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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Firebombs Montreal's Hot Issue

The year's most jarring reminder of organized crime's broad reach here came not from the sniper who killed Nicolo Rizzuto in his own kitchen or the abduction of one of his lieutenants, but in the many firebombings that continue to hit local businesses.
Arson investigators were on the scene of another such attack on Wednesday, bringing the city's total to more than two dozen for the year.
The target this time was Cafe Calypso in Montreal North. As is typically the pattern, the damage caused was minimal.
The fires, which have focused on cafes and small restaurants in the northeast of the city, are clearly meant to deliver a message, but police are still puzzling over exactly what the message is.
A rash of firebombings first broke out in 2009, as one Italian cafe after another was hit by nighttime Molotov cocktail attacks. Last January, as the number of fires climbed to 18, police speculated that street gangs could be behind the arson, as they sought to claw away turf from a Mafia in disarray.
The once powerful Rizzuto clan had been hobbled by the imprisonment in the United States of its boss, Vito Rizzuto. Vito's son and heir apparent, Nick Rizzuto Jr., was murdered in late December 2009. After arrests last spring related to five of the fires, there was a lull in the attacks. Police said the nine people arrested were known associates of street gangs, but they were unable to clarify the motive for the attacks. The arsonists could have been advancing their gangs' interests, or they could simply have been hired by one of the parties in an internal Mafia feud.
Hopes that the arrests had ended the spate of attacks dissolved this fall as a new wave began. Cafes remained a favourite target, but in one week in November, arsonists hit three pizzerias on the same Montreal North street.
Organized crime observers note that Montreal has seen similar violence in the past driven by the mob's desire to control distribution of a product. Police wiretaps in 2004 and 2005 uncovered evidence of Mafia violence and intimidation aimed at ensuring a particular brand of coffee was sold in restaurants. The coffee in question, Moka d'Oro, was distributed by a company with ties to a son of deceased mob boss Frank Cotroni. In the 1980s, Montreal saw a similar firebomb campaign aimed at forcing restaurants to carry a certain ice cream.
In early November, Montreal police appeared at a loss to explain the latest string of attacks. But by the end of the month, Commander Mario Lamothe, head of the economic and property crimes division, had narrowed his focus. "The motive behind these arsons is a conquest of territory between Italians for control of the drug traffic," Cmdr. Lamothe told reporters on Nov. 30. It was the first time police publicly connected the firebombings to an internal Mafia war, but he declined comment when asked to confirm who was challenging the Rizzuto family.
On Dec. 9, when police arrested nine people in connection with drug trafficking at north-end cafes, Commander Denis Mainville was hopeful the arrests would stem the arson attacks. He blamed the fires on people trying to intimidate competitors in a battle over drug-trafficking turf in an area that, until recently, was generally controlled by the Rizzuto clan.



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