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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mafia Don Killed By Single Shot From Professional Hitman

The head of the once-powerful Rizzuto crime family was likely cut down by a single bullet from a professional hitman as he prepared dinner with his wife and daughter nearby.
A lone bullet hole through a glass wall at the rear of Nicolo (Nick) Rizzuto’s luxury home leads investigators to believe that the gunman waited in a stand of trees for the right moment to get a clear shot at the 86-year-old kingpin at suppertime on Wednesday.
"The impact of the bullet was able to pierce two windows to hit Mr. Rizzuto,” Cmdr. Denis Mainville, head of Montreal’s organized crime squad, told QMI Agency on Thursday.
He said the high-profile murder has all the hallmarks of an assassination.
“These were targeted acts,” said the commander. “Now, were they targeted acts from within organized crime or even within factions? We are studying different links, different situations and different information.”
Mafia analysts and a police informant tell QMI Agency that the killing was likely ordered by rival mobsters trying to finish off the crumbling Rizzuto clan, which has been rocked by 12 months of killings and disappearances.
Rizzuto and his grandson and namesake, Nick Rizzuto Jr., have both been killed, leaving jailed son Vito as the only remaining leader of a family that has controlled Canada’s mob scene ever since the murder of gangster Paolo Violi in 1978.
If the Sicilian Rizzutos are in fact on the way out, say experts, it clears the way for Calabrian mobsters in the Toronto area to take over traditional rackets of gambling, loansharking and drug trafficking.
Italian anti-Mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told Toronto journalists last month that the powerful network known as the 'ndrangheta is based in Italy’s southern Calabria region and has a major presence in Canada’s largest city. The 'ndrangheta are Europe’s main cocaine traffickers as well as master money-launderers, said Gratteri. A recent bust in Italy nabbed 350 people and wiretaps had repeatedly picked up references to Canada.
Montreal criminologist and Bloc Quebecois MP Maria Mourani says the 'ndrangheta could very well be behind the purge of the Rizzutos.
"The information I have is that it's the Ontario Calabrese who are trying to resume control in Montreal,” said Mourani, who has written extensively on organized crime.
“It’s very, very complicated in Montreal. The market and even Italian clans are in the process of restructuring.”
That restructuring has taken on a scorched-earth dynamic. Aside from Nick Rizzuto and his grandson, top leader Agostino Cuntrera has also been eliminated, and family consigliere Paolo Renda was kidnapped in May and hasn’t been seen since.
Undercover police agent Alex Caine, who has infiltrated dangerous gangs including the Hells Angels, tells QMI Agency that the Rizzutos’ enemies might be worried that someone turned informant during a big 2006 mafia roundup.
“Somebody from way high up turned and maybe said too much and they're not sure which one it was,” said Caine, who has worked with police for 30 years. “Somebody, somewhere, talked. There has to have been a singing canary ... when in doubt, take 'em out.”
The rise and fall of Nick Rizzuto
Nicolo Rizzuto’s mafia career ended the same way as that of Paolo Violi, the reputed godfather whom he replaced in the 1970s.
Rizzuto was born in 1924 in the Italian village of Catolica Eraclea, in southern Sicily. He had grand ambitions when he arrived in Halifax in 1954 at the age of 30, accompanied by his family.
He made his way to Montreal and met with the city’s reigning mafia don, Vic Cotroni. But Rizzuto’s ambition irked Cotroni’s New York masters, the Bonanno family. With a price on his head, Rizzuto fled to Venezuela for several years and became friends with the Caruana-Cuntrera clan, Sicilians just like him.
Rizzuto returned to Montreal in the 1990s and waged war with Violi. The Calabrian boss’ murder in 1978 cleared the way for the illiterate but intelligent Rizzuto to rise up Canada’s criminal hierarchy.
The Rizzutos soon controlled loansharking, money laundering and drug rackets.
A recent book on the mafia said the organization forces hundreds of Montreal businesses to pay them protection money. But his smarts couldn’t protect him from Project Coliseum, a huge 2006 anti-mafia bust orchestrated by Quebec provincial police. Rizzuto was among 73 people nabbed in the roundup, the first of a series of setbacks for the family.
In 2007, it was son Vito’s turn to face justice, this time in the United States. Vito is serving a 10-year sentence for racketeering related to his role in the murders of three New York mobsters in 1981.
Nick Rizzuto’s grandson, Nick Jr., 42, was seen as a favourite to take over the family but he was killed with six shots to the chest in west-end Montreal in December 2009.



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