Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Mob-boss retribution ruse - the epic story of a 1972 Montreal fraud scheme

Gerald and wife Davida Falovitch

One of the splashiest and unusual criminal trials in modern Montreal history offers a useful lesson for those who aren't careful with their money and wary of their friends.
   The tale starts with John Roydon McConnell, who was an adopted son of one of Montreal's wealthiest clans, as the family owned the Montreal Star as well as other assets.
   In his younger years McConnell, who died in Sainte Marguerite in 2015, was apparently what Judge Mackay, "either stupid or very gullible" and had a "high-flying lifestyle" that saw him burn through $700,000 inheritance within two years, partly through race cars and partying.
   Funeral eulogies posted online noted his love of pretty women, herb and another account explained how he once ordered "everything on the left side of the menu," at a Montreal Chinese restaurant in the early 1970s. (He really liked Chinese food! - Chimples)
   McConnell loved Jamaica and moved from downtown Montreal to live in Montego Bay after he said he spotted two audio recording devices in his apartment.
   Court documents revealed that McConnell, who lived in the Gregor Apartments on McGregor Street as a young man, was worth $3.3 million in 1979, thanks largely to his grandfather John Wilson McConnell who launched the St. Lawrence Sugar Company and then purchased the Montreal Star in 1925, which went defunct in 1979.
   The entire family fortune was ballparked at about $600 million at the time.
So McConnell had a liberal view on spending cash, which likely made him more vulnerable than the next guy to predators.
   McConnell set up McConnell Records with Gerald Falovitch, who is also known as Yank Berry. Two of the three records the company put out were by Yank Berry himself, including The Diary of Mr. Gray.
   McConnell set up shop in Montego Bay, while Falovitch watched over the Montreal offices.
   Falovitch had hoped to get McConnell to sign a document giving him more control of the business, so he sent David Issenman to visit Jamaica in an attempt to get McConnell to sign over more of the record company.
  Issenman hopped the flight south on January 29, 1972. McConnell was a lad of 23 years of age.
   Issenman, who plays only a minor role in this tale, was later described in court as a heroin addict. He moonlighted as an RCMP informant, receiving somewhere around $15,000 for information that led something like 25 people to face charges between 1968 and 1979.
   Falovitch then concocted a ruse to extort cash from McConnell.
   Falovitch hired Montreal escort Leslie Lawton, a leggy 20-year-old blonde. Lawton's mission was to seduce McConnell in Jamaica.
   Lawton was paid $300, plus the all-expenses-paid vacation for her role in the caper. She shared a room with Davida Falovitch (Gerald's wife) at the Casa Montego.
   Davida, who knew McConnell through her husband's company, was sitting with McConnell at the Holiday Inn when Lawton intentionally passed by in a secretly staged coincidence.
   Lawton was introduced and sat with the two and eventually asked McConnell for a lift back to her hotel.
   Lawton invited McConnell in and the two coupled together for about three hours before going back downstairs for a drink.
The bar phone then ran with a call for Lawton. It was purportedly her jealous husband ordering her to take the next flight home.
The ruse was that Lawton's husband was a mob boss who demanded cash from McConnell as compensation for having sex with his wife.
   Longtime mob boss Jimmy Soccio, by then in his 70s, showed up to act the role of the Mafia bigwig at a meeting at the Mount Royal Hotel where he demanded restitution for the offense of being cuckolded. He was later acquitted due to lack of evidence.
   Monteal TV star Tony Massarelli was also involved.
   Montreal mob bigwig Giuseppe "Pep" Cotroni was also said to be somehow involved, or aware of, the ruse.
   McConnell asked for and received $92,000 from his father - the $82,000 requested plus an extra $10,000 for good measure - and paid off the impostor.
  The episode was forgotten until 1976 when McConnell called for an escort and ended up receiving none other than the same Leslie Lawton.
   "Do you remember me?" she asked?
   She then confessed to her role in duping McConnell.
   McConnell then reported the fraud to police but soon regretted it, as he showed little interest in participating in the 1982 court proceedings and defence lawyers dragged his reputation through the mud.
   Lawton, who was living in Ottawa by then, was a central witness.
   A jury of eight men and four women could not agree on a verdict,
   Barry's separated wife Davida Falovitch was charged but acquitted. She said the trial was very difficult on her 12-year-old daughter, who much later died suddenly in 2004.
   Mob chauffeur Pasquale Martone and old timer Jimmy Soccio were also charged and acquitted.
   A second trial by judge without jury led Barry to be imprisoned for six years in 1982. Singer Tony Massarelli was sentenced to two years minus one day.

See also: My article on the incredible tale of Montreal's Yank Barry

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