Mob War Ready to Rumble Montreal?

Rizzuto was released from US prison and
is believed to be en route to Montreal.

Vito Rizzuto returns home seeking answers to a long list of questions compiled during the last several years he spent behind bars, police sources say.

The 66-year-old Montrealer, reputed to be the head of the Montreal Mafia when he was extradited to the U.S. in 2006, stepped out of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colo., a little after 9 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) Friday and was immediately turned over to officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who whisked him away to prepare him for a flight to Canada, where he is a citizen.

Officials in the U.S. provided no more information about how Rizzuto was to be removed from the country. But late Friday night reports out of Toronto said he landed at Pearson International Airport just before 11 p.m., and according to passengers on board he had a heavily armed police escort. While there has been some speculation in the media over the past two weeks that Rizzuto would settle in Toronto, police sources in Montreal believed he would transfer to Montreal, the city he has lived in most of his life.

"Everything he has is in Montreal. Everyone he knows" is in Montreal, one police source told The Gazette, regarding the support Rizzuto is believed to still have in the city, even if the organization he controlled for roughly two decades has been significantly weakened by a major police investigation and a subsequent series of murders. "There's no reason for him to live in Toronto."

Most of Rizzuto's closest relatives are believed to still be living in Montreal despite the turmoil that saw Rizzuto's eldest son, Nick, murdered, his brother-in-law Paolo Renda kidnapped and his father, Nicolo, killed all within the space of a year.

While Salvatore Montagna, the man who appeared to be the most aggressive in seeking to take over the leadership of the Mafia in Montreal, was killed late last year, Rizzuto will still want answers.

One police source said Rizzuto will probably want to talk to two men in particular, including a Montrealer who appeared to back Montagna's failed leadership bid despite having close ties to the Rizzuto clan previously. The other is a man who was known to have been involved in a dispute with Rizzuto's eldest son Nick (The Ritz) Rizzuto Jr., 42, before he was killed on Dec. 28, 2009, near a residential building on Upper Lachine Rd. The murder remains unsolved, but many police sources have said in the months since that the younger Rizzuto's slaying is believed to involve a dispute outside of the challenge Montagna posed to the organization several months after he arrived on the scene in April 2009. Montagna was deported from the U.S. after authorities there learned he was not a U.S. citizen. Police in New York believed Montagna had become the interim head of the Bonanno crime family there before he was deported. Raynald Desjardins, a close associate of Vito Rizzuto's in the 1980s, has been charged with Montagna's murder along with other men.

The leadership void Montagna sought to fill was created after Vito Rizzuto was arrested, on Jan. 20, 2004, after an indictment was filed in a U.S. district court alleging he had taken part in a large-scale plot to murder three Mafia captains in 1981 for their disloyalty to the leadership of the Bonanno crime family. He was described, by an informant, as having been one of three Canadian mobsters who took part in the ambush at a Brooklyn social club. The theory, the informant later told police, was that most of the New York mobsters in on the conspiracy would have no clue who the Canadians were. Rizzuto mounted a legal challenge to prevent his extradition, but lost and was sent to the U.S. in 2006. He pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge and was sentenced, in May 2007, to a 10-year prison term.

Three months after Rizzuto was extradited, dozens of arrests were made in Project Colisée, a major police investigation that originally centred on Vito Rizzuto, but included many of his organization's associates. When Rizzuto was arrested in 2004, Colisée's focus shifted to a committee that took over for him which included his father and Renda. The arrests and convictions that followed further weakened one of the most powerful criminal organizations the city had ever seen.

On Friday, while some police in Montreal awaited news on whether Rizzuto would return to the city, a funeral was held for Leonardo Cammalleri, 92, his father-in-law who died of natural causes in Montreal more than a week ago. Some police sources quoted in media had speculated Cammalleri's funeral would be delayed for Rizzuto's return. But it was held at Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Church in St-Léonard while Rizzuto was still in the custody of ICE in Colorado. Cammalleri had lived quietly in Canada for years despite having been convicted, in absentia, for a murder in Italy more than five decades ago. According to Agence QMI, the funeral on Friday was attended by more than 100 people and was monitored by police.