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The Long, Bloody Reign of Canada's Sicilian Clan

Written by Andre CedilotAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Andre Cedilot and Andre NoelAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Andre Noel

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On Sale: October 18, 2011
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-307-36042-7
Published by : Random House Canada RH Canadian Publishing
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The runaway bestselling exposé about Canada's most infamous mafia family is finally available in English, updated to include shocking events and revelations that followed its newsmaking publication in Québec.

Queens, New York, 1981. When Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato and two others are found dead in a vacant lot, police fail to solve their murders. For their killer and his Montréal family, their deaths mark the beginning of an epic rise to criminal power that will last over thirty years. But in the mid-2000s, having escaped justice for decades, father and son Nicolo and Vito Rizzuto are finally arrested and convicted, one in Montréal and one in the United States. Meanwhile, deep inside the heart of their family, struck hard by a series of carefully plotted executions, the epic continues.

Updated and available for the first time in English, Mafia Inc.--a major bestseller even before the 2010 assassination of Nicolo Rizzuto--reveals how the Rizzuto clan built their Canadian empire through force and corruption, alliances and compromises, and turned it into one of the most powerful criminal organizations in North America. Relying on extensive court documents, police sources and sources in the family's home village in Sicily, Montréal journalists André Cédilot and André Noël reconstruct the history of the Rizzuto clan, and expose how its business extends throughout Canada and the world, shaping the criminal underworld, influencing politicians and bending the will of business leaders to their own self-satisfying ends.

Excerpt

Vacant lots have always attracted kids and always will. Those of Ozone Park are no exception. The children of this neighbourhood in Queens, one of New York’s five storied boroughs, are no different from those anywhere else in the world: they love to explore these plots of land abandoned by grown-ups, where wild grasses grow freely in disorderly thatches that stir the imagination. Where heaps of rubble may hide treasures. Or dead bodies.
 
Until the nineteenth century, vegetable farmers still grew crops on this part of Long Island. One entrepreneur raised goats—not so much for their milk or meat but for their hides, which he fashioned into gloves. New York City’s tentacular sprawl had yet to extend much beyond Manhattan; but once the Long Island Rail Road pushed through the fields that lay between Brooklyn and Howard Beach, real estate developers did what they do best: they built. They put up cottages on the farmland and gave the new subdivision a name with a suitably bucolic ring to it: “Ozone Park” evoked the pleasant maritime aromas brought by cool Atlantic breezes. Manhattan urbanites had to be quick to sign their purchase offers if they hoped to move in and have their families enjoy the healthy sea air—which they did, en masse. The area eventually attracted its share of well-known figures, including folkmusic legend Woody Guthrie. Franco-American author Jack Kerouac penned his famed beat opus On the Road here. Thousands of Italian Americans would also settle in Ozone Park, among them the infamous Mafioso John Gotti.
 
But on this particular afternoon of May 24, 1981, a bracing salty breeze wasn’t the only thing that greeted some neighbourhood kids as they scoped out a vacant lot on Ruby Street, part of a warren of arteries in the centre of Ozone Park. They were intrigued by the sight—and smell—of “something strange” coming out of the ground. So they started digging. Accounts of what the boys discovered next diverge. One journalist wrote that they initially spotted the heel of a cowboy boot protruding from the dirt. Another version claims they stumbled upon a hand covered in fabric. As a rule, young boys are a gutsy lot—especially in a gang. Such youthful intestinal fortitude has its limits, though, and these boys turned tail and fled the scene. One ran straight home to his parents, who called the police.
 
Officer Andrew Cilienti oversaw the exhumation. The corpse had been wrapped in a blood-soaked drop cloth. Around the left wrist was a Cartier watch, worth at least $1,500; its hands were frozen at 5:58 a.m. and the day/date indicator read May 7. A tattoo adorned the forearm: two hearts and a dagger, symbolizing a failed romance. Elsewhere, the body bore obvious gunshot wounds: the man’s life had been ended by three .38 calibre slugs. Just as obvious was the fact that the remains could not have been lying there more than a few days. Forensics technicians had no difficulty taking the victim’s fingerprints, and a match soon came back: the dead man was Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato. Four days later, his son-in-law, Salvatore Valenti, formally identified the body.
 
Sonny Red’s family hailed from a town called Siculiana, in the province of Agrigento, Sicily. One of his murderers, Vito Rizzuto, was born in Cattolica Eraclea, a mere twenty kilometres away. In May 1981, Vito was thirty-five years old. Soon after the killing, he quietly made his way home to his wife and three children in Saint-Léonard, in east-end Montreal. There, he continued attending to his business at the heart of a formidable and flourishing criminal empire—an underworld network based in Montreal, with sturdy branches spread throughout Canada and ramifying into Italy, the United States, Venezuela and Colombia. By the time of Sonny Red’s death, money had begun flowing in huge amounts into the coffers of that empire: the fruits of loansharking, illegal gambling, fraud, corruption and public works contracts, protection money from shopkeepers and entrepreneurs—and, especially, the proceeds from the importing and distribution of tonne after tonne of heroin, cocaine and hashish.
 
The name Rizzuto was known to police—but at this juncture, that was mostly thanks to Vito’s father. In 1975 in Montreal, a police witness had testified before Quebec’s public commission on organized crime (Commission d’enquête sur le crime organisé, or ceco) that Nicolò (Nick) Rizzuto intended to take control of the Italian Mafia in Quebec. It would be a decade before the name of his son, Vito, first appeared in the files of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (rcmp’s) drug squad.
 
In 1981, the police knew nothing about Vito’s involvement in the slaying of Sonny Red and two other mob captains in a building in Brooklyn, not far from Ozone Park. The order for the triple hit had come from high up in the Bonanno clan, one of the Five Families of the New York Mafia (and the massacre would later be depicted in the film Donnie Brasco, starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp). A year later, Vito left Saint-Léonard and moved to the northwest part of the Island of Montreal, into a sprawling mansion on Antoine-Berthelet Avenue, which backs onto a narrow strip of woodland, part of the Bois-de- Saraguay nature park, not far from the Rivière des Prairies, Montreal’s “back river.”
 
Standing over six feet tall, slim and well built, with an easy, flowing gait and dark, almost black hair carefully combed backward, Vito Rizzuto never left his home unless impeccably dressed. He controlled his empire for more than two decades with his father, Nicolò—who, on his return from a Venezuelan prison in 1983, had his own mansion built next door to Vito’s. More than once during those years, the rcmp, the Sûreté du Québec (the provincial police, or sq) and the Montreal police tried in vain to put both father and son behind bars. The younger Rizzuto kept on playing golf on the best courses, dining in the finest restaurants, hobnobbing with lawyers, businessmen above suspicion, city councillors and members of Parliament. He became a legend in Quebec and a man respected by a sizable proportion of Montreal’s Italian community.
 
Criminal biker gang bosses like Maurice “Mom” Boucher, leader of the Hells Angels in Quebec, and Salvatore Cazzetta, head of the rival Rock Machine, waged ruthless, all-out war against each other but shared a deference toward the all-powerful godfather.
 
Prosecutors were seemingly powerless in their efforts to thwart him. In 1986, Vito was acquitted of drunk driving charges. In 1989, in SeptÎles, Quebec, accusations that he had masterminded the importing of thirty-two tonnes of hashish were dropped. In 1990, the Newfoundland Supreme Court failed to find him guilty of importing another sixteen tonnes of hash. In 1994, the rcmp arrested several of his cohorts as part of Operation Compote, set up to investigate drug trafficking and money laundering, but once again the godfather walked. In 1998, the Caruana brothers—Alfonso, Gerlando and Pasquale, all close associates of the Rizzuto clan—were arrested and convicted in Toronto of cocaine trafficking. But no charges were laid against Vito.
 
As the years went by, Vito Rizzuto doubtless consigned the memory of the triple slaying in Brooklyn to some dark corner of his mind. After all, who could possibly connect a body uncovered in a vacant lot in a dilapidated neighbourhood in Queens to the man who had become the great prince of the Montreal mob? A halo of impunity had grown around him; now it contaminated him to the point that he felt invincible. When he was finally arrested in January 2004, Rizzuto displayed amazing aplomb as he let police officers cuff him at his front door. Twenty-three years after the murder of the three Bonanno captains, a U.S. federal grand jury had indicted him on racketeering conspiracy charges and was demanding his extradition. Vito had always beaten the rap. He was born under a lucky star. Why would it abandon him now?


From the Hardcover edition.
Author Desktop

Author Q&A

Police documents show that a retired French lawyer and a criminal with a specialty in international fraud met with the presumed head of the Montreal Mafia early in March 1994. An RCMP report notes that the lawyer felt ill at ease "because of the people involved." The three men met at Vito Rizzuto's home on Antoine-Berthelet Avenue and at Bongusto, a restaurant in Montreal's Little Italy neighbourhood.
 
The following month, "Pierre Morais," the RCMP officer posing as manager of the CIMM, reported that Joe Lagana had told him that Vito Rizzuto had already spent $1.5 million. Another thread picked up by police during surveillance as part of Operation Compote led to one of the most improbable tales ever to involve the Montreal Mafia: the Rizzutos had, apparently, been tasked with the mission of recovering a fortune in gold bullion stashed in Swiss bank safes by the deposed—and by then deceased—Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.
 
Marcos and his wife, Imelda, were driven out of Manila's Malacañang Palace in 1986, their regime brought down by a popular revolt, and sought refuge in Hawaii. Imelda was famously forced to leave behind some 2,500 pairs of shoes, 1,000 handbags, 500 gowns and 15 mink coats. The new government set about trying to recover part of the estimated five billion dollars that the couple had plundered from the country's citizens during their two-decades-long dictatorial reign. After her husband's death in 1989, Imelda Marcos was allowed to return from exile in 1991, and she ran in the presidential election a year later. At that time she was forced to answer the question on every Filipino's lips: How had she amassed her fortune?
 
She announced at a news conference that her husband had found part of a fabled treasure, "Yamashita's Gold," in the Philippine jungle when he was a guerrilla fighting invading Japanese forces during the Second World War. A long-standing legend has it that General Tomoyuki Yamashita, who governed the Philippines after his forces captured the country in late 1941 and early 1942, had hidden tonnes of gold looted during his Southeast Asian campaign in various jungle caches all over the archipelago. Imelda explained that her valiant husband had given some gold ingots to his men but had kept some for himself, eventually socking it away in Switzerland. "It's become something like an urban legend–type story," Rico José, a professor at the University of the Philippines and an authority on the Japanese occupation, said in 2005, when asked to comment on this story straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Former Philippine Solicitor General Francisco Chavez has been even more trenchant, saying, "The myth of the Yamashita treasure is only being utilized to explain away a clear case of graft and corruption."
 
True, there has never been any credible proof that Yamashita's Gold ever existed. There is, however, ample evidence that the strongman ruler and his footwear-addicted wife helped themselves to billions of dollars during their twenty years in power, siphoning funds from the state coffers, pocketing gargantuan bribes and misappropriating subsidies from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It was thus entirely plausible that the Marcoses could have stolen gold bars from the Central Bank of the Philippines and stored them in offshore banks. At 4:35 p.m. on August 6, 1993, the RCMP intercepted a three-page fax demonstrating that Vito Rizzuto and his associates, Joe Lagana and a certain Hummy Shumai, had been asked to recover the gold bullion.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise | Awards

Praise

Shortlist - Governor General's Award - Translation (2012)

"An inside look at the Montréal Mafia's power, influence and dysfunction."
—Mirror (Montreal)

"If you read only one book this year, it must be Mafia Inc.... Reads like a thriller."
—Le Devoir

"An exhaustive and compelling read.... The genius of Mafia Inc. is its all-important connections between organized crime, legitimate business and government."
—Maclean's

"Frightening.... Detailed and convincing."
—Winnipeg Free Press

Awards

FINALIST 2012 Governor General's Literary Award - Translation

  • Mafia Inc. by Andre Cedilot and Andre Noel
  • August 07, 2012
  • True Crime - Organized Crime
  • Vintage Canada
  • $19.95
  • 9780307360410

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