Thursday, May 08, 2008

He haunts is still: the Mafia hitman who plays politics

Let me tell ya a story.

Long ago, back in 1984, two vermin from a Montreal crime family decided to go freelance and brought a big bag of cocaine to Toronto. Vic Cotroni, the don of Montreal, put out a contract on these two clowns. Real Simard, a full-time Cotroni hit man, went to Toronto to take care of it.
The victims, guys named Heroux and Hetu, were ambushed in the old Seaway Hotel, out on the lakeshore. Heroux died immediately. Hetu took three slugs in the head but survived.
Hetu recovered, cut a deal with the RCMP, and was given help under the witness protection program. The cops picked up Simard and tagged him with six hits, with many more -- perhaps well into the double-digits -- suspected.
Here's where things start getting weird.
Hetu was given a new name and sent to live in a Francophone enclave in Central Ontario. I'd sometimes see him walking around with that big scar on his face but I didn't know who he was until he started molesting children. He was arrested and, it turned out, continued to collect money from the feds in the years in which he was awaiting trial. I covered the case for the Globe and Mail and, later, the Toronto Star. His defence? Simard's bullets had scrambled his brain. Hetu has since done his time. It would be interesting to see if the Mounties are still looking after him.
Simard, the hit man, cut a deal, too. He ratted out Vic Controni in return for his charges being dropped to manslaughter. Simard was given a really nice cell, with a great view, exercise equipment, state of the art audio-visual system, the works.
By 1994, he was out. I heard he was living at Jay's Peak, in Vermont. How in the world he got into the States legally is beyond me. And he's been seen many times around Montreal, even running into Cotroni a couple of times before the old crook pegged out eight years ago. Yet he remains unslain. Go figure.
But the story's not over yet. Just after his release, stories, certainly untrue, circulated that he had a crush on Sheila Copps and was organizing the Eastern Townships for her prospective leadership run. After a few years in the community, Simard was picked up for welfare fraud and had to fight like hell to keep from having his parole revoked and being sent back to prison.
Today, I received an e-mail from Prime Minister's Office press guy Dimitri Soudas with a reprint of a November, 2000 piece by Michel Vastel, presumably in the Journal de Montreal that talks about Simard's work as a campaign worker for Bloc Quebecois candidate Nik LeBlanc in the suburban Montreal riding of Verdun.
Gotta love Quebec. Only a province like that could produce a Hetu, a Simard, a Central Casting-style Mafia boss like Cotroni, an outfit like the Bloc, and Dimitri.
Distinct society indeed.

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