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

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Godfather of Montreal is relocating to Toronto?

When Vito Rizzuto re-emerges next month from the U.S. prison cell where he has been incarcerated for the past five years, he will have many graves to visit at home in Canada.
While behind bars in Colorado for his role in the slaying of three American Mafia leaders, Rizzuto — described in court documents as the “Godfather of the Montreal Mafia” — lost his son, father, a brother-in-law and a close family friend in a series of gangland slayings that rocked this city’s underworld.
Now, veteran organized crime investigators are raising intriguing possibilities: Vito Rizzuto, 66, is considering the GTA as his new home base, where he may choose between revenge and rebuilding his shaken empire.
“Toronto is where he can find strength and calm,” one senior Quebec police official told a team from the Star and the Radio-Canada program Enquête that is investigating the underworld.
For some time now, Rizzuto’s $1.5-million home in a northeast Montreal suburb — described in real-estate listings as a “luxurious property” with five bedrooms and a marble foyer — has been up for sale on an upscale street nicknamed “Mafia Row.”
Montreal police have told their Toronto colleagues that, according their Mob sources, Rizzuto might be contemplating a move to Ontario — right in the heartland of some of his rivals.
“Wow, that’s gutsy,” was the reaction of one veteran Mafia investigator in the province. “But he’s is no stranger to Ontario.”
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rizzuto felt comfortable in the Toronto area, where his businesses included investment in a restaurant and nightclub, Bay Street stock trading and garbage disposal.
He visited Ontario often, frequenting his favourite hotels and a golf course in the Vaughan area.
His wife’s family also live in the region.
Some Montreal cops think it would be “suicidal” for Rizzuto to head into the lion’s den of Ontario.
Rizzuto’s Sicilian branch of the Mafia in Montreal has had a tense history of enmity and alliance with the ’Ndrangheta, the Mafia clan based in the Calabrian region of Italy that has established a strong foothold in the GTA.
On Wednesday, the Star reported that the RCMP has raised the ’Ndrangheta in Ontario to a “Tier 1” national threat.
Another organized crime investigator said Rizzuto might even try to find temporary refuge in Venezuela (where his father fled briefly during the Montreal Mafia wars of the 1970s and was later imprisoned).
But everyone agrees: don’t count him out.
“It’s too early to write the obituary of Vito Rizzuto,” said Antonio Nicaso, the Toronto-based Mafia expert who has written more than 20 books on the Mob. “It’s not over.”
Regardless of where he eventually settles, Rizzuto will have the tough task of restoring order to his operations in Montreal, under unprecedented attack in recent years by rival criminals and damaging police probes.
Once known as the “Teflon Don” for his ability to stay out of jail — he twice avoided conviction on drug importing charges in the 1980s —Rizzuto’s luck ran out in 2004 when he was arrested for his role in the New York murders dating back to the 1980s (an execution-style hit dramatically if not very accurately retold in the Hollywood Mafia flick, Donnie Brasco.)
By August 2006, he was extradited to the United States, where he eventually pleaded guilty to racketeering charges related to the murders and received a 10-year sentence.
Within months, the empire he left behind suffered its first major setback when the RCMP and other police agencies arrested more than 90 people in a major money-laundering probe called Project Colisée. Vito father’s and his brother-in-law were among the many who by 2008 pleaded guilty to gangsterism charges, including possession of the proceeds of crime.
The arrests, jailings and the embarrassing revelations through wiretaps and surveillance of the inner workings of the Mafia seriously weakened the Rizzutos in the eyes of the criminal world in Canada and the U.S.
Montreal — with its port that has long been heavily infiltrated by organized crime — is crucial to the drug pipeline that feeds the New York Mafia and the lucrative American market.
“The Ontario ’Ndrangheta is looking for control of the Montreal port,” said Nicaso. “They don’t care who is controlling the streets. What they want is the port.”
According to one Toronto Police intelligence report obtained by the Star and Radio-Canada, there was a general belief among law enforcement that with Rizzuto out of the picture, “the Calabrians are overpowering the Sicilians for power in the drug trade in Montreal.”
By 2009, the bodies of Rizzuto’s family members started falling.
In December, his son Nick, 42, was gunned down on a west-end street. Police sources say the younger Rizzuto was trying to shake down a local businessman involved in construction.
By 2010, Rizzuto faced a wider and more serious assault on his power, this time from within the Mafia.
In May, his brother-in-law, Paulo Renda, vanished in an apparent abduction.
Then in November 2010, Vito’s father Nicolo was killed with a sniper’s bullet through the patio window of his home on “Mafia Row.”
The man many suspect was behind the power grab against the Rizzutos, if not the killings, was Salvatore “The Bambino Boss” Montagna, a Montreal-born gangster who rose to prominence in the New York mob but was deported to Canada in 2009 in an FBI crackdown.
Though a Sicilian, he reportedly made several trips to Toronto and Hamilton, apparently to get the support and blessing from Calabrian ’Ndrangheta leaders eager to get rid of the Rizzutos.
Montagna’s alleged move against the Rizzutos promised the Ontario mob players a return to the glory days of the 1960s and ’70s when Calabrians like Paolo Violi ran the Montreal Mafia scene.
The Rizzutos had wrested control away from the ’Ndrangheta by the 1980s, in a bloody mob war that saw close to two dozen murders in Montreal and Italy.
But Montagna’s bid for power did not last long. In late 2011, his bullet-riddled body turned up in a river outside of Montreal.
In the complicated crime chessboard that is the Canadian Mafia, Rizzuto had always been shrewd enough to build alliances with the GTA-based underworld.
The close ties between the Sicilian and Calabrian mob families were in evidence at a 50th wedding anniversary in Vaughan in February 2011 attended by so many figures of “traditional organized crime” — the polite police term for the Mafia — that the Toronto Police conducted extensive video surveillance.
The surveillance report on the event concluded that, “the mix of both Sicilian and Calabrian guests at this event would appear to show there is no animosity between the two groups in the GTA.”
“It would be more plausible to believe the two factions are working together in the GTA to possibly share control of Montreal,” the report said.



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