How a gang of millennial mobsters is shaking up Canada's crime scene
The Wolfpack is young, diverse, tech-savvy, and one of Canada's most notorious gangs
Veteran Mexican journalist and crime analyst Luis Horacio Nájera knows just how deadly run-ins with cartels can be.
"I can tell you that 12 journalists that I met with, worked with or [had] some sort of professional relationship [with] had been murdered," he told The Current's Matt Galloway.
When he and his family moved to Vancouver in 2008, he thought he was leaving behind the threats they'd received after his own investigative work into organized crime. But he soon realized that his new home also had a big problem with organized crime — just in a different way.
"They don't have boots on the ground. They don't have, like, these caravans of armoured trucks and guns," he said. "You don't see that here, but they are here."
According to Nájera, one of Canada's most notorious gangs is the Wolfpack Alliance, which he described as a group of ethnically-diverse and geographically-dispersed millennials, who traffic cocaine north from Mexico.
Nájera and fellow crime reporter Peter Edwards — who has written for the Toronto Star for more than 30 years — shed light on the Canadian criminal group in their new book, The Wolfpack: The Millennial Mobsters Who Brought Chaos and the Cartels to the Canadian Underworld.
"They're smart accountants, smart people, smart with chemistry, and not the thugs that you'd imagine," Edwards said.
Not your typical organized criminals
The resulting murder trial heard that Raposo was involved in a drug deal with the Wolfpack, but was killed over unsubstantiated rumours he was a police informer.
In 2018, four men were found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the shooting. One of those men was Rabih Alkhalil, who Edwards called the "top level brains" of the Wolfpack. Alkhalil was 25 when he arrested for the crime in 2013.
"Very smart, very mobile and very ruthless. [He's] someone who you just don't want to get on the wrong side of," Edwards said.
According to Edwards, Alkhalil broke with the norms of organized crime families that came before him.
"When you cover a mob funeral, some of the people at the funeral would be responsible for putting the guy in the casket," Edwards said. "They tried to stay friendly with the family, even after they killed a family member."
"The Wolfpack guys, they just don't care."
Edwards added that Alkhalil wasn't quick to forgive members who were rumoured to be leaking information to the authorities, whether they actually were or not.
"At one point, someone accused one of his members of speaking to police, and he said: 'My men don't do that. If they did, I'd kill their families — and they know it,'" Edwards said. "And he wasn't joking. It wasn't bravado."
'Some of the stuff is just kind of cartoonish'
But Edwards said Alkhalil might be the only brain in the group. Nicola Nero, for instance, is known for being "about as smart as a bag of hair," Edwards said.
Nero was also one of the four men charged with killing Raposo, and as Edwards explained, he inadvertently ratted out his colleagues to the police by leaving a sticky note with his password on it in his apartment in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. That allowed Niagara Regional Police investigators to get into the encrypted messages sent between the group, Edwards said, adding it revealed "a goldmine of information."
On top of incriminating members in various crimes, the messages also revealed personal information such as the love lives of individual members.
"Some of the stuff is just kind of cartoonish," Edwards said.
Both Alkhalil and Nero are currently behind bars for Raposo's murder, along with Martino Caputo and Dean Wiwchar. Their convictions carry automatic life sentences without parole eligibility for 25 years.
The Wolfpack is diverse, young, tech-savvy
Edwards said the Wolfpack's diversity distinguishes it from most other organized crime groups such as the Hells Angels.
"The Hells Angels used to be … very, very hard to get into if you weren't white," he said. "There are a lot of groups [that] break down by racial lines, and the Wolfpack doesn't."
According to Nájera, this diversity allows the group to operate from a variety of different locations across North America.
"In the past, you had these consolidated, sometimes regional groups," he said, noting that mafias and cartels have a distinct area of location. But the tech-savvy Wolfpack don't need to live in the same area, because they can "take advantage of the internet," Nájera said.
As well as communicating through encrypted messages, Edwards said they use "little compartments that are X-ray-proof" to hide cocaine shipments inside trucks hauling legitimate goods.
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While in the past, criminal organizations have avoided technology to stay as discreet as possible, Nájera said groups like the Wolfpack are "adapting and adopting" new technology, even using it to bring more attention to their group's works.
It's exactly why the killing of Raposo happened in a public space in Toronto's Little Italy, as opposed to a private, discrete area at night, according to Edwards.
"They wanted it to be seen. They wanted it to be talked about. They wanted it to make a splash on the internet," he said.
This is why for all of the cartoonish characters and antics, Nájera doesn't see the Wolfpack as something to sneer at.
"The Wolfpack is the present and the future of organized crime," he said.
Written by Mouhamad Rachini. Produced by Howard Goldenthal.