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Rizzuto’s former right-hand man allegedly running Italy-to-Canada drug network from Sicily after deportation


Juan Ramon Fernandez in Woodbridge,Ont. in 2001. After his deportation from Canada last
year at the completion of a prison sentence, Mr. Fernandez disappeared until police in Canada learned he was living in Bagheria, where he ran a martial arts gym.

By Adrian Humphreys | 05/08/13 | Last Updated: 05/09/13 7:29 PM ET

Juan Ramon Fernandez seems at ease wherever he goes, whether sipping espresso in a café in Toronto, serving hard time in prison, representing Mafia bosses in Montreal or threatening a drug baron who owes him money.

Even, it is now alleged, when negotiating with senior mafiosi in Sicily, the birthplace of the Mafia.

As Italian police swooped in on a mob-run drug cartel in Bagheria, a Mafia stronghold outside Sicily’s capital of Palermo, Wednesday, among their main targets was Mr. Fernandez, who has been deported from Canada three times.

Apparently escaping the dragnet, Mr. Fernandez was named as a lynchpin of a Sicily-to-Canada drug network and dubbed “Cosa Nostra’s Canadian ambassador.”

Cosa Nostra’s Canadian ambassador

In fact, an Italian prosecutor told the National Post: “He was taking over in the Cosa Nostra family of Bagheria due to his tight links with the boss, Sergio Flamia.”

In Canada, Mr. Fernandez was considered the right-hand man of Vito Rizzuto, the Mafia boss from Montreal who is originally from Sicily.

Handsome, well dressed and strong, he attracts and frightens people in equal measure.

HandoutJuan Ramon Fernandez

After his deportation from Canada last year at the completion of a prison sentence, Mr. Fernandez disappeared until police in Canada learned he was living in Bagheria, where he ran a martial arts gym. Always a fitness buff and a black belt in karate, it was a natural way for him to rebuild.

Now 56, Mr. Fernandez seems to have lost none of his dynamic persona.

He fit in there, according to a report in La Repubblica, a newspaper in Italy, like a native.

He would go for long walks around town in designer clothes and meet many people who would pay him respect.

Italian police secretly followed him for months, tracking him as he met leading figures in Sicily’s Mafia, including the heads of several Mafia clans. His ties to Mr. Rizzuto, who authorities allege maintains an organization in Italy, would likely aid his introduction.

Police moved against the organization early Wednesday, arresting 21 men in what it called a pact between Palermo and Canada. Nine others remain fugitives.

Mr. Fernandez was one of those not found. Fleeing with him, according to reports, was another Canadian who had come to stay with him.


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Quebec playboy accused of running $1-billion drug empire linked to Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto, prosecutors say

John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images; Maury Phillips/WireImage; Aaron Lynett/National Post
files
Jimmy Cournoyer is said to have owned a Bugatti Veyron, similar to the one pictured here,
known as the fastest street-legal production car, but allegedly would sometimes drive a Porsche
Cayenne owned by his former girlfriend, Amelia Racine (L). At bottom, a Cornwall dock known as
a hot spot for drug smuggling. Jimmy Cournoyer is accused of feeding tons of potent Canadian
marijuana to the United States.

A personal phone number for Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto was found saved in the telephone of a man accused in a massive $1-billion drug empire that allegedly flooded the eastern seaboard of the United States with marijuana and funnelled cocaine back into Canada, U.S. prosecutors say.

The alleged contact between Mr. Rizzuto and a man now facing charges in the United States is another link to emerge between the Quebec man and “the highest level of Mafia leadership,” prosecutors said Tuesday.

 

Jimmy Cournoyer, 33, of Laval, has been named as the central figure in the ring, charged with bringing high-potency marijuana from British Columbia to Quebec and smuggling it into the United States through the Mohawk First Nation’s Akwesasne reserve. Revenue was then used to buy cocaine in Mexico and smuggle it into Canada, prosecutors said.

Six men were charged in the high-profile case, five of them Canadians: Mr. Cournoyer, who is also known by the nicknames Superman and Cosmo; Mario Racine, who has the nickname Diego; Patrick Paisse, who is also known as Pegleg; Jose Alejandro Castillo Medina, also known as Primo; and Alessandro Taloni.

“Alessandro Taloni — Cournoyer’s manager for cocaine operations on the West Coast — was previously arrested in Canada for extorting a business,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Tiscione told court Tuesday.

“At the time of his arrest, Canadian law enforcement seized a telephone from Taloni that contained contact numbers for a number of prominent members of the Montreal Mafia – including Vito Rizzuto, the boss of the Rizzuto crime family, alternatively referred to as ‘The Sixth Family.’

“Members of the Cournoyer enterprise had direct contact with the highest levels of Mafia leadership.

“Multiple witnesses will testify that Cournoyer was backed by the Hells Angels and the Montreal Mafia (specifically, the Rizzuto Crime Family) — two of the most violent organized crime groups in Canada,” Mr. Tiscione wrote in a document submitted in court.

The one U.S. citizen arrested in the case, John Venizelos, also known as Big Man, is an alleged associate of the Bonanno crime family, one of the notorious Five Families of the New York Mafia.

Phil Carpenter / Postmedia News filesVito Rizzuto being taken from a Montreal police station,after being arrested in his Montreal home on murder charges in the U.S.

It was at a hearing into the government’s request to have him imprisoned pending trial that the further connection to Mr. Rizzuto emerged.

“The Rizzutos have strong historic ties to New York’s Bonanno crime family — the same crime family of which Venizelos is an associate. Indeed, Vito Rizzuto was released only a few months ago from a U.S. prison, where he was serving a sentence for his involvement in a triple-murder committed at the direction of the Bonanno family ruling panel,” Mr. Tiscione told court.

Court heard that Mr. Venizelos had threatened a man he suspected of cooperating with authorities by saying that Mr. Cournoyer had set aside $2-million to finance the elimination of anyone who ratted on him. Mr. Cournoyer’s lawyer, Gerald McMahon, denied the allegation.

Defence lawyers contend that it is impossible for the government to be sure of the context and authenticity of the message.

A judge disagreed and order Mr. Venizelos incarcerated pending trial.

The men face charges of conspiracy to export cocaine from the U.S. to Canada and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine as well as money laundering.

 

Mr. Racine and Mr. Paisse were arrested in Canada and are fighting extradition to the United States. The others are in U.S custody.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Decoded BlackBerry messages show Quebec playboy accused of pot smuggling has $2M ‘assassination fund’: prosecutors

Adrian Humphreys | 02/06/13 | Last Updated: 13/02/06 10:23 AM ET

John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images; Maury Phillips/WireImage; Aaron Lynett/National Post
files
Jimmy Cournoyer is said to have owned a Bugatti Veyron, similar to the one pictured here,
known as the fastest street-legal production car, but allegedly would sometimes drive a Porsche
Cayenne owned by his former girlfriend, Amelia Racine (L). At bottom, a Cornwall dock known
as a hot spot for drug smuggling. Jimmy Cournoyer is accused of feeding tons of potent Canadian
marijuana to the United States.

A Quebec man accused of supplying potent Canadian marijuana to much of the U.S. eastern seaboard set aside $2-million to finance the murder of anyone who rats on him, New York prosecutors allege.

Further, Jimmy Cournoyer, 33, of Laval, built his $1-billion drug empire by “gaining control over ports and customs checkpoints through a combination of covert operations and outright political corruption” and abusing “sovereign tribal lands” on First Nations’ reserves “that are almost impossible to police,” prosecutors claim.

Mr. Cournoyer, known by the nicknames Cosmo and Superman, was living a playboy lifestyle until arrested in Mexico last year and flown to face trial in New York.

 

The accusations in pre-trial motions add new detail to the U.S. government’s view of his vast empire.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

‘A great movie script’: Quebec man accused of heading $1B marijuana smuggling operation

 
Adrian Humphreys | 13/01/15 | Last Updated: 13/01/16 8:33 PM ET
John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images; Maury Phillips/WireImage; Aaron Lynett/National Post files
Jimmy Cournoyer is said to have owned a Bugatti Veyron, similar to the one pictured here,
known as the fastest street-legal production car, but allegedly would sometimes drive a Porsche
Cayenne owned by his former girlfriend, Amelia Racine (L). At bottom, a Cornwall dock known
as a hot spot for drug smuggling. Jimmy Cournoyer is accused of feeding tons of potent Canadian
marijuana to the United States.

 
A young Quebec man who lived a playboy lifestyle — with a professional model girlfriend, an elite $2-million sports car and lavish parties — has been accused by prosecutors of masterminding a nearly $1-billion marijuana smuggling operation that supplied much of the eastern seaboard of the United States.

The escapades of Jimmy Cournoyer, 33, known by the nicknames Cosmo and Superman, came to an end when he was arrested in Mexico, accused of feeding tons of potent Canadian marijuana to the United States, in league with the Mafia, Hells Angels and a Mexican cartel.

On Mr. Cournoyer’s last day of freedom, he boarded a 6 a.m. Air Canada flight from Montreal to Cancun. He didn’t get to enjoy the charms of Mexico’s tourist hot spot, however.

Stepping off the plane about 10 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2012, he was stopped by Mexican authorities and pushed into a cell, where he was held without food, water or bedding, he claims. He asked to speak to a lawyer, to the Canadian embassy and to be sent back to Canada but was ignored, he says in court documents.

Instead, he was taken back to the airport.

 

 

 


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Killer gangster too dangerous to release from prison

Adrian Humphreys/File

Juan Ramon Fernandez made women swoon and tough men tremble. The parole board deemed him too dangerous to release from prison.

 

Adrian Humphreys, National Post · May 28, 2009 | Last Updated: May 29, 2009 10:04 AM ET


TORONTO — A feared gangster who was the "pointy stick" for the Montreal Mafia's expansion into Ontario has been deemed too dangerous to release from prison.

 

Despite Juan Ramon Fernandez spending much of his sentence for drug and murder conspiracy in maximum security, he still managed to arrange hash shipments from Jamaica, tamper with a witness testifying against him and orchestrate an attack on an inmate at another prison, all while behind bars, authorities alleged.

 

He is also considered a "person of interest" in a recent murder after the man he was convicted of ordering killed in 2002 was shot outside a halfway house in Brampton in 2008.

 

In deciding that Fernandez remain in prison despite him reaching his statutory release date, the National Parole Board faced three volumes of in-prison security files against him, outlining muscling, intimidation and threatening of staff and fellow inmates. And yet, at his parole hearing, Fernandez, 51, insisted he stands among the wrongly convicted.

 

"You tend to minimize the severity and connections with prominent organized crime figures despite persuasive and reliable evidence of enduring ties with the underworld," the parole board said in its decision, released yesterday.

 

"Your firm stance that you have been wrongfully convicted and your limited acceptance of responsibility only serve to illustrate your lack of insight, appreciation or understanding of the severity of your criminal behaviour."

 

The board pinned him as having "psychopathic tendencies," "egocentricity, narcissism, grandiosity," and "callousness."

 

That scathing report keeps him in prison for at least another year, but also builds his reputation as one of the country's toughest gangsters.

 

The many twists in the life of Fernandez, known on the street as "Joe Bravo," are already an important part of underworld history.

 

The police probe that rose around him revealed the delicate power dynamics between crime groups across Canada, the pre-eminence of Montreal in the underworld and the important role that traditional rules still play in the modern Mafia.

 

The probe, codenamed Project R. I. P., led by York Regional Police, also directly led to a much larger operation in Quebec, Project Colisee, that hobbled the Mafia in 2006.

 

At the centre of the hurly-burly is Fernandez himself.

 

Handsome, well dressed and strong, he attracts and frightens people in equal measure.

 

Women swoon over his Latin good looks, including, sources say, female prison guards during his incarceration. Such attraction was not always healthy; he once punched his 17-year-old girlfriend so hard that she died.

 

Similarly, fellow gangsters liked being seen with him but were often terrified. One normally robust gangster was shaking so much when meeting Fernandez in a cafe that the ceramic espresso cup in his hand rattled loudly against its saucer.

 

Much of his power stemmed from his ties to Vito Rizzuto, the boss of the Montreal Mafia. Fernandez was a senior envoy of Rizzuto's, even though his Spanish, rather than Italian, linage prevented him from being an inducted member of the Mafia.

 

"He was sitting at the right hand of God," a police investigator said of Fernandez's ties to Rizzuto.

 

The rest of his reputation was earned with flair and daring. "He is a perfect gangster," a police officer said.

 

Born in Spain in 1956, Fernandez came to Canada with his parents at the age of five, but never achieved citizenship here. By his teens, he was an athlete and martial arts aficionado who was breaking into houses and stores for jewellery, money and credit cards to support a flashy lifestyle. An avowed materialist, he turned to crime merely "to buy things," he told parole officials.

 

He admitted he was a "somewhat rebellious and hot-headed young man," while growing up in Montreal. By 20, his persona was established; a police report from the time noted he was "an idol to many and feared by all."

 

When he was 22, he was charged in the death of his young girlfriend, an exotic dancer, and ultimately sentenced to 12 years in prison.

 

When released, he was ordered deported, but remained in Montreal, selling luxury cars and running a juice bar. In 1991, police photographed him walking respectfully behind Rizzuto. He had clearly been promoted.

 

Drug convictions followed -- for quick financial gain, he told parole officials --and when released in 1999 he was finally deported, although he slipped back into the country within months. He was re-arrested in 2001 and again deported but, two months later, police were astounded to find him back.

 

"They think 'cause the cat leaves there, the mice they, they gonna dance," Fernandez said, laying down the law with a mixed metaphor that was caught on a police wiretap. "I'm gonna show them how I dance."

 

And dance he did, drawing together bikers, Mafia associates and high-volume drug dealers.

 

Fernandez coming to Ontario is now seen as a cold plan to have him learn the ropes of the group's drug routes from its Toronto boss, Gaetano Panepinto, before he was killed.

 

Panepinto ran a discount coffin store and imported cocaine. Like Fernandez, he was close to Rizzuto. Panepinto, however, broke a cardinal rule -- he killed two mafiosi from Italy without getting permission from his boss, police believe.

 

Officers had marked Panepinto for surveillance and the first shift started at 8 a. m. on Oct. 3, 2000, but just as officers gathered, Panepinto climbed into his Cadillac, pulled out of his driveway and was shot dead in an ambush.

 

"Had we arrived earlier, maybe we would have witnessed the murder or been able to intervene," an investigator said.

 

Fernandez quickly filled the void. One of the men now answering to Fernandez was Constantin "Big Gus" Alevizos, said to be one of the country's largest movers of Ecstasy. "Gus was a money-making machine," said an investigator. He was also a mountain of flesh, weighing 460 pounds.

 

Alevizos enraged Fernandez, partly because he loathed Alevizos's flabby frame, but mostly because he thought he stole two bags of his cash.

 

Fernandez asked a hitman to kill Alevizos, handing him a handgun and ammunition hidden in a dirty work sock. Unknown to Fernandez, the hitman was a police agent.

 

Officers arrested Fernandez and 31 others in May, 2002. Fernandez and his girlfriend were pulled over while driving on Highway 407. A wiretap hidden in his car recorded it.

 

"Put your hands up. Put 'em up. Put 'em up high," an officer shouted. Fernandez, ever cool, reassured his girlfriend. "They're just cops, babe; just relax," he cooed.

 

He knew that in his world there are worse fates than arrest.


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