Reputed Montreal crime boss found dead in driveway

MONTREAL – A man alleged to be an influential member of the underworld whose career spanned nearly five decades has been gunned down in what appears to be a new chapter in Montreal’s ongoing Mafia war.

The killing of Joe Di Maulo is the first murder of a reputed Mafia boss since Vito Rizzuto, allegedly the most powerful Sicilian mobster in Canada, emerged from a long prison stint. Di Maulo was said to have once worked for a rival crime faction before joining with the Rizzutos in the 1970s.

He was killed outside his home late Sunday.

Di Maulo’s body was found face down in the driveway of his home that borders a golf course in a posh suburban area. Police said a 911 call came from a member of the family inside the home.

He was the brother-in-law of Raynald Desjardins, charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of the alleged Mob boss Salvatore Montagna. Currently awaiting trial, Desjardins recently lost a bid to get out of testifying before Quebec’s corruption inquiry.

Sources said Di Maulo suffered at least two gunshot wounds to the head but police would only say that an autopsy was needed to determine the cause of death.

“We’re still at the beginning of the investigation,” Sgt. Benoit Richard of Quebec provincial police said Monday.

“We’re still going over the scene right now — everything outside and inside the house — and we went over the area with sniffer dogs.”

There is a wooded area near Di Maulo’s home, which police paid close attention to on Monday. No weapon was found on the scene, Richard said.

Richard said police were meeting with neighbours, one by one, to determine if anyone saw anything suspicious in the days or weeks leading up to the death.

Police said the 70-year-old victim had links to organized crime but Richard said it was too soon to tell who might have been behind the attack.

“We need to have a clean slate to have an open mind and consider everything,” Richard said. “We’ve had information about Mr. Di Maulo’s links to organized crime, but we can’t any one group is behind this.”

Di Maulo’s slaying is the latest in a series of attacks on Mafia-linked figures in recent months and years. The majority of the attacks have centered on key figures and members of the once-formidable Rizzuto clan.

Pierre de Champlain, a retired RCMP Mafia analyst and organized crime author, said that Di Maulo was a legendary figure in the Montreal Mafia — a man who had been involved in the underworld for 50 years and continued to be an important player.

His ties to the Calabrian clan that once dominated the Montreal crime scene became public during a provincial inquiry into organized crime in the 1970s. That Cotroni-Violi empire was soon violently wiped out by the Sicilian Rizzuto family — and Di Maulo survived the transition.

The businessman was discreet and kept a low profile.

“Over time, he became very influential and respected in Montreal,” said de Champlain.

“He wasn’t someone who was flamboyant or went out seeking attention from the media or the police.”

He said Di Maulo recognized that the Cotroni-Violi era was ending in the late 1970s and the Sicilians were on the rise.

He joined forces with them, de Champlain said.

“Because of his experience and expertise, he managed to convince other Calabrian factions to join the Sicilians, he served as a sort of middleman between the two sides,” de Champlain said.

Rizzuto, the reputed head of Montreal’s Mafia, was released from a U.S. prison in October and returned to Canada.

He returned to an organization that had been battered by police sweeps since he was arrested in 2004.

Several of his closest family members and confidants were slain in the past few years, including Rizzuto’s father and his son, who were both gunned down.

His brother-in-law has been missing for two years and is presumed dead.

An RCMP analyst testified earlier this year that a Calabrian faction had taken control of the Mafia in Montreal, but after Sunday’s slaying of Di Maulo, de Champlain said he’s not sure how secure that hold is.

“It’s hard to say since Mr. Di Maulo represented the head of the Calabrian factions in Montreal,” de Champlain said.