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Vaughan shooting victims were targeted, police say

Rafal Gers/for The Globe and M

A suspected hit man for the Calabrian mob was shot dead with another man outside a stag party north of Toronto, in what police suspect was a targeted slaying.

Salvatore Calautti, 41, and James Tusek, 35, were shot either inside or near Mr. Calautti's black BMW BX6, early Friday, outside the Terrace Banquet Centre in Vaughan.

At the time, a stag party attended by hundreds of people was winding down inside.

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Public records show that Mr. Calautti, a father of three, owns Cinquelire, an Italian restaurant in a strip mall in the Glen Park neighbourhood of North York.

"He was known to us and investigated several times through the combined forces," said a former detective, alluding to Ontario joint units of municipal, provincial and RCMP officers that fight organized crime.

He said Mr. Calautti was long suspected to be a hit man affiliated with the Calabrian Mafia, but had avoided criminal convictions. "Obviously he was very good."

In 1997, when he was 26, Mr. Calautti was accused of the murder of Giuseppe Congiusta, 32, of Woodbridge, who was shot nine times as he got out of his wife's car outside a social club. The following spring, a jury found Mr. Calautti not guilty after a witness gave a description of the gunman that didn't match him.

A year after, in 1999, Mr. Calautti was named as a suspect after four men in a car fired at another vehicle in North York.

The following year, Mr. Calautti was investigated after the death of Toronto mobster Gaetano "Guy" Panepinto, who was shot six times while at the wheel of his Cadillac in Etobicoke.

Mr. Panepinto, who ran a discount-coffin business, was an associate of Montreal godfather Vito Rizzuto, according to testimony at a public inquiry.

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At the time of his murder in October 2000, there were speculations that he was killed to avenge two young Calabrian newcomers, Domenic (Mico) Napoli and Antonio Oppedisano, who disappeared after they tried to compete against Mr. Mr. Panepinto's illegal slot-machine business.

The former detective said Mr. Calautti was investigated after Mr. Panepinto's murder. "There were allegations that it was a retaliation as a result of two of his friends being killed and never been found anywhere."

A year ago, Mr. Calautti made the news again after winning nearly $170,000 from betting on the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's Pro-line sports lottery.

A man who answered the phone at Mr. Calautti's  restaurant declined to comment.

The other victim, Mr. Tusek, was also known to police.

In 2008, he was among eight men arrested by police in Niagara busted after what was then described as the second-largest marijuana grow-operation bust in Ontario history.

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The two men were killed in the parking lot of the Terrace Banquet Centre, in Vaughan, as a stag party attended by hundreds of people was winding down around 1 a.m. Friday.

There were up to 500 people at the stag party, with about 100 still around when the shooting was reported, said Constable Blair McQuillan, a spokesman for the York Regional Police, appealing for witnesses to contact police.

"It doesn't appear to be a random event. Investigators think it's a targeted event," Constable McQuillan said.

York Region Emergency Medical Services sent four ambulances, said spokeswoman Lisa Sposito. One patient was pronounced dead at the scene while the other died after being transported Sunnybrook Hospital's trauma centre.

The two homicides took place on Tigi Court, near the corner of Creditstone and Rutherford Rds, less than 300 metres from York Regional Police's 4 District's headquarters.

"These things can happen anywhere, anytime," Constable McQuillan said.

With files from Rick Cash

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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