Warning to Musitano family member means more Mafia crime coming to Hamilton: experts

Guisseppe "Pino" Avignone's home was the target of what experts say is a bold message from the Mafia, after his cars were torched and the word "rat" was painted on his garage. It may also be a sign of more impending mob crime.

Death of Pat Musitano and warning to Guisseppe Avignone indicates 'chaos in the mob'

Guisseppe "Pino" Avignone's home was the target of what experts say is a bold message from the Mafia, after his cars were torched and the word "rat" was painted on his garage. It may also be a sign of more impending mob crime. (David Ritchie)

Mafia experts say Guisseppe "Pino" Avignone's cars being burned and garage being painted with the word 'rat' on Friday are a bold warning from mobsters that he is being targeted.

"Avignone is in serious trouble right now," James Dubro, who has written extensively about the Mafia in Ontario, told CBC News.

Dubro and other experts say it may also foreshadow a future of continued mob violence in Hamilton.

Musitano's death raised questions

Dubro also said with a clear message painted on his garage, Avignone's options are limited — he either becomes a police informant or tries to fend off attempts on his life.

But Dubro and other experts think that Avignone likely didn't have many options before his cousin, infamous Hamilton mob boss 52-year-old Pat Musitano, was gunned down in a Burlington, Ont. strip mall.

Musitano was with longtime family enforcer John Clary, 77, and Avignone, 59, when he was shot to death.

"If you had to have one or two bodyguards, these wouldn't be the two you have," Dubro said.

Pat Musitano died in broad daylight on July 10 after being shot in Burlington, Ont. His death all but snuffs out his family, one of Hamilton's original mob groups. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Musitano had a target on his back for years — he was wounded in a 2019 shooting and had his home sprayed with bullets in 2017.

But death out in the open, on a bright, sunny day, seemed odd to experts.

"The place where Musitano was killed was very unlikely to be found out by chance, so there was already a question about how the killer knew where Musitano was on that specific moment and day," Anna Sergi, a criminologist from the University of Essex who has deeply studied mob families, told CBC News.

The swift and brazen threat at Avignone's home, exactly seven days after Musitano's killing, are a sign that mobsters think Avignone either betrayed Musitano for another gang or broke the rule of omertà — the Mafia's code of silence — and is speaking with law enforcement.

"But it's all conjecture," Sergi said.

Police have not named Aviogne as a suspect. Asgar Manek, Avignone's lawyer, previously told CBC News his client has "not pointed the finger" when accused of crimes and is not a "rat."

Pat Musitano (left) and his brother, Angelo, leaving Provincial Court for lunch in 1998. Pat was killed roughly a week ago while Angelo was killed in 2017. (Hamilton Spectator)

Avignone and the Musitanos also have a close and long history, with Avignone serving time for his role in the family's hit on Domenic Racco in the 1980s.

But experts say even the killing of Pat's brother Angelo Musitano, who was shot dead outside his home in 2017, may have raised doubts about Avignone's loyalty.

"These guys don't usually give warnings," Paul Manning, a former undercover Hamilton Police officer, told CBC News.

'Volatile' mob scene in Hamilton

Experts say mob violence in Hamilton isn't over. If rivals think there are more of the Musitano crime family around, they may try to kill them. There may also be people looking to avenge victims from past mob violence in Hamilton, like Cece Luppino and Al Iavarone.

With two Musitano brothers dead, a long-time enforcer in hospital and a cousin inside crosshairs, there is more incentive from other crime families to continue closing in on Hamilton.

"You take one of the three or four larger Calabrian families in the Hamilton area and obviously, there's a change ... it indicates a bit of chaos in the mob," Dubro said.

Musitano's killers may try to take over — but no one can prove who is responsible yet.

"This was a power play, Manning said.

There are still other local gangs in the area, with the Violis and Luppinos who may try to take action, but stronger crime families from outside the region may wrestle for territory.

With Hamilton being in arm's reach of Toronto, Niagara and Buffalo, experts say Siderno groups in the Greater Toronto Area have a potential opening to claim the city's drug routes, gambling operations and expand south of the border.

That move would position them to be near the top of Canada's underworld and give them leverage against the Rizzuto crime family in Montreal. 

"What you have here is a volatile situation," Dubro said.

Much of the recent mob violence came after the death of the former head of the Montreal Mafia, Vito Rizzuto.

The Musitano crime family was aligned with the Rizzuto family, but Vito's death opened a void in Montreal and left the Musitanos to fend for themselves.


Bobby Hristova


Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca