A Laval businessman has been ordered to return to a provincial detention centre after the Quebec Court of Appeal increased the sentence he received four years ago, when he was convicted of having laundered the dirty money of one of Quebec’s most powerful Hells Angels.
On Monday, the Quebec Court of Appeal issued an order that Roberto Amato, 66, report to a detention centre within 72 hours. The overall sentence he received in Operation Diligence was increased from 16 months to 30 months. Once the time he has already served is factored in, he is left with a 20-month prison term for helping Hells Angel Normand Marvin (Casper) Ouimet, 51, launder money made through drug trafficking.
Ouimet is serving a 14-year sentence he received in 2016 after he pleaded guilty to charges related to Operation Diligence and to having taken part in a general conspiracy to murder the biker gang’s rivals between 1994 and 2002. But during Project Magot-Mastiff, a more recent investigation into organized crime in Montreal, investigators gathered evidence indicating Ouimet was receiving “a tax” on drugs sold in bars in a specific part of northern Montreal even after he was incarcerated.
Operation Diligence began after the owner of a family business that once replaced Montreal city hall’s copper roof alleged that Ouimet wanted to take control of his company and a masonry firm.
During a lengthy trial in Montreal that ended in 2016, a jury heard evidence that Amato, the former owner of Top Menu Marketing, a company that ceased operating in 2015, was connected with a series of real-estate development projects that Ouimet secretly invested in through other people between 2006 and 2009.
For example, when Ouimet pleaded guilty in Diligence he admitted he invested $200,000 to purchase land in Lachute. The plan was to subdivide the land into 100 lots and build bungalows or semi-detached homes on them. When Amato’s home was searched, police found plans that revealed Ouimet could have walked away with as much as $675,000 when the project was finished.
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The police also found evidence that Amato planned to use his company to invest $1 million for Ouimet and another man in a similar project. That transaction was never carried out. Amato also created fake documents, including employment records, to make it appear that a woman was making monthly mortgage payments on a condo that Ouimet actually owned.
The jury found Amato guilty of laundering the proceeds of crime, conspiracy to do the same and a gangsterism charge.
Superior Court Justice Johanne St-Gelais sentenced Amato on July 14, 2016, to an overall prison term of 16 months. At the time, the decision meant Amato had six months left to serve.
The Quebec Court of Appeal decided that most of the mitigating factors that St-Gelais factored into her decision “are not really” mitigating factors. The higher court also felt the sentence did not reflect the seriousness of the crime and did not compare with the sentences other people received in Diligence. Specifically, one person received a 30-month sentence even though he was less involved in the money laundering than Amato.
The Crown requested in 2016 that Amato be sentenced to a six-year prison term and appealed St-Gelais’s decision. The prosecution reduced their recommendation to a three-year prison term.
The appellate court also delivered a decision on Monday rejecting appeals filed by Amato and three other men convicted in Operation Diligence: Guy Drouin, Louis-Pierre Lafortune and Daniel Lafond