Police watch mobster’s mourners

Police will be watching closely, though they may not find what they are looking for. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, are expected on Monday for the funeral service at a church in Montreal’s Little Italy of murdered Mafia don Nicolo Rizzuto.

Security personnel point out a man (not shown) as he leaves the visitation for Nicolo Rizzuto at a funeral home in Montreal

Security personnel point out a man (not shown) as he leaves the visitation for Nicolo Rizzuto at a funeral home in Montreal

MONTREAL — Police will be watching closely, though they may not find what they are looking for.

Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, are expected on Monday for the funeral service at a church in Montreal’s Little Italy of murdered Mafia don Nicolo Rizzuto.

Investigators traditionally use such events to update intelligence, and experts predict they will again be armed with high-powered photo lenses and video cameras outside Rizzuto’s funeral in an effort to identify the clan’s allies.

But one retired police officer suspects many of the big names in the Mafia will shy away from the 86-year-old’s funeral, avoiding the scrutiny of police and the media.

John Galianos, a former member of the Quebec provincial police, says the Mafia has become more cautious in recent years, following a massive 2006 police dragnet where scores of its members were arrested.

“It’s just a feeling I have that a lot of big names won’t be there,” he said.

As proof, he pointed to the recent funeral of Rizzuto’s grandson, Nick, which many top mobsters avoided.

Still, Galianos said such events remain a valuable form of information-gathering for police, and he said they will be busy photographing and filming mourners as they file into the church.

In some cases, police photos of top mobsters are badly of out date, going back more than 20 years, he said.

“People get older, and they start to look different, so they’ll be trying to identify these guys,” he said.

At the visitation on the weekend, dozens of officers, some in plainclothes and others in uniform, began documenting mourners the moment they started filing into an east-end Montreal funeral home.

Another team of officers was busy writing down the licence plates of those who entered the funeral home parking lot.

Several hundred people, many dressed in black from head to toe, filed into the building on Saturday and Sunday to pay their respects to Rizzuto, who was shot by a marksman’s bullet in his home on Wednesday.

At times, traffic was so heavy outside the funeral home that police had to help cars enter and leave the parking lot.

A team of bodyguards, who wore ear pieces and restricted access to the site, remained visible throughout the weekend.

Those who made it inside reported that dozens of wreaths and bouquets lined the room where Rizzuto’s body rested.

According to one visitor, Rizzuto’s trademark fedora had been placed by his side.

Leandre Paradis, a Longueuil resident who made the visit out of curiosity, said there were about 12 or 15 people in line to receive condolences from visitors.

Rizzuto, dubbed by many as the “last godfather,” arrived in Canada as an illiterate immigrant from Sicily and went on to build one of the world’s most powerful criminal enterprises with influence on different continents.

The Rizzuto clan not only raked in money from vice and drugs, but also extended into untold businesses in various sectors considered legitimate.

The family and its associates have been targeted in a series of recent slayings that crime analysts consider an attempt to end its hold on power.

But the biggest, most powerful member of the Rizzuto family remains alive.

Vito Rizzuto, the reputed head of the Montreal Mafia, is serving a 10-year sentence in the United States for racketeering, related to three underworld murders in Brooklyn in 1981.

It’s expected that, on Monday, he won’t be at his father’s funeral — which would be the second one he’s missed this year.

He didn’t make it to his son Nick’s last January.