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HUNTER: GTA on fringes of percolating Montreal Mafia war

A Brampton man is charged in the fatal shooting of Claudia Iacono

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Cops say the alleged triggerman who murdered Montreal Mafia princess Claudia Iacono was imported from the Toronto area to do the deed.

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Iacono, 39, was shot to death on May 16 as she drove her car near her hair salon on Jean-Talon St. W. in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges district.

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The mother of two had been married to the son of Montreal mobster Moreno Gallo. He hit the end of the line on Nov. 10, 2013, when he was whacked in a restaurant in Acapulco.

While killing a mother or other uninvolved family members has traditionally been taboo in the underworld, all that changed with the bloody war that sent 13 people to the morgue in the GTA.

Most of the targets in that three-year battle to eliminate the Musitanos from the criminal field of play were fringe operators, the soft underbelly. When ‘Fat Pat’ Musitano hit the pavement in July 2020, that appeared to be the end of the bloodletting.

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Now, it appears to be Montreal’s return to the spotlight.

A Montreal police officer stands next to the body of mobster Francesco Del Balso, who was shot and killed outside Monster Gym in Dorval on Monday June 5, 2023.
A Montreal police officer stands next to the body of mobster Francesco Del Balso, who was shot and killed outside Monster Gym in Dorval on Monday June 5, 2023. Dave Sidaway/Postmedia Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

On Monday, suspected hitter Francesco Del Balso was shot to death outside the Monster Gym in suburban Dorval. He had been the primo suspect in the attempted rubout in March of Mob scion Leonardo Rizzuto of those Rizzutos.

Now, cops say that on Tuesday, OPP detectives arrested 28-year-old Joel Richard Clarke, of Brampton, in Milton and charged him with first-degree murder in the death of Iacono.

“We’re looking for other suspects, for sure,” said Jean-Sebastien Caron, Montreal Police major crime unit chief.

Clarke is “related to a multitude of events of violence,” Caron added but backed away from previous police statements suggesting the slaying was a gangland settling of accounts.

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For the record, Clarke was also busted two weeks ago with a gal pal after an OPP probe resulted in seizures of “purple” fentanyl, cocaine, Percocet pills and a handgun. He was hit with a slew of drug and weapons charges, along with that favourite from the criminal canon: Fail to Comply with Release Order – four counts.

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The gangland conflict that raged in the GTA from 2017 to 2020 had its roots in the Montreal Mob milieu of the 1970s. Mobster Paolo Violi of the Cotroni crime family was married to Grazia Luppino of the Hamilton Luppinos.

At that point in the 1970s, the Cotronis ruled the roost in Montreal. War broke out with the Rizzutos, long-time backers of the … drumroll … Musitano family.

Paolo Violi was hit on Jan. 22, 1978. His brothers were also murdered. His widow and kids fled to Hamilton.

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In the intervening 45 years, a lot has happened in Canadian gangland. Powerplays, shifting allegiances, and if you ask corpulent criminal Pat Musitano, revenge served ice cold.

How the Sun covered the hit on mobster Pat Musitano in July 2020. TORONTO SUN
How the Sun covered the hit on mobster Pat Musitano in July 2020. TORONTO SUN

When the Violis fled back to the Hammer, they may have been biding their time. In 2002, a Halton Regional Police intelligence report suggested the brothers were fixed up with the Luppinos.

Reports suggested that Domenico Violi became the first Canadian to become underboss of The Arm — the Buffalo crime family that was previously the domain of Stefano “The Undertaker” Maggadino.

Got it?

Even legendary Mob watcher and Queen’s University lecturer Antonio Nicaso was somewhat mystified by the deadly events in La Belle Province.

He told Postmedia: “Was it connected to the Rizzuto struggle or the Montreal war or something else? We don’t know that. At this moment, I can only see the relation between the attempted murder of Leonardo and the murder of del Balso.”


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