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Mourners line up for Rizzuto visitation

MONTREAL - Hundreds of people filed into a Montreal funeral home on Sunday to pay their respects to reputed Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto.

At one point, the line of mourners was so long it snaked from the complex's back entrance around the side of building.

Men and women both young and old, many dressed in black from head to toe, were on hand for the funeral visitation.

Rizzuto, the head of a criminal organization with reach across Canada and beyond, died of natural causes in a Montreal hospital last Monday at age 67.

His funeral will be held Monday at a Catholic church in Montreal's Little Italy neighbourhood.

On Sunday, the streets were so busy outside the funeral home it was difficult to find a parking spot and police were on hand to direct traffic.

Antonio Nicaso, an author and expert on organized crime, said the strong turnout was a reflection of Rizzuto's considerable power and reach.

Nicaso said Rizzuto was "very entrenched" in his Montreal community and had a strong impact on many people outside the realm of organized crime.

"The way in the Mafia is the way in the normal life," he said in a phone interview.

"If it's an important person many people will show up."

Nicaso said visitations, rather than funerals themselves, tend to attract key figures from the mobster world.

That's because they are able to meet with the family in a more private setting, he said.

Police at the visitation made little effort to disguise their efforts to gather intelligence.

Officers in unmarked vehicles could be seen taking notes and snapping photos of people entering the building.

The funeral complex, on a quiet commercial strip in Montreal's St. Leonard borough, is owned by a Rizzuto family member.

A sign on the front door instructed mourners to enter by the back entrance.

SUVs and town cars with tinted windows were parked in the lot.

Only three years ago, the complex was the site of the visitation for Rizzuto's father, Nicolo, who was killed by a sniper in his home.

Vito Rizzuto was released from a U.S. prison in 2012 after serving six years for his involvement in a 1981 triple murder.

His father, as well as his son Nick, were killed while he was behind bars.

Mafia watchers say Rizzuto was able to regain some control over his turf after returning from prison.

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