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Hundreds attend funeral for Nicolo Rizzuto
Hundreds of people attended funeral services for mobster Nicolo Rizzuto at Notre Dame de la Defense church, while dozens of onlookers stood outside the Little Italy church to view the spectacle.
The mafia don's casket was carried into the church around 11 a.m. Monday, followed by mourners.
Friends, family, associates and admirers attended the service, as did undercover police officers and journalists, however many people were questioned and forcefully -- although not physically -- urged to leave.
Organized crime writer James Dubro was in the church for about 20 minutes.
"A lot of anxious guards were looking around at my coat wondering if it contained a gun or a camera," said Dubro.
"One guy came up to me with a walkie-talkie and asked me how I knew the deceased. I said we had him under surveillance in the seventies and eighties."
The interrogator asked Dubro to leave, and soon after he refused, he was surrounded by a group of burly men.
"They said it forcefully, then six or seven of them came by and surrounded me, and I decided out of respect I would leave," said Dubro.
Black box left at church
Hours before the service began, a black box with a white cross marked in masking tape was placed on the steps in front of Notre Dame de la Defense church.
Police seized the package, and quickly determined that it contained a note.
"There was a piece of paper with some writing. It was given to our detectives who are going to be looking at what's on the paper and what the box is about," said Constable Daniel Lacoursiere.
Dozens of onlookers surrounded the Little Italy church to catch a glimpse of the mafia spectacle, with many comparing it to a scene from the Godfather movies.
However Dubro said the show of respect was rather lacking.
"Really pathetic that there are only two flower cars. Violi had 20 or 30 cars" following his assassination in 1978, said the criminal analyst.
Strong police presence
Nicolo Rizzuto, the 86-year-old clan patriarch, was shot and killed in his home last week by a gunman who was hiding in the woods behind Rizzuto's Cartierville home.
Hundreds of people attended the viewing for Rizzuto on Saturday and Sunday at the Loreto funeral home in St. Leonard.
Meanwhile investigators from Montreal Police and the RCMP were busy taking photographs, filming visitors and taking down the licence plate numbers of cars in the funeral home's parking lot.
Dubro said it is very possible that whoever killed Rizzuto, or ordered his murder, was at Monday's funeral.
"Often it's someone in the family or in the Italian mafia, and they would go there to show respect even though they arranged the killing," said Dubro.
Rizzuto's grandchildren made quick and discreet entries through the front door, but everyone else came through the entrance facing the parking lot.
The funeral home had its own security staff which remained very visible throughout the weekend.
In one case security not only escorted a man out, but searched him thoroughly before ordering him off the property.
People who went into the home said the walls were literally covered with wreaths from well-known members of the Sicilian mafia.
Second Rizzuto funeral this year
This is the second funeral at the church for the Rizzuto family this year.
Last December Nick Rizzuto Jr., Nicolo's grandson, was shot and killed in NDG near the offices of FTM Construction. He was laid to rest Jan. 2 at a funeral attended by roughly 600 people.
Nicolo's son Vito, Nick's father, is not expected to be at Monday's ceremony.
He is currently serving time in a Colorado prison for racketeering related to three murders in Brooklyn in 1981.
Rizzuto had lengthy criminal history
Nicolo Rizzuto was born in Sicily in 1924 and immigrated to Canada in 1954.
He had ties to the Cotroni criminal family, and rose to power in the mafia following the1978 assassination of Paolo Violi. There has been speculation that Rizzuto's murder was long-awaited revenge for that killing.
Rizzuto was convicted in Venezuela for cocaine possession and served time from 1988 to 1993 in that country before returning to Canada.
In February 2010, Rizzuto pleaded guilty to two charges of tax evasion in a Montreal court. He had been accused of failing to declare interest revenues from more than $5 million he deposited to Swiss bank accounts in the mid-1990s.
Revenue Canada investigated Rizzuto and found that in 1994 and 1995, he failed to declare $627,906 in interest.
The Canada Revenue Agency said Rizzuto paid a $209,000 fine and settled his tax debts. He had also worked out a deal to pay back taxes and other penalties.
At the time, Rizzuto was already on probation after receiving a suspended sentence for previous crimes.
In 2008, he pleaded guilty to possessing goods obtained through criminal gains and possession of proceeds of crime for the benefit of a criminal organization. He was arrested in 2006 on those charges during a police investigation dubbed "Colisee."