The recent investigations by both U.S. and Canadian law enforcement officials that led to the arrest of multiple alleged members and associates of organized crime have once again sparked a debate over the current status of the Buffalo Mafia.
These investigations into the drug trade targeted members of the Bonanno crime family and Gambino crime family of the New York Mafia and the Calabrian mafia in Canada. The mafia families in New York and Canada have been partners in the drug trade for several years according to various reports. During the joint U.S. Canada operation, law enforcement was able to get both audio and video of a mafia induction ceremony carried out by members of the Bonanno crime family in Canada which investigators have called an extraordinary achievement. Investigators also believe they discovered that the traditional cross-border rectangle of Mafia organizations from 60 years ago remains intact: Hamilton-Buffalo-Montreal-New York.
An FBI press release in regards to the investigation noted that “Canadian law enforcement authorities today arrested nine organized crime members and associates in Canada, including members of the Todaro organized crime family” which many believed to be nearly extinct. The Todaro crime family is the latest designation for the mafia in Buffalo which was formerly known as the Magaddino crime family. The once powerful Cosa Nostra family has operated throughout Western New York, Pennsylvania, Canada and elsewhere over the years. Joseph Todaro Sr. took control of the family in the mid-1980s and began to pull the somewhat weakened family together including strengthening its Canadian ties to longtime crime family crew in Hamiton, Ontario also known as the Papalia crime family. The families operations in the U.S. and Canada remained stable until the mid-90s when the aging organization’s power seemingly began to diminish.
The deaths of multiple long-standing members and the semi-retirement of Todaro Sr. who passed along control of the families day to day operations to Joseph Todaro, Jr. left many wondering if the Buffalo mafia was on the way out during the 1990s. The family had lost its long-held grip on the Unions in Western New York a major part of its income and its Canadian based operations were being chipped away at by Toronto based Calabrian clans, Montreal’s Sicilian mafia, and emerging Outlaw biker gangs seemingly without resistance. Then in 1997 Johnny “Pops” Papalia the Buffalo families Ontario based capo along with his top lieutenant were assassinated by the rival Hamilton-based Musitano crime family in an effort to take control of the local Buffalo family operations in Ontario and Niagra Falls. The Musitano’s move against the Buffalo mobsters was apparently backed by high ranking members of the powerful Rizzuto crime family in Montreal. Their plans to take over would be cut short as the brothers who led the Musitano family were both sent to prison.
It was believed by some that what remained of the Todaro crime family continued to hold a small but active presence in Hamilton which this new FBI report could possibly corroborate. But the Buffalo mob had lost a majority of its illegal revenue sources during the 1990s in both the U.S. and Canada coupled with the growth of the Todaro family’s legitimate Pizzeria business lead many to theorize that the mafia in Western New York was all but dead. Law enforcement sources believe that Tordado Jr. retired from organized crime sometime around 2006 ending most of the families involved in mob activities followed by the death or Todaro Sr. in 2012. Which brings forth the question that if the Buffalo mafia was still active and operational in the U.S. and or Canada then who had taken the reigns?
Many speculated that if most of the Todaro’s had stepped away from organized crime but the Buffalo mob was still operational then it was likely that former consigliere Leonard Falzone had taken over as boss. When Falzone passed away in 2016 several names surfaced as possible replacements including Robert “Bobby” Panaro, Anthony Lupiania Todaro, Russ Carcone, Victor Sansanese, and Frank BiFulco although whether or not there was anything left worth being the boss of was a fair question. By this time there were basically no indications from law enforcement or sources on the streets that the mafia in Buffalo was anything more than a fading memory. But if the family was still somewhat intact even on a small scale it seemed like either Panaro or Anthony Todaro were the most likely candidates to step up and become the new boss. But after these recent reports from the joint investigation new theories as to the current status of the Buffalo mob and who is in control have surfaced.
According to some unsubstantiated reports, former capo Frank “Butchie” BiFulco has taken over as boss of the family with Giuseppe “Joe” Violi of Hamilton serving as Underboss and leader of the families Canadian faction. Joe along with his brother Domenico Violi are the sons of former Montreal mafia leader Paolo Violi. Paolo was the boss of the Calabrian based Cotroni crime family before he was murdered in 1978 by the emerging Rizzuto crime family. Both families had strong ties to New York’s Bonanno family but a war between the two would end with the Sicilian based Rizzutos taking over.
His sons still young at the time ended up in Hamilton under the protection of the Luppino crime family of the Ndrangheta who also had strong established ties back to Buffalo. Both brothers were arrested as part of the RCMP investigation in Canada and Police there noted that they were “well-established with an international reach.” It is unclear if or when either of the brothers had become made members of the Buffalo family or the Hamilton Mafia for that matter but their close ties certainly leave open the possibility.
Previous reports had Victor Sansanese as the family consigliere which is also the case in regards to the most recent rumors which also speculate that the family may currently have up to seven active capos and more than 40 active made members. Again none of the information included in these new leadership reports has been substantiated by any credible source but it seems to make for an interesting conversation. Could the mob family in Buffalo have remained this active in the U.S. and or Canada over the last few years avoiding any major indictments by law enforcement or exposure from potential turncoats which in this day and age has become rampant?