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Monday, 8 June 2009

Raids in Quebec targeted Hells Angel gangs drug trade and members last Wednesday, the Ontario government seized the Niagara chapter's clubhouse.

Raids in Quebec targeted Hells Angel gangs drug trade and members last Wednesday, the Ontario government seized the Niagara chapter's clubhouse. "This is just another blow to them," said OPP Det.-Sgt. Len Isnor, head of Ontario's multi-police force Biker Enforcement Unit. On May 26, the 14-year anti-biker investigator joined a B.C. colleague before a parliamentary committee which was debating whether to name the Hells Angels an organized crime group in the Criminal Code. "If they schedule them as a criminal organization, we won't have to go through the five-month process (to prove the motorcycle gang is a criminal group), tying up the courts," Isnor told the Sun, comparing the current lengthy court process to concluding "water is wet."
At present, each time a Hells Angel is convicted, police and prosecutors must prove -- under a 1997 law -- that he operated for the gang's benefit, plus the gang's ranking as an organized crime organization. Once found guilty, however, the law requires longer, consecutive prison sentences. But Isnor predicted if Parliament approves the change, it will face a constitutional challenge, "since it involves a person, not a substance like cocaine." Revving up charges against organized crime has been a big factor in keeping Hells' membership almost stagnant, he said. Criminalizing the gang will be the first big change to federal organized crime laws in 12 years. Seizing the Welland clubhouse June 1 -- the fourth taken over under Civil Remedies for Illicit Activities (CIRA) legislation -- was the latest blow in the province.
The Hells have about 170 "full-patch" Ontario members plus countless associates in biker and non-biker gangs eight years after gaining their first foothold, Isnor said. "Most of them are in the Toronto area," with four chapters here -- in Oshawa, Woodbridge, Keswick and Simcoe County.

Other CIRA seizures since 2006 included Oshawa, Thunder Bay and London clubhouses.
A court ruled last year the Oshawa property on Ortono Ave. could be sold, Isnor said. It remains on the market. Police arrested 30 members in the Oshawa raid.
In April 2007, police seized the Hells' downtown Toronto chapter clubhouse on Eastern Ave. as an offence-related property, $500,000 cash, nine kilos of cocaine, over 80 weapons and 500 litres of the date-rape drug GHB. Isnor said the building's status "is still before the courts" until it is ruled as an asset of crime, and several chapter members pleaded guilty to crimes; others still face trials.
Criminologist Stephen Schneider, author of the recent book Iced: The Story of Organized Crime in Canada and a Saint Mary's University professor in Halifax, said police have done a better job targeting bikers in recent years. Focusing on undermining chapters, investigators "learned their lesson." In his book, experts say police and the justice system "dropped the ball" 20 to 30 years ago by letting bikers -- especially the U.S.-founded Hells -- spread their dark wings.
There are numerous motorcycle gangs, but
the Hells "are the biggest in the world," with about 3,000 members in 248 chapters based in 30 countries, plus a network of associates. Isnor said.

More than one-quarter of Canada's 450 Hells are in Ontario, Schneider said.
For decades, the gang nibbled at the province's lucrative drug, prostitution, loan-sharking and auto-theft underworld, succeeding only after recruiting arch-rivals. Boasting about 100 Hells, the "highest concentration of Hells Angels in the world," Schneider said Toronto "was always the jewel in the crown for every biker gang."
With police recruiting informers and officers keeping a close eye on chapters, some spurned the Hells, but Isnor said the gang moves members to bolster ranks reduced by arrests -- as they did in Niagara. Eroded by members being jailed, that chapter became leaderless this March when founder and clubhouse part-owner Gerald "Skinny" Ward, 61, was sentenced to the equivalent of nine years and his lieutenant, Ken Wagner, 43, was sentenced Oct. 7 to the equivalent of 11 years. They orchestrated delivery of four kilos of high-grade cocaine in 2005 and 2006 to Oshawa member Steve Gault, who became a police informant. More important, they got stiffer terms after Justice John McMahon agreed the Hells fit the description of a criminal organization. Five-to eight-year terms were also meted out to 15 other Hells, including three Niagara members. In court, Gault warned the Hells controlled Niagara's drug trade and "they'll kill ... pointblank" anyone trying to cut in.
Officials said Wagner's sentence was the first in Canada for directing others in activities to benefit a biker organization. When Steven "Tiger" Lindsay and Ray Bonner of the Woodbridge chapter were convicted of extortion, their sentencing in 2005 recognized for the first time that a Hells committed a crime as part of a gangster group, Schneider wrote. The law required the judge to order consecutive sentences instead of normal concurrent terms, ensuring longer jail time. Lindsay got six years instead of four, Bonner got three instead of two. Within six months, police targeting major drug trafficking raided Hells and associate clubhouses in B.C., arrested three in Manitoba, plus 27 in Northern Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. Five were Thunder Bay members, including Cambridge restaurateur Andre Watteel, an ex-Satan's Choice member who later led the Hells in Kitchener. After paying a fine and being granted jail time already served, Watteel recently moved to Niagara to help keep its required six-member chapter status secure, Isnor said.
"The Hells Angels are unprecedented in the annals of Canadian organized crime in that they are the first truly national criminal organization, with cells and/or associates in every province and territory," Schneider writes. "Canada has become somewhat of an international stronghold for the motorcyle club."

The cops are increasingly watching, ready to move when their intelligence networks yield sufficient evidence to unseat a chapter, he said. In the first of two days of raids in Quebec last Wednesday, which resulted in 46 arrests of mostly Hells and associates, more than 600 officers seized a suspected gang-linked cocaine and tobacco fortress on the Kahnawake reserve that served the streets of Montreal. Police seized cocaine, pot, Ecstasy, tobacco, cash, plus a dozen guns. Suspects included an Ontario-based Hells living in Montreal, plus Salvatore Cazetta, 55, co-founder of the Rock Machine gang -- who joined the rival Hells after the Quebec war. Cazetta was associated with Maurice "Mom" Boucher, 66, later the Hells' brutal boss in Quebec, who masterminded the bloody gang war after Cazetta was jailed in 1994.
Rounded up in a Hells sweep of 150 gang members in April, Cazetta was awaiting a bail hearing on drug trafficking charges when arrested in jail last Wednesday and accused of ties with several associates in the Kahnawake warehouse. On the lam for importing 11 tonnes of cocaine until arrested in Fort Erie in 1994, he was extradited to the U.S. and sentenced in 1999 to 12 years after pleading guilty to drug trafficking. Montreal police Insp. Bernard Lamothe told a news conference the Hells set up "business links" with two arrested Kahnawake residents and ran a drug network "in several places throughout Quebec."

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