Hamilton

Why the Musitano and Vaughan shooting deaths may not be connected: mafia expert

That two deaths share the same shooter doesn’t guarantee that last year’s mistaken slaying of a GTA woman and the high-profile death of infamous Hamilton mobster Angelo Musitano are truly linked, a leading mafia expert says.

Police believe the same shooter killed mobster Angelo Musitano and GTA woman Mila Barberi

Angelo Musitano (right) and Pat Musitano leaving Provincial Court for lunch in 1998. Angelo was killed in a targeted shooting outside his home last year. (Hamilton Spectator)

That two deaths share the same shooter doesn't guarantee that last year's mistaken slaying of a GTA woman and the high-profile death of infamous Hamilton mobster Angelo Musitano are truly linked, a leading Mafia expert says.

In fact, all we know is just that — that the same person is a suspect in both crimes. Any theories about larger mob involvement are just guesses, said Antonio Nicaso, who teaches about organized crime at Queen's University.

"It's quite possible that the same shooter has been used for both cases," Nicaso said. "There are people willing to provide service to criminal organizations in the GTA, more than what we used to have before."

It's likely the shooter is long gone, he says, leaving police to play catch up.

"You have to understand that criminal organizations don't send a press release. So basically, we have to guess. We have to understand the signs."

Hamilton police say this vehicle was used by the suspect accused of shooting mobster Angelo Musitano. (Hamilton police)

Homicide investigators announced in late January that a number of characteristics link the shootings of Mila Barberi in March 2017 and Musitano in May 2017.

Barberi, 28, was killed while she sat, in the middle of the afternoon, in a BMW SUV outside a business in an industrial area of Vaughan, Ont. She was picking up her boyfriend, a 40-year-old man who police have declined to identify.

Musitano, 39, was gunned down a few months later while he sat in his pickup truck in the driveway of his home in Waterdown, Ont. His family was inside the house when he was killed.

A nearly identical profile

The suspect in each shooting has a nearly identical physical profile and a black Honda Civic Coupe has been connected to both crimes, said Det.-Sgt. Jim Killby of York Regional Police. Similarly, a "sophisticated and extensive" surveillance operation by the suspect and associates preceded both homicides.

It's possible that two separate people or organizations ordered hits using the same shooter, Nicaso said. Regardless, the man responsible is likely long gone.

"If I'm from, lets say, British Columbia, or if I'm from another province, and I don't have any criminal record, you think I really care about my face being posted in Ontario?" Nicaso said. "Or I may just not be in Ontario anymore. There are so many questions, and unfortunately, they just don't have an answer.

"But if the guy was from Ontario, of course, after that, he would go to another province."

The problem here, Nicaso says, is that local police don't have the intelligence they once had on the mob, as funding shifted into national security as a priority in recent years.

A power vacuum

An RCMP-led joint forces unit that once proactively investigated organized crime in Hamilton and Niagara was disbanded several years ago. Funds and resources have instead moved to Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, or INSET.

"I don't know if they are investing like they used to do in intelligence. To investigate a criminal organization, you need to invest in intelligence. That's the only way that you can try to solve a case," Nicaso said.

Mila Barberi, originally from Vaughan, was found on Caster Avenue near Highway 407 and Weston Road and was pronounced dead after being transported to hospital. (Facebook)

That, coupled with the fall of the Rizzuto crime family, have created a power vacuum where freelance hitmen can flourish, and more easily be hired, Nicaso says.

Vito Rizzuto, known as the Teflon Don, pleaded guilty in an American court to racketeering charges in 2007 in exchange for a 10-year sentence in connection with the 1981 murders of three alleged gang leaders at a New York social club.

He died of natural causes in 2013, 15 months after his release from a Colorado prison. The two families were aligned in the 1990s, giving protection to the Musitanos.

"There is a power vacuum. There is a sense that everyone now can make a move in Canada," Nicaso said.

"This void gives anyone the ability to move, to do something."

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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Adam Carter

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Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.