Paul Virgona’s family will likely never have an answer as to why the shopkeeper was murdered in cold blood on a Melbourne motorway nearly four years ago.
But they have a closure, with their Mongolian bicycle killers sentenced to decades behind bars for a crime that can only be explained as a case of mistaken identity.
Aaron Ong was jailed for 35 years on Thursday by Victoria High Court Justice Christopher Beale, while Josh Rider was sentenced to 30 years.
They had watched Mr Virgona’s Croyden home for hours before following him as he left to collect the day’s fruit and vegetable orders for his business at 2am on 9 November 2019.
At Eastlink, his stolen Mercedes pulled up next to Mr. Virgona’s truck and the passenger fired 11 shots from a semi-automatic pistol.
Two motorcyclists who murdered innocent storekeeper Paul Virgona will spend decades in jail. Mr. Virgona’s wife, Antonietta, sobbed outside court as she revealed the pain her family has endured.
Paul Virgona died after 11 shots were fired at his truck from a semi-automatic pistol
It is unclear which of the men was the shooter and who was driving.
At least seven shots hit Virgona, whose truck spun out of control.
Police found him dead at the wheel, with his illuminated phone in his lap.
Virgona’s wife, Antonietta, sobbed outside the courthouse as she revealed the pain her family had endured.
“Paul was an incredible person, he was a loyal, hard-working man who, in all of this, was innocent and didn’t deserve it,” he said.
‘Paul will be missed every day of our lives. He was just everything.
“We are relieved of the result and that it is behind us.”
Mr. Virgona’s family packed the court’s public gallery for the hearing, sitting alongside a dozen Ong and Rider supporters.
There was nothing to explain why he had been attacked and killed.
He had no Mongolian biker or criminal associations, unlike Ong and Rider.
Ong’s lawyer admitted that the shooting occurred in the context of motorcycle club activity, but was “almost certainly a case of mistaken identity.”
Rider, now 33, joined the Mongols at the age of 19 or 20 and told a psychologist he was considering leaving the club, but they had supported him and his partner while he was in prison, and that leaving would have a price.
A friend who warned him not to join said he was not surprised by the murder charge.
Ong, 37, had been a Mongols associate since 2015 and received the patch two years later.
Josh Rider, left, was sentenced to 30 years in prison while his accomplice Aaron Ong, right, was jailed for 35 years.
He has not disowned the club and rather than downplay their association, Ong and his lawyer spoke about their love of motorcycles, Judge Beale said.
“Your association with the Mongols has been disastrous,” he said.
You would do well to resolve, once and for all, any association you have with the Mongols or their members.
Mr. Virgona’s children, Luca and Giulia, appeared in court for the sentencing. They were only 17 and 14 years old when their father died.
“He was a very devoted father, husband, everything,” said Mrs. Virgona.
‘He was just everything.’
Rider, who pleaded guilty to murder days before a joint trial with Ong was set to begin, was ordered to serve at least 21 years.
Ong, who was convicted at trial, must serve at least 25 years and six months before being eligible for parole.