Organized crime figure killed in daylight shootout in Montreal’s West Island

A high-ranking member of organized crime was shot and killed in Montreal Monday afternoon, sources confirmed to Radio-Canada.

Francesco Del Balso was shot at the corner of Deacon Street and St. Regis Boulevard in Montreal’s West Island.

Mugshot after the arrest of Francesco Del Balso in 2006. (Charbonneau Commission)

Montreal police at the scene reported a shootout with a dead victim.

Del Balso was arrested in 2006 as part of the Montreal Mafia’s Operation Coliseum. He was convicted of gangsterism and conspiracy to import cocaine.

He was released in 2016, then ordered back to prison out of concern for his safety. Parole board documents at the time described him as “next on the death row.” Del Balso was released again in 2018.

He was arrested in September 2022 by police in Laval, Que., in connection with threats and extortion against local religious leaders.

Last March, the Sûreté du Québec searched his home and the homes of three influential Hells Angels members as part of a drug-trafficking investigation.

A week before that search, he had been questioned by provincial police investigators while trying to travel to Italy. He was released, but his passport was confiscated.

Multiple police officers with a covered body in the background.
Police are investigating the body of a man who was shot outside a gym in Dorval, Que., on Monday. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, his identity has not yet been confirmed by the police. (Christine Mushki / The Canadian Press)

The shooting follows two other high-profile attacks this year.

Martin Leonardo Rizzuto, who allegedly took over from his father, Vito Rizzuto, to become the head of the Montreal mafia, was shot dead in Laval, Que. The car he was driving was hit by many bullets. Rizzuto survived with injuries.

On May 16, Claudia Iacona, the daughter-in-law of Montreal mobster Moreno Gallo, was shot dead in the parking lot of her beauty salon in the Côte-de-Neige-Notre-Dame-de-Grace district. .

Mafia power imbalance

Antonio Nicasso is the author of more than 40 books on organized crime, and he teaches the subject at Queen’s University. He said Del Balso once managed gambling for the Rizzuto crime family.

“He was a very powerful mobster,” Nicasso said.

Nicasso said Del Balso specialized in illegal betting, but his efforts to carve out his own territory in gambling and extortion led to a clash with the Rizzuto clan.

Challenging the family’s top leadership led to retaliation, and Del Balso tried to flee the country because he was being hunted, Nicasso said. The conflict escalated.

“We found out that he was a suspect in the attempted murder of Leonardo Rizzuto, he had some important connections with the Hells Angels,” Nicasso said.

WATCH | The expert explained the role of Francesco Del Balso in the mafia:

organized crime figure killed in daylight shootout on Montreal's West Island 2

A Mafia expert explains the murder of a Montreal mobster

Antonio Nicasso, who has written more than 40 books on organized crime and teaches the subject at Queen’s University, said Francesco Del Balso specialized in gambling and worked with the Rizzuto crime family until his efforts to expand the illegal operation led to conflict.

When such violence occurs, it shows the imbalance of power between criminal organizations while drawing attention to their activities, he said.

However, the mafia or mafia-like organizations are more powerful when they don’t use violence because it creates a better environment for them to bribe and bribe people by infiltrating organizations to make money, Nicasso explained.

“When there’s a war, it’s always painful for everybody, and it’s not the best strategy for criminal activity,” Nikaso says.

Del Balso’s killing confirms that the mafia war in Montreal is “not over yet,” Nicasso said, but it’s unclear how far the battle will spread.

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