Raynald Desjardins, the prominent Quebec mobster who once boasted about keeping his mouth shut and serving his time in jail, has been sentenced to another stint in penitentiary, a 14-year sentence in connection with the murder of Salvatore Montagna, a one-time boss of the Bonanno crime family who had tried to take over the Montreal Mafia.
Because of the time already served since his arrest, Mr. Desjardins only has six and a half years left to in his sentence.
The case had been notable because it involved gangland settlings of accounts as various factions vied for power in the absence of the Mafia godfather of the time, Vito Rizzuto. Furthermore, the RCMP helped crack the case by decrypting BlackBerry messages and using covert cellphone tracking devices – but seven defendants pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a deal that forestalled the police being forced to divulge more about its state-of-the-art surveillance technology.
In an e-mail, federal prosecutor Paul-Alexis Gauthier confirmed that Mr. Desjardins was sentenced Monday by Quebec Superior Court Justice André Vincent at Montreal’s Gouin courthouse, an ultra-secure facility initially built for biker trials.
He was initially charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.
The five years Mr. Desjardins has already spent in detention since his December, 2011, arrest was counted at a 1.5 ratio and the resulting seven and a half years deducted from his 14-year sentence.
Mr. Gauthier said the judge made no mention on parole eligibility.
In his previous episode behind bars, a 15-year sentence for conspiring to smuggle 700 kilograms of cocaine, Mr. Desjardins was denied parole amid allegations he was still acting like a kingpin while behind bars.
This time, his safety is not guaranteed. Police last year charged Maurice (Mom) Boucher, the former Quebec Hells Angels kingpin now serving a life sentence, with plotting the murder of another inmate – Mr. Desjardins.
A rare francophone Quebecker who rose to prominence in the Montreal mafia, Mr. Desjardins was once a close associate of Mr. Rizzuto, the most powerful Mafia don in Canada until his 2013 death.
After Mr. Desjardins got his statutory release from his previous drug-trafficking sentence in 2004, he said he had built a new life as a construction entrepreneur.
However, the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in the construction industry later heard that Mr. Desjardins managed to gain influence in a trade union.
Labour organizer Ken Pereira testified that when he had trouble with a corrupt executive at the FTQ-Construction union, he was summoned to a meeting with Mr. Desjardins.
“Listen, Ken,” Mr. Pereira said Mr. Desjardins told him. “I don’t know if you know, but I did 11 years in prison. I kept my mouth shut, I did my time, and that’s the way it should be.”
The Crown alleged that intercepted BlackBerry messages show that Mr. Desjardins and Mr. Montagna were rivals in the mob power struggles that erupted during the time Mr. Rizzuto was serving a sentence in the United States for racketeering, between 2004 and 2012.
Court evidence show that Mr. Desjardins complained to his men that Mr. Montagna’s crew was encroaching on their bookmaking, loan-sharking and protection rackets.
Mr. Montagna was gunned down in November, 2011. According to court testimony, shortly after the killing, Mr. Desjardins sent a terse BlackBerry message to an associate, Vittorio Mirarchi: “Done.”
“Perfect,” came the reply.
The next evening, the RCMP, which had been reading Mr. Desjardins’s messages, conducted an officer outside his house to deploy a mobile device identifier (MDI), a controversial machine also known as an IMSI catcher or a Stingray, which identifies the mobile phones in a given area.
Mr. Desjardins and his men were arrested on Dec. 20, 2011.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in July, 2015. Seven other defendants also pleaded guilty to lesser charges the following spring.
The Montreal Gazette reported this summer that Mr. Montagna’s widow, Francesca, testified at a court hearing that she would respect whatever sentence was imposed on Mr. Desjardins but, addressing him, said: “I will never forgive you. I tried, but I can’t. You will never know the harsh pain and struggle you caused us.”