|Nicolo Rizzuto was killed by a professional hitman, police say. (Reuters file photo)
MONTREAL – The sons of a Montreal mobster murdered by the Rizzuto clan in 1978 were spotted in the city a week before Nick Rizzuto was killed.
Sources told QMI Agency Dominic and Giuseppe Violi were seen in Little Italy and the city’s downtown district just days before the Mafia don was felled by a sniper’s bullet in the kitchen of his north-end home late last year.
Paolo Violi – a member of the Calabrian faction in Montreal at the time - was shot dead on Jan. 22, 1978. The mob land hit was part of an internecine war and paved the way for the Rizzutos to rise to the top of Canada’s Mafia hierarchy.
Rocco Violi was the last of the four Violi brothers to die, killed in 1980 when a sniper’s bullet struck him in the chest as he sat in his Montreal home with his family, reading the newspaper.
For the next 30 years, the Rizzuto clan ran the Quebec underworld uncontested, but an expert says “there’s no statute of limitations on revenge.”
Toronto author Antonio Nicaso, who has written more than a dozen books on the Mafia, told QMI mobsters have long memories when their friends or family are killed.
"In many cases, people took revenge (after) 30 years,” he said on Friday, noting the Rizzutos became easier targets once their power in Canada waned.
"It's not like you can avenge something if you are facing an organization stronger than you. You can take revenge if your targets are facing difficult times."
Last November, Rizzuto’s assassination - played out in circumstances that paralleled Rocco’s murder – seemed to spell the end of the Sicilian family’s reign.
Who ordered the assassination of the 86-year-old mob boss?
After Paolo Violi’s death, his widow and two sons fled to Hamilton, Ont. – turf that belongs to the Calabrian Mafia, also known as the ‘Ndrangheta.
Sources told QMI the decision to kill the elderly Rizzuto was made in the Steel Capital. QMI also learned that, while no new leader has emerged, the successor will likely be named by Hamilton factions.
The ‘Ndrangheta will also recruit new members in Quebec, including known mobsters like Lorenzo Giordano and Moreno Gallo, currently facing extradition to Italy.
Rizzuto associates may also be courted to help consolidate power in the province.
Former Quebec provincial police investigator John Galianos said turncoats are not new.
“We saw it in Quebec with the biker wars. People changed camps and we never thought they would. It’s money that brings people into that world.”
Another source close to the law enforcement community said the new Mafia leaders will likely share power with up-and-coming criminal organizations, like the Asian and Middle Eastern mobs, bikers and street gangs.
“If they don’t share, it’ll be all out war,” Galianos said. “There are just too many criminal organizations on the ground. And they need peace in order to make money.”
The Violis are Calabrian and the Rizzutos are Sicilian but Nicaso says he doesn't believe the Calabrian Mafia, which has a foothold in Ontario, is behind the recent purge. He says Italy’s powerful ethnic mob groups would not risk all-out war over a Montreal blood feud.
Unlike the Italian Mafia that is organized along ethnic lines, North American crime families are diverse.
“La Cosa Nostra is a criminal melting pot - Calabrians, Sicilians, Neapolitans, people with different backgrounds," said Nicaso.
"I tend to (reject) the possibility that the Calabrian Mafia is challenging the Rizzutos. It's more likely that the Calabrian faction within the Rizzuto crime family is trying to make a move."
Meanwhile, top ranking family member Vito Rizzuto is behind bars in the U.S. and has shown no intention of abdicating the throne.
He is scheduled to be released next year.