|Rizzuto is one of the most intriguing Mafia figures of today.|
“They (Ontario mobsters) know there are going to be a couple more murders,” the source told the Toronto Sun. “It’s quite an interesting time.
“It’s a chess game,” he added.
Making themselves scarce are members of a Mafia and ‘Ndrangheta co-operative – with Toronto links – that attempted to take out the powerful Rizzuto family in Montreal.
Disputes within Canadian organized crime groups ended in deadly violence, allowing reputed Mob boss Vito Rizzuto to muscle his way back into power following his release from a U.S. prison.
Police investigators expect there will be more murders in areas known to be Toronto-based strongholds for ‘Ndrangheta members as the Montreal Mob works to strengthen its grip in southern Ontario.
The signs of Rizzuto’s ascension resonanted throughout southern Ontario with the July 2013 assassination of Greater Toronto Area Mob hitman Salvatore “Sam” Calautti outside a Woodbridge banquet hall.
Police believe Calautti’s slaying was another surgical strike against ‘Ndrangheta clans in the GTA, southern Ontario and Mafia members in Quebec who challenged Rizzuto.
Calautti, suspected by police in five Mob-related murders, including the sniper slaying of Rizzuto’s father, was close to members of the ‘Ndrangheta’s ruling board the Camera di Controlo.
Rizzuto’s father, notorious crime boss Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., was gunned down in his kitchen in November 2010. Calautti was one of two suspects in the case and also the prime suspect in the murder of Vito Rizzuto’s Ontario strongman Gaetano “Guy” Panepinto in 2000. He was never charged in either case.
“It was significant and profound,” a police source said of Calautti’s murder. “It affects everybody.”
Calautti’s murder showed “it doesn’t matter who you are,” he said.
Whether a hitman or the boss, the murder “brought people into line. They know there are going to be a couple more murders” in Ontario.
The police source said some southern Ontario Calabrian mobsters haven’t been seen for a while and are believed to have gone into hiding, knowing they could be among the next targets.
It’s also true “there are people lurking in the bushes” waiting for an opportunity to strike against Rizzuto, he added.
The attempt to oust Rizzuto by a co-operative of Quebec and Ontario mobsters — including leader Salvatore “Bambino Boss” Montagna — that began in 2009 has apparently failed.
The co-operative fizzled in part because of an internal squabble that led to Montagna’s murder and charges against six people in his shooting death.
That fallout, and other key murders, helped put Rizzuto back in charge, sources said.
“Yes, he’s back in power,” said Mob expert and author Antonio Nicaso. “I think, to understand what happened in the past, we have to consider Montagna was a challenger of Rizzuto.
“Everything starts when Montagna came to Canada” in 2009 after he agreed to leave the United States before deportation proceedings were launched, Nicaso said.
Rizzuto at the time was in a Colorado jail, serving a sentence for his role in the 1981 murders of three Bonanno crime family members.
Nicaso said the people who targeted Rizzuto turned on themselves and neutralized any attempt to dethrone him. Montagna tried but failed to kill Raynard Desjardins, who was among the six charged in Montagna’s 2011 slaying.
Despite that, Rizzuto remains a target.
He has regained much of the power his family lost since returning home last year from Colorado. While in prison, his kingdom was threatened.
Assassins killed Rizzuto’s son, Nicolo, in 2009 and his dad Nicolo Sr. a year later. Rizzuto’s brother-in-law, Paolo Renda, vanished in 2010 and is presumed dead. Police believe the hits were, in part, vendettas for the murders of the brothers Violi – Francesco in 1977, Paolo in 1978 and Rocco in 1980 in a violent power grab by Nicolo Sr.
The tide has since turned in Rizzuto’s favour.
“Rizzuto is back, but I believe the criminal landscape is totally different in Montreal, because he lost many people, many relatives, and it’s not the same as it used to be,” said Nicaso. “For the first time, he suffered some losses.
“I think, with him, vengeance is on his mind,” said a police source. “He wants the life he had back.
“The sooner he regains his role and eliminates his opponents ... he knows they’re out to get him.”
The source said Rizzuto was protective of his son and father and the loss of both has been difficult for him to bear. While vengeance may be a driving force, the source stressed it’s also about money, power and control.
“There has to be order, there have to be messages,” the source said. “With each murder, it sends a message; it’s symbolic.
“But what’s the message? Murder is part of the business of the Mob,” he said.
“The rhetoric is the same,” the source explained. “One side wants Vito Rizzuto to go and the other side wants some of the Calabrian leadership to go.”
Nicaso, meanwhile, said Rizzuto continues to have “strong contacts in Ontario.
“Rizzuto is definitely too strong, and too charismatic,” Nicaso said. “If you have to deal with Rizzuto, you are dealing with a giant.”
Rizzuto has money and since his return, numerous mobsters returned to the fold, he said.
“His main goal is revenge,” Nicaso added.
Rizzuto’s return has been complicated by the Charbonneau Commission in Quebec delving into corruption into the construction industry. It has raised concerns about infiltration into Ontario.
“That’s the power,” Nicaso said. “If we (only) consider the mafia as a violent organization, then we miss the entire picture. The mafia is about power; it is about relationships with politicians.”
For years, businesses have been paying “pizzo” (slang for protection payments or street tax) to the Mob, the police source said.
If pizzo payments continue — and cash from the construction industry has dried up — what is the source of the money?
“There are many things a lot of people haven’t considered,” the source said. “What other industries are paying the pizzo? No one is asking that. No one asks about the other industries.
“Think like him,” the police source challenged.
MOB WARS: THE DEATH TOLL RISES
Nicolo Rizzuto Sr.
The patriarch of the Montreal crime family was murdered in 2010 by a sniper’s bullet as he sat down to eat with his family. The killing was eerily similar to the 1980 murder of Rocco Violi who was also killed by a sniper’s bullet at his dinner table. With Violi out of the way, Rizzuto Sr. took over the crime family’s power. He was born into the Mafia in Cattolica Eraclea, Sicily. His father, Vito, was murdered in New York City in 1933. At Nicolo’s funeral in Montreal, his killers left a message for the Rizzuto clan, indicating it was a vendetta slaying.
Nicolo Rizzuto Jr.
The son of Montreal Mob boss, Vito, was shot and killed on Dec. 28, 2009. His bullet-riddled body was left near his parked car in Montreal’s NDG district. It was a precise hit as the killers waited for him to emerge from an address. He had taken control of his father Vito’s operations after Vito was imprisoned.
The married father of two was the family’s consigliere and was third on the power chart, behind brother-in-law Vito and father-in-law Nicolo. The 73-year-old’s SUV was found abandoned near his home shortly after he mysteriously disappeared in May 2010. Renda, who was on probation at the time, was heading home after playing golf and buying steaks for a family meal. His family appeared before a Superior Court judge in Montreal earlier this year seeking an order declaring the missing man dead.
He was in charge of the day-to-day operations while Vito Rizzuto was in a Colorado jail. He was killed in June 2010 during a daylight shootout in front of his food supply business in Montreal. Police had warned him that he was a target. Cuntrera had enlisted drug trafficker Liborio Sciascia to be his driver and bodyguard. Sciascia was also killed during the shootout. Cuntrera was sentenced in the 1970s to five years jail for conspiring to kill mobster Paolo Violi.
The Montreal-born Mob boss of the Bonanno crime family agreed to leave New York City in 2009 before American authorities began deportation proceedings. Shortly after arriving in Canada, the assault on the Rizzuto family began. There was a co-operative effort by Mafia and ‘Ndrangheta clans in Ontario and mafia members in Quebec, including Montagna, “to pick up the pieces of a leaderless crime family (but) it couldn’t work together,” said a police source. Montagna was murdered in 2011. Six people were charged in the slaying, including Raynald Desjardins, who was believed to be part of a group challenging Rizzuto.
A Mob enforcer prolific in inflicting pain and committing murder, he was shot to death as he sat in his car in Vaughan in July 2013. Many in the Mob world described him as being “a hot head.” Police believe he was involved in the murders of Gaetano Panepinto, a Rizzuto strongman in Ontario, and Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. Police believe Panepinto was killed in retaliation for the murders of two of Calautti’s close friends and associates, Domenic Napoli and Antonio Oppedisano. Both Napoli and Oppedisano were muscling in on Panepinto’s illegal gaming machine business. It’s believed the two were murdered in the basement of Panepinto’s casket shop on St. Clair Ave. W. Their bodies have never been found.