The Chicago Syndicate: Canadian Teflon Don Moves Closer to US Court Date

Magee 1866 Heritage Month

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Canadian Teflon Don Moves Closer to US Court Date

Friends of ours: Vito Rizzuto, Bonanno Crime Family

The man alleged to be the don of the Canadian Mafia came a leap closer to an American courtroom yesterday after two Supreme Court of Canada rulings on extradition cases that mirror his own legal bid to stay in Canada.

Vito Rizzuto, the so-called Teflon Don from Montreal, allegedly participated in the 1981 slayings of three New York mob captains who were plotting an underworld coup. He has been fighting extradition since his arrest in January, 2004.

The legal arguments in his case are similar to those in two others that were rejected yesterday by Canada's highest court. One involved Brantford, Ont., resident Shane Tyrone Ferras, who is wanted in the United States on fraud and money laundering charges. The other involved Canadian citizen Leroy Latty, a man wanted in the United States on drug-trafficking charges.

Both challenged the constitutionality of two sections of Canada's Extradition Act. In its decision, however, the court upheld rulings by the Ontario Court of Appeal and found that neither section of the Extradition Act infringed upon the appellants' rights and freedoms.

"It sort of tightens the noose around Vito's neck. It means that his options are narrowing and that he is a giant step closer to being sent to the United States, which is something that any accused criminal dreads," said Lee Lamothe, co-author of The Sixth Family: The Collapse of the New York Mafia and the Rise of Vito Rizzuto.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the fall on whether to send Mr. Rizzuto, 60, to the United States to stand trial on racketeering charges. His lawyers did not return calls yesterday.

Mr. Rizzuto was the only Canadian arrested in the 2004 sweep that netted 27 alleged members of the Bonanno Mafia family, one of the notorious Five Families of New York.

U.S. authorities allege that Mr. Rizzuto was one of the hit men in the 1981 slaying of three rogue members of the Bonanno organization who were plotting to overthrow the head of the family while he was in prison.

Antonio Nicaso, author of several books on the Canadian mob, said the arrest highlighted the Canadian Mafia's cross-border reach. "His arrest changed the perception of the so-called Canadian Mafia . . . it showed there was a strategy that was going beyond the border."

A police report filed in Mr. Rizzuto's extradition case alleges that the Montreal resident, who has a penchant for Ferraris, Porsches and trips to St. Kitts, is considered a godfather in Canadian mob circles.

The report's allegations -- which have not been proved in court -- suggest his activities in the decade before his arrest included loan-sharking at the Montreal Casino, laundering money in Switzerland and ordering a hit on a Venezuelan lawyer.

Mr. Rizzuto earned the nickname Teflon Don because until the 2004 arrest, the only charges he had faced were for relatively minor offences, including disturbing the peace and impaired driving.

The Rizzuto name has popped up in many major U.S. drug busts over the thirty years, Mr. Lamothe said. "For the Americans, he is the face of the Sicilian Mafia in Canada . . . who helped flood America in the seventies and eighties with heroin," he said. "The Americans want him."

Thanks to Hayley Mick

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