2013 update: Montreal bikers arrested in 2009 have trial date set for 2016. Judge says "reasonable time". Disclosure is a bit under 3 terabytes. That's 3 followed by 12 zeros.
Court study states that, if printed, the stack would be half way to the International Space Station and that the defence would need over 100 years to examine all the documents.
"Criminal activity will take place where people think they can make money and that's what it's all about . . . there's that economic aspect to it . . ."
-- RCMP Cpl. Brian Jones after three-force investigation and raid where $53,000 worth of weapons and drugs were siezed and 14 people were arrested.
Whose story is that? CBC Radio journalist Rosie Rowbotham
SASKATOON, January 5, 2003 - The "crackdown" on "organized crime" has hit Saskatchewan. Now that three people can constitute an "organization" all the public hysteria that has been created since the inception of the "war on drugs" to 9/11 is being brought to bear to build careers for a whole new generation of lazy cops, unethical prosecutors and the courts and jails for whom they provide the raw material.
It has long been the policy of the Saskatoon police to take television reporters along as they execute their warrents. The media obediently provides images to accompany the cops' carefully crafted statements. The public might be better served by an explanation of the information on which the warrants were obtained: often such warrants are in violation of charter rights and are issued by a Justice of the Peace, not a judge. Defence lawyers rarely challenge the validity of the warrants. There is little point because even when the warrants are found to be defective there is no remedy for the defendant. "Evidence" seized in illegal seizures is almost always admitted.
The media should reconsiders these "ride alongs." This is not independent reporting. The images from this particular bust made it to the national CTV news Tuesday morning. The pictures on this page are grabbed from the local TV reports. CBC carried a text report which is at the bottom of this page.
(A CTV reporter who spoke to us at our camp-out in Saskatoon today assured us that these pictures were not from a ride-along. This still leaves open the question of how these pictures get into the media.--Sheila Steele, June 16, 2003)
Those of us who live on Saskatoon's west side, where our homes are broken into regularly, where each spring brings a new crop of teenagers full of sass and not much else to join the crop before them who are under-educated, unemployed and often homeless, crashing where they can, casually stealing, smoking dope, getting into needle drugs, selling their bodies and having babies, are not reassured. Thefts from break and enters on the west side are not taken seriously. Most people don't even bother to report them any more, preferring instead to invest in sophisticated security equipment.
The crime which Saskatoon citizens endure is hardly organized: it is heartbreakingly disorganized by those who are struggling just to stay alive. Poverty is the ground in which it grows.
Those of us who have lived here for a while and have been paying attention know that hard drugs would never have taken root in this city without the police choosing to look the other way, and in some cases bringing the drugs in. That this particular raid seems to have been aimed mainly at marijuana would seem to be a last ditch chance to cash in before Canada wises up and decriminalizes it.
More, more, more
The police want more money for more cops, more equipment. They will no doubt be trotting out their call for a detox center again this January. In the meantime, many more lives have gone down the drain and proposals for detox centers are pitifully inadequate. This spectacular media show is designed to make an impression on the public, which is also being asked to support a downtown casino (now there's organized crime!) and is generally weary from watching our city go to a hell where there are no angels.
Acting Inspector Keith Atkinson was careful to say that this was not aimed at "any particular group" yet Hells Angels were all over the publicity. The same Hells Angels Brian Dueck threatened Kim Cooper's family with? The PR talks about a lengthy investigation and cooperation among three different police agencies -- Saskatoon and Regina City Police and the RCMP.
After all this build-up, it appears they have arrested 14 poor people and killed a dog.
We'll see how the public responds to the shooting of the dog. The RCMP got lots of sympathy when Keldon McMillan shot police dog Cyr, after the cops had sent the dog to attack him. The cops have a special memorial page for that dog and an anonymous donor gave bullet-proof vests to the canine unit.
It's possible that shooting people's dogs is not a popular thing to do in Saskatoon.
In today's case a policewoman shot the Rotweiller belonging to Ted Nagy, even though the dog was in a yard and warning signs were clearly present. They knew damn well Nagy wasn't home. His daughter, Jamie, who was home, stated the dog was not aggressive and a female police officer shot it in the head.
Fourteen people have been charged following police raids Sunday on 27 locations in Saskatchewan -- including Hells Angels clubhouses in Regina and Saskatoon.
More arrests and charges could follow in the days to come.
According to RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Brian Jones, 28 charges were laid following the early morning raids, which he called the culmination of a long-term investigation by RCMP and Regina and Saskatoon city police.
"It does send a message that our police forces are working hard and are working together to address and identify and move towards curtailing organized criminal activity in Saskatchewan," said Jones.
A stream of men and women in their 30s and 40s paraded before provincial court judges to face charges stemming from the searches.
Ten people made their first appearance in court Monday, including eight in Saskatoon and two in Regina.
Of 14 people arrested, 12 are from the Saskatoon area.
Of the suspects from the Saskatoon area who appeared before Judge Gerald Seniuk Monday morning, all but one were released from custody with the Crown's consent.
James (Jim) William Mallett, 42, was already facing four counts of breach of undertaking, three counts of breach of probation, and one count of possession of a narcotic for the purpose of trafficking at the time of the raids.
He is now also charged with possession of stolen property valued under $5,000, careless storage and unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of a weapon while prohibited, new breaches of an undertaking and probation, simple possession of marijuana and possession for the purpose of trafficking, as well as possession of the proceeds of trafficking.
Mallett is scheduled for a bail hearing Wednesday.
Darren Harper, 32, was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon -- a Taser -- and possession of a weapon while prohibited. He returns to court Feb. 6.
Leonard Lahonin, 45, is charged with obstructing justice by providing a false name to police. He returns to court Jan. 15.
Pio Guiseppe Merla, who turns 39 on Wednesday, is charged with simple possession of marijuana. His next court date is Feb. 10.
Theodore Frank Nagy, 43, is charged with simple possession and producing cannabis resin, otherwise known as hashish. His next court date is Feb. 10.
Audrey May Nooy, 39, is charged with possession of a bike and a fleece jacket obtained through crime, as well as simple possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, and possession of the proceeds of trafficking. She returns to court Feb. 10.
Kenneth Richard Obrigavitch, 47, and Bernice Cecilia Vesty, 42, are charged with production of marijuana and possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Both were released from custody to live on an acreage near Dundurn, under conditions that they abstain from drugs and allow police to search their home or vehicles without a warrant.
Obrigavitch was also required to post a non-cash bail of $2,500 and report to Saskatoon police upon his release. His mother also posted a surety to guarantee his attendance, court heard. Both he and Vesty are scheduled to appear before a judge again on Feb. 13.
Four other Saskatoon suspects were charged with drug possession in connection with the raids. They were not held in custody, and their names will not be released until they appear in court sometime over the next two months.
More than $53,000 worth of drugs, mostly marijuana, was seized in the raids, along with cash and property.
Investigators have declined to reveal the locations of the searches, although news outlets have reported sites included an acreage outside Saskatoon, and the Hells Angels clubhouse in Holiday Park.
Some of the locations have not been disclosed because searches did not result in seizures, Saskatoon police spokesperson Sgt. Keith Atkinson said Monday.
The Regina searches involved seven locations in the city and one in the area, Regina Police Service spokesperson Sgt. Rick Bourassa said.
About a pound of marijuana was seized in the Regina raids, Bourassa said.
Atkinson said police have never alleged that all of the suspects arrested in the investigation are connected to the Hells Angels, although some of them may be.
"We weren't targeting any specific group or group of individuals, and if some people may have been part of an identifiable organized crime group, that was (discovered as) a result of the investigation. It wasn't a result of targeting," he said.
REGINA/SASKATOON - Twenty-eight drugs and weapons charges were laid after a police crackdown on organized crime in Saskatoon and Regina.
The charges follow a number of raids carried out early Sunday morning on clubhouses owned by the Hells Angels.
Police found some weapons and drugs valued at about $53,000. Police recovered mainly marijuana in Regina and found cocaine and marijuana in Saskatoon. Twelve people were charged in Saskatoon and two others were charged in Regina.
Saskatoon Acting Inspector Keith Atkinson won't say if any of the charges stemmed from raids there. In Regina, city police and RCMP are reluctant to say if the raids involved Hells Angels.
RCMP Corporal Brian Jones is calling the raids a crackdown on organized crime.
"We're not characterizing yesterday's efforts by any group or any identifiable group that the public may care to identify them. Our efforts were directed at organized criminal activity," Jones says.
Jones says the investigation was focussed in Saskatchewan only and did not involve police agencies from other provinces.
The targets of police raids included Hells Angels clubhouses in Saskatoon and Regina. Both local police and the RCMP coordinated the raids.
TORONTO - From a distance, it looks much like any other warehouse situated within this industrial patch of Toronto. But its gothic sign and menacing sculpture of a winged skeleton head at the doorway are an emphatic proclamation: The Hells Angels have arrived.
It's a dramatic evolution for Canada's most notorious outlaws. The biker gang, which once confined its criminal activities to a small part of the country, is morphing into a national force. Now, as Hells Angels pockets spring up in Toronto, Winnipeg, and beyond, law-enforcement officials are trying to put the lid on things before the bloody biker wars of Quebec spill over into the rest of Canada.
"The bullets have started to fly across the country," says veteran biker investigator Guy Ouellette, now retired from the Quebec police force, who followed the gang's activities for more than a decade. "These guys are greedy. They're looking for a bigger piece of the pie. And they now want their flag in every province."
Members of the biker group deny that they promote violence - or that they are staging a turf war across the country. Many say they simply enjoy membership in the organization and do not circumvent the law.
But over the past decade, members of the Hells Angels were locked in a violent turf war in Quebec with a rival biker group - the Rock Machine - for control of Quebec's billion-dollar drug trade. The death toll in the conflict, which has died down, has been staggering; 162 dead since 1994, including an 11-year-old boy who was hit by shrapnel. A local journalist was also gunned down in 2000 for an exposé he wrote on the group.
The death figures far outnumber those in the United States, according to the experts, largely because of the unparalleled gang wars of the past decade.
With a number of high-profile prosecutions under way in Quebec - on the heels of the conviction of Hells Angels leader Maurice "Mom" Boucher last year - the gang has set its sights on national expansion.
More than a quarter of the world's 2,200 Hells Angels members live in Canada, where they have 34 chapters. Their Canadian presence is eclipsed in terms of worldwide membership only by the US's 60 chapters.
While the gang's Canadian tentacles now stretch from the waterfront in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the western ports of Vancouver, its most rapid growth has been in Ontario. The richest and most populous province in Canada, Ontario had no members three years ago, but is now home to 40 percent of the gang's Canadian membership, or 270 bikers.
Julian Sher, coauthor of a new book on biker gangs, says poor police work and infighting, combined with a weak justice system, have contributed to the unfettered violence and growth of the organization.
He says the Canadian Hells Angels are far more organized than those in the United States. "In the States there is still this myth of the easy rider. They're the bad boys, the rogues who might drink too much booze, but not organized criminals," Mr. Sher says. "In Canada, they are now recognized as not only criminal, but as the only national organized crime group in the country."
A bid to improve their image
In Ontario, the Hells Angels have been trying to fight this image, engaging in a public-relations war in the wake of more than 10 years of bad publicity in Quebec. They've donated money to local children's charities and had their pictures taken shaking the hands of local politicians.
Donny Petersen, Ontario spokesman for the Hells Angels, says he's a typical member. "I'm 56 years old and I've been a biker for most of my life. And I don't have a criminal record. I think that tells you everything you need to know," Mr. Petersen says, "We don't engage in violence. That just boggles my mind that people think we do."
But Detective Sgt. Scott Mills of the Ontario Provincial Police says the Hells Angels are remaking themselves in a bid to protect several billion dollars in illicit profits from drugs, pornography, and prostitution. "These guys look more like bankers than bikers these days," he says. "They're constantly evolving, trying to protect their franchise."
Provincial police have recently banded together in a bid to stem the rapid advance of the Hells Angels franchise. Hoping to thwart the kind of bloodletting that Quebec saw, 18 law- enforcement units have united to combat motorcycle gangs.
In Winnipeg, Manitoba, where new Hells Angels chapters are also assembling, the official mood has been decidedly more confrontational. Since 2001, there have been more than dozen gang-related attempted murders, and three unsolved murders said to be linked to the Angels.
Tough antigang laws
Manitoba has reacted by passing the toughest antigang laws in the country, designed to stop gang members from operating retail stores and wearing gang colors in bars. Nearly three weeks ago, the government also proposed new legislation, expected to pass, that would strip gang members of their assets even if they were not convicted of an offense.
Manitoba Justice Minister Gordon Mackintosh makes no apologies for what his government is doing. "Our approach is to help create a hostile environment for organized crime in this province," Mr. Mackintosh says.
At the federal level, Ottawa enacted Bill C-24 about a year ago to give police and prosecutors powers to crack down on organized crime. These include meting out heftier sentences for those convicted, and stronger protection for witnesses and jurors. Police also have new powers to commit crimes, such as purchasing drugs, during undercover operations.
Sher welcomes these measures. "This is not a Hollywood movie where the good guys win," he says. "We don't know who is going to win overall. We should all be concerned."