Comedy·HE COULDN'T REFUSE

Mafia mom still does adult son's money laundering

When Karen Tollini’s son Christopher comes home for Sunday dinner, she spoils him with homemade pasta, bottomless wine, and by passing his illegal income through a complex web of shell companies for him.

MONTREAL, QC—When Karen Tollini's son Christopher comes home for Sunday dinner, she spoils him with homemade pasta, bottomless wine, and by passing his illegal income through a complex web of shell companies for him.

Mrs. Tollini owns and operates De T'Argent, a laundromat in Saint-Henri that she uses to transform her family's criminal profits into business revenue, and countless glow-in-the-dark quarters.

She says that with such a steep learning curve, money laundering wasn't always easy.

"Ten years ago," she said, "the Canada Revenue Agency got suspicious about a Quebec laundromat pulling in seven figures, but they haven't returned since we became an Apple Authorized Reseller."

Mrs. Tollini first got involved in the laundering process when four-year-old Christopher would come home with items stolen from other children.

"I'd re-gift the toys to Christopher for his birthday," she recalls. "Sometimes he even got to open the gift in front of the same child he stole from. It was incredible seeing the horrified look on their little nerd faces!"

Mrs. Tollini would slip stolen lunch money into Christopher's birthday card from his confused grandmother, who was sure she had put only ten dollars in the card and not the $428.50 that he pulled out.

Now that he's older, Mrs. Tollini's son can come home with up to three hampers full of soiled cash. In the past, white powders or dark stains raised unwanted questions about the money's origins, so she now hand-washes each bill.

"I even used to iron them!" she explains, "you can fit more flat-ironed bills inside an unmarked briefcase, and my offshore guy only takes tidy briefcases. Plus, as the saying goes, you're not an organized criminal without an organized briefcase."

However, she had to stop the ironing after Canada's switch to polymer bills.

"I had melted several thousand dollars before realizing my mistake!" she said with a laugh. Despite the loss, she prefers the polymer bills, since the stain-resistant plastic means she can easily wipe off each suspicious fluid.

Mrs. Tollini does the money laundering for her whole household, including her husband, Stavros, a hedge-fund manager who is, by his own accord, allergic to paying taxes to the point that it causes him anaphylaxis.

After her son's recent engagement, she expects to share money-laundering duties with his new fiancée, Tammy. "To welcome her into the family," says Mrs. Tollini, "we plan on starting a mid-sized corruption comp – sorry, construction company later this year."

Though Christopher's co-conspirators tease him relentlessly about being a "momma's boy", he is just grateful to call such a cunning woman "Ma", after their hero Niccolò Machiavelli.

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About the Author

Lexa Graham is a Toronto comedian and writer with a Master’s degree in Engineering. She has written for Reductress, CBC Comedy, and has also had her research published in The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering. You can catch her in Toronto every week hosting and producing Hard Day Comedy, a female-forward stand up show.