
However, he was best known to authorities in Canada, Britain, the United States, and his native Jamaica as a deadly fugitive wanted on murder charges, who used more than twenty aliases while on the run – including Ranking Dread. Performing songs with rude titles was the least of his crimes.
In 1990, Blackwood made history of a sort when he became the first Jamaican ever to claim refugee status in Canada, saying that either Jamaican police or political enemies would kill him if he returned to the island. At that point, Blackwood had been a fugitive for a dozen years, after being charged with fatally shooting a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Exactly how he found time to record the dance song while on the lam remains a mystery.
For his part, Blackwood told Canadian reporters in 1990 that Jamaican police “trumped up” charges that he shot at them in 1973. He said the force wanted him dead, because he supported the opposition Jamaica Labor Party.
“They’re going to murder me. I can’t go back to Jamaica now with all the press [coverage],” Blackwood told reporters at a news conference at the front doors of the Inn on the Park.
Jamaicans are born into political parties according to the neighbourhood in which their parents live, and the wrong address can mean death, Blackwood said. “I’ve seen too many people die, kids, women, men, even dogs sometimes, because of politics. Once you’re born in a community, you automatically become a politician, whether you’re high-profile or low-profile.”
Blackwood, who then had eleven children in the United States, Canada, and England, said he only wanted to make a new home in Canada with his favourite daughter, two-year-old Nicola. He lost his plea.
Canada was the third country to kick him out. He was deported from the United States on drug charges, and from Britain on counterfeiting charges and as the suspected leader of the violent Yardies drug posse, which controlled much of the crack-cocaine trade in London. The Yardies got their name because some Jamaicans refer to their homes – and, when abroad, their country – as their “yard.”
His comments in Canada came two years after he had been deported back to Jamaica from Britain in November 1988. He was known in Britain as Errol Codling, and he had such a high profile as a criminal there that a half-dozen British newspapers carried the news of his deportation on their front pages.
At the time of his 1988 deportation, he was branded the most dangerous foreign national in Britain.
At his 1990 Toronto press conference, Blackwood sniffed at the mention of how he was arrested in Albany, New York, in June 1983 on marijuana charges. Blackwood said he was arrested for “just a spliff,” a marijuana cigarette, and insists it was part of his Rastafarian religion, like wearing his hair in long dreadlocks. “That’s why I don’t have dreadlocks no more,” added Blackwood, whose hair was then closely cropped. “Religion got me in trouble, so I don’t practise that religion any more.”
By March 2003, he was still a fugitive and stood accused of killing more than thirty people. He was also blamed in part for Yardie violence as crack-cocaine sales grew in Scotland, where the press called him “the Godfather of British Yardies.”
Authorities also linked him to a bizarre plot with the Irish Republican Army to assassinate Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister. He allegedly met senior IRA members in Dublin several times in 1987 to arrange the smuggling of a well-known American gangster to Britain to carry out the killing of Thatcher before the general election.
His ties were forged with the IRA through a series of lucrative drug deals, published reports said. He and an American assassin, under the guidance of two senior IRA men, toured London, looking at Thatcher’s official residence on Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. After British agents were tipped off about the plot, a massive security cordon was thrown around Thatcher and the threat eventually fizzled.
See also: Jamaican Posses .
Blass, Michel: Deadly Antiques Dealer – He was a hired killer for the Hells Angels, who had executed a dozen people before becoming a police informant. In the final days of his life, however, he just wanted to be an antiques dealer.
Blass defected from the Hells Angels after the gang eliminated its drug-ridden Laval chapter by machine-gunning or beating to death six of its members and dumping their bodies into the St. Lawrence River. He figured he would be dead soon unless he did something drastic, and so he turned on his former gang and became a police informer.
Another of the defectors was Yves “Apache” Trudeau, who rigged a VCR with explosives and had Blass deliver it to a downtown Montreal apartment. Four mobsters died in the blast, just across the street from a police station.
In the 1986 case, Blass pleaded guilty to manslaughter in twelve killings, and, after seven years in jail, he was given a new name, Michel Simon, and resettled.
He lived quietly as an antiques dealer for eleven years, until, in March 1997, he failed to report to his probation officer.
Four months later, on July 5, 1997, after an intensive search in a wooded area northeast of Montreal, Quebec Provincial Police discovered his bones.
See also: Hells Angels, Yves “Apache” Trudeau .
Blass, Richard “The Cat”: Mass Murderer – The brother of Michel Blass, Richard Blass grew up to be a terrifying criminal in his own right. In 1974, he escaped from prison for the second time in two years, after jumping his guards and hijacking a postal truck. Then, Blass entered the Gargantua Bar-Salon in Montreal and shot two men whom he accused of helping put him in jail, and set fire to the building, killing eleven others. In January 1975, he died in a shootout when police raided his hideout.
See also: Michel Blass, Gargantua .
Bluestein, Max: Nearly Executed – It was billed in the Toronto underworld as “The Near Execution of Maxie Bluestein.” The setting was the Town Tavern in downtown Toronto, a block east of the current site of the Eaton Centre, on the night of March 21, 1961.
“Johnny Pops” Papalia of Hamilton badly wanted a cut of the gambling operations run by Bluestein, which authorities estimated grossed $13 million yearly. It was also a time when North American–based La Cosa Nostra mobsters like Papalia were muscling in on established local – and often Jewish – independent gentlemen gamblers like Bluestein.
Many of the hundred patrons in Town Tavern knew that everything that night rested on what Bluestein did when Papalia sent him over a drink. If it were accepted, there would be peace and Bluestein would be working for Johnny Pops. However, if the beverage were refused, then Bluestein would find himself on the receiving end of billy clubs, brass knuckles, and iron bars.
Patrons saw Bluestein curtly wave off the “hand of friendship” from Johnny Pops.
What followed was, in the words of Toronto Star columnist Pierre Berton,
as terrible a beating as it is possible to give a man without killing him.… Iron bars with ropes attached to them for greater leverage rained down on Bluestein’s head and across his forehead, eyes and cheekbones. His scalp was split seven or eight times. Knuckledusters smashed into his eyes and a broken bottle was ground into his mouth. When Bluestein dropped to the floor he was kicked in the face. His overcoat, torn and slashed, was literally drenched in his own blood.… When I saw Bluestein, some 10 days after the affair, he looked like a piece of meat.
Berton’s writing triggered public outrage that such a thing could happen in the middle of the city, and police used the public outrage as an excuse to crack down on the Mob, arresting Papalia’s associate Alberto Agueci before the Hamilton boss finally turned himself in.
By that time, Papalia was being probed in the French Connection heroin-smuggling case, and the Town Tavern beating didn’t net him any extra prison time.
Bluestein’s fate was far sadder. He became so paranoid that he suspected even his wife and two sons of murder plots, and he studied waitresses to make sure they didn’t slip poison into his coffee. In a dark bout of paranoia, Bluestein shot his long-time friend David “Tex” Stillman to death, when Stillman dropped by on a Sunday afternoon for a visit.
Bluestein was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and died of carbon-monoxide poisoning in his garage on October 30, 1984.
Two years later, Papalia showed no remorse for the 1961 beating, telling Globe and Mail reporter Peter Moon, “Bluestein started it. He had a stiletto and he stabbed [Papalia associate Frank] Marchildon twice. We had to defend ourselves. Bluestein was greedy. He wanted it all for himself.”
See also: Alberto Agueci, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia .
Bonanno, Joseph “Joe Bananas”: Banana’s Empire – Growing up in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Joseph Bonanno was proud that his father had chosen a life in the Mafia over one in the priesthood. “He could have been more self-centred, placing personal tranquility over sacrifice,” he bragged. “Instead, he chose to help his family.”
In 1964, Bonanno tried to immigrate to Canada from the United States in 1964, telling authorities he was thinking of buying into a cheese-making enterprise. J.K. Abbott, director of inspection service for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, wrote in his report, on May 27, 1964 :
His record ranges from a 1930 arrest in New York City for transporting machine guns for the Capone mob in Chicago to attendance at the Mafia organized crime conference which was held in Binghamton, New York, in 1956. During the U.S. Senate hearings on organized crime and illicit traffic in narcotics which were held in September and October of 1963 in Washington, Bonnano [sic] was named as the leader of a major segment of the crime organization exposed by Joseph Valachi.
The criminals who are reported to be members of Bonanno’s crime group have been involved in crimes which include extortion, strong arm and murder, counterfeiting, gambling and narcotics.
He has been associated with Carmine Galente [sic] who is at present serving twelve years for narcotics violations and one-time owner of the Bonfire restaurant in Montreal and a major figure in illegal gambling.
He has also been connected with Toronto-based criminals John Papalia and Alberto and Vito Agueci who were arrested in New York City for narcotics violations. Vito Agueci is now serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for narcotics and his brother, Alberto, was brutally murdered in a gangland slaying near Rochester, New York, at the time of his trial.
During Bonnano’s [sic] recent stay in Canada, and prior to his application for permanent landing, there have been indications that he has been associated with criminals in the Montreal area.
Abbott might have missed a few things, but he had the right idea. In Montreal, Joe Bonanno associated with the Cotroni crime family, since Vic Cotroni functioned as his northern branch-plant manager.
He detested his nickname of Joe Bananas, but his family took some pride that The Godfather characters Vito and Michael Corleone were supposedly patterned on him and his son, Bill.
He died peacefully in his Tucson, Arizona, hospital bed of heart failure in May 2002, at age ninety-seven.
See also: Alberto Agueci, Cotroni Brothers, Carmine Galante, Stefano Magaddino, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia .
Bonanno, Salvatore “Bill”: Loyal Son – For a while, it looked as if Bonanno wasn’t going to follow in the Mafiosi footsteps of his grandfather in Sicily and his father, New York City Mob boss Joseph Bonanno. Bonanno attended private school and then the University of Arizona, where he was a leader of the ROTC cadet squad.
When it came time to marry, however, Bonanno moved back into Mob circles. He chose for his bride Rosalie Profaci, niece of Brooklyn Mob boss Joe Profaci, who had supported Bonanno’s father in the mid-1960s, when there were reportedly threats on his life.
Bonanno was soon pulled deep into his father’s orbit, which brought him to Montreal on November 28, 1966, to meet Paolo Violi and the Cotroni brothers. He was stopped by police at eleven that night at the corner of Jean-Talon and Hutchinson Streets, with bodyguards Carlo Simari and Peter Magaddino, a cousin of his father’s bitter rival, Stefano Magaddino, and a couple of others. Police found three loaded revolvers in the car, and Bonanno was rushed back into New York by immigration officials.
In his book, Bound by Honor: A Mafioso’s Story , Bonanno said his father was involved in Democratic Party politics from the 1930s on, and worked to help elect Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.
See also: Vincenzo “Vic the Egg” Cotroni, Stefano Magaddino, Paolo Violi .
Born to Kill: Chinatown Warriors – At lunchtime on December 27, 1990, two men sauntered into the cramped Kim Bo restaurant on Toronto’s Bathurst Street, across from the Toronto Western Hospital. One had a tattoo on his arm of a coffin and three lit candles – the logo of the BTK (Born to Kill) gang.
“Don’t fuck with my dat lo [gang leader],” one of the men said to a table full of Vietnamese immigrants. Then he opened fire. When the shooting stopped, Dan Vi Tran, thirty-one, lay dead, and two other diners were wounded. The attack was first believed to be revenge for a shooting at a funeral in Linden, New Jersey, two months before, but the motive was never clearly established.
Tran’s murder was the opening volley in the bloodiest chapter of gang violence in Toronto’s downtown Chinatown, during which eight more people were killed in the summer of 1991.
The Born to Kill Gang in Toronto had tight links to the BTK gangsters who terrorized Asian communities in New York City in the early 1990s with a staggering array of robberies, extortion, and murder, which stopped only when New York leader David Thai was convicted.
Their territory was then taken over by rival gangs, including the Gum Sing (Golden Star) and Big Circle Boys.
In the Kim Bo slayings, a jury convicted Tat and Son “Sonny” Long of first-degree murder in May 1992, and they were given automatic life sentences. Both men strongly protested their innocence, even as they were being sentenced.
Eight years later, they were free men, when the convictions were quashed by an appeal court. In an eighty-four-page judgment, Mr. Justice David Doherty of the Ontario Court of Appeal wrote that “no reasonable jury, acting in accordance with the law, could have convicted either appellant.”
Only one of the Crown witnesses identified the accused as the two men who fired the shots. The jury relied almost entirely on that witness – whose identity was protected by the court – to reach their verdict and Justice Doherty dismissed her testimony as “incredible.”
He noted that her story changed at least three times. “The changes were dramatic and related to matters of central importance,” he wrote. “No plausible explanation was offered for these dramatic changes.”
“Indignation at the thought of cold-blooded killers getting away with murder is not … a substitute for hard evidence,” Doherty wrote.
The murders remain unsolved.
See also: Big Circle Boys, Ghost Shadows, Lai Changxing, Lau Wing Kui, Kung Lok, Sun Yee On, Asau Tran, Triads, Trung Chi Truong .
Boucher, Maurice “Mom”: Bloody Reign – It was while buying three bouquets of flowers in June 1997 that this Quebec Hells Angels leader learned that one of his men had murdered Diane Lavigne, a mother of two who worked as a prison guard.
Boucher was upset – not over news of the mother’s murder, but because the east-end Montreal florist didn’t serve him quickly enough.
“Fags are just like women. They are always late,” Boucher told hit man Stéphane “Godasse” Gagné in the flower shop. Then he picked up his flowers and listened to Gagné provide details of Lavigne’s murder.
When Boucher and Gagné met up with a group of bikers outside the shop, Gagné seemed a bit sheepish that he had gunned down a woman. Boucher told him not to worry – he simply had wanted a guard murdered. The sex of the victim didn’t really matter.
Maurice “Mom” Boucher on his Harley-Davidson
“That’s good, Godasse,” Boucher whispered in his ear. “It doesn’t matter that she had tits.”
Boucher had wanted guards murdered to destabilize the justice system. As he strolled down the street with the flowers, he talked about how they had to be careful. “Don’t talk of this to anyone,” Boucher warned. “Because it is twenty-five years in prison. If the death penalty still existed …”
Then he made a gesture of a rope hanging someone.
Another Hells Angel congratulated Gagné, and a group of them went to the Chez Parée strip club in downtown Montreal for lunch.
It was just another scene in the life of Boucher, who was nicknamed Mom because he pestered people to pay attention to details, a bit like an overbearing mother. Others called him Les Lunettes, because of his steel-rimmed designer eyeglasses, which make him look a little like a graduate student.
Killing innocent women didn’t lower Boucher’s status in Montreal’s outlaw biker world, Hells Angel-turned-informer Serge Boutin later testified. “Mr. Boucher was considered like a god,” Boutin said. “When I’d see other Hells Angels around him, they were full of admiration for him.”
Boucher was born on June 21, 1953, in the tiny Gaspé community of Causapscal, one of eight children of an ironworker who could be severe with his family. He grew up in the east end of Montreal, in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, a working-class neighbourhood in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, and wasn’t much of a student, dropping out of school in Grade Nine at age seventeen.
Mom Boucher in 1984
Much of his later teens were spent aimlessly, in a haze of hashish, LSD , cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, and Valium.
Boucher began his criminal career in 1973 with the theft of $200, and never looked back. He would appear before the courts forty-three times for crimes, including shoplifting, weapons possession, and armed robbery, before he was brought to justice for the Lavigne killing. At that point, the most time he had spent behind bars was forty months for an armed robbery in 1976.
He first got a taste of power and camaraderie through membership in the SS motorcycle gang, which disbanded in 1984. He then drifted toward the Sorel chapter of the Hells Angels, Canada’s original Angels chapter. The members were known as the Popeyes before they received their Angels death-head patches on December 5, 1977.
Mom Boucher salutes the camera
The Quebec Angels had forbidden the use of cocaine by members, on penalty of death, and Boucher valued the club more than his drug use so he went cold turkey. On May 1, 1987, he became a full member of the Angels and, by the early 1990s, his natural leadership ability had propelled him to the top of the Angels Montreal chapter. In the mid-1990s, he helped form the notorious and elite Nomads chapter. The Nomads’ task was to spearhead the Angels expansion into Ontario and to lead the war over downtown Montreal drug turf against the Rock Machine.
He had come a long way from his teen years in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. He moved onto an estate with horse stables on Montreal’s south shore and listed his occupation alternately as a used-car salesman, real-estate manager, cook, and construction worker. No one who knew him took those job titles seriously, since everyone in his world knew Mom Boucher was a full-time Hells Angel.
He was also known in Acapulco, Mexico, where he bought property and nurtured contacts with notoriously corrupt police.
A fitness buff, he liked to work out at a gym that was favoured by police. Showing his face to them there, while flanked by several gang members, was just another way to taunt authorities. The Hells Angel leader, with his close-cropped silver hair and muscular frame, liked to make himself a familiar sight to officers in the Crimes Division in the Montreal Urban Community Police. The police offices were atop a shopping mall, with only a glass window separating homicide investigators from the shoppers below. Boucher liked to drop by with an entourage for lunch at the food court below, knowing his very presence made the officers’ blood pump a little faster.
He loved to present himself as above authority. When the home of Nicole Quesnel, warden of the Sorel Detention Centre, was destroyed by arson in June 1995, Boucher and his men were the sole suspects. Apparently Boucher viewed this as revenge for treatment he had received at Sorel when he was serving six months for a firearms conviction.
Mom Boucher’s obituary card, which he prepared himself
His gang’s bloody drug turf war with the Rock Machine killed some 165 people between 1994 and 2000, including 30 people who had no involvement in crime. The Angels tried twice to plant large bombs in public places, despite widespread public revulsion after eleven-year-old Daniel Desrochers was killed by a biker-related car bomb in 1995. On August 23, 1996, the Hells Angels tried without success to blow up a van, disguised as a Hydro-Québec truck and loaded with 181 kilograms of explosives, next to the Rock Machine’s Montreal clubhouse. On October 30, 1997, police discovered 130 dynamite sticks hidden in the conference room of defence lawyer Gilles B. Thibault, where several Rock Machine members were to gather.
In 1997, Boucher hatched the Machiavellian plan to ensure the loyalty of his men that led to Gagné’s murder of Lavigne. Boucher wanted members to kill prison guards, prosecutors, judges, and police – all crimes for which there was a mandatory life term. That way, he reasoned, there was little chance of them turning informer.
He didn’t try to corrupt the system from within like the Italian Mobs. Instead, he attacked it head-on. In April 1999 he planned to plant five bombs outside Montreal police stations. The explosives didn’t go off, but it was still the largest bomb scare in Quebec since the days of the Front de Libération du Québec three decades before.
Despite his murderous attacks on innocent people, Boucher attained folk-hero status in certain parts of Quebec society. After his acquittal on charges for the double-murders of prison guards, he appeared in full biker colours with an Angels entourage at the Molson Centre in downtown Montreal for the Canadian middleweight title fight between Dave Hilton and Stéphane Ouellet. To the disgust of police, who also attended the fight, Boucher sat in the front row of the stadium and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
He also enjoyed opera and pop-music concerts, including those by Luciano Pavarotti and Phil Collins, and between biker meetings his appointment book noted travel to condos owned by the Angels in Mexico.
In the winter of 2002, Boucher was back in court for the murder of Lavigne and fellow guard Pierre Rondeau and the attempted murder of guard Robert Corriveau in 1997. The star witness against him was Angels killer Stéphane Gagné, the biker from the east-end flower shop.
The two men traced their association to their days as inmates at the Sorel Detention Centre in the early 1990s. Back then, Boucher had organized a hunger strike because he was sick of shepherd’s pie, and when an inmate refused to join in, Gagné beat him severely. Now Gagné was the Crown’s key weapon against Boucher.
Boucher in prison
A cell in the wing of a women’s jail was renovated to house Boucher. His lawyer complained that he was slipping into a depression and eating junk food because of his solitary confinement and lack of exercise facilities. Others thought it wasn’t depression but caution that pushed him to eat bag after bag of potato chips. The junk food was vacuum sealed, making it tougher to poison. Authorities also took special care of security; in the courtroom, jurors were protected from his view by an opaque screen.
This time, when the verdict came in, Boucher heard himself sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance to apply for early release after fifteen years (the so-called “faint hope” clause). His strategy of choosing a crime with no early parole had backfired.
Behind bars, Boucher was attacked once by a Native gang member, who some said was upset that he hadn’t been allowed into the Hells Angels. The man went after Boucher with a knife in an eating area, and was beaten and stabbed several times by Boucher supporters.
There was a second attack in the fall of September 2002. This time it was by someone who helped guards deliver meals. The attacker pulled out a crude homemade bazooka and fired on Boucher through a small opening to his cell. The Indian Posse – a Native gang active in Alberta and Manitoba – was blamed. Boucher wasn’t seriously injured in either attack, and didn’t need medical attention.
See also: Michel Auger, Bandidos, Serge Boutin, Salvatore Cazzetta, Stéphane “Godasse” Gagné, Hells Angels, Dany Kane, Diane Lavigne, Nomads, Aimé Simard, Wolverine .
Boutin, Serge: Informer from Hells – Informer Serge Boutin described his time in the Hells Angels in the 1990s as a feudal lifestyle, where serfs and vassals gave absolute loyalty to their superiors and followed a well-defined code of conduct.
“Power,” he replied.
It also meant between $5,000 and $10,000 a week, tax-free, from drug dealing, said Boutin, who estimated he raked in about $12 million over a decade, and he had all the luxury items that money could buy, including a $16,000 wristwatch and a rare coin collection. In the late 1990s, he oversaw drug trafficking in two east-end Montreal neighbourhoods, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and the Gay Village, and estimated he had about a hundred men working under him, though he had contact with only ten to fifteen of the more senior ones. “I knew they worked for me, but I didn’t know them personally. Not because I was snubbing them, but for security reasons,” he explained.
When he turned informer – he had pleaded guilty to assisting in the February 2000 slaying of Claude De Serres, who supplied information to the police while working for the Hells Angels – Boutin cut a deal to serve a life sentence for manslaughter in a provincial jail instead of a federal penitentiary. The transfer to a provincial prison made it easier for Boutin to gain escorted day passes and humanitarian leaves – at the discretion of the wardens.
See also: Maurice “Mom” Boucher, Claude De Serres, Hells Angels, Dany Kane, Nomads, Webmasters .
Boxing in Quebec – Professional boxing in Quebec has been riddled with mobsters for as long as anyone could remember. Fights were probably fixed. Managers and promoters were often hucksters who bilked athletes and the public. Those were some of the grim conclusions of a March 1986 Quebec government report, commissioned by former Quebec justice minister Pierre-Marc Johnson.
“If this happened in baseball or football or hockey, it would be a national scandal,” said Judge Raymond Bernier, president of the Quebec Sport Safety Board and head of the committee that drafted the report.
It was no secret that many of the judge’s scathing comments concerned the activities of Montreal mobster Frank “Santos” Cotroni, a ringside regular at amateur and pro fights throughout the 1980s. Cotroni’s friends included the boxing Hilton family of world junior middleweight champion Matthew Hilton and slugger Eddie “The Hurricane” Melo, who called Cotroni “my biggest fan.”
The judge’s report drew from interviews held with 105 people between October 1984 and April 1985. Only part of the report was ever officially released, but large portions of the remainder were leaked to Le Journal de Montréal reporter Michel Auger. Even parts that weren’t illegal were troubling to the judge.
“Some of these managers and promoters get as much as 50 per cent of a boxer’s earnings,” Bernier said, “and this even includes money earned at other jobs a boxer may have totally unrelated to boxing.”
Bernier criticized the Montreal Athletic Commission for having allowed Don King, a flamboyant U.S. promoter with a past that included numbers running and manslaughter, to come to Montreal to promote the Hilton brothers. “I was very disappointed by that decision,” Bernier said, “especially since I had expressly asked that he not be allowed [to come to Montreal].”
In confidential portions of the report, the commission concluded that King and Cotroni, who was then fighting extradition to the United States on heroin-smuggling charges, controlled several boxers, including the Hilton brothers. Confidential sections also said that several other boxers in Quebec and Ontario had links with organized crime.
The unreleased portions of the report identified Cotroni as “the guiding spirit” of pro boxing in Montreal, and said that the Hiltons lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” because of their contract with King.
The report concluded that Cotroni looked after the financial needs of the Hilton family and supervised their boxing careers. There were numerous accounts of Cotroni’s generosity to the family of Dave Hilton, Sr., a chronic alcoholic, whom Cotroni had known for thirty years. The report noted that Cotroni apparently paid for everything, from groceries to rent to insurance bills to clothing to furniture.
Sections 3 through 6 of the report described the boxing milieu as a prestigious recreational activity for mobsters like Cotroni, who used boxing matches as a cover for clandestine meetings with other organized-crime associates. Cotroni had underworld summit meetings at boxing matches, including in Cornwall, Ontario, and in Winnipeg. He travelled under an assumed name, but was greeted as a potentate the instant he stepped off the plane.
The final premise of the report contained the allegation that Cotroni and his associates “have a percentage of certain boxers’ revenues.” In a conversation with a close associate, Cotroni was reported to have said in November 1981 that Dave Hilton, Jr., would soon be sharing half his purse with Cotroni to the tune of $100,000.
The Quebec report said Cotroni “invested” $100,000 in the careers of the four Hilton boxing brothers and recouped his money in an exclusive contract between the Hiltons and King. It also stated that the Hiltons were victimized by their youthful ignorance and their thirst for glory in January 1985, when they signed the exclusive deal with King.
Cotroni was in jail when the King contract was signed, but the Quebec report said he was constantly involved in the contract talks, nonetheless. The report detailed a meeting in New York on January 29, 1985, involving Dave Hilton, Sr., a New York lawyer acting for Cotroni, and the American promoters. Two days later, the Cotroni lawyer came north to Montreal and visited Cotroni in jail. Later that day, the lawyer met with Hilton and an executive of Don King Productions, at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Montreal.
The commission concluded that lawyer Frank Shoofey was virtually cut out of the contract talks with the Hiltons, whom he had represented for years. Shoofey was opposed to any exclusive deals involving his clients, advising them it was in their best interest to sign for one or two bouts at a time.
“The Hiltons have conceded all and received little in return,” the report said. “For example, the minimum purse for an eventual championship fight is ridiculously low, $150,000 .” The estimated real value of a championship fight was more like $500,000.
Bernier suggested that, for three years preceding the January 31, 1985, contract-signing with King, Cotroni had contemplated selling the contracts of Dave Junior, Alex, Matthew, and Stewart Hilton to King for several hundred thousand dollars.
In reaching his conclusions, Bernier discounted testimony from Hilton family and friends that Frank Cotroni was the only man capable of controlling Dave Senior, who had a severe drinking problem. According to Montreal boxing promoter Henri Spitzer, he held frequent meetings with Cotroni in the period preceding these fights because, “the father was always drunk and I needed Cotroni’s help to keep him in line.”
In the period preceding the January contract-signing with King, police surveillance recorded the presence of close Cotroni associates Tony Volpato and Giuseppe “Joe” LoPresti. Volpato, described in the report as an “iron fist in a velvet glove,” was found to be “a greater and greater presence around the Hiltons” while Cotroni was in jail. The report said Volpato helped consolidate Cotroni’s “complete control over the Hilton family.”
LoPresti, a lieutenant in Montreal’s Sicilian Mob, was grilled by the inquiry on his connections with King. At the time, LoPresti was out on $200,000 bail for a New York heroin-trafficking charge related to the celebrated New York Pizza Connection heroin-smuggling case.
Cotroni’s New York lawyer attended the contract signing after conferring with Cotroni at Montreal’s Parthenais Detention Centre, where he was being held while his lawyers contested an extradition request. U.S. authorities wanted him on a 1983 heroin-trafficking charge in Connecticut.
After the negotiations, police intercepted a call from Cotroni to the Hiltons at the hotel, in which Cotroni told Hilton the contract was “a good one.”
Shoofey left no doubt he was unhappy with the deal with King. A month after it was signed, he told the Globe and Mail that he would “have been much tougher with the promoter. I would have gotten a million-dollar guarantee for the boys, with big bonuses up front.”
For his part, Hilton family patriarch Dave Senior made no apologies for his friendship with Frank Cotroni, which dated back more than two decades. “There were times I needed money for rent. It was always there, with no questions asked. He’s helped a lot of amateur boxers and amateur teams.”
Not everyone described Cotroni as so benevolent to members of the boxing fraternity. Cotroni hit-man-turned-informer Réal Simard said that Cotroni plotted to kill Montreal boxing promoter George Cherry, because of a misunderstanding over a debt that another Cotroni hit man, Richard Clement of Longueuil, Quebec, owed Cherry. Told of Simard’s comments, Cherry described Simard as an arrogant bully. He had nicer words for Cotroni, saying he sought to solve problems quietly through mediation. “With the name he’s got, that’s his job,” Cherry said.
Among those who testified before Bernier was Frank Shoofey, who was under no illusions about boxing. “Polo is the sport of aristocrats and boxing is for bums,” he once said.
Shoofey was shot dead outside his Montreal law office the night of October 15, 1985.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail , Cotroni, who was then out on bail awaiting judgment from the Quebec Court of Appeal on his extradition, described the Bernier report as a blatant attempt to get him.
“I’m not a gambler and I have never put a penny on the Hiltons,” he said. “I just want the boys to have money because you should see how they suffered when they were young. People know what I do for the poor people, not just the Hiltons.”
Cotroni called Bernier’s thesis that King paid him to secure the Hiltons’ contracts “crazy. No one’s going to get paid before they fight. The only money from King was a cheque to the father and mother as a gift.” Financial records show that King gave a $50,000 bonus to Dave Hilton, Sr.
Meanwhile, the Shoofey murder remains unsolved.
See also: Frank “Santos” Cotroni, Giuseppe “Joe” LoPresti, Eddie Melo, Frank Shoofey .
Boyd, Edwin Alonzo: Smiling Bank Robber – Canada’s most famous bank robber had a simple explanation for his choice of vocation. “What it came down to, was that they had the money and I wanted it,” said Boyd, who admitted to robbing at least eleven banks from 1949 to 1952.
Boyd was born in Toronto on April 2, 1914, and began school a year later than most children, after his mother forgot to enrol him. He made it to Grade Eight, and was deeply affected when his mother died during a scarlet-fever epidemic shortly before his sixteenth birthday. His father, a First World War veteran and respected Toronto police officer, sent him to work on a farm north of the city, and that was the last time he lived in what was left of the family home.
Like many young men of his generation, Boyd rode the rails west in 1932, seeking work in the Great Depression. He was arrested for panhandling and for a “dine and dash” – when he ordered a meal and then bolted without paying. Shortly after that, he got two and a half years in the bleak Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert for robbing a gas station.
Released in 1939, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Regiment and served in the Second World War as a dispatch rider. Later, he took commando training and showed so much ability in unarmed combat that he was called upon to teach others. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in the military police, but his sorry attitude soon saw him busted back down to private.
When the war ended, Boyd returned to Canada with a war bride and eventually found a job as a streetcar driver for the Toronto Transit Commission. His wife, Doreen, had high expectations of him, and he grew despondent at being unable to fulfil them or better provide for his three children. He dreamed of being an actor like Jimmy Cagney, and then one day read about a mentally handicapped teenager who robbed a Toronto bank simply by demanding money. “He just told the teller it was a holdup and they gave him the money,” Boyd later said. “If it’s so easy to rob a bank, what the hell am I working for?”
Boyd took out a Luger pistol he had lifted from a dead German soldier in France and robbed his first bank on September 9, 1949, netting $2,256. He worked alone at first, often affecting disguises by stuffing his cheeks with cotton and painting his face with makeup. Once, he tested the effectiveness of a disguise by walking back into a bank he had just robbed without the makeup on and approaching the same teller, to see if she could recognize him. She didn’t and soon he was back in a fresh disguise, robbing the bank again.
Boyd’s first arrest for bank robbery came shortly after he changed the pattern of his crimes and took on a partner. While in the Toronto (Don) Jail, he met Willie “the Clown” Jackson, a mugger, and Lennie Jackson (not related), another bank robber, who had opened fire with a machine-gun on Ontario Provincial Police pursuers. It was in the Don Jail that Boyd hatched the idea of forming a gang, rather than working alone or with a single partner.
Lennie Jackson walked with the aide of an artificial limb, and while behind bars, someone sent him a new foot. It wasn’t just to help him walk, as it concealed several hacksaw blades, which the newly formed gang members used to saw through the bars and slide to freedom on a rope made of bedsheets November 5, 1951.
Soon afterwards, they added Steve Suchan, a doorman at Toronto’s posh King Edward Hotel, to their ranks. They were able to scout out which banks would have payroll moneys coming in, which suggested they had some inside information. They liked to work banks in the suburbs, reasoning that police there had longer distances to respond. Managers in suburban banks often carried guns, but it was a risk Boyd and his associates considered manageable. During a heist, Lennie Jackson would stand at the door with a machine-gun, while others in the gang filled pillowcases with cash, once netting more than $46,000 – the largest cash haul in Toronto history to that date.
Boyd was nimble enough to leap over a bank counter in a single bound, and did calisthenics to stay that way. His wife wasn’t the only one who thought he looked like screen star Errol Flynn, and his good looks and dashing exploits caught the attention of the Toronto Daily Star and Telegram newspapers, which were locked in a circulation war. The public had scant sympathy for the banks, and Boyd’s heists were seen by many as daring, victimless crimes.
Despite their success, Boyd didn’t like Suchan, whom he considered too cocky, and Boyd rarely socialized with other gang members, other than to plan new heists. Boyd’s reservations about Suchan were borne out on May 23, 1952, when Suchan gunned down Toronto Det. Edmund Tong, before Tong could draw his gun. Tong lingered near death for seventeen days before dying.
Suddenly, members of the gang were no longer seen as romantic figures, but as hardened killers. Suchan and Lennie Jackson were captured in separate shootouts in Montreal and were returned to Toronto, to stand trial for Tong’s murder.
Boyd was still at large when he wrote a letter March 14, 1952, that stated he believed Toronto police “will use an order of ‘shoot to kill,’ ” but that “death means nothing to me when I am fighting for my family.” The letter warned police to look for him “in your every shadow. Start guarding your families, they are your weakness, for I am no longer a respecter of persons.” Boyd added that he had pressed his inked fingers to the page. “My fingerprints are on this paper. This will prove I’m not kidding.”
The letter was unmailed the next day, when Toronto Sergeant of Detectives Adolphus Payne crawled into Boyd’s apartment near a church at 6 a.m. on March 15, 1952, and woke up the bank robber by thundering, “You sonofabitch, if you grab your gun, I’ll blow your head off.”
In the bedroom near Boyd was an open briefcase holding $23,329 in bank loot, two .38-calibre and one .455-calibre Smith & Wesson revolvers, a 7.35 Beretta automatic, and a 9 mm Luger. All the pistols were loaded and all their handles were pointing up, making them easy to grab.
Giddy with the news of the capture, Toronto Mayor Allan Lamport ordered the police to keep Boyd in the apartment until he could arrive with an entourage of reporters and photographers. When they were finally ready to take him away, Boyd looked at Payne and said, “You fellows did a fine job.”
September 8, 1952, was the eve of the trial date for Suchan and Lennie Jackson to face charges of murdering Tong. It was also the first night of CBC-TV Newsmagazine , hosted by Lorne Greene. Years before, Boyd had thought of attending the Lorne Greene acting academy in hopes of imitating Jimmy Cagney. Now, stentorian-voiced Greene interrupted his evening newscast with a scoop from reporter Harry Rasky – the Boyd Gang had just broken out of the Don Jail again.
It was the Daily Star ‘s ace crime reporter Jocko Thomas who coined the name “Boyd Gang,” and now the Daily Star hailed Boyd as Canada’s original television star with a September 9 story headlined, “BOYD FIRST STAR AS TV STARTS SMOOTHLY.”
The gang were recaptured, tried, and convicted, even though their counsel were two of the finest lawyers in the nation, with Arthur Maloney representing Jackson and J.J. Robinette defending Suchan. While Jackson didn’t pull the trigger, he was found guilty of murder for being Suchan’s accomplice. The date of their executions was set for December 16, 1952, in the Don Jail, from which they had twice escaped. Jackson requested that his final meal be the same as what Christ dined upon at the Last Supper: lamb, unleavened bread, and wine. The jail superintendent turned him down, as alcoholic beverages were forbidden, and so Jackson agreed on the same meal that Suchan had ordered: fried chicken, peas, mashed potatoes, and apple pie.
This time there would be no escape or reprieve. Suchan and Lennie Jackson were hanged back to back at 1 a.m. Boyd, who wasn’t present when Tong was shot, was sentenced to eight life sentences, which translated into fourteen years behind bars, before he was paroled. Boyd resettled into British Columbia under an assumed name, and he was well into his eighties when he told author Brian Vallée that he killed two people in 1947 and put their bodies in the trunk of a car that he dumped in Toronto’s High Park.
The victims were Iris Scott, a twenty-one-year-old former Miss Toronto beauty pageant contestant who worked as a clerk at an automobile dealership, and George Vigus, Sr., thirty-nine, a father of two who worked as foreman at a Toronto box factory. “After I left the TTC , I did a few things that could have got me hung, but I just kind of didn’t mention them or I didn’t think about them, so …,” Boyd told Vallée.
In another conversation with Vallée, Boyd expanded a little more, saying that sometimes he would go on walks alone, wearing gloves, a German Luger pistol, and lengths of sash rope. “I was out practising,” he said. Vigus was struck on the forehead and garrotted with the slash rope, while Scott was strangled with the killer’s bare hands. “Back in those days, it didn’t bother me,” Boyd said. “I’d just got out of the army a short time.”
By the time Boyd made the grisly confession, one might argue that he was a different man. He had divorced his first wife shortly after his release from prison, and in 1970, he married a wheelchair-bound woman whom he met while driving a bus for the disabled. Six years later, they built a house in Sidney, British Columbia, which they shared with another disabled woman. Boyd cared for them both, until his own health began to fail.
He died of pneumonia in a hospital near Victoria in 2002, at age eighty-eight. He later credited his second wife with enriching his life enormously in his final years. “Meeting my [second] wife is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he told Toronto Star reporter Dale Brazao in 2000. “It kept me out of trouble. It gave me something worthwhile to do.”
Brigante, Natale: Violi Victim – The carpenter was shot to death in 1955 by Paolo Violi, in a final outbreak of bad blood that dated back more than five years to their native Calabria in southern Italy. He was shot twice in a dispute over a woman and left to die in Toronto in the gutter at Howard Park Avenue and Dundas Street in Toronto.
Arrested when he went to a Welland hospital for treatment of a chest wound, Violi pleaded self-defence, and was acquitted when police witnesses proved uncooperative at the trial.
Brigante’s murder brought Violi to the attention of police, and he would remain in their sights for another quarter-century until he too was murdered.
See also: Paolo Violi .
Broeker, Cal: Undercover Agent – In the early 1990s, when he came in contact with Montrealer mobster Réal Dupont, Broeker was a grocer, restaurateur, antiques-shop owner, and upstanding citizen in Chateaugay, New York. His life changed forever, one day in the summer of 1994, when Dupont handed him U.S.$10,000 in counterfeit cash. Dupont’s move put him in an uncomfortable position. He could either pass on the money, and commit a crime, or go to the police, and turn Dupont against him.
Broeker immediately contacted the New York State Police organized-crime task force, and they told him to give back the money. Broeker tried, but this sign that he was not “onside” brought a death threat against his family.
Broeker’s bank manager called in the U.S. Secret Service, which set up a meeting between Broeker and the Mounties. Soon the antiques dealer was working as an undercover agent for the RCMP.
His private life also underwent a major change. He began living with a Native woman in Kahnawake, where reserve criminals were forging ties with the Hells Angels, the Mafia, and the Russian Mob. In October 1994, Broeker’s undercover work took him to Bulgaria, where a military official told him he’d like him to move arms from Canada into the United States through his connections on the reserve.
While at Kahnawake, Broeker worked undercover on Operation Orienter, which targeted Larry Miller, an enormously wealthy cigarette smuggler in New York State. When that operation ran its course, Broeker moved to Toronto, where he worked with bikers connected to the Hells Angels, whom he knew by names like Shark and John the Bat. They offered work on dope deals and money laundering.
Broeker blamed red tape and roadblocks from above for the fact that the RCMP did not move quickly enough against a man who wanted him to launder $100 million for the Mob. Disillusioned, he decided to retire in September 2000, and wrote Smokescreen with writers Paul William Roberts and Norman Snider about his seven years of undercover work.
See also: Larry Miller .
Bronfman, Samuel: Thirst Quencher – During American Prohibition the future head of the Seagram’s Corporation and renowned philanthropist worked – in the words of American Mob architect Lucky Luciano – “bootleggin’ enough whisky across the Canadian border to double the size of Lake Erie.”
No matter how much booze Bronfman supplied through the prairies to Luciano’s associate Abner “Longie” Zwillman, it never seemed to be enough to quench the thirst to the south. Bronfman wasn’t the only one cashing in. One of his competitors, Lewis Rosentiel, would one day turn his bootleg enterprise into the Schenley Corporation.
Bootlegging was profitable but sometimes dangerous work. Bronfman’s brother-in-law Paul Matoff was shot during a battle between rival bootleggers in southern Saskatchewan in 1922.
Bronfman booze went south in a variety of ways; by ship to the East and West Coasts, by speedboat across the St. Lawrence–Great Lakes waterways, and by car across to New York, Michigan, Montana, and North Dakota.
None of this was breaking the law, since it was legal to manufacture liquor within Canada, and also legal to sell to anyone of age who would pay for it. Bronfman later told Fortune magazine, “We loaded a carload of goods, got our cash, and shipped it. We shipped a lot of goods. I never went on the other side of the border to count the empty Seagram’s bottles.”
See also: Bienfait, Saskatchewan; Moose Jaw Capone Tunnels, Annie Newman, Rocco and Bessie Perri .
Brown, James: “Sad Connection” – On the afternoon of Saturday, March 30, 1861, duck hunters found a body floating in a bay between the mouths of the Little and Big Don Rivers of Toronto. After examination by a coroner, it was determined to be the remains of John Sheridan Hogan, a Member of the Provincial Parliament and newspaper publisher who had been missing since December 1859.
Police suspected he had been murdered, and that the crime had been committed by the Brook’s Bush Gang, a motley group of male and female drifters who often inhabited the city’s drunk tanks when not living in the Don Valley.
One of the gang, a woman named McGillich, heard that there was a reward for information on the crime, and promptly gave police the story they wanted.
On April 2, 1861, Brook’s Bush regulars James Brown and his common-law wife, Mary Crooks, were arrested for the murder in Kingsbury’s Tavern on King Street East in downtown Toronto.
It was the first – and last – serious brush with the law for Brown, who was born near Soham in Cambridgeshire, England, on February 28, 1830. He immigrated to the United States in 1852, first working on a farm near Rochester, New York, then quickly blowing his earnings in Buffalo. He found more work in shipyards in the Niagara Region, Toronto, and Port Dover.
It was in Port Dover, Ontario, while on the job, that he suffered a serious injury that made it difficult for him to walk. Rather than recuperate in a hospital, he regained his strength in the Collin’s Tavern in Port Credit.
Mobile again, he drifted into an area of Toronto in the Don Valley known as Brook’s Bush. Later he recounted in court how he hooked up with what police grandly called the Brook’s Bush Gang: “Heard a noise in an old stable; went to see what it was; was invited to get into the stable by some girls; find a number of men and women; they made me feel welcome; asked me to send for some drink; I did so, and remained there for a month. This marks my sad connection with Brook’s Bush Gang – a connection I most deeply deplore.”
His hard-drinking new friends stole what clothes he wasn’t wearing and sold them while he was in the Toronto drunk tank. Not long afterwards, he was fingered for what police considered the murder of Sheridan.
He freely admitted to being a member of the Brook’s Bush Gang, but repeatedly swore that he never killed anyone. When he was convicted of the murder of Sheridan, Brown told jail authorities, “When I was asked to state what are the causes that have brought me to my present unhappy condition, I would answer in one brief sentence, ‘Intoxicating drink and bad company.’ ”
This bad company sold him out for the reward, or what Brown called “filthy lucre” – even though he was not guilty, he swore.
His execution by hanging was set for 10 a.m. on March 10, 1862. On the evening of March 9, 1862, a reverend named Fish and missionaries came to visit him in his cell in Toronto’s Don Jail. When they asked how he was, Brown shook their hands and replied, “As well as can be expected.”
“I have every confidence in the Lord, and I know He will be with me and sustain me when I come to die,” Brown continued.
For the past few days, he had been able to hear construction of a scaffold on the west wall of the jail. Now, the gallows were complete and it rained violently on what was to be the last night of his life, which he spent praying and singing hymns.
As execution time neared, his visitors looked distraught, but the Globe described Brown as “calm and collected.” Now he was counselling the religious men who were in the jail to give him comfort. “He told them to prepare themselves, to be steadfast in the faith, and to meet him in Heaven,” the Globe reported. “He repeatedly told them that he was prepared to die.”
After a breakfast of coffee and cake, Brown was anxious again. He pleaded with the religious men to find his common-law wife, Mary Crooks, and to, in the words of the Globe , “entreat her to turn from her sinful life, to endeavor to get a situation as servant in some respectable family, and by living a righteous and holy life be prepared to meet him in Heaven. He urged Mr. Fish more particularly to write his aged father in England, to tell him that he died happy, with the sincere hope in his blessed Redeemer.”
Outside, Brown could hear the murmur of a crowd gathering to watch the spectacle. He dropped on his knees to pray yet again. “When I go through that drop, into the Shadow of death, be Thou with me.”
The executioner arrived in the cell to put a white cap on Brown’s head and to tie his elbows behind him. The Globe reported the hangman was “a little man with a frightful mask upon his face, and with his whole person so carefully concealed that it was impossible to say who he was, or whether his skin was white or black … the ‘white folks’ are pretty sure he was negro, and the negroes are equally certain that he belongs to the pale-faced race.”
Brown knelt and prayed yet again. Outside, there was a tolling of the bell from St. Lawrence Hall to announce it was 10 a.m.
“That’s ten,” people on the grass outside the jail said, knowing that it was Brown’s final hour.
A female prisoner shrieked when Brown was led past her cell, and the Globe reported that he stopped for a second, “and a shade of surprise seemed to cross his countenance – perhaps that any human should care at all for him.”
The crowd of five thousand outside the jail included nurses with babies, school kids, respectable women, and farmers on carts. They were still as he prayed, and then he spoke in a soft voice to a sea of their upturned faces.
Few of the crowd could hear him, as he said, “I have been a very bad man, and now I am going to die. I hope it will do you good. I hope this will be a lesson to you, and to all people, young and old, rich and poor, not to do those things that has brought me to my last end. Though I am innocent of the murder, I am going to suffer for it. Before two minutes are gone I shall be gone before my God, and I say with my last breath, I am innocent of the murder.”
The twang of the rope brought a shudder from the spectators and most of them had hurried away by the time Brown’s body was cut down at 10 : 30 a.m.
It was Toronto’s last public hanging.
Brûlé, Étienne: Fur-Trading Outlaw – The man who began the pre-Confederation outlaw tradition of the coureurs de bois was brought to New France in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, when de Champlain founded the colony of Quebec. In de Champlain’s early journals, he affectionately called him “my boy” and “my servant.”
Before too long, the two men would be bitter enemies.
At the time of their arrival, there were already Basque traders on the lower St. Lawrence River, who had no or little respect for the French charter or rules against trading with the Natives without official permission.
Brûlé, who was from peasant stock, quickly picked up the Cree and Huron languages, and his comfort in the Native communities opened up fur-trading opportunities for him as well.
England and France were at war in 1627, and King Charles I gave a charter to a soldier of fortune, David Kirke, to capture New France. Kirke began his attack on the colony in 1627 and, by the spring of 1628, New France was desperately short of supplies. Brûlé sided with the probable winners and guided Kirke’s ships to Quebec, where de Champlain had to surrender without firing a shot.
Étienne Brule (Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1972-26-1395)
Before he returned to France, de Champlain denounced Brûlé as a traitor and an outlaw, while Brûlé tried to argue that the English forced him to help them. Champlain rejected the explanation and darkly predicted Brûlé would die “abhorred by both God and man.”
Kirke’s younger brother Lewis became governor of Quebec, and Brûlé made him rich with huge supplies of furs. Brûlé was the first from the New France colony to see two of the Great Lakes, and roamed the area between Chesapeake Bay and Lake Superior, living in Indian territory and trading furs.
In 1632, war between England and France ended, and New France was returned to France. Brûlé was now on his own to ponder his future.
De Champlain returned to New France in 1633, the year Brûlé was taken captive by Hurons in the village of Toanche on Penetanguishene Bay and executed. Folklore says that his body was eaten by the Hurons, who wished to share his strength.
His outlaw tradition of the coureurs de bois lived on for the next hundred years in New France, operating outside the rules of the Catholic Church and rulers of New France, and risking penalty of death if ever captured.
See also: Coureurs de Bois, Sieur des Groseilliers, Pierre Radisson .
Buscetta, Tommaso: Super Informer – In the 1980s and early 1990s, Buscetta’s testimony would send hundreds of Mafiosi and a former Italian prime minister to prison, and he would be described in the Italian press as “ Principe dei Pentiti ” – “prince” of the repentant Mafia figures.
However, Buscetta attracted little attention when he lived on residential Northcliffe Boulevard in an Italian neighbourhood in Toronto in 1964. He was there after fleeing Sicily, along with many Sicilian Mafiosi, in the wake of the 1963 bomb blast in Palermo’s rural Ciaculli district that killed seven police officers and three bystanders and caused police to stage a massive crackdown on the Mafia.
His Canadian associates included Giuseppe “Pino” Catania, who was tightly tied to Montreal’s Cotroni family, as well as some of the old French Connection characters, including ex-Gestapo agent Auguste Joseph Ricord.
When he lived in Toronto, Buscetta was separated from his wife and living with a vivacious Italian television personality. He left Canada briefly to go to Mexico City for plastic surgery, but the results were barely noticeable. Buscetta slipped from Canada into the United States, where he lived for a time in New York City before going to Brazil.
A native of Palermo, Buscetta turned Italian state witness in 1984 after he was arrested in Brazil on murder charges and extradited to Italy. Once he decided to talk, he went on for forty-five consecutive days, revealing some of the Mafia’s darkest secrets, including its alleged relationship with Italy’s political elite. By the time he was done talking, he was widely regarded as the most significant informer in the history of the Sicilian Mafia.
In the 1980s Pizza Connection trial in New York, Buscetta gave damning testimony against twenty-two people charged with smuggling $1.65 billion in heroin to the United States. The drugs were sold through a network of pizza parlours in the American Northeast and Midwest.
Buscetta told the court of many conversations he had had in Brazil in 1982 with one of the defendants, Gaetano Badalamenti, who was convicted of running the international drug ring and sentenced to thirty years in prison.
Buscetta continued to be a star witness in a series of trials in Italy in the late 1980s that convicted more than 350 Mafia figures. He lived under a new name in an undisclosed place in the U.S. Witness Protection Program, and appeared again in Italy in the 1990s to testify in two cases against former prime minister Giulio Andreotti, claiming the politician had met top Mafia bosses.
Buscetta died of cancer at age seventy-one in April 2000. He was living in the United States by that point, but his life was so secretive that his lawyer would not say where he died.
See also: Alfonso Caruana, Giovanni Falcone, French Connection, Giuseppe “Joe” LoPresti, Gerlando Sciascia .
Buteau, Yves “Le Boss”: Popeyes President – On August 14, 1976, when he was twenty-five years old, Buteau was among the mob arrested at a hotel in Saint-André-Avellion, Quebec, when almost fifty members of the Popeyes bike gang trashed the establishment.
Despite the cartoonish name, the Popeyes were no joke, and were regarded as Montreal’s strongest biker club at the time. It wasn’t surprising that they were picked to become Canada’s first Hells Angels chapter on December 5, 1977.
Buteau got his colours from Hells Angels legendary founder Sonny Barger himself, and was the only Canadian authorized to use the title of “Hells Angels International.” Angels hit man Yves “Apache” Trudeau, who would later turn informant, said that he, Buteau, and two other bikers killed Daniel McLean of the Outlaws gang and his girlfriend, Carmen Piché, by planting a bomb on their bike in Verdun on May 9, 1979, then detonating it after the couple climbed on board.
As an Angels president, Buteau established contacts with many biker gangs who would eventually become Hells Angels chapters. He worked to move the Angels from beer-swilling brawlers to an organized criminal enterprise, and urged members to shave, keep lower profiles, and avoid hassles. In the spring of 1982, he prohibited the use of cocaine by members. The penalty for breaking this rule was death, and the rationale behind it was simple: drug addicts weren’t reliable.
On the evening of September 9, 1983, Buteau was drinking with a fellow Hells Angel and a Satan’s Choice member. When they finally left the bar, a small-time drug dealer opened fire, and two bullets tore into Buteau’s chest, killing him. Angels from the United States and England accompanied Quebec bikers as they rode from Sorel to Drummondville in a show of homage to Buteau. The drug dealer who killed him was promoted to membership in the rival Outlaws gang.
See also: Hells Angels, Outlaws, Popeyes, Satan’s Choice, Yves “Apache” Trudeau .
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