Why Was Sal the Iron Worker Montagna Whacked?

Simpsons was heading to his house in Charlemagne, an off-island suburb of Montreal, Quebec, where a deadly rendezvous had been planned.

Around the same time,  surveillance cameras recorded the former acting boss of New York's Bonanno crime family, Salvatore "Sal The Iron Worker" Montagna, as he entered the Hôtel Champlain's parking lot. A burly man with short-clipped black hair, the Sicilian mobster was seen traversing the hotel's lobby to gain entry to the downstairs subway station.

He was en route to a meeting with Simpson, a man known in the underworld for the distinct lack of violence in his criminal record. This alleged nonviolent nature would've been a good pawn to use in a classic setup of a wary target. Why Montagna didn't make a similar calculation will remain forever unknown.)

Simpson was a well-known associate of Raynald Desjardins, who had turned on the Rizzuto organization and was working with Southern Ontario's Ndrangheta group. Toronto, especially the port city of Hamilton, was a longtime traditional stronghold of the Calabrian Mafia, likely resulting from the powerful Ndrangheta chieftain Giacomo Luppino's decision to settle there. Luppino ran his own family but, since he also was appointed by Stefano Magaddino to oversee his, Magaddino's, part of Canada, his crime family was exponentially more powerful. When Luppino died, John "Johnny Pops" Papalia's assumed that position, though with less skill and cunning.

Giacomo Luppino, Magaddino's viceroy in Toronto.

Magaddino had no intention of letting estranged cousin Joseph Bonanno, who ran the Montreal Mafia from New York until his banishment, take over his territory. (Ironically, the Mafia Commission nearly gave Bonanno's Montreal outpost to Magaddino when it was considering the Founding Father's punishment for conspiring to murder Carlo Gambino and Thomas Luchese. The American Mafia would've changed enormously had Joseph Colombo not shown fealty to Gambino versus Bonanno.)

Desjardins was allied with a group linked to the original Siderno Ndrangheta group, established by Calabrian Mafia boss Antonio Macri. (In 1971, while arresting a known mobster in his Toronto home, law enforcement agents found in a kitchen cabinet a 27-page document written in an archaic Italian script that was titled Come Formare una Societa, or How to Form a Society. It was a guide on the formation of a Ndrangheta cell; it also included some of the group's rules and ceremonies.

Desjardins and his conspirators sought nothing less than dominion over Montreal's vast underworld. Consolidation of power in both Southern Ontario and Montreal has long been the goal of organized crime groups in Canada.

Vito Rizzuto alone was on the verge of achieving this before his own problems overtook him. Never again would he work toward expanding his territory, When Vito was finally free from an American prison, his one and only concern was revenge.

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving Day, 2011.

About an hour after "The Iron Worker" was spotted inside the hotel, a Charlemagne neighbor of Simpson’s heard two loud cracks -- gunshots fired in "quick succession" -- followed by the sound of shattered glass.

A well dressed man was then seen running from Simpson's home toward the river. The fleeing man slipped and fell into the snow but quickly got up and was soon seen as he leaped into the Assomption River's icy waters.

Less then a minute later, another man -- he wore eyeglasses and had grayish hair slicked back -- was viewed heading toward a white pickup truck. It looked just like the one Simpson was driving earlier. Someone dialed 911 as the man got into the white four-door Ford F-150 pickup truck and disappeared down Celine-Dion Boulevard.

Neighbors went out into the cold and walked toward the man who'd crossed the river. He'd been neatly dressed and was now on his back, thoroughly soaked, his blood coloring the snow beneath him. He'd also bloodied the snow on the other side of the river. The spectators likely gasped in horror as they realized the motionless and supine man laying on his back on the snowy riverbank was quite dead.

Montagna managed to cross the frigid Assomption River after he'd been shot several times inside Simpson's house.

At 10:10 a.m., police arrived. Less than an hour-and-a-half later, the former acting boss of the Bonanno crime family was pronounced dead at Le Gardeur hospital.

While law enforcement worked the murder scene, a man had flown from Montreal to Toronto Island airport. He arrived at a Yorkville restaurant, where he joined two other men at a table. The two waiting men were known members of the Commisso crime family. The Commisso 'ndrina is a powerful Ndrangheta clan with its roots buried deep in Southern Italy's mountainous Calabria region. The 'ndrina is based in Siderno, but also has vital links to an important Ndrangheta branch based in the Greater Toronto Area in Canada, aka the GTA.

The three men ordered lunch.

"The Iron Worker" Named Acting Boss
In 2006,  imprisoned mob boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano named Salvatore "Sal the Iron Worker" Montagna, acting boss, tapping him "at the unlikely age of 36 to lead the Bonanno crime family."

Law enforcement sources, it was reported, believed that Montagna's promotion had been due to the crime family's decision to name a leader "who was a true man of honor from the old country to lead the Bonannos out of the wilderness after many high-ranking gangsters became government witnesses in recent years."

Another reason for this, I believe, was to maintain the family's power base in the Bronx.

Previously, with Philip "Rusty" Rastelli's ascendancy, the family's power had been in Queens, New York. Joseph Bonanno, the family's progenitor, had been based in Brooklyn.

After his promotion, Montagna relocated his family -- his wife and three daughters -- from the Bronx to Elmont, on western Long Island directly beside Queens, New York. He also started carrying a gun as not all members of the Bonanno crime family were pleased with having Montagna as acting boss. (Or, as part of a theory I will detail at the end, some Bonanno members weren't pleased with keeping the crime family's power base in the Bronx. I believe this was part of the reason law-enforcement was talking about a potential Bonanno war last year. I also think it helps bolster the case for Basciano still being the crime family's official boss, which also will be explained.)

Montagna was promoted during extremely delicate times for New York's wiseguys. The Fed's were decimating the Five Families, flipping guys left and right and sending others away for life or as many years as possible. Montagna either was a really sharp guy. Or he thought he was. There's a major difference. And 36 is very young to run one of New York's Five Families.

Montagna: The Early Years
Montagna's nickname rose from his ownership of Bushwick, Brooklyn's Matrix Steel construction company.

Montagna was born in Montreal but supposedly spent most of his childhood in Sicily's Castellammare del Golfo, the birthplace of many American Mafia figures, including Salvatore Maranzano, Stefano Magaddino, Vito Bonventre, John Tartamella, and Joseph Bonanno. The town is notorious historically as well because of the so-called Castellamarese War between Joe "The Boss" Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano for control of New York City's Italian Mafia.

In the mid 1980s, at the age of 15, his family moved to the United States and settled in the Bronx, New York.

In the late 1990s, Montagna's name was mentioned in wiretapped conversations between then-boss Joseph "Big Joe" Massino and other reputed members of the Bonanno crime family.

That was the first time he was linked to the New York Mafia. How Montagna made his journey to the Bonanno crime family is not known.

So in terms of his status in America, Montagna was a legal resident of the the United States, as well as a natural-born Canadian citizen.

Deported in 2009: A Choice Is Offered
When he was deported in 2009 due to an earlier contempt conviction, he had a choice of two destinations, Sicily or Canada. He deliberately chose to hurl himself into the increasingly chaotic atmosphere of Canada's underworld, where two Mafias, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and Calabrian Ndrangheta, had already established separate roots decades earlier. Also it seemed that the two groups were then-engaged in a shooting war.

A slew of mob-related killings and disappearances commenced in 2009 and early 2010, in fact. These attacks severely damaged the Rizzuto organization's ability to maintain power in Montreal. Vito Rizzuto -- the man universally respected by mobsters, bikers and street gangs -- was forced to watch helplessly from prison as his father and son were murdered in gangland hits. Another close family member, Rizzuto's brother-in-law, had vanished, his body never found.
Paolo Renda, 70, was last seen on a Thursday afternoon in May 2010 in Montreal's northwest Cartierville district while running errands. His wife grew increasingly worried as the afternoon wore on without Renda showing up at the front door.

She later told police she had spotted Renda's Infiniti sedan parked on the roadside; it was unlocked, the windows rolled down, the keys inserted in the ignition. They did everything but place a sign on the car saying "STEAL THIS VEHICLE."

This all happened prior to Montagna's arrival. Chances are he knew what was going on. And since he was given a choice by U.S. law enforcement -- Sicily or Montreal -- we can only conclude he deliberately chose Montreal.

Unless, of course, he was told to go there by the Bonanno crime family, which at the time could have used a major influx of cash and resources. (This also will be detailed at the end.) 

Montagna "apparently planned to reorganize Mafia clans in Montreal who were, at the time, left disorganized by a series of severe blows that had been dealt to the Rizzuto organization. Its leader at the time, Vito Rizzuto, was serving a 10-year sentence in the U.S. for having taken part in a plot, in 1981, to murder three mobsters in Brooklyn. Other leaders in the Rizzuto organization were serving lengthy prison terms in Canada when Montagna arrived in Montreal."

By late 2010, Canadian mob snitches described Montagna as a hostile outsider desperately seeking a way to enter the Mafia power structure as he viewed it.

Possibly to help establish his bona fides, Montagna joined Raynald Desjardins and Joseph Di Maulo (Desjardins’s brother-in-law, a respected and influential mobster in both Mafia organizations) to fuse together a faction of Rizzuto dissidents ready to work with elements of the Ndrangheta to take control of the-then impotent and seemingly complacent Rizzuto group.


  1. Nice page Ed I like the way you set it up.

  2. I was wondering where my comment went, I was trying to reply to your response to my comment Ed. I didn't attack anyone, so I'm assuming that message isn't directed towards me.

    1. Yes just realized I need to add disqus code back. I did this specifically according to some guidelines to enhance viewership and raise RPM....

    2. In fact THESE comments will disappear when I recode...


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