Quebecers could be forgiven for wondering if they're living out a story arc on a season of The Sopranos.
Amid sordid revelations of mob-related civic corruption unearthed by the Charbonneau Commission, which this week led Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay to resign, Montreal's Mafia is undergoing its own violent management realignment.
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Alleged mobster Joseph Di Maulo, 70, appears to be the latest casualty. The elderly but influential player was found late Sunday face down in the driveway of his home in the upscale suburb of Blainville with two bullets in his head, The Canadian Press reported.
His death came only a few weeks after the return home of Vito Rizzuto, reputed head of Montreal's Mafia, after spending five years in a U.S. prison on racketeering chargers.
The Rizzuto family was considered to be the most powerful Mafia organization in Canada, closely aligned with elements of the New York mob. Vito was implicated in the 1981 murders of three captains of the Bonanno crime family and extradited to the U.S. in 2004.
Rivals allegedly sensed a power vacuum and moved to topple the Rizzuto clan from the top of Montreal's crime pyramid.
In Vito's absence, his son Nick was killed in 2009 and his 86-year-old father Nicolo was gunned down the following year while having dinner at home with his family.
Rizzuto's brother-in-law also disappeared two years ago and is presumed dead, CP reported.
Mafia expert Antonio Nicaso told CTV News Di Maulo's murder may signal a period of instability within the Montreal Mafia.
Di Maulo was once aligned with the Calabrian Cotroni-Violi crime family in the 1970s but managed to hang onto his influence when the Sicilian Rizzutos displaced them, he said.
"People used to say that he had his foot in two camps, capable to switch from one side to another," Nicaso told CTV News.
It's hard to track Di Maulo's allegiances after Vito Rizzuto was extradited, he said.
"During a power struggle, alliances form and break up constantly," Nicaso said. "So the problem for police investigators is now to identify who is on one side, who is on the other side."
Retired RCMP Mafia analyst Pierre de Champlain said Di Maulo had been able to act as a bridge between Sicilian and Calabrian factions, which gave him great influence. But after Rizzuto's arrest, the Sicilians found their organization under pressure from the resurgent Calabrians with Di Maulo at their head.
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His death suggests their control of organized crime in Montreal may not be that secure.
"It's hard to say since Mr. Di Maulo represented the head of the Calabrian factions in Montreal," de Champlain told CP.
Last summer, Nicaso and other Mafia watchers predicted an uptick in violence as Vito Rizzuto returned.
Two men were shot dead within hours of each other last August, probably targeted because of their ties to Rizzuto, criminologist Maria Mourani, a Montreal-area Bloc Quebecois MP, told QMI Agency at the time.
"These people are the Mafia's hit men," she said.