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A Canadian murder. 'Buffalo's crime family.' Is the Mafia still around?

A Canadian murder. 'Buffalo's crime family.' Is the Mafia still around?

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(Derek Gee/News file photo)

Across the border, journalists covering mob killings in Hamilton, Ont., and the shooting last week of a reputed Mafia leader in Mississauga don't think twice about mentioning the mob in Buffalo.

Scattered throughout their stories are references to "Buffalo's crime family" and the role it might have played in the rash of Mafia violence sweeping southern Ontario.

The reports have left some in Buffalo wondering: What crime family?

Just two years ago, the FBI all but proclaimed the Mafia in Buffalo dead, indicating it no longer had an active presence in the region.

Now, after several mob-related murders in Canada, journalists there are suggesting that any declaration of the mob's demise here was premature.

"Why would the Mafia go away?" asked Peter Edwards, referring to the mob in Buffalo.

Edwards is the organized crime beat reporter at the Toronto Star and the author of 15 books about organized crime. He points to wiretap recordings and sources that indicate the Mafia is on the rebound here and still very much involved in organized crime activities across the border.

On Thursday, after the early-morning shooting of suspected Hamilton mob leader Pasquale "Pat" Musitano, the Hamilton Spectator ran a story indicating Musitano had organized crime enemies in Montreal and Buffalo.

Musitano's shooting followed three mob-related murders, including the killing of his younger brother Angelo two years ago. A few weeks after his brother's murder, Pat Musitano's home in Hamilton was shot up.

Hamilton detectives believe the murders are part of a power struggle within the Mafia and have asked federal and city law enforcement in Buffalo for help in finding one of the suspects.

Edwards said the mob in Buffalo is active but that the Todaro family, who the FBI once alleged headed the Mafia here – a charge still unproven – may no longer be involved.

"I know it's there," Edwards said of the Mafia in Buffalo, "but I don't know who's in charge. I don't know about Todaro."

[JULY 2017: The Mafia is all but dead in WNY. So what killed it?]

In recent months, both the Hamilton Spectator and the Toronto Star have referred to the "Todaro crime family" in their coverage of the murders and their possible link to Buffalo.

But the Todaros' attorney said it is "completely irresponsible" for law enforcement and the media to suggest the Todaros might be involved in the violence in Ontario.

"The Hamilton police should focus more on real evidence like fingerprints and forensic evidence," said Robert L. Boreanaz, a lawyer for the Todaros.

After the attempt on Pat Musitano's life, Edwards said, he was more convinced than ever that the Buffalo mob was a player in the shooting.

He said a source kept repeating "Buffalo" over and over while talking about the incident. Musitano, shot outside his lawyer's office at about 7 a.m., was in critical condition after Thursday's shooting.

Even before the Musitano shooting, Hamilton police sought help across the border while investigating the mob-related murder of Cece Luppino. Luppino, killed three months earlier, was not involved in the Mafia but was the son of reputed mobster Rocco Luppino.

At the urging of Hamilton police, the FBI and Buffalo Police Department tweeted out surveillance photos of the man suspected of killing Luppino.

"There's a massive power play underway and it's tied into Buffalo," said Paul Manning, a former Hamilton undercover cop who worked on mob cases.

Manning said the suspect in the Luppino shooting is believed to be from the U.S. side of the border.

Law enforcement's interest in Buffalo is also rooted in a wiretap conversation that caught Domenico Violi of Hamilton saying that he's the new underboss of the Mafia in Buffalo.

Violi, the son of Paolo Violi, former head of the Montreal Mafia, was sentenced to eight years in prison last year for drug trafficking. The case also included allegations of organized crime involvement.

"I think Domenic Violi was telling the truth," Manning said of the wiretap conversation. "I think he is an underboss."

In a conversation that was made public during his prosecution, the 52-year-old Hamilton man allegedly says he is the new second-in-charge of the Buffalo Mafia. He also boasts of being the first Canadian to serve in a leadership position in a U.S.-based Mafia family.

“Domenic, you know you made history,” Violi said in recounting an alleged conversation with a Buffalo Mafia member in October of last year.

He also says in that conversation that he was handpicked for the underboss job by Joseph Todaro Jr. during a one-on-one meeting in Florida, according to court records, and that he was selected over 30 other candidates, all of them "made" members of the Buffalo Mafia.

Until recently, the FBI maintained that Todaro and his late father, Joseph Todaro Sr., headed the Buffalo mob, but it never proved that allegation.

"It's completely irresponsible for law enforcement and a reporter who moonlights as an author and Netflix producer to spread fairy tales about an outstanding citizen of our community," Boreanaz said of Edwards and the Hamilton police.

In the past, Boreanaz has said Violi is not a "friend or acquaintance" of Todaro's and that his client was working at the family business, La Nova Pizza, when Violi alleges they met in Florida.

If the mob is again up and running in Buffalo and involved in the Hamilton murders, it might be rooted in the relationships that started with Stefano Magaddino, the Lewiston funeral home operator who oversaw the Mafia here in the 1950s and 1960s.

Magaddino, one of the longest-tenured and most powerful mob leaders in the country, controlled a territory that extended beyond Western New York into Pennsylvania, Ohio and Ontario.

The FBI says the Todaros took over from Magaddino at some point, an allegation Joseph Todaro Jr. has repeatedly denied.

When asked to comment on allegations that organized crime has resurfaced in Buffalo, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.

The Mafia is all but dead in Western New York. So what killed it?

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