27 November 2012


In Latorre v R [2012] VSCA 280 a full bench of the Victorian Court of Appeal has allowed prominent fruit grower Vincent Latorre's appeal - from R v Latorre (Unreported, County Court of Victoria, Judge Hampel, 10 December 2009) - against his convictions for two counts of blackmail. A conviction for extortion was upheld. Latorre was resentenced to 7 years' imprisonment (non-parole 5 years) for the extortion offence and a number of other offences.

Using his 'mafia reputation' Latorre and associates intimidated businessmen and their families into handing over substantial amounts of money. The offenders engaged in assault, threats to kill and damage to property to ensure that payments were made.

Possibly not the sort of person from whom you'd want to buy apples, pears and grapes.

The judgment features the following information -
The applicant conducted a wholesale fruit and vegetable business based in Shepparton. Orsida, his brother Roy, and their wives Anne and Glennis owned three orchards in the Cobram region.
Luisa Racioppo (‘Racioppo’) was employed by the Orsidas in early 2004 for about six months. In mid 2004, Orsida made sexual advances towards Racioppo, who had been in a relationship with the applicant’s acquaintance, Vincenzo Mantovani. Vincenzo Mantovani overheard a telephone call between Racioppo and Orsida, found out about the earlier advances, and became enraged
Shortly afterwards, Orsida was advised by Nicola (Nick) Mantovani that telephone recordings existed of him talking to Racioppo. Nicola Mantovani made a demand for money in exchange for the recordings and said that otherwise the recordings would be played to Orsida’s wife.
A few days after the demand was made, Orsida went to Nicola Mantovani’s packing shed and handed to the applicant $10,000 in cash. The applicant did not hand over the tape, but told Orsida that it would be destroyed (count 1 – blackmail).
The Orsidas subsequently sustained substantial deliberate damage to their business on the following occasions:
(a) on 26 October 2004, approximately 1,600 fruit trees were cut down and irrigation pipes were damaged at the Orsidas’ Lonergan Road property;
(b) on 15 August 2005, the cool room plant at the Orsidas’ Cottons Road property was set on fire;
(c) on 31 August 2005, approximately 500 fruit trees were deliberately destroyed and irrigation pipes were damaged at the Orsidas’ Murray Valley Highway property;
(d) on 4 September 2005, a pump shed at the Orsidas’ Lonergan Road property was set on fire;
(e) on 25 September 2005, the cool room plant at the Orsidas’ Cottons Road property was again set on fire; and
(f) on 28 September 2005, the Orsidas’ partially completed packing shed at Schubert Street was set on fire. 
Soon after the fire at Schubert Street, Orsida contacted Michelangelo Diaco (‘Diaco’), who knew the applicant. Diaco told Orsida that he had spoken to the applicant and that the applicant required a $10,000 ‘negotiation fee’. Orsida handed $10,000 to Diaco in October 2005.
Diaco subsequently told Orsida that the applicant wanted more money. A payment schedule was agreed upon whereby Orsida would hand to Diaco $150,000 in instalments over two years (count 3 – blackmail). In accordance with that agreement, Orsida paid to Diaco $20,000 on 23 December 2005, $25,000 on 10 March 2006 and $5,000 on 10 April 2006. ...
In mid-November 2003, Thomas Corso had a consensual sexual liaison with Tammara Mantovani. Vincenzo Mantovani was Tammara’s cousin and a friend of Thomas Corso. He heard about the liaison and became upset.
On 13 December 2003, Vincenzo Mantovani, Carmine Mantovani (Tammara’s brother) and another man assaulted Thomas Corso.
On 14 December 2003, Thomas Corso’s brother, Antonino Corso, assaulted Carmine Mantovani.
That evening, representatives of the Corso and Mantovani families met in an attempt to resolve the dispute. The applicant joined the families and told Antonino Corso that to resolve the issue, the Corsos owed him $100,000, half of it payable in two weeks and the remainder at the end of the fruit season (count 1 – blackmail).
In late December 2003, Antonino Corso gave the applicant $50,000 in cash. In April 2004, the applicant telephoned Antonino Corso and asked for the remaining $50,000. Antonino Corso said he needed a few more weeks and the applicant said, ‘Alright’. Antonino Corso did not pay the remaining $50,000.