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Vincenzo “Jimmy” DeMaria, right, is led to a police cruiser after being arrested at his Toronto financial services office yesterday. He is accused of being in violation of his lifetime parole for second-degree murder after a 1981 shooting death.

 

Photograph by: Peter J. Thompson, National Post, National Post

A Toronto businessman, reputed to be an influential underworld figure, was arrested at his financial services office yesterday amid concerns over an emerging power struggle between the Mafia clans based in Ontario.

The arrest of Vincenzo DeMaria by organized crime investigators was a courteous affair.

He was allowed to phone his lawyer and his wife, speak with his brother who was also at the office and pack up personal effects.

Mr. DeMaria, 55, responded in kind.

Wearing a turtleneck, black jacket and grey slacks — his crossed hands discreetly hiding silver handcuffs– he nodded his balding head and thanked the female officer for opening the door for him as he was ushered out of the rain and into a police cruiser.

For Mr. DeMaria, who is known by friends as “Jimmy,” a conviction for an old murder had come back to haunt him.

He is on lifetime parole for second-degree murder after the 1981 shooting death of a man who owed him $2,000.

His arrest yesterday did not bring a fresh criminal charge; rather police placed him back into the prison system for an alleged breach of his parole conditions.

“As a result of Mr. DeMaria’s actions, he breached one of his conditions of release and therefore his warrant of release was revoked and he was brought back into the institution,” said Detective-Constable Mike Amato of York Regional Police’s organized crime section. He declined to specify what condition.

According to National Parole Board records, Mr. DeMaria is to avoid people with a criminal record; to provide full financial disclosure upon request; and not to contact the family of the man he killed. The Correctional Service of Canada and the parole board will now handle the allegation against Mr. DeMaria and decisions on his release.

Mr. DeMaria was frequently seen by investigators meeting in cafes north of Toronto with men named as influential members of the ‘Ndrangheta, which is the name of the Mafia that formed in Italy’s Calabria region, similar to the better-known Cosa Nostra of Sicily.

His many connections within the milieu has led some investigators to speculate that he had a seat on the powerful Camera di Controllo–a board of control for area clans. The board, comprising six or seven Toronto-area men, resolves disputes among the clans in Southern Ontario, police said.

“Jimmy is laid back. He’s an old-time guy, with a lot of money; he carries a lot of weight,” said an investigator, requesting his name not be printed.

Mr. DeMaria’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Invicta Financial Services, the Roger’s Road company that Mr.De-Maria helped start in 1993 soon after his release from prison and where he was arrested yesterday, declined to comment. The arrest of Mr. DeMaria comes at a time of uncertainty for the ‘Ndrangheta.

Last August, Giuseppe Coluccio was arrested in Toronto and deported back to Italy, where he was named as one the country’s most dangerous fugitives and accused of being a powerful boss of the ‘Ndrangheta. Coluccio had fled an Italian prison term for drug, gun and Mafia association convictions in 2005 and before he was deported from Canada had carved out a leading position within the sometimes feuding ‘Ndrangheta clans in Ontario.

“While Giuseppe Coluccio was here there was order. Once he got kicked out, things started to get a little messy,” said an investigator. “A lot of really big players started jostling.”

“Jimmy is a pretty big wheel,” said one investigator. “There were rumours he wanted to kind of take over, that he was flexing his muscles.”

Suggesting the arrests of Coluccio and Mr. DeMaria might be related, an investigator said: “Two down, who’s next?”

Mr. DeMaria has had past moments in the spotlight. Notably his April, 1981, arrest for the murder of Vincenzo Figliomeni, a 37-year-old father of four.

I did it because I thought he was going to kill me. I did it in self-defence,” Mr.De-Maria testified at his trial. Mr. DeMaria confronted Mr. Figliomeni at a fruit store over a debt of $2,000 owed by Mr. Figliomeni. Mr. Figliomeni claimed that he already paid $1,800 to Mr. DeMaria’s brother shortly before the brother died, a contention that Mr.De-Maria disputed. Mr. Figliomeni then knocked him to the ground, Mr. DeMaria testified.

“I was scared,” he said in court. “He took the knife out. ‘I’m going to kill you now,’ he said and he swung at me twice. He had rage in his face.”

That is when he pulled out a .22-calibre pistol and started shooting. He then placed the gun on the store’s counter and told the manager to call police. Mr. Figliomeni was found face down with seven bullets in his back. A pathologist testified the butt of the gun may also have been used to cause numerous cuts and bruises on the back of his skull, casting doubt on Mr. DeMaria’s account.

He was found guilty and handed a life sentence. He was released on full parole on Feb. 3, 1992. While he was behind bars, he was the subject of some controversy.

As the chairman of the inmate committee at Joyceville prison, he was transferred to a maximum-security institution after he telephoned the office of a Liberal MP to complain about conditions in the prison after a period of rioting.

Mr. DeMaria took the prison to court and won a ruling reversing the transfer and drawing a judicial rebuke against the warden.

thanks adrian humphries  www.nationalpost.com