Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reputed N.Y. Mafia boss arrives in Quebec

The man named as the boss of one of New York City's notorious Mafia families has arrived in Canada - under the watchful eye of the RCMP - in a forced relocation to the country of his birth.
Salvatore Montagna, 37, nicknamed "Sal the Ironworker" because of his successful metal working business, was sent back to his native Montreal on Tuesday morning after being ejected from the United States, where he has lived since he was 15.
Arriving aboard a direct flight, accompanied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials but none of his family, he was quickly processed at the airport by Canada Border Services Agency officers who quizzed him about his luggage - which had been packed by his wife - and about telephone numbers he was carrying.
As a Canadian citizen who is not wanted for any crime, he was allowed to enter Canada a free man.
He checked in under his real name at the four-star Sheraton Hotel in Laval, a 25-minute drive from downtown Montreal, for the night and at 10:35 yesterday morning checked out, well aware that he was under police surveillance.
A call by the National Post to his room went unanswered.
Mr. Montagna, who owns a multi-million dollar steel firm in Brooklyn, made headlines in 2006 when he was named as the acting boss of the Bonanno Family at the age of 35. Because of his youth he was dubbed the "bambino boss" by New York tabloids.
The Bonanno organization is one of the Five Families of the New York Mafia and for decades it maintained close ties to the Mafia in Montreal.
Mr. Montagna has denied the allegations.
"He wants to live a normal life there," said George Stavropoulos, his New York lawyer.
"He has had a few years of people following his every move. Now he wants to settle down again, learn French and move on; try to run his company from Canada."
Mr. Montagna was aware police had their sights on him here.
"It's something he is used to. He was hoping not to have to deal with that sort of thing in Canada as well," said Mr. Stavropoulos.
Canadian authorities have little to say about Mr. Montagna.
Neither the RCMP nor the Canada Border Services Agency would confirm Mr. Montagna was in Canada.
"He's not wanted so there is no arrest warrant or anything," said Corporal Caroline Letang, spokeswoman for the Montreal RCMP.
"We cannot confirm or deny any investigations."
A spokesman for Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety, said the minister is aware of the file but could say nothing about it for privacy reasons. The Montreal police declined to comment.
The Bonanno Family has been hard hit by U.S. prosecutions since 2002, with more than 70 members and associates convicted for murders, gambling and racketeering.
That includes the conviction of Vito Rizzuto, godfather of the Montreal Mafia, for his role in killing three rivals in New York during a struggle for control of the Bonanno Family.
Facing lengthy prison terms, many Bonanno members agreed to co-operate with authorities.
The informants include the former boss of the family, Joseph "Big Joey" Massino. He was replaced by Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano who was, in turn, imprisoned. That left the family in need of an "acting boss" who was free on the streets.
Authorities say that man was Mr. Montagna.
"He's a very below-the-radar type of person who came out of left field," said John Marzulli, a reporter with New York's Daily News, who first reported Mr. Montagna's alleged ascent.
"They were looking for some kind of stabilizing influence to put the pieces back together," he said.
The theory is the organization was looking for someone who had little past contact with the informants.
Mr. Montagna was born in Montreal but left with his family for Sicily at a young age. Over the years the family shuttled back and forth between Canada and Italy until, at the age of 15, they moved to New York. He never became a U.S. citizen.
In 2001, a prosecutor was unsatisfied with Mr. Montagna's testimony in a gambling case and charged him with criminal contempt. His guilty plea in 2003 gave the U.S. government the ability to revoke his residency status.
Despite intense scrutiny by authorities, he was never charged with any other offence.
Mr. Stavropoulos said the government ejected Mr. Montagna unfairly, describing it as "sour grapes."