Montreal Erupted Once Mafia Boss Rizzuto Returned

Up in Montreal, two gangland hits less than three weeks apart offered confirmation for a jailed mobster that a certain Cosa Nostra boss had returned home and had commenced settling scores.

The men killed were mobster Raynald Desjardins' associates; the returned Mafia boss was Vito Rizzuto.

Desjardins betrayed Rizzuto in a bid for gangland supremacy, but also partly due to envy over Rizzuto's ability to avoid getting arrested by law enforcement.

Desjardins' former brother-in-law and business partner, Gaetan Gosselin, was walking home last Tuesday night north of Montreal when one or more assailants opened fire, killing him. The ambush was reminiscent of the earlier Guiseppe Di Maulo hit; he also was a Desjardins brother-in-law -- and he'd been shot to death in his own driveway.

Guiseppe "Joe" DiMaulo, not Joseph

The Gosselin and Di Maulo murders (plus a few other slayings, including the Sal The Ironworker Montagna hit among other minor associates) happened not long after Rizzuto's October return to Canada on the heels of the completion of a six-year bid in a U.S. prison. He'd been sentenced for copping to his role in the 1981 triple murders of Bonanno crime family capos who were mounting a challenge to Philip "Rusty" Rastelli.

Rizzuto, who spent a quarter-century running Montreal's underworld, was known for his flair and brutality. He operated an underworld empire that was built on the lucrative trafficking of Colombian cocaine in North America.

While he was away, however, his Sicilian clan's gangland grip was diminished by new rivals and the Rizzuto family was decimated in its fight to hold on to power.

In December 2009, Rizzuto's son Nick was gunned down on a Montreal street in broad daylight. Ten months later, his elderly father Nicolo was shot dead through a window in his home.

Meanwhile, Rizzuto's brother-in-law and confidant Paolo Renda had gone missing in May 2010; most believe he was killed, but a body has never been found.

A settling of scores is now inevitable. The events of recent months "aim to re-establish a balance" that shifted with the massacre of Rizzuto's clan members during his absence, crime expert Antonio Nicaso said.

Desjardins is presumed safe in a Canadian prison awaiting trial for the murder of rival Salvatore Montagna, whose bullet-riddled body was fished out of the L'Assomption River northeast of Montreal in November 2011.

But Andre Cedilot, co-author of a book on the Montreal mob, believes that more reprisals will come, with six or seven who are "loyal to Desjardins or traitors in the eyes of Rizzuto" likely to be targeted.

Keeping a low profile since his release from prison, Rizzuto, 66, traveled last week to the Dominican Republic apparently for a holiday.

But given recent developments, mafia experts do not believe that he will abandon a life of crime to retire in the sun.

"He'll be back," said Nicaso. "He can't wage a war from afar if he wants to retake control of Montreal."

Should Rizzuto return, however, he and his illicit dealings will face a new level of scrutiny as he has been summoned to testify at a corruption inquiry.

The commission headed by Quebec Superior Court Justice France Charbonneau is investigating alleged graft, bid-rigging and kickbacks in the awarding of government construction contracts in the Canadian province. Witnesses have testified that construction executives colluded with crooked bureaucrats and politicians in a mafia scheme to embezzle public funds.

Federal police surveillance videotapes and wiretaps showed executives handing over stacks of cash to Rizzuto's father, and mobsters using threats to steer the bidding for public works contracts.

The Rizzutos received a 2.5 percent cut of all public works contracts in the province of Quebec, the commission heard.

A former construction magnate has also testified that Rizzuto himself once mediated a conflict between construction executives for a Transport Quebec contract.

"The mafia isn't just involved in extortion and drug trafficking," said Nicaso. "It's infiltrated politics and finance, too."