Martin Carrier was a Quebec City tiler who learned one winter night of 2004 that he had crossed a dangerous line.
His phone rang and the caller asked if Mr. Carrier recently did 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 following the guilty plea Thursday of six Montreal underworld bosses.
The men pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to traffic drugs, extort, run illegal bookmaking and the possession of illegal cash and goods.
The men formed a committee of caretaker leaders since Vito Rizzuto, Canada's most powerful Mafia godfather, started serving a racketeering sentence in the United States.
Among those who pleaded guilty was Mr. Rizzoto'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, according to court documents.
The six men struck a bargain with the Crown, which saw 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, Paolo 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 dozens 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 board room, and of an insurance broker being driven to suicide, his widow having to re-mortgage 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.
RCMP infiltrated group over four years
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 kilos of cocaine were imported through Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, where baggage handlers, food-services employees and even customs agents were on gang payroll.
The traffickers got a supply of pre-stamped 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 computers 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, the 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.
Another victim was Gad Bitton, president of the car-leasing firm that supplied Ferraris, Porsches and BMWs to gang members, who had complained to a credit company that an associate of Mr. Del Balso was late in his payments.
Mr. Del Balso is heard talking about sending two men to see Mr. Bitton and "crack his face," adding that they had to make sure to break their victim's dental braces.
John Xanthoudakis, CEO of the failed hedge fund Norshield Financial Group, also got in trouble with the organization.
In November 2005, the affidavit says, he was beaten up during a meeting at a law firm office on Place Ville Marie where three men said he owed them $5 million.
Wiretaps of Mr. Del Balso's calls showed that someone kept him updated about the meeting and told him the businessman's face "opened like a pancake" and that he "was pissing blood over there" and might need a dozen stitches.
Mr. Xanthoudakis later declined to file a police complaint.
His problems pale next to those of Magdi Samaan, an insurance broker and financial adviser.
Gang members talked about Mr. Samaan as a fraudster who had taken advantage of 400 investors in Montreal's Italian community.
Wiretaps showed people looking for him from hotel to hotel. Mr. Samaan's wife later told Mr. Del Balso that her husband had been found dead from suicide in a motel.
But even before the body was discovered, wiretaps showed that the organization had gotten Mr. Samaan's wife to remortgage her home to the benefit of the gang.
Air Canada employee charged with helping 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 Montreal's Trudeau airport.
The RCMP affidavit says Mr. Faustini, who owed $800,000 in gambling debts, was ordered to the Bar Laennec, where Mr. Giordano and Mr. Del Balso often met.
Wiretaps recorded Mr. Giordano giving instructions so that his children, who were getting their hair cut next door, shouldn't be let into the bar because "something would happen."
Later, in a phone call, Mr. Faustini told Mr. Del Balso he would get $200,000 the next day.
"He didn't have to do that, man," Mr. Faustini said. "Now my face is fucked up, broke my fucking nose, my teeth are gone. . . Now I have to get my face to the hospital."
Wiretaps show that the gang then tried to access $2-million Mr. Faustini had banked the Bahamas. But the move 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 Mr. Faustini also owed him $350,000. In a wiretap in June 2006 Mr. Del Balso explained that Mr. Rizzuto wanted Mr. Griffin to bring the money.
The following month, Mr. Griffin was shot dead in front of his home in a hail of more than 40 bullets.
Two days later, a Mafia captain was recorded saying of Mr. Griffin that "he was too full of himself" and adding: " Zio Cola (Mr. Rizzuto) called him over to say, 'tell that guy he has to pay up'."
On another occasion, in January 2004, Mr. Arcadi and Mr. Del Balso are heard talking about Dominic Vespoli, the financial officer of an electronics firm, who had a billing dispute with a friend of Mr. Rizzuto.
Mr. Vespoli got a call from Mr. Del Balso. Mr. Vespoli asked who was on the line.
"The guy that's going to make you eat out of a straw for six months if you don't go pay him."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You hear me? . . . Just go pay the bill okay? And I'm not going to come and tell you again. The next time I break your head. Okay?"
The affidavits also show that other businessmen were in the good grace of the Rizzutos.
In 2003, someone stole the new Cadillac Escalade SUV of Montreal real-estate developer Terry Pomerantz.
Police wiretap recorded Mr. Pomerantz calling Vito Rizzuto at 12:39 a.m., seeking help.
Around 1 a.m., Vito Rizzuto called Mr. Arcadi to say that "one of his Jewish friends" had lost a car with an important briefcase in it. Mr. Arcadi was told to check with the "young ones."
By the next afternoon, the Cadillac was returned.