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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Montreal Mafia Boss Nicolo Rizzuto Buried

For a moment, as the sound of Ave Maria accompanied by a single trumpet filled the air and sunlight illuminated the church’s spectacular fresco, beauty emerged during Monday’s funeral for mob boss Nicolo Rizzuto.
But reminders of the ugliness that characterized Mr. Rizzuto’s life and death were inescapable, in the presence of hulking bodyguards prepared to evict interlopers and in the sight of the stooped widow who last week found her husband dying from a gunshot wound inside their home.
More than 500 mourners filled the pews of the historic Madonna Della Difesa church in Montreal’s Little Italy neighbourhood, paying their final respects to the 86-year-old Italian immigrant who built what was once Canada’s most powerful criminal organization.
In a Roman Catholic funeral mass celebrated entirely in Italian, the violence that has become inseparable from the Rizzuto name in Montreal was not mentioned. Nor was Mr. Rizzuto praised, as there was no eulogy from friends or family. Instead, Msgr. Igino Incantalupo’s words about the deceased differed little from what would have been said following the death of any other elderly community member.
Family members, including his widow Libertina and his grandchildren, accompanied Mr. Rizzuto’s gold-coloured casket into the church. Noticeably absent was his son, Vito Rizzuto, who is serving a 10-year racketeering sentence in the United States for his participation in the murders of three Mafia members in Brooklyn in 1981.
There was a conspicuous private security presence inside the church, and just before the service began, security guards were joined by Rizzuto associates to evict crime writer James Dubro.
Mr. Dubro said he was inside the church for about 30 minutes until a bodyguard asked him who he was.
“I’m just here because I’m curious — a lot of my life has been documenting organized crime and Nick Rizzuto is a very unique figure in all this. It’s a part of history,” Mr. Dubro said.
“It’s fascinating. It makes the least sense to kill an 86-year-old man who is frail and has no real power and is under house arrest [because he was on probation at the time], unless it was to send a very powerful message to Vito [Rizzuto] to say ‘you’re fini’.”
This was the second funeral for a murdered Rizzuto in less than a year at the 90-year-old Madonna Della Difesa church, which has been designated a national historic site because of its design. A funeral for Nick Rizzuto Jr., Vito’s son and Nicolo’s grandson, was celebrated there in January after he was shot dead on a west-end street.
The service featured music that ranged from mournful to soaring, with a choir accompanied by organ, strings and brass. Sunlight filled the church, illuminating the fresco that blends religious imagery with more modern portraits, including Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on horseback.
Most mourners leaving the church declined comment, and those who stopped to talk to reporters had nothing negative to say about Mr. Rizzuto. An accountant named Alberto Pizzi said he knew the Rizzutos because Montreal’s Italian community is tight-knit. “For me, he wasn’t a criminal,” he said. “He was normal. We knew each other, we respected each other.”
Mr. Rizzuto pleaded guilty in 2008 to gangsterism and was on probation at the time of his killing. He served five years prison in Venezuela on cocaine possession charges in the 1980s, but despite the many gangland slayings believed to be the work of his organization over the years, he was never charged with murder.
Francesco Bennici, 71, said he befriended Mr. Rizzuto about 40 years ago when they realized they were from the same province in Sicily, Agrigento. He said he last saw Nicolo Rizzuto at the grandson’s funeral in January, and he never thought his friend would meet the same fate. “I don’t expect anybody to end like this,” he said.
It was just before 6 p.m. last Wednesday when a gunman hiding in a wooded area behind Mr. Rizzuto’s house shot him through his window as he sat at his kitchen table. It was the fourth murder or kidnapping to rock the Rizzuto organization in the space of a year. It followed the murder of Nick Rizzuto Jr., considered a Rizzuto family street boss, the February kidnapping and presumed murder of Paolo Renda, Nicolo’s son-in-law, and the killing in June of Agostino Cuntrera, believed to be the organization’s interim boss.
Before the service, Montreal police had to deal with a suspicious package left on the church doorstep. Police said the small black box with a white cross contained a note. Const. Daniel Lacoursière said the note will be analyzed, but he would not disclose the note’s contents.



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