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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mob murders increased since Vito Rizzuto returned to Canada

Mob slayings rise after Rizzuto's return
Police officers are seen at the scene of a shootout that left at least one person killed in St. Leonard in Montreal on Tuesday, June 29, 2010. Agostino Cuntrera, 66, died on the street outside of John and Dino Inc., his food-distribution business on Magloire St., between du Creusot and Lafrenaie Sts., as shots erupted at about 4 p.m.

Four months after his return to Montreal it appears Vito Rizzuto was underestimated when many predicted his demise as the Mafia clan he allegedly runs seemed to be on its knees two years ago.
An effort to wrestle control of the Mafia in Montreal from the Rizzuto clan appears to have failed, experts said, after it blew up in the face of the men allegedly behind it, leaving Rizzuto almost unchallenged when he returned to the city in October after serving most of a 10-year prison term in the United States for his role in the 1981 murders of three fellow mobsters in New York.
Since Nov. 4, seven murders and two attempted murders in the Montreal area have involved victims who reportedly had ties to the Mafia. But experts and police sources cautioned that not all appear to be directly related to Rizzuto’s return to Montreal.
The man who appeared to be pulling the strings in the effort to take control away from the Rizzutos was Joseph Di Maulo, 70, a former associate of Rizzuto’s who was killed outside his home in Blainville in November. A coalition headed by Di Maulo apparently self-destructed when two of its key figures, Salvatore Montagna and Raynald Desjardins (Di Maulo’s brother-in-law), had a falling out during summer 2011. Montagna was killed just east of Montreal on Nov. 24, 2011. Desjardins is charged with Montagna’s murder along with four other men, including Vittorio Mirarchi, 35, who, according to police sources, offered the coalition a link to support from other Mafia organizations based in Ontario.
The other Mafia-related bloodshed that followed Di Maulo’s murder appears to involve lower-level players who might have been victims of old scores being settled, said at least a few people interviewed by The Gazette this week.
However, one of the homicides stands out among the others because of the victim’s very close ties to Desjardins. Gaéten Gosselin, 69, was shot near his home in St-Léonard on the evening of Jan. 22, the coldest day of the winter so far in Montreal. Gosselin was something of an unknown entity to police but, according to provincial business records, he was the president of a numbered company that was the majority shareholder in a construction company Desjardins ran after being released from a penitentiary in 2004. Desjardins had served a 15-year sentence for taking part in a conspiracy to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cocaine with the Hells Angels. While Desjardins was under investigation in that case, in 1994, police considered him a trusted associate of Vito Rizzuto’s. But that friendship appears to be ancient history.
“It’s possible Gosselin was killed merely to send a message to Desjardins or to remove someone who might have been important to his (legitimate) business interests while he’s (detained),” a police source said.
Whatever the motives might be behind the recent slayings and attempted murders, some of the victims were tied to groups that, police said, sided with Di Maulo’s coalition. It is a sign, police sources said, that things appear to be turning in Rizzuto’s favour. He was behind bars in the U.S. between December 2009 and November 2010, when his father Nicolo and son Nick Jr. were killed and his brother-in-law, Paolo Renda, disappeared.
“While he was in jail, he still had an army, a large army that stayed loyal to (Rizzuto),” one police source said. He added that Agostino Cuntrera — an ally of the Rizzuto clan who was killed in St-Léonard in 2010 — had a similar “army” of his own. Most of that “army” remained loyal to the Rizzutos, with a couple of exceptions who were the victims of violence near the end of 2011.
Almost all of the people interviewed by The Gazette this week played down the ancestral differences between the Rizzuto organization — whose leaders originated from Sicily — and those of Calabrian origin, who sided with Di Maulo. But, one police source said, the differences did contribute to the turmoil in that as Rizzuto’s influence faded during his absence, several of the Calabrian leaders in Montreal showed little motivation to support his organization while it was attacked. Many of those Calabrian leaders were around when the Cotroni clan, also of Calabrian origin, controlled the Mafia in Montreal before the Rizzutos took over during the late 1970s.
“Since (Rizzuto’s) return, we appear to be seeing a return to force of the Sicilians and you have to ask if it isn’t playing in the favour of Vito Rizzuto,” said Pierre De Champlain, a retired RCMP analyst and the author of books on the Mafia. “But this remains to be seen. I don’t think Vito Rizzuto is in control of the situation as it stands now. But it seems that things are turning in his favour. No one could have foreseen this about a year ago.”
“I think that Rizzuto has the support of people who were underestimated. It really is an unexpected reversal.”
For years, Di Maulo had been described by police as someone who preferred to keep a low profile despite his influence within the Mafia. His brother-in-law, Desjardins, is the opposite — a charismatic figure among organized crime groups, the Hells Angels in particular — and his personality among the doomed coalition would have been important.
Montagna was the outsider to the group, a foreign element added to existing chemistry. He was more than two decades younger than Di Maulo and Desjardins, and was suddenly dropped into Montreal’s underworld in 2009 after being deported from the U.S. and returned to Canada, where he was a citizen even if he had not lived here long.
“With the time that has passed we can see that, even if he was in prison, Vito Rizzuto was still in control of the situation in Montreal. The winds have changed in his favour,” De Champlain said while referring to Rizzuto’s reputation as a charismatic arbitrator among Montreal’s organized crime groups. He also noted that many people in the Mob are probably impressed with how Rizzuto refused to turn informant even though leaders of the New York-based Bonanno crime family gave evidence against him, related to the 1981 murders, in order to save their own hides.
A couple of the victims of the recent violence in Montreal — besides Gosselin and Di Maulo — appear to have ties to Giuseppe (Ponytail) De Vito, 46, who is serving a 15-year prison term for attempting to smuggle 218 kilograms of cocaine into Canada. The conspiracy was uncovered while the Rizzuto clan was under investigation in Project Colisée.
Secretly recorded conversations portrayed De Vito as someone who worked with the Rizzuto organization even though he did not trust some of its members and blamed them when the cocaine was seized. His resentment toward the Rizzuto clan apparently dates to 2004 when his boss, Paolo Gervasi, was murdered during a dispute with the Rizzuto clan. Evidence gathered in Project Colisée revealed the Rizzutos took notice of the fact that De Vito and two of his partners, including Giuseppe (Closure) Colapelle, stopped paying tribute to the Rizzuto clan after Gervasi’s death. Colapelle was murdered in St-Léonard in 2012.
On Dec. 21, Domenico Facchini, 37, was killed and another man was injured when a gunman opened fire inside Café Domenica-In on Provencher Blvd. in St-Léonard. The café is part of a building owned by a numbered company controlled by De Vito’s wife, Adele Sorella, 46. Sorella was charged with murdering the couple’s two daughters while De Vito was on the lam in 2009.
While police sources said they knew little about Facchini — he had a relatively minor criminal record — they also said it appears De Vito was allied with Desjardins before both were arrested in their respective cases.
But everyone interviewed by The Gazette said they doubt all of the violence is the result of two clearly defined groups warring with each other.
“During Rizzuto’s absence, Desjardins and Montagna were trying to take over,” said Antonio Nicaso, author of several books about organized crime.
“The fact that a lot of people close to them are being killed makes it appear there is a sort of retaliation to it. That is the only thing we can say. But who is doing it? It is hard to say. It’s very difficult to understand what is going on. I think there is a lack of intelligence, a lack of (police) resources, because it is hard to tell who is on one side and who is on the other side.
“For so many years, we had only one (Mafia) organization in Montreal, unlike in Toronto and in other cities. In Montreal, the Rizzuto clan was very strong, very powerful. No else one had an opportunity to say anything. The power and charisma of Vito Rizzuto was very clear. The absence of Rizzuto gave an opportunity to many people to do what they’ve had in mind for years, but were incapable of doing it under his leadership. For the first time (when Rizzuto was absent) people had the freedom to do things they had wanted to do for a long time — in some cases take retaliation against rivals.”
Like De Champlain, Nicaso said Rizzuto’s influence appeared to travel beyond the Colorado penitentiary where he was incarcerated for almost all of his sentence. This influence apparently helped maintain enough support to hold his organization together long enough for it to survive.
“It’s not easy to challenge Vito Rizzuto or replace Vito Rizzuto. To replace him, they would have to also replace the political and financial connections of Vito Rizzuto,” Nicaso said. “Violence doesn’t guarantee longevity. Muscle on the street doesn’t give you the opportunity to succeed. I don’t see at the moment an organization powerful enough to replace the Rizzutos. But, also, these political and financial connections have been exposed by the Charbonneau Commission. So the Rizzuto crime family is weaker, not because of a challenge from a group on the streets from a younger generation, but their connections have been exposed by the Charbonneau Commission. If someone wants to replace them, they’d have to build the political and financial connections.”
Another possible challenge Rizzuto might face would come from Mafia clans based in Ontario, rather than on the streets of Montreal, said André Cédilot, co-author of the book Mafia Inc., which details the rise of the Rizzuto clan.
“There was (and still is) a destabilization in the milieu. For years, there were people who profited from this destabilization,” Cédilot said while adding Rizzuto has probably already sorted out who was loyal to his organization while he was incarcerated.
“His strength comes from knowing everything, the rumours, who likes him, who doesn’t,” Cédilot said. “He knows everything. I think he still has his network and that is also his strength.”



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