Martin Carrier was a Quebec City tiler who learned one winter night in 2004 that he had crossed a dangerous line.
His phone rang and the caller asked whether Mr. Carrier had recently done a job in Montreal. Yes, Mr. Carrier replied.
"We'd like you to stop coming here for work," the man said. "Because next time, you won't leave from here, okay? You've been warned."
It isn't clear what happened next to Mr. Carrier, but the threatening call was intercepted on a police wiretap and filed in court - part of a shocking picture of mob intimidation that can now be reported after the guilty pleas yesterday of six Montreal underworld bosses.
They pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to traffic drugs, extort, and run illegal bookmaking, and possession of illegal cash and goods. According to court documents, the men formed a committee of caretaker leaders for Vito Rizzuto.
Mr. Rizzuto, Canada's most powerful Mafia godfather, is serving a racketeering sentence in the United States. Among those who pleaded guilty was Mr. Rizzuto's 84-year-old father, Nicolo (Nick). He is the oldest top mobster in Canada to be convicted on such serious offences, according to author Pierre de Champlain, a former RCMP intelligence analyst.
With Vito Rizzuto behind bars since 2004, his father and the five others who pleaded guilty - Rocco Sollecito, Paolo Renda, Francesco Arcadi, Francesco Del Balso and Lorenzo Giordano - have been the organization's ranking kingpins, the documents say. The six men struck a bargain with the Crown that had them plead guilty to 21 charges, dozens fewer than they originally faced.
Mr. Sollecito, 60, Mr. Arcadi, 54, Mr. Del Balso, 38, and Mr. Giordano, 45, pleaded guilty to the most serious charges of smuggling, racketeering and extortion. Vito Rizzuto and his 69-year-old brother-in-law, Mr. Renda, admitted two counts of possessing profits from organized crime.
The sentences negotiated in the plea bargain will be revealed at a hearing Oct. 16.
"It serves the interest of justice and the interest of the public to avoid a lengthy and costly trial," said federal prosecutor Yvan Poulin after a brief court hearing. Mr. Poulin said he will seek hefty seizures of cash and property.
Dozens of cases are still pending from the 2004 bust and scores of arrests that ended the police operation known as Project Colisée.
Evidence against the six kingpins presented at their bail hearing this summer includes stories of a hedge-fund manager getting beaten up in a boardroom, and of an insurance broker being driven to suicide, his widow having to remortgage her home to pay the gang.
The wiretaps also record instances where restaurants or cafés were wrecked for failing to buy coffee from a gang-approved supplier.
"You tell him that you can be in his bar for 24 hours a day. As soon as you see a different package of coffee ... you tell him I'll break down the whole place," one mobster said on the phone.
During a four-year investigation, the RCMP penetrated the group's inner sanctum, hiding cameras in the Consenza Social Club where the leaders held court. On 191 occasions, the police cameras recorded the group's leaders counting cash and dividing it among themselves.
According to RCMP affidavits, hundreds of kilograms of cocaine were imported through Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport, where baggage handlers, food-services employees and even customs agents were on the gang payroll. The traffickers got a supply of prestamped customs declaration cards that enabled their cocaine-carrying couriers to avoid luggage inspection.
Another major revenue source, according to the affidavits, was an online sports bookmaking outlet, with computer servers first based in Belize, then in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake.
Between October, 2004, and mid-March, 2006, the gambling operation raked in $26.9-million, police said.
Bettors who owed money faced the wrath of the gang.
"I want my fucking money today or Lorenzo said he's gonna grab you, he's gonna fucking turn you into a pretzel. And don't fuck with him bro," Mr. Del Balso warned Bruce, a gambler who owed $112,000.
"Listen to me, go get a 112 dimes and save yourself a beating of your life," Bruce was told at 10:21 a.m. By 5:23 p.m., he had paid up.
The affidavit says John Xanthoudakis, CEO of the failed hedge fund Norshield Financial Group, was beaten up by three underlings of Mr. Del Balso who said he owed them $5-million.
Court evidence shows that the gang looked for Magdi Samaan, an insurance broker and financial adviser, whom they accused of defrauding 400 investors in Montreal's Italian community.
Even before Mr. Samaan's wife told Mr. Del Balso that her husband had killed himself, wiretaps showed that the organization had forced her to remortgage her home to the benefit of the gang.
Sometimes the violence came against associates of the organization, such as Frank Faustini, an Air Canada employee who is among those charged with helping the gang import cocaine through Trudeau airport.
The RCMP affidavit says Mr. Faustini, who owed $800,000 in gambling debts, was ordered to meet Mr. Giordano and Mr. Del Balso.
Later, in a phone call, Mr. Faustini told Mr. Del Balso he would get $200,000 the next day. He also complained his nose was broken and his teeth were bashed out.
Wiretaps show the repayment was blocked by Richard (Slick) Griffin, a man with ties to the West End Gang, a syndicate of Quebec mobsters of Irish origin. Mr. Griffin claimed he, too, was owed money.
The following month, Mr. Griffin died in front of his home in a hail of more than 40 bullets.
Some, however, were in the good grace of the Rizzutos.
In 2003, someone stole the new Cadillac Escalade SUV of real-estate developer Terry Pomerantz. A police wiretap recorded Mr. Pomerantz calling Vito Rizzuto at 12:39 a.m., seeking help. By the next afternoon, the car was returned.