Morbid Curiosity


Valachi, Joe – See Albert Agueci, Stefano Magaddino, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia .

Vallée, Richard: Wrong Turn – A group of Quebecers were bowling in tiny Rouses Point, in northern New York State, at an alley where Lee Carter, Jr., thirty-one, worked as a bartender, when one of the men made him an interesting offer.

Would Carter be interested in driving a car up from New York City to the border? The trip would involve transporting a large package in the trunk of his car and, if Carter agreed, his fee would be hefty.

Carter, a prison guard’s son, was naturally suspicious, and reported the offer to a state police investigator in northern New York. Soon he agreed to work with police in an undercover sting operation to learn the identity of the stranger. “In essence, he was just an ordinary person who reported the possibility of criminal activity and helped the authorities,” said Don Kinsella, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Albany.

On June 8, 1992, a few months after the initial approach, Carter drove south to New York City, with a state police investigator accompanying him part of the way. He made the return trip with fifty-four kilograms of cocaine in the trunk.

Richard Vallée

Two Montreal men arrived to pick up the cocaine from Carter in Rouses Point, but they could fit only about half of it in their trunk. They were nabbed by customs inspectors on their drive back into Canada, in what authorities tried to make appear a random search, so that Carter’s cover wouldn’t be blown.

Eventually, Carter was contacted by other Montrealers, who invited him to Quebec and convinced him to bring the rest of their cocaine. With federal and Canadian authorities looking over his shoulder, Carter went to Montreal and made contact with various Hells Angels members, including Richard Vallée, a demolitions expert and a founding member of the Angels’ elite Nomads chapter. Vallée was considered by police to be one of the most dangerous criminals in the world, and was a suspect in several killings and murder plots, although Quebec authorities were never able to convict him.

Carter was the only witness who could tie Vallée to the cocaine-smuggling plot when, on July 26, 1993, a man in a U.S. Postal Service uniform asked one of Carter’s neighbours where he lived.

Two days later, Carter climbed behind the wheel of his older-model Porsche, turned the key, and ignited a blast that threw pieces of his car on top of the bowling alley next door to his trailer.

When authorities raided a Montreal residence tied to Vallée, they found blasting caps, explosives, and a U.S. Postal Service uniform.

In December 1996, a federal grand jury in Albany indicted Vallée in absentia on murder charges. In June 1997, two days before Vallée was scheduled to be extradited to Albany, he was in downtown Montreal’s St-Luc Hospital, awaiting surgery for a broken jaw. There he got a telephone call from someone who the guards thought was his wife and, also around this time, nurses saw a man in sunglasses walk toward the shower in Vallée’s room.

Vallée asked to go to the shower, and one of the two unarmed security guards in his room accompanied him. A Hells Angel accomplice, who had been hiding in a closet, pulled a twelve-gauge shotgun on the guard and, within minutes, the guards were gagged and bound and Vallée and three accomplices were fleeing on stolen motorcycles.

His story appeared on the television show America’s Most Wanted , and a wanted poster issued by the U.S. Marshals Service was posted in American federal buildings, which read: “Armed and dangerous.… Vallée is a member of a large-scale international cocaine-smuggling organization and a demolition expert with a violent criminal history.”

Vallée had been on the run for six years when, at 1 : 30 a.m. on Friday, April 11, 2003, a motorist turned right on a red light at the corner of Sherbrooke Street West and Décarie Boulevard in west-end Montreal. Anywhere else in North America – except for Montreal and New York City – and that right turn on a red light would have been legal. However, this was Montreal, and a police officer pulled him over.

The bearded, bespectacled man behind the wheel looked a bit drunk and, when police searched his car, they found a loaded pistol and $3,500 cash. The driver was taken into custody, where he was fingerprinted and failed a breathalyzer test. He said his name was Guy Turner, and he had credit cards, a Quebec driver’s licence, and a Canadian passport under that name. He sounded like a businessman and told officers that he was the owner of a scuba-diving school in Costa Rica, and that the $3,500 cash was to buy diving equipment. Then he was set free, on a promise to appear in court for the failed breathalyzer and illegal-firearms charge.

When police later checked his fingerprints, they realized they had just freed Richard Vallée, whom they had been hunting for almost six years.

Richard Vallée

Police won’t say exactly how, but shortly afterwards, they had tracked him to an address in Laval and began trailing him through Montreal. Heavily armed tactical officers arrested Vallée at 7 p.m. on April 17, 2003, as he walked out of a downtown Montreal convenience store on St. Mathieu Street. No shots were fired.

Canadian police believe Vallée, now forty-five, had slipped back into Montreal on March 25, 2003, with the forged identity papers and his features altered by plastic surgery. On the American side of the border, prosecutors noted, if they hoped to get him extradited, that they would not be able to seek the death penalty. Canadian authorities only extradite criminals if they are convinced they will not face execution.

“He’s lucky he got caught in Canada,” said Don Kinsella, the former assistant U.S. attorney who handled the original Carter murder case.

See also: Nomads .

Vancouver Stock Exchange: Lead Trading – There was a time when brokers here might have been forgiven if they wore bulletproof vests under their suspenders.

Between 1969 and 1997, more than a dozen promoters and brokers were shot, beaten, murdered, or had simply vanished, and most of these cases were never solved.

The Vancouver Exchange acted as a magnet for millions of dollars of high-risk capital every year, and criminals have been drawn to “junior stocks,” which are far easier to manipulate than blue-chip giants.

Police have nervously watched as criminals connected to the Hells Angels biker gang, the Italian and Russian Mobs, and various other organizations have played the market. Among those criminals was Martin Chambers, who obtained a master of laws degree from Oxford University and who was known by police and underworld figures alike as “Lex Luther.” Chambers was sentenced in December 2003 in Florida to a fifteen-year term for money-laundering there. Another active player on the Vancouver Exchange was Ernie Ozolins, former leader of the Hells Angels Haney, B.C., chapter, who was involved in what’s known on the market as a “pump-and-dump scheme.” Ozolins and two associates pumped up the price of a bogus mining company, then bailed out and pocketed the profits. Ozolins was shot dead with his girlfriend on June 2, 1997, in a murder that remains unsolved.

The British Columbia Securities Commission countered with a five-member securities-fraud office, while the rcmp’s local commercial-crime unit boosted its staff count.

Among the Vancouver Exchange’s low points:

• On March 9, 1987, Vancouver Stock Exchange promoter and fraud artist Guy LaMarche, fifty, was shot to death in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel.

• On July 23, 1988, Robert White, president of VSE -listed Duck Book Communications Inc., was shot and killed by robbers in Central America.

• On August 11, 1994, Vancouver Stock Exchange director Nick Masee, fifty-live, and his wife, Lisa, thirty-nine, vanished without a trace.

• On October 7, 1995, Howe Street financier Assa Manhas, forty-four, fell from the twentieth floor of a San Francisco hotel. He had been a key figure in several Vancouver Exchange stock plays.

See also: David Ward, Ray Ginnetti .

Vendemini, Filippo: Popped – He worked as a soft-drink salesman in the 1960s at Cynar Beverages in Toronto, where his boss was Salvatore Triumbari. Then he moved on to set up a shoe store at Bloor Street West and Gladstone Avenue.

Vendemini had been a suspect himself in an extortion racket that bombed and burned bakeries owned by Italian-born businessmen, and he was also known to smuggle bootleg whisky and handle European counterfeit money. The father of five lived in a bungalow on Sherman Court in North York, where suspicious police observed a meeting of about thirty men on January 3, 1967.

It was at the shoe store that Vendemini was murdered on June 6, 1969, at thirty-four. The killing was never solved, but the reason was believed to be a power struggle in the ’Ndrangheta.

See also: Giacomo Luppino, ’Ndrangheta, Michele “Mike” Racco, Salvatore Triumbari, Paolo Violi, Rocco Zito .

Vietnamese Gangs – They were first noticed on the streets of major Canadian cities in the early 1980s, and what they lacked in finesse, they made up for in violence.

Many of the gang members lost their families during the Vietnam War and grew up in grim, overcrowded, refugee camps, where they learned about narcotics, weapons, and extortion. Others arrived as boat people after terrible journeys.

They formed tight bonds with other young criminals, who they often call “brother,” “uncle,” and “father.” When refugee camp members eventually were allowed entry into Canada and the United States, many of them retained their old ties and values. That means that criminals in Toronto had bonds to cells in Calgary, Windsor, Kitchener, Montreal, and Ottawa, as well as in New York, Boston, and San Francisco.

Many of their original members grew up not expecting to live long, and they didn’t invest money or aim for respectability like earlier crimes groups such as the Asian Triad secret societies or the Mafia.

See also: Lotus Gang, Asau Tran, Trung Chi Truong .

Violi, Domenico: Grieving Grandfather – Italian police had called him a boss of the ’Ndrangheta (Calabrian Mafia), and he was twice deported from Canada as an undesirable alien. Settling in Parma, Ohio, near Cleveland, he made three trips north to bury his sons, Paolo, Francesco, and Rocco, after they were murdered in Montreal underworld struggles of the 1970s and 1980s. He outlived them all, dying March 5, 1990, in a Cleveland-area hospital of a liver ailment.

See also: ’Ndrangheta; Francesco “Frank,” Paolo, and Rocco Violi .

Violi, Francesco “Frank”: Logical Victim – He was murdered February 8, 1977, at age thirty-nine in the office of the Violi family importing business in Rivières-des-Prairies, Quebec. He was known as his older brother Paolo’s chief enforcer, and was the logical first person to attack in an assault on the family. Attacks on the other brothers followed, as the Sicilian Mob shoved rival Calabrians to the side in the Montreal underworld.

See also: ’Ndrangheta; Domenico, Paolo, and Rocco Violi .

Violi, Paolo: Lord of Jean Talon East – Pegged for the leadership of the Cotroni Mafia family of Montreal, he was murdered shortly after he came to power. It was a short trip to death after a long move up the underworld ladder.

Violi immigrated to southern Ontario from Calabria in 1951 at age twenty, and was arrested five years later, after he fatally shot an immigrant named Natale Brigante in Toronto. The charge was reduced to manslaughter, as police witnesses proved uncooperative. Violi, who had been stabbed in the dispute, pleaded self-defence and was acquitted.

In April 1961, he was charged with a bootlegging offence, when alcohol was found in a rear garage on Ossington Avenue in Toronto. The car was registered to Filippo Vendemini, who was later killed by the Mob. At the time, Violi was suspected of arranging bootlegging between Toronto and Montreal.

Paolo Violi outside his Reggio Bar coffee shop in North Montreal

Paolo Violi (standing, right, in bright shirt) in custody in the Bordeaux Jail in Montreal in the mid-1970s

Paolo Violi

At Giuseppe Violi’s funeral, Paolo Violi (far left) in front

Gun used to murder Paolo Violi

By 1962, he was meeting with Rocco Zito at a bakery in Hamilton, with about thirty well-known bootleggers from Montreal, Toronto, and Hamilton, including Antonio Papalia, the father of mobster “Johnny Pops” Papalia. The purpose of the meeting, chaired by Violi, was to put two large stills in the Toronto-Hamilton area and to make sure Ontario distributors would deal only with him.

By 1965, his stature was high enough for him to marry Grazia Luppino, daughter of Hamilton don Giacomo Luppino, at a wedding attended by Vic Cotroni and Luigi Greco of Montreal. Cotroni was his best man and later godfather to his first-born son. “Johnny Pops” Papalia was godfather to his second son, and Joe Gentile of Vancouver was godfather to one of his daughters.

In 1970, with his brother Francesco and Vic and Frank Cotroni, he went on a “holiday” in Acapulco, where he met with U.S. Mob money-man Meyer Lansky to discuss what to do if Quebec legalized gambling.

By now, he was playing the role of Mob boss with a smile and a warm handshake. Violi was now a key figure in the Mob family of Vic Cotroni, which ran the Canadian branch-plant operations for the Bonanno family of New York City. He sponsored bicycle races from his gelateria on Jean Talon East and drove around Montreal in his white Cadillac, often stopping to offer a ride to those he knew. Behind the smiling face, however, was a man who wanted a cut of everything, even the loot taken during break-ins at homes of Italian families attending weddings.

His undoing came in the form of an undercover police officer, Bob Menard, who, from 1970 to 1976, posed as an electrician and bugged many of Violi’s conversations from a room above his ice-cream parlour. The penetration of his ranks by the police officer lowered his respect among mobsters, and made him seem like a petty tyrant to many of the public.

In 1976, he was acquitted in Montreal on the charge of conspiracy to assault a restaurant owner, then jailed for refusing to testify at a Quebec crime inquiry. At that inquiry, things started to fall apart.

Meanwhile, Cecil Kirby, a Toronto biker who did enforcement work for Rocco Remo Commisso and Cosimo Commisso of Toronto, said the Commisso brothers wanted to kill Violi. Others who wanted him dead included supporters of the Sicilian wing of the Montreal Mob led by Nicolo “Nick” Rizzuto of Montreal. Violi tried in vain to get permission to have Rizzuto killed in the early 1970s, but senior mobsters in New York City balked. Ultimately, it was the Americans who called the shots for the Canadian Mob.

However, when Rizzuto supporters sought to have Violi killed, the New Yorkers gave the go-ahead.

Violi was gunned down in 1978 during dinner at his ice-cream shop and pool room on Jean Talon Street. His hooded killers used a rare twelve-gauge shotgun made only in a small village in southern Italy. It’s widely believed that Violi must have known he would be murdered that night, and that he chose death to running.

See also: Natale Brigante, Vincenzo “Vic the Egg” Cotroni, Cecil Kirby, Giacomo Luppino, ’Ndrangheta, Nicolo “Nick” Rizzuto; Domenic, Francesco “Frank,” and Rocco Violi .

Violi, Rocco: Marked for Murder – A sniper ended his life on October 17, 1980, as he sat at the kitchen table of his east-end Montreal home with his wife and two children. One shot had been fired from an office window across the street, hitting Violi in the heart. The killer was never caught but police found the gun, a .308 rifle with telescopic sight.

Violi brothers (from left): Francesco, Paolo, and Rocco

He was the last of the Violi brothers in Montreal, and he must have known he was marked for death. Two of his brothers had been murdered before him, and killers had tried to kill him months earlier, but the attempt was bungled when a man on a motorcycle hit him with only a few shotgun pellets in the face and neck.

Violi was twenty when he was convicted in 1960 on an assault charge involving a knife attack on another man and sentenced to six months in jail. He had been in Canada only a year, and was ordered deported because of the criminal conviction. Immigration Minister Ellen Fairclough of Hamilton unexpectedly rescinded the order, putting him on probation and allowing him to remain in Canada. His twin brother, Giuseppe, was ordered deported after a criminal conviction for leaving the scene of an accident, but was later also allowed to remain in Canada.

Giuseppe died in 1970, when his sports car crashed into a bus.

See also: Natale Brigante, Vincenzo “Vic the Egg” Cotroni, Cecil Kirby, Giacomo Luppino, ’Ndrangheta, Nicolo “Nick” Rizzuto; Domenic, Francesco “Frank,” and Paolo, Violi .

VVT : Toronto Gang – This was the original Sri Lankan gang in the Toronto area, operating out of Etobicoke, with members ranging in age from their early teenage years to men in their thirties.

The gang was formed in the early 1990s and named for Valvettithurai, a northern Sri Lankan town. Although federal authorities have claimed that some Toronto gang members are linked to fighting between the Tamil Tigers and the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam back in Sri Lanka, Toronto detectives who track the local gangs believe the rivalry is Canadian-born.

They soon had a rivalry with another Sri Lankan group named AK Kannan, alluding to the street name of a leader and his love for the AK - 47 assault weapon.

There was a brief truce in the gang war in 1998 after community members brokered a peace deal in a Thornhill mosque. But a homicide a year later renewed the fighting.

Gang members targeted investigators as well as other gang members. Gang members were seen in police-division parking lots, videotaping the licence plates of officers’ personal vehicles. One officer had his truck stolen and torched.

See also: AK Kannan .

Chanh Thong Vo: Fatal Dissing – Gerrard Street East near Broadview Avenue in Toronto’s Chinatown East resembled a war zone the night Chanh Thong Vo died. Dozens of early-morning diners witnessed his murder outside the Jun Jun Seafood Restaurant at 3 : 30 a.m. on December 17, 1995, as Vo was cut down in a hail of bullets and two other men were injured. The killers fled, leaving Vo, twenty-four, lying face down on the street, an abandoned AK - 47 assault rifle beside him.

Vo knew this murder weapon well. Easy to clean and rarely jamming, the AK - 47 had been the weapon of choice of the Viet Cong and other guerrilla groups, and Vietnamese gang members in Toronto had little difficulty getting them on Native reserves in Ontario and Quebec.

Vo was a minor but violent member of Toronto’s Vietnamese gangs, known on Toronto’s Chinatown streets as Tommy or No Wang Vo, because, four years before his death, he accidentally shot off part of his penis with the 45-calibre handgun he kept stuffed down the front of his baggy blue jeans.

Vo was born in Vietnam, after his parents fled there from mainland China to escape Communist persecution before his birth. Fluent in both Vietnamese and Chinese, he spent time in an Asian refugee camp before his family finally arrived in Canada as “boat people.”

Asian crime specialists say that many North American Vietnamese gang ties were cemented in refugee camps in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s.

Vo became known to police while still in his early teens. First, he delivered drugs and conducted petty robberies, then moved on to more violent crimes such as extortion and assault with a weapon.

He spent much of his time in Toronto as a hired gun for Chinese gangs, heading a small gang of three or four Vietnamese thugs. His group, like most Vietnamese gangs, had no name.

Police arrested twenty-year-old Tien Dung Duong for the murder after hearing that the shooting spree was in retaliation for “a physical altercation” earlier that evening at a karaoke bar. In his first-degree murder trial, witnesses were extremely nervous. Terrified of retaliation, one of the original witnesses who had identified Duong as the gunman was cited for contempt for refusing to answer even questions by defence lawyer Jack Pinkofsky.

Duong unsuccessfully tried to pin the murder on a phantom gunman. Mr. Justice John O’Driscoll sentenced Duong to life for first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder, with these words: “Mr. Duong, you killed Mr. Vo. You blew him away for dissing you on your own turf. I cannot come to any other conclusion but that you are a very vicious, remorseless killer. It’s bad enough that you killed, but then you put forward this phony defence.”

Volpe, Paul: Mob Fox – During the summer of 1980, a stranger appeared at the door of an associate of mobster Paul Volpe in Woodbridge north of Toronto. The homeowner was away with Volpe on a trip to New Jersey, so the stranger spoke to his wife. He said he was from the “Philadelphia Church” and looking for donations. “When you come to visit the church, you’re expected to make donations,” he told her, before she panicked and slammed the door.

The stranger climbed into a black car, where three other strangers sat, then drove off, knowing Volpe would clearly understand the message. Volpe had been aggressively expanding into the new casinos of Atlantic City and this didn’t sit well with the Mob in nearby Philadelphia.

The visit and the talk of church donations were Mob-ese for “Philadelphia boss Nicky Scarfo and his associates in Philadelphia expect a cut of any money Paul Volpe makes in Atlantic City.”

True to form, Volpe simply ignored the warning. He told his associate, a former Italian police officer, to return to Atlantic City and get back to business.

Volpe was used to outfoxing his rivals. His name means “fox” in Italian and, like a fox, Volpe was clever and a loner by nature. He was born in Toronto, the son of an impoverished tailor with no organized-crime involvement. While details of his life could be collected without too much difficulty, Volpe remained a hard man to figure out. Fellow mobsters considered him troublesome and distant, a man who jealously guarded his secrets and the fortune he had gained through loansharking, gambling, and labour racketeering. They eyed him suspiciously because of his moral position, rare in the Mob. He looked upon lucrative businesses like pornography, prostitution, and narcotics trafficking as dirty and beneath his dignity.

Paul Volpe

Volpe eschewed Toronto’s Mob enclaves in Woodbridge, and on St. Clair Avenue West and College Street. Instead, he lived apart in Schomberg, northwest of Toronto, in a flood-lit Tudor mansion with a turret that he had bought from a judge. A large Canadian flag flew outside the manor that, fittingly, was called Fox Hill.

He was the youngest of five brothers, but clearly the family’s natural leader. His wife, Lisa Dalholt, of Danish background, was a liberated, intelligent woman who built her own career, rising from modelling to become a fashion buyer for the upscale fashion store Creeds. And Volpe did something astounding in the macho world of the Mob, telling stunned associates he had had a homosexual fling as a young man with an actor who had won modest fame in a Shirley Temple movie.

Mobsters carefully mark their territories, like animals of the wild, but Volpe often roamed far afield in search of profit. He was involved in grand casinos in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the early 1960s and once met with the prime minister and the minister of tourism for Dominica in the hope of setting up his own casinos there. Volpe himself also pumped money into a failed takeover in Haiti that aligned him with the Ku Klux Klan.

Volpe’s travels came to an end on November 13, 1983, when he was found in the trunk of his wife’s leased BMW in the parking garage at Terminal 2 of Toronto (now Pearson) International Airport, with his tall body curled in a fetal position. The killer was never found. One theory was that it was “Johnny Pops” Papalia, a rival from within his own group. That move eliminated a rival for Papalia and ensured greater harmony with the Philadelphia Mob. It was Volpe’s trusted driver, Pietro Scarcella, who delivered him to his killers after the two enjoyed breakfast together, police said.

“It’s not your enemies you have to worry about,” Staff Sgt. Ron Sandelli of Toronto police said. “It’s your friends that do you in.”

See also: Giacomo Luppino, Stefano Magaddino, Enio Mora, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia, Pietro Scarcella .

Vor v zakonye – See Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, National Hockey League, Joseph Sigalov, Vyacheslav Marakulovich Sliva .

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