RCMP use BlackBerry surveillance in crackdown on Montreal mob
Quebec RCMP say they used BlackBerry surveillance to put a major dent in Montreal’s criminal underworld with nearly three dozen arrests targeting key members of two Italian-based criminal organizations.
Dubbed “Project Clemenza,” the joint investigation between Quebec’s RCMP and Montreal police produced 34 arrest warrants, 87 criminal charges and led to the seizure of a large cache of weapons and drugs. More than 200 police officers were involved in the roundup that also netted an estimated 340 kilograms of cocaine, 1 kilogram of marijuana, 5 kilograms of hashish and an assortment of high-powered weapons, explosives and drug-making equipment. Police also seized two bank accounts worth a combined $1 million.
Twenty-nine individuals with connections to the Giuseppe De Vito and Bastone crime families have been arrested, with three arrest warrants outstanding, police said. RCMP are still looking for 50-year-old Patrizio Silvano of Laval, 49-year-old Giovani Gerbasi of Gatineau and 23-year-old Hussein Abdallah of north Montreal.
Arrests were made in 30 separate locations in parts of Montreal, Quebec City, Laval and Gatineau, said police, who called the cells “violent and active.”
“The dismantling of these two leading cells will disrupt the whole structure of Italian organized crime in Montreal,” said Insp. Michel Arcand of Quebec’s RCMP.
Project Clemenza used smartphone surveillance to gather evidence on key members of the Bastone and De Vito crime families during an investigation that lasted from October 2010 to February 2012, police said. That evidence led to a slew of charges including arson, forcible confinement, kidnapping, gangsterism and conspiracy.
Operating with the help of BlackBerry, investigators intercepted approximately 1 million PIN-to-PIN messages between suspected gang members, and used that information to identify suspects connected to the two Italian-based crime cells.
Arcand said the Bastone and De Vito groups stepped into the power vacuum left after Project Colisee, an earlier sweep of organized crime in 2006, which led to the arrests of several prominent gangland figures, including the now-deceased Vito Rizzuto.
Police linked the two organizations to an increase in Montreal gang violence since the Project Colisee sweep, though they said that violence did not appear to be a result of infighting.
Suspects are alleged to have set fire at two Montreal cafes, and to have carried out kidnappings to exert control over cocaine trafficking in Montreal.
Additionally, police said the arrests were not linked to the death of Giuseppe De Vito, who died after he was found unconscious from cyanide poisoning in a federal prison last July.
Police say they are now “in a position” to follow up on who will be filling the void created by the new arrests.
The accused were scheduled to appear in a Montreal court on Thursday afternoon.