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Escaped murderer’s loyalty to Hells Angels runs deep

Quebec members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang join a celebration for chapters in B.C. in Langley, B.C., in July 2008.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Even though he was serving a life sentence for murder, René Charlebois's good behaviour for the past decade suggested he was getting himself rehabilitated and allowed him to get assigned to a minimum-security penitentiary.

But apparently Mr. Charlebois had not forgotten his wedding day, when he donned his biker leather vest and toasted his guests by saying: "My brothers, I love you. My heart, my blood and my life belongs to the Hells Angels."

During the weekend, six months after he became eligible for day parole, Mr. Charlebois walked away from jail. He remains at large.

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His disappearance was discovered Saturday night after a head count at the Montée Saint-François Institution, a minimum-security penitentiary in Laval, north of Montreal.

Minimum-security facilities are intended for the rehabilitation and social reintegration of offenders and have no fences, walls or armed control posts.

Mr. Charlebois, 48, had been eligible for day parole since the end of March and would have been able to apply for full parole in 2016.

He was a member of the Nomads chapter of the Quebec Hells Angels, a now-disbanded elite biker club infamously involved in a murderous turf war against the Rock Machine gang that left more than 160 people dead during the 1990s.

A close associate of the feared Nomads leader Maurice (Mom) Boucher, Mr. Charlebois has been linked to several killings and was associated with several key episodes of the biker war.

On Monday, the office of federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney asked whether Mr. Charlebois, who has a record for murder, drug trafficking and gangsterism, was incarcerated at the proper level of security.

"I have ordered a review of security classification for violent and dangerous inmates, in order to ensure they are imprisoned at appropriate security levels to protect law-abiding Canadians," Mr. Blaney said in a statement.

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Mr. Charlebois was serving a life sentence with eligibility for parole for 15 years after pleading guilty in 2004 to second-degree murder.

He had been charged for the 2000 murder of a police informant, Claude DeSerres, who had been lured to a remote cottage and shot in the head. Mr. DeSerres wore a wire, and police later recovered an audio tape of his death. His identity had been compromised after the Hells Angels stole the laptop of an OPP biker expert, looked at the information inside and deduced the identity of Mr. De Serres.

Testimony in court also implicated Mr. Charlebois in two other plots.

A biker turned informant, Stéphane Sirois, testified that he and Mr. Charlebois went "on the hunt" and tried to kill Rock Machine associate Marc Belhumeur. They didn't find him but Mr. Belhumeur was eventually murdered in January of 1997.

The gang leader, Mr. Boucher, then devised a plan to ensure the loyalty of his men by asking them to kill prison guards, prosecutors, judges and other law-enforcement officials.

On June 28, 1997, two days after the assassination of the first jail guard, two men on a motorcycle fired four times and severely wounded a civilian employee who conducted Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at Saint Vincent de Paul Penitentiary in Laval. The informant Stéphane Gagné told investigators that Mr. Charlebois was one of the gunmen.

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Life as a drug-trafficking Hells Angel was lucrative for Mr. Charlebois. He drove a Cadillac, owned three houses and kept a cellar of the best Bordeaux – Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Haut-Brion, Château Cheval Blanc.

Police searching his home found $12,000 in cash strewn around the property, including five $1,000 casino chips.

His August 2000 wedding caused an uproar in Quebec because two famous crooners, Ginette Reno and Jean-Pierre Ferland, performed during the lavish celebrations at the home of his chapter leader, Mr. Boucher.

Mr. Charlebois was likely familiar with the fates of two other fellow Nomads. One was Rick Vallée, who had plastic surgery and hid in Costa Rica until he got homesick and returned to Montreal where he was arrested after nearly six years on the run. The other was Paul Fontaine, thought to be dead but caught after more than six years in hiding.

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More


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