Raynald Desjardins (born 1952) is a convicted drug trafficker and former associate of both the Rizzuto crime family and the Hells Angels. He was often described as the most influential non-Italian in the Montreal Mafia.
Raynald Desjardins was born in Montreal in 1952. He allegedly became associated with the Mafia in his early twenties when he became active as a drug dealer. His connections within the Rizzuto crime syndicate grew stronger when his sister married Joe Di Maulo, who was a member of the Rizzuto gang. In 1982 Desjardins was arrested on firearm charges, but was acquitted. A couple of years later, in 1987, the RCMP seized 16 tons of Lebanese hashish near Newfoundland worth up to $350 million. Desjardins was arrested together with Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto for conspiring to traffic narcotics, but again he was acquitted. Desjardins and Rizzuto were in fact good friends. They both lived in the same neighborhood and were seen together during a trip to Milan in 1984. He was one of the few non-Italians who had entered the core of the Rizzuto Family.
Ever since the Rizzuto family had become dominant in Montreals drug business several other organizations leaned in. This is where the Hells Angels came in handy. The Rizzuto family and the Hells Angels created an alliance in drug trafficking in which Desjardins would play a significant role as man-in-the-middle. He often attended Hells Angels party's and frequently met with their gang leader Maurice "Mom" Boucher. In 1993 Desjardins was involved in a botched 750-kilo shipment of cocaine which was heading for the port of Halifax. When the smugglers noticed the police they dumped the cocaine into the sea. The drugs were never retrieved but the RCMP however did confiscate about $500.000 cash, firearms, four boats and several vehicles. Dejardins and about 19 others were arrested. This time he didn't escape conviction and was sentenced to 15 years for conspiracy.
The Rizzuto Challenge
Behind bars Desjardins lived like a king. He allegedly intimidated both guards and prisoners and had even conspired to kill a fellow inmate. In 1995 he was transferred to a maximum security prison after he had tried to poison another inmate. In 2004 he was eventually paroled and freed from prison. He claimed he left organized crime, but things would prove otherwise.
In 2007 Vito Rizzuto was sentenced to 10 years and was moved to a prison in the United States. Then the RCMP further weakened the family after arresting several top figures of the organization. In August 2009, Rizzuto associate Frederico Del Peschio was murdered in Montreal. A couple of months later Rizzuto's son Nick Rizzuto Jr. was also shot to death. In the following weeks and months several others were also gunned down in a attempt to bring down the Rizzuto Family. In September 2011 Desjardins narrowly escaped death after gunmen fired at his SUV, but he escaped unharmed. Experts however believed that Desjardins was the one who started to challenge the Rizzuto's and, backed by influential men such as his brother-in-law, tried to take over while the organization was at it's weakest.
A couple of months prior to the murder of Del Peschio, Bonanno crime family acting boss Salvatore Montagna was deported from the US to Canada. The Rizzuto family was a long time branch of the New York based Bonanno Family. Immediately a dispute erupted between Montagna and Desjardins over who would take control of the Montreal Mafia. In the summer of 2011 both men had tried to come to a consensus, but failed. In late November 2011, the dead body of Montagna was found on an island near Repentigny, Montreal. A couple of weeks later police arrested Desjardins for the Montagna murder. With him another 5 men, including 34 year old Vittorio Mirarchi and 27 year old Felice Racaniello, were also arrested. While awaiting trial 2 of his relatives, including Di Maulo, were murdered as result of their betrayal towards Rizzuto in 2012. In December 2016, Desjardins received a 14-year prison sentence, including time served, for connection to the murder of Salvatore Montagna.