Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Crime in Melbourne
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia has a lower crime rate than Sydney (see Crime in Sydney for details), and it is a reasonably safe city by world standards. It has the lowest per capita rate of violent crime of any Australian capital city. However, Melbourne's reputation in the national, and international, media has been tarnished in recent years by a series of organised crime related murders.
4.1 The Mafia (or Honored Society)
Mark "Chopper" Read told Channel Nine's Sunday program "It goes back to the structure of how the city was first created with the inner city street gangs, they took pride in the fact they came from a slum area and then built a criminal network within that area and controlled the lives of people in that area."
In 1988, two police officers were killed in Walsh Street, South Yarra. Victor Peirce and Trevor Pettingill were charged, though later acquitted.
The validity of the following section is not established.
Melbourne Underworld Factions
The Mafia (or Honored Society)
Former Godfather: Frank Benvenuto
The Melbourne Mafia controls the fruit and vegetable industry and markets of Melbourne. Since the Market Wars of 60’s the headquarters have moved from Queen Victoria Market, and now operate out of the Footscray Wholesale market. The Mafia’s activities include price fixing, extortion, marijuana growing and cocaine/ heroin importing. In 1999 Joe Quadara former millionaire and market identity was shot dead by two men as he arrived for work. Then in 2000 Godfather Frank Benvenuto was shot dead outside his Beaumaris home, some believe it to be payback for the 1992 killing of brother-in-law Alfonso Muratore.
The Organatiza (or Russian Mafia)
The Organatiza operates out of St Kilda (red light district) and Caufield (a Jewish suburb). The organisation consists of members who have an Eastern European or Former Soviet Republics background. Its main activities include abalone poaching, fraud, extortion, prostitution and immigration and mail-order bride rackets. In 2003 Istvan "Steve" Gulyas and his wife were executed; They ran a dating agency linking Victorian men with Russian woman. The agency was suspected of doubling as a brothel. In 2002 Michael Goldman had attempted to execute fellow criminal turned informer Alexander Kudryavstev with a bullet to the head.
The Painters and Dockers
Most prominent figure: Graeme "The Munster" Kinniburgh
A loose coalition of Australian criminals, the Painter and Dockers control the wharves and docks of the Port of Melbourne. During the Dock Wars of the 80’s over 40 men were killed. The groups main activities include standing over drug shipments and other contraband, ghosting rackets, large scale theft and drug importing. Victor Peirce and Jason Moran both murdered have worked as painters and dockers. In 2003 Graeme "The Munster" Kinniburgh was executed outside his Kew house. He was a master safecracker with infamous Magnetic Drill Gang and fence for the UK-based shoplifting group known as the Kangaroo Gang.
The Carlton Crew
Former Boss: Alphonse Gangitano Current Boss: Dominic “the Don” Gatto
A predominantly Italian group that operates out of Carlton (the little Italy of Melbourne) and surrounding areas, with links to the Mafia. The groups main activities include standing over restaurants/ night clubs/ building sites, illegal gaming and the manufacture of party drugs. In 1998 the “prince of lygon street” Alphonse Gangitano was shot dead. In 1999 Vincenzo Mannella was shot dead near his home, months later brother Gerardo Manella was shot dead. In 2004 current boss Dominic “the Don” Gatto was arrested for killing suspected hit man Andrew “Benji” Veniamen.
The Sunshine Crew
Former Boss: Dino Dibra
A predominantly Italian group similar to the Carlton Crew that operates out of Sunshine and the inner western suburbs of Melbourne. The groups various activities include growing hydroponic marijuana, a stolen car racket, kidnap/ extortion and drug dealing. In 2000 mob leader Dino Dibra was blasted to death outside a home in West Sunshine. In 2002 partner in crime Rocco Arico was the main suspect in the execution of stand over man Richard "The Lionheart" Mladenich. Following this Rocco Arico and Terrence Chimirri pleaded guilty to kidnapping for ransom.
The Pettingill Clan
Matriarch: Kath Pettingill
The Pettingill Clan is an extended crime family that still remains 49 strong and operates out of Richmond. The groups main activities include drugs, vice and robbery. The Matriarch Kath Pettingill used to run several brothels in the Richmond area. In 1987 Dennis “Dr D” Allen (one of Kath’s sons) died of drug-induced heart failure, he was connected to up to 15 underworld murders. Then in 2002 Victor Pierce (one of Kath’s sons) acquitted of murder over the Walsh Street police shootings, and hired muscle for Godfather Frank Benvenuto, was executed in Port Melbourne.
The Moran Family
Former patriarch: Lewis “the Fly” Moran
The Moran Family has their roots with the painters and dockers and is heavily involved in the drug scene they operate out of the Pascoe Vale/ Essendon area. In 2000 Mark Moran was executed in front of his $1 million home, just like his father Leslie "Johnny" Cole who was executed near his home in the 80’s Sydney Underworld War. In 2003 Jason Moran along with bodyguard Pasquale “Little Pat” Barbaro were executed in Essendon. In 2004 Lewis “the Fly” Moran was executed in Brunswick also hit was Herbert “Bertie” Wrout. “Tuppence” Moran is now left flying the flag.
The Williams Family
Boss: Carl “the Commissioner” Williams
Relative newcomers to the amphetamine industry, sometimes referred to as “Steptoe and Son”, the father and son drug team of George and Carl Williams operating out of Broadmeadows in the north western suburbs. In 1999 Carl Williams was shot in the stomach by one of the Moran brothers over unpaid debts. Defacto Brother-in-law Thomas Hentschell along with Victor “the Marathon Man” Brincat were charged over the murder of drug dealer Michael Marshall. In 2004 Andrew “Benji” Veniamen who acted as a bodyguard for Carl Williams was shot dead, he was the suspected hitman in up to 7 underworld deaths.
Other Crime Syndicates
The Radev Gang
The Mokbel Brothers
The Chinese Triads
The Gangland killings are believed to have begun with the murder of 40 year old Alphonse Gangitano on January 16, 1998. Gangitano, seen by some as the leader of the Carlton syndicate, was reportedly shot dead in the laundry of his home, while only in his underwear. According to a coroner's report, Jason Moran and Graham Kinniburgh were believed to be in Gangitano's home in Templestowe when the murder took place. Some media outlets have speculated that Mark Moran was also involved. An associate of Gangitano's was believed to be Victor Pierce , leading to speculation that the gangland killings began as a Peirce - Moran blood feud.
Vince Mannella , believed to be a former associate of Victor Peirce and Alphonse Gangitano, was killed on January 9, 1999. Manella has a long history with both Gangitano, reportedly having been caught in an illegal Gangitano gambling ring, in Fitzroy, during the late 1980s. Also found at the underground casino was gangster John William Higgs . On February 22, 1999, the Herald Sun newspaper reported that the hit on Mannella was ordered by a $200m cocaine cartel also linked to the killing of Alphonse Gangitano.
Dino Dibra , a 25 year old, was killed on October 14, 2000. According to Melbourne's The Age Newspaper (December 31, 2003), Detective Inspector Andrew Allen said "We are confident that this gunman is a hired hitman and that he, along with another person, ambushed Mr Dibra that night about 9.15pm and shot him a number of times... this is not the only murder (the gunman) has committed" ( http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/12/30/1072546532869.html ). This profile strongly suggests "Benji" Veniamin was one of the gunmen. An A$100 000 reward was offered, by police, for information.
Victor Peirce , 42, was killed on May 1, 2002 while in a car parked in front of a Port Melbourne supermarket. After the death of Gangitano, some experts speculated that Peirce had taken over control of his crime family. Peirce was also believed to be the ringleader of the Richmond syndicate, with Trevor Pettingill and Peter Allen. The death of Peirce sent shockwaves through the Melbourne underworld. Again, Andrew Veniamin was suspected.
Nik Radev , known as "The Russian" (in spite of being Bulgarian), was killed on April 15, 2003. The drug dealer and standover man was shot 7 times. In spite of only having worked for 8 months, during the 1980s, at a fish and chip shop, Radev was killed wearing Versace clothing and with a $20 000 watch on. He was laid to rest in a gold-plated coffin. Andrew Veniamin was once again suspected.
During May 2003, Operation Purana was set up by Victoria's state Police to investigate Melbourne's underworld. The state police, and especially its drug squad, would come under heavy criticism of corruption from organised crime families.
On June 21, 2003, Mark's step-brother 36 year old Jason Moran , and his minder, 40 year old Pasquale Barbaro , were shot dead in a car park, while Moran's children sat in the back seat. Victor Brincat was suspected of being the lone hitman behind both murders. Some have speculated that Brincat my have gained A$1 000 000 by killing Moran due to a contract on his head.
Michael Marshall was killed on October 25, 2003. Michael Ronald Marshall was the owner of a hot dog stand. He was shot in the front yard of his South Yarra home in front of his five year old son. Marshall was a 'friend' of Willie Thompson, and also a small time drug dealer. Victor Brincat and Thomas Hentschel were charged, by Operation Purana, for his murder.
March 2004 Chris Ellison announced the Australian Crime Commission would be investigating the murders. The ACC is a federal law enforcement body, whose role is somewhat similar to America's Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Later that month, in March 2004, Andrew Veniamin - known also as 'Benji' - was shot in a Carlton pizza restaurant. His killer was believed to be Dominic Gatto . He was reportedly an associate - possibly a bodyguard or hitman - of Carl Williams . 'Benji' Veniamin was suspected in 7 underworld murders and was 28 years of age. Gatto claimed to have been unaware of a A$250 000 contract on his own head.
Williams went on the record to news-magazine The Bulletin with a denial that he had paid "Benji" Veniamin A$100 000 for 5 of the murders.
The 23rd victim was Lewis Moran , father of Jason and stepfather of Mark Moran. Lewis was shot dead on April 1st, 2004, just nine days after the death of 'Benji' Veniamin. Lewis was having a drink in a bar at the time. The shooting also injured his associate Herb Wrout .
Major Figures Still Alive
Mark "Chopper" Read
Many expect Carl Williams to be the next in line, after the death of his associate (and some suspect bodyguard and hitman), "Benji" Veniamin.
The Victorian police force, and Operation Purana in particular, have faced accusations of police corruptions. Investigations have also been hampered by a "code of silence", with few organised crime figures willing to risk their lives to provide details to state and federal authorities. Victoria's state police have also been accused, possibly unfairly, of taking the attitude that eventually the crime figures will wipe themselves out.
There are also political implications for the federal police getting involved in the case. The federal government is currently controlled by the right wing Liberal Party of Australia, while Victoria's state government is controlled by the (now) centre-right Australian Labor Party. This has been read, by some, as a move saying that Labor is incapable of handling law and order issues.
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