Giacomo Luppino: Last Old-Style Mafia Boss

The American Mafia's Commission in 1931 decreed how Canada would be carved up.

Quebec, including the key city of Montreal, fell under the purview of Joseph Bonanno; Southern Ontario, including the waterfront steel-making town of Hamilton, belonged to Bonanno's cousin, Stefano Magaddino.

Don Luppino

 The two feuded the rest of their lives over Canada, which had been recognized as a key platform from which to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Europe.

Carmine Galante, the mental dullard with the low IQ who is believed to have banged 90, including a renowned Italian journalist, was among the first to recognize this (for Bonanno) and was consumed with a passion to capitalize on his discovery until his brutal gangland death on Knickerbocker Ave., in 1979.  He'd begun using his connections in Canada to control the importation of drugs, primarily heroin, into America for distribution on the streets of New York and other major cities.

Canada consisted of various crime families that had immigrated (or fled from) the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and Calabrian Ndrangheta. Indeed, the territory is so rife with families, both Siciliian and Calabrian, that it would seem there were more Mafioso in Canada than in Italy. The two groups always had a rivalry, while the distinction was less important to the American Mafia, which used this rivalry to manipulate the territory.
Paolo Violi was best placed to
establish a legacy for Don
Giacomo Luppino.

That was Bonanno's strategy, anyway, in Montreal. The proud Sicilian protege of Maranzano developed a brilliant plan, appointing a two-man panel to oversee his interests; he favored one man, Ndrangheta boss Vic Cotroni, and appointed the Sicilian Cosa Nostra boss Luigi Greco as Cotroni's lieutenant.

Bonanno "gave Cotroni the edge," as Lee Lamothe and Adrian Humphrey's reported in The Sixth Family.

This balance of power by Bonanno established two decades of peace and prosperity.

As for Magaddino's Ontario group, he named the well-respected Giacomo Luppino as the Buffalo crew's long time representative, as noted in Andre Cedilot and Andre Noel's "Mafia Inc.: The Long, Bloody Reign of Canada's Sicilian Clan."

Giacomo's term also was long and stable. In Southern Ontario as well, even to a greater extent, there was a precarious balance of power due to all the crime families and other organized crime rings riddling the area, especially the key port town of Hamilton. Also, Giacomo seems to have been more of a negotiator, and a not very violent boss who failed to even avenge the slaying of his own son-in-law, Paolo Violi, by the Rizzuto clan. He even was known for providing safety to the widows and children of Rizzuto victims.

He had many children, but amazingly none ever rose far in the criminal underworld. The most well known of them was Vincenzo, who died a natural death and never saw the inside of a jail cell.

It is interesting to note that the violence -- the real violence, for control of the region -- didn't commence until Giacomo's death, at age 88, in 1987, which is when Johnny "Pops" Papalia assumed control. It was then that the third family in Hamilton, the Musitanos, worked with Rizzuto family boss Vito when he first tried to consolidate power there in the late 1990s. Rizzuto was, in fact, closely involved with the hits on the Papalia family, so close that one of his right hand men was seen by law enforcement meeting with Musitano family leaders after each of three key hits went down in the late 1990s. Among the killed: Johnny "Pops" himself.

Afterward, Vito himself was seen meeting with Musitano boss Pat.

All three of the key families in Hamilton -- the Luppinos, Papalias and Musitanos -- were Calabrian Ndrangheta clans. Still, Pat Musitano, boss of the family in the late 1990s, "fell in with Vito Rizzuto."
Bonanno appointed a two-man panel,
which established a long time of peace.
It ended in bloody violence that
continues to this day.

Consolidation of power in Southern Ontario, something never before attained, may be at the root of the violence occurring even now in the region, with the execution last week of a Calabrian hitter who is believed to have been done in by Cosa Nostra forces controlling Vito Rizzuto's crime family, carrying out policies Vito himself likely would have held.

Paolo Violi, who played a lead role in the Montreal battles and was in the best position to create an ongoing legacy for Giacomo Luppino, arrived in Canada in 1951 at age 20. In 1955 he killed another Calabrian, Natale Brigante, in what was determined by law enforcement to be "self-defense" following a parking lot altercation. It may have in fact been a hit ordered in Calabria. (Natale had pulled a knife and stabbed Violi in the chest; Violi unleashed four shots into his opponent, according to the police report. While Violi was not charged, the police believed Natale had been the victim of a sanctioned hit, a settling of a vendetta begun in Calabria.)

Violi, establishing his bona fides by murdering for his Mafia family, was taken under the wing of the Luppino boss, Giacomo, who had been friends with Violi's father, who had settled in the U.S., near Cleveland. Violi had eyes on eventually running the show; Giacomo likely saw him as a possible heir to the throne, especially when Violi married Luppino's daughter, Grazia, in 1965.

Violi had by then moved to Montreal to help back up none other than Vic Cotroni, the Calabrian boss in Montreal who had decided he needed more Ndrangheta support when his "partner" Greco had formed an alliance with Nicolo Rizzuto.

Magaddino had every reason to be furious; one f his key people in Ontario had hauled up shop and journeyed to Montreal to work for his cousin, Bonanno. He "was not well pleased," with Violi's actions but the venerable Giacomo Luppino reassured him somehow. Precisely how he accomplished this is not known, nor on what basis Violi set out for Montreal with Giacomo's blessings. Giacomo told Magaddino that Paolo's move would not unsettle things in Ontario; he was correct, at least during both their lifetimes, Giacomo's and Magaddino's.

Violi would gradually eclipse all the Cotroni lieutenants, including the Sicilian Luigi Greco. He was an old school mobster, who did not want to traffic in drugs -- "Stick with stealing; it's safer," is the advice he gave to one low-level mobster who approached him seeking finance for a drug deal.

Respect also was a big deal for him; he never ceased complaining to American bosses that one Sicilian refused to respect him -- Nicolo Rizzuto, who had by then become very popular with these very same American Cosa Nostra bosses, especially Joseph Bonanno who was probably realizing Nicolo, a fellow Sicilian, was perhaps the right man for the job as opposed to his initial pick of Vic Cotroni.

The opposition between Vic Cotroni/Paolo Violi and Nicolo Rizzuto began to harden and strengthen when Rizzuto began striking out on his own in places like Venezuela. He lost sight that he was viewed by his Montreal counterparts as a soldier of the Bonanno family under an appointed boss (Cotroni) and that it was his duty to report to his boss, as any soldier would.

Violi was loyal to Cotroni and saw himself as taking over for the boss when the boss stepped down. The problem was Rizzuto saw this as well, and had no desire to play second fiddle.

That is the foundation that would lead to the eventual war in Montreal between the Sicilians and the Calabrians. The war only got hot once Cotroni sought permission from the Bonannos to kill Nicolo Rizzuto. They declined to support this move, then told Nicolo what was going on.

Don Luppino comes back into the picture after the murder of Paolo Violi in 1977. He was dining with some companions when an assassin burst into the restaurant and blew his head off with a lupara, the double-barrelled sawed-off shotgun favored by Sicilian Cosa Nostra members seeking to permanently solve a problem.

In 1980, Paolo's brother, Rocco, was deported from America. The Rizzutos viewed him as a potential threat, even though in America there was one Cosa Nostra that all Italians belonged to by then, whether of Sicilian, Calabrian or even Neapolitan descent. Rocco even had shown fealty to the Gambino family before his deportation by attending the funeral of Carlo Gambino.

The Rizzutos still took him out.

While eating dinner with his family, in Saint-Leonard, a borough of Montreal,  a sniper's bullet tore into his head, ending him in front of his horrified family. (This is exactly how Nicolo Rizzuto would die decades later. Coincidence? The Mafia doesn't believe in coincidences, nor do I.)

The widows and children of the slain Violi brothers packed up and moved under the warm, protective umbrella of Don Giacomo Luppino, where his Hamilton Mafia was still keeping the peace.

"The last of Canada’s old-style Mafia godfathers" died in 1987, at age 88.

"Pops" Papalia, who then assumed control, had two lieutenants: Enio "Pegleg" Mora and Carmen Barillaro.

In the 1990s, Mora borrowed $7.2 million from Vito Rizzuto, giving the bulk of it to Johnny Papalia and Carmen Barillaro. When Vito start inquiring about repayment of the loan, he was ignored.

The violence, the real violence, commenced on Sept. 11, 1996. Pegleg Mora was shot four times in the head at point blank range after pulling his gold-colored Cadillac into the driveway of his farm in north Toronto.

The Rizzutos began their first attack on Southern Ontario.

Luppino's sons never outgrew their father's shadow. After the Don's natural death, Vincenzo became less active within the family. Orders were even given to kill Luppino and his brothers; the plans were aborted for reasons unknown.  This is according to Ken Murdock, the hit man who pulled off the three Papalia hits for Rizzuto and Musitano, during an interview in 1999.

Vincenzo Luppino, the most high profile of the sons, who'd been a Papalia associate, led an uneventful criminal life, likely dabbling in small-time crime. He died on July 13, 2009, at the age of 83. His funeral was well attended, with about 350 mourners, including members of the Hells Angels.

Luppino was never convicted but two of his brothers were imprisoned for 1982 crimes. 


  1. So here come the questions,
    1) the Luppino's & the Papalia's were considered crews in Hamilton as part of the Buffalo family? (similar to the montreal crew of the bonanno's)

    2) Were the Musitanos ever part of the Buffalo Family?

    3) When did the Luppino's and Papalias gain independence from Buffalo?

  2. Funzi, I don't tailor my posts to one person's agenda. 1.) yes, you answered your own question; 2.) all three Ndrangheta families were under Magaddino, who appointed Luppino who oversaw the region (all three families were nominally under him. These Canadian crews all wanted ties to the American families; it was the mark of prestige. See the three families as crews under Luppino, then Papalia. I couldn't tell you what is going on once Papalia was killed; I assumed with Rizzuto and the Musitano brothers all in prison, the Papalia/Luppinos united with other Ndrangheta factions against the Sicilians, which has been part of the reason for all the hits in Canada; available research doesn't always answer all the questions and I am not writing a book, with a year to do research. 3.) I believe with the ascent of drugs, figures like Papalia and Vito Rizzuto said the hell with New York, we can control the drug trade. Vito came down to protect Rastelli with the three-capo hits. I think he began pulling away from them after a while, especially when Massino whacked George from Canada, only Vito didn't bother to tell the Bonannos, which is why there was confusion; Massino and the rest of them enjoyed good relations for a bit, but ultimately I believe Vito was playing them, placating them. That's about it.

    1. Also when I say the three Hamilton families can be considered as one, under Magaddino, they are also their own family, at the same time. As an example, think of Frank Cullotta out in Vegas for Tony Spilotro. He and his crew are out there to protect Nicky and Lefty. But, they have to eat, which means they had to earn. All of the crimes of the Hole in the Wall gang were committed because the gang, as every Mafioso, has to earn, no matter what else they are doing. Historians, I don't believe, understand this quality of being subordinate, as well as independent. To confuse things even more, Cullotta gave Tony a kickback from the Hole in the Wall robberies, because Tony allowed him and his crew to operate; Tony in theory would've kicked some of his kickback to Chicago.... How could Tony keep Frank and his guys there and not let them eat? A fundamental Mafia rule is everyone has to earn a living, before, after, in addition to anything else. Unless of course they whack you. I don't believe anyone can offer precise dates as to when the Canadian groups became less part of an American family and more of a partner to an American family. So when I say they were all under Luppino, I mean in terms of the organization chart Magaddino saw. But in reality, each of those families had a level of independence and earned their own revenue. What interests me is Luppino must have had power, because all the real maneuvering and plotting, followed by the killings, didn't happen while he was alive. They took out Violi, but by then he had established himself as a player in Montreal, another outpost, and I believe was trying to take over Montreal because he knew Luppino had Southern Ontario waiting for him. I am rambling, but with the Mafia, nothing is black and white and nothing is as exactly as it seems. If Violi had whacked Nick and Vito and became boss of Montreal, Luppino would be a much better known name. We try to present the best depiction we can based on the research we can engender.

  3. Ed, I certainly don't expect you to tailor your posts for me. I just have questions and thought you might have the answers. I'll refrain from asking more questions on the subject besides this one.....Do you know of any books on the 'Ndrangheta in Canada?
    I have Sixth Family & Mafia Inc but would love to pick up something specifically about 'Ndrangheta. Thank you in advance.

    1. Dickie's Blood Brothers and Mafia Republic, I'm reading latter now, cover all three Mafias in Italy, Sicily and I believe America and Canada.....

    2. I have all 3 of his books which do cover the Ndrangheta but not so much Canada. Thanks for the tip tho.

    3. Found one: Letizia Paoli's "Mafia Brotherhoods"

    4. I have this book also but it sucks. It's to academic for me!

    5. Really? I find it 10 times easier than Critchley. Do you have a recent translated version? I heard there may have been translation issues. I have Oxford 2003 edition. He predates Dickie; Dickie obviously found Paoli's work helpful. He ties lemon and other Sicilian fruits in with the huge influx of Italian immigrants to New Orleans in the late 19th century

  4. Vic Cotroni wasn't part of the 'ndrangheta and Luigi Greco was from the Italian mainland. Cotroni was named the official caporegime of the Montreal based Bonanno crew with Greco acting in his absense.

    1. Cotroni was Ndrangheta and Luigi was Sicilian. I stand by the story. Give your sources if your going to fact check me. I have mine; I just double checked; you are wrong, anonymous.

    2. What are your sources? I don't see them listed anywhere. Also, no need to act offensive. I just wanted to help you with your article, that's all.

    3. You didn't read the story then; I listed the two primary works right there in the text; I used news reports and other books to provide supporting detail. It is too tedious on a blog to use footnotes; I also use background from protected sources sometimes.

    4. I apologize; I tend to have a thick skin, except when it comes to questions of fact. I am vulnerable there. Thanks for your comment, I do appreciate it. Mafia Inc., which I do name in the story, is a French-language work only recently translated into English. I used that book as sourcing for Cotroni and Greco.

    5. No problem at all. I did read your story. Overall you do know your stuff very well and I like your blog and enjoy your stories. Maybe I was just nitpicking, because you cover a very wide subject and sometimes the errors are in those little details. As for Cotroni I don't have any hard evidence that he wasn't part of the 'ndrangheta, but we do know that he was a made member in the Bonanno family. Common sense dictates that he couldn't have been inducted in two families. Luppino however is believed to have been a member of the 'ndrangheta, but he fell under the influence of the then powerful Buffalo family. He was respected by Magaddino, so much so that he was acting as his representative in Southern Ontario. Apparantly he was even considered to be above Papalia, who, even though having Calabrian roots, was a made member of the American Cosa Nostra.

    6. Why couldn't he belong to 2 families? Wouldn't be the first time guys made in Italy came over and got made into American Cosa Nostra.

    7. What is your source for Cotroni and Greco? I'd like to resolve this. I can't find; everything I have tells me they were Ndrangheta

    8. I don't believe it is stated in Mafia Inc. that Cotroni was inducted into the 'ndrangheta before he joined the Bonannos (you can correct me on that as it's been a while since I read that book). I don't have a source that can prove that Cotroni wasn't a member of the 'ndrangheta, but I don't remember reading any viable source (Sixth Family, Mafia Inc. Iced and hundreds of articles) that states that he was other than being a member of the Bonanno family. As Joe Bonanno was tradional and oldschool, I really don't believe he would accept someone into his family who was already part of another clan that wasn't Sicilian.

      As for Greco, that comes from author Pierre De Champlain, who is an expert on Canadian organized crime, particulary Montreal, who through his research discovered that Greco was from Molise, Italy. I believe he also reveals this in his new book.

    9. You're reading too much into his being made in America. You're defining him entirely by that. I try to explain this again and again. These guys sought the prestige and power of being associated with the American Mafia. But Canada has its own dynamics...He is identified as coming from Calabria; Calabrian gangsters are Ndrangheta, and he's identified in the book as Ndrangheta. That book is relatively recent and was written primarily for French-speaking Canadians, ie., it's more up-to-date and accurate than other books that are written more for an American audience, I believe...Honestly, I wouldn't make this up. Who killed Paoli? Paoli was Ndrangheta; he backed up Cotroni. Why else? I am trying to establish a foundation, a basis for all the killing in the past and present in Canada; it is primarily between Sicilians and Ndrangheta. Back in the 1930s Magaddino probably didn't give two shits what his reps were as long as they were Mafia.... Bonanno knew exactly what he was doing; he split the power -- which was the basis for 20 years of peace and prosperity. We'll have to agree to disagree. You see guys in Canadian only based on what American family there were made in... I don't give a shit about induction ceremonies. Cotroni's blood was Calabrian; Calabrian equals Ndrangheta, not Cosa Nostra. He was an opportunist though and the American Cosa Nostra probably didn't know or give a shit about that stuff after killing off Maranzano...I'm just repeating yourself. I appreciate your comments and believe you are sincere....Please believe, I am too.....

    10. So based on your logic, Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia were 'ndrangheta as well?

    11. Read the fifth paragraph and then the one farther down about Rocco that begins "In 1980..." If you're the same person in this thread, I noted you have to read the story first. I think you glanced at it.

    12. I was referring to your post above in which you state that Calabrian equals 'ndrangheta, not the story itself. So Basically what you are saying is that in America there is only one Cosa Nostra to which all Italians belong to, but that does not apply to Canada? That would still mean that Cotroni was only part of the American Cosa Nostra, as their rules would also apply to him.

    13. I am addressing all this in the story I am working on... there is room for some research here. Canadian writers recognize two Mafias are at work there, and one in America but apparently don't see this as an area ripe for research and probably a couple of good books. I've been working my way through several books -- and have some more to go. I am piecing together an article based on wiretaps and testimony available in these books. Canadian Ndrangheta may have been part of an American Cosa Nostra family but what does that mean? Cotroni "was only part of the American Cosa Nostra..." is incorrect. He was "not only" a part of Cosa Nostra, he was the Bonanno boss in Montreal -- and also at the same time: the boss of what the Canadian press refers to as the Cotroni family or the Cotroni/Violi family. But he took orders from the Bonanno family boss in New York. He was a hybrid individual. Violi, a Ndrangheta from Southern Italy, actually visited Cosa Nostra bosses in Sicily to complain about Nic Rizzuto. There Ndrangheta and Cosa Nostra obviously have respect for each other. As I noted on my FB page, Rizzuto lost his chief representative in Ontario out of respect for the Calabrians; they formally recognize made men in both groups as more respected than unmade man. In other words, Vito sided with the made Ndrangheta boss and let him whack his own rep, who was not made... There is mutual respect -- that seems to be the norm. Many different variable at work though.... Either your just breaking my balls by dissecting this to death or you simply think the sun revolves around the Five Families in New York....

    14. The real question to me is how did Magaddino work with Ontario. There are two distinct points of view: He worked with Papalia or he worked with Luppino. Based on the more recent research, Luppino had the upper hand, but I believe there must have been a power-sharing situation going on because Papalia was in prison all the damn time. I am interested in the Magaddino - Papalia - Luppino - Musitano dynamic... There is little research I have yet found that goes into this in detail...

    15. I'm not breaking balls, I'm just having a simple debate with you on this, that's all. If you're doing a blog such as this and give people the ability to comment, you should be willing to endure criticism or people who will question certain things. It seems like you have a little bit of a problem with that. You are admittedly also still learning about this subject as am I. This means that we are on the same level.

      That being said, you're right that the (Canadian) press sometimes refer to the Cotroni "family". Even though Cotroni was in essence the boss of Montreal, he was technically only a caporegime of a crew in the Bonanno family. This crew consisted of approximately 20 made members. After his death, Gerlando Sciascia was named his successor, even though he mostly operated in New York. Now things do become muddy when Sciascia was killed and it's debatable whether they are still part of the Bonannos today. With all that has happened in recent years, that doesn't seem to be the case, but who knows...

  5. Also, Papalia was a made member of the Buffalo family and named caporegime at some point in the 1980s. His crew consisted of approximately ten other made members.

  6. I fucking hate know-it-all BBers like the guy above. The BB stands for bulletin board and ball breaker...

    1. Maybe that's because you have a learning disability...

  7. didn't controni send violin to NYC in 1973 or 74 to put there crew vote in for rustelli as boss of the bonannos. he was caught on wire. I think contoni was official capo till his death in the 80tys and then we know George s was capo for the rizzuttos. Massimo sent his guys to Montreal after his murder to appoint Vito capo. he said no my father who I guess was never a capo.

  8. SO violi gets whacked in 1978 galante in charge so he must have gave rizzuto the OK to take him out but not controni who was the real capo. maybe controni and galante had a OK friendship. but galante didn't make nick rizzuto capo of Montreal after violi muder. or maybe controni was well respected and held the capo rank in name only like gotti and his capo wagons till his death but the real power in Montreal late 70 tys till 2000 was rizzuto and friends. but in the long run violis kids and stuff got there revenge they took out vitos father brothers and a kid that's revenge.

    1. Cotroni was respected; Nicolo was more astute politically and knew Violi was vulnerable but everyone knew not to touch Cotroni. Yes, anon9:08, Rastelli did want reps down to vote him in as boss. Not sure who went, but it was a big deal in Montreal. They were excited to be invited and took it to mean they'd be playing a larger role in Five Family affairs. I should've noted both Joe Bonanno and Carmine Galante (who spent a lot of time in Canada, tried to expatriate to Canada but withheld their efforts when they were confronted with potential investigations to "clear" them....


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