Who Filled Rizzuto Power Vacuum?

Vito Rizzuto went down fighting. In the end cancer "allegedly" killed him.

The 2013 death of Montreal Cosa Nostra boss Vito Rizzuto at age 67 (supposedly of natural causes) didn't mark an abrupt end to the mob war between the Sicilian Mafia and a united group of factions consisting of former Rizzuto loyalists and Calabrian Ndrangheta members based in Southern Ontario. (Unlike in the U.S., Canada has two homegrown Mafias: the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the Calabrian Ndrangheta, based in Southern Italy.)

However as of January 2016, things seem to have quieted down, for the moment anyway, and we now have a grasp of how the leadership void created following Rizzuto's sudden death from cancer was filled. We also know a great deal more about the dynamics behind the Montreal mob war owing to published reports and the book Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto's Last War(Though I am troubled by the number of factual errors I am encountering in the book. George Sciascia aka "George from Canada" wasn't killed by the Gambinos, for example, he was killed by the Bonnano crime family. The Sciascia murder is a focus of my book written with former Bonanno capo Dominick Cicale. Buy it while you can -- Dom and I may be taking it off the market.)

Following last month's high-profile arrests in Montreal, investigators revealed the names of the two alleged leaders of the Rizzuto crime family as Rizzuto's son, Leonardo, 46, a lawyer, and Stefano Sollecito, 48, the son of long-time Rizzuto clan member Rocco "Sauce" Sollecito. Police allege that Sollecito had stepped in with Leonardo to fill the void following Rizzuto’s death.

Quebec police rounded up and arrested 48 people following a nearly three-year-long investigation.

See a list of the names of key people and places that the investigation focused on.

The arrests revealed that residual animosity remains between alleged members of the Quebec-based Rizzuto organization and members of the rival alliance consisting of Rizzuto dissidents and Ndrangheta members located in Southern Ontario; this group tried to wrest control of the primarily French-speaking Montral province.
Wooley at Vito Rizzuto's December 2013 funeral.

The official goal of Projects Magot and Mastiff was to explore links between the Mafia, the Hells Angels and Montreal-area street gangs in January 2013. The investigation also sought to determine exactly how the various criminal organizations were linked together, particularly the Hells Angels and the Rizzuto organization.

The principle aim of the street alliance involving the mob, Hells Angels MC and street gangs was to bolster, build and protect a large drug-trafficking network.

This group of confederates also was planning the murder of Raynald Desjardins. This was because of a rival drug ring apparently run by those loyal to the imprisoned Desjardins, but was also a continuation of Vito Rizzuto's campaign to murder all who had turned on him, seeking to push the Sicilians off their perch atop the Montreal underworld while Vito served time in a U.S. prison for killing three Bonanno capos in the 1980s. Desjardins held a leadership in the dissident faction. He supposedly turned on Rizzuto after serving a long stint in prison for drug trafficking. Reportedly, Desjardins felt he'd taken the fall to protect Vito, who was not as appreciative as Desjardins thought he should've been. (However, according to reports, Desjardins lived like a king behind bars, threatening everyone and getting whatever he wanted. Eventually, after trying to poison another inmate, he was transferred to another harsher prison, a maximum security institution.)

Body of Salvatore Montagna, former Bonanno acting boss from New York.

Alleged street gang boss and biker Gregory Wooley, arrested in the raids, was a key link in the alliance.

Another man in a key leadership position was Hells member and founder of the original Rock Machine bike gang, Salvatore Cazzetta. According to police, Cazzetta served as something like a mob banker, handling the money shared among members of the alliance.

Defense attorney Loris Cavaltere, 61, it was noted, used his office to meet with gangsters and other members of the associated crime groups. Apparently acting as a de facto consiglieri for the Rizzuto clan, the lawyer was arrested as well in the November raids.

Also arrested was former Hells Angels' Nomads in Quebec president Maurice "Mom" Boucher, 62, who was serving life for the 1997 order that directly brought about the murders of two prison guards, and the attempted murder of a third. Boucher was handcuffed while in his jail cell as part of last month's raids.

His daughter, Alexandra Mongeau, 25, also was arrested for allegedly passing on Boucher's messages to Wooley. The messages were part of the planning of the murder of Desjardins.

Maurice Boucher, left, in the old days as a freewheeling HA boss.....
Today Desjardins is in prison for participating in the 2011 murder of Salvatore Montagna, a former acting boss of the Bonanno crime family. A Sicilian born in Canada, he'd been deported from Elmont, in New York's Nassau County on Long Island, to Montreal and apparently was trying to assume a high-profile and lucrative position in Canada's underworld.

Closest of Old Friends Can Be Worst Enemies
Desjardins was once Rizzuto's right hand man. But his feelings toward Vito had changed once he departed prison in 2004. Desjardins and brother-in-law Joseph DiMaulo sought to conspire with other Quebec mobsters, as well as members of Ontario's Ndrangheta.

Some eight years later, in November 2012, DiMaulo was murdered, causing some confusion as to who exactly was doing all the shooting in Canada and why.....

“In Montreal, there’s a state of war,” Pierre de Champlain, a retired RCMP organized crime analyst, said at the time. “People are very careful. They don’t want to be seen at the church.” 

Rizzuto completed his sentence and returned to Canada in early October with word that he'd written out two lists, one consisting of friends, the other for enemies. Di Maulo, formerly a trusted associate of the Rizzuto Sicilian crime family, even though Di Maulo was Calabrian. His ties harkened back to Rizzuto’s Calabrian predecessor, Frank Cotroni.  

Basically, Di Maulo was not believed to be on Rizzuto’s hit list, so no one really knew what the hell was going on at the time....

Sal "The Iron Worker" Montagna, deported from the U.S., joined the group, which planned to begin striking at the Rizzuto clan while Vito was in a Colorado prison serving a 10-year bid for his role in the slaying of three Bonanno captains in the early 1980s. (Apparently, Desjardin's group had been preparing to assassinate none other than Vito Rizzuto himself, before he was arrested in Montreal for eventual extradition.)

The opposition group -- consisting of Desjardins, Montagna, former Rizzuto loyalists and elements of Ontario's Ndrangheta crime clans -- was beset by internal squabbles that eventually led to Montagna's murder.

Raynald Desjardins - "Mom" Boucher was planning his jailhouse murder.

An Interesting Year
In the year 2004 a few members of organized crime got out of prison when Rizzuto was heading off to serve his sentence. Boucher was gone as well.

Among those getting out was Salvatore Cazzetta, an outlaw biker and a founder of the Rock Machine Motorcycle Club. He was known for wearing his long hair yanked into a ponytail, as well as his bushy beard (he looked like a member of the rock band ZZ Top). Cazzetta also was known for having an astute business sense coupled with strong leadership capabilities. He's an interesting figure in the overall story.

Despite the fact his gang had waged a long and bloody war against the Hells Angels in the late 1990s and early 2000s for control of downtown Montreal drug trafficking, he supposedly had few enemies. Fortunately for him, he'd spent most of the war years in a Florida prison; he'd not been involved in the prolonged battle for supremacy in the underworld.

Cazzetta had once been close friends with Boucher in the early 1980s, when the two were members of the SS, a small outlaw biker gang known for its strong racial prejudices (something that made many surprised at how close "Mom" seemed to have been with Wooley, a black man).  Boucher eventually moved on to the Hells Angels -- the gang supposedly allowed him and others to "patch in" -- meaning simply trade their patches for the Hells Angels' infamous skull patch, instantly becoming members.

Cazzetta declined the offer to join the HAs however, possibly owing to a dispute between two charters of the club (the Lennoxville group and the one in Laval). The Lennoxville-based Hells Angels suspected the Laval group of having too many members more interested in using the drugs than selling them. As a result, Lennoxville invited Laval members to a party. The group walked in expecting drunken biker-style merriment -- and were all promptly beaten to death with ball-peen hammers.

Cazzetta supposedly never forgot that slaughter, considering it a breach of the biker's brotherhood code to be an unpardonable sin. He strongly believed in that code. The Rock Machine's motto was: À La Vie À La Mort (“As We Live, So We Shall Die”).

Cazzetta returned after Mom had gone away. Mom never lost his respect for Cazzetta, however. Cazzetta survived the war and was among those arrested last month. He apparently was working with the Rizzuto organization.

A year later, in June 2005, Giovanni "Johnny" Bertolo was out of prison. Like Cazzetta, he had shown his willingness to do time when required. Bertolo and Desjardins’s brother Jacques had together run a loanshark operation. He was arrested days before Christmas in 1992 for a major cocaine bust. He could've easily spared himself the stint by flipping and giving up the two men behind the drug operation: Desjardins and Rizzuto. But he didn't.

Bertolo was literally stricken with outright shock when he returned to his old turf to discover that his operations had been taken over by Frank Arcadi, an initial acting boss for Vito Rizzuto after his arrest, who had given them to another member of the organization. Furthermore, Bertolo learned he'd never be getting his businesses back. Arcadi acted as if he couldn't have cared less with Bertolo ever got out of prison.

It later was suspected that Bertolo was selling drugs on his old turf anyway, in defiance of Arcadi.

On August 11, 2006, Bertolo was leaving a gym near the Rivière des Prairies. Later that day, he and his son were flying to Italy. As he was standing aside his BMW X5 SUV, a spray of gunfire killed him.

Word at the time was that Bertolo’s murder had been ordered by the Rizzuto group, who'd outsourced the work to Colombians. Rizzuto hitters, as the public later learned, were renowned for their good aim and sparse use of bullets, especially in public places.

Shortly after Bertolo’s death, New York's Bonanno family sent a representative to Montreal. Who and why hasn't been revealed, to my knowledge. Ultimately it seems the Rizzuto's were behind Bertolo's death, as his funeral wasn't handled by the Complexe Funéraire Loreto funeral home, where all wiseguys working for the Rizzuto's were generally laid out.

Desjardins was enraged when he learned of the murder of his friend. It also is believed to be the murder that led Desjardins to war with the Rizzuto group.

The next volley against Rizzuto's group took place when mobsters in Granby, Quebec, a small city east of Montreal, believed they'd been cheated following an $11 million drug deal that had gone sideways.

There had been open negotiations between the groups in August 2005. They were a failure, however. Arcadi tried to strike first, using a rented helicopter to fly over Granby and firing a machine-gun on the home of a key member of the mob there. The "hit" failed to even wound anyone and was viewed as largely symbolic. It did tell other factions in addition to the one in Granby that Arcadi was ready for war.

Vito fiercely fought extradition when he learned of these developments. When his fight was finally lost and he was riding to the airport on August 17, 2006, he supposedly lost his composure. To the two police officers escorting him to the airport, he offered some pointed remarks. He needed to remain in Canada, he told them.

Didn't they foresee the violence that had already erupted in his absence was only the beginning?

Macri, a rising star in the Montreal mob, was the first Rizzuto loyalist slain by the opposition,

Officers Nicodemo Milano and Franc Guimond got an earful, but probably had no clue that Rizzuto was accurately predicting the milieu's pending upheaval.

"You should go after the street gangs," Vito told them. “Not me. They are the ones who would create trouble.” Vito apparently believed Arcadi was not capable enough to lead the family in his absence.

"You will rue the day that I leave Canada,” Vito told the police officers. “You will see what will happen when I leave Canada.”

But his final words were spoken softly. He pled for mercy for his father. “Spare my father,” he said. “He’s an old man . He’s a sick man. Spare my father...."

Two weeks later. Mid-afternoon on August 30, 2006, Domenico Macri, a rising star in the Rizzuto group, was traveling with his driver in his Cadillac through the intersection of Henri-Bourassa Boulevard and Rodolphe-Forget Boulevard when a motorcycle rolled to a hault beside the car. A gun was raised and the man holding it opened fire -- then the motorcycle hurtled away.

The driver recovered. But Macri didn't recover.....

It wasn't even two weeks after Vito issued his prophetic words to the two cops.

Rizzuto's Return
When Vito was in prison, the general consensus of newspaper reports and television's talking heads was that he was finished. Vito "the has-been" Rizzuto probably would return home and leave in the time it took to pack his bags, and he'd never look back.

Quite the contrary Rizzuto proved to be a formidable rival to his enemies and every bit up to the task of being the Mafia strongman thirsting for vengeance.

His return to Canada following his 10-year racketeering sentence stopped the coup cold in its tracks. It then went further as Rizzuto went on the offensive. Bodies began dropping like flies, primarily in Ontario but also in other parts of Canada, as well as in Mexico and Sicily.

No matter how far his enemies fled, Rizzuto had them hunted down and slain.

The shooters were the Rizzuto outfit's "young turks" -- the sons and nephews of older trusted members and associates of the Rizzuto organization. They systematically whacked key members of the opposition and traitors, partly in retaliation for the murders of Vito's son, Nicolo Jr., his father Nicolo Sr. and brother-in-law Paolo Renda (and other trusted associates).

Di Maulo family members at his funeral, which shortly followed Vito's return home.

Among those on Vito's hit list who were found dead on the street were Ndranghetta hit man Salvatore "Sam" Calalutti and Joseph Di Maulo. Also slain were "traitors" who fled North America (turns out, Vito wasn't the one who packed his bags). Moreno Gallo was shot dead while dining in Mexico. Juan Ramon Fernandez, aka "Joe Bravo" and his associate, Fernando Pimental, were both murdered in Sicily.

In May 2013, the charred, bullet-riddled remains of two gangsters from Canada were found in Sicily.Italian police feared a trans-Atlantic Mafia war was brewing -- but it was Vito's response to Joe Bravo's challenge...

Carmine Verducci, 56, killed in 2014, was probably the highest-ranking conspirator killed in Ontario, according to media reports. He was the link between the Southern Ontario Calabrian clans with the most powerful clan in Calabria, as well as a general go-between for Calabria-based families in Canada.