The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say 18 organizations have combined to take down a major illegal gaming enterprise allegedly operated by and linked to members of known criminal organizations, including the Hells Angels.
At a news conference, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique and other law enforcement officials unveiled the outcome of a complex multijurisdictional investigation.
The OPP says Project Hobart began in January 2018 following an increase in violent incidents across Ontario and Quebec. Such incidents, which police say occurred between August 2017 and May 2018, included attempted murders, arsons, extortion threats, shootings and assaults.
“Criminal organizations and the hallmarks of their illegal enterprises – gun violence, deaths, assaults and the extraordinary amount of money that fuel further criminal acts continue to threaten public safety,” Carrique said in a statement.
“Police and partner agencies will continue to fully collaborate and aggressively target the ring leaders, their associates, and their lavish criminal lifestyle to make our cities and towns safer.”
Police say the project targeted the alleged illegal gaming criminal organization controlled by three known members and one ‘prospect’ of the Hell’s Angels outlaw motorcycle gang – specifically Robert Barletta, Craig McIlquham, Eugenio (‘Gino’) Reda and Raffaele Simonelli.
Police say that over the course of the investigation, a “known member of Hells Angels” and a purported member of the allegedly illegal gaming criminal organization–Michael Deabaitua-Schulde–was murdered in March of 2019 as he left a Mississauga gym.
The broader investigation and active takedowns last week involved members of OPP, the RCMP, London Police Service, Niagara Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, Peel Regional Police, Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service, Hamilton Police Service, Durham Regional Police Service, Sault Ste. Marie Police, Barrie Police, Canada Border Services Agency, Stratford Police Service, Woodstock Police Service, the Sûreté du Québec and FINTRAC – the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.
During the investigation at a land-based gaming house in Mississauga, police allegedly identified five sophisticated illegal gaming websites controlled by the Barletta/McIlquham/Reda enterprise.
Police say the website names are Ultimate SB, Titan SB, PlaytoWin SB, Privada SB and Players SB.
Police say that from Jan. 1, 2019, to the beginning of July 2019, the sportsbook associated with Hells Angels brought in approximately $13 million in gaming revenue.
“The investigation suggests the sportsbooks have been in operation for more than five years and have brought in gross revenues of more than $131 million,” the OPP say.
The OPP say police linked the operators of this illegal gaming organization to the Figliomeni crime family, as unveiled in July 2019 by the York Regional Police-led Project Sindicato joint forces investigation.
During the search warrants executed last week, police allegedly seized seven residences and two vacation properties valued at just over $8.1-million; financial accounts holding a total of more than $1.2-million; 18 vehicles; including luxury and vintage automobiles, three Harley Davidson motorcycles, two snowmobiles and two golf carts; more than $1.7 million in cash; multiple gold and silver coins and bars valued at $320,000; many high-end luxury watches and jewellery valued at $303,000; a total of 21 firearms, including nine illegal handguns, six rifles, three shotguns and three other handguns; Hells Angels motorcycle gang ‘colours’; two conducted energy weapons; and Several ballistic vests.
As a result of this ongoing investigation, police have charged 28 people with 228 offences, including committing offences for a criminal organization, bookmaking, money laundering, tax evasion and more.
People facing charges include 53-year-old Mississauga man Serafino Barone, 42-year-old Mississauga man Ralph Elammar, 60-year-old Mississauga man Dimitris Kellesis, 45-year-old Mississauga man Raffaele Simonelli, 60-year-old Oakville man Steve Clayton, 42-year-old Oakville man John Daher, 49-year-old man Craig McIlquham, 42-year-old Oakville man Atillio Montaleone, 49-year-old Milton man Sam Parker, 36-year-old Burlington man Travis Gibson, and 34-year-old Burlington resident Eweina Michalowszi.
Police say the Canada Revenue Agency is also investigating.
The majority of the accused have already appeared or are scheduled to appear in court over the next four weeks.