Irish mobster John McKenzie threatened to kill an Italian button man in Montreal’s Rizzuto crime family in 2006 in the days after his best bud, business partner and fellow West End Gang lieutenant Richard (Slick) Griffin was gunned down in a feud with the Rizzuto clan, per a source in Canadian law enforcement. McKenzie, 48, survived a shooting in suburban Montreal last week when he was ambushed coming out of his gym located in a Laval shopping mall Tuesday afternoon.

In January 2017, McKenzie’s house was burned to the ground by rivals. McKenzie is a reputed loanshark in Canada’s Irish mafia, known locally as the West End Gang. Following word of McKenzie’s threats reaching Rizzuto crime family brass, according to this source, McKenzie was called to a sit down and told to cool his jets. He and Griffin had operated joint rackets together for years and co-owned multiple drinking establishments.

The Rizzutos have been besieged by internal strife for the last decade. Upon veteran don Vito Rizzuto being sent to prison in the United States in the late 2000s, members of his crime family and real family began getting picked off one by one by a group of renegade factions that joined forces to unseat the Rizzutos from power.

The 41-year old Griffin got into trouble with the Rizzuto organization in the years prior to it bursting into full-blown warfare. Griffin, who sometimes went by the nickname “Ricky Threads” for his sharp fashion-style, acted as the West End Gang’s go-between with the Rizzutos and was one of the gang’s top narcotics traffickers. Months before Griffin was killed, in early 2006, he partnered with the Rizzutos on an ill-fated ten-million dollar drug-smuggling deal, an attempt to transport 1,300 kilos of cocaine from Colombia to Montreal that fell apart when police intercepted the first shipment at a port on the country’s southern shore.

So Griffin was already on thin ice with Rizzuto leadership when in the weeks after the bust he blocked the Italians from collecting an $800,000 gambling debt owed to them by Frank Faustini, a business associate of his who ran up the hefty tab betting on sports with an on-line Rizzuto bookmaking ring. Faustini had accrued the debt two years previous and even endured a beating over his failure to repay it. On December 15, 2004, Faustini was summoned to a mob-owned bar in Laval and attacked by Montreal Mafiosi Frank (Chit) Del Balso and Lorenzo (Skunk) Giordano. The beating was captured on audio surveillance and a police stakeout across the street saw a bruised and battered Faustini was seen being ushered to his car by Giordano dressed in a blood-stained shirt.

Further audio surveillance installed by Canadian law enforcement caught Rizzuto patriarch Nicolo (Uncle Nick) Rizzuto, Vito’s father and main advisor, and Rizzuto capo Rocco (Sauce) Sollecito, discussing Faustini’s debt and the fact that Faustini had just sent $2,000,000 to the Bahamas for another business deal he was partnered with Griffin on using a mutual friend and attorney as his courier. A wire intercept from the winter of 2006 heard Del Balso recounting to a bookie underling of his how Uncle Nick Rizzuto confronted the lawyer responsible for carrying the cash to the Caribbean and afterwards was complaining that Griffin was preventing him from getting access to the money Faustini owed.

Del Balso was once again caught on a wire talking about the debt on the evening of June 8, 2006 in back-to-back phone conversations with Faustini and Griffin. First he warned Faustini that someone was going to get their “head cracked open” if the 800K wasn’t repaid soon and then implored Griffin to avoid upsetting the elder Rizzuto and to quit interceding on Faustini’s behalf. Griffin insisted he had the situation under control and that Rizzuto wasn’t upset with him. Later that month, Del Balso was heard informing Griffin that Rizzuto was indeed blaming him for the inability to recover Faustini’s debt and that if it wasn’t squared away soon he would be in physical danger.

On July 12, 2006, Griffin was killed in a hail of bullets in the driveway of his Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood home. Two days following the slaying, Sollecito was talking on a bugged cell phone with his son Stephen (Little Sauce) Sollecito and said “It would be a shame if someone got arrested over that piece of shit,” and moments later asked his son if he had heard about the hit transpiring in front of Griffin’s house. At the end of the call,the elder Sollecito commented that the Rizzutos had done the West End Gang a favor by “taking out that motherfucker.”

Law enforcement surveillance units watched from afar on the morning of July 21 when Faustini and the aforementioned attorney brought Del Balso a bag filled with money. Faustini went on to be indicted in a drug conspiracy case along with Nick Rizzuto and Rocco Sollecito.

Uncle Nick Rizzuto, Sauce Sollecito and Skunk Giordano have all been killed in the current mob war raging in Montreal. Stephen Sollecito and Rizzuto’s grandson Leonardo, are said to be running the crime family these days. Vito Rizzuto died of cancer in 2013 at 67.

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