Johnnie Raposo was killed in a targeted hit at a Little Italy cafe — part of a plot to steal his drugs and split the profit, said the Crown in its opening statement at the trial of four men accused in the 2012 shooting.
Every seat in the courtroom was filled as the high profile first-degree murder trial got underway Wednesday at the University Avenue courthouse.
Dean Wiwchar — the alleged hitman — along with Rabih Alkhalil, Nicola Nero and Martino Caputo are each charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Raposo. All have pleaded not guilty. They sat emotionless as Crown prosecutor Maurice Gillezeau laid out the Crown's theory.
The Crown says Raposo was involved in a deal to import 200 kilograms of cocaine with Nero, Caputo and Alkhalil.
Raposo was fatally shot on the patio of the Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe on June 18, 2012 as soccer fans gathered to watch a Euro Cup game.
A man dressed as a construction worker "walked up to him and shot him four times in the head at close range," Gillezeau told the court.
Witnesses later described the killer as wearing a shoulder-length wig, sunglasses, a dust mask, an orange construction vest with a reflective X on it and a hardhat, the prosecutor said.
A $100,000 hit plan, Crown tells court
Wiwchar was allegedly hired as a costumed hitman and the Crown said he would be paid $100,000 for the hit.
A hardhat, construction vest and skin-coloured face masks were among the items found in Wiwchar's Vancouver home in the days that followed, while officers who seized his luggage found a strand of hair that tests later suggested came from a wig, court heard.
Earlier searches of Wiwchar's other home in Surrey, B.C., had uncovered a cache of firearms as well as wigs, liquid latex skin, theatrical makeup, fake moustaches and beards and other items, the Crown said.
More than $60,000 in cash was also found in bundles in his pockets, his luggage and his parents' home in Stouffville, just north of Toronto, where Wiwchar went three days after the shooting, the lawyer said.
Encrypted texts intercepted by police
In an encrypted text message intercepted by police, Wiwchar said he was in the hitman business, was currently under contract and that his fee was $100,000, the Crown said.
Gillezeau said Wiwchar was first contacted by Alkhalil, who called him his "best hitter" in another intercepted message.
Niagara police intercepted those communications as part of a covert operation called Project Ink, which was tracking cocaine trafficking in Ontario.
Gillezeau said Nero's home, car and phones were bugged starting March 30, 2012. Police were also granted permission to wiretap Caputo's phone, the court heard.
On May 23, 2012, police executed another search warrant at Nero's home and seized a sticky note with a password. That password helped police crack into Nero's BlackBerry and download his email messages. They seized his Blackberry during another search in May, the jury heard.
Gillezeau told the court the Crown will present evidence over the course of the trial that outlines messages between Nero, Alkhalil, Caputo and Wiwchar, in which they used various aliases.
The court heard Nero called Raposo a "rat who should be killed because he had done harm to Nero and Caputo" in intercepted messages.
There were discussions about the need to get a photo of Raposo and a list of addresses where he could be found, as well as the gun to be used by the hitman, jurors heard.
In the messages, Alkhalil agreed to supply the hitman with the gun he had requested, the Crown said.
"I anticipate that [the messages] will further show that there was a plot to kill Raposo initiated by Nero and joined in by Caputo and Alkhalil," Gillezeau told the court. He added that the alleged plan was to steal the imported cocaine, worth millions, split the profits and kill Raposo.
Wiwchar travelled to Toronto via Montreal: Crown
Wiwchar took two short trips to Toronto in May and early June, during which he used a rented car to drive near Raposo's home and the Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe, Gillezeau said.
Once back in Vancouver, Wiwchar's messages indicated he was aware he had been under police surveillance in Toronto, but planned to take a circuitous route to evade law enforcement when he returned to carry out the job, the court heard.
He took a Greyhound bus to Calgary under a fake name on June 12, 2012, then flew to Montreal and travelled to Toronto from there, arriving the following day, the court heard. This time there was no police surveillance, the Crown said.
Less than a week later, Raposo was dead.
Wiwchar was arrested on June 21. Nero and Caputo were arrested in early 2013 — the latter in Germany — and Alkhalil was arrested in Greece the following year.
The trial is expected to take ten weeks.