Project Ecrevisse & Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau: Kingpins to Inmates to Escapees

I grew up in a small town Northwest of the province, called Val-D’Or, with a population of around 36,000 people. There’s only one way to get there, which is through the 117 North, through Parc La Verendrye. When a story broke out in 2010, concerning police executing several raids in efforts of an operation named ‘Projet Ecrevisse’ (Project Crayfish). Although a small town, this is far from the truth, with the severity of the crimes committed. Once Project Ecrevisse was done, over 120 people were arrested throughout the operation. The more stunning fact is that the operation is the operation helped traffic 650 tons of cocaine throughout the province within the last four years of the operation.

Denis Lefebvre’s Red Light on 3rd Avenue in Val D’Or.

This is a small town, where everybody knows each other. In the classic fashion of a small town, rumors spread about Denis Lefebvre being the head of the massive drug operation, with many residents crossing him many times throughout their daily commute within the years. Lefebvre owned a masonry company as his full-time job, which paved a lot of driveways for this town, where many people had their lots paved by him. This just goes to show how the world is a small place, and tiny when you live in a small town, constantly catching up with people you know on the main strip.

Would the residents of Val-D’Or assume that Denis Lefebvre and his crew would be part of a big prison break in which a helicopter would land in the yard of the Orsainville prison? Never. Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction, from car-bombings to murder at gunpoint. This would prove to be the point in the Lefebvre saga. This story most likely would have gone un-seen, if it wasn’t for the heads of the operation’s attempt to break out of the prison they were held in, in 2012. Taking cover at a luxurious Montreal penthouse, ordering caviar and other fancy foods. A slightly dumb way to get caught. Why didn’t they hide down south in a tropical country? Only god knows.

An informant comes into play within this story, his name, Daniel Savard. Surely, he had taken refuge in the witness protection program since mainstream media had done their best to protect his name from the criminal underworld. What is known is he had decided to flip on the Val-D’Or crew after October 6th, 2010, when authorities executed Projet Ecrevisse (Project Crayfish) which resulted in a handful and a half of arrests throughout the region of Abitibi-Temiscamingue due to a number of search warrants and seizures that had taken place. Daniel Savard was involved three murders between 2009 and 2010. Those of which being the murders of Kevin Walters, Johnny Coutu and Benoit Denis.

Before this informant had business to do with the Val-D’Or crew, he was implicated in marijuana plantations across the province and breaking and entering gigs. A friend of the Savard had put him in contact with 2 of the accused with a lump sum of 1000$ a week, and supplementary charges, depending the nature of his task. The two of the three accused might have been Yves Denis, Serge Pomerleau or Denis Lefebvre depending on the task at hand. Most likely Denis Lefebvre and Serge Pomerleau.

The twist in this part of the story comes from the fact that Benoit Denis is Yves Denis’ half brother. One somber evening in 2009, Benoit Denis and Savard headed off to Rouyn-Noranda, a town in the Abitibi region to send a message and break the legs of another drug dealer in the region named Kevin ‘Chef’ Walters. The job was contracted by Denis Lefebvre, the head of the drug operation. In April of 2009. Once Benoit and Savard entered the residence they headed towards Walter’s bedroom, where Walter was in bed chatting away on the phone.

Savard held a .12 gauge shotgun while Benoit Denis was armed with a baseball bat. Denis then struck Walter’s in the head 3 to 4 times, uttering a sentence “C’est de la part d’untel”, then striking Walters several time with the butt of the .12 gauge. The duo then headed out of the bedroom when Savard stated to Denis that he didn’t think Walter’s had comprehended the message which was just portrayed, even though Walters was in the midst of convulsing. They would later learn that the man would die of his injuries. Once the killers were in court, it was judged as involuntary manslaughter. Savard was paid 5000$ for the job.

Another job which Savard was offered was the contract killing of Johnny ‘Le Notaire’ Coutu, his nickname roughly translates to ‘The Notary’. Coutu was the head of an opposing drug-running crew within the the Northern regions of Quebec. Even though Coutu’s principle residence was in Laval, he had spent time in and was very prevalent in the Abitibi region, most notably Val D’Or.

Coutu first comes into play in the 2007-2008 era, he had hired a contract killer which was tasked with a job that had taken place on the main street of downtown Val D’Or, the 3rd Avenue within a strip club. The Red Light, which Denis Lefebvre was operating at the time.

A witness which had just started to work for Denis Lefebvre and the Red Light establishment recounts the story of her first day on the job. An assailant had entered the bar with a .12 gauge shotgun and had fired a shot towards a table in which Denis Lefebvre, Donald Rancourt and another acquaintance were seated. The shot hit the unnamed man in the stomach in which he eventually succumbed to his wounds. The victim was an out-of-towner, and had come all the way from Montreal, located roughly 7 hours away from Val D’Or through the highways 15 and 117. The killer was later apprehended for the murder.

The Red Light strip club which was operated by Denis Lefebvre at the time. Located on 93, 3rd Avenue in downtown Val D’Or.

The same witness was a employee in which Denis Lefebvre had hired, most likely a dancer for the strip club. During her time working for Lefebvre, she had noted that she was witness to a substantial amount of drug trafficking which took place within the quiet little town of 36,000 people. She stated how routinely it went every week, with barely any faults.

A man would come to stock up the dealers, and the money made from the dealings would be placed in a safe located within a designated motel room in Motel Dix, right next to the building. Denis Lefebvre, Donald Rancourt and Yves Denis would have regular meetings at the Red Light establishment, sometimes daily. Sometimes, soldiers of the clan would be present, most notably, Yves Denis’ step brother, Benoit Denis.

A hotel room located on the second floor of the Red Light strip club.

Lefebvre’s witness employee had moved in with a drug dealer during her time in Val D’Or, the only problem was that she had moved in with one of Coutu’s drug dealers, which had caused friction with Lefebvre and Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau’s clan. They had accused her of being a double agent and given her an ultimatum, move to a new place, or spill the name of the individual who shot the associate on her first shift with a .12 gauge, whom, she had no idea was.

Coutu had escaped death in the recent years when his vehicle was victim to a car-bombing which was meant to be ignited while he was in the vehicle. Unsure of which clan to side by, Lefebvre’s employee got involved with an attempted murder, in which she stood by Benoit Denis by Chez Vic Cantin, a restaurant/banquet located in Val D’Or’s industrial sector at the end of 3rd Avenue. Denis was watching while the explosion happened, stating he stated ‘Fuck, he’s unkillable’. The attempted murder had taken place in March of 2008, after the shooting murder at the Red Light.

Cantin Chez Vic

At the time, in Val D’Or the face-wear for committing certain crimes was not a traditional ski mask, in which had three holes, two for the eyes and one for the mouth, but rather a skidoo mask. The skidoo mask had an oval shape placed horizontally across the face. Nowadays, it is known as a ‘shiesty’.

‘Shiesty’ or Skidoo mask

The attempted car-bombing of Johnny Coutu did not prevent the man from continuing business in Northwestern Quebec, most notably in the Abitibi region. He had invested too much in the business dealt in the region. It is also known that Benoit Denis was the culprit in which planted the bomb on Johnny ‘Le Notaire’ Coutu’s car at the time. Coutu had managed to seat himself in the vehicle before the bomb had gone off, but succeeded in surviving the attempt.

Cantin Chez Vic, recently renovated.

Benoit Denis had decided to take extra precaution in 2009, moving 4 hours away from Val D’Or and hoping this would get the heat from opposing street gangs off him. Denis Lefebvre’s business had been torched criminally, as well as Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau and Yves Denis’ residence. Benoit Denis’ residence would also succumb to flames for the sake of the drug war taking place in the Abitibi region, even though he had moved close to . It is not too hard to imagine who was the mastermind behind all these criminal torchings; Johnny ‘Le Notaire’ Coutu.

Johnny ‘Le Notaire’ Coutu. 1970-July 13th or 25th?, 2009.

Benoit Denis and the Val D’Or crew would then set their eyes on getting rid of Johnny ‘Le Notaire’ Coutu, since he was bringing so much hardship on their side. Coutu would be building a new home in Laval, a suburb of Montreal at the time and this is when the Val D’Or crew had decided to strike. In the middle of the day, while his eyes were set on his new home.

Police at Johnny Coutu’s Laval residence after finding several explosives in the house.

In July of 2009, Benoit Denis and Daniel Savard, participated in the manslaughter of Kevin ‘Le Chef’ Walters, would set out to murder Johnny Coutu. This time their attempt would take place in Laval, Quebec, where Coutu was building his new home. This was a contract ordered by Yves Denis, Benoit Denis’ half brother. A rifle would be placed in the woods in front of his home, if it was appropriate, Benoit Denis would take the shot, if not, Savard would run up on his with a pistol. If anything went south with those two methods, Denis would then run up on Coutu with a pistol and commit the murder. A 50,000$ contract was placed on Coutu’s head.

Johnny ‘Le Notaire’ Coutu

The day the hit had taken place, Benoit Denis was covered by the bushes in front of Coutu’s home. He could not take the shot. For one, it was too long of a distance to be accurate, and the second factor lied in a truck that was standing in the way between Coutu and Denis. This led to ‘plan b’ which was a close range shooting involving Savard. Savard ran up of Coutu, shooting him with the pistol supplied. Coutu was dead, but at the risk of two witnesses that have seen the murder. Savard was paid his 50k for the contract, but it is unknown whether this incident had lead the Savard to snitch, with the case having 2 witnesses to the homicide.

It didn’t matter to the higher ups though, they were more thrilled to learn that the head of the opposing drug-running crew in Abitibi had been severed.

In a world headed by murder, drugs and betrayal, even jealousy. It’s hard to keep your nose clean and stay on a steady path. Such was the case for Benoit Denis. Benoit had indulged a bit more than he should have in the powders and rocks that kept this business alive. Cocaine makes you talk, and talking gets you murdered. After the Coutu hit, Benoit Denis had formed a bad habit, smoking crack, sniffing cocaine and running his mouth about the wrong things. Yves Denis, his half brother, noted how more and more people in the little town up north were aware of Coutu’s murder, being told straight from the horse’s mouth. The horse being Benoit Denis.

Through a drug-addled haze Benoit Denis and some friends had even set-out a plan to rob Yves Denis, Denis Lefebvre along with Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau. He had planned to kidnap the trio nad hold them hostage all while toruting the trio with a torch and demanding money. Benoit Denis’ plan also consisted of exposing certain ‘figures’ or prominent people in the town of Val D’Or. This plan had never set flight.

In April of 2010, Yves Denis and Denis Lefebvre met Savard at a local park to speak about a contract Denis and Lefebvre wanted done. The contract consisted of an internal purge. They offered Savard 75,000$ to get rid of Benoit Denis, telling him, “Don’t miss, do the clean up”. Nearly a week and a half after, Savard was supplied with a pistol and a silencer for the job. Yves Denis personally supplied the firearm.

Benoit Denis’ grave which was unveiled by police the 19th of November, 2010.

Daniel Savard hesitated about taking Benoit Denis’ life, since he had befriended him and committed two murders with him throughout the years. He had no other option. He had gathered two other individuals for the hit and the four of them set out to a cottage in the Lanaudiere region of Quebec. He set out a false pretext in which they were going to go out kayaking and Benoit Denis had to take a shower before getting dressed in the wetsuit which wasn’t his. The cottage had belonged to one of the trio’s mother.

Left to right, Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau, Yves Denis & Denis Lefebvre

While Benoit Denis was taking his shower, Savard uncovered a pistol which lied underneath a pillow in one of the rooms. He then headed to the washroom with the wetsuit Denis was supposed to wear, folded in his hands on top of the pistol. Once Benoit Denis had gotten out of the shower, the informant dropped the wet suit and started pumping Denis with bullets. The hit had taken place at the beginning of the summer of 2010, on May 13th. The trio had then buried the body nearby the cottage, within a dozen meters, not even taking precaution to cover up their tracks.

Daniel Savard had confessed to working with the Montreal mafia during the late 2000’s, having worked with Vincenzo ‘Vince’ Morena. He was asked by Morena to commit the kidnapping of Mario Marabella, who was 40 at the time. The informant never managed to accomplish this task which was asked of in 2008.

Mario Marabella
Antonio ‘Tony’ Mucci

Daniel Savard was also contracted a hit by a man by the name of ‘Big Nick’, the hit was set out to kill one of the two Paul brothers for an opposing street gang in Montreal-North. The ‘Paul’ brothers were most likely Vick Severe Paul and Philistin ‘Crazy’ Paul.

Philistin ‘Crazy’ Paul

Lastly, Savard mentioned how he was supposed to take part in the contract killing of Mafia leader Tony Mucci, mafia leader close to the Rizzuto clam, which he could never accomplish as this took place at the same time that the Benoit Denis hit had taken place.

Antonio ‘Tony’ Mucci

Daniel Savard had signed a contract to work with police not too long after his arrest on the 29th of July in 2011, one year after authorities had executed ‘Projet Ecrevisse’ (Project Crayfish). All in all, the informant didn’t ask for much to rat out on the criminal network that was taking place in Val D’Or, and further more in Montreal. He was handed 50-100$ a month, with conjugal visits. 3500$ for his prison education along with 25$ a week for his son, until he reaches the age of 18. For a man who was being paid a grand a week, and 50,000-75,000$ a hit. This is a humble sum. Also considering the fact that the government nearly paid a quarter million to Serge Quesnel, a hitman for the Hells Angels in the mid ’90’s.

Val D’Or is literally a gold mine. Val, meaning valley and ‘d’Or’ mean ‘Of Gold’, Valley Of Gold. More than half of the town’s families had multiple family working in the gold mining trade. It was also a great place to immigrants, distraught from World War II to settle down, which brought a slew of multiculturalism to the town throughout the ’50’s and ’60’s. Which helped establish Val D’Or as a bilingual town, with an elementary school and high school, Golden Valley School, being a rare English institution in a far-away town located in the boonies.

Denis Lefebvre and Yves Denis had planned another shenanigan that was sure to rake in money, supplementary to the drug dealing going on in the region. Fittingly, they planned a gold heist and dubbed the plan ‘The Miracle’. A lot of thought had went into this plan, a group of robbers were supposed to get to a gold mine close by on snowmobiles, a recurring theme throughout the story, but remember, this takes place in the North of the North, were it regularly reaches temperatures of -40 Celsius in the winter.

Denis Lefebvre, Serge Pomerleau & Yves Denis

Once the robbers got to the mine, they would rob a number of gold bars in which Denis Lefebvre would be meeting them by helicopter and load the bars up. The night of the coup, one of the people responsible for getting the snowmobiles ready had forgotten to tank up the sleds with gas, this was debated in court. It’s hard to imagine a person involved in such a heist would forget to do something so vital for the plan. Might he have had a change on mind and done it on purpose to have not been implicated in the heist?

As with many major drug operations throughout Canada, it ends with a judge’s gavel. Before the heads of the operation had a court date, they were a slew of search warrants effected. October 6th, 2010 might as well have been known as ‘doomsday’ for the Val D’Or drug-running crew. How does such a big operation take place in the province of Quebec? With the help of the Hells Angels MC of course.

Starting at 7am, close to 400 officers of the SQ (Quebec Provincial Police) were involved in the search, seizures and arrests. Residents recalled the day, noting that there was a very heavy presence of police officers throughout the day. 51 people were arrested, 36 of which were part of the Denis Lefebvre clan. The operation aimed at dismantling 3 different drug distribution rings throughout the region. The heads of the two other operations were arrested as well, Luc Boulet and Michel Thibault.

The ‘big 3’ of the operation were also arrested, being Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau, Denis Lefebvre and Yves Denis, although authorities were lacking evidence to lock Pom Pom up, which would soon come as the result of the massive search and seizure which took place on October 6th. Thierry Beland was also arrested that day and was accused of being one of the heads of the operation along with the ‘big 3’ and Donald Rancourt.

Le Manoir, located at the center of 3rd Avenue, Val D’Or.

On the morning that authorities came knocking at Donald Rancourt’s door, Rancourt decided that this was a do-or-die situation, exiting his home with a pistol. Deciding to raise his pistol to the swarm of cops that had surrounded his home, authorities made a quick decision and shot him down, resulting in his death. Live by the gun, die by the gun.

Donald Rancourt, 1951-October 6th, 2010.

With the arrest of Serge Pomerleau, Denis Lefebvre and Yves Denis came a long judicial process that lasted several months. The secret was out in the open. Everything that the residents of the small town had talked about and spread rumor’s had become true. A story larger than life, a story stranger than fiction. 2 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of hash, 30 kilograms of mushrooms along with 300 marijuana plants had been seized in efforts of the operation. 75 firearms, in which two were automatic along with 12 prohibited firearms were also seized. 905,000$ was seized as well as a plane, a helicopter and a total of 41 vehicles.

Chateau Inn on 3rd Avenue, Val D’Or
Chateau Inn after being closed down in 2015.

A notable search warrant effected was at the Chateau Inn, located 748 3rd Avenue, owned by Josee Boutin at the time. Boutin was Pomerleau’s wife. The Chateau Inn was a prominent hotel within the town that had lasted nearly 80 years. The Red Light strip club had also been victim to the raids along with Le Manoir located on 909 3rd Avenue. The three establishments weren’t the only residences targeted. A total of nearly 40 other residences and business’s were targeted on October 6th, 2010.

Serge Pomerleau (right) heading to court for the murder of Johnny ‘Le Notaire’ Coutu.

Throughout the next several months Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau, 49 at the time would be sentenced to 22 years. Denis Lefebvre, 53, would be sentenced to 20 years. Yves Denis, 35, would only be sentenced to 16 years. The trio would do their time at Orsainville minimum security prison in the region of the nation’s capitol in Quebec City.

Orsainville Prison
Orsainville Prison

Three years had gone by, mostly quiet, in relation to correctional institutions. With only one spectacular prison escape happening in March of 2023. 2 inmates had managed to escape when a rope was hung out of a helicopter that manages to hover above a St. Jerome detention center. Nearly a year and a half after later, another helicopter prison escape, which took place in the F-North yard of Orsainville prison, in June of 2014. The inmates involved, who had managed to escape, were Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau, Denis Lefebvre and Yves Denis.

The helicopter pilot had managed to gain access to the F-North yard on Orsainville, minimum security prison on. The helicopter pilot consisted of Denis Lefebvre’s son, Maxime Lefebvre, who was only 26 years old at the time. This information was uncovered on the 9th of June. Were the trio inspired by the escape which happened a year before, only God knows.

The trio took refuge in a penthouse located in Old Montreal, more specifically in a luxurious apartment, treating their selves to the finest foods while they were out on-the-run. It didn’t take long before the authorities had figured out where they were, only a total of a week and a half to two weeks. On the 22nd of June, at 1:30am, authorities found the fugitives and an old Montreal condo located on 370 Rue Saint-Andre.

It was only a few days later that Denis Lefebvre and Yves Lefebvre were convicted of the murder of Kevin ‘Le Chef’ Walthers. The whole trio have been convicted of the Johnny ‘Le Notaire’ Coutu murder and also the Benoit Denis murder which took place a year after.

To end this story, we know Serge ‘Pom Pom’ Pomerleau is held at Donnacona Penitentiary after his attempt to escape. We do not know how many more years had been added onto his sentence after his escape, but we can only imagine he is on the verge of being released.

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