Vito hopping off a jet.
It’s hard to keep a tally on the latest organized crime-linked bloodbath soaking Montreal. Not only because the bodies are piling up so quickly—seven people murdered since November, another two with attempts on their lives—but also because it’s unclear who hates whom and why.
One thing is clear: since reputed Montreal mob overlord Vito Rizzuto completed his eight-year sentence in a Colorado jail last October and came home, his enemies have been dying violently. The first big name to go was long-time mafioso Joe Di Maulo, shot twice in the head on Nov. 5. Some police and outside observers believe the 70-year-old Di Maulo was making a bid for the leadership of the mob, along with two other high-ranking mobsters, Sal Montagna and Di Maulo’s brother-in-law, Raynald Desjardins, while Vito was incarcerated. For whatever reason, the alliance between the three fell apart in a spectacular fashion. In September 2011, an attempt was made on Desjardins’ life. Two months later, Montagna was murdered, his bullet-ridden body fished from a river north of Montreal, and Desjardins is charged with the killing.
According to recent media reports, the more recent victims either had a long history of opposing the Sicilian Rizzutos or were attached to those who did. Vincenzo Scuderi, who was gunned down on January 31, had no criminal convictions but was believed to be linked to Giuseppe De Vito, a drug dealer with long-standing grudges against the Rizzutos. In December, 37-year-old Domenico Facchini and another man were shot inside a building linked to De Vito. Facchini died, the other man survived. (De Vito is currently serving a 15-year sentence on drug trafficking charges, and is a grieving father: his wife is accused of murdering their two daughters, aged eight and nine, in 2009).
With his father, son and brother-in-law among those killed and presumed killed while he was in jail, Vito has a lot of scores to settle. So he’s keeping busy (but not too busy to take a long-overdue trip back to his familiar Dominican Republic).
None of that is a surprise to Mob expert and author Antonio Nicaso. He says the Rizzuto family’s ability to bounce back from years of reversals is the result both of Vito’s particular abilities and the family’s tentacle-like connections across politics, business and borders.
“To understand the longevity of the clan, and the Mafia in general, you have to look at it as a history of relationships,” he says. “Mob bosses are like spiders. Throughout their lives they build up friendships and accumulate knowledge and connections. If you have a relationship with someone for over 30 years, you have a solid connection. If you invest in many sectors of the Quebec economy, you can maintain your contacts and relationships.”
Raynald Desjardins being carted off somewhere.
The Rizzuto empire is believed to be vast. It includes the usual rackets, especially drug trafficking, but it also includes construction, real estate, restaurants and bars, garbage and recycling, even ice cream and coffee. Its most visible storefront operation is the Loreto funeral home in Montreal’s St-Leonard neighborhood.
That Vito was able to command the loyalty of enough associates even while he was in jail is a testament to the man’s influence. The disloyal and the upstarts and the presumptuous are paying for it now.
“When everybody said the Rizzutos [are history], I always said it was too early to write their obituary,” says Nicaso. “He has the power to strike back.”
But if Rizzuto’s alleged criminal empire has survived an assault by rival factions, there are other threats. First is a more crowded and confused criminal landscape, as other criminal organizations, like the Calabrian faction, the local Mafia and elements of the Toronto mob, move to secure their positions in Montreal. Not to mention those goddamn kids these days.
“We’re seeing a generational gap,” says Nicaso. “The younger criminals don’t like the idea of having a powerful boss. They want to see a more horizontal structure, without one major force in power. This is not unusual. Every 30 to 40 years you’ll see the younger generation challenge the old guard, and you’ll have a war.”
Second is the ongoing Charbonneau inquiry into Montreal’s construction industry and its links to organized crime. Nicaso estimates that construction accounts for roughly a third of the Rizzuto family’s income stream, but with its links now being exposed to the harsh light of public scrutiny, he thinks that revenue generator is going to take a big hit.
For now, though, most of this is guesswork, even to the police in charge of investigating organized crime. “Many of the people killed in the last few months have been related in some way to Desjardins and Montagna,” says Nicaso. “To have a really clear idea [of what is going on in Montreal mob land], we have to wait until his trial.”
No trial date for Desjardins has been set.
More on the Canadian mob: