Cops tight-lipped about 27-year-old mob hit

Paul Volpe, in sunglasses, discusses real estate with a colleague and an undercover reporter, his...

Paul Volpe, in sunglasses, discusses real estate with a colleague and an undercover reporter, his back to a hidden camera, in 1979. (Toronto Sun File Photos)

ROB LAMBERTI, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

MISSISSAUGA — J.P. Maurice measures every answer before he speaks.

The Peel homicide detective sergeant is the keeper of murder file 83-055131, the region’s oldest cold case: Toronto mobster Paul Volpe.

Although 27 years have passed since Volpe, 55, was found Nov. 14, 1983, in a fetal position — dead of gunshot wounds to the head in the trunk of his wife’s car at the then-named Toronto International Airport — Maurice is keeping as many secrets as he can.

He won’t say what type of weapon was used to kill Volpe the day before he was found, or if DNA tests — unavailable in that era — have since been performed.

Maurice confirms that the murder weapon hasn’t been recovered.

He won’t say which theory stands out among those put forward about the motive for Volpe’s murder.

And there are a lot of theories, but they boil down to two main categories: Volpe was killed over a dispute with local mob bosses or he was killed for a conflict with a Pennsylvania mob boss.

“Without getting into specifics, unfortunately, there are a number,” Maurice says. “It seems to be focusing on the criminal element; it appears to be that way at this point. Is there an outsider who has come in ... I mean, an outsider completely unrelated to his criminal activities, highly unlikely.

“I can say there’s more than one (theory), less than a dozen.”

Nevertheless, after 27 years, Peel homicide investigators continue to hold their cards close to the vest.

“Time certainly doesn’t play in your favour, because we believe on a homicide to front load on an investigation by putting in all the resources at the time and gathering as much information as we can” in the first 48 hours to 72 hours of a case, Maurice says.

In a cold case, he adds, it’s vital people remember years later something that was overlooked.

- - -


Investigators at work around the car where Volpe's body was found on Nob. 14, 1983. (Toronto Sun File Photos)
Volpe was last seen by a witness leaving La Sem, a Woodbridge cafe, with his driver Pietro “Peter” Scarcella, who now runs his own crime family.

Scarcella is currently in penitentiary serving a nine-year term for his role in the April 2004 botched hit on mobster Michele Modica, a convicted heroin trafficker tied to the Sicilian Mafia.

Modica was left unscathed by the attack, but it left housewife and mother Louise Russo paralyzed.

Former Toronto Police intelligence boss Ron Sandelli, a baseball fanatic who now works for the Toronto Blue Jays, thinks the key to solving Volpe’s murder is Scarcella.

He says Volpe told his wife — a model who worked for high-end clothing store Creed’s — that he was to meet with someone from either Buffalo or, more generally, the U.S. Instead, he was found dead in the trunk of his car.

Volpe, who was not a “made man,” answered to the Arm, the Stefano Magaddino crime family of Buffalo, Sandelli says.

In 1961, Hamilton boss Johnny Papalia wanted to muscle into the lucrative Toronto gambling operation run by Max Bluestein. At the York Tavern at Queen and Yonge Sts., Maxie waved off a request by Papalia to talk, and the Hamilton mobster — the “Enforcer” — responded to the slight: Bluestein was beaten to a pulp and suffered permanent brain damage.

Sandelli says it was an attempt by Papalia to move in, and “Paul put an end to that crap. Once Paul ... was killed, obviously it was open for Papalia to come in.”

He says Volpe was well liked by the city’s glitter crowd and he ran “in the best of circles and hung out in the best of places.

“Subsequently, there was a domineering side to him, he was pretty rough around the edges, that side of him never disappeared,” Sandelli says. “One of the problems solving his murder, he pissed so many people off over the years, that where would start looking?

“Even legitimate construction people who worked on his home and never got paid,” he says.


Volpe poses with a relative in 1952. (Toronto Sun File Photos)
He says Volpe was a target of Commisso brothers, Remo and Cosimo, in 1981, hiring biker Cecil Kirby to kill the mobster. Kirby turned to the police and a fake hit was staged.

“If you get to the deep depths of why what they did in regards to conspiring to kill him, that was mostly not paying them for a lot of things they did for (Volpe),” Sandelli says. “He would get things done and never pay for them, you know, ‘Do you know who I am?’

“I recall one incident very well where he took some prominent people under his wing and got them to invest in Atlantic City and then without their knowledge, he started to sell from under their nose what they believed they owned,” he says.

A now deceased lawyer who Sandelli won’t name put a stop to the sales and Volpe paid him a visit.

Sandelli says Volpe gave the lawyer a cheque to cover the losses but promised that him if he cashed it, he’d break the lawyer’s neck.

“Those are the types of things he did,” he says.

“To me, the number one suspect in his homicide is Peter Scarcella,” Sandelli says. “The reason I say that is that he was with Paul all the time and he’s the last guy to be with Paul.”

He says Volpe was headed for a pre-arranged meeting with somebody from Buffalo, and about 25 minutes after Volpe was last seen by a witness, “Paul’s ticket was punched” and his body was later found at the airport.

Volpe’s lawyer reported him missing, Sandelli says, because his wife Lisa “hated the police.” She had panicked when he didn’t call her.

n n n

Cornwall Police Chief Dan Parkinson chuckles when he hears Scarcella’s name.

The former Peel homicide cop caught the call which took him to the airport in 1983. He was the lone homicide detective on duty at the time, the others were tied up with a court case.

“I think we all thought he was the key to solving this thing,” Parkinson says.

“He may have had his own pressures as to why he couldn’t be as forthright as he wanted to and maybe it was either him or Paul Volpe or both were going to go,” he says.

n n n

Parkinson recalls it wasn’t a messy scene inside the trunk.

“It was as clean as murder scenes get, bullet wounds that leave their mark obviously,” he says.

But what was found in the trunk made it obvious the murder scene was elsewhere.

“We don’t believe for a second he was killed in the trunk of his car,” Parkinson says. “He was somewhere, shot, thrown in the trunk and deposited.”

He says Volpe was killed in an “open space” indicated by organic evidence found in the trunk, but police weren’t able to match the evidence to any specific location.

Parkinson believes police came “really, really close” to solving the murder.

“My mother used to manage the airport parking,” he says. “Unbeknownst to anyone ... at the time who went through Pearson parking — I think every third vehicle — the people who worked in the kiosks had to write down a plate number.

“The chances of that person in the kiosk writing down the right licence plate number was probably 33%.”

Unfortunately, Volpe’s car was among the 66% that weren’t recorded.

For the veteran cop, the unsolved case remains a professional disappointment, he says. It’s the case that got away; the case he couldn’t close.

“Despite travelling to New York City for it, Philadelphia and Atlantic City, we came up zeros,” Parkinson says.

He believes Volpe’s scam in Atlantic City is the key to his demise.

Parkinson says in his theory, Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo Scarfo was behind Volpe’s murder because of the victim’s operations in the casino city. It was Scarfo’s turf. No one operated there without “Little Nicky’s” permission, and Scarfo had a temper.

“Basically, he wasn’t paying the piper,” Parkinson says of Volpe. “Scarfo was just a horrible, horrible man, who ran Atlantic City and was known to be completely ruthless.

“We went behind bars on a few occasions and talked to few people and basically they said, ‘Paul who?’ The problem there is that there were too many motives,” Parkinson says. “The local deals, just ripping off everybody. It could have been something as simple as that.”

n n n

“I’d be speculating” on how many people were there when Volpe was murdered, Maurice says.

“You look historically how these types of murders have occurred,” he says. “That’s part of it as well. What’s a so-called hitman or someone who’s job is to kill people, how do they operate? Do you do this by yourself? Do you lure him out? And you examine those things.

“If it’s professionally done, it’s one-on-one. The individual is lured and they do what they have to do,” he says.

Maurice qualifies his answer about Volpe’s slaying being a professional hit: “I’m not suggesting that it is. It certainly has the aroma.”

He pins his hopes on solving Volpe’s murder on someone who wants to come in from the cold.

Maurice hopes someone who’s disaffected, or wants money, or wants out, “whatever reasons,” calls.

He cites beleaguered Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto, was sent to a Colorado prison in 2007 for his role in the 1981 murders of three Bonanno captains planning a mutiny. Someone broke ranks and testified against him.


Videos

Photos