Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rizzuto Admits role in Infamous Gangland Massacre

Vito Rizzuto, named as the Godfather of the Mafia in Canada, yesterday admitted his personal role in a notorious gangland massacre, accepting a 10-year sentence but avoiding a damaging and embarrassing trial in New York.
The guilty plea marks the end of his charmed life as one of the untouchables, a man who repeatedly avoided charges and won unexpected acquittals during decades as a top police target.
“I was one of the guys who participated in this,” said Rizzuto, 61, of Montreal, speaking of the murders of three rebellious Mafia captains inside a Brooklyn social club in 1981, a shooting that became a rich part of mob lore when it was vividly recreated in the movie Donnie Brasco.
“My job was to say it was a holdup, so everybody would stay still. Other guys came in and started shooting the other guys,” he said, wearing prison-issue clothes over his tall, lean frame and with his salt-and-pepper hair cut short. “I was armed,” he said.
Rizzuto agreed that he was there to participate in the murders of Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato, Philip “Philly Lucky” Giaconne and Dominick “Big Trinny” Trinchera.
Rizzuto’s contention that he did not personally shoot any of the victims contradicts testimony in other cases from turncoat mobsters.
Rizzuto was the first mobster out from a hiding spot during the ambush and the first to start shooting, according to Salvatore “Good-Looking Sal” Vitale, the former underboss of the Bonanno crime family.
Vitale said Rizzuto was with two other Montreal men, but no other Canadians have been charged.
Although he admitted to being part of a criminal conspiracy, Rizzuto avoided saying he was in the Mafia or naming the Bonanno crime family, one of the notorious Five Families of New York that maintained some control over crime across the continent.
That distinction was important to Rizzuto, said his lawyer, John Mitchell.
Greg Andres, Assistant U.S. Attorney, was not so accommodating.
“The association, in fact, was the Bonanno/Massino organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra,” Mr. Andres said.
(Joseph “Big Joey” Massino was the boss of the family until he became an informant himself to avoid the death penalty. He was expected to be the star witness if Rizzuto’s case went to a trial.)
The conviction brought satisfaction to many in law enforcement who had long tried to put Rizzuto in prison.
“There was no doubt he was the top dog. He was the major guy in the country and was paid very special attention,” said Larry Tronstad, a retired RCMP staff sergeant who helped run an elite anti-Mob unit and is now a partner in Detek Investigative Group.
“It is satisfying that he is going to jail but something tells me it should be for longer,” he said.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Raf Souccar said the conviction shows that police can work across borders just as well as the gangsters.
“Criminals should know that borders will not be a barrier to our efforts,” he said.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons is accepting Rizzuto’s sentence as starting on Jan. 20, 2004, the morning he was arrested inside his Montreal mansion. It includes time he spent fighting his extradition to the United States and during his plea negotiations.
Under U.S. regulations, he will likely be released after serving 87?% of his sentence, meaning release in late 2012.
Rizzuto is eligible to apply to serve his sentence in Canada — where his prison time would be even shorter under statutory release rules that effectively reduce sentences by one-third.
Mr. Andres defended the sentence in court, noting special circumstances: “given the passage of time, given it provides some finality to the victims and allows for the return of some evidence to the victims.”
Rizzuto is the last of 27 men named in the indictment to face the courts for the gangland conspiracy. All were found guilty.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis at first expressed misgivings at accepting the plea when Rizzuto was not very forthcoming.
“I want to know more,” he said after a bare-bones admission. “This is not some game–I’m the judge and it’s unacceptable. Was he the driver? A shooter?”
His demand for more details sparked an intense but private discussion between Rizzuto and Mr. Mitchell before Rizzuto returned to give a fuller account.
Rizzuto also told court he is concerned after an X-ray showed he had a spot on his lung two months ago, but he has been unable to arrange for a CAT scan for diagnosis.
Judge Garaufis agreed to recommend that Rizzuto be held in Ray Brook medium-security facility in upstate New York, the closest prison to Montreal, to allow easier access to his family, none of whom were in court yesterday.
In Italy, officials must now wait to try to have Rizzuto face trial there for a $6-billion bid to build a bridge connecting Sicily to mainland Italy.
“We will stand in line,” said Silvia Franze, an investigator with the Direzione Investigativa Antimafia in Rome.



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