Friday, July 12, 2013

Suspected mob hit man ID’d as victim in brazen Vaughan stag party murder

One of the two men killed in the targeted shooting outside a bachelor party north of Toronto early Friday was long suspected by police of being a Mafia hit man because of his many links to past shootings and killings.

Despite the suspected links, Salvatore Calautti, 41, of Toronto, who often went by the nickname Sam, managed to avoid charges or gain acquittals when evidence mounted.

Killed alongside him was James Tusek, 35, also of Toronto.

The two men were shot dead as they left a large stag party in Vaughan that was attended by many known and suspected mobsters from the area.

Despite as many as 150 guests still being at the bachelor party when police arrived, investigators are having trouble finding co-operating witnesses to the shooting. As many as 500 people are thought to have attended at the stag’s peak.

One of the men, likely the primary target of the killers, was shot in the head inside a black SUV. He was already dead when police arrived. The other victim was reportedly shot in the stomach and chest and died later in hospital.

Officers were first called about problems at the party just after 1 a.m., Friday, by a caller saying there was a weapon at the scene. Arriving at Terrace Banquet Centre, an opulent rental hall on Creditstone Road, officers found two men with obvious signs of violence in the parking lot outside.

David Ritchie for National Post
One likely the primary target, was shot in the head inside a black SUV. He was already dead when police arrived
“Our homicide unit was deployed. Investigators determined they were shot outside a private function, described as a bachelor or stag party,” said Sgt. Whitney.
I can say that we do not believe that the shootings were random and it does appear the deceased were targeted
A large stag party was held at a rented banquet centre starting Thursday evening. Such sprawling, ticketed events have become a rite of passage for many well-to-do young men in the area, a few of whom have ties to organized crime clans that have long and deep roots in the region. When a gangster, mob associate or a gangster’s son, nephew or future son-in-law is getting married, tickets are aggressively sold to raise money for the would-be groom.

Thursday’s party attracted many men from the Woodbridge area and surrounding communities of Vaughan who are linked by police to traditional organized crime, the term law enforcement uses for the Italian Mafia, although there is no indication the organizers were of particular, high-value interest to police.
J.P. Moczulski for National Post
Despite more than 150 guests still being at the party at The Terrace banquet hall in Vaughan when police arrived, investigators are having trouble finding cooperating witnesses to the shooting
York police could not yet confirm whether the shooting is tied to organized crime.

“I know when something like this happens it spurs all of our imaginations. I can say that we do not believe that the shootings were random and it does appear the deceased were targeted,” said Sgt. Whitney.

The shooting seems strikingly brazen, and not only because it took place less than 250 metres from York police’s District Four headquarters at the corner of Creditstone and Rutherford Road.

Because tickets to these stags are typically professionally printed and distributed for sale in the community, police often know about them in advance and stake them out with surveillance teams to get photos and video of who is there and who is talking with whom.

J.P. Moczulski for National Post
Police investigators comb the area surround the Terrace banquet hall in Vaughan Friday. 
The more savvy of gangsters know this and have been known to spot the intelligence officers skulking in vans or cars and wave smugly to them in the acknowledged cat-and-mouse games gangsters and cops both play.

Some high profile gangsters buy a couple of tickets and send an envelope of money as a gift to the groom with an associate who passes along his boss’s regrets at not being able to attend personally.
Sgt. Whitney said he did not know whether this stag was under surveillance by police.

If it was, it is unlikely officers would have stayed watching it until the end, unless they had an operative working inside the stag undercover.

Police are appealing for anyone who attended the party or who were in the area around the time of the shooting to contact police to aid in their investigation.

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