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Emily D. Swoboda

Hard Times for the Canadian Mafia

6 March 2007

A defendant in what is being called the biggest mafia bust in Canada's history allegedly ran an Internet sports book syndicate, through which nearly $400 million flowed in less than a year, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Alleged mafia underboss Francesco del Balso was arrested on Nov. 22, 2006, along with 73 associates, on charges relating to organized crime, such as drug trafficking, extortion and bookmaking. The takedown was the result of a three-year investigation carried out by a cooperation of Canadian police agencies, which surveilled the suspects by bugging and videotaping the inside of the mafia's central meeting place, the Cosenza Social Club in Toronto.

According to the police, del Balso ran 25 bookmaking operations in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto that banked more than $1 billion in business.

In Quebec, del Balso and his partner, Lorenzo Giordano, operated Internet and telephone sports gambling businesses out of private homes in Kahnawake, Montreal and Laval.

The Montreal Gazette on March 3 reported that newly released court documents revealed that the Kahnawake-based operation, a Web site called World Sports Centre, brought in $391.9 million in business between December 2004 and November 2005.

Del Balso controlled every aspect of the books, including extending to bettors lines of credit and codes with which to bet online, according to police. He was also in charge of paying winners and recovering money from losers, which, according to the transcripts of the wiretaps, was not an easy job.

Wiretaps picked up del Balso complaining about a gambler who evidently owed him $1.6 million.

"I am gonna have to go break his head," del Balso told two friends on Sept. 2, 2004.

Another gambler owed $100,000 and del Balso, on Feb. 9, 2006, demanded his money by the weekend. Dino replied that del Balso owed him $17,000, which infuriated del Balso.

"Bro, there's no f-----g book in the city that doesn't belong to me, you know that. ... I have a f-----g book that's worth $50 million and you're telling me about $17,000," del Balso said. "But you know how much we take? A billion dollars in action.. You think I'm a f-----g clown or something, bro? I built a f-----g empire. What are you talking about 17 dimes ($17,000)? I spit on 17 dimes."

Del Balso tried to launder millions of dollars through the Montreal Casino, but kept losing money, as he was also a compulsive gambler. According to records, he bought $8.6 million in chips between 1996 and 2004, which, during the eight year span, was whittled down to a return of $2.5 million in checks.

Del Balso is in jail awaiting trial, which could take months to begin. Lawyers for several defendants in February agreed on March 27 as the date they will meet to set another date for an evidentiary hearing for the defense.

Giordano remains a fugitive.

Hard Times for the Canadian Mafia is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda