6 suspects convicted following Montreal mob trial

MONTREAL – Six out of seven people who went through a lengthy trial related to Project Colisee, the sweeping investigation into the Montreal Mafia, were convicted Wednesday of at least some of the charges they faced in a case that illustrated how mob-tied drug smugglers used people working at Montreal’s Dorval airport to sneak cocaine into the country.

Gaetan Dugas, 33, was the only person acquitted in a case in which a few of the accused held jobs at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. They ultimately were also working for Ray Kanho and Giuseppe Torre, two drug smugglers with ties to the Rizzuto organization who prepared large scale cocaine shipments that were secretly stored on flights in baggage or food containers. Kanho and Torre already pleaded guilty in Project Colisee last year and are serving lengthy prison terms.

Most of the evidence presented during trial involved hundreds of wiretapped conversations where the parties involved could be heard discussing, in coded conversations, preparations to get the cocaine off of planes undetected.

In a 154-page written verdict, Quebec Court Judge Claude Parent noted it did appear Dugas was recorded, in conversations with Kanho, discussing preparations to warehouse drugs once they were removed from a plane. But, Parent also noted, the evidence against Dugas did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he took part in a conspiracy to smuggle in 218 kilos of cocaine in January 2005.

Despite being the only person who presented a defence during the lengthy trial last year, Marco Pedicelli, 39, a former Air Canada employee, was found guilty of taking part in two general conspiracies to import cocaine. However, Parent acquitted Pedicelli on an equally serious charge of committing a crime for the profit, or under the direction of, a criminal organization.

Outside the courtroom, prosecutor Sabrina Delli-Fraine described the judgment as "very thorough."

"He emphasized all of the most important points," said Delli-Fraine who declined to comment on specifics because she had yet to read the voluminous verdict.

Five other men involved in the trial – Jose Merdardo Castillo Martinez, 41, Dany Cecere, 31, Emilio Rafeli, 32, Eugenio Reda, 32, and Achille Torre, 41 – were all convicted of taking part in at least one of Kanho and Torre’s schemes.

Sentencing for the six men convicted, along with several other men who pleaded guilty in the same case, is scheduled to begin early next month.

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