July 18, 2020

CANADA: Italian Mob Boss Pat Musitano Was Assassinated On Friday In A Parking Lot Beside His Bulletproof SUV. Retired Sergeant: “He Was Tony Soprano Before Tony Soprano Was On Television”

The Mob Reporter published July 13, 2020: Bulletproof SUV didn't stop hit on Mafia boss Pat Musitano

National Post, Canada
written by Adrian Humphreys
Monday July 13, 2020

Mafia boss Pasquale (Pat) Musitano, who struggled to push his Hamilton-based mob family to greater underworld power, was shot dead Friday in a parking lot four kilometres from where he will likely be buried alongside his kin.

Musitano, 53, knew he was the target of determined enemies.

A year ago, he was shot in a similar way, in a parking lot beside his hulking, armour-plated SUV. He was pierced by four bullets, then, including his head, but while people wondered if he was paralyzed or brain damaged, he was actually sitting up in a chair complaining of the hospital’s food the next day.

He was not as lucky Friday.

Musitano was shot in the parking lot of a lowrise plaza on Plains Rd. E. in Burlington, just outside Hamilton, shortly after 1 p.m. He dropped dead at the scene, Halton Regional Police said.

Two trusted men were with Musitano, National Post has learned: his close cousin, who was considered a brother, Giuseppe (Pino) Avignone, 59; and long-time mob associate John Clary, 77.

The pair chased the gunman as he peeled away, apparently striking his get-away car with their own, a source said, but the lone assassin escaped.

Clary, who did not travel to the lot with Musitano, was also shot in the mรชlรฉe and taken to hospital in serious condition.

At the crime scene, Musitano’s body lay next to his bulletproof GMC Yukon Denali, which was parked next to a black Mercedes.

A Lincoln sedan, the car Clary was in, according to a source, remained at the edge of the parking lot, jutting into the road. It had front-end damage and possibly bullet holes.

No arrests have been made.

Musitano symbolized the modern mob in Hamilton because of his archetype gangster appearance — an enormous girth, throaty voice, gangster chic — and the mayhem that shadowed him.

He was a decidedly blue-collar mobster who loved cars, hung out in restaurants, wore dark sunglasses and dressed up in suits, always custom made because of his size, and sometimes a silk scarf draped around his neck.

“He was Tony Soprano before Tony Soprano was on television,” said John Ross, a retired Hamilton police sergeant who interviewed and arrested Musitano and members of his family over decades.

When Musitano was released from prison in 2006, his first and only time inside, it was Ross’s job to monitor his parole. Musitano arrived at the central police station direct from prison.

“I let him know straight up — the likelihood of your survival is certainly limited now. And he knew,” Ross said.

“This end was inevitable, for sure — and Pat knew it.”

Musitano was born into the Mafia as the eldest son of a Mafia boss, and he embraced its outlaw culture until his final day. He knew exactly what his father, Dominic Musitano, was and what his family name and lineage meant.

The Musitano’s mob tradition was brought to Canada in 1937 by Pat Musitano’s great-uncle, Angelo Musitano, a career mobster who fled Delianuova, a town in Italy’s Calabria region.

He left Italy known as “The Beast of Delianuova” after publicly killing his sister who had, in his eyes, dishonoured the family through romantic indiscretion. The Beast dragged her bleeding through the town’s streets to the home of her lover and finished her off at his door with a dagger.

The Beast settled as a fugitive in Hamilton, where he had family, and helped raise his brother’s sons, Dominic and Anthony (Tony) Musitano. As The Beast bounced his nephews on his knee, he told them the ways of the ’Ndrangheta, the proper name of the Mafia of Calabria, Tony Musitano once told me.

Those nephews went on to forged the Musitanos into the smallest of three Mafia organizations in the city. Dominic Musitano, who became its boss, would have three sons of his own, including Pat and Angelo.

Pat Musitano was similarly raised in the old culture. Then he added a modern twist.

He greedily read books about contemporary mobsters, starting when he was young. He brought them with him when he went out and when he had a quiet moment at home, as long as the Maple Leafs weren’t playing.

“In restaurants he’d be sitting at a table reading a book about John Gotti,” said an old acquaintance of his.

“It was like he was cramming for the final exam.”

He was, in a way.

As an illustration of life imitating art, Musitano blended real-world lessons from his family with the anti-heroes of mob books and movies. His persona made him instantly recognizable in Hamilton and Niagara.

His father didn’t want his son to go into the family business, an old friend said.

Dominic Musitano was content with his achievements; he owned some 200 properties, many companies and had a lot of money squirreled away, despite remaining in the same red brick house on working-class Colbourne St. most of his life. It’s the only house on the street where Cadillacs frequently park out front.

Dominic gave his eldest son an alternative. He offered to send him to any school, college or university he wanted. Musitano apparently gave it a try, enrolling in higher education out of town, but it wasn’t for him and he returned to his family, to his city, to his destiny.

From his father, Musitano inherited his rotund figure, intense love of food and cooking and his mob connections.

“Pat was very much his father,” said Ross.

In his teens, Musitano had access to many cool cars. One of his early favourites when he was a newly licensed driver was a sporty Datsun 240Z convertible.

He was a scofflaw.

“The police were always against us — me and my dad,” Musitano said in 2004. “We were brought up that the police was always against us.”

He persistently refused to pay parking fines, speeding or traffic tickets, until he was forced to. Back when committal warrants were allowed, police could haul someone who had unpaid tickets in, and make them settle up or face jail time.

“I don’t know how many times I would bring Pat into central police station because he had, say, $1,500 outstanding in warrants,” said Ross. Once, he recalled, he asked Musitano how he wanted to settle, did he need to call someone to bring him money?

“No, no, no, I got the cash, I’ll just pay it,” Musitano said, and just like the mobsters he read about, he pulled a huge wad of money out of his pocket and paid all of his fines on the spot, asked for a receipt and walked off, annoyed.

Musitano married in 1994 at a large, fancy wedding with a thousand guests in a Hamilton banquet hall. They would have no children.

Working under his father, Musitano used his love of sports to specialize in sports betting and supervising the family’s considerable blackmarket gambling. He was devilishly successful.

He also leaned on his love of food to build a portfolio of restaurants and bakeries. He was a genial proprietor. He sure knew about food, he would say to diners as he laughed and motioned towards his belly. It was a genial manner he learned from his father.

In between, he ran wrecking yards, auto shops and a tire recycling business, among others.

There was also crime and violence.

In 1991, he took the fall for his father, who was on parole, and was convicted of possessing stolen property. In 1996 he was acquitted of conspiracy to commit arson after a near calamity.

Someone had tried to burn down a restaurant and hotel he owned: paper placemats soaked in gasoline were stuffed in toasters set on timers. There were eight tenants asleep upstairs. Luckily, one smelled gas and called the fire department. There was already a pattern of well-insured Musitano properties bursting into flames.

As he waited for the verdict in the arson case, Musitano grew impatient with the judge: “Doesn’t he realize I have champagne waiting on ice?” he quipped. His entourage loved it.

Throughout the years, other members of the Musitano family were involved in murders, bombings and arsons.

Everything changed when his father died suddenly in 1995, after a heart attack.

Dominic Musitano had a grand send off with a packed funeral in Hamilton’s towering Cathedral of Christ the King. After his father’s funeral mass, as mourners and gawkers poured out, Musitano emerged from the large, wooden double doors at the top of the cathedral’s 37 stone steps and paused, as if he was soaking in the consequence of the moment.

“Pat had been Dominic’s understudy, we all knew that,” said an old family associate.

Now Musitano was on the stage.

Where his father had seemed content with his place in the underworld, Musitano wanted more; to climb higher than his father had.

He took bold action. It may well have cost him his life.

Under a new generation of leadership, the Musitanos became more aggressive, more ambitious. Hungrier.

Musitano, and his youngest brother, Angelo, 10 years his junior, started hooking up with gangsters from Toronto and Montreal, who their father had kept at a distance.

It set off a power struggle within Hamilton’s underworld at a time when things were changing elsewhere. In Montreal, Sicilian Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto had solidified his power over Quebec and looked at Ontario as a place to grow.

One of Rizzuto’s impediments was Hamilton’s pre-eminent Mafia boss, John (Johnny Pops) Papalia, who was a made man in Buffalo’s La Cosa Nostra family and an influential, old warhorse of a gangster.

On May 31, 1997, Papalia was shot dead. Two months later, one of Papalia’s strongest lieutenants, Carmen Barillaro, of Niagara Falls, was also shot and killed. The murders opened up the region, criminally speaking.

The triggerman in both said Pat Musitano ordered the hits.

Musitano and his brother were eventually arrested for Papalia’s murder after the hitman, Ken Murdock, agreed to cooperate with police.

After hearing the evidence, and unable to silence Murdock, the pair agreed to a plea bargain. They would plead guilty to conspiracy to murder Barillaro if charges against them for Papalia’s slaying were dropped.

A few months after the two murders, but before their arrests, Musitano and his cousin, Avignone, joined Rizzuto for a late-night meeting in a restaurant north of Toronto. Musitano backed the Sicilians in Ontario, where Calabrian mobsters ran the underworld.

By the time Pat and Angelo Musitano were sentenced, in 2000, to 10 years in prison for the Barillaro murder, Rizzuto’s influence was stretching across southern Ontario.

The timing of Musitano’s big move was disastrous.

By the time he emerged from prison, he had missed the heyday of Rizzuto’s hegemony. The same year he was released on parole, Rizzuto was extradited to the United States for three gangland murders. The Rizzuto’s power waned considerably.

“Most people in the community respected but feared Pat and would talk about how ‘the area was safer before Pat was in jail,’” said Paul Manning, a Hamilton police officer who worked undercover targeting the Musitano organization while Musitano was in prison.

“Wiseguys, however, described Pat as a ‘snake’ and would constantly discuss — with enthusiasm — how he would get whacked and who would do it.”

The venom sprang from a sense of betrayal by Musitano for choosing Montreal over Toronto, Sicilians over his Calabrian kin.

When Musitano hit the streets again, after setting the gangland revolution in motion, the Calabrian mobsters were taking power back. Musitano had backed the wrong horse.

“Close to the end, Pat had lost favour with almost everyone. He was even told not to attend his uncle’s funeral,” said Manning.

“He was a dead man walking.”

He didn’t disappear, however. He maintained his swagger, some say even more so. He kept dreaming of a bigger slice of the pie and tried pushing business eastward, beyond his family’s Hamilton and Niagara strongholds, into Mississauga, Toronto and Vaughan.

That is crowded mob territory.

There were plenty of warnings he had enemies. His Hamilton home was shot up one night, his SUV torched in his driveway on another.

The most painful was the murder of his brother, Angelo, in 2017.

In secretly recorded police wiretaps recorded in 2014, Toronto-area mobsters talk about Musitano and his organization, by his name and sometimes as “the ones from Hamilton.”

In 2016, other wiretaps of different mobsters, caught less flattering nicknames. The Musitano brothers were referred to as “the Fatsos” and “the Idiots.”

Dominic Violi, a well-known Hamilton criminal whose family has long Mafia roots, had grown up with Musitano. They played together on swing sets as children and remained friendly for decades.

The Rizzutos in Montreal, however, had murdered Violi’s father, who was also a Calabrian mob boss. Violi complained in 2017 that Musitano was still supporting Sicilian mobsters in Toronto, according to summaries of wiretaps submitted in court.

When another mobster said he was surprised Musitano’s brother was killed first, Violi replied “they” wanted Musitano to feel his brother’s death, according to the wiretap evidence.

“It was a message.”

“They” had told him, Violi allegedly said, “that before Christmas (Musitano) would be gone… That would be one headache out of the way.”

Musitano knew he was being hunted.

A few months prior to his brother’s murder, he ordered his armour-plated SUV. The added protection almost doubled the price of the shiny black Denali.

The doors were loaded with metal plating, its windows replaced with glass 19 millimeters thick, tires fitted with reinforced inserts to run even if shot.

“It was bomb proof, bullet proof and hard on gas,” said someone familiar with the vehicle.

Such a tank, however, can only protect what’s inside.

Mobsters need to see and be seen. Serious mob business must be done face-to-face, even during a pandemic.

Halton police said the get-away car was a newer model, grey, four-door sedan with a sunroof, similar to an Infiniti Q50. The vehicle will have fresh damage to the driver’s side doors.

Mafia murders are notoriously hard to solve.

The police investigation of Musitano’s murder had the added duress of the weather.

In the afternoon, police took advantage of the display furniture outside a patio furniture store beside the crime scene for shade from a sweltering sun.

By dinnertime, investigators were dashing for cover when the sky darkened and a thundering rainstorm crashed through with such force whatever forensic evidence in the parking lot they had not yet processed would surely have been swept away.

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