Image: Mafia ring arrest.
Paul Chiasson / AP
Francesco Arcadi is escorted into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters in Montreal, on Wednesday, following a raid on a Mafia ring.
updated 11/23/2006 7:05:19 AM ET 2006-11-23T12:05:19

Police arrested some 90 suspected mobsters early Wednesday, including the father of a man who allegedly killed members of the Bonanno crime family in New York, dealing what they described as a major blow to organized crime.

Dubbed Project Coliseum, in a reference to the ancient Roman landmark, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said 700 police officers in Montreal conducted early morning raids to round up suspects, calling it "one of the most important police operations in the history of Canada."

The national police force said more than 1,300 charges were expected to be brought against the suspects, including attempted murder, drug dealing, gangsterism, extortion, bookmaking and possession of restricted weapons.

"We believe we've pierced Italian organized crime," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Luc Bessette said, adding that the project began two years ago.

"When we talk about organized crime, we do so knowing that many in this country don't believe it impacts their daily lives or is even present in their communities," RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli said. "By sowing the seeds of greed, corruption and violence, organized crime directly harms individuals, communities and society at large."

The RCMP, Montreal police and Quebec provincial police took part in the raids.

Among those arrested was 82-year-old Nicolo Rizzuto, the father of Vito Rizzuto, who was deported to the United States earlier this year to face charges related to the murder of three members of the reputed Bonanno crime family in New York.

Also arrested were Francesco Arcadi, Francesco Del Balso, Paolo Renda, Rocco Sollecito and other associates.

The RCMP alleges the men are part of an organized crime family whose primary activity was to import and export drugs, operate an online bookmaking business, extortion and murder.

"This major international investigation ... highlighted the group's criminal activity and revealed the many tentacles of traditional Italian-based organized crime," the RCMP said in a statement.

The RCMP investigators said the group had infiltrated Montreal's international airport and that a customs officer and a dozen current and former employees were involved in a scheme to import 2,866 pounds of cocaine by container. The police said the first 660 pounds in the first shipment was seized.

The RCMP said assets of some of those charged were seized, including houses and bank accounts. More than $2.7 million was seized in the course of the investigation.

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