Feature Articles

October 1999

Frank Peter ("Dunie") Ryan
Leader of Montreal's West End Gang.

By Wiseguy Wally

     Frank Peter Ryan was born on June 10, 1942 in Montreal. His father, Frank Sr, abandoned him at the age of three, leaving his mother to raise him alone. Frank was a quiet well behaved boy for most of his chilhood years until he reached adolescence.

     At the age of sixteen Dunie dropped out of school and began stealing racks of garments from trucks and doing smash-and-grabs in the fur district of Montreal. Even in his teens, he was very street wise was the leader of a admiring young band of thugs.

     Ryan didnt have much luck in the 1960s and was convicted of crimes several times. He served two years in St. Vincent de Paul for theft with violence and was convicted of burglary and possession of stolen goods in 1964. In 1965, Dunie accidently killed a drunk with his 1964 Pontiac Bonneville convertible. Although the case was overturned on appeal, Peter always felt he was discriminated against because of who he was.

     In 1966, Ryan was convicted, along with four other Montrealers and a Boston gangster, for a bank robbery in Massachusetts. He was paroled in December 1972 and married Evelyn Lemieux, a beautiful redhead from the Gaspesie area.

     By now, Dunie Ryan was holding up jewelry stores and shylocking. With a small crew now under his control, he started exploring the narcotics trade. He began importing hashish and later moved into heroin and cocaine. This made Ryan a rich man and it was rumored that he buried his money to keep Police from finding it.

     By 1979, the West End Gangs main source of income was narcotics-mainly hashish- and Ryan quickly emerged as the leader. He set up a drug network that extended into the Maritimes and Ontario.

     Dunie riding high, making millions, and fearless. When warned that a gang member had offended the mafia in Florida, Ryan replied: "Mafia, pafia. If there's a war, we've got the IRA." He was worth a reported $20 million and carried about $500 thousand in a briefcase at all times.

     When a member of his own gang, Hughie McGurnaghan, screwed him out of drug money, Ryan hired Hells Angels hit man, Yves "Apache" Trudeau, to make an example. McGurnaghan was blown up while entering his Mercedes in Westmount.

     Other criminal organizations in Montreal began to feel that Ryan had controlled too much of the drug trade for too long. He was unwilling to share with the Cotroni family or the Hells Angels. But when urged to withdraw from the drug trade, Ryan replied "If your tap was flowing $100 bills, would you turn it off? I've got 300 guys working for me. What are they gonna do?"

     On November 13, 1984, Dunie was in his office at Nittolo's Jardin Motel, which he owned, when he was approached by Paul April, a French-Canadian mobster. April told Ryan that he had a attractive young woman waiting for him in one of the hotel rooms. Ryan let his guard down and followed him into the room. Robert Lelievre, another French-Canadian gangster, lurked inside. The duo planned to tape Ryan to a chair and learn where he kept hid money. The Irish gangster fought back though, swinging a chair at them. Lelievre fired a shotgun shell through his chest. As he lay dying, Ryan was shot in the face with a .45-calibre automatic handgun. They murdered the king pin of the West End Gang to erase a $200 thousand debt owed to him.

     After the murder, April was boasting "I killed the king and now I'm king" all around Montreal. That proved to be his downfall. Allan "The Weasel" Ross, who took over as the new leader of the West End Gang, approached Yves "Apache" Trudeau about killing April and Lelievre. Ross offered the Hells Angels hit man $200 thousand. On November 25, 12 days after Ryans murder, April, Lelievre and two other men were blown up in a downtown apartment.

     At the time of his death, Frank Peter Ryan, age fourty two, was worth between $50 and $100 million dollars. Dunie had once told a girlfriend he planned to "live fast, love hard, and die young". In the end, he did just that.

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