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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Mark Peretz re-arrested a month after being released for Toronto restaurant shooting

05:01 |

One of the gangsters responsible for spraying a crowded Toronto restaurant with bullets in a bungled mob hit — paralyzing an innocent mother of three — has been re-arrested, just a month after leaving prison for his role in one of the city’s most notorious bystander shootings. The arrest on Friday of Mark Peretz — who drove the van from which a military-grade assault rifle rattled bullets into California Sandwiches in north Toronto, missing mob rivals but severing the spine of Louise Russo — adds to the alarm that he was already free so soon after his 2006 conviction for nine counts of attempted murder. Mrs. Russo was permanently paralyzed from the waist down and has since become a spokeswoman for victims’ rights. Related Some may plead guilty in Russo case An aggravating twist to Peretz’s arrest for an alleged breach of his parole conditions was that he and his co-conspirators had made an unusual $2-million payment as restitution to Mrs. Russo as part of their plea bargain, a deal that earned him special consideration. The breach allegations, if proven true, show a longer sentence was warranted, said Bob Runciman, a former Ontario solicitor general and current federal senator who was a strong critic of the plea deal. ‘The odds were this was going to happen, when you are dealing with people who are the coldest of the cold’ “The odds were this was going to happen, when you are dealing with people who are the coldest of the cold, who fired indiscriminately into a crowd and showed no real remorse,” Mr. Runciman said in an interview. “The money gave a sweetheart deal to get a lighter sentence. They should have been penalized much heavier than they were,” he said. The arrest also suggests police and parole officials are closely monitoring the men responsible for the April 21, 2004 shooting as they are released from prison, including purported Mafia boss Peter Scarcella. Police fear a continuation of the feud that led to the shooting, a dispute involving a large cast of gangsters from the Mafia and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. And in an apparent coincidence, one of the intended targets of the hit, who dodged the bullets the night of the attack, was also arrested on the same day as Peretz. Michael Marrese was picked up on fraud charges. Mrs. Russo was reluctant to discuss the developments. “It’s a struggle everyday. I’m the one who has been dealt a life sentence, and so has my family, but we’re moving on. I’m focusing on more positive things,” said Mrs. Russo. Peretz, 44, was given a nine-year sentence and held in prison until his statutory release date on April 11. (The law stipulates that most federal offenders are released after serving two-thirds of their sentence.) The Parole Board of Canada exercised its power to impose special conditions on Peretz — including not to contact his victims, not to gamble or enter any place where gambling takes place, not to associate with any suspected criminals and to provide regular updates on his finances. ‘Your criminal activities … are directly linked to your criminal associates and organized crime’ “Your criminal activities … are directly linked to your criminal associates and organized crime,” the board told Peretz shortly before his release. His condition to regularly provide financial data to his parole officer is meant to ensure he is “deriving [his] income from legitimate, legal sources,” according to parole documents. On May 11, the Correctional Service of Canada told York Regional Police that Peretz’s parole was suspended, said Const. Blair McQuillan. At 7:45 p.m. that day, Peretz was arrested without incident at a plaza north of Toronto by the high-risk offender unit. The condition at issue is not known. Scarcella, 62, is widely seen as a wily and influential Sicilian Mafia chieftain. He was also released in April, spent some weeks in a downtown half-way house and has now returned to his wife in their large suburban home north of Toronto. At their sentencing, Ontario Superior Court Justice David Watt called the shooting a “sinister” plot to kill Michele Modica, a Sicilian mobster and drug trafficker who was in Canada illegally. Modica was originally under Scarcella’s wing in Toronto, but after Modica refused to pay a $240,000 gambling debt to Peretz, Scarcella withdrew his protection, opening the door for the hit. Peretz and two colleagues, Antonio Borrelli and Paris Christoforou, drove to the sandwich shop knowing Modica was there with Marrese and other associates and opened fire. A bullet severed the spine of Mrs. Russo, who was waiting in line for a late snack for one of her daughters, who was waiting in the car watching in horror. Other patrons dived for cover. At trial, prosecutor Donna Armstrong said the shooting “could have been a massacre,” adding: “It’s amazing with all the bullets flying around that only one person was hit.”

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