Morbid Curiosity


Sainte-Pierre and Miquelon: Capone Stronghold – The day Al Capone arrived in this tiny French outpost off the Newfoundland coast, sporting his trademark straw boater, a local gendarme was reportedly so nervous all he could do was stare.

Perhaps what scared him was the famous long, deep scar a few inches below the straw hat, running across Capone’s cheek. However, he limited his comments to the straw hat.

“Bonjour,” the gendarme said sheepishly. “That ees a nice ’at.”

Capone, who was heading toward l’Hôtel Robert in Sainte-Pierre, flipped him the hat and kept on walking.

This was during the 1920s, which was a heady time on the islands of Sainte-Pierre and Miquelon, just twenty kilometres off the southern coast of Newfoundland. The passage of the Volstead Act on January 16, 1920, brought Prohibition to the United States and big business to the rocky island – which explained Capone’s visit.

Sainte-Pierre and Miquelon remained French territory, ceded to France under the 1763 Treaty of Paris, and French law made it legal to import alcohol into the islands during Prohibition. It became illegal only when it was placed on high-speed smuggling boats bound for the United States.

That helped explain why John “Legs” Diamond, who ran the Hotsy Totsy Club in New York City, was another underworld visitor, since Sainte-Pierre became the headquarters for a smuggling fleet estimated at around eighty vessels.

Basements throughout the island became warehouses for wooden crates of contraband West Indian rum, British gin, French champagne, and Canadian whisky with names like Babbling Brook Old Bourbon Whiskey and Goodwill Pure Rye Whiskey, much of which was destined to be unloaded off Fire Island, New York. To prevent the bottles from clanging against each other in the boats, which might both damage the product and alert authorities, bottles were wrapped in burlap covers sewn by local women.

Capone alone smuggled the contents of up to three hundred thousand cases of contraband liquor into the United States each month, and the wooden liquor crates left on the tiny French islands stimulated a housing boom. One cabin made completely of crates became known as Cutty Sark Villa. Decades later, a couple Sainte-Pierre houses still had shingles and walls made from the sides of old Cutty Sark crates.

The first Sainte-Pierre smuggler during Prohibition was likely American Bill McCoy, whose wares were of such high quality that authentic liquor became known as the “the real McCoy.”

When Prohibition was finally repealed in 1933, flags on Sainte-Pierre were lowered to half-mast. Long after the trade ended, tourists were served a cocktail called a “Volstead on the rocks,” after the Volstead Act.

See also: Moose Jaw Capone Tunnels , Nellie J. Banks , Quadeville .

Satan’s Choice: Decades of Rumbling – One of the first times the Satan’s Choice Motorcycle Club was introduced to readers of the Toronto Star was on August 29, 1966, in a story headlined, “FIVE ARRESTED IN MOTORCYCLE RUMBLE,” which began: “A policeman had a guitar smashed over his head during a brawl in a local hotel cocktail lounge Saturday after two motorcycle clubs ganged up on a musician.

“Police said about 12 members of the Golden Hawks and Satan’s Choice were out to get even with a musician after he fought with a Golden Hawk Friday and kicked over his motorcycle.”

The guitar-bashing incident pretty much set the tone for Satan’s Choice interactions with mainstream society in the first few years of the club. Further stories around the time of Canada’s centennial chronicle how a Toronto police officer had his finger pinched when a Choice member kicked the licence plates the officer was trying to remove from his defective car, how Ottawa members stole lawn sculptures, how four Choice members used a knife to cut the club patch from the jacket of a London Road Runners motorcycle club member at a motorcycle hill climb near Heidelberg, on the outskirts of Kitchener, and how the Choice rumbled with gangs with names like the Chain Men, Henchmen, and Fourth Reich.

There were also stomach-turning photos from an August 1968 field-day near Wasaga Beach, north of Toronto, in which Choice members competed to run down a live chicken and then tear it to bits. The biker with the largest chicken chunk won. There were no takers when the Humane Society of Ontario offered a $200 reward for information leading to the conviction of the chicken-killers.

Some of the stories were darker, like how a Kitchener-area man was beaten to death in a brawl with the Choice; how an eighteen-year-old girlfriend of a gang member was found semiconscious and seminaked in a Markham ditch with severe internal injuries; or how a businessman was beaten to death in a Vancouver clubhouse.

The gang then had eleven chapters – Vancouver, Montreal, Windsor, Preston, Kingston, Ottawa, Peterborough, Hamilton, St. Catharines, Guelph, Oshawa – all of which fell under the leadership of “supreme commander,” or national president, Bernie Guindon.

Choice members were no one’s first choice for babysitters, but then they weren’t serious mobsters either. Police raids generally uncovered guns and brass knuckles and a little marijuana, but the gang was more into using drugs than selling them.

By 1973, Guindon was thirty, with two divorces behind him, three children, and an inmate’s residence at maximum-security Millhaven Penitentiary, where he was serving five years for indecent assault. He then dreamed of representing Canada in boxing in the 1976 Olympics, but prison life was making that tough, he told Arnie Keller of the Toronto Star: “All I can do up there is hit the heavy bag, do lots of leg exercises, work with the weights and do exercises to strengthen my stomach. There are no ropes which I can use to skip or mirrors to look into to check my style. Nothing resembling a weapon is allowed.”

Guindon, Choice president since 1965, noted that he was Canadian amateur light middleweight boxing champion. He complained that it was tough for him to get parole, since authorities wanted him to refrain from associating with criminals, which often included bikers. “They’re the only friends I have. I’m not going to give them up.”

He told Keller he would like to coach kids, but added that he needed some guidance of his own. “I’m a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde character. I try to set them on the right path. I tell them not to go the way I did. Then, when I get the chance, I go and do the same things I did before.”

In Quebec in the late 1970s, the Hells Angels sat back patiently and watched as the Satan’s Choice, Popeyes, and Devil’s Disciples fought a bloody war for control of Montreal’s booming drug market. When the smoke cleared, the Angels took over the largest surviving group, the mainly French-speaking Popeyes.

Meanwhile in Toronto, the Satan’s Choice formed an alliance with the Chicago-based Outlaws, Vagabonds, and Para-Dice Riders to keep the Hells Angels from expanding there from Quebec.

Despite the tensions with the Angels, the gang was healthy, even cocky, despite continual police surveillance. They had a particularly strong presence in Kitchener, where the club was indignant in 1987 when the Kitchener-Waterloo Record refused to run an advertisement bearing its Christmas greetings. The previous year, the Choice had taken out an eight-centimetre-square advertisement declaring: “Satan’s Choice Motorcycle Club would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Waterloo Region a very Merry Christmas and to let you know that we are still here and will always be here. Choice Forever Forever Choice.”

There were rumblings in the early 1990s that violence would flare up between the Choice and the Hells Angels. In 1991, about 150 Hells Angels from Europe, Eastern Canada, and the West booked into a suburban Winnipeg hotel. That meeting was taken as a challenge to the local Los Brovos gang, who were friendly with the Satan’s Choice.

In June 1993, the Satan’s Choice weren’t invited to a party at Wasaga Beach, Ontario, hosted by the Quebec-based Hells Angels, who brought along a farm team of gang members from affiliated clubs. The Angels spent much of the time meeting with members of the Loners, a breakaway club from the Choice. The talks were to discuss the expansion of the Angels into Ontario, police said.

In the summer of 1995, Guindon’s old gang was brawling with the Loners in Toronto, who were founded by disgruntled former Choice members. In August 1995, less than two hours after Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall announced a crackdown on biker violence, the clubhouse of the Loners on Denison Road West, in the Weston area of Toronto, was rocked by a massive explosion. One of the Loners found humour in the incident, saying, “The mayor has stolen our rocket launcher.” (Two weeks before the bombing, the steel door on the Satan’s Choice clubhouse in the South Riverdale section of Toronto had been rocked by a blast from what police believed was a rocket launcher.)

The gang seemed to be expanding in December 1996, when a half-dozen members were involved in the bombing of the Sudbury Police Station. Naturally, the police didn’t take well to this, and an investigation led to charges against six Choice members from the Hamilton and Sudbury areas, including John Croitoru, the president of the Hamilton chapter, who was known in the pro-wrestling ring as Johnny K-9.

The arrests were the result of Project Dismantle, a police team that had been targeting the residences and clubhouses of Satan’s Choice members and associates across Ontario. Since May 1996, members of the police team had charged 161 people with 1,192 offences, most of them drug-related. During the same period, weapons and about $1.05 million in drugs were seized and two marijuana labs with a potential annual yield of about $13.8 million were shut down.

However, in September 2003, an Ontario Provincial Police officer involved in Operation Dismantle was accused by a judge of repeatedly lying to five Toronto judges, and destroying evidence, allegedly to ensure a task force probing the Satan’s Choice biker gang could get permission to secretly wiretap the gang’s phone conversations.

The judge’s sharp words meant drug charges against four alleged traffickers were tossed out of court following a hearing on the legality of the wiretaps. The four men were alleged to be associates, though not members, of the Satan’s Choice motorcycle gang.

For his part, Guindon never did make the Olympics. He was briefly with the Hells Angels after the Choice patched over to that club in December 2000 before retiring in good standing.

See also: Gary Comeau, Hells Angels, Cecil Kirby, Outlaws, Rock Machine .

Savoie, Claude: Threat from Within – He was assistant director of the RCMP ’S intelligence service when he shot himself to death in his Ottawa headquarters in 1992, just before he was to meet with internal-affairs investigators to answer charges of corruption. The force suspected Savoie had taken $200,000 from Allan “The Weasel” Ross, head of Montreal’s West End Gang, in exchange for information.

The week of his suicide, Savoie learned he was going to be questioned by internal-affairs officers about allegations he funnelled information through Mob lawyer Sydney Leithman to Montreal drug king Allan Ross. Montreal detectives investigating the 1991 murder of Leithman questioned Savoie about three meetings he had with Leithman and Ross at Leithman’s office building.

Ross had avoided prosecution in Canada for a decade, but U.S. enforcement officials were closing in on him. Savoie had claimed he met Ross because he hoped to persuade him to cooperate with the RCMP.

However, Savoie hadn’t alerted his superiors or followed any standard procedures during the meetings.

Police believe Leithman’s killer was a Colombian hit man, and he was murdered because Ross and his Colombian cocaine suppliers feared Leithman would inform on them.

Savoie took his life a day before CBC-TV’S the 5th estate broadcast a documentary on Ross. Asked about his relationship with Ross, Savoie was quoted as saying, “He wasn’t an informant, nor was I an informant for him. But I knew him. Put it that way. I met him.”

See also: Sydney Leithman, Allan “The Weasel” Ross, West End Gang .

Scarcella, Pietro “Peter” Paolo: Underworld Survivor – When he first arrived in Toronto in the late 1960s from his birthplace of Castellammare del Golfo on the Sicilian coast, Scarcella worked as a downtown parking lot attendant at Dundas Square. Within a decade, he became an organizer of the Carpenters’ Union, then became an international organizer, but he quit in 1984 because of bad publicity over his Mob connections.

Eddie Melo and Pietro Scarcella (left)

Those connections became publicized after he and his associate Paul Volpe were the targets of a murder plot by brothers Rocco Remo and Cosimo Commisso, which was to be carried out by biker Cecil Kirby in 1981. Instead, Kirby turned informer.

Two years later, there was another murder attempt on Volpe, and this time it succeeded. Scarcella was believed to be the last person – besides his killer – to see Volpe alive. The two men had lunch in a Woodbridge mall hours before Volpe turned up dead in the trunk of his wife’s BMW in the parking garage at Terminal 2 of Toronto International (now Pearson) Airport in November 1983.

Several other of Scarcella’s underworld connections met similar fates. He was godfather to a child of Enio Mora, who was found in the trunk of his gold Cadillac in September 1996.

The remains of his New York associate Cesare “Tall Guy” Bonventre were discovered in two separate drums in a New Jersey warehouse after his 1984 murder. Ontario associates Eddie “Hurricane” Melo, Johnny “Pops” Papalia, Carmen Barillaro, and Gaetano “The Discount Casket Guy” Panepinto also met violent ends at the hands of gunmen.

For his part, Scarcella dodged a murder contract on his head in the early 1980s from a York region Mob family and another from Sicilian Mafioso Modica, who plotted to kill him at the FIFA World Cup in 2004.

Scarcella wasn’t involved in a botched 2004 murder plot against Modica that paralyzed Toronto area mother Louise Russo, but he was convicted of a subsequent plot to murder Modica and was sentenced to nine years in prison, on top of pre-trial custody, for conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit an aggravated assault.

While in prison for his role in the Modica case, Scarcella fought hard – and unsuccessfully – through a lawyer to keep from being labeled by Corrections Canada as a Mob boss. His legitimate businesses have included work as a cheese and ceramic tile distributor. His underworld activities have included gaming for decades.

See also: Carmen Barillaro, Rocco Remo Commisso, Cecil Kirby, Eddie Melo, Louise Russo, Paul Volpe .

Sciascia, Gerlando: Canadian Dreams – The shooting started when Sciascia ran a hand through his greying hair at a Brooklyn social club.

That was the signal for three hooded gunmen hiding in a closet to charge out and open fire on soldiers in the Bonanno crime family who were believed to be disloyal to Joseph Massino.

Authorities were given details of the triple murder by one of the participants, Salvator “Good Looking Sal” Vitale, an underboss in the Bonanno family and a confessed member of the hit team.

The hits took place on May 5, 1981, as the Bonanno family caught wind of a plot by three captains, each heading a crew of foot soldiers and associates, to depose imprisoned family boss Phil Rastelli.

The three rebellious captains were lured to a meeting in a Brooklyn social club, where three killers, armed with a machine-gun, shotgun, and a pistol, were hiding in a closet.

“Everyone in the closet wore a ski mask and was told that Sciascia would give them the signal to shoot by running his hands through his hair,” said the witness, referred to by authorities as CW# 1 – the first “confidential witness.”

The three rebellious captains were dead within minutes. Dominick “Big Trin” Trinchera was dropped almost instantly, while Philip “Phil Lucky” Giaccone stood in front of a wall, apparently trying to surrender. Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato bolted for the door, but Sciascia, armed with a pistol, shot him in the head.

A cleanup crew wrapped the bodies in painter dropcloths and placed them in a van that was driven to Howard Beach. Weeks later, children playing in a park smelled something foul in the dirt, and when they kicked at the soil, they uncovered an arm. Sonny Red, still wearing a Cartier watch worth U.S.$1,500, was found by authorities in the shallow grave while the other bodies have not been found.

Authorities said the Mafia Commission – the Mob’s ultimate authority – authorized the slayings of the upstart capos when it was learned that they planned to seize control of the Bonanno family from boss Philip “Rusty” Rastelli.

Sciascia was one of the Bonanno Sicilian faction known as the “Zips” for the rapid-fire way they spoke. Born in Cattolica Eraclea, Sicily, on February 15, 1934, Sciascia immigrated to the United States in 1955, running California Pizzeria on Long Island, New York. and living in a small home in the Bronx.

In 1983, he was under indictment for heroin trafficking. His co-accuseds in the heroin case included Gene Gotti, the younger brother of imprisoned Mob boss John Gotti, and John Carneglia, who were each sentenced to fifty years.

Sciascia’s role in the drug pipeline was to act as the liaison between major New York City and Montreal mobsters, co-ordinating the importation of tons of heroin into the United States through Canada and laundering the illicit proceeds around the world.

For a couple of years, Sciascia lived in Montreal under an alias. The RCMP picked him up, and he was detained in Canada for two years until 1988, then shipped back to the United States.

Sciascia, Gambino capo (captain) Edward Lino, and Bonanno soldier Giuseppe “Joe” LoPresti of Montreal were acquitted after a juror received a $10,000 payoff, according to turncoat Gambino underboss Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano.

Gerlando Sciascia (far left) leaves the Capri Motor Lodge in the Bronx with Vito Rizzuto, Giovanni Liggamari, and Joseph Massino, New York , May 6, 1981

During the 1980s, Sciascia was recognized as the top member of the Bonanno family in Montreal, but he was not able to achieve his dream of becoming a Canadian citizen.

Canadian authorities noted that a 1988 U.S. Senate subcommittee report on organized crime listed him as a member of the La Cosa Nostra Bonanno organized crime family in New York. He must have worried about fellow family members during this time, as his former co-accused Lino was executed in 1990 in Brooklyn and LoPresti was murdered in 1992 in Montreal.

After his acquittal, Sciascia and his wife, Mary, a native of Scotland, tried to settle in Canada. He told Canadian authorities that he spoke both French and English, owned and operated two restaurants and a car wash, and would bring U.S.$200,000 in cash assets to Canada.

In a “Danger to the Public Ministerial Opinion Report” about Sciascia, an immigration officer argued that Sciascia was tightly linked to the Mob, even if he denied it. “Indications received from different sources lead [me] to believe there are reasonable grounds to believe Gerlando Sciascia is a member of a criminal organization.”

The officer continued: “I am concerned that Mr. Sciascia’s close relationship to figures of the Mafia in New York, Sicily and Montreal would strengthen the Mafia situation in Montreal. Mr. Sciascia is a danger to the Canadian public because of his involvement with the Mafia and that the nature of the activities carried by these organizations.”

Again, his attempt to settle in Canada had failed, and in 1997, he moved back to New York, where he lived in a luxurious home in upstate Harrison and owned a house on Stadium Avenue in the Bronx. He ran a construction company and conducted his Mob business out of a small jewellery store in the East Tremont section of the Bronx. More importantly to police, he was a member of the Bonanno family’s ruling panel, with a crew of soldiers located in Canada.

In March 1999, he complained about the cocaine use of another Bonanno family member. Shortly afterwards, his body was found dumped outside the Baptist Chapel Church on dead-end Bollner Avenue in the Bronx in 1999, with four shots to the left side of his head. He was sixty-five.

When police checked his wallet, they found a business card for a Montreal jewellery shop that caught their eye. It was run by the wife of Gaetano Amodeo, a Sicilian Mafia hit man found hiding in Canada in 2001.

Charged with Sciascia’s murder was Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, who was one of Sciascia’s accomplices in the 1981 triple murders. Massino, who faces a possible death penalty sentence for the Sciascia murder, was originally charged with the 1981 murder of the Bonanno family member who allowed FBI agent Joseph Pistone to infiltrate the clan. Pistone was known to the Mob as Donnie Brasco and his undercover work was later depicted in the film of the same name.

According to informants within the Bonnano family, Sciascia’s fate was apparently sealed when he complained that a fellow Mafia member had a cocaine problem.

“It served him right for telling me how to run the family,” Massino allegedly told an underling.

See also: Alfonso Caruana, Giuseppe “Joe” LoPresti, Nicolo “Nick” Rizzuto, Vito Rizzuto .

Scibetta, Santo: Steel City Consigliere – His specialty was extortion with finesse, and the Hamilton man would take payments from grateful business people for getting thugs off their backs.

What Scibetta didn’t disclose was that he was the one who brought the thugs into the deal in the first place.

He was a consigliere (adviser) to Giacomo Luppino of Hamilton, the old don of the Calabrian Mafia, and he had business ties to Joe Todaro, Sr., and Sam Pieri of the Buffalo Mob, as well as to bikers.

He died of natural causes in 1985, at age sixty-five.

See also: Giacomo Luppino, ’Ndrangheta .

Seagal, Steven: Under Seige – In movies like Out for Justice , this tough-guy actor used his fists, feet, and sometimes a pool cue to put bad guys in their place. Real life wasn’t so easy when, in October 2000, while he was filming Exit Wounds in Toronto, mobsters tried to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from him.

The shakedown continued, he told a New York City court in 2003, when he met in a private dining room in a Brooklyn restaurant with a Mob captain. Seagal packed a gun himself, and had a bodyguard waiting nearby. In that meeting, the New York mobster sounded like a character in Goodfellas as he barked at Seagal, “Look at me when you’re talking.”

Prosecutors said the fifty-year-old actor was targeted for extortion after a falling out with his one-time manager Jule Nasso, an alleged associate of the Gambino crime family. The trouble began after Seagal allegedly backed out of making four motion pictures, on the advice of his Buddhist spiritual adviser.

Wiretaps caught Nasso being instructed to demand money from Seagal. Anthony “Sonny” Ciccone told Nasso he should be tougher on the action star, saying, “You really gotta get down on him … ’cause I know this animal, I know this beast.”

According to the court papers, Ciccone became concerned about Seagal talking about the alleged extortion attempt, and ordered an underling to “smooth this guy over – he’s going around saying stupid things.”

Some of the evidence in the alleged extortion bid surfaced in a trial in 2003 of Peter Gotti, the brother of late New York City Mob boss John “The Dapper Don” Gotti, and six co-defendants, whom prosecutors said were members of the crime family. They were all convicted for the Seagal shakedown.

Authorities allege Nasso turned to the crime family to help him settle the score after his falling out with Seagal. Defence attorneys denied any threats were made, calling Seagal a “pathological liar” who owed Nasso $500,000.

Investigators said that Seagal, whose other films include Marked for Death , was so shaken that he paid $700,000 to the Mob. In a bugged VIP room in a Brooklyn restaurant, suspects chuckled over how “petrified” Seagal looked at a meeting. “I wish we had a gun with us,” one said. “That would have been funny.”

Seagal was a reluctant star witness in Peter Gotti’s racketeering trial, only venturing forward after federal agents hit him with a subpoena and granted him immunity. “I’m a movie star,” Seagal said. “If you want to keep making movies, you don’t want to start a war with these people. I can’t go into the witness-protection program.”

Settecase, Giuseppe – See Alfonso Caruana .

Sheila Na Geira: “Carbonear Princess” – There are plenty of people with the name Pike in the Carbonear Island area of Newfoundland who love to tell the story of the beautiful Celtic princess who fell into the hands of privateers.

She was called Sheila Na Geira, which translates in Celtic to “Sheila the Beautiful,” and her real surname was likely O’Connor. Her story began in 1602, when she was captured by Dutch privateers while sailing between Ireland and France. One story says she was escaping the English invasions of Ireland, while another was that she was dispatched to France to escape Irish freedom fighters.

Legend has it that she was captured in the English Channel by the privateers, who had a letter of marque from the English Queen, giving them legitimacy to fight for the Crown and raid enemy ships.

The Dutch ship that captured her was itself attacked by English privateer Captain Peter Easton, who was en route to Newfoundland. After a short sea battle, Sheila Na Geira was in English hands. Somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, she and Easton’s navigating officer, Gilbert Pike, fell in love. They were married at sea and set foot in Newfoundland as husband and wife.

A year later, Easton shifted from being a privateer to a pirate, after England made peace with Spain. Easton didn’t plan to quit his buccaneer ways, and the newlyweds didn’t want a life of crime, so they settled down in Mosquito Valley, near Harbour Grace. Their newborn child was said to be the first European child born in Newfoundland since the departure of the Vikings.

In 1610 and again in 1612, Easton ravaged the coast, including tiny Mosquito. A local story says that Sheila led the women and children into the hills to hide and, when they returned, they found some forty men had been taken captive, including her husband, Gilbert.

The community was reduced to just forty-two women, twenty-seven children, and six men, and Sheila assumed the role of leader. She helped construct a stone wall to safeguard against further attack. Although she had no medical training, she also treated the sick and planted crops.

Some fifteen years later, according to the legend, Gilbert and other men from the community escaped from the pirates and returned home to Newfoundland. The Pikes moved to fortified Carbonear Island, where they lived for the rest of their lives, founding one of the largest clans in Newfoundland. A headstone in Carbonear reads, “Here lies the body of John Pike who departed this life July 14th, 1756, also Julian his wife. Also Sheiah Nageria, wife of Gilbert Pike and daughter of John Nageria, King of County Down, Ireland, died August 14th, 1753, at the age of 105 years.” The dates on the headstones only add to the mystery, since if they’re correct, she was at least 170 years old at the time of her death.

See also: Charles Bellamy, Eric Cobham, Cupids, Peter Easton, High Island, Captain Kidd, Mogul Mackenzie, Henry Mainwaring, John Phillips, Gilbert Pike, Pirates, Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts .

Shoofey, Frank: Little Guy’s Champion – A man called the Montreal Gazette newspaper shortly before midnight on Tuesday, October 15, 1985, and said he was a member of the Red Army Liberation Front.

“I and my colleagues have just assassinated Frank Shoofey,” the Gazette quoted the caller as saying. “Good riddance.”

The call came shortly after the murder of the popular and flamboyant Montreal lawyer. It was likely that mobsters, not some unknown political group, were the killers of Shoofey, a lawyer to the underworld, as well as a champion of the disadvantaged.

Shoofey, forty-four, a father of two, had spent three hours of the final evening of his life at the offices of the Montreal Athletic Commission, trying to keep American boxing promoter Don King from being allowed to co-promote a Matthew Hilton–Vito Antuofermo bout.

At 11 : 30 p.m., Shoofey’s life ended in the hall outside his Cherrier Street law office in downtown Montreal, when several bullets were fired into his head.

Shoofey had a blunt, flashy style and loved to grandstand, but he also had a genuine empathy for the poor and the nerve to stand up to the underworld – as well as to represent its most frightening figures. High-profile underworld clients included Richard Blass, who was killed when police raided his chalet in the Laurentians in 1975, and Sicilian mobsters accused of murdering Montreal’s Cotroni family leader Paolo Violi in 1978.

Frank Shoofey

Another client included a paraplegic pencil peddler who was sentenced to eleven months in jail for begging. Shoofey won his freedom on the condition that he not return to begging, saying, “It’s very humiliating for them to have to beg, but the humiliation should belong to a society which forces them to do something like this.”

He was born in a working-class section of downtown Montreal to parents of Lebanese descent, and his mother wanted to name him Franklin Delano after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However, a Greek Orthodox priest pointed out that a saint’s name was obligatory, and so she made his middle name Dimitrios.

Shoofey’s father died when he was seventeen, and Shoofey worked to pay for his education at McGill University and to support his mother, selling real estate, insurance, furnaces, and encyclopedias. He also worked in nightclubs. All the jobs involved hype, something he was very good at.

He failed civil law when he sat for his bar examinations, perhaps because he had spread himself too thin, or perhaps because it bored him. Whatever the case, he began to focus on criminal law and, three months out of law school, he was defending a man accused of rape.

Shoofey had little time to prepare to defend his client, so he chose to put his client through a withering interrogation. The man didn’t snap, and Shoofey’s case was won.

Shoofey would use that technique often after that. He estimated that 90 per cent of his clients were guilty, but he wasn’t bothered by this, saying a defence counsel was essential to the judicial system.

There were some people he would not defend. “Some crimes revolt me,” he once said. “I won’t take it if it’s a senseless offence, like the murder or rape of a little child. No one forces us to take a case. But if you take it, you must do your best.… Many lawyers don’t. Some take a client’s money and don’t even show up in court. Any lawyer who gets threats from the underworld usually deserves them.”

Shoofey often worked sixteen- to eighteen-hour days, but looked after his health by not drinking, eating health foods, and exercising every morning.

He was often called upon by police to negotiate between them and the underworld, and was also called upon when Brother André’s heart was stolen from St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. André had been beatified in 1982 by Pope John Paul, and Montrealers were horror-struck when his heart was stolen. Shoofey negotiated its return.

After Shoofey’s shooting, Kirk Makin of the Globe and Mail wrote: “Mr. Shoofey was a shameless publicity hound but also a social benefactor of the highest order.” Makin continued: “His presence was a must on radio talk shows. He played Santa Claus at Christmas parties for urchins and bought sports equipment for inner-city children.”

Three times he had tried to get the Liberal nomination in the working-class Saint-Jacques riding, where he worked tirelessly for the provincial party, and three times he was derailed by party brass who feared a public association with someone who represented notorious underworld figures.

His final fight was to protect the Hiltons from what he considered the dangerous influence of Frank “Santos” Cotroni. Shoofey sent a telegram to Quebec Sports Minister Guy Chevrette, seeking an investigation to clear the air and asking him to accelerate the startup of a provincial agency to control boxing, wrestling, and kick-boxing.

“When Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle wanted to accept jobs with casinos, they were told they had to quit their association with baseball,” Shoofey told James Christie of the Globe and Mail . “But Cotroni had been accepted like a fixture around boxing and it seemed to be tolerated, not only by the Hiltons, but by the Montreal Athletic Commission and by the police. Nobody came up and warned them. If everyone accepted this situation, why blame the Hiltons?”

His murder remains unsolved.

See also: Richard “The Cat” Blass, Boxing, Frank “Santos” Cotroni, Sydney Leithman, François Payette .

Shufelt, Ed – See Big Muddy Badlands, Dutch Henry, Sam Kelly, Sundance Kid .

Sigalov, Joseph: Last Laugh for Tomato Head – What do you do if you’re a politician and you learn that one of the unsolicited donors to your campaign is a senior member of the Russian mafiya ? Worse yet, that the donor is now a dead member of the Russian mafiya , with an extremely murky private life, including an undetermined number of wives? That was the ticklish situation faced by federal Cabinet ministers Paul Martin and Art Eggleton in 2000, when they tried to give back $33,000 in unspent donations that came from Toronto businessman Yosif “Joseph” Sigalov.

The MPS placed the money in trust in 1997 after learning that the donor, Sigalov, a hard-drinking bon vivant who described himself as an import-export entrepreneur, was a suspected Russian organized-crime figure. Complicating things further, Sigalov died of brain cancer in September 1996, at the age of forty-six.

Things only got more tangled when a Toronto woman, who said she married Sigalov in October 1995, filed suit against the politicians, claiming to be the trustee of Sigalov’s estate and his sole beneficiary.

David Hill, a Liberal party lawyer in Ottawa, said the MPS had been planning on giving it to charity, because of its questionable source. He added that it was unclear who should receive the money if it was returned, since Sigalov, whose will wasn’t probated, left behind multiple wives, children, creditors, and confusion.

“It was a very confused family situation,” said Hill, noting that Sigalov got a tax deduction for the donation.

Court documents filed by the “Mrs. Sigalov” who was suing, stated that Martin, then the federal finance minister, received a $10,000 campaign donation from Sigalov or companies he controlled; Eggleton, the minister of national defence, was given $5,000 ; Toronto-area Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua received $10,000 ; and Toronto-area Liberal MP Jean Augustine was given $8,000. In all, the suit demanded $33,000, plus accrued interest.

Joseph Sigalov, 1982

Sigalov’s alleged organized-crime connections were first made public in March 1996, when Vyacheslav Ivankov, then reputed to be the most powerful Russian organized-crime boss in the United States, was about to be convicted on extortion charges in New York City. Ivankov, dubbed the “Red Godfather,” was reportedly Sigalov’s brother-in-law.

Wiretaps by the RCMP of telephone conversations between Ivankov and Toronto-based Russian crime boss Vyacheslav Sliva allowed the FBI to uncover a plot by Ivankov to extort $3.5 million from two New York investment bankers.

Ivankov ended up in a U.S. federal penitentiary, while Sliva was deported from Canada in 1997.

Sigalov died in Toronto. However, with the absence of his birth date, Hill’s office also couldn’t be sure of when he died or where he was buried.

Sigalov was nothing if not a complicated man, professionally and privately. He was a Russian Jew who used the name Joseph instead of Leonid to sound less Jewish – yet donated tens of thousands of dollars to Jewish charities. Even his unflattering nickname of Tomato Head was tough to get a handle on. Friends would say it was because he was a hard worker who got his start selling fruit and vegetables. People who were less kind said it was a nasty joke about how his complexion took on a reddish colour after radiation treatments.

Apparently, his first job in Canada was as a Winnipeg cab driver, and he moved on to become a baker and a commodities trader before billing himself as an “import-exporter.”

Joseph Sigalov, at car trunk

According to affidavits filed with the federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Sigalov was recorded discussing murder, extortion, and protection rackets and bragging that he made $40 million yearly running a vast business empire that included brick kilns, clothing factories, and the importation of frozen bagels to Russia. Sigalov was named in a series of FBI wiretap affidavits, which describe him as a drug dealer, an extortionist, and a gunrunner.

In January 1995, Sigalov had attended a Russian crime summit in Puerto Rico, as FBI agents spied on them in the El San Juan Hotel and Casino. According to an FBI affidavit, Sigalov was heard telling a relative that he was at the crime summit to “discuss whom we will kill.” Police said they also overheard him discussing how to extort a casino in the Ukraine and how to get false travel documents, so that another crime boss could attend the summit.

Meanwhile, Liberal lawyer Hill said in 2003 that the donated money was still sitting in trust until it could be determined where it should go. “It’s just a pain in the butt to hold it,” Hill said. “It’s not as if the party wants the money. It’s trying to get rid of it.”

See also: Vyacheslav Ivankov, Vyacheslav Marakulovich Sliva .

Silent Riders: Riding into Oblivion – This biker club was made up of former members of the Spartans of Manitoba, and their new colours were first noticed at the B.C. Hells Angels anniversary party in July 1984. The members of the new gang were signalling that they had left the Spartans, and gang members had hopes of soon being absorbed into the Hells Angels.

The celebration didn’t last long. Soon, they were at war with the Los Brovos from Winnipeg. Two members were murdered and the Silent Riders ran up a debt of more than $200,000 to the Hells Angels of British Columbia.

There were mass defections after a leader raped another biker’s common-law wife and, in March 1988, the remaining four members of the Silent Riders surrendered their colours to four members of the rival Los Brovos, who burned them. The now-defunct Silent Riders were granted amnesty by the Los Brovos in return for surrendering their colours.

See also: Los Brovos, Redliners, Spartans, Wolodumyr “Walter” “Nurget” Stadnick .

Simard, Aimé: Lovesick Hit Man – The small-time crook was born April 10, 1968, in Quebec City, and grew up to become a member of the Rockers, a Hells Angels affiliate. The Angels in Quebec had a “football team” that murdered people and a “baseball team” that beat them up and threatened them. Simard made the football team, killing three men for the Angels.

Privately, Simard lived a secret bisexual lifestyle. He took out a personal ad in a newspaper, looking for another man. When he met Dany Kane in November 1996, each man thought the other was a businessman. Then, when they were sitting together in a hot tub, Simard saw tattoos on his new lover showing that he was a Hells Angels associate, like himself.

Aimé Simard

The lovers felt they had no future in the homophobic biker world, and police were able to flip Simard into becoming an informer in 1997. They declined his request to pay $3,200 for his liposuction, but the prosecution did agree to recommend that he be eligible for parole after serving twelve years.

Not surprisingly, Angels leader Maurice “Mom” Boucher was infuriated by the defection. To prevent it from happening again, he decided to push key members of the gang to kill prison guards, prosecutors, or judges. After such a crime, they would have no hope of cutting a deal with authorities, Boucher reasoned, and so they would have to remain loyal. Ironically, the plan ended with Boucher sentenced to life in prison for the murder of two guards.

Simard thought he had found love behind bars with another inmate, and they were married via telephone by a member of a Montreal religious sect in 2001. However, Simard felt the need to challenge authorities constantly, and was often placed in solitary confinement. Eventually, he was transferred from the maximum-security Kent Penitentiary in Agassiz, British Columbia, to the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, home to several of Boucher’s associates.

Simard had once bragged to Quebec crime reporter Michel Auger, saying he wasn’t worried about the Angels. “They will not get me,” he boasted. Now, however, he feared that he might not get out of Saskatchewan alive. Five weeks after his transfer, in July 2003, his body was found in his maximum-security cell, with 106 stab wounds.

See also: Maurice “Mom” Boucher, Dany Kane, Diane Lavigne .

Simard, Réal: Gentleman’s Quarterly Killer – As Simard told it, he didn’t murder people out of anger or for money or power; it was because he craved approval. He needed to feel important. He needed some kind of security. He got that from Montreal Mob boss Santos “Frank” Cotroni, who gave him the “love, attention, and friendship” that he never found in his early home life.

“I have to take care of him,” he later recalled. “I was with him every day. I was protecting him.”

On January 18, 1980, Simard proved his loyalty by stalking Michel Marion, one of Cotroni’s enemies, and shooting him dead while he ate breakfast in a restaurant. Then he returned proudly to Cotroni. “We kissed each other on the side of the cheek,” he later recalled. “It’s an old tradition in Italian families when you do something for the godfather, the family.” Once asked what it was like to murder for the first time, Simard said he was nervous, but proud to pass the ultimate Mafia test.

He was never paid for the murder, because that’s generally not the way it’s done in an Italian mob or biker gang.

“It’s part of your job.… I do what I have to do. People start giving me respect for that.” The Cotroni gang coached him carefully at his new trade. He was taught to destroy his clothes afterwards to get rid of powder burns and to always make sure his victim was dead. “You never leave a body without giving it a bullet in the head,” Cotroni instructed him.

Simard and Cotroni met by chance in 1979, and it didn’t hurt that Simard’s uncle was Armand Courville, a long-time underworld friend of Frank’s older brother Vic.

With Cotroni, Simard was happy to become a driver and errand boy, since the mobster offered him a sense of escape from an impoverished, anonymous youth. Frank Cotroni was frequently seen in the city’s best steakhouses and behind the wheel of his four-door Lincoln Continental, smoking fine cigars. Simard was impressed.

As Simard told the story, he was raised by a brutal father. He recounted cowering under a bed as his enraged father flailed away at him with a belt. His childhood was one of poverty, abuse, and alcoholism, and he was kicked out of the house at thirteen.

By the time Simard met Cotroni, he had served a stint in the army and prison time for extortion, and then bank robbery.

Cotroni installed him in Toronto in July 1983, to open the drug market for the Cotroni family. “We figured in Toronto we can make $750,000 a year,” he later recalled.

Simard lived in a posh thirtieth-floor apartment in downtown Toronto’s Sutton Place and toured about the city in a new Mercedes-Benz. In the summer of 1983, Simard set up a meeting with “Johnny Pops” Papalia at Hanrahan’s strip club on Barton Street East in Hamilton.

Réal Simard

The Hamilton gangster arrived with three bodyguards. A phone call to Frank Cotroni’s Montreal home confirmed that Simard enjoyed his blessing. Unknown to the mobsters, a police surveillance team caught the meeting on film, including the scene when Simard, Papalia, and Simard’s associate Frank Majeau stood together while Simard called Cotroni’s home in Montreal to prove he was acting on his behalf.

Simard racked up a murder toll of five – and it would have been six if his gun hadn’t jammed in a Toronto hotel. When police arrested him in 1983, Simard found a new way to be feared and gain attention. He became a police informer, cutting a deal with the Montreal Organized Crime Squad and the Quebec and Ontario Crowns to provide evidence against a number of underworld figures, including his old mentor, Cotroni. For this, Simard pleaded guilty to one charge of second-degree murder and four charges of manslaughter, and served relatively comfortable prison time with a microwave, a telephone, an exercise bicycle, and a television. Then he received early parole and was relocated in a witness-protection program.

Because of Simard’s testimony, Cotroni and his son, Francesco, were put behind bars for the 1981 slaying of suspected police informer Joseph “Giuseppi” Montegano, at a private St. Leonard, Quebec, club managed by Francesco Cotroni.

Simard told his biographer, Michel Vastel, who wrote The Nephew , that he was profoundly moved by Shirley MacLaine’s book Out on a Limb . That book convinced him that he has a soul, as Simard told the story, and that: “Whatever action one takes will ultimately return to that person – good and bad – maybe not in this life embodiment, but sometime in the future. And no one is exempt.”

See also: Frank “Santos” Cotroni, Eddie Melo, Michel Pozza .

Skating: Nasty Edge – The sport of Olympic figure skating had just weathered the unseemly scandal in which American star Tonya Harding ordered the clubbing of her rival Nancy Kerrigan, when along came Alimzan “Alik” Tokhtakhounov.

The dark-haired, stocky Russian wasn’t well known in the world of Lutzes and Salchows, but organized-crime investigators certainly knew his name. They knew him as Taivanchik, or Little Taiwanese, a nickname given him because of the Asian cast to his features.

Police believed he was involved in illegal arms sales, drug distribution, and the sale of stolen cars, and so the phones at his resort home in Forte dei Marmi, Italy, were bugged. Organized-crime investigators, expecting to hear evidence of these other activities, were therefore startled to hear about the Russian mobster fixing skating results at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

More specifically, they heard Tokhtakhounov talk about how the Canadian Olympic figure-skating pairs team of Jamie Salé and David Pelletier had been cheated out of gold medals. Millions of people watching television had thought there was something strange about the judging, even for the sport of figure skating, after the Canadians placed second, despite a brilliant skate in the long program. Many observers assumed they had won the gold, and were shocked when they ended up with silver behind Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze in a 5–4 judging split.

According to American prosecutors, Tokhtakhounov used his influence with Russian and French skating officials to guarantee that, in exchange for the vote of French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne for the Russian pairs team, the Russians would ensure the French team won the gold medal in ice-dancing.

It was a classic quid pro quo .

The day after the Russians were awarded gold in a controversial decision, Le Gougne said she’d been pressured by French skating officials to vote for the Russians. Then she flipped her story yet again.

By this time, the pressure on the International Skating Union from the public, the media, and the International Olympic Committee was so intense that duplicate gold medals were awarded to the Canadian pair.

Tokhtakhounov, who had lived in France but was forced to leave the country, engineered the scheme in part to earn an extension of his French visa from French officials, according to the American criminal complaint, which identified Tokhtakhounov as a “major figure in international Eurasian organized crime” and claimed he “has been involved in drug distribution, illegal arms sales and trafficking in stolen vehicles.” He reportedly had French, Swiss, Israeli, and German passports when he was arrested at his Italian home, where he lived with his third wife.

The FBI was also told by a confidential source that, during the early 1990s in Moscow, he had also fixed beauty pageants.

See also: National Hockey League .

Sliva, Vyacheslav: Kicked Back to Moscow – The Russian immigrant wasn’t kicked out of Canada because police considered him a major gangster. Sliva was expelled because he admitted that he lied on his immigration form.

Sliva, who lived from 1995 to 1997 in a luxury high-rise condominium on Finch Avenue at Bayview Avenue in Toronto, admitted in an immigration detention hearing that he put “false information about my marriage situation” on his visa application form. He said that he had been told by acquaintances in Moscow that he’d be more likely to gain entry to Canada if he was married, so he put down the name of his brother’s wife – Anzhela Sliva – on the form.

More damaging, Sliva answered “no” when asked on the form whether he had ever been convicted of a crime. The Immigration Department argued that he had several criminal convictions in Russia, dating back to 1961, including a robbery conviction for which he received a ten-year prison sentence in 1982. An Immigration Department lawyer also submitted an affidavit from the New York trial of Vyacheslav Ivankov, who was convicted in January 1997 of extortion, which he said suggested Sliva’s involvement in organized crime.

The government argued at Sliva’s bail hearing that he had gone to great lengths to conceal his past and that his involvement in organized crime made him both a danger to the community and likely to flee.

For his part, Sliva told the review he was a close friend of Ivankov’s and a relative by marriage, but not his business partner. “We grew up together.… we went to the same school.” He said he had spoken with Ivankov on the phone only a couple of times. “He once told me this is a good country, stay in this country … and if you need anything, you can come to the States.”

Sliva added that he claimed on his immigration form that he hadn’t been convicted of a crime because the Gorbachev government pardoned him in 1990 of his robbery conviction after he had spent more than nine years in jail. He said his other offences were the theft of a watch when he was a teenager and a four-year prison term served when he refused to join the army in the 1960s.

The government noted that Sliva also claimed on his visitor’s visa that he had been invited to the country to visit hockey player Valeri Kamensky of the Quebec Nordiques, which had since become the Colorado Avalanche. However, when the Department of Immigration contacted Kamensky, the government lawyer said, “He indicated that he did not invite Mr. Sliva and he hardly knows Mr. Sliva.”

For his part, Kamensky told the Denver Post that he was not connected with the Russian Mob in any way. “If you need some information, call the NHL . The NHL knows everything about this.… I’m upset because I never hear about Russian mafiya . [They] never bothered me and I have never contacted them.”

Vyacheslav Sliva

Canadian authorities said that Sliva had been sent by the Russian Mob to co-ordinate its activities in Toronto in conjunction with Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach branch run by Sliva’s brother-in-law Vyacheslav Ivankov.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, Canada’s East European organized-crime squad heard Sliva on an international telephone line, conducting what sounded like a takeover of Russian crime activities in Canada. Over a wiretapped telephone, Canadian investigators said, they also heard Sliva extorting business people, making death threats, and discussing the division of payments with his brother-in-law Ivankov in New York.

Sliva “was here to obtain permanent status in Canada and then assume control of Russian-based organized crime activities here,” said Glenn Hanna, an investigator who testified at Sliva’s deportation hearing. Among other things, police heard Sliva discussing strategies for helping Ivankov and talking about several other organized-crime figures in Eastern and Western Europe.

Looking haggard and unshaven, Sliva was deported back to Moscow in 1997.

“I think the deportation of Mr. Sliva will disrupt the expansion of Eastern European crime in Canada,” said RCMP Insp. Ben Soave. “He was one of the biggest Russian organized-crime figures we know of in Canada.”

However, the RCMP suspected there were about a dozen Russian mobsters in Canada trying to set up cells and ready to fill the underworld void left by his absence. “As soon as he’s gone, other key players that were underlings will try to take over,” Soave said.

The Sliva operation was called Project Osada by police, using the Russian word for “siege,” and police said it demonstrated that Sliva had established a criminal network in Toronto with ties to top Russian mobsters in New York, Tel Aviv, and Moscow.

In December 1999, the RCMP would show the fruits of Project Osada II . Dozens of alleged mobsters in the Greater Toronto Area, Montreal, Ottawa, Windsor, and Seattle were arrested in pre-dawn raids in one of the biggest assaults on East European organized crime in Canadian history. They included members of an Ukrainian tae kwon do team in the country for a competition. Suspects were charged with offences ranging from conspiracy to drug importation, contravening the Immigration Act, and the new charge of contributing to the operation of a criminal organization.

Perhaps most interestingly, Osada II showed a new twist on debit-card fraud that police believed was the first of its kind uncovered anywhere in the world. Police said the group had devised a system that allowed electronic data contained on debit cards, including encrypted personal identification numbers, to be downloaded, copied, and used without the owners’ knowledge.

This meant that the coded information could be intercepted when transmitted from a customer at a store to a bank, so that banks and credit-card companies could be defrauded of millions of dollars.

Police said the alleged activities were Sliva’s legacy, and that the alleged conspiracy was directed from the Toronto area, not from abroad. While almost all of the people arrested were emigrés from the former Soviet Union, police said they had links to tradition Mafia and Asian crime groups.

“This is a fallout of what Sliva came here to do,” Soave said. “He has left a legacy of organized crime in place.”

See also: Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, National Hockey League, Vatchagan Petrossov, Joseph Sigalov .

Smith, Jefferson “Soapy”: Dirty Money – There’s a bistro named Soapy Smith’s in a gentrified part of Denver, named after the criminal who preyed on gold miners coming into Canada’s Yukon in the gold rush of the late nineteenth century.

It was here in Denver, at 17th and Larimer Streets, where Jefferson Smith set up a stand in the 1880s, selling to gullible folks cakes of soap he claimed contained $5, $10, $20, and $100 bills. The only soap that contained the bills were those he “sold” to cohorts who were planted in crowds watching his presentations.

He certainly had moxie, and when Theodore Roosevelt, the future American president, caught his act, he exclaimed, “Damn, that man has style.”

Smith didn’t have scruples, however. Among his scams in Skagway, Alaska, was a fake telegraph office. The telegrams actually went no farther than an alley behind the bar. Finally, someone shot him dead, and was immediately hailed as a hero by fellow gold miners.

In Soapy Smith’s bistro in Denver, they remember him with the song:

From each bottle break the neck,

Fill each glass with Pomeroy Sec.

And let each true friend drink this toast:

Here is to old Soapy’s ghost.

Spartans Motorcycle Gang: Winnipeg Bikers – When they first appeared in 1967, the club’s original eight members from the Elmwood area of Winnipeg wore a crest with a Trojan helmet and a shield.

They enthusiastically sold illegal drugs while associating with the Vagabonds of Toronto, the Satan’s Choice of Ontario, the Wild Ones of Hamilton, and the Grim Reapers of Calgary.

By 1978, members of the Spartans were travelling extensively and associating with the Apollos of Regina. In addition, they kept an uneasy peace with the local Los Brovos, as they supported each other in various drug transactions.

Jefferson “Soapy” Smith

Other criminal activities included prostitution, multiple assaults, collections, and property and weapons offences. By the early 1980s, the club had forty-three full members and controlled a portion of the city’s drug and prostitution trade.

In April 1982, the Spartans and Los Brovos merged into one club, with a total of 141 colour-wearing members. This unity didn’t last too long, as a group of dissident Los Brovoses formed a revived rival club in the winter of 1983–84. Eventually, they all faded into oblivion when the Hells Angels set up shop for good in July 2000.

See also: Hells Angels, Los Brovos, Silent Riders, Redliners, Darwyn and Kevin Sylvester, Wolodumyr “Walter” “Nurget” Stadnick .

Spitzee Cavalry – See Whisky Runners, Wolfers, Fort Whoop-Up .

Stadnick (sometimes spelled Stadnik), Wolodumyr “Walter” “Nurget” : Wally World – A police officer once asked him what his nickname Nurget meant, and the biker simply grinned.

Stadnick wasn’t one to give away information, especially to police, which helped explain why he had risen so far in the biker world. He certainly wasn’t going to explain what plenty of police and bikers wanted to know: how an anglophone from Hamilton’s working-class north end could become national president of the Hells Angels, when the gang was largely Quebec-based and francophone.

Stadnick, the son of a Hamilton, Ontario, tree cutter, was an undistinguished student in high school, except for a pronounced interest in auto shop. As a teen, he was connected with the biker club the Cossacks, who stood out because of a signature odd tuft of hair on the back of their heads. Later on, he ran a roadhouse bar on Hamilton Mountain, and managed to be enough of an irritant to the Outlaws gang that they plotted to attack the bar with a rocket launcher. Police foiled the plot and Stadnick kept on irritating the Outlaws.

In many respects, much of his life was quiet, even after he joined the Angels. When in Hamilton, he could be seen taking his elderly parents to church. But there was also a constantly bizarre streak to Walter. He ran the biggest, toughest biker gang in Canada, but stood only about five-foot-four and wasn’t particularly imposing physically. On the occasion when he brawled with police in Winnipeg, the court ruled with him and decided that police officers were out of line. For much of his adult life, the only blots on his rap sheet were for driving offences.

All that changed in March 2001 when he and all of the members of the Quebec Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels were hit with thirteen charges of murder and attempted murder.

Police watching him – and there were many – were struck by the deference he was shown by others, including the junior bikers who would stand on the street acting as guards while he dined in swank Toronto restaurants. “You look at him walking down the street and you think, ‘What’s he got?’ ” said a Toronto-area police officer who often shadowed Stadnick.

Stadnick was a driving force behind the Angels expansion into both Ontario and Manitoba. What Stadnick offered the Angels was an eye for underworld talent. In the increasingly corporate world of outlaw bikers, Stadnick was viewed as the ultimate talent scout.

He often presented himself in downtown Winnipeg in a full-length wolf coat, and also sported a snakeskin belt, with a solid-gold belt buckle shaped in an Angels’ death-head, which he got to mark his tenth anniversary in the club. The natty belt didn’t just look expensive; it was found to conceal $15,000 in thousand-dollar bills when confiscated by Winnipeg police.

Ironically Stadnick was a peacemaker of sorts on Winnipeg streets, ordering the warring Spartans and Los Brovos gangs to ease up on their in-fighting and work together.

During the early and mid-1990s, Stadnick seemed to be in the middle of everything, and often on the move, preparing things for an Angels expansion. Although he was constantly surrounded by violence and death, the only time he was seriously injured was in a freak accident. The person who almost killed him was a priest, rushing to see the papal visit in 1984. The Angels were having a procession of their own at the same time as the papal parade, since they were commemorating the first anniversary of the murder of their national president, Yves “The Boss” Buteau. The priest ran a Stop sign and crashed into a group of Angels.

Some say Stadnick had got to the national presidency of les hells in 1988 by default, taking over a club gutted by prison terms after the testimony of former member Yves “The Mad Bumper” or “Apache” Trudeau, who told authorities of having a bloody hand in forty-three underworld slayings.

The Angels were then at rock bottom. Of fifty members in Quebec, Trudeau’s testimony meant nineteen were in jail on murder charges, thirteen were hiding from murder charges, and five were in jail awaiting trial on murder charges. Another half-dozen were dead, murdered and dumped in the St. Lawrence River by fellow Angels.

Soon, Stadnick had his biker brothers dreaming of expansion, rather than dwelling on the recent bloody past. Winnipeg was a key to his expansion, and his second home for about six years during the 1990s, as he put together a network of bikers and businessmen to expand the Quebec drug pipeline westwards and stave off expansion of rival outlaw motorcycle gangs – the Outlaws, the Rock Machine, and the Bandidos. That network would eventually call itself the Redliners, a short-lived third motorcycle gang to compete with Los Brovos and Spartans for membership in the new Hells Angels Manitoba chapter.

Wolodumyr “Walter” Stadnick (1st row, 3rd from left) and “Mom” Boucher (back row, left)

Stadnick would eventually serve eight years as the club’s national president and, toward the end of this time, he helped found the elite Nomads chapter. The Nomads, led by Maurice “Mom” Boucher, had the ultimate goal of winning the drug war in downtown Montreal with the Rock Machine and establishing Hells Angels chapters in the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario.

Stadnick’s dream of expansion came true in December 2000, when some 180 members of existing Ontario clubs – the Satan’s Choice, Para-Dice Riders, Lobos, and the Last Chance – suddenly joined the Angels. Stadnick and his friend Donald “Pup” Stockford of Ancaster, on the fringes of Hamilton, had once been the only resident Hells Angels in Ontario. Suddenly, the Toronto area had the highest concentration of Hells Angels in the world.

Walter Stadnick getting out of car

Walter Stadnick

They didn’t have long to celebrate. Stockford was arrested at his comfortable home on a treelined street in March 2001 and hit with thirteen counts of murder and attempted murder. Stadnick was charged with similar offences while holidaying with his wife at a five-star resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

He was sent to the Remand Centre, a foreboding razor-wire-enclosed compound in Kingston’s west end, where prisoners share a communal toilet bucket in the middle of a crowded, hot concrete cell.

He had spent a few days there when a police escort arrived to take him back to Canada. A Canadian officer jokingly asked if he would like to spend a few more weeks in the jail.

“Couple more weeks, I’d be running the place,” Stadnick replied.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and traffick drugs in June 2004.

See also: Los Brovos, Donald Magnussen, Nomads, Redliners, Spartans .

Steinert, Scott: Short-Lived Success – In 1996, Steinert had clearly arrived in the underworld. In 1997, he was brutally dispatched from it.

The Wisconsin-born biker moved to Quebec with his family in 1970 at the age of eight. He grew up to become a feared member of the Hells Angels Montreal chapter, and was a member of the gang’s bomb-making team, with plenty of plastic explosives at his disposal. He also owned three stripper agencies and an escort service, and acted as godfather to the Death Riders gang, supervising the gang’s activities in Laval and in the lower Laurentians.

All that activity meant that, in 1996, Steinert could afford to move into an extravagant Lavigueur mansion in Île-Jésus suburb. He ringed his new digs with an eight-foot-high fence and installed security cameras. His bodyguard, Donald Magnussen, who had once provided muscle for Angels national president Walter Stadnick, moved into one of the homes on the compound.

The estate wasn’t just a home. It was also the base of Steinert’s operations, and other members of the Hells Angels and the Death Riders puppet club often did business there. His business included directing and starring in several porno movies filmed on the property, the most famous of which was Babe’s Angel .

By late August 1997, the war between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine was in full gear, and Steinert’s escort service was torched, but he didn’t let the hostilities spoil his plans to marry that October.

Scott Steinert at 1997 wedding (Jacques Bourdon, Le Journal de Montréal)

Steinert called Magnussen on the evening of November 4, 1997, and told the bodyguard they had a meeting to attend. The two men were never seen alive again. At first, the Sûreté du Québec thought that Steinert had gone into hiding to escape deportation, and they issued a warrant for his arrest on January 22, 1998, charging him with possessing goods obtained with the proceeds of crime. The Lavigueur estate, two houses in Sorel, and a garage were seized.

On May 23, 1998, Magnussen’s body was found in the St. Lawrence Seaway, wrapped in plastic. Steinert’s corpse surfaced almost a year later. There was a strong suspicion that both men had been beaten to death by the Angels, but no arrest was ever made.

Word eventually filtered out to police that Steinert was killed by the Hells Angels because Magnussen killed a criminal who was friendly with the bikers, and Steinert was killed because Magnussen was his responsibility. He likely was killed by André “Toots” Tousignant, who himself was later killed by the gang.

Steinert’s old mansion was put on the market by authorities under the proceeds-of-crime legislation. Someone from Vancouver bought it, but it was burned to the ground before the new owner could move in. The Angels might have killed Steinert, but they were still possessive of his property. The message over the mansion’s resale was blunt: You might be able to seize Angels’ property, but you’ll never be allowed to use it.

See also: Donald Magnussen .

Sun Yee On: Expanding Triad – In December 2000, a White House report complained that Chinese gangs, including Sun Yee On, 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 prime venue for Triads engaged in credit-card fraud, heroin trafficking, illegal migration, and software piracy.

The two largest Hong Kong Triads, 14K Association and Sun Yee On, made substantial property investments in Canada during the 1990s, according to the report. The 14K, which maintained a base in Toronto, was reportedly the fastest-growing Triad in Canada. It has been linked to Asian criminal activities in New York and other American cities.

“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, adding that 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: 14 K Association, Triads .

The Sundance Kid: Alberta Ranch Hand – His real name was Harry Alonzo Longabaugh and he also answered to Harry Place and Frank Boyd, but he’s best known as the character played by Robert Redford in the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid .

What’s not so well known are his Canadian roots, and that he often hid out in southern Saskatchewan and lived in Alberta from 1890 to 1892, when he was in his early to mid-twenties. Longabaugh didn’t advertise his nickname – The Sundance Kid – and certainly no one asked about it when he showed up to work as a cowboy for the North-West Cattle Company – known as the “Bar U” – west of High River, Alberta.

He got the nickname when, as a youth, he served an eighteen-month jail term in Sundance, Wyoming, for stealing a horse, a saddle, and a gun from a ranch worker in Crook County, Wyoming, when he was either sixteen or seventeen years old. Upon his release from jail on February 8, 1889, the Sundance Gazette noted that, “The term of ‘kid’ Longabaugh has expired.” From then on, he was known as the Sundance Kid.

Longabaugh returned to Colorado, where he had lived with a distant cousin, and joined Robert Leroy Parker (a.k.a. Butch Cassidy), Tom McCarty, and Matt Warner in holding up the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride on June 24, 1889. After that, he needed a new safe haven, and fled north to Canada in time for the 1890 cattle season.

There he looked up an old friend from Wyoming, Cyril Everett “Ebb” Johnson, who lived in the Cochrane, Alberta, area. They had worked together earlier in Wyoming at the Power River Ranch, which expanded into Canada in 1886, leasing land on Mosquito Creek, near where the town of Nanton is today. It had the brand of “76 and that was its local nickname.

Johnson was foreman of the “Bar U,” which had 10,410 cattle and 832 horses in 1890. Sundance quickly proved to be a valuable employee, as well as a popular one. Fred Ings of the nearby Midway Ranch noted that “a thoroughly likeable fellow was Harry, a general favorite with everyone, a splendid rider and a top notch cow hand.” Ings also said that the Kid was law-abiding and “no one could have been better behaved or more decent.”

Ings had reason to say nice things about him, since he believed the Sundance Kid saved his life during a fall roundup. “One … night on Mosquito Creek was one of the worst times I ever went through. A blizzard was coming from the north with blinding snow. I was given the ten o’clock shift, and with me was Harry Longdebough [sic], a good-looking young American cow puncher who feared neither man nor devil.”

The herd was large, made up mostly of heavy beef cattle. Sundance drove ahead to direct them while Ings stayed at the back to hold them together.

Ings continued: “I was riding a sure-footed, thick-set, little grey horse, but I had a dozen falls that stormy night. In spite of being warmly dressed, we found it desperately cold and in the thickly falling snow lost all sense of locality.”

The Sundance Kid rode back to find Ings lost at the rear of the herd, and helped guide him back to camp, likely saving his life.

Rancher Bert Sheppard also had a high opinion of Sundance, describing him as “a good rider, roper and all-round top hand.” Most of his acquaintances seemed to know he had been in trouble in the United States, but he was fully accepted because of his ability and his friendly attitude.

He also worked for the McHugh Brothers at the H2 Ranch, on the Bow River near Carseland, Alberta, where they had a contract to supply beef to the nearby Blackfoot reserve. Also while in Alberta, he was believed to have worked breaking horses for contractors who were laying the railroad from Calgary to Fort MacLeod.

He appeared in the spring 1891 Dominion Census, District No. 197. The Bar U Ranch was enumerated on April 6, 1891, with eighteen residents, including “Henry Longabough [sic], age 25, birthplace U.S.A., occupation horse breaker.”

The Sundance Kid (seated, first on left) beside Bill Kilpatrick

The Sundance Kid’s Grand Central Hotel, Calgary (Glenbow Archives, NA-5329-29)

Not everyone liked him. A cowboy at the Bar U, Herbert Millar, claimed that he saw a small hacksaw hidden between Sundance’s saddle and his horse blanket. This may be tied to his arrest by the North-West Mounted Police for “cruelty to animals” on August 7, 1891. Sundance hired a lawyer, J.A. Bangs, and the charges were immediately dismissed the same day by Superintendent J.H. McIllree and Inspector A.R. Cuthbert. No explanation was given for their immediate dismissal. He was kept on at Bar U, suggesting the ranch’s owners did not believe the charges of animal cruelty had any factual foundation.

On November 18, 1891, Sundance signed as the witness and best man at the wedding of his friend Ebb Johnson and his bride, Mary Eleanor Bigland, at The Grange, a Calgary-area ranch owned by her uncle, with Rev. J.C. Herdman of Knox Presbyterian Church in Calgary presiding.

Some time after the wedding, Sundance left the Bar U, perhaps because Millar, who had pushed the cruelty to animals charges, had become the foreman there. He went into partnership with Frank Hamilton at the Grand Central Hotel saloon on Atlantic Avenue in Calgary, across the street from the railway depot. There are unverified reports that Butch Cassidy visited Calgary during that time, and that he even may have worked at a Calgary livery stable.

The partnership between Sundance and Hamilton didn’t last long, and ended in gunplay. Hamilton had a reputation for taking in partners and then choosing to fight them rather than hand over their share of the profits.

Sundance wouldn’t be intimidated. Author Vicky Kelly said that he vaulted over the bar and “before his feet hit the floor his gun was jammed in his partner’s middle.” The debt was paid, but the partnership was over, and early in 1892, Sundance returned to the United States.

There, he soon hooked up with rustlers Dutch Henry Ieach and Frank Jones, and together they ran stolen horses from the Culbertson and Plentywood area of Montana across into the Big Muddy Badlands of southern Saskatchewan, near the community of Big Beaver. It was the first stop on the Outlaw Trail, a string of safe havens stretching down to Mexico. This one was particularly safe, because American authorities could not cross the border into Canada.

Sundance joined a band of about ten outlaws called the Wild Bunch, who thrived from 1896 through 1901, and whose ranks included Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy). Sometimes the gang included Bill Curry, an outlaw originally from Prince Edward Island.

The Wild Bunch robbed banks and slow-moving, cash-carrying trains, but perhaps their proudest moment came on September 19, 1900, after they held up the First National Bank in Winnemucca, Nevada. They made off with $30,000, and legend has it they headed for Fort Worth, Texas, where they posed for a group photograph, then mailed it to the bank, with a note of thanks for the “withdrawal.”

Often, in times of stress, Sundance retreated to the Big Beaver area of southern Saskatchewan. He had fled there after the November 29, 1892, robbery of a Great Northern Railway train at Malta, Montana, and a police report from the time speculated he may have also gone to Calgary to visit Ebb Johnson.

However, times changed. Trains got faster and private security companies got more efficient, and ultimately Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ended up in Bolivia. A 1909 report said that Sundance and Butch were killed there by a posse after a payroll robbery. News of his robberies filtered up to the Calgary area, where he had many friends. Fred Ings wrote, “We all felt sorry when he left and got in bad again across the line.”

Another story, promoted by Cassidy’s sister, was that the Sundance Kid lived under an alias and died in Casper, Wyoming, in 1957. But the account can’t really be trusted. Folklore about his partner Butch Cassidy’s death has him alternately dying in Vernal, Utah, in the late 1920s; on an island off the coast of Mexico in 1932 ; in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1937 ; and twice in Spokane, Washington, the same year.

See also: Big Muddy Badlands, Dutch Henry, Sam Kelly .

Sylvester, Darwin: Dreams of Glory – There was a time when the biker from rural Carberry, Manitoba, dreamed of bringing the Hells Angels to Winnipeg. Sylvester was leader of the Spartans motorcycle gang there, and in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he loved the idea of teaming up with the mighty Angels against his bitter local rival, the Los Brovos.

In the end, Sylvester achieved only half his dream. The Hells Angels moved into Winnipeg in the early 1990s, but they didn’t back him against the Los Brovos. In fact, they likely murdered him.

Not long after the Angels arrived in Winnipeg, they had identified Sylvester as an impediment to their expansion, with his hot-and-cold, unstable personality and dictatorial ruling style.

Sylvester vanished after a meeting with the Hells Angels in the Spartans clubhouse on Chalmers Avenue in Winnipeg in June 1998, and was never seen again.

Police suspect his body was buried somewhere outside the city limits.

The body of his driver, Robert Glen Rosmus, was found on February 8, 1999, in a ditch on snow-packed Transport Road east of the Perimeter Highway, just outside the city. He had been shot dead.

Police suspect Rosmus’s body was deliberately dumped outside the city limits in RCMP jurisdiction – like the bodies of four other bikers murdered in the mid-1990s – in hopes that jurisdictional wranglings between the city police and RCMP would slow investigations.

See also: Los Brovos, Redliners, Kevin Sylvester, Spartans .

Sylvester, Kevin: Grieving Brother – In the summer of 2001, Kevin’s brother, Darwin, had been missing for three years and was presumed murdered.

That summer, he was both the intended target or the gunman in a flurry of tit-for-tat drive-by shootings. Four were on residential streets while the other, which Sylvester carried out himself, was in broad daylight near the busy downtown intersection of Portage Avenue and Broadway.

That attack sent pedestrians fleeing for cover and was considered low, even by subterranean gang standards. His Hells Angels rival was sitting in a truck beside his two-year-old son when Sylvester opened fired. The boy and his father survived and, soon afterwards, Kevin Sylvester began co-operating with police.

See also: Los Brovos, Redliners, Spartans, Darwin Sylvester .

Sylvestro, Antonio “Tony” and Frank “Chich”: Battling Brothers – The Hamilton brothers were core Mafia members for southern Ontario in the 1940s and 1950s, along with Matteo “Big Joe” Cipolla in Guelph and Nicholas Cicchini in Windsor.

Frank, who sometimes travelled under the name Frank Ross, was a bootlegger and a lieutenant of Rocco Perri and was interned in the Second World War for his Mafia associations and as an enemy alien. He often reminded friends that he was frequently searched by police and advised them they should not carry embarrassing addresses or phone numbers in case they were also searched.

See also: Antonio Papalia, Rocco Perri .

Back to home and table of contents