A former acting boss of the Bonanno crime family was found dead Thursday on the bank of a river east of Montreal after he apparently tried to flee an assailant by frantically swimming across the frigid water, according to Québec police and Canadian news services.
Salvatore "Sal the Iron Worker" Montagna, 40, who for a time was interim boss of the Bonanno family in New York before he was deported to Canada in 2009, was pronounced dead at a hospital after he was found on the bank of the Assumption River, about 20 miles northeast of downtown Montreal, said a spokesman for the Québec Provincial Police.
Sgt. Benoit Richard said that police were alerted by a witness who telephoned authorities to say that shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday he heard gunshots and saw a man run from Vaudry Island and swim across the river to the opposite bank. The island has several buildings on it but Richard couldn't give any information about why Montagna, who had an address in Montreal, was in the area.
Richard said the medical examiner will be conducting an autopsy Friday to determine the cause of death.
Québec police wouldn't discuss Montagna's criminal background. But Canadian news services said that after the U.S. deported him, Montagna was known as the "Bambino Boss," referring to his age when he temporarily took over the reins of the Bonanno family.
Montagna, who was born in Canada, earned his "iron worker" moniker because he owned a metal working firm in Brooklyn. After former boss Joseph Massino was convicted in July 2004, law enforcement officials said Montagna served as acting boss. The crime family has been in disarray since a series of federal prosecutions decimated its ranks.