Lai Changxing: Gambling on Canada – Fourteen prisoners in shapeless green prison shirts and shorts and slippers dropped their heads as a Chinese tribunal in Beijing sentenced them to death on November 8, 2000. The prisoners, all former state officials, were accused of taking part in a multi-billion-dollar smuggling scheme that was considered the worst corruption scandal to hit China since the People’s Republic was proclaimed in 1949.
Officials accused the group’s ringleader, Lai Changxing, of bringing more than U.S.$6 billion of cars, oil, cigarettes, textiles, and electronic goods into China without paying import duties. The scandal was said to hit the highest echelons of the party, involving as many as six hundred government, police, customs, and Communist Party officials. Not surprisingly, cynics in Beijing recalled a glum saying, which went: “If the government is serious about locking up corrupted officials, they can simply convert all the government buildings into jails.”
Some of the accused in court wept upon hearing their death sentences, but the man Chinese authorities wanted to punish the most wasn’t among them. Lai was in Niagara Falls, Ontario, playing games of chance at Casino Niagara. He lost nearly $18,000 at the tables the day the death sentences were passed, a marked improvement from the $85,000 he dropped three days before. However, the fact that the alleged mastermind of the smuggling mega-scandal was alive and outside of China was a major jackpot for him.
The high-roller at Casino Niagara was nothing less than China’s top fugitive. In an effort to get him transferred back to China, Premier Zhu Ronji guaranteed Canada that Lai wouldn’t be executed if he was extradited. Canada and China had no extradition treaty, so the premier had to appear gentle if he ever hoped to land Lai.
Arrested by the Mounties at Casino Niagara, Lai contended he had done nothing illegal, but the chubby former well-digger and blacksmith had certainly done well financially for someone with a Grade Six education. His critics said his success was aided by a practice of heaping wine, women, and yuan on local Communist Party officials.
At the time of his arrest, Lai had been living in Canada for more than fifteen months, entering the country on August 14, 1999, with a legal visitor’s visa issued on his Hong Kong passport. While in Canada, he had no visible job, and was often seen in B.C. casinos, sporting baseball caps and dropping big bets. He was eventually barred from casinos in British Columbia after the B.C. Lottery Commission suspected him of loansharking. He had received word from a senior Chinese police official that investigators were coming to arrest him, and a couple of hours later, he was on a speedboat, fleeing to Hong Kong, and then to Vancouver.
He had settled in comfortably in his new country, paying cash for a $1.3-million mansion in Vancouver’s ritzy South Granville area, while his three teenaged children were enrolled in private school, at a cost of $6,000 each. His wife, Tsang Mingna, also accused of corruption in China, deposited U.S.$1.5 million to get a local bank account started.
While his new Canadian digs were certainly comfortable, they were a far cry from the U.S.$8-million, seven-storey headquarters known as the Red Mansion, which he built in his home city of Xiamen, 1,100 miles south of Beijing. After his flight, Chinese officials converted the marble-floored, red brick pleasure palace into an exhibit to warn cadres of the dangers of corruption, although some might argue it only encouraged further wrongdoing. Touring visitors could tour its banquet halls, saunas, karaoke rooms, massage parlours, “two-people dance floors,” private cinema, and big-screen televisions for “pornographic film viewing” – along with built-in secret escape routes.
Back in his heyday in the 1990s, Lai was Xiamen’s most important private businessman, chauffeured about with bodyguards in a fleet of bulletproof Mercedes-Benz limousines, and rich enough to buy a pro soccer team and move it to his hometown. The Chinese government said he also bought local officials and involved them in games of a different sort, supplying them with women in the Red Mansion, then videotaping their activities.
He contended that he and his businesses were singled out by ambitious Party officials seeking to make him an example, and that he was nothing more than a victim of murky backroom politicking. In their request for refugee status, Lai, his wife, and their three children contended that they had a “well-founded fear of the Chinese government because Lai had refused to cooperate in a government scheme to falsely incriminate an official in the central government.”
Meanwhile in China, Zhu Rongji relaxed his stance on Lai slightly. At first, the premier said Lai should be put to death ten times over, but later softened the figure to execution just three times over.
In 2002, the Canadian refugee board ordered Lai and his family deported. “Mr. Lai and Ms. Tsang are common criminals who headed one of the largest smuggling operations in China,” the board said in a written decision. The board said it believed that Lai and Tsang “committed a serious non-political crime outside Canada, including smuggling, fraud, tax evasion, and bribery.”
By July 2003, Lai was in limited house arrest in a Vancouver condominium, denying all charges against him. He and his wife were not allowed to be out of the apartment at the same time, and they were continually monitored by video cameras. Immigration lawyers have claimed the couple were associates of members of the Big Circle Boys and the Kung Lok Triad, two Asian-based crime syndicates active in Western Canada, and argued they must be watched closely because these gangs might be able to assist the pair in fleeing Canada. They were also not allowed to attend casinos or associate with members of the Big Circle Boys and Kung Lok Triad.
While critics said he was taking advantage of lax Canadian immigration laws, he said he was simply seeking fairness. “A friend recommended I come to Canada, saying the laws here are more democratic and just,” Lai told the Washington Post .
At the time Lai was praising Canada’s immigration laws, a Canadian court considered his appeal. At least eight of the prisoners who were condemned in his case in China had already been executed, as Lai fought for refugee status in Canada.
See also: Big Circle Boys, Lau Wing Kui, Kung Lok, Sun Yee On, Triads .
Florence Lassandro, 1922 (Glenbow Archives, NA-3282-2)
Lassandro, Florence: Fatal Gamble – In 1923, Lassandro had the sad distinction of being the first and last woman hanged in Alberta.
The Temperance Act was in force then in Bible Belt Alberta, meaning that big money could be made smuggling booze over the Rockies from British Columbia. Demand for bootleg liquor was particularly high in the coal-mining towns of the Crowsnest Pass region, where Italian immigrant Emilio “Emperor Pic” Picariello ran an extensive rum-running operation out of his hotel in Blairmore.
By some reports, Lassandro was his mistress but, whatever her relationship with Emperor Pic, she often tagged along with him and his teenaged son, Steve, as they ran carloads of booze over the Continental Divide through Phillips Pass.
One night, in September 1922, Steve Picariello headed over the pass, unaware that the Alberta Provincial Police lay in wait. A chase ended in the town of Coleman, where Steve received minor injuries in a shootout. Someone mistakenly told Emperor Pic that his son had been killed. Emperor Pic was beside himself with anger and grief, and raced into Coleman with Lassandro at his side to confront Const. Steve Lawson, whom he thought was his son’s killer.
It was never certain who fired the fatal shot that killed the officer on the street, but Emilio was a good guess. In an effort to save him from the gallows, the defence suggested that it had been Florence who actually pulled the trigger. No woman had ever been hanged in Alberta, and Emperor Pic’s lawyer wagered that the judge would not break tradition now. The ploy failed, and both were sentenced to be hanged in May 1923 at Fort Saskatchewan Jail.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Lassandro asked plaintively, shortly before she and her lover dropped to their deaths.
Her tragic death became the subject of an opera staged in the 2002–2003 season by Calgary Opera, entitled Filumena , by John Estacio and John Murrell. It was billed as being about “love, deception, crime, and danger in a poor Alberta coal mining town in the early years of the 20th century … More than a thrilling crime tale, it is the story of how Filumena came to love the mountains and big sky as emblems of spiritual freedom, which even her tragic public fate could not tarnish.”
Regret over her execution – and a fear of more violence in the bootlegging trade – sped up the end of Prohibition in Alberta.
See also: Samuel Bronfman, Moose Jaw Capone Tunnels, Emilio Picariello .
Lastman, Mel: Handshake from Hell – Exactly why the Toronto mayor felt the urge to rush into a hotel lobby and shake the hand of a member of the notorious Hells Angels in full gang regalia in January 2002 remains a mystery.
Lastman, a flamboyant mayor with a history of gaffes, first said they appeared to be “good guys,” and that he was unaware that the bikers were associated with anything shady, like prostitution, drug dealing, or murder.
In another version, the mayor portrayed himself as a concerned leader with a full bladder. In that explanation, the mayor said he bumped into the bikers after a trip to the downtown Toronto Holiday Inn men’s room. Lastman said he paid a visit to the hotel’s manager to ensure there were no problems before he was approached by a gang member in Angels regalia. Exactly what problems he was searching for was not explained.
“I said to him, ‘Why don’t you prove me wrong and the people of Toronto wrong … and show us that you guys are great and you’re not here to make trouble?’ ” Lastman said. “He said, ‘We’re definitely not here to make trouble,’ and he put out his hand, and I shook his hand.”
The mayor also said he was overcome by nerves when he shook the gang member’s hand. “They scare me. I’m just a little guy,” the five-foot-five mayor said of the Hells Angels. “What am I going to do? Not give them my hand? My parents may have had ugly children, but they didn’t have stupid ones.”
Mel Lastman with Hells Angel (QMI Agency)
There was also the curiosity answer: “I’m curious. I’m concerned. I’m the mayor of this city, and I wanted to make sure the city was operating well and there were no problems.” Reporters were also offered the common-courtesy explanation: “Please understand, I never turned my back on anybody who gave me their hand. Do I welcome you when I shake your hand, if you come over to me and say hello? Have I ever refused anybody to shake their hand? I don’t do that. I’ve never done that in my life.”
A photo of Lastman shaking hands with the Hells Angels member made the front pages of newspapers and outraged police forces across the country – particularly in Quebec, where gang leader Maurice “Mom” Boucher was about to go on trial for murder. “Memo to the mayor: The Hells Angels aren’t the Shriners. They’re not people you should be welcoming to town, not while your police force is trying to chase them out,” wrote the Toronto Star . Authorities and editorial writers across the country expressed disgust at the mayor’s actions. In Montreal, the front page of Le Journal de Montréal shouted out: “ THE MAYOR OF TORONTO IS THE FRIEND OF HELLS !”
By the time the bikers’ convention weekend in Toronto was over, police, politicians, the entire province of Quebec, and even the Hells Angels themselves were demanding apologies from Lastman.
The bikers were incensed because he publicly threw a souvenir T-shirt they gave him in the garbage after the public outrage about his handshake. In a letter sent to the mayor, the bikers said Lastman’s decision to throw out the T-shirt was the “pinnacle of poor taste.”
Lau Wing Kui: Triad Pioneer – By the time he was deported to his native Hong Kong in 1980, Lau had established the first major Triad in Metropolitan Toronto, its members bound together by secret rituals and blood oaths under the Triad symbol of the three primary forces of the universe: heaven, earth and man.
This was the Kung Lok (mutual happiness) Triad, which police intelligence reports said grew to some four hundred members who were involved in extortion against businessmen and recent immigrants and students from Hong Kong, as well as in “protection” and the entertainment industry in Chinatown.
By the time of Lau’s deportation, the Kung Lok was being led by former associates of Lau who were close to Triad and gang leaders in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Hong Kong. The Toronto Triad gained control of some of the protection rackets for entertainers who come through Toronto from Hong Kong and China. In a subtle form of extortion, it also provided guards for some of the many illegal Chinese gambling houses in the Toronto area.
See also: Big Circle Boys, Kung Lok, Triads .
Lavigne, Diane: Murdered Prison Guard – She was murdered by the Hells Angels in 1997, simply because she worked as a prison guard. The Hells Angel who pulled the trigger on orders from gang boss Maurice “Mom” Boucher could see only her uniform as he fired into her car, and that was all that mattered to him.
Her father, Leon Lavigne, a retired prison guard himself, was in the front row of a packed courthouse as he watched Boucher get a life sentence for his role in the crime. “It’s one of the most beautiful days of my life,” Lavigne told reporters outside court. “I’m very happy it’s over. I’ll turn the page from now on.… It took five years.”
Boucher was also found guilty of the first-degree murder of fellow guard Pierre Rondeau and attempted murder of guard Robert Corriveau. Many people in the courtroom had worn small pins in memory of Rondeau and Lavigne throughout the trial. After hearing the sentence, a family member said the past five years had been especially difficult on Diane Lavigne’s two children, then twenty-four and twenty-six.
The Crown case was based on the theory Boucher did not pull the trigger himself but ordered the shooting deaths of the two guards in an attempt to destabilize the justice system and was thus equally guilty.
This was Boucher’s second trial on the charges. He was acquitted the first time, and the prosecution appealed. When the guilty verdict was registered, Leon Lavigne spoke warmly of the twelve ordinary people on the jury who found Boucher guilty, after eleven days of deliberations. “I thank the jury for having the guts to give the guilty [verdict],” said Leon Lavigne. “I hoped all the time, but I didn’t know.”
“Finally, peace,” his wife, Helen, said. “Justice and peace.”
See also: Maurice “Mom” Boucher, Serge Boutin, Daniel Desrochers, Stéphane “Godasse” Gagné, Pierre Rondeau, André “Toots” “Peanuts” Tousignant .
Lavoie, Donald: Forgetful Killer – When Lavoie testified in court as a defence witness in October 1981, Globe and Mail columnist William Johnson wrote: “He is an unusual witness. Donald Lavoie is 39 and looks like a college professor.”
Lavoie had worked for a dozen years as a killer for hire, and couldn’t tell the court exactly how many people he had murdered. Perhaps the number was about twenty-seven, he ventured, noting there were also assaults, armed robberies, and drug use and sales.
The testimony came during the extortion and confinement trials of Jean Tremblay and Micheline Pelletier-Travers, who were accused of holding the wife and mother-in-law of a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce accountant for ransom in December 1980 in a motel until the bank paid about $135,000 for their release. Lavoie said he was part of the Dubois gang at the time, working with the extortionists.
Then he said he got wind that the gang had taken out a contract on him. He said the decision was made by Claude Dubois and others. “Mr. Dubois wouldn’t dirty his own hands. He would have it done by others.”
Lavoie had plenty of theories why the Dubois family might want him dead. Claude Dubois had given him $4,300 for a sale of hashish, but he was supposed to get more than $8,000 for the deal, and he had pointed this out to Dubois.
Things only got worse with Dubois after that, he said. It was nothing less than a “war,” in Lavoie’s mind. “I was afraid for my family, I was afraid for myself, and I’m still frightened.”
“The criminal world no longer accepts me, so I went over to the other side,” he said under cross-examination by noted criminal lawyer Léo-René Maranda.
Maranda drove home the point that Lavoie was a liar and a killer, although that was never much in dispute. The lawyer recalled how Lavoie had told one of the abducted women that he had respect for women.
“Did you have a great respect for Linda Majore?” Maranda asked.
“I didn’t know her,” Lavoie replied.
“With how many knife stabs?”
“I don’t know.”
Maranda also noted that Lavoie’s respect for women didn’t stop him from trying to kill his first common-law wife with an axe.
See also: Dubois Brothers, Claude Dubois, Claude Jodoin .
Leithman, Sydney: Murdered Lawyer – Leithman was on his way to his office to present his final arguments in a trial involving Colombian drug traffickers on May 13, 1991. Driving alone in his black Saab convertible at 6 : 48 a.m., Leithman was just a minute from his home in Mount Royal when suddenly a car cut him off at a stoplight at the corner of Rockland Road and Monmouth Avenue.
Then a young man walked toward him from near a telephone booth, pulling out a .45 automatic pistol. The gunman kept firing methodically at Leithman until he was leaning right into the Saab. When the shooting finally stopped, a bag of smoked meat was thrown onto the body. Perhaps it was an anti-Semitic flourish, or perhaps the gunman had tried to squeeze in a snack before the murder and misjudged the time. Whatever the case, the murder remains unsolved.
Naturally, Leithman’s clients figured high on the list of potential suspects, as he was unable to save many of them from jail time. He had often appeared at the side of Montreal’s most notorious underworld figures. He and fellow lawyer Rolland Blais had presided over a press conference in November 1975, when some of the infamous Dubois brothers of St.-Henri stripped in front of reporters and photographers, arguing they had been beaten by police.
Leithman also poured drinks for guests at a press conference in the early 1970s, when mobster Frank Cotroni tried to clear up what he called misconceptions about a trip he had made to Mexico.
Leithman’s clients also included Colombian drug traffickers, with connections to the world’s most wanted criminal of the early 1990s, Pablo Escobar of the Medellín cartel.
His name was also mentioned darkly in connection with a top police officer. In December 1992, RCMP Insp. Claude Savoie committed suicide after learning that he was going to be questioned by officers from the force’s internal-affairs division about allegations he funnelled information through Leithman to Montreal drug king Allan “The Weasel” Ross of the West End Gang.
See also: Claude Dubois, Frank “Santos” Cotroni, Doug Jaworski, Allan “The Weasel” Ross, Claude Savoie, Frank Shoofey .
Lemay, Guy: Tragic Mistake – When he opened the back door of his Montreal apartment to let his dog out on January 7, 1997, someone shot Lemay dead. He had been mistaken for a Rock Machine drug dealer who lived upstairs.
See also: Daniel Desrochers, Diane Lavigne, Serge Hervieux .
Lepage, Guy: Changing Sides – The cop-turned-biker was extradited to the United States from Montreal at the end of July 2002 to face drug charges in Miami that could land him in prison for life.
Lepage was a Montreal police officer from 1966 to 1974, then moved on to become a chauffeur for Hells Angels kingpin Maurice “Mom” Boucher. He was also founder of the Rockers, a Hells Angels puppet club, and served as its president. Police said he was also linked to the Nomads, a select chapter of the Hells Angels, commanded by Boucher.
See also: Maurice “Mom” Boucher, Dany Kane, Nomads .
L’Epiphanie, Quebec: Mob Summit – When they raided the house of Gerlando Caruana on Imperia Street shortly before midnight on December 14, 1971, police interrupted a Mafia summit in this community in northeastern Montreal.
The twenty-seven people inside included the city’s top Mafia bosses, and five of the people present would be murdered over the next five years. Among the top topics for discussion that night was the role of Nicolo “Nick” Rizzuto, who had strong supporters internationally, including ties to the Caruana and Cuntrera Mafia families.
Among those present was Leonardo Caruana, who would be deported from Canada and who would be murdered in Palermo on the wedding day of one of his sons. Also attending the meeting was Pietro Sciara, a Sicilian mobster who was shot to death with an Italian shotgun, or lupara , in 1976 while leaving a movie theatre in little Italy belonging to a Cotroni sister. Ironically, he’d just seen the Italian-language version of The Godfather .
See also: Vincenzo “Vic the Egg” Cotroni, Alfonso Caruana, Nick Rizzuto, Vito Rizzuto, Paolo Violi .
Lindsey, Maria – See Eric Cobham .
Lui Lok – See Five Dragons .
Longabaugh, Harry – See Sundance Kid .
LoPresti, Giuseppe “Joe”: Poor Joe – A wealthy contractor with solid Liberal party connections took LoPresti into the Montreal Daily News offices in 1989 and asked a senior executive for some help. In a slightly patronizing tone, the contractor called LoPresti “Poor Joe” and continued, “We all feel sorry for him and would like to get him into something.”
That something was a plan to ship bundled newspapers to the Third World for recycling. The papers would be sent there in large containers, which seemed an extravagance. The idea was for the containers to then be shipped back, and no one was so rude as to point out that this would be a convenient way to import heroin.
The plan fell through, as the newspaper’s parent company already had a newsprint plan, and LoPresti didn’t seem particularly concerned when told the bad news. Perhaps that’s because Poor Joe, who outwardly seemed a totally unremarkable man, had plenty of other businesses to keep him occupied, and he never seemed to be hurting financially.
Had the newspaper executive seen LoPresti’s neo-Tudor-style, custom-built home, he might not have worried about Poor Joe’s cash flow. There were only four houses on his extremely exclusive street in the posh Cartierville section of Montreal, and even in a depressed real-estate market, they were worth around $1 million each.
Giuseppe “Joe” LoPresti
More interesting than his house were his neighbours. One of the houses was quietly occupied by sixty-five-year-old Libertina Rizzuto, who waited patiently for her fugitive Mafia don husband Nicolo “Nick” to return from Caracus, where he was being held on drug charges on a Venezuelan government minister’s order. Nick’s son, Vito, occupied another of the mansions, and the other was for Paolo Renda, Vito’s brother-in-law.
Police were certainly interested in that posh enclave. Clearly LoPresti had done well financially since he arrived in Halifax in 1969, one of many Mafiosi fleeing his birthplace of Cattolica Eraclea in Agrigento, Sicily, after an anti-Mafia crackdown.
LoPresti was always hanging around in the background in interesting locations. He was certainly close to Nick Rizzuto after the January 22, 1978, murder of Rizzuto’s underworld rival Paolo Violi. More than one person with insights into the underworld considered Poor Joe at least partially responsible for the Violi hit.
LoPresti was also involved in promoting kick-boxing and boxing, according to an investigation, but police thought this was more of a diversion than the source of his considerable wealth. There were also his investments in video poker, but even that wasn’t the real source of his power. What made Poor Joe a someone was that he was well connected to the Bonnano and Gambino families, as well as with a new wave of Sicilian immigrants, known as “Zips” in Brooklyn for their quick way of talking.
His “Zip” friends included Cesare “Tall Guy” Bonventre, the bodyguard for Mafia boss Carmine “Mr. Lillo” or “The Cigar” Galante, who extinguished The Cigar in July 12, 1979. Bonventre himself would end up in two pieces in an oil drum, possibly a crude symbolism for his double-cross, or perhaps just a way of fitting him into the drum.
LoPresti’s New York City contacts also included Angelo “Quack Quack” Ruggiero, who was as loud as an angry duck and who was often told by Gambino family powerhouse John “Johnny Boy” Gotti, “You’ve got to keep your fucking mouth shut.”
Connected with LoPresti and Ruggiero was Gerlando Sciascia, who held an undeveloped patch of land next door to Poor Joe on Antoine-Berthelet Avenue, on which he hoped to build a house, if he could settle legally in Canada.
In the early 1980s, LoPresti and Sciascia were breaking the rules of the Gambino family as well as those of the rest of society with their wholesale drug dealing with Ruggiero. Gambino boss Paul Castellano had ordered his men to stay away from drug importing, since that meant the threat of big prison time, and the threat of big prison time brought with it the heightened chance of members turning informer.
To change the rules inside the Gambinos, up-and-coming family member John Gotti had Castellano murdered.
Unfortunately for them, LoPresti, Sciascia, Ruggiero, and more than a dozen others were soon facing heroin-importing charges.
LoPresti chilled in Montreal on bail as other defendants bought more time with jury tampering. Sooner or later, if authorities caught him, he would have to explain why he was picked up on a police bug reassuring Quack Quack that he had assured a heroin supplier in the Cuntrera-Caruana family that a shipment of heroin was coming. In that statement, made May 16, 1982, Poor Joe indiscreetly said, “He said he was 100 per cent certain that our load is coming. It’s in Canada for a week and a half before it’s here.”
When Poor Joe finally faced trial in Brooklyn, security concerns meant jurors were identified only by numbers to cut the fear of intimidation or bribery. FBI agent John Flanagan told the court that the prisoners had “used the services of an investigator to trace the licence plates of juror’s cars, many of which had been parked in a lot near the courthouse.”
It didn’t help that one juror had personalized plates, making him particularly easy to follow, and court officials only got more queasy when a juror said he was approached by a stranger and offered a new car for insights about how the case was going. Another juror said his mother was “panicked.” More nasty than intelligent, co-accused Eddie Lino tacked a menacing note on what he thought was the door of a juror. He had the wrong address and the homeowner went to the FBI . Yet another juror told of being offered a $10,000 bribe.
The tactic of going after the jury still had some success. Andrew Maloney, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said that one juror was compromised. Asked what he meant, Maloney replied bluntly, “Bought and paid for, in the bag.”
The effort to scuttle the trial paid off in an acquittal on February 7, 1990, after the defence trotted out a technical expert who said it was possible that the incriminating tapes could have been tampered with in an undetectable way.
Two years later, on April 27, 1992, Poor Joe drove his cherry-red Porsche out of the driveway of his neo-Tudor-style home. He had likely heard of a meeting of top-level Calabrian mobsters in Montreal the day before, and perhaps that was on his mind. The Calabrians were all connected to Paolo Violi, and all would have heard the reports of LoPresti’s alleged involvement in setting up the hit.
It was common for Poor Joe to drive off to racquetball courts, discos, construction sites, bakeries, and restaurants, and that day he was en route to a restaurant on Décarie Boulevard.
Whoever he met must have been trusted and a somebody, because LoPresti wasn’t in the habit of spending time with just anyone, and he trusted the person he met enough to leave his car in the restaurant lot.
At 10 : 30 that night, a CN railworker saw a large plastic package lying on the tracks at Fifty-Fourth Avenue and Henri Bourassa Boulevard East in northeast Montreal. Wrapped inside the plastic was the body of Poor Joe, with a small-calibre gunshot wound to the head. Whoever did the killing was thorough enough to take his ID , which would be useful for the hit man to prove he carried out the job to whomever was paying him. However, $4,000 was left on the body, underlining the fact that this wasn’t the work of a street punk.
Possible theories for the murder included an unexplained grudge from the Gotti family over the court cases. Or perhaps it was long-festering anger over the Violi murder, which would explain the meeting of Calabrians the day before. Toronto Sicilians who were close to LoPresti huddled to talk things over, then did … nothing. Perhaps they were just as confused about the motive for Poor Joe’s murder as the police.
See also: Boxing, Carmine Galante, Nicolo “Nick” Rizzuto, Vito Rizzuto, Gerlando Sciascia, Paolo Violi .
Los Brovos: Manitoba Bikers – Formed in 1967 with twelve original members from the St. Boniface/St. Vital areas of Winnipeg, their original colours depicted a skeleton draped in a cape on a motorcycle.
Like the rival Spartans, the Los Brovos conducted some drug trafficking, but most of their money came from debt collections and the handling of stolen goods, especially Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The Los Brovos were also noted for their intelligence-gathering abilities, which included keeping accurate account of police members’ names, addresses, and vehicles.
In 1980, the Los Brovos began a massive recruitment, shortening the required prospect time from a year to just a month in some cases. The club’s membership peaked at sixty-eight full members, with an average age of just twenty-five.
It was clear in the summer of 1980 that the Los Brovos were ready to end their peaceful coexistence with the Spartans and make their push to become the dominant gang in Manitoba. Both clubs began to make overtures to the Hells Angels, who had established their first Canadian chapter in Sorel, Quebec, three years before.
In July 1983, new Hells Angels chapters were granted in British Columbia, to White Rock, Vancouver, and Nanaimo, and the Los Brovos hoped they’d soon also join the larger gang. In late July, the Hells Angels attended Winnipeg en masse for the first time and, as part of the event, the Los Brovos sponsored drag races in Gimli, Manitoba. When the racing was over, some of the Angels called the Los Brovos “goofs,” and the Los Brovos hopes of changing colours appeared to be in the ditch.
Within a month, the Los Brovos were in disarray. The club’s mechanic was kicked out of the club in August. Three months later, a member abducted and raped a local woman with strong family ties to various active criminals. Now the gang’s popularity plummeted in the local criminal community.
By February 1984, the Los Brovos were down to just thirty-eight members. There once had been a pact among the Los Brovos, the Grim Reapers of Alberta, and the Satan’s Choice of Thunder Bay to fend off Hells Angels expansion, but by the early 1990s, this would weaken considerably.
Between 1991 and 1993, there were thirty-one acts of violence between the Los Brovos and Spartans. Among those injured was Hells Angels associate Donald Magnussen, the bodyguard for the Angels national president, Walter Stadnick.
Stadnick was so upset that he reportedly ordered the fighting to stop and negotiated a truce between the Los Brovos and Spartans. To secure the peace, he offered the Spartans the carrot of membership, while threatening the Los Brovos with the stick of retaliation.
By early 1994, most Los Brovos members were either facing charges or behind bars, as club fortunes sunk to a new low. The club’s new leader, Jeff Peck, was arrested in 1995 for operating what was found to be the largest “chop shop” of stolen motorcycles ever located in Canada.
On May 10, 1996, Los Brovos members Shane Preston Jones and David Boyko attended a Hells Angels anniversary party in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as relations between the two gangs grew more cordial. That didn’t last long. On May 12, 1995, Boyko was shot dead execution-style in a commercial area of Dartmouth.
The actual shooter may have been Donald Magnussen, now the bodyguard for Scott Steinert of the Hells Angels, or may have been a member of the Grim Reapers of Alberta. Whatever the case, the murder caused a major split in the Los Brovos. The gang’s old allegiance to the Grim Reapers–Satan’s Choice pact was now ended. Several old-time members of the Grim Reapers quit their club, while others began prospecting for the Hells Angels.
Stadnick and numerous senior members of the Hells Angels attended Winnipeg for Boyko’s funeral. When they went with members of the Grim Reapers to the Los Brovos West Winnipeg clubhouse, they were told that the Grim Reapers could enter, but the Hells Angels must stay outside. As a result, both gangs left.
It was the Winnipeg health department and not rival gangs that ultimately shut the North clubhouse in May 1996. After repairs, it was rented out to members of the Manitoba Warriors bike gang for cocaine sales.
During this time, the Los Brovos supplied Native street gangs with both drugs and weapons, while the Native gangs allowed the Los Brovos to store their items on reserves to avoid detection.
The Los Brovos officially folded on July 24, 1999, becoming a prospect club for the Hells Angels. After six months, they became a full chapter. Their rivals, the Spartans, had disbanded after the mysterious disappearance of their leader, Darwin Sylvester, in June 1998.
See also: Donald Magnussen, Redliners, Wolodumyr “Walter” “Nurget” Stadnick, Darwin Sylvester, Kevin Sylvester, Robert Blaine Tews .
Lotus Gang: Drug Wholesalers – In a study released in early 1999, Simon Fraser University criminologist Rob Gordon found that the Lotus Gang had been active since the 1960s in street-level crime in Vancouver, like extorting Asian businesses, gambling, drug distribution, and prostitution.
By the 1980s, Lotus, which has a predominantly Chinese-Canadian membership, amalgamated with a 1970s street gang called Jung Ching, composed of ethnic Chinese from Vietnam. In the late 1980s, Lotus joined forces with the Los Diablos gang, which was originally composed of Hispanic members, to fight a street war over drug turf with the Gum Wah (Golden Chinese) gang and the now-defunct Red Eagles (Hung Ying), who were a mixture of ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
By the early 1990s, Vancouver was home to thirty gangs with one thousand members, also including the Big Circle Boys, former members of the Chinese Red Army; Viet Ching, mostly ethnic Chinese from Vietnam; and two emerging groups, a gang known simply as Ethnic Vietnamese and the Maralatinos, Hispanics who had recently arrived in Canada. Those heavily armed gangs often banded together to smuggle drugs, run prostitution rings, and rob wealthy Asians.
The Los Diablos grew to include Indo-Canadian members and became known as the East Indian Mafia in the 1990s. By the mid-1990s, Lotus had expanded to trafficking cocaine at the “wholesale” level to Bhupinder “Bindy” Johal and his East Indian Mafia, who sold cocaine on the street through a dial-a-dope operation.
Despite their attempts to work together, violence often flared up between the two groups. Johal kidnapped Randy Chan of the Lotus Gang during a 1996 drug deal that went awry, which pitted Chinese-Canadian and Indo-Canadians gangsters against each other. An associate of Johal felt that he was being cheated when he went to buy two kilograms of cocaine from Randy Chan and an associate. Johal felt that the cocaine had been “watered down” with a bogus white powder.
Johal took Randy Chan hostage, and at one point held him in the trunk of a car as he drove around Vancouver, repeatedly calling the pager of Chan’s older brother, Raymond Man Yuen Chan, and demanding five kilograms of cocaine if he wanted to see his brother alive. The late Vancouver criminal lawyer Richard Israels was able to negotiate Randy Chan’s safe release after being held for fifty-six hours.
Johal was gunned down in December 1998 in front of three hundred witnesses on a crowded dance floor of the Palladium nightclub in Vancouver. In May 2003, Raymond Chan was murdered at age thirty-one in a business-industrial section of Richmond, British Columbia, in what police called a “targeted gangland-style hit.” Neither the Johal nor the Chan murders have been solved.
See also: Bhupinder “Bindy” Johal .
Lowe, Ned – See High Island .
Luppino, Giacomo: Wise Old Man – As a young man in the village of Oppido, Calabria, in his native Italy, Luppino was said to have cut off a man’s ear in a fight. He carried the grisly trophy, which looked like a gnarled piece of leather, in his wallet, Canadian police were later told.
Although police were able to install a listening device amongst the tomato plants in his backyard on Ottawa Street North in east Hamilton, they didn’t get enough evidence to charge him with any crime. What they did hear included the old don complaining about the performance of the Toronto Maple Leafs and saying that an underworld figure should be killed for cheating on his wife.
RCMP Insp. Dino Chiarot said that the old man once told his wife he wished he could speak English so he could set up a business, “as in his opinion, people here are much easier to cheat than in Italy.” Inspector Chiarot continued that the organization looked with disfavour on members who attract the attention of police and quoted Luppino as saying that the Buffalo don, Stefano Magaddino, told him “He never wanted to be visited by the Canadian group, because certain things have been in the papers.”
He said Luppino warned his associates “not to let anyone go to the States any more and be careful not to break the code.” Then he noted that his own Montreal-based son-in-law Paolo Violi might be in danger for breaking underworld rules. “The way the code stands now, you may lose Paolo Violi. So be careful.”
Luppino, who was considered as tough as the ear rumoured to be in his wallet, had been the Magaddino family’s southern Ontario syndicate boss since the death of Santo Scibetta in the mid-1970s, according to investigators. The two had jointly ruled as godfathers through the 1950s and 1960s, with control passing to Luppino.
Luppino’s daughter Grazia married Paulo Violi, who had risen to become arguably the most powerful crime boss in Montreal by the time he was killed Mob-style in 1978.
Luppino reportedly sponsored Paul Volpe in entering the Magaddino family. Volpe was killed and stuffed into the trunk of his wife’s BMW parked at Pearson International Airport in 1983. Former biker and Mob enforcer Cecil Kirby, who later worked undercover for police, said that the Luppino organization also took Volpe out of the Mob, authorizing his execution. No one has ever been charged in that case.
The most attention Luppino ever got from the public was in March 1987, when his funeral attracted the glare of publicity he had shunned all his life. The man known as southern Ontario’s Mob “godfather” was eighty-eight when he was carried to his grave in a shiny bronze coffin. It was arranged as a relatively low-key event, which he would have appreciated.
But it was not to remain low-key. Cadillacs, Lincolns, Mercedes-Benzes, and other high-end cars from Connecticut, New York State, and Quebec were among the funeral cortege of 130 vehicles. Some mourners arrived by taxi after flying into Hamilton Civic Airport aboard private aircraft.
Neighbours offered no complaints about the old man to reporters, noting that he would often sit on his veranda and pass out candy to neighbourhood children. “He had lots of visitors, but would never let them block our driveways,” one neighbour recalled.
See also: ’Ndrangheta, Stefano Magaddino, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia, Michele “Mike” Racco, Paul Volpe, Paolo Violi .
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