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Rizzuto crime family

The Rizzuto crime family (Italian: [ritˈtsuːto]) is an organized crime family based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, whose criminal activity covers most of southern Quebec and Ontario.[1] The FBI considers them to be connected to the Bonanno crime family,[1] but Canadian law enforcement considers them to be separate. They are sometimes referred to as the Sixth Family.[2]

Rizzuto crime family
Founded1970s
Founded byNicolo Rizzuto
Founding locationMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Years active1970s–present
TerritoryGreater Montreal and the province of Quebec and Ontario; Venezuela
EthnicityPeople of Italian descent as "made men", and other ethnicities as "associates"
Criminal activitiesDrug trafficking, illegal gambling, murder, loan sharking, extortion, racketeering, weapons trafficking
AlliesBonanno crime family
Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan
West End Gang
Hells Angels
Musitano crime family
RivalsSiderno Group
Cotroni crime family
Commisso 'ndrina

Sicilian immigrant Nicolo Rizzuto established the organization in the 1970s as part of the Sicilian faction of the Montreal Cotroni crime family. An internal war broke out by the late 1970s which resulted in the death of acting captain Paolo Violi and his brothers, allowing the Rizzutos to overtake the Cotronis as the preeminent crime family in Montreal. Rizzuto's son Vito Rizzuto was indicted in 2004 and imprisoned from 2007 until 2012 for murders in which he participated in 1981, causing a power struggle among criminals in Montreal. During Vito's imprisonment, his son Nicolo Jr. was killed in 2009, and Nicolo Sr. was shot by a sniper while in his home in 2010. Upon Vito's release, several people were killed in what was suspected to be retaliation for the murders of his family. Vito died of natural causes in 2013, and the head of the Mafia in Montreal is now assumed to be his son Leonardo.[3]

Setting the foundation for Mafia in MontrealEdit

Nicolo Rizzuto married Libertina Manno during the early 1940s, the daughter of a Sicilian Mafia leader, Antonio Manno.[4] Rizzuto emigrated from Sicily with his family to Montreal in 1954.[5]

In the 1970s, an internal war broke out in the Cotroni crime family between the Sicilian and Calabrian factions.[6] Rizzuto led the Sicilian faction, and family boss Vincenzo Cotroni led the Calabrian faction through his right-hand man Paolo Violi. This led to a violent Mafia war in Montreal which resulted in the deaths of Violi (who was acting capo and underboss for Cotroni) and his brothers, along with others, spanning the mid-1970s to the early 1980s until the war ceased.[7] Antonio Manno's son Domenico was also instrumental in Violi's murder.[8] He received a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiring to kill Violi;[8] Rizzuto confidant Agostino Cuntrera received a five-year sentence in relation to Violi's murder.[9]

Nicolo's son, Vito, later followed him into the Mafia. He kept a low profile, working only with trusted people close to the family. They worked with the Sicilian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta, the Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan, Colombian and Venezuelan drug cartels, and the Five Families of New York, in particular the Bonannos and Gambinos. Rizzuto was the mediator who oversaw the peace among the Hells Angels, the Mafia, street gangs, Colombian cartels, and the Irish mobs such as the West End Gang.[10][11]

Canadian Mafia journalists Lee Lamothe and Adrian Humphreys dubbed the Rizzuto clan the Sixth Family to describe them on an equal footing with the Five Families of Cosa Nostra in New York. According to the book The Sixth Family:

By 2003, the Rizzuto organization was variously listed in FBI and DEA files as merely 'the Canadian crew of the Bonanno Family' or the 'Montreal faction of the Bonannos.' The reality is far different. The territory under its control is huge—more than a million square miles of Quebec and Ontario directly fall under its influence, an area larger than one-quarter the size of the entire United States. It includes major cities, the busiest border crossings between the U.S. and Canada, and many mature Mafia clans that are, by and large, cooperating under the Sixth Family's banner. Where American Mafia bosses controlled criminal activity in portions of a city or a New York borough or the criminal activity in an industrial or commercial sector—such as construction or New York's garment district—the Sixth Family was an enterprise with a true global reach. The Sixth Family had outpaced any crew in the Bonanno Family and, indeed, man-for-man, dollar-for-dollar, had eclipsed the family as a whole. ...

'The nucleus of the Montreal-based Sicilian Mafia ... (comprises) hundreds of soldiers and associates,' says a Canadian police report drafted in 2004. Those who merely do business with the Sixth Family or work with them in short-term ventures are not included in this. Neither, generally, are the businessmen who do mostly non-criminal favors for the organization.[12]

Power vacuum after Vito's arrestEdit

After consolidation of their power in the 1990s, the Rizzutos became over-exposed and over-extended. Vito Rizzuto was arrested on January 20, 2004 for his involvement in the May 5, 1981 gangland killings of three rival Bonanno crime family captains (Alphonse Indelicato, Philip Giaccone and Dominick Trinchera) and was sentenced to a 10-year prison sentence on May 4, 2007.[13]

Lorenzo Giordano, a loyalist to Francesco Arcadi, shoots convicted heroin dealer Javal Mohammad Novarian in the groin on April 18, 2005.[14]

In 2005, a 300 kilogram shipment of a total 1,300 kilograms of cocaine, co-organized by Rizzuto family confidant, Francesco Del Balso and West End Gang member, Richard Griffin, was intercepted in Boucherville, Quebec by police. After Griffin invested $1.5 million in the purchase and transportation of the cocaine, he demanded $350,000 from the Rizzutos for not taking preventative measures in transporting the drugs. After arguments about the debts, Griffin was riddled with gunfire outside his home in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce on July 12, 2006.[15] On August 30, 2006, 35-year old Domenico Macri, a Rizzuto family enforcer and protégé of Francesco Del Balso, was murdered in a drive-by shooting as he waited at a traffic light in his Cadillac car in downtown Montreal.[16][17] On November 22, 2006, the senior leadership of the criminal organization was hit by the largest RCMP operation in Canadian history, named Project Colisée, lasting four years; the RCMP had fitted the Rizzutos' headquarters, the Consenza Social Club, with microphones and cameras to amass sufficient evidence against the organization.[18] Among the 90 people arrested were Nicolo Rizzuto, father of Vito Rizzuto, Paolo Renda, Vito Rizzuto's brother-in-law, Rocco Sollecito, Francesco Arcadi, Lorenzo Giordano and Francesco Del Balso.[19][18]

On September 7–12, 2007, 56-year old Francesco "Frank" Velenosi, an associate of capo Francesco Arcadi, was found stabbed to death in the trunk of his Volvo car.[20]

On January 15, 2008, Constantin "Big Gus" Alevizos, an associate of Gaetano "Guy" Panepinto before his murder in October 2000, was shot and killed outside of a halfway house in Brampton, Ontario. He was serving 3 years imprisonment since February 2007 for his role in a drug conspiracy. He was accused of stealing $600,000 from the Rizzuto family following Panepinto's murder.[21] A 2001 attempted hit was foiled after Juan "Joe Bravo" Fernandez gave a gun and ammunition to an undercover police agent. Alevizos, 6ft6 and weighing over 460 pounds, was shot in the back and abdomen and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.[22][23]

On December 4, 2008, 40-year old Rizzuto family soldier Mario "Skinny" Marabella, was kidnapped at a gas station on Highway 440 in Laval, Quebec. He was forced into a minivan and his car was later found in flames in Montreal.[24] Marabella had several convictions for loansharking, breaking probation and extortion. In 1992, he and Giuseppe De Vito robbed a liquor truck. He pleaded guilty to possessing stolen goods and received a 90-day sentence.[25]

On January 16, 2009, 37-year old Sam Fasulo was shot and killed, a convicted heroin and crack-cocaine dealer, who had close ties to Francesco Arcadi.[26] In 2004, he was sentenced to 4 years in prison for his role in a drug trafficking ring that operated out of Italian cafés in St. Léonard and St. Michel. Fasulo was shot several times as he drove his SUV in North Montreal and died in hospital two days later from his wounds.[27]

On August 21, 2009, family associate, Federico del Peschio was killed behind La Cantina restaurant in Ahuntsic.[28] On December 28, 2009, Nick Rizzuto Jr., son of Vito Rizzuto, was shot and killed near his car in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a borough in Montreal.[29][30] The killing of Nick Jr. – the face of the organization on the street – illustrated the power vacuum within the upper ranks of Montreal organized crime.[31][32] Since the slaying of Vito Rizzuto's son, the organization suffered other major setbacks. 70-year old Paolo Renda, the consigliere of the Rizzuto crime family, disappeared on May 20, 2010.[33] A month later 66-year old Agostino Cuntrera, the presumed acting boss who is believed to have taken control of the family, was killed together with his bodyguard 44-year old Liborio Sciascia on June 30, 2010.[34] After three decades of relative stability, the face of the city's Mafia hierarchy was subject to a major management shuffle.[34][35] 36-year old Ennio Bruni, former Rizzuto family enforcer and bodyguard to Francesco Del Balso, was shot and killed around 3:15am outside of Café Bellerose in Vimont, Quebec on September 29, 2010.[36] Bruni previously managed to escape an assassination attempt on his life on November 24, 2009 after he was shot three times in the shoulder and once in the back shortly after his departure from a restaurant in Laval, Quebec.[37][38] On November 10, 2010, Nicolo Rizzuto was killed at his residence in the Cartierville borough of Montreal when a single bullet from a sniper's rifle punched through double-paned glass of the rear patio doors of his mansion; he was 86.[39] His death is believed to be the final blow against the Rizzuto crime family.[40][41]

Calabrese mobsters led by the old Cotroni family were among the suspects for the murders of Rizzuto crime family members.[42] The Rizzutos have dominated organized crime activities in Montreal since its inception and now their weakened organization is being challenged for control of rackets in the area, most notably the drug trade.[43] An associate of capo Francesco Arcadi and Francesco Del Balso, 44-year old Antonio Di Salvo, is shot and killed at his home in Rivière-des-Prairies, Quebec on January 31, 2011.[44][45] On October 24, 2011, Rizzuto crime family associate-turned rival 40-year old Lorenzo "Larry" Lopresti, the son of Joe Lopresti who was gunned down in April 1992, was shot and killed on his ground-floor balcony and pronounced dead at the scene.[46][47] His murder was confirmed as the 31st homicide in Montreal in 2011. Salvatore Montagna, the acting boss of the Bonanno family until his deportation to Canada in 2009, was believed to be attempting to reorganize both families under his control;[48] however, he was murdered in November 2011.[49]

On March 1, 2012, 38-year old Giuseppe "Joe Closure" Colapelle, was shot inside of his parked SUV in North Montreal and later pronounced dead upon arrival of the hospital.[50][51] It is believed Colapelle worked for Giuseppe De Vito, a former Rizzuto family lieutenant who was ousted after attempting to overthrow the Rizzuto family in around 2009-2010. Colapelle allegedly served as a double-agent for Raynald Desjardins and was spying on Salvatore Montagna by mid-2011. On May 4, 2012, 53-year old Giuseppe "Joe" Renda is kidnapped and never seen alive again.[52][53] It is noted that Renda met with Antonio Pietranto and Montagna two days before the failed assassination attempt on Raynald Desjardins on September 16, 2011, Renda allegedly gave Montagna his full support in taking control of the Italian-Montreal underworld.[54] Walter Gurierrez, a money launderer for the Rizzuto family, was shot to death multiple times in West Montreal on July 16, 2012.[55] Vito Rizzuto was released from prison on October 5, 2012.[56] On November 5, 2012, Rizzuto family confidant-turned rival 70-year old Giuseppe "Smiling Joe" Di Maulo is executed by a hitman waiting outside his home in Blainville, Quebec.[57][58] Di Maulo allegedly attended the election of Philip Rastelli as the Bonanno family boss in 1973 with Desjardins and Paolo Violi, it also noted that he was the brother-in-law of Raynald Desjardins.[59][60] On December 8, 2012, Rizzuto family lieutenant 50-year old Emilio Cordileone is gunned down in Ahuntsic, Quebec near his parked SUV. His murder was verified as Montreal's 33rd homicide in 2012. Cordileone's murder was possibly the result of his association with Giuseppe De Vito and the Cotroni crime family.[61]

On May 8, 2013, 57-year old Juan "Joe Bravo" Fernandez and his associate 36-year old Fernando Pimentel, considered neutral in the Rizzuto war, were both found murdered in a garbage dump in Casteldaccia, Palermo, his body was burnt and riddled with over 30 bullets.[62] His associate allegedly arrived in Sicily in March. Law enforcement considered the hit to be ordered by Vito Rizzuto.[63] Bravo was deported from Canada to Sicily in 2012.[64] Giuseppe Carbone, Pietro and Salvatore Scaduto were convicted for the April 9th murder. Carbone led the police to the whereabouts in May, he became a cooperating witness and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.[65][66]

On July 8, 2013, 46-year old Giuseppe De Vito, ally of Raynald Desjardins, was fatally poisoned in his cell at Donnacona federal penitentiary.[67][68] De Vito was targeted by law enforcement in 2006 as part of "Operation Coliseum".[69] He was serving a 15-year prison sentence for conspiracy to import cocaine and gangsterism charges following his conviction in 2010.[70] His murder is believed to be orchestrated by Vito Rizzuto.[71] On July 12, 2013, 41-year old Salvatore Calautti was shot in the head and killed while driving his BMW car in Vaughan, Ontario. His associate, 35-year old Jimmy Tusek, was shot in the chest and stomach. The killing of Calautti is believed to be revenge for the murder of Vito Rizzuto associate Gaetano Panepinto in October 2000 and Nicolo Rizzuto, Sr. in November 2010.[72][73] It is noted he also had ties to the 'Ndrangheta organisation in Canada.[74]

On November 10, 2013, 67-year old Moreno "The Turkey" Gallo, a once-influential member of the crime family, was killed by a gunman inside an Italian restaurant in the Mexican city of Acapulco. He had lived in Canada throughout the 1950s but was deported in January 2013 after the Canadian government formally accused him of murder and organized crime charges.[75] The murder of Gallo is believed to have marked the three-year anniversary of the murder of Nicolo Rizzuto, Sr. on November 10, 2010. It is suspected Gallo was killed as a consequence of aligning with Raynald Desjardins and attempting to overthrow the Rizzuto family around 2009-2010.

Events following the death of VitoEdit

Five days before the death of Rizzuto, on December 18, 2013, 54-year old Roger Valiquette Jr., a loan shark and Desjardins ally who also had ties to Joe Di Maulo, is gunned down in the parking lot of a restaurant in Laval.[76][77][78][79] Vito Rizzuto dies of natural causes on December 23, 2013.[80] After his release from prison, Rizzuto had been on a revenge campaign which the Rizzuto crime family continued after his death.[81] Several members and associates of the Cotroni family were murdered as a result.[82]

On August 1, 2014, 46-year old Ducarme Joseph, leader of the Haitian-based street gang "the 67s", was shot multiple times in the upper body on the streets of Saint-Michel, Quebec and was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived.[83] Sources claimed his murder was retribution for his involvement in the murder of Nick Rizzuto Jr. in December 2009, the son of Vito Rizzuto. The 67s gang formed in the Saint-Michel district of Montreal, Quebec, Canada in the late 1980s and are associated with the Crips gang. Police believed Joseph drove the getaway car in the Rizzuto murder. It is alleged the Rizzuto family offered $200,000 for the death of Joseph.[84] His boutique shop on Saint Jacques Street was shot at on March 18, 2010. Joseph managed to flee however his bodyguard and associate 27-year old Peter Christopoulos, and the store manager 60-year old Jean Gaston, were killed.[85] He was arrested on March 19 on charges of assault and the possession of a firearm silencer, and he was sentenced to 10 months in April 2010.[86][87][88]

In November 2015, Vito Rizzuto's son, Leonardo Rizzuto, along with Rocco Sollecito's son, Stefano Sollecito, believed to be the heads of the Mafia in Montreal, were arrested along with more than 40 other people, and were charged with taking part in a conspiracy to traffic in drugs between January 1, 2013 and November 16, 2015. They were also charged with committing a crime "for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization."[89][90] As part of the same operation, the police charged Maurice Boucher with ordering the failed assassination plot on Desjardins from his prison cell.[91]

On March 1, 2016, highly-respected Rizzuto lieutenant and confidant whom expressed wishes to become the next boss of the Rizzuto family, 52-year old Lorenzo Giordano, was shot to death in a Chomedey, Quebec parking lot.[92] On May 27, 2016, 67-year old Rocco Sollecito was shot to death in Laval, Quebec, while driving a white BMW SUV. Sollecito was an underboss of the family and his death was believed to be part of a dismantling of the older generation of the family.[93] On June 2, 2016, semi-retired Rizzuto family member, 72-year old Angelo D'Onofrio, was shot several times at close range inside of Café Sinatra by a young black male.[94][95][96]

On October 15, 2016, 65-year old Vincenzo Spagnolo, considered formerly as a mediator, messenger and advisor to Vito Rizzuto, was shot multiple times at his home in Vimont, Quebec and pronounced dead.[97][98] Spagnolo was close to the Sicilian faction of the family following Rizzuto's death in 2013.

In December 2016, Raynald Desjardins received a 14-year prison sentence, including time served, for connection to the murder of Salvatore Montagna in November 2011.[99]

On January 30, 2017, 39-year old Anastasios Leventis, a former computer technician and enforcer associated with the Rizzuto crime family, was shot to death in Toronto, two firearms were recovered close to the scene of the homicide.[100] He pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and marijuana-smuggling in 2009 as part of "Project Cancun" and was sentenced to 6-months in prison. A court document issued in 2009 considered Leventis the main marijuana supplier in the operation.[101][102]

On August 17, 2017, 45-year old Antonio De Blasio, a Rizzuto family soldier and Sollecito crew member, is gunned down outside his son's football practice in St. Leonard, Quebec. He was shot several times in the upper body. De Blasio's murder was confirmed as Montreal's 15th homicide in 2017.[103]

Jacques Desjardins, brother of Raynald Desjardins, disappeared on November 2–3, 2017, and is presumed dead.[104]

On February 3, 2018, 33-year old Daniele Ranieri was found in a ditch in Cancún, Mexico. He was shot twice in the back of the head. Law enforcement alleged Ranieri took over the Toronto crew on behalf of the Rizzuto crime family following the April 2013 murder of Joe Bravo. Ranieri fled to Mexico in 2015 following an indictment on extortion charges issued by the York Regional Police.[105] He previously served three prison-stints for robbery, assault, bookmaking and firearm offenses.

On February 19, 2018, Leonardo Rizzuto and Stefano Sollecito were released from prison since their November 2015 arrest, and acquitted of charges of gangsterism and conspiracy to traffic cocaine. The wiretap evidence that was gathered by a joint police task force in 2015 was excluded as a violation of the constitutional right to solicitor-client privilege.[106]

A 2019 CBC News report later quoted a Mafia expert as stating that "Rizzuto's death paved the way for upheaval in the underworld. There's a power struggle left from the vacuum from Rizzuto".[107] On October 17, 2019, Jonathan Massari, Dominico Scarfo, Guy Dion and Marie-Josée Viau, were arrested and charged with planning and executing the murders of Sollecito and Giordano.[108]

In popular cultureEdit

Writers Antonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards published Business or Blood, a history of the family, in 2015. The book was adapted into the television drama series Bad Blood, which debuted on Citytv in 2017.[109]

ReferencesEdit

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