Students opening city newspapers last week saw pages upon pages covering on mafia leader Nicolo Rizzuto’s funeral. This is the latest in a string of headlines pertaining to the Montreal Mafia, which has been under mysterious attack for more than a year.
The notorious Rizzuto family and its associates have fallen victim to a kidnapping and a string of murders, the most recent being when Nicolo, 86, was shot and killed at his home in the borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville on November 10. At the time, he was still on probation for tax evasion.
The murders began in August 2009, when Frederico del Peschio was murdered outside La Cantina restaurant on St. Laurent Boulevard. He was a close associate of Nicolo Rizzuto — they were arrested and charged together in Venezuela on cocaine charges in 1988. However, in this instance, according to Contable Anie Lemieux of the Montreal Police Department (SPVM), the incident “does not appear … related to organized crime.”
Another murder followed when Nicolo Rizzuto Jr., grandson of the mafia patriarch, was gunned down in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce on December 28. Antonio Nicaso, a journalist who specializes in mafia coverage, speculated that the murder of the junior Rizzuto, 42, was a clear indication that the family was being targeted and its leadership being threatened.
In an interview with CBC News, Nicaso said the Rizzuto family has been facing leadership problems since the arrest of Vito Rizzuto, 63, Nicolo Sr.’s son, in 2004 in connection with three murders in Brooklyn during the 1980s. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Colorado.
On June 29, another associate of the Rizzuto clan, Agostino Cuntrera, and his bodyguard, Liborio Sciasciathis, were both shot and killed in front of Cuntretra’s food warehouse in St. Leonard. It wasn’t a chance killing, said one detective from the SPVM.
“He was really the target,” said Inspector Bernard Lamothe of the SPVM to CBC News on July 1.
In May, Paolo Renda, thought to be an adviser to Cuntrera, was kidnapped. His car was found unlocked, with the windows down and the keys still in the ignition just off of Gouin Boulevard West in the Cartierville area. Renda was not only another member of the Rizzuto circle, but was Vito Rizzuto’s brother-in-law.
According to former crime reporter, Michel Auger, this particular kidnapping was strange. This type of kidnappings frequently take place within these circles, he said, and many of them are never reported to police, but the victim usually is freed after a few days. Renda, however, is still missing
The hardships of the Rizzuto family started in 2006 when Project Colisee, a crackdown aimed at organized crime in Montreal and conducted by municipal, provinvial and RCMP, was in full swing. Hidden cameras, microphones, and phone taps were set up at the Consenza Social Club in Montreal, which was eventually found to be a hub for mafia-related business.
Implicated in this operation were Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. and other members of the Rizzuto clan. Many trials have still not been completed from the two-year long investigation.
It’s further alleged that other gangs of non-Italian background have had a falling out with the mafia. Durcame Joseph, allegedly associated with the Bloods gang, is one of the suspects in Nicolo Rizzuto Jr.’s murder case.
Durcame himself narrowly avoided death in March after 50 bullets shot into his Old Port boutique, killing his bodyguard and a civilian.
Whether there’s a connection between the mafia’s activities and the recent fire bombings that have taken place at Italian-owned establishments is still unclear. There have been over 25 of these incidents, 15 of which have taken place since August.
The most recent took place early Thursday morning at Cavallaro, a café in Westmount. This came as a shock to many, especially the police, as this type of attack usually takes place in the less wealthy neighbourhoods in northern and eastern Montreal. The police, though, were reserved in their allegations.
“Anything is possible when cases like this happen” said Lemieux.
Media representatives of the SPVM did not want to comment on any possible connections between the slayings in the Rizzuto family and the recent attacks on Italian businesses in the city.
The police also declined to comment on a rumour that was brought to light by crime expert Andre Cedilot claiming that an Ontario mafia family ordered the hits.