Papalia crime family

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Papalia crime family
Founded 1940s
Founded by Antonio Papalia
Founding location Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Years active 1940s–?
Territory Various neighborhoods over Hamilton and Toronto; in Delianuova and Platì, Calabria and Buccinasco, Milan
Ethnicity People of Italian descent as "made men", and other ethnicities as "associates"
Criminal activities Racketeering, loan sharking, money laundering, gambling, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud and prostitution
Allies Buffalo crime family
Barbaro 'ndrina
Rivals Musitano crime family and various gangs in Hamilton

The Papalia crime family is a 'Ndrangheta organization based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, as well as Platì in Southern Italy and Buccinasco in Northern Italy. The Papalia clan that operate in Italy have alliances with the Barbaro 'ndrina, while the Papalia clan in Canada is one of three centralized Mafia organizations in Hamilton the other two being the Musitano crime family and the Luppino crime family.[1] The Papalias had strong connections with the Buffalo crime family of Buffalo, New York under long-reigning boss Johnny Papalia.



Antonio Papalia was a bootlegger with early Picciotteria values, who immigrated from Delianuova, Calabria, Italy to Canada in 1912.[2] His father became associated with Calabrian compatriot and notorious bootlegger Rocco Perri. However, he was suspected in playing a role in the murder of Perri's wife Bessie Starkman in 1930.[3] It is also believed Antonio and his son Johnny Papalia, along with Stefano Magaddino of Buffalo played a role in Perri's disappearance in 1944 after Perri left members of his Mafia crew "slighted", though both cases remain unsolved.[4] Antonio's wife, Maria Rosa Italiano also came from a Mafia family, the Italiano clan, who also participated in Perri's gang.[4]

In the early 1960s Johnny Papalia became boss of the family and played a large role in the French Connection, a smuggling operation that supplied over 80 percent of America’s heroin market between the 1960s and 1970s – developing strong connections with the Buffalo crime family.[5] Johnny was extradited to the United States for trial in 1962 for his role in the French Connection heroin smuggling ring, found guilty and sentenced to 10 years.[2] In 1968, after serving less than half the sentence, he was released from a United States prison and sent back to Canada.[2]

Johnny, the oldest brother to Frank, Rocco and Dominic, half-brothers Joseph and Angelo, brother-in-law Tony Pugliese, and associates, all worked in running his clubs and gambling operations.[4]

While Johnny was in jail for an extortion conviction, police focused their attention on his brother Frank. In the summer of 1979, police pulled Frank over to ask questions about possible drinking and driving in hopes he would refuse a breathalyzer test, charge him, and impound his car to install wiretaps.[4] Frank did refuse, fined $150, his licence suspended for three months and his car taken to impound, where it was worked on by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. A court authorization also allowed for the implementation of wiretaps at the Papalias' businesses on Railway Street in Hamilton and consigliere Bruno Monaco's car while parked at Toronto Pearson International Airport.[4] Through the wiretap planted in his car, Frank was heard procuring a woman—Shirley Ryce, a previous mistress of Frank—for the Papalias' lawyer Clive Bynoe to have sex with.[4] Baynoe was identified by the Ontario Provincial Police in April 1980 and brought in for questioning, where he confessed the sexual favours made available by the Papalias. Police also identified Ryce a month later and also admitted to being paid by the Papalias for sexual favours, agreeing to cooperate with police by placing a tape recorder in her purse.[4] With her gathered recordings, trial began in the summer of 1981, where Frank and Papalia lieutenant Steve Koaches pleaded guilty to obstructing justice, and in return, Frank's prostitution charge was dropped. Frank was fined $2000 and Koaches jailed for four months.[4]

Also in late 1979, the wiretaps allowed police to raid homes and businesses for files in a defrauding case. Frank, Rocco, Koaches and Monaco were all arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government of $50,000.[4] However, at the trial, the defence questioned the validity of the wiretap evidence. In late 1981 and early 1982, the trial was halted, and a second trial the following year saw them acquitted. In October 1990, 11 years after the police raids, the charges were withdrawn after the Crown Attorney disallowed the recorded wiretap evidence.[4]

Johnny Papalia was shot dead on May 31, 1997, at the age of 73, in the parking lot outside his vending machine business on 20 Railway Street in Hamilton by hitman Kenneth Murdock claimed to be ordered by Angelo and Pat Musitano of the Musitano crime family who owed money to Papalia.[6] Murdock also killed Johnny's right-hand man Carman Barillaro two months later. In November 1998, Murdock pleaded guilty to three counts of second degree murder, was sentenced to life imprisonment, and named Pat and Angelo as the men who had ordered the murders; he was released on parole after serving 13 years.[7][8][9][10][6] The Musitano's pleaded guilty to conspiracy of Barillaro's death, but not Papalia's, receiving a 10 year sentence in February 2000, but were released in October 2006.[10][6]

In March 2014, close Papalia family associate Daniel Gasbarrini died at the age of 93.[11]

Frank Papalia died of natural causes in April 2014 at the age of 83.[12]


Domenico Papalia, Johnny Papalia's first cousin, was a boss in the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria. He was involved in at least five kidnappings and convicted for the 1976 murder of rival mobster Antonio D'Agostino.[4] In the 1970s, a branch of the Papalia family relocated their operations from Platì to Buccinasco near Milan. Another two first cousins of Johnny, Antonio and Rocco Papalia, used ransom money from kidnppings to buy large shipments of drugs for export. In 1993, authorities seized a house, factory, land, cars and businesses that belonged to Antonio and Rocco, worth over $40 million.[4] The Papalias also operated with the Barbaro 'ndrina in the north–south operation, also having connections stretching to Australia.

Further reading

  • Humphreys, Adrian. The Enforcer:Johnny Pops Papalia, A Life and Death in the Mafia. Toronto, Canada: Harper Collins, 1999. ISBN 0-00-200016-4


  1. ^ "Unease as mobsters set free". National Post. Archived from the original on June 29, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "The shot heard around the underworld". Ottawa Citizen. 7 June 1998. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  3. ^ "The murder of Bessie - part 4". 6 January 2005.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Humphreys, Adrian (1999). The Enforcer:Johnny Pops Papalia, A Life and Death in the Mafia. Toronto: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-200016-4.
  5. ^ "7 CANADIAN GANGSTERS". 11 January 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "Mafia hitman reveals his code for killings". 13 August 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  7. ^ "Parole of convicted mob killer notorious for his explosive temper tested by road raging motorist". 9 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Hitman out on full parole". Niagara Falls Review.
  9. ^ "Kenny Murdock, mob-boss Papalia's killer, gets new identity". 28 July 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Brothers plead guilty in mob murder case". 5 February 2000. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  11. ^ "Reputed Mafia Boss dies at home at age 93". 13 March 2014.
  12. ^ "Frank Papalia was 'the rock' of Hamilton mafia family". 18 April 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
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