When Salvatore Montagna, named as the boss of one of the notorious five Mafia families of New York City, was given a choice of where he wished to be deported -- Canada, where he was born, or Italy, where he is a citizen -- he quickly made plans for a return to Montreal.
That decision now leaves Canadian officials scrambling with what to do about a man they know little about. He returns to Canada free of any legal obligation and faces no charges.
Nicknamed "Sal the Ironworker" because of his trade in metal work, Mr. Montagna made headlines in New York when he was named as the acting boss of the Bonanno crime family at the improbably young age of 35. Mr. Montagna's youth led the tabloids to dub him the "bambino boss."
In the United States, officials are not shy about what they think Mr. Montagna has been up to. "He is a made member of the La Cosa Nostra, more specifically the Bonanno Italian organized crime family. Montagna is accused of making violent threats against a U. S. attorney from the Eastern District of New York," said Brandon A. Montgomery, spokesman for U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Mr. Montagna's New York lawyer, George Stavropoulos, said the allegations are "absolutely, categorically denied."
"He is not involved in the Mafia, he is not the boss of the Bonanno crime family or the acting boss of the Bonanno crime family. This is something that the FBI manufactured."
Mr. Stavropoulos said he was unaware of the threat allegation until told by the National Post. "If they had anything to prove what they are alleging they would be indicting him, not deporting him," he said.
Mr. Montagna was born on May 11, 1971, in Montreal, one of three sons born to Italian immigrants. When he was still an infant, the family moved to Sicily, and over the years shuttled back and forth. At the age of 15, Mr. Montagna moved with his family from Montreal to New York, driving through the Lacolle-Champlain border crossing.
Mr. Montagna followed in his father's footsteps, becoming an ironworker and starting his own company after high school. His company, Matrix Steel Co., of Brooklyn, has grown over 10 years into a multi-million dollar enterprise, according to Mr. Stavropoulos.
In New York, he married an American-born Italian woman and the couple has three daughters, all under the age of 10. His marriage also allowed him to become a legal permanent resident of the United States.
In 2001, just as he was thinking of applying for U. S. citizenship, he was subpoenaed to testify in a state gambling case. The prosecutor was unsatisfied with Mr. Montagna's testimony and charged him with criminal contempt.
On October 28, 2003, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years probation. "He plead as opposed to putting up a fight. He thought that was the easy way out," said Mr. Stavropoulos.
It was a decision he regrets. The conviction ended his citizenship plans and last week came back to haunt him.
In 2006, the New York Daily News named him as the acting boss. Several grand juries had been convened; colleagues and metal work competitors were subpoenaed to testify. As many as 30 federal cars were assigned to monitor him, Mr. Stavropoulos said.
No charges came.
Despite the tough talk from officials, the media attention and the investigations -- even at a time when the Bonanno organization was hard hit by senior members becoming police informants, including the long-time boss -- no indictment was filed against Mr. Montagna.
Instead, last week U. S. immigration officials scooped him up and placed him in detention.
Based on his conviction for contempt, deemed a civil violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, he faced an immigration hearing on Tuesday.
He agreed to be removed to Canada.
"He will remain in ICE custody until his actual departure from the United States to Canada," said Mr. Montgomery of ICE. "Montagna is relinquishing his permanent residency and will be inadmissible if he attempts to request a visa in Canada."
He will not be alone here when he arrives next week. While one brother remains in New York, Mr. Montagna has a brother in Montreal and his parents still frequent the city. "As soon as his children finish school, his wife fully intends to move to Canada to join him," said Mr. Stavropoulos.
"He feels confident coming to Canada. He loves Canada. He said he was happy to be coming to Canada." He will likely sell his home and business and start fresh if he cannot win a reprieve.
Montreal is a city that also has long ties to the Bonanno crime family.
Montreal's Mafia boss, Vito Rizzuto, is currently in a U. S. prison for a gangland murder on behalf of the Bonanno leadership; and several New York gangsters alleged to have associated with Mr. Montagna also have strong links to the city, including Patrick "Patty From the Bronx" DeFillipo and Baldassare "Baldo" Amato.
In 2006, the FBI secretly recorded a conversation between gangsters in which Michael Cassese said that Mr. Montagna is the family's acting boss, according to court documents. "There's nobody in between. That's it," the gangster said of Mr. Montagna's position.
The RCMP is aware of Mr. Montagna's impending trip, said Sergeant Marc LaPorte, but declined to comment on whether there will be any special attention paid to him.
Said Patrizia Giolti, spokeswoman for CBSA: "While I will not comment on the specifics of a case, I can tell you that any Canadian citizen has the right to enter Canada."
Mr. Stavropoulos said Canadians have nothing to fear. "He fully intends to lead a lawful life there and raise his young family."
Thanks to Adrian Humphreys
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