Real Simard

Real Simard was a mobster and close confidant of Montreal mob boss "Le Gros" Frank Cotroni. He would become a hitman for the Cotroni faction of the Bonnano crime family and later a Government witness.

Criminal Career

His mother, Simone Courville, was the younger sister of Armand Courville, a reputed major underworld and partner of “The Egg” Vic Cotroni for decades. Simard’s father supposedly drank heavily and often abused him. As a teenager, Simard joined a neighbourhood street gang. The young hoods specialized committed petty crimes, such as theft and vandalism. He then partnered up with Raymond Martel, a childhood friend, and the two began holding up banks together. They spent the profits from their crimes on partying and good times.

On one heist, as Simard waited in the getaway car, Martel was caught in the act. Simard managed to avoid arrest, but shortly thereafter, Jean-Paul Saint-Armand, one of their bank robbing accomplices, was arrested and turned informant. Saint-Armand gave them up and Simard and Martel would be convicted and sentenced to six and three years in prison, respectively. In Parthenais penitentiary, Simard spent much of his time with reputed Montreal Mafia boss Frank Cotroni, who was awaiting extradition to the US. Cotroni knew Simard was Armand Courville’s nephew and took him under his wing. Simard saw the respect and influence Cotroni possessed, even from behind bars, and was impressed.

The Don's right hand man

After his release from prison, Simard worked as Cotroni’s bodyguard, chauffeuring the reputed crime boss around the city. He also did other odd jobs, such as fetching Cotroni’s laundry and driving associates to and from the airport. Simard later claimed that people often approached Frank Cotroni to pay their respects and ask for favors. On one occasion, a house wife asked for help to leave a physically abusive relationship. Simard was given the task. On another occasion, an Italian businessman supposedly asked Cotroni to recover a stolen family heirloom. Simard tracked down the hood responsible and recovered the ring.

When Cotroni bought a night club in south west Montreal, Simard was asked to run the joint. Simard turned the club into a hit, and two weeks later, supposedly handed Cotroni an envelope containing $5,000. Cotroni grew to trust Simard and treated him like a son. In return, Simard would call Cotroni "Uncle". Many in the Montreal mob, particularly in the Sicilian faction, didn’t understand how Cotroni could allow a French-Canadian to become so close to him.

Mob hitman

On January 18, 1980, Simard showed the sceptics his capabilities. He had been given the contract on Michel “Fatso” Marion, a French-Canadian hood alleged to be active in the hashish trade, and on this day he walked into a Sainte-Adele restaurant where Marion was having breakfast. Simard casually walked up to the man and fired two shots into his body. After Marion collapsed, Simard put a final bullet into his head.

Later that year, on December 13, Simard carried out another contract. He ambushed and gunned down reputed Sicilian mobster Nicolas Morello, brother of Giuseppe “Joe” Morello, as he left a Saint-Léonard bar.

Six months later, on June 14, 1981, Simard participated in his third murder. Giuseppe Montegano was a reputed low level cocaine dealer in the city’s north-end. He was also suspected of being an informant and had also allegedly had a disagreed with Frank Cotroni's sons. Montegano was lured to a bar owned by Francesco Cotroni Jr. Inside lurked Simard and reputed mobsters Francesco Rao and Daniel Arena, whom allegedly planned to abduct him and kill him at another location. Montegano became suspicious and tried to escape, but Simard took out a firearm and shot him twice in the head. On the night of September 17, 1982, Simard met his next victim for a drink. Michel Pozza, a reputed major money launderer for the Montreal Mafia, had become too friendly with the mob’s Sicilian faction (the Rizzuto crime family). The next morning, Simard shot Pozza twice in the head in front of the reputed money man’s Mont-Rolland home.

Move to Ontario

In June, 1983, Simard was sent to Toronto to take control of numerous night clubs and set up new operations for the Montreal mob. But before making the move, Simard needed to pave the way with Ontario’s leading underworld figure. So he met with Johnny Papalia, who headed the Hamilton mob for the Buffalo crime family, at a Hamilton bar. Simard was given the green light. Simard, who had started calling himself "David" in Toronto, bough into Prestige Entertainment, operated by associate Frank Majeau. The agency hired out Quebec strippers to Ontario night clubs. With Simard's help, the business grew and the two were soon pulling in thousands every week.

The next order of business was to establish a lucrative drug network. Pushers were placed in over a dozen clubs and Richard Clément, a reputed mob associate, was supposedly brought to Toronto to watch over the operation.

Turning Informant

One day, Simard met with Mario Héroux and Robert Hétu, two other Montrealers that had come to Toronto. Shortly thereafter, Simard heard that the two had come to Ontario with the intention of killing Richard Clément. On November 29, 1983, Simard and Clément knocked on the hotel room door of where Héroux and Hétu were staying. Hétu opened the door and Simard fired a shot into his skull. Clément walked up to Héroux, who was sitting on the bed, and plugged five bullets into his head. The next morning, Simard was shocked to learn that Hétu had survived. He told police everything and Simard was arrested. Clément went into hiding, allegedly settling in Lebanon. In court, Robert Hétu testified that Simard was the one who had tried to murder him. Simard was convicted and sentenced to life.

Simard said he survived a murder attempt in Arcmambault prison in July, 1986. As one inmate distracted him, Simard supposedly spotted another approaching with a makeshift knife. Simard said he saved his life by attracting the attention of a nearby guard. Simard, who admitted to killing five people, decided to turn informant. He spilled the beans on everything, including the murders he admitted carrying out for the Montreal mob. On early October 10, 1986, police arrested Frank Cotroni at a Montreal hotel. His son, Francesco, and reputed associates Daniel Arena and Francesco Raso were also arrested. The four were charged with the murder of Giuseppe Montegano.

The defendants pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges. Frank Cotroni was sentenced to eight years, his son received three years, while Arena and Raso got seven and five years, respectively. Simard would go on to testify against other crime associates leading to lengthy convictions. Simard has since been relocated and given a new identity. In collaboration with journalist Michel Vastel, he wrote The Nephew: The Making of a Mafia Hitman, in which he detailed his rise and fall in the Montreal mob.

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