Morbid Curiosity


Faber, Claude: Cotroni Insider – Considered the right-hand man of Montreal mobster Frank Cotroni, Faber was married to Cotroni’s niece.

When he stayed in Toronto in the early 1980s, his tab was paid by Local 75 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, even though he didn’t have a union title.

By the late 1980s, Faber was in jail after pleading guilty to cocaine trafficking and to the 1982 Montreal gangland slaying of Claude Ménard.

See also: Frank “Santos” Cotroni, Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, Eddie Melo, Réal Simard .

Faison D’Or: Mob Hot Spot – A Montreal hot spot at the corner of St. Catherine and St. Laurent, it was purchased in 1944 by Vic Cotroni and his long-time friend and associate Armand Courville.

Claude Faber (back) behind Frank Cotroni

Another Cotroni spot was Vic’s Café, which became Vic’s Pal, which became Pal’s Café, also on St. Catherine near St. Laurent.

French-Canadian singers and comedians were highlighted at the Faison D’Or, earning Cotroni the title “Papa des artistes.”

See also: Vincenzo “Vic the Egg” Cotroni, Armand Courville .

Falcone, Giovanni: Illustrious Corpse – Crusading Italian judge Giovanni Falcone knew that the better he got at his job, the sooner he would be murdered.

He was working against the Sicilian Mafia, and his efforts were more dangerous to him than to his quarries. Only the time and method of his murder seemed in doubt.

He had between seventeen and sixty bodyguards for himself and his wife, Francesca, and they were an elite group, with cool nerves, quick reflexes, and, generally, no spouses or children to slow them down. Sometimes they watched over Falcone’s home by helicopter as well as by land. Commonplace activities, like jogging or walking to a corner store alone for a newspaper, were out of the question. When he did go out for coffee, Falcone would order ten cups and drink just one, reasoning this would cut the chances of being poisoned.

His Palermo neighbours feared they would get caught in a crossfire and some pressured him to move off their street. Through it all, Falcone maintained a quiet sense of humour, although his hair was prematurely grey, he smoked constantly, and he admitted to sometimes being lonely.

Falcone often travelled to Canada, both for business and for relaxation. Aside from Montreal, he spent time in Ottawa, where the RCMP are headquartered, and in the Toronto area, where the Sicilian Mafia had made heavy investments in real estate, food stores, factories, and restaurants. At times, he would speak to the RCMP about men like the Cotronis, Nick Rizzuto, and the Cuntrera-Caruana clan, but his real focus was to show that corruption and the Mafia were inextricably linked.

He told Canadian police officers that the Sicilian Mafia could move to different countries, but its mentality and structures remained rigid and Sicilian. He also spoke of how major crime groups were already working together and police must also learn to co-operate. He noted that Mafia members were acting as financiers and money launderers for emerging Colombian cocaine cartels and established Asian heroin-trafficking groups. In the end, whoever controlled the money held the most power and was the hardest to catch.

Falcone found a peace in Canada he could never enjoy in his native Sicily. He loved to drive through the prairies to Banff National Park, sharing space only with his wife and one RCMP bodyguard.

In the spring of 1992, Falcone was being touted as the next man to take charge of a new anti-Mafia agency. He was already Italy’s first national anti-Mafia prosecutor. It was common knowledge then that he and his wife often returned to Palermo on weekends, and there was only one highway from Punta Raisi airport to Palermo’s downtown.

He was on that road with his wife on Saturday, May 23, 1992. No one had paid much attention when a work crew tore open a stretch of the highway earlier that week, then repaved it. Also unnoticed was a man perched somewhere on the rocky white cliffs overlooking the highway that afternoon. With a press of a button, a ton of dynamite hidden under the highway ripped open an entire five-hundred-yard section of pavement, leaving a gaping forty-foot-deep crater just as Falcone drove over it. Falcone somehow managed to survive until shortly after he reached hospital, while Francesca clung to life for five hours.

Promotions in Falcone’s work were both honours and death sentences, and on July 20, 1992, Falcone’s heir apparent, Judge Paolo Borsellino, was murdered while visiting his mother in Palermo. On July 29, 1992, Giovanni Lizzio, head of Catania’s anti-extortion team, was slain. It was a truism in the underworld that someone’s ripe for murder when they are both isolated and dangerous, and that’s how Italian law-enforcement officials must have felt that horrible summer.

Judge Liliana Ferraro, Italy’s director of penal affairs for the minister of justice, appealed in March 1993 to the Toronto Star for Canada to tighten up its extradition laws. “It is impossible to win this war without co-operation from other countries,” she said.

See also: Michel Pozza .

Faucher, Fred: Bandidos Booster – This explosives expert was an original member of the Rock Machine. He dreamed of being a big-time biker, and was impressed by what he heard of a war in Scandinavia between the Hells Angels and the Bandidos. Soon, he wanted his Rock Machine to be part of the Bandidos.

He was brushed off when he went to the Bandidos headquarters in Houston, Texas, with his merger idea, but eventually the plan took hold. The Rock Machine joined the Bandidos in 2000, and gained full status on December 1, 2001. Meanwhile Faucher was sentenced in December 2000 to eleven years in prison, after pleading guilty to twenty-eight charges. Half of the charges related to cocaine dealing and he also admitted to taking part in seven bombings in 1996 and 1997 during the biker wars.

See also: Salvatore and Giovanni Cazzetta, Hells Angels, Nomads, Rock Machine .

Fino, Ron: Mob Union – Toronto construction union leader Giancarlo “John” Stefanini was lucky to be alive after American Mafia chiefs hotly debated whether they should put a contract on his life in 1987, said Ronald M. Fino, who was described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI ) in Buffalo as a long-time organized-crime figure and son of a Mob chieftain.

According to Fino, at one point, $100,000 was offered for the murder of Stefanini, and the hunt for a contract killer was conducted in Buffalo, Chicago, New England, and New Mexico.

Fino, who ran Local 210 of the Laborers in Buffalo for fifteen years, detailed the alleged bid to kill Stefanini, long-time business manager of Labourers Local 183 in Metro Toronto, in two one-hour phone interviews with the Toronto Star in 1990.

Fino said he thought the man seeking the killer “came very close to having Stefanini dumped a couple of years ago. ‘Dumped’ means killed.”

After a year, American mobsters connected to the union decided Stefanini should be allowed to live, said Fino, who added that he considered the 1983 murder of Toronto mobster Paul Volpe linked to the Buffalo Mob.

Told of the murder plot, Stefanini replied, “I certainly hope it’s a joke. Holy cow! There’s no question we had extremely big rivalries in the 1980s [over] union philosophies.”

Stefanini said his 14,000-member local – the largest construction local in Canada – had vigorously resisted Mob pressures. “We as a union fought these people and we cleaned the union out,” Stefanini said. “We’re extremely proud of our high standard.”

Fino, under constant FBI guard at an undisclosed location, has proved a reliable witness in a number of cases involving relations between organized crime and labour in Buffalo, Cleveland, New Jersey, and New England, said G. Robert Langford, Buffalo’s FBI chief.

Fino was the son of the late Joseph “Ebe” Fino, a former Local 210 official who was described by U.S. authorities as boss of the Buffalo crime family from 1968 to 1972. Fino stressed that he was positive Stefanini was not in the underworld. “He was not an organized-crime member,” Fino said. “I would have known that out of respect [that would have been shown him].”

Fino said his father used to drop the family off at the Canadian National Exhibition while conducting Mob business in Toronto. Often that meant visits with mobster Paul Volpe, sometimes on a boat on Lake Ontario. Volpe helped the Buffalo mobsters, both financially and by giving them information.

Fino’s father was shunted aside by New York-based mobsters in the 1970s and narrowly missed being murdered himself, Fino said. The elder Fino died of natural causes in 1984.

He thought his father’s fall from underworld grace made it possible for Metro Mob rivals to murder Volpe.

Fino, who also ran a hazardous-waste disposal company, said union funds from Canadian workers were used in a variety of Mob-controlled scams in Canada.

Among them were:

• pumping union benefits funds into insurance companies, then using influence with insurance companies to win bonding and liability insurance for Mob companies;

• putting benefits funds into Mob-backed businesses;

• mixing hazardous wastes with fuels and reselling them in Canada, or selling asbestos-contaminated metals for scrap in Hamilton;

• taking kickbacks from brokers on stock deals involving union money; and

• using union money to manipulate stock prices. “The union takes it on the chin,” Fino said of any investment losses that ensue.

Fino said he could not come to Toronto or Hamilton after becoming an informer for fear of being murdered. “I know too many people. I’d be recognized. It wouldn’t be too long before I was in serious trouble.”

See also: Giacomo Luppino, Stefano Magaddino, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia, Paul Volpe, Waisberg Commission .

Five Dragons: Corrupt Police – There was a time in the 1970s when it seemed the only thing that distinguished Hong Kong police from criminal Triad members were the taxpayer-funded uniforms.

However, in the mid-1970s, the British government formed a graft-busting organization called the Independent Commission Against Corruption ( ICAC ), which focused its attack on five station staff-sergeants called the Five Dragons.

The Five Dragons, led by former staff-sgt. Lui Lok, fled Hong Kong in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They felt it was only a matter of time before they would face charges from the newly formed ICAC , a civilian agency targeting the colony’s endemic corruption. They reinvested tens of millions of dollars in real estate, construction, and the hospitality industry in Toronto and Vancouver, and police suspected they worked with criminal Triads to traffic drugs and launder money. In Toronto, at least $50 million was invested in a high-rise tower on Bay Street, near Chinatown.

Given the reputation of the police in Hong Kong, not surprisingly, many Hong Kong immigrants living in Canada found it hard to trust the authorities.

One of the Five Dragons was Hon Kwing-Shum (a.k.a. Hon Shum or Hong Sum), and he entered Canada in the 1970s under the entrepreneurial-sponsorship program. At that time, police said, he had made a fortune taking protection payments from opium dens, gambling halls, merchants, and prostitutes, which he reinvested in Canadian real estate.

In 1977, Hong Kong began extradition proceedings to have Hon returned to his homeland to face corruption charges. Arrested in Vancouver, he jumped bail to abscond to Taiwan, where fellow Dragons had fled.

After Hon’s death in Taipei in August 1999 of natural causes, Hong Kong’s High Court denied his family his riches, saying his assets were purchased with dirty money and would become the property of the government.

See also: Triads .

Fontaine, Faye – See Carmen Barillaro .

Fort Whoop-Up: Prairie Slaughter – The southern Alberta fort was founded in 1869 and named by Montana rotgut-whisky trader John J. Healy, who was described by Pierre Berton in Klondike as a former “hunter, trapper, soldier, prospector, whisky-trader, editor, guide, Indian scout, and sheriff.” Healy was also an innovative fighter. When American wolf-hunters, known as the Spitzee Cavalry, attacked Fort Whoop-Up, Healy held them off by holding a lit cigar over a keg of gunpowder, creating the impression he wouldn’t mind them all entering eternity together.

Healy was clearly an organized criminal. He trafficked in illegal whisky and weapons, breaking the laws of Canada and the United States. His base of operations was located at the junction of the Oldman and St. Mary Rivers, near present-day Lethbridge, Alberta, and was the first and worst of the so-called “whisky forts” that existed to make quick money through the illegal liquor trade with Native people. Whisky traders sold a vile and often lethal form of alcohol to Natives, which often blended raw alcohol, tobacco juice, red ink, painkillers, pepper, ginger, and laudanum, a mixture of opium and alcohol.

The first fort at the site of what became Fort Whoop-Up was called Fort Hamilton, and it was burned to the prairie by the Blackfoot people of the area. In 1870, it was rebuilt and given the less grand name of Fort Whoop-Up. In 1869 and 1870, the whisky trade from the fort greatly demoralized the local Native people, who traded buffalo hides for rotgut liquor.

The whisky trade was also a politically destabilizing force. The Hudson’s Bay Company had maintained relative peace in the area, but with Confederation, its influence was gone, and now there were fears that the Americans would claim the territory as their own.

On June 1, 1873, life around Fort Whoop-Up plummeted to a new low, when whisky traders and wolf hunters slaughtered men, women, and children of the Nakoda First Nation in what became known as the Cypress Hills Massacre. This was the final straw. It was decided that policing was essential for the area.

The newly formed North-West Mounted Police reached Fort Whoop-Up in the fall of 1874, lead by guide Jerry Potts. The Mounties yelled into the fort that they were prepared to reduce it to rubble, but nothing happened. Then Potts rode up to the door and knocked. Finally a thin man with a scraggly beard appeared, and invited them inside for supper. The rotgut whisky traders, fearing a fight, had fled the area a few weeks before.

See also: Whisky Runners, Wolfers .

14K Association: Mobile Triad – They were big in the United States, but small fry in Toronto compared to the rival Big Circle Boys and Vietnamese gangs. In the early 1990s, they bolstered their strength by actively recruiting criminals of Vietnamese descent and also formed links with traditional Mafia groups.

In December 2000, a White House report drawn up by a number of American agencies – including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and the Customs Service – pointed harshly at what it considered Canada’s lax rules for newcomers, particularly a plan aimed at attracting foreign investors, and said that the two largest Hong Kong Triads, 14K Association and Sun Yee On, made substantial property investments in Canada during the 1990s.

The Toronto-based 14K, according to the report, was the fastest-growing Triad in Canada, with links to Asian criminal activities in New York and other American cities, while “Sun Yee On members are involved in trafficking heroin and methamphetamine, as well as alien smuggling, to the United States, where the triad has ties to New York’s Tung On Gang,” the report said.

Prominent 14K members from Hong Kong and Macau have emigrated to Canada, and Sun Yee On members have settled in Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

See also: Big Circle Boys, Ghost Shadows, Lau Wing Kui, Kung Lok, Sun Yee On, Triads .

French Connection: Heroin Highway – American mobsters Carmine Galante, Joe Bonanno, and Lucky Luciano met with Sicilian crime boss Salvatore “The Pope” Greco and rising Sicilian Mafioso Gaetano Badalamenti in 1957 at the best hotel in Sicily, the marble-lined Grand Hôtel des Palmes in Palermo. Also meeting on the hotel’s lush red carpets was Tommaso Buscetta, who would one day become one of the greatest informers in Mafia history. They dined at the equally luxurious Spano restaurant nearby, as they plotted what would become known as the French Connection. This drug pipeline would become famous through the book and movie of the same name.

Lucky Luciano

Despite its immortalizing in literature and film, the French Connection was anything but glamorous. The mobsters were planning how to send Turkish opium to the French port city of Marseilles, where it was converted into heroin in makeshift labs on the sandy cliffs overlooking the ocean. Once converted, it was sent into Montreal and into the United States.

French-Corsican gangsters were brought on board with the promise of the seemingly unlimited American market. The profits were enormous: a kilogram of opium, bought for $35 in Turkey, sold on the streets of Harlem for up to $225,000. For the underworld, it meant mobsters were now looking beyond their neighbourhoods and becoming international entrepreneurs. Mob bosses had a tougher time controlling ambitious young gangsters, who saw the possibility of arranging deals on their own, and almost immediately becoming rich and powerful. Drugs also meant bigger prison terms than were handed out for old Mob activities like gambling. With the threat of big prison time came more violence. The Mob would never be the same.

See also: Alberto Agueci, Joe Bonanno, Tommaso Buscetta, Carmine Galante, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia, Benedetto Zizzo .

Grand Hôtel des Palmes, Palermo

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