Judge France Charbonneau is examining the role organized crime plays in public infrastructure projects and political party financing. (CHANTAL POIRIER/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL - Montreal mobsters were so close to New York's Bonanno crime family that they testified in internal mediation meetings, an inquiry heard Monday.
The ties between the Mafia on both sides of the border were illustrated by Joe Pistone, a.k.a. Donnie Brasco, a former FBI agent who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family from 1976 to 1981.
He penetrated more deeply into the underworld than any FBI agent in history and his information helped to put more than 100 mobsters behind bars.
Sitting behind a barricade that shielded him from cameras at the organized-crime commission, Pistone recalled one meeting involving the Montreal mob in which his own life hung in the balance.
He said "the Canadians" had come to New York to testify against him during a meeting after he had been accused of stealing $250,000 from the Bonannos.
Bonanno solder Anthony Mirra had made up the story out of jealousy over Pistone alter-ego Donnie Brasco's close relationship with family captain Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, the agent said.
A close gangster friend told him Mirra called for false witnesses from north of the border.
"(He) told me 'Donnie, (Mirra) wants this so bad he even brought our people from Canada to this sit down,'" Pistone said, adding that any mobster found guilty of stealing from the family was doomed.
"If Sonny Black loses that sit-down (meeting), I'm dead," the former agent continued. "There's no appeal system. They come out, 'Alright Donnie, let's go for a ride,' and they kill you."
He didn't identify the Montreal mobsters, but the Cotroni crime family ran Mafia operations in Quebec until 1980, when the Rizzutos took over following a bloody coup.
Pistone said he escaped the pivotal sit-down meeting by the skin of his teeth when a mediator sided with him and his boss.
He said the episode was proof the Canadian mob exerted influence in New York.
"Why they would bring someone from Montreal down to lie for Tony Mirra?" Pistone asked. "So it had to be a close relationship."
The agent worked under Bonanno captain Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, who trusted him so much that he recommended Brasco become a "made man," a full-fledged member of the mob.
But as a test, Napolitano ordered Brasco to murder the son of a rogue gangster who worked with three rival capos marked for death by the Bonannos in 1981.
Pistone wasn't able to find his target and the FBI pulled him out of the mob in July 1981 before he could be made a full Mafia member.
Napolitano was able to carry out the murders of his three rivals in May 1981, and one of the men on the hit squad was Montreal Bonanno associate Vito Rizzuto, who later became the head of the Montreal Mafia.
Rizzuto is currently wrapping up a 10-year prison term for his part in the murders of the three capos.
Pistone testified behind a shield on Monday because the Mafia still has a price on his head. A number of police officers were stationed inside and outside the commission's downtown headquarters.