Project Ink brothers plead to cocaine charges
Under heavily armed guard, Niagara Regional Police displayed the 110 kilos of cocaine officers seized in a recent drug bust in St. Catharines at a press conference Feb 15 2012. BOB TYMCZYSZYN/ST. CATHARINES STANDARD/QMI AGENCY
Two prominent Niagara businessmen arrested in one of the biggest drug rings in Canada have pleaded guilty to cocaine possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Brothers Frank and Angelo Alessio, both of Niagara Falls, made a quick appearance in a St. Catharines courtroom Friday handcuffed to each other.
They will be sentenced on Aug. 14.
The pair are among 11 people arrested in Project Ink, a massive investigation into cocaine importation and distribution.
Federal Prosecutor Andrew Wiese said the Alessios were in possession of 110 kg of cocaine in February 2012 at 10 Davidson St., Unit 3 in St. Catharines.
None of the other facts of the case were read into court.
The other nine accused in Project Ink are appearing in St. Catharines on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing estimated to run two weeks.
The Alessio brothers have been in custody since they were arrested Feb. 10, 2012 in what police called a $30 million cocaine bust.
At the time, Frank Alessio, now 34, was listed as president of Artwood Flooring on Eastchester Ave. E. in St. Catharines on the company’s website. He was a member of the board of directors for the Niagara Home Builders’ Association for three years.
Angelo Alessio, 36, was as installer at Artwood.
Both men were booted from the Niagara Home Builders’ Association upon their arrests.
The cocaine haul was said to be the biggest in Niagara’s history.
Three and a half months later on May 23, Niagara Regional Police carried out the massive joint forces operation Project Ink that saw police raid eight locations.
The Alessio brothers were included in the Project Ink bust, which saw the arrest of alleged Niagara drug kingpin Nick Nero.
Nero’s girlfriend Tawnya delBen Fletcher of Niagara-on-the-Lake and her brother Jordyn delBen Fletcher of St. Catharines were arrested on drug charges. Courtney Bryan of Toronto was charged with obstruction of justice, not related to the seizure.
Continued police investigation then led to Project Ink 2, which saw Nero re-arrested while in Kingston prison and brought back to Niagara to face additional charges.
Police said the original investigation that started in St. Catharines with the seizure of $30 million worth of cocaine widened out and resulted in simultaneous police arrests in Niagara, Toronto, Kingston and Vancouver.
On Feb. 20, 2013, using information uncovered in Project Ink 1 and 2, Nero and two others accused of being part of his alleged organized crime network were charged by Toronto police with first-degree murder in the death of John Raposo.
Raposo was gunned down on a Toronto patio in June 2012.
Other accused in Project Ink:
Nicola “Nick” Nero, 36, of Niagara-on-the-Lake
Tawnya delBen Fletcher, 28, of Niagara-on-the-Lake
Jordyn delBen Fletcher, 29, of St. Catharines
Frank Alessio, 33, of Niagara Falls
Angelo Alessio, 34, of Niagara Falls
Courtney Bryan, 32, of Toronto
Alfonso Inclima, 39, of Woodbridge
Nebojsa Dronjak, 39, of Niagara Falls
Mohamed Reza Amin Torbari, 49, of Vancouver
Martino Caputo, 39, of Toronto
Rabih Al Khalil, 25, of no fixed address