Saturday, April 10, 2010
Hells Angels drug deals take place in the open, at restaurants and shops
Many of Winnipeg's most popular suburban restaurants, stores, shopping malls and entertainment outlets were used as the backdrop for the Hells Angels to conduct dozens of drug and weapons deals.
Court documents obtained Friday reveal the numerous locations where gang members and associates quietly did their business while under surveillance during a year-long police sting operation. Police arrested 34 suspects last December after trusted gangster Michael Satsatin agreed to become a paid secret agent and capture the inner workings of the criminal organization in exchange for $450,000 and witness protection.
Investigators seized 165 ounces of cocaine, 12 ounces of methamphetamine, 12,000 ecstasy tablets, one ounce of heroin and seven pounds of marijuana during their investigation, along with cash, firearms and gang paraphernalia. More than 300 Mounties and police from Winnipeg, Brandon, Ste. Anne and B.C. were involved.
Police detail every step of their undercover operation in hundreds of pages of search warrant affidavits, which were unsealed this week. One of the accused has pleaded guilty, while the other 33 remain before the courts.
Perhaps the most surprising venue for a drug deal was outside the Youth for Christ building on Talbot Avenue. The agent was told to meet one of the targets of the investigation in the parking lot just before 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 18. Plans had been made earlier in the day during a meeting at a Visions electronic store in St. James, according to police. The agent had already paid $5,000 as a down payment on five ounces of cocaine, which was placed inside his car by the target.
Another unlikely meeting spot was the Fort Rouge Recreation and Leisure Centre. The agent was given one ounce of heroin from a target in September 2009 in exchange for $7,000 cash. They also discussed a possible deal in which the target would obtain a Glock handgun and give it to the agent for $5,000. The pair had a followup meeting a week later at a Salisbury House restaurant, in which the target claimed he had obtained a .22-calibre handgun with a silencer and would sell it for $4,000. The agent declined, saying he only wanted a Glock.
Other deals monitored by police include:
-- The agent met with a target inside Joey's restaurant on Kenaston Boulevard in March 2009 and ordered 2,000 ecstasy tablets during their lunch. The target also discussed how he had easy access to false passports, guns, explosives, grenade launchers and numerous types of drugs.
-- The agent met with a target in the parking lot of Moxie's restaurant on Kenaston Boulevard in April 2009 and was given 5,000 ecstasy tablets in exchange for $5,000 cash.
-- The agent met with a target at the Boston Pizza on Kenaston Boulevard in June 2009 and ordered five ounces of cocaine. After receiving the drugs, the agent met with the target at the Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre to complain about the poor quality.
-- The agent met with a target on the patio at Earls on Main Street in September 2009. They discussed a future cocaine deal, but the target claimed the current price was too high, and the quality coming out of Mexico was too low.
-- The agent met with a target at a south end tanning salon in October 2009. The target brought his young daughter with him, who was present as he discussed an upcoming shipment of 3,500 ecstasy pills and a kilogram of cocaine that the agent said he was interested in purchasing. They had a followup meeting days later inside the Silver City Polo Park cinema, but no drugs were exchanged.
-- The agent met with a high-ranking Hells Angels member at the Falafel Place restaurant on Corydon Avenue in October 2009 to discuss various ongoing issues related to drug dealing within the gang.
-- The agent met with two targets at the Tim Hortons on Archibald Street in November 2009. The targets -- unaware they had already fallen into a trap -- complained to the agent about how they were "paranoid" because of previous police operations in which agents were used. "It's so hard to meet good people," one of the targets said.
Other revelations in the search warrants include a new Hells Angels policy to try beefing up their ranks after sting operations in 2006 and 2007 left the Manitoba chapter close to the minimum six members required to maintain chapter status.
They also document their dealings with Satsatin, who had no previous criminal record at the time he began working for the police operation in November 2008 but openly admitted to police he regularly sold drugs as part of his gang involvement.