According to court documents in a drug-trafficking case out of Canada, Joseph (Big Joe) Todaro, Jr. replaced Leonard (Lennie Calzones) Falzone as boss of the Buffalo mob two years ago upon Falzone’s death of natural causes. The Western New York crime family’s underboss Dom Violi, 52, was sentenced to eight years in prison by a judge in Hamilton, Ontario this week in a case where his crew was infiltrated by an FBI agent and nailed for a myriad of narcotics offenses.

The news puts Big Joe Todaro, Jr. back under the public spotlight after more than a decade seemingly on the sidelines of gangland activity in Buffalo running his family’s booming pizza-and-wing franchise, La Nova, off in wiseguy retirement. The 71-year old Todaro allegedly ran the Buffalo mob on an acting basis in the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s for his dad, Joseph (Lead Pipe Joe) Todaro, the Godfather of the mafia in Western New York from 1984 until he voluntarily stepped aside in 2006. The elder Todaro named his consigliere Lennie Falzone as his successor.

Lead Pipe Joe died peacefully in 2012 at 89 years old. Falzone cashed in his chips in 2016 at 81. Because of his retirement proclamations, Big Joe wasn’t mentioned much in speculation by mob watchers following Falzone’s passing about who was going to replace him on the throne of what appeared at that time to be a dwindling organized crime syndicate.

The Violi prosecution proves otherwise.

Dom Violi was caught on an FBI wire last year claiming there were at least 30 guys in the organization. He was “made” in 2015 and upped to underboss by Todaro, Jr. at a meeting in Florida in the fall of 2017, according to his sentencing memo. Violi, the son of slain Montreal mob don Paolo Violi, is the first Canadian Mafioso to be named underboss of an American mob family. Todaro, Jr. was in communication with three of the Five Families in New York (Bonanno, Genovese and Colombo) in relation to his choice to tap Violi for the post, per filings in Violi’s case — one filing notes Bonanno mob consigliere John (Porky) Zancocchio being tasked with delivering the news to Bonanno boss Michael (Mikey Nose) Mancuso.

Violi’s uncle, Rocco Luppino, is the crime family’s reputed captain in Hamilton, a hardscrabble factory town located directly across the border from Buffalo. The court records filed in connection with Dom Violi’s sentencing refer to an active mob “Commission,” the American mafia’s board of directors thought to be long defunct.

Lead Pipe Joe Todaro rose through the ranks of the mafia in Buffalo, at least partially, by forging strong ties to the syndicate’s Canadian wing. He helped stabilize a careening out-of-control situation in Montreal in the late 1970s when the Rizzuto mob crew knocked off Paolo Violi and his brothers in a palace coup. Todaro arranged for Paolo’s two then adolescent sons, Dom and Joey, to move to Hamilton and live under the protection of their mom’s family, the powerful Luppino mob clan.

Dom (L) & Joey Violi (R)

Joey Violi was arrested with his brother last year. He was sentenced to 16 years behind bars back in the summer. The Rizzuto crime family in Montreal has been under siege for the past decade, a fierce and widespread insurgence sending the entire Canadian underworld into upheaval. Hamilton mobster Angelo Musitano was gunned down in the spring of 2017.

Once known for his sway in labor union circles, Big Joe Todaro was booted out of the LIUNA in 1990 for his mob links. But like his father before him, Big Joe has never been convicted of any racketeering-related offenses. Lead Pipe Joe Todaro was a suspect in multiple Buffalo mob murders however never charged in any of the homicides. The younger Todaro became his dad’s underboss in the 1980s and in the 1990s transitioned to his acting boss, per sources.

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