John "Pops" Papalia (March 24, 1924 - May 31, 1997) was a capo in the Buffalo crime family who previously had worked for the Bonanno crime family with Carmine Galante and controlled the Mafia in Hamilton, Canada. He was heavily involved in both the 'French' and 'Pizza' Connection which were 2 of the most massive drug operations ever seen.
Papalia was of Calabrian descent and was born in 1924 in Hamilton. He was arrested for the first time in 1945 for burglary and was arrested again in 1947 for operating an illegal gambling house. After he got out of prison he joined a local drug dealer, Harvey Chernick, who could supply up to 1000 people in Toronto. In 1949 Papalia was arrested for selling heroin. In court he claimed that he needed the drugs for medical reasons, claiming he had syphilis. The judge fell for it and only gave Papalia 2 years.
The French Connection
After his release Papalia came in contact with Carmine Galante, who was sent over to Canada by Joe Bonanno to expand their business. Galante noticed that Papalia had a great amount of connections in the Hamilton and Toronto area for which could be very useful. For a while Galante used Papalia for gambling dues and heroin trafficking. However, Buffalo boss and Bonanno cousin Stefano Magaddino had been an associate of Papalia's father for years and therefore Papalia chose Magaddino as his associate and employer above the Bonanno Family. In 1960 he was appointed as a caporegime within Magaddino's ranks. During the 1950's Papalia had involved himself in the French Connection. His 2 main partners were Vito and Albert Agueci, known as the Agueci Brothers, who were brought over from Sicily. The Sicilian Mafia had strong ties with the French mob and Papalia, with help from the Agueci brothers, operated as one of the biggest Heroin contacts between Canada and the USA. His cooperation with the Agueci brothers however came to an end when Alberto Agueci was brutally murdered in 1961 and Vito was jailed. The killing was ordered by Papalia's boss, Stefano Magaddino.
Not well liked
The loss of the Agueci brothers didn't cause further problems for Papalia and he kept on earning fortunes with the heroin trade. After the French connection was rounded up the Sicilian mafia took over and kept on supplying Papalia and his associates. Although being a good earner he was not well liked. He disliked new friends and couldn't bear young and inexperienced gangsters. He also didn't think about an eventual successor, which proved to be a critical mistake. "We had to respect him because of his role," one associate later said, "but he got on everybody's nerves." In 1974, Papalia was threatened by Montreal leaders Vic Cotroni and Paolo Violi because Papalia didn't cut them in on an extortion plot worth $300,000.
During the 1990's Papalia forbade entry to the Hells Angels, who worked for the Montreal Mafia, in his territory which caused further frictions between him and his associates. As he was aging authorities speculated that Papalia was showing signs of alzheimer. This speculation could have turned Papalia into a target. In the mean time another family, the Musitano's, were also moving in on Papalia's territory. The Musitano's were part of the 'Ndrangheta and had strong overseas ties.
In 1995, 57 year old Dominick Musitano died of a heart attack. His sons, Pasquale and Angelo, then inherited the family business. They immediately started to make plans to whack Papalia in order to take over his business. On May 31, 1997, Papalia was shot to death in front of his business on Railway Street in Hamilton. The murder was committed by a hit man called Ken Murdock. Only 2 months after the murder of Papalia, his right-hand-man Carmen Barillaro was also killed by the same hit man. When Murdoch was arrested and had to appear in court, he told the judge: "I killed Papalia for $2,000 and 40 grams of cocaine, then I killed Barillaro." Murdoch was later sentenced to life for his crimes.