The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Police used BlackBerry messages in sweep against alleged organized crime groups

  • Print

MONTREAL - Police in Quebec say intercepted BlackBerry communications were used to take down two alleged organized crime groups operating in the province.

The RCMP said Thursday more than one million private PIN to PIN messages were intercepted and analyzed as evidence as part of an operation dubbed "Clemenza" that led to 33 arrests on Thursday.

Officials from the RCMP and Montreal Police said it was the first time the investigative technique had been used on such a large scale in a criminal investigation.

"This is the most important interception of this kind performed as part of a major investigation in North America," RCMP Supt. Michel Arcand told a news conference.

"One million messages were intercepted between 2010 and 2012 (and) the investigation also included a complex analysis process."

The RCMP said it would not divulge whether the BlackBerry company aided in their investigation and the firm's media representatives said they were unable speak about "an ongoing police investigation."

Arcand said those intercepts make up the bulk of the evidence used to make the arrests.

PIN messaging allows BlackBerry users to send messages directly between devices over wireless networks, bypassing email servers.

The arrests were aimed at dismantling two cells which police said took over after Operation Colisee in late 2006, an operation aimed at their predecessors, the Rizzuto clan. Many of the top Rizzuto lieutenants were arrested during that sweep.

Police described the cells as linked to Italian-based organized crime in Montreal. One clan was led by now-deceased mob boss Giuseppe De Vito while the other had an association with a group known as the Bastone brothers, police said.

"We were dealing with very dangerous and well-organized crime groups, willing to do anything to achieve their goal and that has the means of their ambitions," said Arcand, who runs the organized crime unit for the Mounties in Quebec.

He said Operation Clemenza established a link between the two networks and a series of violent crimes that were committed in Montreal between October 2010 and February 2012.

De Vito died at the Donnacona federal penitentiary last July while serving a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. A coroner's investigation determined he died of cyanide poisoning. But his clan continued to operate, police said.

Mafia expert Antonio Nicaso says the De Vito group, now apparently led by Giuseppe Fetta and Alessandro Sucapace and the other group headed by Bastone brothers, Antonio and Roberto, tried to capitalize on the vacuum created after by turmoil in the Rizzuto operation.

All four men were among those arrested on Thursday.

"They were extremely violent," Nicaso said, describing the two cells as "the next generation of organized crime," who were very aggressive and very sophisticated, relying on modern technology much more than their predecessors.

But their ultimate goal was the same.

"Their goal was to control the territory, to extort money from restaurant owners and to sell narcotics, but they were using an extremely violent strategy," Nicaso said.

Nicaso also said it was "very likely" there would be another turf war after the latest arrests, as new groups move in to fill the void.

The organized crime expert also warned there could be trouble when people arrested under Operation Colisee are eventually freed.

Thursday's arrests took place in Montreal, Quebec City, Laval and Gatineau. Police said one suspect remained on the lam.

Some 200 officers took part in the operation under the guidance of the RCMP's Quebec detachment.

The accused face different charges that include gangsterism, conspiracy, drug importation, trafficking, possession, kidnapping, forcible confinement, possession of weapons and explosives, arson, extortion and assault.

In total, police say more than 80 charges were filed in court and police said they were to appear on Thursday.

Police also seized more than a dozen high-powered weapons that included several submachine guns, shotguns and semi-automatic pistols.

Montreal police say they discovered the weapons and explosives during a search of a warehouse just east of the city in 2011 while acting on an anonymous tip.

Follow @Peter_R_Space on Twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jaws of life used to free two people after two-car collision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A water lily in full bloom is reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will higher pork prices change your grocery-shopping habits?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google