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November 11, 2010

Montreal godfather Nicolo Rizzuto killed in mob hit

CANADA - If you thought Canada didn't have any mobsters you'd be wrong. Nicolo Rizzuto, 86, a great-grandfather and a "mafia godfather" of one of the biggest crime syndicates in Canada was gunned down in his Montreal mansion yesterday.

Nicolo Rizzuto liked crisply tailored suits, wide fedora hats, playing cards and playing with his grandchildren... but according to mafia insiders and people who study the mafia in Canada, Nicolo Rizzuto was still wielding immense power while his son Vito Rizzuto languishes in an American prison for the 1982 triple murders of the Bonanno crime family.

“He was the last of the real godfathers,” says Antonio Nicaso, a GTA expert and author of several mafia books (non-fiction, of course). “He was a combination of old and new, the last true godfather who was still alive and outside jail.”

Nicaso believes a coalition of criminals murdered Nicolo Rizzuto, “Whoever killed Nicolo Rizzuto wants to control the narcotics traffick, the construction industry, the extortion business,” says Nicaso.

In truth Nicolo Rizzuto is just the latest in a string of assassinations against Vito Rizzuto's crime family. Vito Rizzuto wielded enormous power in Montreal and also the GTA, and his family was running things for him while he was in prison.

But Nicolo Rizzuto had been running things long before Vito (now 64) took over. He was quite literally "the godfather". Nicolo Rizzuto had sought to retire from the mafia underworld, but when multiple members of his family were imprisoned or killed he was forced back into leadership.

“I think he was still the guy,” says Normand Brisebois, a former Montreal Mafia and biker enforcer. “It can’t be bikers,” says Brisebois. “It can’t be street gangs.” Instead he thinks its the Calabrian mafia group because nobody else is big enough to take on the Rizzuto family.

Vito is due to be released from prison in the Summer of 2012, and you can guess he will be under close police scrutiny as there will likely be revenge on his mind for the deaths of his family members. (We should note he has an opportunity here to renounce the mafia lifestyle and become a witness for the state, blabbing about the people he thinks did it, but somehow we doubt he will even consider talking to the Feds.)

What is interesting however is that while the Rizzuto family has been decimated in recent years their rivals don't seem to have suffered much retaliation, something which perplexes and worries mafia researcher Antonio Nicaso.

Enforcer Brisebois says he used to trash and burn bars whose owners offended Nicolo and Vito Rizzuto. He says the elder Rizzuto was distant, but not hostile, when they met. Nicolo wouldn't even directly speak to people who weren't in his crime family. “He wouldn’t say a word to me, just spoke directly to his guys,” says Brisebois.

Nicolo and Vito Rizzuto both lived on Antoine Berthelet Ave., an expensive cul-de-sac known in Montreal as “Mafia Alley.”

Another member of the crime family, Paolo Renda, also lives there but disappeared earlier in 2010 and is believed to be dead or "swimming with the fishes" in the St Lawrence River.

Nicolo Rizzuto emigrated to Canada in the late 1950s and rose to power in the late 1970s, after the assassination of Paolo Violi and his two brothers in Montreal, paving Rizzuto's way as a commander in the Cotroni crime family, which put him in charge of trafficking drugs through the Port of Montreal into New Yrok city.

In the early 2000s, a hidden police camera caught Nicolo Rizzuto in a club counting money on a round table, and then stuffing it in his sock.

Nicolo Rizzuto was also reputed to be an extremely tidy man. A police raid in the mid-2000s showed there wasn’t a spec of dust, even in the corners of the closets. His suits were all hung in order according to colour and styles, like suits in a store.

Last year Nicolo Rizzuto pleaded guilty to tax evasion and agreed to pay a $209,000 fine, plus the amount owed. He apparently has an extra $5.2 million hidden in Swiss bank accounts.

During 2009, Rizzuto family member Agostino Cuntrera and his guard, Liborio Sciascia were murdered in broad daylight.

Last December, Nicolo Rizzuto’s grandson and namesake was also shot and killed in broad daylight in Montreal.

The killer is still on the loose.

And to some extent the police don't seem to be too worried about catching the killer(s). "Mafia justice" in this case makes it easier for police to just sit back and only mop up after the crime is done. The police aren't in any huge rush to catch the Calabrian mafia or whomever is behind these mafia hits.

UPDATE: Nicolo Rizzuto was shot a sniper in the head, in front of his wife and daughter. The sniper had apparently hidden in a wooded area behind Rizzuto’s unfenced backyard, close to a statue of the Virgin Mary and away from several security cameras. Rizzuto died instantly.

“This isn’t a war,” says Nicaso with respect to the method of his murder. “This is an extermination.” Nicaso says he doesn't think the Rizzuto family knows who’s killing them off. It could be a combination of old enemies and new rivals vying for Montreal’s underworld drug trade and construction industry.

The killers may be feeling free to do as they please because the Rizzuto family is clueless, the police can't figure out who is doing anything and the family’s toughest member, Lorenzo (Skunk) Giordano, is currently serving time.

Giordano, famously accused of shooting an enemy in the testicles, was arrested in a King Street Toronto fitness club in May 2007. The burly, Ferrari-driving mobster had been living under a false name with his Brazilian girlfriend in a hotel in Toronto. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 2009, pleading guilty to gangsterism, conspiracy and possession of the proceeds of crime.

With both Giordano and Vito Rizzuto behind bars the family is sitting ducks.

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