Mafia Inc.: The Long, Bloody Reign of Canada's Sicilian Clan - André Cédilot, André Noël (2011)
The sun had already set on Wednesday, November 10, 2010, when a man armed with a high-powered rifle slipped into the protective cover of the woodland behind Nicolò Rizzuto’s home on Antoine-Berthelet Avenue. A thin, waxing crescent moon hung above the horizon. The temperature had risen steadily throughout the day, from the freezing point at dawn to nearly eight degrees Celsius by dusk—well above normal for that time of year.
The intruder chose a spot some fifteen metres from the house, near the edge of the woods. He settled behind a hedge, adjusted his rifle’s telescopic sight and waited. A wind had blown up, reaching twenty-six kilometres an hour. But at that distance, it would have no impact on the trajectory of the bullet.
Since his release from prison, old Nick had spent most of his time at home. The eighty-six-year-old patriarch’s health was faltering. Moreover, police had warned him that his life was in danger. He had taken the threat seriously and installed surveillance cameras around the property. The mid-November evening was dark, though, and the cameras picked up no suspicious movements.
At around twenty minutes to six, Rizzuto entered the solarium at the rear of the house and prepared to sit down for dinner with his wife, Libertina, and his daughter, Maria—whose husband, Paolo Renda, had disappeared several months earlier, presumably kidnapped and murdered.
The killer sighted the old don’s head in the rifle scope and pulled the trigger.
The .300 calibre bullet—a heavy projectile, typically used for hunting big game like bear or moose—flew from the mouth of the weapon at some one thousand metres per second. As it punched through the double glass of the window, its copper jacket tore away, leaving the lead core to pursue a straight trajectory, barely missing Libertina and striking the old man in the jaw. The slug did not penetrate as far as the brain, and did relatively minor—at least, not lethal—damage. A fragment of the jacket, however, took a slightly different path, severing his aorta and proving instantaneously fatal. Nicolò Rizzuto collapsed to the floor.
After an initial moment of shock, one of the two women called 911. Ambulance technicians and police arrived within minutes. Rizzuto was taken to hospital, where a physician pronounced him dead; the body was sent on to the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, part of SQ headquarters in the former Parthenais Detention Centre in east-end Montreal, for an autopsy. Ballistics testing on the fatal bullet and its fragments was conducted in the same lab. Every projectile bears the markings of the gun barrel from which it is fired, much as a child’s DNA corresponds to that of his or her parents. When viewed under a microscope, these impressions are irrefutable proof of the “paternity” of a bullet—as long as the matching firearm can be found. With luck—a lot of it—a search may one day locate the weapon that was used to kill Nicolò Rizzuto. In the meantime, all that ballistics experts can do is theorize. It is possible that the hit man used a sniper rifle, but more likely that he was armed with a simple hunting rifle, perhaps a Remington, a Winchester or a Savage.
Police cordoned off Antoine-Berthelet Avenue, unrolling a length of orange tape to prevent curious onlookers from approaching the house, and set about taking photographs. The single bullet had left a neat hole in the windowpane. Investigators seized and viewed the surveillance video recordings, but they would reveal no clues as to the assassin’s identity. A search of the area around the house, to see whether the man had left any incriminating items or marks, was no more fruitful.
News of the patriarch’s demise spread swiftly. Reporters descended on Mafia Row in time to see a woman leaving the home of Vito Rizzuto, right next door to his parents’; another woman helped her walk to a third nearby house, the Renda residence. Family lawyer Loris Cavaliere, who had accompanied Nicolò Rizzuto on his release from Bordeaux Prison, joined them there.
Commander Denis Mainville, the head of the Montreal police force’s anti-gang squad, explained to reporters that officers had previously warned other individuals that their lives were also at risk. “We have to advise them. So it was not only [Mr. Rizzuto] who was advised. Other people were, too,” Mainville said. “It’s a regular part of our work.”
Mainville went on to say that police had taken individuals with known links to the Rizzutos into custody, along with their bodyguards, and seized armoured vehicles as well as bulletproof vests. He also mentioned that they had recently arrested Tony Mucci as well as Tony Magi, the construction contractor who had been a business partner of Nick Rizzuto Jr., Vito’s murdered son.
“Our organized crime division has been very active in recent months,” he added. “There have been several multidisciplinary teams on the ground in different locations. Our best investigators have been working to clarify the latest events … [Rizzuto] was an important member of the Mafia; everyone knew it. Several theories are being looked at right now. Is this something on the inside [of the Mafia]? Are there factions or different clans? Organized crime is in the midst of change, and I can honestly say that we are looking at all theories.”
The major blows struck by police, starting with Operation Colisée, had severely weakened organized criminal groups’ foundations, Mainville concluded. “The field is wide open, and everybody wants to claim their turf … The Bonannos are major players, but there are others.”
There were striking parallels between the murder of Nicolò Rizzuto and the execution of Paolo Violi’s brother Rocco thirty years earlier, on October 17, 1980. Violi had been sitting at the kitchen table, in his home on Saint-Léonard. On that evening as well, the killer had hidden behind the residence, waited until he could see his victim through the window, then fired a single shot, killing him outright in front of his wife. Rocco was the last of the three Violi brothers eliminated by the Rizzuto clan. These facts were not reason enough to conclude that a vendetta had been carried out, three decades later. Nonetheless, the two killings shared a troublingly similar modus operandi.
After the autopsy, the Loreto funeral home held a weekend-long visitation. Outside, officers with Montreal police, the RCMP and the SQ videotaped and photographed each visitor and took down the licence numbers of the vehicles arriving in the parking lot. Inside, through the three rooms of the lavish complex, the line stretched to a hundred people long for two whole days.
Close relatives spoke in hushed tones in the foyer, under the watchful eyes of the family’s earpiece-wearing bodyguards. No fewer than two hundred floral sprays covered the walls, from floor to ceiling, each adorned with the name of an individual or family who had expressed their sympathies: Arcadi, Renda, Cammalleri, Giordano, Morello, Caruana, Vanelli …
Nicolò Rizzuto lay in an open casket, his hallmark fedora at his side. His widow, Libertina, aged eighty-three, and daughter, Maria, sixty-three, stood by him one last time, receiving the condolences of hundreds of well-wishers. Also present were two of the deceased’s grandchildren, lawyers Leonardo and Libertina Rizzuto, as well as great-grandchildren.
When he had learned of his eldest son’s murder almost a year earlier, speaking to family members by phone from prison in Florence, Colorado, Vito Rizzuto had been devastated. Apparently, he was not quite as overwhelmed at the news of his father’s demise. He was angry, however, that his family’s enemies had gone after an old man. During one of his phone conversations—almost all of them were monitored by U.S. prison authorities—he implied that it would have been more understandable to target him rather than his elderly father. He suggested that the family hold a modest funeral, but one worthy of Nicolò’s stature. His daughter, Libertina, to whom he often spoke on the phone, seemed to be the tower of strength in the Rizzuto family as they faced this latest in a succession of ordeals.
On the morning of the funeral, Monday, November 15, five private security guards fanned out in Dante Street in front of the Church of the Madonna della Difesa. An hour and a half before the ceremony was due to start, someone spotted a small black box on the steps of the church and alerted police. Two lengths of white tape had been stuck to the lid of the box in the shape of a cross. Police moved people out of the area and waited for the tactical squad to arrive. When they did, they opened the box with the greatest of care. A visibly nervous Loris Cavaliere was anxious to find out what its contents were: he wondered whether officers had found “a finger or an ear” severed from Paolo Renda, the family consigliere. As it turned out, the package held neither human remains nor an explosive device. Inside was a simple note written in Italian: “Down with the Mafia! Down with the collaborationist Church!” At first, police wondered whether the message was meant for the Rizzutos: was this an admonition from rivals to concede defeat permanently, pending the emergence of a “new regime”? Eventually, though, they floated a less spectacular but more plausible theory: the box had probably been left by an ordinary citizen with no ties to organized crime.
There were growing numbers of ordinary people paying attention to the Mafia, and many of them were enraged to learn just how far its influence extended.
The original French edition of this book had been published just two weeks before Nicolò Rizzuto’s murder and was having quite an impact. The authors had emphasized the large scale of the Montreal mob’s pizzo racket, notably within the city’s Italian community. A year earlier, La Presse had broken the story of the “Fabulous Fourteen,” the select club of contractors who split the lion’s share of Quebec public works contracts amongst themselves, under the protective umbrella of the Mafia. Other media reports had helped focus public opinion. And on the morning of November 10, just hours before Nicolò Rizzuto’s murder, corruption in the construction industry and the role of the Mafia had fuelled intense debate in Quebec’s national assembly. The day before, Radio-Canada’s Le Téléjournal TV newscast ran an interview with an honest contractor who complained of having received threats from the Mafia after he responded to a public call for tenders. A petition demanding a public inquiry into construction industry practices had been tabled in the Quebec parliament. The leader of the opposition Parti Québécois (PQ), Pauline Marois, stood in the national assembly and challenged Premier Jean Charest:
For the past seven years, the highest authorities have been aware of the existence of widespread collusion, but the Liberal government has turned a blind eye to it. More seriously, we learned that this closed system of collusion operated thanks to the Mafia in exchange for a pizzo of $500,000 a month—$6 million a year—using intimidation to stop honest contractors from bidding. Everyone who watched Le Téléjournal yesterday heard that threatening phone call, which sent shivers down the spine. Mr. Speaker, this is happening in Quebec, under a Liberal government that is tolerant of it. There are brave people risking a great deal to denounce the system, because the government refuses to cut out the cancer and shed the full light on the corruption that is rampant in Quebec. We have to break the silence, break this regime of terror. What does the premier have to gain from protecting omertà?
“When facing allegations of that nature, it’s really a matter for police forces at all levels to investigate, so that evidence can be assembled, and people can be charged and prosecuted in court,” Charest replied cautiously.
“The Colisée investigation was in 2006; that’s four years ago,” Marois retorted:
We now know that, just for fourteen contractors, there is a minimum surcharge of $500,000 a month. How many of those $500,000-a-month surcharges are there? For how many contractors in Quebec? How many government contracts are we going to pay too much for? And who are we paying too much to? Organized crime, that’s who. How much longer are our taxes going to support the Mafia?
“When the subject is collusion, corruption, the Mafia, it really is a matter for the police, for all police forces,” the premier reiterated. “These allegations, these situations must be firmly attacked. That is what the government is doing.”
Stéphane Bergeron, PQ member of the national assembly for Verchères, pressed the point, citing a statement by the head of the SQ’S recently formed Hammer Squad, who had acknowledged that ties existed between the Mafia and construction contractors. Bergeron then asserted that such police investigations would not suffice: only a public inquiry could shed the proper light on the workings of the Mafia system, he insisted. While the police investigate, he said, “the mob keeps on getting rich at our expense.”
Hundreds of citizens gathered in the street in front of the Madonna della Difesa church for the funeral, but very few were allowed inside. The clan’s private security detail closely guarded both entrances, deterring curious ordinary folk and potential enemies alike. Mobile news trucks thrust their satellite masts skyward, transmitting live coverage of the event. As at the funeral of Nicolò’s namesake grandson in 2009, plainclothes police made sure they had the best views of the arriving guests. One such group of officers sat in a nondescript van, behind tinted windows and away from prying eyes. A colleague stood outside, waving away bystanders who stopped in front of the vehicle.
Few well-known figures stepped through the church doors. Conspicuously absent were members of the Bonanno family. But the attendees did include an influential construction company manager, one of the Fabulous Fourteen, as well as Giuseppe Borsellino, a founding member of the Italian-Canadian Community Foundation and president of Groupe Petra, a firm that co-owned two of Montreal’s tallest skyscrapers, the Stock Exchange Tower and the CIBC Tower. What was such an esteemed real estate promoter doing at the funeral of a mob boss? He was born in Cattolica Eraclea, like Nicolò Rizzuto, and had come to Canada the same year as him, in 1954. Had he simply felt compelled to pay his respects to another native of his hometown? The answers never came, as Borsellino refused a reporter’s request for an interview.
The church, which can seat eight hundred faithful, was not quite full. A few empty places remained at the ends of several pews. Many Mafiosi and associates had obviously preferred to stay at home, no doubt having anticipated the strong turnout by police wielding cameras and videotape recorders. Media representatives, meanwhile, were decidedly unwelcome inside the church. One journalist who did manage to make it inside was quickly ordered out. Four hulking security guards patrolled the pews, looking for trespassers.
The funeral mass was sober, lasted an hour and was conducted entirely in Italian. Four sprays of white roses had been placed before the altar, and a small bouquet sat atop the closed casket. A choir sang several hymns in Latin, capped off with a stirring rendition of “Ave Maria.”
No family member spoke during the ceremony. The celebrant, Monsignor Igino Incantalupo, delivered no personalized message and offered no testimonials about the deceased. After giving Communion, he announced that the family wished to thank all those who had expressed their condolences, and that they would be laying Nicolò to rest at a private burial in Saint-François-d’Assise Cemetery.
A few days later, during a phone conversation with her brother, Vito, Maria Renda said she felt insulted that “hardly anybody” had come to the funeral. If the rest of what they said during that call is true, the family was firmly set against leaving Montreal, in spite of the accumulating tragedies. As a precaution, Maria’s nephew, Leonardo Rizzuto, laid low for a while in Florida, making occasional trips to the Bahamas and to Colorado, where he visited his father in prison. Her son, Calogero (Charlie), was told to keep quiet.
The killing of the patriarch had come six weeks after that of yet another Rizzuto clan member. On September 29, 2010, Ennio Bruni was shot dead in front of Café Bellerose, in Laval, where he hung out almost daily. The thirty-six-year-old had already survived an attempt on his life: a year earlier, he had been shot while walking to his car. With three bullet wounds in one shoulder and another in his back, he had managed to get in the car and drive to a convenience store, where he called police. He recovered quickly from those injuries. Police attempted to interrogate him, but he refused to file charges. In legal documents filed in connection with the Colisée investigation, Bruni is described as a “bill collector” for the Rizzuto family. He worked Laval gambling houses and was part of Francesco Arcadi’s crew. According to police, he was eliminated “because he had infringed on another Mafioso’s territory.”
Later, another Arcadi associate, Antonio Di Salvo, aged forty-four, was murdered. Di Salvo, a drug dealer, was found dead in his luxury home in the Rivière-des-Prairies neighbourhood on January 31, 2011, felled by at least one bullet to the head.
Investigators racked their brains trying to find a common thread linking the many murders in the Italian organized crime milieu in Montreal over the past two years. Not all of them were necessarily connected. True, most stemmed from the power struggle to fill voids left in the Mafia hierarchy after the dragnet that capped 2006’s Operation Colisée. But there were exceptions. Police were almost certain that the August 2009 slaying of Federico del Peschio, behind his restaurant, La Cantina, had nothing to do with that struggle. Perhaps most surprisingly, nor did the murder of Nick Rizzuto Jr., it seemed. All signs pointed to both killings having been prompted by a dispute over money: a businessman with close Mafia ties who felt threatened by both men had supposedly ordered them killed, contracting the hits out to members of a street gang.
The rash of Molotov cocktail attacks in east-end Montreal wasn’t linked exclusively to internecine Mafia squabbling either: restaurant owners of Turkish origin engaged in a pizza price war were taking advantage of the incendiary backdrop to settle their own accounts. Meanwhile, owners of Italian food importing and distribution businesses were employing the same means to similar ends. They may have been confrontational, but they weren’t stooping to murdering their business rivals, and they weren’t necessarily connected to Italian organized crime.
On the other hand, it was clear that certain notorious criminal figures had it in for the Rizzuto clan, notably for interim leader Francesco Arcadi.
One such figure was Raynald Desjardins, Vito Rizzuto’s partner in crime over many years. Convicted on cocaine importing charges in 1993, Desjardins had served out a lengthy prison sentence and, after his release in 2004, had gone into the residential construction business. Desjardins wasn’t Italian, which prevented him, of course, from ever becoming a made member of the Mafia. But his wealth, charisma, extensive criminal experience and impressive network of contacts made him a very powerful figure. And he held a grudge, having never gotten over the 2005 murder of his protegé Giovanni Bertolo.
Police suspected Desjardins and his brother-in-law Joe Di Maulo were playing a discreet behind-the-scenes role in the parade of collusion, rivalries, partnerships and betrayals that followed the killing of Nick Rizzuto Jr. Far from being shut out of the proceedings, the pair were plotting actively to install a new regime.
Born in 1943 in Calabria, Joe Di Maulo remained a pillar of the Montreal Mafia. He had accompanied Vic Cotroni to Paolo Violi’s wedding in Hamilton, in 1965. At age twenty-eight, he was charged in connection with a triple murder that took place March 12, 1971, inside a disco that he managed, the Casa Loma. He was initially found guilty, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. On November 11, 1973, along with Violi and Desjardins, he went to New York City to represent the Montreal decina for the election of Phil Rastelli as head of the Bonanno family.
After Violi’s murder in 1978, Di Maulo and other Cotroni clan members wisely fell into line with the Rizzuto camp. In the early 1990s, he helped Vito Rizzuto in his oddball quest to recover part of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s purported hidden gold. In 2003, and on several other occasions, he accompanied Vito on his Dominican Republic golfing trips. Then, the following year, Vito was arrested, followed not long afterward by his father. By that point, Di Maulo had already sensed the winds shifting. It was said that he owned a dozen or so perfectly above-board companies. He led an extremely discreet lifestyle, steering clear of bars and clubs. Like Desjardins, he was skilled at working both the underworld and the legitimate business world.
Di Maulo operated in the shadows, normally trusting only his old confederates from the Cotroni clan, among them Moreno Gallo, Tony Vanelli, Tony Mucci, Tony Volpato and the members of the Cordeleone family. He also had a wealth of contacts outside Quebec, especially in Ontario, and his ambassadorial acumen had long been recognized.
Desjardins, for his part, could count on solid relationships with the province’s construction unions and contractors. He began working with a little-known businessman who was also Calabrian-born. This new henchman was extremely comfortable financially, and, like Desjardins, had extensive real estate investments.
Another mobster who bore a heavy grudge against the caretaker leaders of the Rizzuto clan was Giuseppe De Vito. Nicknamed “Ponytail,” De Vito was determined to hold them accountable for all of his setbacks—of which there were plenty.
As a young man, he had cut his criminal teeth in Paolo Gervasi’s crew, active in drug dealing, bookmaking and clandestine gambling. He was deeply upset by the 2004 killing of the sixtysomething Gervasi, who had close ties to the Rock Machine biker gang and had been digging for clues on the murder of his son, Salvatore.
Along with his loyal allies Andrew Scoppa and Alessandro Succapane, De Vito had privileged contacts both with criminal bikers and various Italian groups. His hangouts were Beaches Pub, on Langelier Boulevard, and Bar Route 66, on Jarry Street. He was considered a significant player in the Montreal Mafia and owned businesses in the city’s east end. Most important, he was well versed in the art of importing cocaine through Montréal–Trudeau Airport.
Over the years, he developed a profound aversion to the Rizzuto clan leadership, to whom he had to pay a “tax” on drug imports. In his eyes, their lack of judgment and their arrogance were the chief reasons for all his troubles.
De Vito was one of the heavy hitters holding a “key” to the “doorway” at Montréal–Trudeau, which allowed traffickers to slip drug shipments past customs. It was expressly forbidden to use the system without De Vito’s say-so and that of the Rizzuto clan. In 2005, according to the Colisée investigation, De Vito had put up some of the money in a plot to import 120 kilos of cocaine from Haiti. Everything had initially proceeded following the rules laid down by the Mafia: each investor stood to reap a hefty profit from the operation but had to pay a percentage of his earnings to the clan. Along the way, though, some opportunists ordered an additional 98 kilos of the drug, bundling it with the original 120-kilo consignment. The secret was uncovered in a most unpleasant manner. The RCMP found the dope on the airport tarmac and the Canada Border Services Agency issued a press release mentioning the size of the seizure: 218 kilos (see Chapter 16). This touched off a serious crisis among the traffickers. Who were the parasites that had dared take advantage of the “doorway” and tried to weasel out of paying the tax on 98 kilos? Along with the others who had put up the money for the original 120 kilos, De Vito set out to find the guilty party or parties.
De Vito went to the Consenza Social Club on a number of occasions, meeting and engaging in acerbic exchanges with Arcadi and his key lieutenants. He didn’t know, of course, that his every move and word were being recorded by the RCMP’s hidden cameras and microphones. He learned of the surveillance at the same time as everyone else, after the mass arrests at the close of Operation Colisée. De Vito was incensed: what kind of idiots would be so stupid as to allow the police to spy on Mafia headquarters so easily, and in so doing incriminate every person who went there on illegal business?
Yet another event deeply aggrieved De Vito: the July 2006 killing of Richard Griffin, a West End Gang member and one of his best drug-trafficking contacts. The two had grown to respect one another enormously. Police sources contend that De Vito disagreed strongly with the decision by old Nick and his cronies to eliminate Griffin. In his eyes, Griffin, despite his arrogance, had been right to complain and demand to be paid back after a failed plot to import cocaine from Venezuela (see Chapter 16).
De Vito was one of the ninety suspects arrested or still at large after the November 2006 police sweep. The specific charges against him were conspiracy to import cocaine over a two-year period through Montréal–Trudeau Airport. He was so furious at the Rizzuto clan that he had the fateful date, November 22, tattooed onto his arm.
To boost his chances of escaping police, he got a nose job and shed more than fifty pounds. He had changed so much that he managed to fool RCMP investigators who hoped to question him on his way out of a plastic surgery clinic in Laval in the spring of 2009. He said he wasn’t the one they were looking for, brandished fake ID to prove it and then coolly left the premises, even wishing the officers luck with their investigation. The man they had come to interrogate looked nothing like the pudgy, scowling fellow in the wanted photo issued three years earlier.
De Vito’s ire was to be further exacerbated by a horrendous tragedy. That same spring, his daughters, eight-year-old Sabrina and nine-year-old Amanda, were killed in the family’s luxury home in Laval. Their mother, Adele Sorella, was arrested and charged with the murders. Already suffering from depression, she had sunk into even deeper despair once her husband, on the run, had left home. De Vito saw his murdered children as collateral victims of the Rizzuto clan’s callous negligence.
Law enforcement finally caught up with Giuseppe De Vito on October 4, 2010. Members of the Montreal police anti-gang squad arrested him on De Capri Street in Saint-Léonard, at the home of a female friend whom he regularly visited. Police also seized weapons. In March 2011, while in prison, he was called to the Laval courthouse to testify at the preliminary hearing for his spouse, accused of murdering their children.
Like a photographic print slowly revealing itself in a tray of developer, the presence of one Salvatore Montagna, erstwhile acting capo of New York’s Bonanno family, gradually began to be felt on Montreal’s Mafia landscape.
Montagna had actually been born in Montreal in 1971 but was raised in Castellammare del Golfo, the small Sicilian town famed as the birthplace of key U.S. Mafia figures, including Joseph Bonanno, Salvatore Maranzano and Joseph Barbara. He moved with his family to New York, more specifically the Bronx, when he was around fifteen. By early adulthood he had founded a small business, Matrix Steel, in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Bushwick—which would inspire his nickname, “Sal the Iron Worker.” He got married, had children, bought a house on Long Island. Outwardly, he led a life no better or worse than those of thousands of immigrants like him, proud to have earned their green cards. In reality, he was moving up quickly through the ranks of the Mafia.
In 2002, Montagna was arrested with other members of Patrick “Patty from the Bronx” DeFilippo’s crew and indicted on illegal gambling and loansharking charges (DeFilippo was the man who had killed Gerlando “George from Canada” Sciascia in March 1999). Apparently suffering from “selective amnesia,” Montagna gave very evasive answers under questioning from grand jury prosecutors, and was charged with criminal contempt of court. He pleaded guilty to that charge and was sentenced to five years’ probation.
In 2006, at age thirty-six, Montagna was made acting capo of the Bonanno crime family after Joseph Massino decided to co-operate with the government, and his successor, Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, was jailed for murder. Police sources explained to New York Daily News reporter John Marzulli that the remaining senior Bonanno members had wanted a true “man of honour” with Sicilian roots to lead the family. Montagna filled the bill. Because of his relatively young age, he was quickly dubbed the “Bambino Boss.”
Three years later, Montagna got some bad news: U.S. authorities decided that his contempt-of-court conviction was reason enough to strip him of his green card and deport him. On April 6, 2009, FBI and ice (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers arrested him as he left Matrix Steel. Asked by Marzulli whether the federal government had tried to persuade Montagna to turn state’s evidence, Montagna’s lawyer said, “I think it is clear to the government if they would ask him to co-operate he would take that as a personal affront.” Immigration officials gave Montagna a rather unique choice: deportation to either of the countries of which he is a citizen—Italy, where his parents were born, or Canada, where he was born. He chose to settle in Montreal, where he could hope to continue fulfilling his duties as boss.
Montagna moved into the home of a cousin in South Shore Saint-Hubert. In the months following his arrival, Federico del Peschio was murdered behind his restaurant, and Nick Rizzuto Jr. was gunned down near his office. Montagna had nothing to do with either killing but, like many others, he could clearly see that the Rizzutos had lost the confidence of the city’s underworld, especially its younger generation. In the words of a police report, “Calabrian Mafiosi from outside Montreal” were eager to see a changing of the guard. Paolo Violi’s two sons, who lived in Ontario, had been spotted in Montreal just a week before old Nick was gunned down, which plenty of observers found intriguing, to say the least.
Montagna made several trips to Toronto and Hamilton. With foundations laid in those Ontario cities, he then made the rounds of the restaurants and cafés in the Greater Montreal Area that Mafia members traditionally frequent. He was received with respect. As 2010 drew to a close, he also began visiting influential businessmen in Montreal’s Italian community, in the company of Domenico Arcuri Jr. The latter’s father was dubbed the city’s “king of Italian ice cream,” having inherited the Ital Gelati company from Paolo Violi.
The Arcuris were not strangers to Montagna: a cousin of theirs lived in his former fiefdom in Brooklyn. The elder Domenico, also Sicilian-born, had helped the Rizzutos rise to power in Montreal thirty years earlier. Domenico Jr. and his brother, Antonino, now owned Carboneutre, a firm specializing in soil decontamination that had offices in a building owned by Raynald Desjardins. Before long, Desjardins was introduced to Salvatore Montagna, and the two men decided to work together.
All this meant that Montagna now had a firmer power base than the Rizzutos, not only in Quebec but in Ontario and New York City as well. No longer reluctant to overtly wield his power, he sought out Nicolò Rizzuto and tried to reason with him, telling the patriarch that his reign was over. Old Nick coldly rebuffed Montagna. He had lost all esteem for the Bonanno family, who in his eyes had committed far too many sins of betrayal. Yet he failed to realize that he himself no longer commanded respect. And that in his milieu, more than in any other, the end of respect heralds the end of everything.