&
The Toronto Star
Saturday, March 14, 1998

Cellular phone trail, wiretaps help police catch robbers

by Donovan Vincent

A trail of cellular phone calls and telephone wiretaps helped lead police to the players behind one of Toronto's largest robberies.

"Don't use a cell phone if you want to commit a robbery", Toronto police Detective Rod Redquest quipped in an interview this week.

His partner, Detective Doug Quan, testified in court that cell phone records and phone taps helped them assemble a giant piece of the Loomis robbery puzzle: who the players were, and where they were just before midnight Aug. 31, 1995, the night of the robbery.

Investigators were able to design a map that showed calls from the players' phones and their proximity to key locations: the Bank of Nova Scotia in Etobicoke where the Loomis truck was hijacked, and telephone booths from which diversionary calls were made to police.

The trail began with Angelo Portante's cell phone bills, which were obtained after his arrest Sept. 21, 1995.

In addition, the call display on his office phone listed several recent calls. In the end, only one of the callers' names would be significant: Piero Perciballi. At the time, however, the name meant nothing to investigators.

It wasn't until sometime later when police were investigating another matter that Perciballi's name popped up on the "nominal role", the list of all police officers in Toronto.

"It was just a lucky break", Redquest said.

Through search warrants, police obtained Perciballi's cell phone bills, which showed calls to friends Danny Zeoli, Marc Leggieri, and Sam DeFrancesca. The three would finger Perciballi in January, 1996, in exchange for immunity.

Police found that Perciballi, Leggieri, DeFrancesca, Zeoli, Tony Portante, and another man who was not charged all made calls near the key locations in the robbery.

Cellular phone records showed they were all in contact with one another the night of the robbery.

Meanwhile, that same night, Loomis employee Angelo Portante, Tony Portante's brother, was doing a run in another Loomis truck and was in the east end of Toronto and Durham Region and made a call on his cell phone from those areas.

It was the bulk of the evidence police needed to bug the phones of the players.

Between Dec. 4, 1995, and Jan. 18, 1996, police tapped the phones of Zeoli, Leggieri, and DeFrancesca as well as Perciballi, the Portante brothers and the other man who wasn't charged.

The second person to be arrested was Zeoli, who was the closest to Perciballi.

Leggieri and DeFrancesca later agreed to give videotaped statements to police. The three were not charged in exchange for their testimony.

The trio told about the robbery, how Andre Pelliccione posed as a police officer, and how Perciballi recruited the three of them.

"They filled in the blanks", Redquest said, referring to the questions left unanswered by the cell phone trail.

The wiretaps also showed how Perciballi was in control of the money after the heist.

Using code words like "cups of coffee" and "cowboy boots" to refer to the loot, some of the players later called him, asking for cash.


Copyright © 1998 by The Toronto Star. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.