Thursday, January 14, 2016

Police target illegal gambling machines during raids on Italian social clubs, cafes in Toronto area

Mafia bosses and members have a long history of using cafes or social clubs as
meeting places and hangouts. Above, the Moka Espresso Bar & Gelato in
Woodbridge, home to an illegal gambling operation, where two people were
shot dead last June.
TORONTO — A special anti-organized crime unit in Ontario is conducting a series of coordinated raids on Italian social clubs and cafes in Toronto and York region, Thursday, seizing illegal gambling machines and making arrests.

Although the raids are part of ongoing illegal video gaming machine probes, the momentum behind the search warrants is violence associated with organized crime often linked to the illegal gambling establishments, police said.

Dubbed Project Oeider and run by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, police searched 11 cafes or social clubs and one home in a joint operation with the Ontario Provincial Police’s Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, Illegal Gaming Unit and the Toronto Police Service.

Between 60 and 80 machines were seized and an unspecified number of arrests were made. Details are expected Friday.

The machines, similar to slot machines, allow customers to gamble without government sanction, often in the backrooms of cafes or social clubs. Most of the social clubs raided Thursday are Italian-themed, police said.

“Cafes or social clubs that house illegal gaming machines have far too often been a focal point in criminal investigations associated to organized crime,” said Sgt. Penny Hermann, an RCMP spokeswoman.

“Over recent years there has been a marked increase in serious acts of violence, including targeted murders, at such establishments.

“Criminal violence, sometimes unreported in any formal complaint to police, also flows from the illicit gaming occurring within. Illegal gaming machines are a major source of revenue for organized crime groups and this revenue facilitates further criminal activities that pose a pervasive threat to Canadian communities.”  (more...)


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