A HERO cop has told how he led the operation to bring down “The Canadian Godfather” who ran one of the world’s biggest mafia clans and viciously gunned down his rivals.
Nick Milano managed to snare feared mob boss Vito Rizzuto who ran a prolific drug trafficking network and whose criminal empire controlled an area one-quarter the size of the US.
The killing saw three mobsters die in a hail of bullets at a nightclub in Brooklyn before being buried in a mob mass grave – with Rizzuto being one the killers.
And it was a horrific gangland murder which was immortalised in the movie Donnie Brasco, starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.
The Rizzutos rose to notoriety in the 1980s following a bloody civil war that left Montreal streets laden in blood and the family on top.
The gang – once dubbed the Sixth Family of New York due to its Sicilian roots and sheer power over Canadian industry and politics – siphoned billions in heroin and cocaine through Montreal and New York.
And the clan ran one of the largest extortion rings in the country at their height.
That all changed one cold January morning in 2001 when anti-gang officers arrived at the steps of Vito’s home with an arrest warrant and cuffs.
Mr Milano – a Montreal cop who cut his teeth patrolling the city’s red light district before infiltrating the Rizzuto family’s loan-sharking business – still remembers the moment he was called to lead the perilous mission launched by the FBI.
He told The Sun Online: “I was called in by my commander at the time.
“He calls me up my partner with Pietro and there are all the bosses. All four of us were in a little office.
“It was very secretive. He explained to us that we are going to embark on the extradition process of Vito Rizzuto.
“We were not to discuss this with any members of our team. Not because we couldn’t trust anyone but because it was very much on need-to-know basis.
“And to be honest, as the days went by, that became incredibly difficult to do. Impossible to do. But we respected it to the end.”
What ensued was a six-week surveillance operation that followed Vito’s every movement, 24 hours, seven days a week.
Dress up nicely Vito because you’ll be going to court
Nick’s partner to Rizzuto
The team were given special eavesdropping kit and vehicles and had Vito’s phone tapped.
“We would leave from our house, conduct surveillance with the team and pretty much operate for 16 hours. When Vito would go home to sleep, we would go home to sleep,” Mr Milano told us.
“We knew that at 12, he’d be back so at 10.30 we’d be back on the road and we joined the surveillance team.”
The retired cop said Vito’s habits were very predictable, which made it surprisingly easy to stake him out.
“Monday to Friday, he would exit his home around lunchtime and he would conduct a series of meetings in different restaurants, bars, public gatherings.
“He would always go to the same cafe – Cafe Cosenza, in a historically Italian area of town. We would see him make contact with different people at all times of the day.
“He would meet different men and occasionally women and he would retire at his home around 11.30am to 12am, at the latest.
“Weekends were there for the family, the happenings, and his passion: golf.”
Mr Milano and his team slowly pieced together Vito’s routine and were ready to strike once Montreal’s police force said so.
And what that time came on January 20, 2004, it was done “like a very well-performed ballet”.
“It was surgical. Precise actions between the investigators, myself, and Pietro and the cast of support police officers that were part of the surveillance team till the moment we put the cuffs on him.
“We had a team that surrounded the property. We basically knocked on the door – we didn’t want to have tactical officers accompany us. It’s a family environment, his house was located in a very well-to-do area in Montreal and we did not have information regarding that he might be carrying a gun.
“We decided, Pietro and I, to confront Mr Rizzuto like normal citizens.
“Like two detectives to a bad guy. We knocked at the door. His wife answered. It was quite early in the morning and so she was in a nightgown. It was cold.
“Mrs Rizzuto opens the door and he’s at the top of the stairs. It’s not a small property.
“My partner and I asked him to come down, which he does and we go to the parlour just off the door.
“I ask him to sit down and I take the document out and I read it to him.
“He understood clearly why we were there and he understood the charge.
“He asked us at that point if he could change because he was in a nightgown and that’s when my partner told him: ‘Dress up nicely Vito because you’ll be going to court’.”
Vito was handcuffed and eventually taken to a maximum security jail 30 minutes outside the city.
Mr Milano remembers Vito was “confused, bewildered” and constantly asking if they had the right person.
When the FBI’s extradition warrant finally came through two years later, Mr Milano and his partner swooped Vito out and onto a plane set for New York.
He said: “We allowed him to have his weekly visit with the family and waited for them to leave to sweep in the visitor sector.
“Me and another officer in plain clothes picked him up. The surprise was so well planned, he had to give away his belongings in the cell to a fellow inmate and the guards were all bewildered.
“The trip back to Montreal allowed him to get to know me and me him.
“He was forthcoming and spoke openly about his family, his prediction about how things would go down in his absence.
“It was prophetic; everything except the murders of his crew and family happened.”
Vito was later found guilty for the murders of three rival Bonano crime family capos, Philip Giaccone, Dominick Trinchera and Alphonse Indelicato.
On May 4, 2007, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 10 years behind bars and fined $250,000.
He was incarcerated into a federal supermax prison for the most dangerous male inmates in the US.
His disappearance from the mob scene created a power vaccum – with Vito’s son Nick being gunned down in 2009, and his father Nicolo being shot by a sniper in 2010.
When Vito was given early release in October 2012, he flew back to Montreal and met his captor months before the mob boss’ death from lung cancer.
The mobster provided Mr Milano with vital information about corruption among Quebec’s construction industry, which his family once benefitted from.
“I repeat to everyone who asks me what Vito was like,” Mr Milano said.
“He was a gentleman, in every sense of the word. Very composed and very articulate. He had leadership qualities.
“He was able to influence people and had that charisma that made him a little bit special.
“I’ve met some big players in organised crime and some big time bikers and there was a distinction with Vito in regards to that.”