Canadian police said Tuesday that they have arrested six people in connection with the slaying of a powerful mob boss who once led New York's notorious Bonanno crime family.
Inspector Roberto Bergeron said Raynald Desjardins, 59, and three other people have been charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Salvatore Montagna, whose body was pulled from a river near Montreal last month. Two others arrested without warrants are expected to face similar charges.
"We believe we have just dealt a major blow to organized crime, particularly Italian organized crime," said Bergeron.
Desjardins is alleged to have past connections to Vito Rizzuto, the reputed head of the Montreal mafia, who is imprisoned in the United States. Desjardins narrowly escaped his own death in a shooting in a suburb north of Montreal just two months before Montagna died.
Two of the others arrested are Vittorio Mirarchi, 34, and Felice Racaniello, 27. The names of the others were not released.
The FBI once called Montagna the acting boss of the Bonanno crime family _ prompting one of New York's tabloids to call him the "Bambino Boss" because of his rise to power in his mid-30s. Nicknamed "Sal The Iron Worker," he owned and operated a successful steel business in the U.S.
His death was the latest in a series of mafia-related killings and disappearances over the last two years. He was considered a contender to take over the decimated Rizzuto family.
Montagna was born in Montreal but raised in Sicily and, although he moved to the United States at 15, he never obtained U.S. citizenship.
The married father of three was deported to Canada from the United States in 2009 because of a conviction for refusing to testify before a grand jury on illegal gambling.
He pleaded guilty to the minor charge, but it made him ineligible to stay in the U.S.
His arrival in Montreal occurred just months before members of the Rizzuto family began being killed in 2009 and early 2010. Rizzuto's father and son were gunned down, as were other friends, while his brother-in-law vanished.
There had been speculation that Montagna had been part of the new mafia leadership in Montreal and was trying to reorganize the leaderless group.