Paolo Violi

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Paolo Violi
BornFebruary 6, 1931
Sinopoli, Calabria, Italy
DiedJanuary 22, 1978
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Cause of deathGunshots
Other namesPaul
SuccessorNicolo Rizzuto
Spouse(s)Grazia Luppino Violi
AllegianceCotroni crime family,
Bonanno crime family

Paolo Violi (February 6, 1931 – January 22, 1978) was an Italian-Canadian mobster and acting capodecina of the Bonanno crime family's faction in Montreal, the Cotroni crime family.

Early career[edit]

Violi was born in Sinopoli, Calabria, and later immigrated to Southern Ontario in 1951.[1] In 1955, he shot dead Natale Brigante in Toronto, sustaining a stab wound from Brigante.[1] He was charged with manslaughter in a Welland court, but was acquitted claiming it was self-defense, showing the stab wound as evidence.[1] Violi gained Canadian citizenship in 1956 and by the early 1960s was running bootlegged liquor from Ontario to Quebec.[1] He became associated with boss of the Hamilton Luppino crime family Giacomo Luppino, but left for Montreal in 1963 on Luppino's orders to avoid clashes with other Hamilton mobster Johnny Papalia.[1]

In Quebec, Violi opened the Reggio Bar in Saint-Leonard in the mid 1960s, which he used as a base for extortion.[1] He developed connections with the Cotroni crime family, while maintaining ties with the Luppino family; he married Giacomo Luppino's daughter, Grazia in 1965.[1] In December 1970, his bar was bugged with wiretaps by an undercover police officer who rented the space above Violi's bar for several years, which were later used in subsequent cases.[2] In 1974, Violi and Vincenzo Cotroni were overheard on a police wiretap threatening to kill Hamilton mobster Johnny Papalia and demanding $150,000 after he used their names in a $300,000 extortion plot without notifying or cutting them in on the score.[3] The three were convicted of extortion in 1975 and sentenced to six years in prison. Violi and Cotroni appealed and got their sentences reduced to six months, but Papalia's appeal was rejected.[4] The following year, Violi was arrested to stand before the Quebec government's Commission d'enquête sur le crime organisé (CECO) inquiry into organized crime; he was sent to jail for one year for contempt.[5]

Mob war and death[edit]

The Violi and Cotroni families were from Calabria while the Rizzuto crime family, like the Bonanno's, were from Sicily. This led to tension between Nicolo Rizzuto, an associate of Cotroni in Montreal, and the Violis, who were vying for control of the city's Mafia controlled drug market.[6] During a time of power struggle between the Sicilian and Calabrian factions of the Cotroni crime family, Rizzuto aspired to become his own mob boss.[7] Violi complained about the independent modus operandi of his Sicilian 'underlings', Rizzuto in particular. "He is going from one side to the other, here and there, and he says nothing to nobody, he is doing business and nobody knows anything," Violi said about Rizzuto. Violi asked for more 'soldiers' from his Bonanno bosses, clearly preparing for war, and Violi's boss at the time, Vic Cotroni remarked: "Me, I'm capodecina. I got the right to expel."[7] This led to a power struggle mob war in Montreal which began with the murder of Pietro Sciara on Valentine's Day in 1976, Violi's consigliere, who was now acting boss; Sciara's body was left in the street after seeing the movie The Godfather Part II with his wife.[7] On February 8, 1977, Francesco Violi, the younger brother of Paolo, the family enforcer, was murdered by several shotgun wounds. Shortly after Violi was released from the brief jail sentence with relation to the CECO inquiry, he sold his bar to brothers Vincenzo and Giuseppe Randisi; the name was changed to Bar Jean-Talon.[2] On January 22, 1978, Paolo Violi was shot in the head at close range with a lupara in the Bar Jean-Talon after being invited to play cards by Vincenzo Randisi.[8]

Although Nicolo Rizzuto was in Venezuela at the time of Violi's murder, his brother-in-law Domenico Manno, was believed to play a major role in the murder under Rizzuto's orders.[9] Manno received a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiring to kill Violi,[9] as well as Rizzuto confidant Agostino Cuntrera, who received a five-year sentence in relation to Violi's murder.[10] The war ended on October 17, 1980, when Rocco Violi, the last of the Violi brothers, was seated, for a family meal, at his kitchen table in his Montreal home when a single bullet from a sniper's rifle struck him dead. The Rizzuto organization subsequently took over Montreal.[6]

The next generation[edit]

After Paolo Violi's death, his widow and two sons, Domenico (Dom) and Giuseppe (Joe) moved to Hamilton, Ontario, an area then controlled by the Calabrian Mafia ('Ndrangheta).[11][12] A 2002 Halton Police report suggested the Violi brothers were affiliated with the Luppino crime family in Hamilton started by their grandfather Giacomo Luppino.[13] Little was heard about them until November 2017, when both were arrested in a major bust, Project Otremens, conducted by the RCMP and several other police forces.[14] The brothers were charged with 75 offenses, such as conspiracy to import a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking a controlled substance, trafficking a controlled substance, trafficking contraband tobacco, trafficking firearms, and participating in a criminal organization.[14] On June 1, 2018, Joe Violi was sentenced to 16 years in prison for trafficking fentanyl and cocaine.[15] It is noted that he was involved in a scheme to import 200 to 300 kilograms of cocaine into Canada.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Schneider, Iced: The Story of Organized Crime in Canada, pp. 259
  2. ^ a b Cedilot, Andre; Noel, Andre (7 August 2012). "Mafia Inc: The Long, Bloody Reign of Canada's Sicilian Clan". Random House of Canada – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "The shot heard around the underworld". Ottawa Citizen. 7 June 1998. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  4. ^ Schneider, Iced: The Story of Organized Crime in Canada, pp. 326
  5. ^ "How a 1970s inquiry exposed mobsters and educated Quebeckers". 15 December 2010.
  6. ^ a b A Mafia hit loaded with symbolism, National Post, November 12, 2010
  7. ^ a b c "The man they call the Canadian Godfather". National Post. February 26, 2001. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  8. ^ "The rise and fall of Montreal's Rizzuto mob". 20 November 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  9. ^ a b "'Don Corleone' figure who helped install Rizzuto family to top of Canadian Mafia released from U.S. prison". 13 December 2012.
  10. ^ "Montreal mobster's death marks a reckoning for the Rizzutos". 30 June 2010.
  11. ^ Edwards, Peter (10 November 2017). "Accused Violi brothers in trafficking bust come from colourful family" – via Toronto Star.
  12. ^ "Cafe owner gets 13 years for drug trafficking". 30 January 2018.
  13. ^ "2002 Halton Police report had intelligence on accused mobster". 15 November 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Sons of former Montreal Mafia boss implicated in major RCMP drug bust". Montreal Gazette. 10 November 2017.
  15. ^ "Son of murdered mob boss sentenced to 16 years in prison for drug trafficking". 1 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Son of former Montreal mob boss Paolo Violi sentenced to 16 years". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 11 August 2018.