Mob myths and truths in Hamilton after the shooting of Pat Musitano
As Hamilton mobster Pasquale (Pat) Musitano recovers from being shot multiple times nearly three weeks ago and police investigate who pulled the trigger, perhaps the biggest question is: what’s next?
The Musitano family has been at the centre of a resurgence of Mafia violence in the region over the last two years. Will Pat’s shooting put an end to it? Or only spur more violence?
What power Pat Musitano still wields in the criminal underworld remains to be seen.
Musitano was initially rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries April 25 after being shot outside his lawyer’s office in Mississauga. It soon became clear he would survive. and a little after a week after being shot, he was released from hospital May 3.
His shooting comes after his younger brother, Angelo Musitano, was gunned down in his Waterdown driveway in May 2017 — a murder that marked the beginning of that resurgence of Mafia violence in Hamilton. The motive for Musitano’s murder has never been clearly stated, but a police theory is other shootings since could have been retaliation.
Since Angelo’s murder, there have been two other mob-related murders in Hamilton: Albert Iavarone in September 2018 and Cece Luppino, in January of this year, and the attempted murder of Giuseppe Capobianco, who was stabbed in the home of his uncle, Natale Luppino, in April 2018.
The Musitanos were one of three traditional organized crime families (along with the Luppino/Violis and Papalias) who vied for power in Hamilton starting in the 1960s. Since then, there have been arsons, shootings and bloodshed, but also a lot of mythology around how the mob works.
The Iavarones are not one of Hamilton’s traditional organized crime families but have been tied to different groups over the years, with Albert’s older brother, Tony, seen as the most powerful and perhaps growing in power in recent years. They were associates of the Musitanos back in the ’90s, but appear to be adversaries in recent years.
1) Don’t look for symbolism where there is none
Pat Musitano was shot as many as four times, including to the head. After his shooting some questioned whether being shot in the face was symbolic of something. A show of disrespect? Much more likely the shooter and shooters were just trying to kill him, not send a message.
Just like when his younger brother, Angelo Musitano, was gunned down with his wife and young children inside their home, the callous nature of the shootings did not symbolize anything beyond the mob’s disregard for human life. Yes, there is an organizational structure, with “hits” typically requiring the approval of someone with power. But this isn’t a movie. The mob at its core is about violence.
2) The shooters are usually low-level hired guns
Peel police have not released any information about a shooting suspect or suspects. But if Pat Musitano’s shooting is like other recent ones, there was likely more than one person involved and they were likely subcontracted. Traditional organized crime groups have not been using their own “made” members, but rather hired hit men paid to do the dirty work. This also typically makes those involved expendable.
For instance, the three men accused in the murder of Angelo Musitano have been described as “minions.” Two fled to Mexico, and only one — Jabril Abdalla — remains behind bars. He’s seeking bail. His co-accused, Michael Cudmore and Daniel Tomassetti, are wanted on international warrants.
The four charged with attempted murder after a home invasion at Nat Luppino’s Como Place home were tied to street-level gangs in Montreal. It’s not clear if they understood whose home they were entering.
3) Shootings are planned
Most shootings in Hamilton are not related to traditional organized crime. Some happen in a robbery or drug deal gone wrong, are street gang-related, or a reaction to some sort of conflict. Many happen in a split second.
Mob shootings are different. They’re planned and methodical. Take Angelo Musitano’s murder. Police have said the perpetrators spent months doing sophisticated surveillance of him and his family.
The same trio charged in Angelo’s murder also face charges for the murder of Mila Barberi, shot in a Vaughan parking lot less than two months before Musitano’s killing. She was an innocent bystander accidentally hit with gunfire meant for her boyfriend, Saverio Serrano, who survived.
When Albert Iavarone was killed, his shooter also lay in wait, hidden between his house and a neighbour’s for hours waiting for the 50-year-old to come home. Musitano’s shooter also waited for him to come home.
4) How the mob makes money
Gambling, drugs, extortion and other forms of trafficking. This hasn’t changed much in recent years, except perhaps for the technology used (such as online gambling) and the type of drugs sold (such as fentanyl). Members are often involved in many businesses, ranging from construction, to restaurants to real estate. This mix of legitimate and illegitimate work can make it very difficult to trace money and business relationships without willing witnesses.
5) Lack of co-operation with police
One thing every recent case has in common is the families don’t talk to police. For instance, any communication between the Musitano family and police has gone through lawyer and family friend Dean Paquette.
Hamilton police Det. Sgt. Peter Thom, case manager for all three local mob murders and the attempted murder, has repeatedly raised this issue, complaining about how the lack of co-operation makes it difficult to know what was going on in the lives of the victims. Yet Hamilton police have laid charges in Angelo Musitano’s murder and the attempted murder at Natale Luppino’s home.
After the murder of his younger brother, Angelo, Pat Musitano declined police protection. He declined again after his own house was sprayed with bullets weeks later. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t taking precautions.
His black GMC Denali was armoured. At the shooting scene, the SUV was seen parked just outside the door of his lawyer’s office, with a flat tire and pool of blood beside it.
While Musitano has been seen with bodyguards, none appeared to be with him that morning. There has been some talk that he was in hiding, yet police sources say that’s not true. Pat Musitano may have been more cautious, but was still seen frequently around Hamilton and at his house.
7) Just because things are quiet, doesn’t mean the mob isn’t active
Two decades ago, Pat and Angelo Musitano were accused of ordering the contract killing of Johnny (Pops) Papalia, who was shot May 31, 1997, outside his Galaxy Vending office on Railway Street in Hamilton.
They were also charged with ordering the murder of Papalia’s lieutenant, Niagara Falls mobster Carmen Barillaro, shot in the doorway of his home in July 1997.
Both murders were carried out by former Musitano hit man Ken Murdock. He also confessed to a 1985 drive-by shooting he said was ordered by Pat and Ang’s father, Dominic, who died in 1995 (Pat inherited control of the family business).
In the middle of their preliminary hearing in February 2000, the Musitano brothers entered surprise guilty pleas to the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder of Barillaro alone.
The brothers served two-thirds of their 10-year sentences and were released Oct. 4, 2006. Their parole conditions restricted them from seeing each other — breaching this condition briefly sent Angelo Musitano back to prison.
Then as far the public could tell there was silence.
Nearly a decade passed before the Musitano name made headlines again and then only briefly when Pat’s SUV was torched in his driveway in September 2015. During the time after their release, Angelo got married and had three young boys, and Pat returned home to his wife. After Angelo’s death, friends stepped forward to say he had changed his ways and found God, but police believe he was still involved in the family business.
But it would be naive to think that during all those quiet years between the Musitano brothers coming out of prison and Ang’s murder that the Mafia wasn’t operating. They were just quiet for a time. Not any more.