For the second time in less than two months, a major southern Ontario crime lord has been gunned down in what police believe may be the beginning of a war between Canadian crime clans.
Niagara Falls mobster Carmen Barillaro, 52, alleged heir to the crime empire of his recently slain boss, was talking on his cellular phone Wednesday night when he heard a knock at the door. He told the caller to hold while he answered the door.
Barillaro never finished the call. Instead, the person on the other end of the phone heard a gunshot and called emergency services.
When emergency crews arrived a few minutes later, they found Barillaro dead on the floor, with a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
Barillaro took control of the Niagara Region crime syndicate after his boss, Johnny "Pops" Papalia, was gunned down in a similar, execution-style slaying May 31 in Hamilton, according to a police source.
"You've got to look at them like a father-son deal," said the organized crime investigator. "They took out the father, and the son was vulnerable."
"Papalia made (Barillaro) what he is," the source said. "He was just a hairdresser" before Papalia groomed him for the mob.
A combined task force including Niagara Regional, Hamilton-Wentworth, Ontario Provincial and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, along with the FBI, are investigating the latest slaying, Niagara Regional Police Sgt. Mark Carter said.
He added that the current thinking is the two killings are part of an attempt by Montreal-based crime lords to take over Ontario's lucrative illegal drug, liquor and gambling trade.
No one has been charged with Papalia's murder, Carter said, and, at this time the motive and the killer of Barillaro are undetermined.
Barillaro had a lengthy criminal record, including a conviction for cocaine trafficking. He also served a three-year prison sentence for hiring a woman to kill a former member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang who owed him money from a drug buy.
Canadian and American police believe Barillaro worked for both Papalia and the Buffalo crime family that controlled Papalia's illegal empire.
Meanwhile, police also are comparing notes on two failed bombing attempts this month on a Niagara Falls developer.
On Tuesday, a bomb set to blow up the developer's van failed to explode when the detonator went off prematurely.