16 people detained in Montreal in connection with telemarketing ring
MONTREAL – Sixteen people from the Montreal area have been detained and await possible extradition to the United States for allegedly taking part in a large telemarketing ring.
The ringleader has already been convicted.
Among those arrested Wednesday was Alberino (Rino) Magi, 44, the brother of construction magnate Tony Magi, who was once in business with Nick (The Ritz) Rizzuto. Rizzuto was killed near Magi’s office in December 2009.
Rino Magi and the 15 others arrested appeared at the Montreal courthouse this week and were ordered detained by Superior Court Justice Michael Stober. The extradition case returns to court on Nov. 2.
Most, if not all, of those arrested Wednesday were also arrested by the RCMP in December 2006 as part of the same investigation. Telemarketers were alleged to have targeted elderly people in the U.S. and Canada by falsely claiming the victims had won cash prizes but had to send fees to receive the winnings. An indictment was filed in a federal court in California in 2007, but for reasons that are not clear, extradition requests had not been made until now.
In 2006, the RCMP alleged the telemarketers called 500 people a week and estimated the network made between $8 million and $13 million over roughly three years. But in a statement of facts filed in court in 2010, the estimate was dropped to 50 victims who were bilked of approximately $1.2 million.
The extradition request stems from a case in California that has been pending since 2007. The ringleader, Montreal resident John Bellini, 48, did not have to be extradited because he slipped into the U.S. and was travelling with fake identification when he was arrested in a different investigation for drug trafficking.
Following his arrest, Bellini decided to co-operate with authorities in the U.S. and, according to the 73-page extradition request, is expected to testify against the 16 people arrested this week if they are eventually tried in California. On Feb. 22, 2011, Bellini was sentenced to an 87-month prison term.
Bellini appears to have shed new light on the investigation. He often met with the telemarketers at Deli Astra, a restaurant he purchased in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in 2003 (the name of the restaurant was later changed to Gael) where he would pay them. He also supplied the telemarketers with SIM cards for telephones, which made it hard for authorities to trace the telemarketers after they called potential victims. The cards were allegedly supplied by Vijayakumar Ramakrishan, 33, one of the people arrested this week.
Bellini has also alleged that Moneygram and Western Union operators who allegedly took part in the fraud scheme received a 20-per-cent cut of the wire transfers turned over to the telemarketing network. The request describes how Moneygram and Western Union appeared to catch on and warned people in the U.S. not to transfer money to Canada.
“So the telemarketers found crooked Moneygram and Western Union counters in the United States that would intercept the funds.”