A Roncesvalles wine bar owner may have been shot dead Friday afternoon because his associates had an outstanding $5-million debt to a Mexican drug cartel, police and underworld sources say.
Paolo Caputo, 64, of Richmond Hill, was killed in a targeted shooting in front of Domani Restaurant, on Roncesvalles Ave. near Grenadier Rd., shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday.
The suspected gunman fled in a waiting SUV, police say.
Witnesses reported the sound of two gunshots. A gun was found at the scene
Multiple sources said that Caputo may have been targeted for murder over a drug debt owed by his associates to a Mexican drug cartel active in the GTA.
The debt stems from a massive drug rip-off connected to the June 2012 murder of John Raposo, 35, of Toronto, who was shot dead while watching Euro Cup soccer on TV on a crowded patio at the Sicilian Sidewalk Café on College St. in 2012, the sources say
Caputo’s brother, Martino Caputo, is serving a life sentence as one of four men convicted of first-degree murder in the Raposo shooting.
At their trial, prosecutors said Raposo was shot to death at close range in a plot to steal his share of a 200 kilogram cocaine shipment.
According to police and underworld sources, the Mexican cartel that fronted the drugs to Raposo, Martino Caputo and others was never fully paid and had become frustrated with repeated attempts to collect.
Raposo was shot to death by Dean Wiwchar, a former Stouffville resident who was working for a criminal group called the Wolfpack Alliance.
Wiwchar was also convicted of first-degree murder in the Raposo murder, as was Nicola Nero, of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Rabih (Bobby) Alkhalil, of Montreal.
A police source compared Paolo Caputo’s murder to the 1991 slaying of Thornhill resident Giovanni Costa, 38, who was shot to death on Draper Blvd., in the area of Dufferin and Centre Sts.
Costa was not a criminal, but he was killed to punish family members who were involved in an ongoing feud between criminal, groups in Canada and Italy, court later heard.
Paolo Caputo was a gambler who often hosted Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto at his now-closed Forest Hill restaurant, police and underworld sources said. He was also involved in poker games that funnelled money to the Rizzuto organization, police said.
Rizzuto, considered Canada’s top Mafia boss, died suddenly of natural causes in December 2013.
Paolo Caputo’s younger brother Martino was considered by police and underworld sources to be far more active and tightly tied to the Rizzuto organization.
At the time of his murder, Paolo Caputo was trying to sell his wine bar for $249,000, according to an online listing.
The listing states the property is fully air-conditioned and 3,486 square feet.
“Renovated restaurant located in Roncesvalles Village,” the listing reads. “Totally turn key with a full kitchen and walk-in cooler. Currently serving Italian cuisine. Can easily convert to any cuisine.”
Police describe Paolo Caputo’s killer as a thin male with a fair complexion and five-foot-eleven to six-foot-two. He fled west on Constance St. in a white, four-door SUV, which was driven by someone else, police say.
Paolo Caputo was arrested in November 2007 with dozens of other men after police raided what they called a high stakes poker game held behind locked doors at a social club on Finch Ave. W. near Dufferin St.
The OPP organized crime unit estimated that operation grossed more than $1 million yearly, and that it funnelled funds to Rizzuto.
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Peter Edwards is a Toronto-based reporter primarily covering crime. Reach him by email at email@example.com