Antonio Sergi, who was shot dead in his Toronto driveway last week, was deeply involved in the medical marijuana industry, including a province-wide bid to unionize growers and the shady operation of an urban pot farm, the National Post has learned.
He was also a mob-linked crime figure known by the nickname “Tony Large” who faced drug charges and court squabbles.
The motive for his gangland-style murder at 2:30 a.m. on March 31 is not yet known — and the gunman still a fugitive — but Sergi’s violent end reveals a direct and disturbing link between medical marijuana production and organized crime just as the pot industry struggles for respectability amid a legalization push.
Sergi, 53, founded the Medical Cannabis Employees Union Local 1 in 2013 and announced his presidency with a professionally distributed media release, slick website and an office in Woodbridge, north of Toronto.
“We’re 250 to 300 strong as of today,” said Sergi when launching his union. “Our goal is to have at least 7,000 members by the end of 2013.”
He promised to lobby government, assist in licensing and to help consumers “access the highest quality” cannabis “at the fairest price.”
These guys just circumvented our entire process
After neighbours complained last year of a strong marijuana odor, city bylaw officials and Hamilton police investigated and reported it was a federally licensed medical marijuana grow operation, said Sam Merulla, city councillor for the area.
“It was a surprise to us,” said Merulla, who complained there had been no interaction with the city about zoning or permits.
“These guys just circumvented our entire process. They showed no respect for the process at all. It is baffling to me how you can get licensing without any city zoning approval,” he said.
“From the outside, it’s atrocious. Outside it looks abandoned but inside, from what bylaw said, it looks quite extravagant.”
What makes the situation even more remarkable, however, is the facility does not actually have a federal marijuana licence.
“Health Canada has not issued a licence at this address for the production of medical cannabis,” said Gary Scott Holub, a Health Canada spokesman. “Not ever.”
“That tells you someone’s lying,” said Holub.
If it was Sergi lying, he was bold enough to do it in sworn statements filed in court.
“It’s an absurdity beyond comprehension,” he said, adding he will ask council to examine how city checks on a property could have gone awry.
While Hamilton officials grapple with that, Sergi’s family and friends are preparing a final goodbye. His funeral mass is scheduled for Friday.
Sergi is survived by his wife, Nancy, in Toronto, and his parents, two sisters and a brother in Italy.