No Bail for Montreal Mafia's Two Bosses

Leonardo Rizzuto
Leonardo Rizzuto, son of deceased Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto, and Stefano Sollecito, who together helmed the powerful Canadian Cosa Nostra clan, will not be released on bail, a Quebec court ruled last Friday, noting that releasing them risked undermining the justice system and also jeopardized public safety.

The Rizzuto organization is currently engaged in a war against elements of the Ndrangheta and former members of the Rizzuto clan who turned while Vito was imprisoned. Only last week, one of the Rizzuto family's key members was whacked -- which certainly wouldn't have helped the Cosa Nostra co-bosses in their effort to obtain release on bail.

The ruling must be particularly difficult for the 48-year-old Sollecito — Vito Rizzuto’s former lieutenant — who had to appear before the Quebec judge via video conferencing. He suffers from cancer and was making his appearance from another location, a detention center. "Sollecito is battling cancer and could be heard writhing in pain several times during the proceedings," as the Montreal Gazette noted.

The two face primary charges of drug trafficking and gangsterism following their arrest last November as part of a three-pronged raid focused on interlocking arrangements between several organized crime entities to facilitate drug trafficking in Montreal.

Leonardo worked in the Montreal law office of Loris Cavaliere, also arrested; so were numerous members of the Montreal Mafia, the Hells Angels MC and street gangs in the region.

Rizzuto was identified by law enforcement as one of two bosses of the Montreal Mafia family previously run by his father, Vito, who died of cancer (allegedly) in December 2013. Leonardo was arrested on Nov. 19 as part of Projects Magot and Mastiff, a joint investigation into drug trafficking in the city.

Giovanna Cammalleri waits in court for her son Leonardo Rizzuto's bail hearing in Montreal. ALLEN MCINNIS / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Rizzuto was charged with drug trafficking and gangsterism -- the latter crime was introduced into Canada's Criminal Code in 1997 as means to sentence organized crime members to additional years than previous guidelines allowed. There is no equivalent to America's Mafia-decimating RICO act in Canadian law (which Leonardo would well know, considering he was a lawyer).

Nine new criminal charges were filed against Leonardo at the Montreal courthouse, right before his bail hearing commenced.

University of Notre Dame professor G. Robert Blakey is considered the nation's foremost authority on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, having written it. 
"The remedy under criminal law is to take away the criminal. But if you just take people out one by one -- and all of the conditions remain the same -- it doesn't matter how many individual convictions you get," Blakey noted in a report.

See my interview with Blakey.

The new charges seem relatively minor in comparison to the initial indictment. One new count alleges Rizzuto was in possession of cocaine, but not a large enough quantity to be deemed as part of a drug trafficking operation. The other eight charges are related to two seized firearms — a Browning semi-automatic pistol and a Walther semi-automatic pistol. One charge specifically references a prohibited and loaded firearm found in Rizzuto’s home.

Evidence heard during the hearing and denial of bail was placed under Canada's "publication ban" -- essentially meaning the media won't be getting a hold of it anytime soon.

The main charge announced during the arrests is related to participating in a conspiracy to traffic in drugs between Jan. 1, 2013, and Nov. 16 of last year.

Leonardo Rizzuto, a member of the Quebec Bar Association, was convicted twice in the past for impaired driving. He was sentenced to 14 days in prison in 1995.

Sollecito -- son of Mafia leader Rocco Sollecito, 67 -- was arrested in 2001, as part of a Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit investigation dubbed Project Oltre. The investigation, based in Ontario, uncovered a group that had distributed tens of thousands of ecstasy pills in Canada.

Sollecito ended up with a four-year prison term in Project Oltre, having convicted of drug trafficking and the illegal possession of a firearm.

According to a Parole Board of Canada decision made in 2003, while serving his sentence, Sollecito was “perceived as a person who had power over other inmates.”

Both Rizzuto and Sollecito have been detained since Nov. 19.

Currently, 44 face charges related to Project Magot/Mastiff.

The Canadian mob war has probably claimed at least as many lives so far.

Vito Rizzuto swiftly took charge when he returned home from prison, marshaled his forces and with the true guile of a tested Cosa Nostra boss, set loose the dogs of war by first testing his own men's loyalty.

Much of this information was revealed via wiretap recordings of a Canadian mobster living in Sicily who revealed then-unknown details about the recent Mafia war that killed more than 40 people in Montreal, Toronto, Mexico and Italy. (One of the killings may have happened in the U.S., in Florida.)

The target of a wide-ranging investigation in Palermo, the mobster offered a blow by blow account of Rizzuto's vendetta from its initial stages, which took place in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, where Rizzuto "summoned top henchmen to secret meetings..."

What was discussed?

Well, if you were invited and failed to attend, you were "among his first targets."