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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Vito Rizzuto to return to a Canada with a changed underworld

In less than six months Vito Rizzuto, a man described in the past as ``the Godfather'' of the Mafia in Montreal, is expected to return to a city whose underworld has undergone a seismic change in his absence.
After serving five years in a U.S. prison, Rizzuto, 66, is expected to re-enter Canada a free man. And experts predict 2012 will be another tumultuous year for organized crime in Montreal, as the once untouchable criminal family Rizzuto headed moves to reassert its dominance against a shadowy enemy that has decimated its ranks.
The detention part of the sentence Rizzuto received in 2007 for his role in a plot to kill three mafia captains in 1981 - part of an internal struggle within the Bonanno crime family in New York - is expected to end on Oct. 6.
When Rizzuto pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in 2007 that encapsulated the three murders, He was required to provide an allocution as part of the plea. He was reluctant to reveal his role in the now-infamous triple homicide, portrayed inaccurately in the 1997 film Donnie Brasco. The prosecution had a statement from an informant alleging Rizzuto took part in the ambush with other mobsters, his gun blazing. But in his allocution Rizzuto only admitted to being armed when Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, Philip "Phil Lucky" Giaccone and Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera were invited to a club in Brooklyn, where they were murdered.
``Well, I was one of the guys to participate in this. My job was to say, `It's a hold up,' when I went into the room (I said), `so everybody stand still.' (At) this moment the other people came in and they started shooting the other guys,'' Rizzuto told U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis on May 4, 2007. Rizzuto also admitted to being armed during the ambush, enough to satisfy the judge to a point where he could accept the guilty plea.
When sentenced in 2007, Rizzuto saw a three-year term of supervised release tacked on to the end of his 10-year prison sentence. However, the U.S. court order, which is a form of probation, cannot be enforced in Canada. If, as expected, Rizzuto is turned over to the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency when he leaves the penitentiary in Colorado that he has called home for the past four years, ICE officers are expected to escort him to the Canadian border and release him.
When Canadian citizens serving time in the U.S. are returned to Canada, their supervised release is usually converted into a condition that bars them from returning to the U.S. until their sentence expires.
Once Rizzuto sets foot on Canadian soil he will be a free man - unless the Italian government seeks to have him extradited. Rizzuto faces two cases in Italy where he was charged, in 2005 and in 2007, with laundering the proceeds of crime.
Asked whether Italy has requested Rizzuto's presence in his birthplace, Canadian Department of Justice spokesman Christian Girouard wrote: ``Due to the confidentiality of state-to-state communications, we cannot confirm nor deny (receiving) any requests for extradition.''
If Rizzuto does not face extradition to Italy, investigators in Montreal are intrigued to see how he will respond to the unprecedented challenges facing his organization in his absence. Three of his close relatives and at least one other key player in the organization have been killed since 2009. His home is still up for sale, with an asking price of $1,750,000, and his former headquarters in the borough of St. Leonard, the Consenza Social Club, has closed.
Antonio Nicaso, a former journalist and author of several books on the Mafia said 2012 is a likely turning point for the group.
``This is a year when many alleged members of the Rizzuto crime family will be released,'' Nicaso said. Leaders in the Rizzuto organization, like Francesco Del Balso, 41, Lorenzo Giordano, 48, and Francesco Arcadi, 58, who were arrested in a major police sweep after Rizzuto was imprisoned, are also eligible for parole later this year. They were sentenced in 2008 after pleading guilty to a series of crimes uncovered by Project Colisee. The lengthy police investigation began before Rizzuto was arrested for the murders in the U.S. and more than 90 people were arrested in Montreal months after he was extradited.
``This is a very important year because it is one where (Rizzuto) can reaffirm his power or lose it definitely.
``For sure, he will be very angered that he lost so many members of his family and he is not the type of person to say `OK, the past is the past and let's look to the future.' I don't think that will be the case. It could be the year where we find out who is really behind this plot against the Rizzutos. I think the mastermind of these attacks is still hiding in the shadows,'' Nicaso said.
``I think the mistake we all can make is to write the obituary of the Rizzuto crime family. It's not the time to write the final word on them. They have the strength and the power to face this unprecedented challenge.''
Much has happened to the organization Rizzuto controlled for more than two decades without significant challengers to its position up until 2009.
His father Nicolo and most of the people who made up the structure underneath him were among those arrested in Project Colisee. In 2008, the leaders were sentenced for various crimes uncovered by the investigation. That left the organization in apparent disarray.
Vito Rizzuto's son Nicolo Jr. was killed in 2009, the first clear sign the clan was vulnerable. Months later, Rizzuto's brother-in-law, Paolo Renda, was apparently kidnapped and on Nov. 10, 2010, his father Nicolo was fatally shot in his home on Antoine Berthelet Avenue - the clearest sign someone was trying to seize control over what remained of the Mafia in Montreal.
The man believed to have been the driving force in that effort, Salvatore Montagna, 40, was killed in November. Raynald Desjardins, 58, a man known to have had very close ties to Vito Rizzuto, is charged with Montagna's murder.
On the surface it seems the Rizzuto clan survived the challenge. But like Nicaso, Pierre De Champlain, a retired RCMP analyst and the author of books about the Mafia, says he believes other people who might have enticed Montagna to make his aggressive push have yet to reveal themselves.
``What is certain is that when Vito Rizzuto returns to Montreal he will find that the portrait of the Mafia has changed considerably,'' De Champlain said adding the current situation in Montreal does not resemble what happened after Paolo Violi, then the leader of the Cotroni crime family in Montreal, was murdered in 1978. Back then it was clear immediately that the Rizzuto clan had taken over.
``What is happening now is very complex. They're swimming among clouds that are very thick. The Mafia has not experienced a crisis like this since it existed in Canada.''



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