Vito Rizzuto (born February 21, 1946 died December 23, 2013) was a powerful and notorious Italian-Canadian mafia boss, crime lord, businessman, drug kingpin, and racketeer who headed the powerful Rizzuto crime family, based in Montreal, Canada.
Vito Rizzuto was born in Cattolica Eraclea, Sicily, Italy, on February 21, 1946, and was brought to Montreal by his parents in 1954. Vito was the first child of Nicolo Rizzuto and his wife, Libertina Manno. Vito was named after Nick's father, who was murdered in Patterson, New York when Nick was only nine. Nick would later be murdered as well, killed by a single sniper's bullet while having dinner with family in November 2010.
On Vito's eighth birthday, in 1954, the Rizzuto family, which by then included a daughter, Maria, arrived in Canada by ship, landing in Halifax and moving on to Montreal, where thousands of Italian immigrants thrived in a long-established community.
Vito married Giovanna Cammalleri, and had three children. His oldest son, Nick Rizzuto Jr. – named after his grandfather – was born on December 4, 1967. He was shot and killed near his car in the Montreal borough of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce on December 28, 2009. Another son is Leonardo Rizzuto. His daughter Maria was married to Paolo Renda, reputed consigliere of the Rizzuto crime family, who went missing May 20, 2010.
His father Nicolo Rizzuto began his Mafia career in Canada as an associate of the Cotroni crime family that controlled much of Canada's drug trade in the 1970s-1990s while answering to the Bonanno crime family of New York. By the 1980s, the Rizzutos emerged as the city's pre-eminent Mafia crew after a turf war between the Montreal family's Sicilian and Calabrian factions and the murder of Paolo Violi, a Bonanno crime family soldier who had been named acting boss of Montreal's family.
According to law enforcement officials Rizzuto oversaw a multi-billion dollar international criminal empire that imported and distributed hundreds of thousands of tons of heroin, cocaine and hashish in Canada, laundered hundreds of billions of dollars, lent out tens of billions of dollars thru loan sharking and extortion operations and even made billions of dollars from illegal gambling, labor unions, bookmaking, weapons trafficking, prostitution, pornography, fraud, and hijacking. By the early 1990s, Vito Rizzuto turned the Rizzuto crime family into a $60 billion a year super criminal empire and became a global superboss, ruling Montreal with an iron fist, and virtually controlling the country for over a decade. In the early 2000s, Rizzuto became a global superboss in organized crime, commanding biker gangs, street gangs, and other criminal organizations. Rizzuto was the overlord of the "The syndicate" he was the leader of virtually all criminal organizations in Canada, directing rules, authorizing murders, organizing drug operations, settling disputes, and dividing the profits amongst all criminal gangs. Apart of the "syndicate" commanded by Rizzuto was the Hells Angels MC, Irish, Haitian, and Hispanic criminal gangs who all prospered for over a decade under Rizutto's rule, and his multi-billion dollar global drug trafficking empire.
Though only considered a soldier of the New York Bonanno crime family by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Rizzuto was considered by Canadian officials to be the most powerful and dangerous crime lord in history of Canada. The Canadian authors Lee Lamothe and Adrian Humphreys consider the strength of the Rizzuto crime organization to largely surpass that of the Five Families in New York and dubbed it the Sixth Family. Rizzuto worked closely with the Sicilian Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan – major illicit drug traffickers – that was led in Canada by Alfonso Caruana.
According to Francesco Di Carlo, a Sicilian mafioso turned government witness, Vito Rizzuto was in charge of La Cosa Nostra in Canada, he said in an interview with W-Five in 1998.
Boss of the Sixth Family
The journalist Lee Lamothe and Adrian Humphreys dubbed the Rizzuto clan the Sixth Family to put them on an equal foot as the Five Families of Cosa Nostra in New York. According to the book The Sixth Family:
"By 2003, the Rizzuto organization was variously listed in FBI and DEA files as merely ‘the Canadian crew of the Bonanno Family’ or the ‘Montreal faction of the Bonannos.’ The reality is far different. The territory under its control is huge—more than a million square miles of Quebec and Ontario directly fall under the influence covered an area larger than one-quarter the size of the entire United States. It includes major cities, the busiest border crossings between the U.S. and Canada, and many mature Mafia families that are, by and large, cooperating under the Sixth Family's banner. Where American Mafia bosses controlled criminal activity in portions of a city or a New York borough or the criminal activity in an industrial or commercial sector—such as construction or New York's garment district. The Rizzuto crime family was a multi-billion dollar international organized crime empire with a true global reach and vast political influence. The Sixth Family had outpaced any crew in the Bonanno Family and, indeed, man-for-man, dollar-for-dollar, had eclipsed the family as a whole. (...) The nucleus of the Montreal-based Sicilian Mafia ... (comprises) tens of thousands of soldiers and associates,’ says a Canadian police report drafted in 2004. Those who merely do business with the Sixth Family or work with them in short-term ventures are not included in this. Neither, generally, are the businessmen who do mostly non-criminal favors for the organization. It has been proven and noted by multiple government witness that the Rizzuto crime family is not at all apart of the Bonanno crime family, and is an independent mafia family, but has had ties to the Bonanno crime family."
Indictment, arrest and trial
In 2003, Vito Rizzuto was indicted by a Brooklyn federal grand jury in relation to racketeering conspiracy charges, including loansharking and murder, in connection with the 1981 gangland killings of three rival Bonanno crime family captains, Philip Giaccone, Dominick Trinchera and Alphonse Indelicato, made famous by the Hollywood movie Donnie Brasco. Rizzuto is alleged to have been one of four gunmen hired by former Bonanno crime family captain Joseph Massino to kill the three other captains. Massino had allegedly believed that they were planning a power grab after the incarceration of then-boss Philip Rastelli.
Rizzuto was arrested on January 20, 2004 in Montreal. On August 17, 2006, after a legal battle of 31 months, he was extradited to the United States, and appeared before a United States magistrate judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn. Massino, who is serving a life sentence for murder and became a state witness afterward, testified against Rizzuto, as did Massino's brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale, who was among the men who carried out the slaying.
On May 4, 2007, Rizzuto pleaded guilty to being present at the triple murder in 1981. As part of a plea bargain agreement, he received a 10-year prison sentence to be followed by a three-year supervised release. He testified that he was involved in the affair, but had only yelled "It's a holdup" while others did the shooting. According to Lee Lamothe, author of The Sixth Family, this was a fate that was far from the worst that could happen to Mr. Rizzuto, Rizzuto got off easy with just a five year prison term in the United States.
Incarceration and release
Rizzuto was incarcerated at the ADX Florence, the federal supermax prison for the most dangerous male inmates in the United States. He was released from prison on October 5, 2012, and immediately deported to Toronto, Canada. Reports suggested that upon his arrival in Canada, Rizzuto met with representatives of the New York mafia families, and laid low in Toronto for a while before moving back to Montreal. Sources indicated that he had bought an armoured vehicle and was living in a well-guarded apartment, suggesting Rizzuto knew his life was in danger yet wanted to send the message that he was back in Montreal to stay, and was not easy prey.
Turf war murders
Several family members of Vito Rizzuto have died or disappeared while he was incarcerated :
His eldest son, Nicolo Rizzuto, Jr., was gunned down on December 28, 2009, in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough of Montreal; His brother-in-law and consigliere Paolo Renda disappeared on May 20, 2010, also in Montreal, and is believed to be dead; His associate Agostino Cuntrera was executed in broad daylight ten days later on May 30, 2010 in the Saint-Leonard borough of Montreal; His father, notorious crime boss Nicolo Rizzuto, was killed by a sniper through his kitchen window in November 2010, at the age of 86;
Shortly after Vito Rizzuto's release, several men were killed in what is suspected to be retaliation for the hits on his family: drug dealers Emilio Cordileone, Tony Gensale, and Mohamed Awada were eliminated in back to back killings in November 2012 for their alleged implication in the 2008 abduction of a Rizutto ally. Also in November, Joe Di Maulo, an influential mobster who was suspected of having orchestrated the hits on the Rizzuto clan along with Raynald Desjardins and Salvatore Montagna, was executed in the driveway of his home, north of Montreal — his funeral was lightly attended by mafia standards, a sign that he had fallen out of favour. Furthermore, a few days before Christmas 2012, a gunman entered the coffee shop of incarcerated Rizzuto rival Giuseppe De Vito, killing one man, Dominic Facchini, and critically wounding another. In January 2013 Raynald Desjardins' brother-in-law, Gaétan Gosselin, was murdered in front of his home, as was Vincenzo Scuderi, an alleged associate of Giuseppe De Vito. Most recently, Salvatore (Sam) Calautti and Moreno Gallo, each of whom had a falling out with Rizzuto, were murdered in November 2013. Caluatti was shot in the head and killed while sitting his car. The mobster, who had been suspected in the unsolved murder of Rizzuto's father, was attending a bachelor party for a local bookie. Gallo, a former influential member of Rizzuto's organization, was shot dead outside a restaurant in Acapulco, Mexico. Gallo had been deported two years earlier, at which time it was also believed he was targeted for execution. All of these hits, and 21 others related to organized crime in the city since then, remain unresolved.
Wanted in Italy
On February 11, 2005, an arrest warrant was issued in Rome against Rizzuto in connection with alleged Mafia involvement in building the Strait of Messina Bridge across the Strait of Messina connecting the Italian mainland with Sicily, one of the biggest public works projects in Italy's history. The 3,690 metres (12,110 ft) long, suspension-type bridge, which was initially planned to open by 2011, is expected to cost about €5 billion ($7.3 billion CAD).
Rizzuto died of natural causes in a Montreal hospital on December 23, 2013. Rizzuto's sudden and unexpected death from pneumonia leaves a lot to speculate about in the Canadian underworld and it is unknown for now what will be the fate of the vast criminal empire he headed and who will come out on top of the Canadian mafia.
According to Pierre de Champlain, a former RCMP analyst, Vito Rizzuto was "consolidating his power with violence and it basically worked. There were still tensions, but Rizzuto was well on his way to assuming total control just months after his return". It is assumed that elder capo Domenico Manno will succeed Rizzuto.