Two Mongols bikies who lay in wait for Melbourne fruiterer Paul Virgona before gunning him down as he drove to work are guilty of his murder.
Josh Rider and Aaron Ong were charged with murdering the father of two as he drove along the EastLink Freeway at Donvale on November 9, 2019.
It can now be revealed while Rider pleaded guilty in secret to murder last month, Ong fought the charge at the Supreme Court of Victoria.
On Monday, a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict against Ong, setting him up for a significantly longer jail sentence than his bikie mate.
Mr Virgona was hit by seven bullets from a semi-automatic handgun.
The 46-year-old died from blood loss at the scene.
Josh Rider (left) and Aaron Ong (right) are charged with murdering the 46-year-old father of two as he drove along the EastLink Freeway at Donvale on November 9, 2019
Rider and Ong drove a stolen Mercedes to Mr Virgona’s Croydon home and waited until he left for a market at Epping around 2am.
They were accused of following him onto the freeway, pulling up alongside him and opening fire on the van.
Mr Virgona was found dead in the driver’s seat with his seatbelt on and the engine running.
His killers then dumped the Mercedes at a Mooroolbark paddock and used a 10 litre fuel container to set it on fire.
It is understood Mr Virgona had been the victim of mistaken identity.
Mr Virgona (pictured) was found dead in the driver’s seat with his seatbelt on and the engine running
The trial heard the men left in another stolen car, at times driving up to 150km/h, before losing control of that vehicle at Bayswater and running into a park.
The court was told they discarded the keys for the Mercedes along the way. A member of the public later found the keys and handed them to police.
Rider, now 31, and 36-year-old Ong were arrested on January 22, 2020.
The court was told they attended a Mongols clubhouse the night before the shooting and drove two stolen cars to Mooroolbark around midnight.
Ong had been defended by barrister Mark Gumbleton, who had tried to convince the jury his client had not been the other man in the car.
He had been linked to the murder from two bags of clothes that were dumped by one of the killers as police took chase.
Clothes in one belonged to Ong.
‘The evidence is really good that (Rider) was one of the two offenders,’ Dr Gumbleton told jurors.
‘That’s how I intend to close … that one of the two was Rider, but you couldn’t be satisfied that Ong was the other fellow.’
The vehicle Paul Virgona was in when he was attacked by Ong and Rider.
Josh Rider upon his arrest in 2020
Prosecutor Mark Gibson alleged Rider and Ong had been together at the club’s Port Melbourne premises in the hours before the shooting.
The jury heard the two men watched Mr Virgona’s Croydon home for two hours before following him when he left for work, bound for the Epping markets, at about 2am.
‘There was nothing in Mr Virgona’s background that explained why he was targeted and killed,’ Mr Gibson said.
Prosecutors also couldn’t say if it was Ong or Rider who fired the fatal shots.
‘One was driving and one was shooting,’ Mr Gibson told the jury.
The prosecution case was that each was complicit in Mr Virgona’s murder, having a joint intention to kill or really seriously injure him.
Dr Gumbleton didn’t dispute that there were two men in the car, or that Ong and Rider were associated.
‘But the criminal justice system isn’t based on guilt by association,’ he said.
‘Our defence is that Ong was not either of the two people in the Mercedes at the time the weapon was discharged.’
The court heard that after the shooting Ong and Rider returned to a Mooroolbark property where they had stored a getaway car.
Police tried to intercept that vehicle about an hour after the shooting and were led on a high-speed chase.
Two people fled the vehicle into Bayswater Park after crashing into a give way sign.
The gun used to kill Mr Virgona has never been found.
Ong will face a pre-sentence hearing in March.