A Toronto property manager wanted for first-degree murder in last summer’s fatal shooting at a Little Italy ice cream parlour – one of four men accused in the dramatic slaying – appeared briefly in court in St. Catharines Friday on multiple cocaine-related charges after being extradited from Germany.
After two months behind bars in Cologne, where he was arrested Feb. 16, Martino Caputo, 39, was brought back to Ontario Thursday by two Niagara Regional Police officers.
The drug charges and the murder last June of John Raposo are directly connected, police believe.
Defence lawyer Greg Lafontaine, however, said Mr. Caputo will not be pleading guilty to anything.
“It’s our position, based on the evidence we have in our possession by way of the Crown disclosure, that he’ll be able to demonstrate his innocence,” Mr. Lafontaine said after his client’s short hearing Friday, where he was remanded in custody with another court date set for April 25.
He’ll make a separate court appearance in Toronto next week, meanwhile, on the murder charges.
One of the three other people charged in Mr. Raposo’s death on the crowded patio of the Sicilian Sidewalk Café at College Street and Montrose Avenue was a major-league cocaine dealer for whom Mr. Caputo worked, it’s alleged.
Mr. Raposo, 35, was also known to police because of his links to the drug trade.
At his big funeral, he was eulogized as a family man, entrepreneur and doting father.
Police, however, knew him better as a low-level gang leader, at one time the leader of the McCormick Boys, a small west-end crew that bought drugs from Italian-Canadian gangsters and sold them on the street.
“It has always been the opinion of investigators that John Raposo was the victim of a targeted murder,” Staff-Insp. Greg McLane of the homicide squad told reporters in February.
“My understanding is that he was involved in a criminal enterprise with these individuals and as a result he met his demise.”
Mr. Raposo was watching a televised Euro Cup soccer game when he was gunned down by a killer wearing construction gear, including a dust mask, who walked up, shot his victim once in the head with a handgun and then fled, as shocked café patrons looked on.
Eight days later, 26-year-old Dean Wiwchar of Stouffville was arrested and charged with the killing.
Homicide detectives have alleged he was a hit-man hired by the other three accused – Mr. Caputo; reputed drug kingpin Nicola Nero, 36, of Niagara Falls; and Rabih Alkhalil, 25.
Mr. Nero and four other associates were arrested in November after police dismantled an alleged multi-million-dollar cocaine-importing operation and he has been in custody ever since.
The drug charges involved in Mr. Caputo’s Friday court hearing in St. Catharines stem from those arrests.
Of the four men accused of murdering Mr. Raposo, only Mr. Alkhalil is still being sought, although police know where he is.
Like Mr. Caputo, Mr. Alkhalil is alleged to have fled abroad after Mr. Raposo was slain.
He was arrested in Greece in January, and is currently in jail as an extradition application makes its way through the Greek courts.
A property manager with dual Canadian/Italian citizenship, Mr. Caputo had been in Europe since October, said Mr. Lafontaine, who disputed as “mindboggling” claims by Niagara police that Mr. Caputo was travelling on a false passport and was trying to gain entry to Poland when he was picked up in February.
“That’s utterly false, my client was on a day trip from Dusseldorf to Cologne with a companion, and was carrying legitimate Canadian and Italian passports,” Mr. Lafontaine said.
“I’m really, really disappointed in the press release the police issued. The way that was crafted could have all sorts of negative ramifications for my client’s right to a fair trial, it causes there to be an appearance of flight when there is no evidence of flight at all.
“He was travelling, he does a great deal of travelling for pleasure and always has.”
As to how Mr. Caputo is faring now, Mr. Lafontaine said, “He’s doing as well as he can in the circumstances.”