updated 9/19/2008 3:33:34 AM ET 2008-09-19T07:33:34

Six alleged leaders of Canada's Montreal Mafia pleaded guilty Thursday to various charges including conspiracy, gangsterism, drug trafficking and possession of goods paid for by criminal gain.

Nicolo Rizzuto, father of alleged mob kingpin Vito Rizzuto, was among the six men. Vito Rizzuto is considered by Canadian officials to be the most powerful mob boss in the country.

Also pleading guilty were Paolo Renda, Francesco Arcadi, Lorenzo Giordano, Francesco Del Balso and Rocco Sollecito.

The guilty plea was part of lengthy negotiations between the prosecution and defense lawyers to cut short what was expected to be a lengthy criminal trial.

Prosecutor Yvan Poulin defended the plea bargain as serving the public interest while avoiding an expensive trial.

Nicolo Rizzuto's lawyer, Loris Cavaliere, agreed that the plea bargain made sense.

Dozens arrested
The men were arrested as part of a large police sweep in late 2006 dubbed Project Colisee, a wide-ranging investigation by police aimed at slowing down the expansion of organized crime in Canada.

The four-year investigation culminated in a 700-officer raid across Quebec, Halifax and Toronto where more than 70 people were arrested and homes and bank accounts were seized. About $3 million Canadian dollars (US$2.8 million) was also seized as proceeds of crime.

The six men were involved in a wide range of criminal activities including drug trafficking, bookmaking and operating illegal gaming houses, said Poulin. The men were also involved in importing and smuggling cocaine through Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. The evidence submitted is about 400 pages.

Five of the six have been imprisoned since November 2006, while Giordano was arrested separately in May 2007.

Vito Rizzuto was sentenced in May 2007 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering as part of a plea deal in the 1981 slayings of three New York Mafia captains.

Nicolo Rizzuto pleaded guilty Thursday to only two counts — possessing goods obtained through criminal gains and possession of proceeds of crime for the benefit of a criminal organization.

Sentencing arguments will begin on Oct. 16, but Poulin says both sides have already agreed on sentences.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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