Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Growing up in Hell's Country

Julie Couillard denies being anything so common as a "biker chick." But a quick glance at this timeline of her life over the past ten years, pulled together by our crack investigative team, shows something more, a young woman who grew up as a biker princess, surrounded by the toughest and the baddest of Québec's bad guys.
1990s - In her early twenties, Julie goes out for a time with mobster Tony Volpato, 20 years her senior, and a good friend of Frank Cotroni, head of the Montréal calabrian clan. Volpato was later linked to the Sicilian godfather, Vito Rizzuto. At the time Julie went out with Volpato, he was being investigated for trafficking illegal cigarettes from Kahnawake. In 1997, Volpato was sentenced to 6 years in penitentiary for importing 180 kg of cocaine. He was freed after only one year in jail, which infuriated then justice critic for the Reform Party, John Reynolds, who brought his name up in the Commons. In 2001, Volpato was back behind bars for violating the terms of his parole, and consorting with known criminals.

1990s - After breaking with Volpato, Julie takes up with Gilles "The Indian" Giguère, enforcer and right arm of notorious loan shark Robert "Bob" Savard, and a close associate of Maurice "Mom" Boucher, boss of the Hells Angels. Giguère also dealt dope and firearms. As Julie later recalled, "I was 22 years old when I met Gilles. We were together for four years. I was so naïve! I knew he knew people who knew bikers, but I didn’t take the bikers seriously. To me, they were tough guys who rode motorcycles. The real criminals were the mafia, the Italians."

1995 December 19 - She is arrested along with her father Marcel Couillard, her common law husband Gilles Giguère, lawyer Gilles Daudelin and two others by the Carcajou (Wolverine) Squad, an elite anti-biker force composed of RCMP, Sûreté du Québec, and municipal police forces. The charge is suspicion of being involved in an extortion and murder conspiracy against a Montréal real estate agent. She is taken to the SQ headquarters and grilled for 18 hours straight. She is then freed without further charges.

1996 - She appears featured in Quebec's lurid crime tabloid, Allô Police, under the headline, “Arrested in the bedroom! The spouse of the mobster Gilles Giguère... The actress Julie Couillard condemns the Carcajou!”

1996 February - The case against her husband Gilles Giguère collapses for lack of evidence. But he is also facing another criminal trial for possession of four submachine guns and 70 pounds of hashish. He agrees to start giving evidence to the police.

1996 April - A week before she and Gilles Giguère plan to marry, and before his trial is to start Giguère is found dead in a flooded ditch next to a road in L'Épiphanie, east of Montréal, shot several times in the head. Julie later says Giguère was the one true love of her life, and with all the men that followed, “the bar was so high, no man made the grade.”

1997 - She marries Stéphane Sirois, a member of the Rockers de Montréal, the warrior clan of the Hells Angels Nomads. Sirois was part of the Rockers "baseball team" – a violent group of thugs who intimidated rivals with baseball bats and smashed up bars that refused to allow the gang to deal drugs. Sirois later testifies that when Mom Boucher heard of his relationship with Julie, he told Sirois to choose between the Hells or Julie, because he didn't trust her. “He thought it was her who pushed Giguère to work with the police, that she worked with police. There were suspicions floating around,” Sirois testified. He later added that, “The exact words said by Maurice Boucher were that at one point the suspicions were so high that there was a contract on her too. She was going to get it. She came close to getting it.” He testified that after they married he confided to Julie about Boucher's suspicions. She was worried and asked Bob Savard about it. Savard told her to stay clean and she would be OK.

1998 - Her father Marcel Couillard is charged under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act with producing and trafficking marijuana.

1999 - She breaks up with Stéphane Sirois, who had become depressed due to the stress he was under and the debts he owed to Mom Boucher and the Rockers.

1999 June - Stéphane Sirois signs a contract to work for the SQ and get back into the good graces of the Rockers by offering them his services as a drug dealer. He disappears into the Witness Protection Program. His evidence will later bring down Mom Boucher.

1999 - She fails several times to pay the mortgage on a house that she had bought in 1998 while she was with Sirois. The Laurentian Bank gets a court ruling repossessing the house because she owed $103,000. The bank cited Sirois as a third party in the case, but couldn't find him since he was in the witness protection program. She is also taken to small claims court by the lawyer who handled her divorce, for failing to pay the $839 fee.

2000 July - Loan shark Bob Savard is killed gangland style in a Montreal restaurant.

2001 - Her father Marcel Couillard pleads guilty to the production of marijuana (the grow-op he operated for for Sirois). The trafficking charge is dropped.

2002 - Julie Couillard files for bankruptcy. She acquires a work permit from the Québec's actors' union, the Union des Artistes, to work at scale, describing herself as an actress and model.

2004 - She moves with another bad guy, Robert Pépin, then being charged with theft of cargo. Apparently Pépin was a million dollars in debt to the Hells. Pépin starts l'Agence d'investigation et de sécurité D.R.P.,and she is VP and a shareholder. They ask to bid on an airport contract with l'Administration canadienne de la sûreté du transport aérien (ACSTA) regarding access to restricted zones, using biometrics. They are not considered. The company is later brought before l'Office de la protection du consommateur for charging usurious rates of interest.

2004 - She registers Casting Cinq Étoiles, aka Five Star Casting Canada and Five Star Casting International, a talent agency to recruit extras for films, television and other media.

2005 - She breaks with Robert Pépin.

2005 Feb. - She incorporates Itek Solutions globales, a security company. She is president. It is still in operation.

2006 December - Casting Cinq Étoiles is declared officially inactive.

2007 February 1 - The Quebec government awards the D.R.P. Investigation and Security Agency a $167,000 contract for prisoner escort services.

2007 March - Couillard donates $1,000 to l’association conservatrice de Châteauguay–Saint-Constant. She is being considered as a potential candidate.

2007 April - She becomes a registered real-estate agent, claiming to be listed with Kevlar Real Estate Investments. Kevlar denies that she is now or ever was an employee.

2007 May 20 - Pépin is summoned to appear before l'Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF); three days later he commits suicide by hanging in his Laval office.

2007 April - Couillard starts dating Maxime Bernier.

2007 August 9 - A Montreal judge orders her to pay $1,210 in overdue legal fees for another law firm whose services she had engaged in a commercial dispute.

2007 December - She ends the relationship with Max Bernier, before his parents come over to her house for the holidays. "I fell in love with a dream," she tells the media, "but the dream never materialized."
So Julie Couillard is either a very brave or a very foolish woman. Draw your own conclusions my friends.

Mine is that all Canadians have to be vigilant about organized crime. And those who are involved with organized crime, even on the periphery, should get out of it before it is too late.
Pix: Quebecor Media Inc.