10 Of The Most Notorious Mobsters In The History Of Montreal
A lesson in the city's history of organized crime.
Every city has an underside, and Montreal's tends to be a fair bit larger than other cities. Crime has been an integral part to the city's history, and anyone who says otherwise simply doesn't know about Montreal's longstanding legacy with organized crime.
Montreal was once a key piece of real estate for the major crime families of North America, being a major port for drug trafficking, and was run by the factions housed in the city. Organized crime has changed and evolved over the years, and to get a grasp on the impact of mobsters in Montreal, check ten of the most notorious in the history of Montreal below.
Originally born in Sicily, Nicola, better known as Nick Rizzuto came to Montreal in 1954 and quickly became a prominent member of the city's mafia scene. Allegedly acting under the orders the Cotroni family, who answered to New York's Bonanno crime family, Nick is noted to have controlled a majority of Montreal's drug trade in the 1970s.
Rizzuto's ambitions didn't stop there. A turf war erupted between Rizzuto's Sicilian mob family and the Calabrian Cotroni family, with Rizzuto reported to have taken out Paolo Violi, the appointed leader of the rival faction in 1978. With little opposition, Rizzuto became the most eminent trafficker of heroin in North America.
Despite a few legal battles, Rizzuto retained control over Montreal's crime scene until his death in November, 2010. While in his mansion in Cartierville, Rizzuto was killed by a gunman armed with a sniper rifle. Many attribute his death to be the "final blow" against the Rizzuto crime family.
Son of Nicola Rizzuto, Vito played an instrumental role in the ascendance of the Rizzuto family's power, which eventually led the crime-clan to be known as the "Sixth Family." To put the title into context, the Five Families is the group-name given to the most powerful crime factions based in New York, which the Rizzuto's eventually rivaled in terms of influence and eminence.
Journalists Lee Lamothe and Adrian Humphreys gave the Rizzuto's the "Sixth Family" name, noting how "more than a million square miles of Quebec and Ontario directly fall under the influence" of the faction, including "the busiest border crossings between the U.S. and Canada" with many smaller clans "cooperating under the Sixth Family's banner."
Vito eventually was tied to the murder of several Bonanno family leaders, which then led to his arrest in 2004. After a lengthy legal battle, Vito was then put to trial in the United States. After several ex-mafia members testified against him, Vito pleaded guilty and was given a ten-year sentence. Vito Rizzuto was released in 2012 and supposedly moved back to Montreal.
When a leading member of New York City's Bonanno crime family came to Montreal in 1953, looking to make the city a prominent port for drug trafficking, Vincenzo "Vic" Cotroni, who was otherwise known as "The Egg," capitalized on the opportunity. Befriending the Bonanno Family, Cotroni went on to assume the position of heading the Montreal drug trafficking trade when the previous mobster was deported a few years later.
By the 1960s, Cotroni reached a zenith of prominence, even gaining the title of the "Montreal Godfather" as he oversaw a majority of the city's organized crime. A decade later, in the 1970s, Cotroni passed many of his responsibilities to his protege Palo Violi, who was then killed by the rival Rizzuto family in 1978, which marked the end of the Cotroni family's reign.
The original Montreal Godfather died at the age of 74 on September 19th of 1984 due to cancer.
Fun fact: before entering the world of organized crime, Cotroni enjoyed a brief stint as a pro wrestler under the moniker "Vic Vincent"
The younger Cotroni brother, Giuseppe, or "Pep," may not have become the Montreal Godfather, but he was a very successful mobster in his own right.
Originally becoming known as a specialist in armed robbery, Giuseppe turned his sights higher and went on to oversee the heroin trafficking business of Montreal, with his brother serving as the main financial backer.
Giuseppe enjoyed the high-ranking position for years, until he was set up by the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics in 1959, making a deal to sell two kilos of heroin to undercover investigators. Later charged with other offences, Giuseppe wasn't released for jail until April, 1971, and died of natural causes eight years later.
Badass Fact: Giuseppe survived an assassination attempt when an unknown assailant poisoned a bottle of anisette in his cottage with strychnine.
The Dubois Brothers
When you have nine brothers, it's pretty easy to make your own gang, and that's just what the Dubois Bros did in Montreal.Claude (said to be the leader), Raymond, Jean-Guy, Normand, René, Roland, Jean-Paul, Maurice, and Adrien, all growing up in Saint-Henri, made up the core of the Dubois gang, who went on to become one of the most notoriously ruthless outfits of the 1960s.
From 1968 to 1982, the Dubois Gang was allegedly responsible for a total of 63 murders, including a particularly violent shooting at the Hotel Lapiniere in Brossard, where gang members murdered four men of a rival group and wounded many others. All on Valentine's Day, no less.
Eventually, though, the Dubois Brothers were taken down more than a few pegs when a large number of informants reported the gang's activity to the police. Various brothers and many of the gang's other leaders were then convicted with long prison sentences, altogether crippling the Dubois' power. There's no confirmation as to whether the Dubois Gang is still active after this event.
Serving as the "capodecina" (leader of a smaller group) for the Bonanno family in Montreal, Paolo Violi plays a pivotal role in Montreal's mafia history. Or at least his death does.
During the 1970s mob war between the Calabrian Violi and Cotroni families and the Sicilian Rizzuto family, Paolo was acting head of his respective faction, and so was a target for the Rizzutos. After his consigliere, younger brother, and enforcer were murdered, Paolo met his end on January 22, 1978, after being shot in the head at his own cafe.
The last remaining Violi brother killed two years later on October 17, 1980, thus cementing the Rizzuto family's control over organized crime in Montreal.
Frank "Dunie" Ryan
Leader and founder of the Montreal-based "Irish gang," better known as the West End Gang (which is reportedly still in operation), Frank Peter "Dunie" Ryan enjoyed a high-ranking position in the Montreal drug trafficking scene, supplying to both the Hells Angels and the city's mafia families.
Despite reigning as one of the "kings" of crime in all of Quebec, having attained a net worth exceeding $50 million, Ryan was eventually taken out by a member of his own group. On November 13th, 1984, Ryan was led to a motel room (where a lady of the night was supposedly waiting) only to then be gunned down by a shotgun blast.
Loyalists to Ryan were not pleased with his demise, especially after the low-level gunmen bragged about "killing the king" and so ordered a hit on Ryan's killers. Less than two weeks later, Paul April and Robert Lelievre, the two reported to have orchestrated Ryan's murder, both met their end.
Branded as the "most influential street gang member in Montreal," Ducarme Joseph was the leader of the Saint-Michel-based group the 67 Gang (named after the bus route), while also being affiliated to the Blues, the name given to the Montreal branch of the Crips.
A leader in the Montreal crime scene for decades, Joseph maintained something of a "low-key" presence, being the owner and operator of a high-end Old Montreal boutique, though he has been continuously linked to a variety of criminal acts in the city.
On August 2nd of last year, Joseph was killed in Saint-Michel, having been gunned down in on the corner of Saint-Michel Boulevard and Michel-Ange Street. No organization was officially linked to the hit, though specialists have noted any number of criminal groups could have had a reason to take out the reported gang leader.
Displeased with the way in which the Quebec chapter of the Hells Angels was being run, specifically after the mass murder known as the "Lennoxville massacre," Salvatore Cazzetta who was a high ranking member of the group, decided to leave the group and create his own biker gang. And so, in 1986, together with his brother Giovanni, Cazzetta formed Rock Machine.
Substituting leather vests for eagle-insignia rings and living by the motto ""A La Vie A La Mort," Rock Machine and the Hells Angels amicably coexisted for years. Many attribute this steady peace to Cazzetta's ties to the Quebec Mafia, since no biker gang would act against the reigning families of the province.
But in 1994, when attempting to get 11 tons of cocaine into the country, Cazzetta was arrested and the Hells Angels decided to move in on the leader-less Rock Machine, which led to the Quebec Biker War.
Montreal's Asian Mafia
Little is known about the power and influence held by the Asian Mafia in Montreal, so it's hard to talk about a single person, though they are reported to controlling 80% of all marijuana production on the island. Who leads the outfit is largely unknown.
One clue to the leadership of the Asian mafia in Montreal, or at least in the province, occurred when Michaël Lachance, the "ring-leader" of Quebec City's drug network, was arrested this past June along with 7 other individuals after a police raid. 75 kg of marijuana, 7 kg of hash, and around a hundred pills of meth were seized during the raid.
Lachance and his associates are thought to have residences in Brossard, Montreal, and Saint-Hubert, thus concretely linking them to the city's crime world, though they denied such accusations in court.