Mob violence in Montreal to continue in 2024, Mafia expert predicts

"There will be more violence," says Mafia expert Antonio Nicaso, after Montreal saw multiple daytime hits related to organized crime in 2023. He says a power struggle between organizations could result in more. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By News Staff

It was a year of violent mob hits in Montreal, with multiple daytime shootings in 2023 targeting prominent figures in organized crime.

It started with the attempted murder in March of alleged leader Leonardo Rizzuto, son of the former godfather of the Montreal mafia Vito Rizzuto.

In May, Claudia Iacono, the daughter-in-law of late Mafia figure Moreno Gallo, was fatally shot outside her hair salon.

The following month, former Rizzuto clan member Francesco Del Balso was shot dead outside a gym.

And in November, Gregory Woolley, who was affiliated with the Hells Angels with ties to the Italian mafia, was killed in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, south of Montreal.

Leonardo Rizzuto walking out of courthouse
Leonardo Rizzuto leaves a Montreal courthouse Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

Antonio Nicaso, who has authored more than 40 books on organized crime and teaches the subject at Queen’s University, broke down the shootings for CityNews in a year-end interview.

“Apparently Francesco del Balso masterminded the attempted murder of Leonardo Rizzuto,” Nicaso said. “Police believe that Francesco Del Balso paid for that decision. Gregory Woolley was very close to the Rizzuto crime family, and he was very powerful on the streets of Montreal.

“The murder of Claudia Iacono raised some kind of questions, but I think one thing is certain: when the mafia needs to kill someone – a woman, children – they do it without hesitation.”

Under Vito Rizzuto, experts say Montreal’s mafia was a quiet criminal machine, with all groups falling in line because of an alleged agreement.

“He was reigning over the whole organized crime,” said former SPVM detective-sergeant André Gélinas.

The structure has changed in the decade since Vito’s death, Gélinas explains.

“You have people very influential, but you no longer have one big boss, which changes the dynamic a lot,” he said. “Because not everybody obeys the order of one boss, everybody does their business, they’re trying to get along together, but sometimes there’s frictions, sometimes there’s conflict.”

The conflict, allegedly, stems from the drug trade, extortion, illegal gambling and other crimes.

“Francesco Del Balso, who was part of the Rizzuto clan, he joined forces with some Hells Angels members to get their hands on the so-called book that the Rizzuto crime family have always controlled in Montreal, in which contains a list of extortion victims, players in the illegal betting system, and also victims of loansharking,” Nicaso says.

What does that all mean for the landscape of organized crime in Montreal?

“There will be more violence because what happened in the last 12 months shows that the truce was not a good one,” Nicaso said.

“Sometimes if you cannot reach the power with the strategy that you put in place, violence is the only resource. And that’s what happened in Montreal.”

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