The 'Ndragheta is a criminal organization in Italy, centered in Calabria. Despite not being as famous abroad as the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, and having been considered more rural compared to the Neapolitan Camorra and the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita, the 'Ndrangheta managed to become the most powerful crime syndicate of Italy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While commonly lumped together with the Sicilian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta operates independently from the Sicilians, though there is contact between the two due to the geographical closeness of Calabria and Sicily.
The principal difference with the Mafia is in recruitment methods. The 'Ndrangheta recruits members on the criterion of blood relationships resulting in an extraordinary cohesion within the family clan that presents a major obstacle to investigation. Sons of ‘ndranghetisti are expected to follow in their fathers' footsteps, and go through a grooming process in their youth to become giovani d’onore (boys of honor) before they eventually enter the ranks as uomini d’onore (men of honor). There are relatively few Calabrians who have opted out to become a pentito; at the end of 2002, there were 157 Calabrian witnesses in the state witness protection program. Unlike the Sicilian Mafia in the early 1990s, they have scrupulously avoided a head-on confrontation with the Italian state.
A 'Ndrangheta crime family is called a locale (place). A locale may have branches, called 'ndrina (plural: 'ndrine), in the districts of the same city, in neighbouring towns and villages, or even outside Calabria, in cities and towns in the industrial North of Italy in and around Turin and Milan. Sometimes sotto 'ndrine are established. These subunits enjoy a high degree of autonomy – they have a leader and independent staff. In some contexts the 'ndrine have become more powerful than the locale on which they formally depend. Other observers maintain that the 'ndrina is the basic organizational unit. Each 'ndrina is "autonomous on its territory and no formal authority stands above the " 'ndrina boss", according to the Antimafia Commission. The 'ndrina is usually in control of a small town or a neighborhood. If more than one 'ndrina operates in the same town, they form a locale.
Blood family and membership of the crime family overlap to a great extent within the 'Ndrangheta. By and large, the 'ndrine consist of men belonging to the same family lineage. Salvatore Boemi, Anti-mafia prosecutor in Reggio Calabria, told the Italian Antimafia Commission that "one becomes a member for the simple fact of being born in a mafia family," although other reasons might attract a young man to seek membership, and non-kin have also been admitted. Marriages help cement relations within each 'ndrina and to expand membership. As a result, a few blood families constitute each group, hence "a high number of people with the same last name often end up being prosecuted for membership of a given 'ndrina." Indeed, since there is no limit to the membership of a single unit, bosses try to maximize descendants.
At the bottom of the chain of command are the picciotti d’onore or soldiers, who are expected to perform tasks with blind obedience until they are promoted to the next level of cammorista, where they will be granted command over their own group of soldiers. The next level is known as santista and higher still is the vangelista, upon which the up-and-coming gangster has to swear their dedication to a life of crime on the Bible. The quintino is the second highest level of command in a 'Ndrangheta clan, being made up of five privileged members of the crime family who report directly to the boss, the capobastone (head of command).
The Italian authorities allege that the seven primary ’Ndrangheta families in the Toronto area are led by:
Vincenzo Tavernese, 44, of Thornhill;
Cosimo Figliomeni, 45, of Vaughan;
Antonio Coluccio, 40, of Richmond Hill;
Cosimo Commisso, of Toronto;
Angelino Figliomeni, 47, of Woodbridge;
Vincenzo “Jimmy” DeMaria, 56, of Mississauga; and
Domenic Ruso, 65, of Brampton.