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Cops make life hell for Angels

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Cancel the pig roast, scrap the poker run and forget about the Halloween bash -- the Hells Angels are not exactly in a partying mood. The Manitoba chapter can thank police and justice officials for raining on their annual parades and tearing apart what's left of their organization. The Free Press has uncovered details of a campaign being waged in the courts following a recent undercover sting that dealt a serious blow to the Hells Angels. At least seven members and associates have been arrested in recent weeks, despite no evidence they have committed crimes. More arrests are expected. All these people are being hit with rarely used peace bonds under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, which states they are likely to "commit a criminal offence for the benefit of a criminal organization." Sources say this is one of the first times Manitoba justice officials have used peace bonds to fight organized crime. All those arrested are held in custody until they deal with the court order, which officials traditionally use against high-risk sex offenders or convicted killers who have served every day of their sentence and are about to re-enter the community. Several Hells Angels members and associates who were arrested have agreed to the peace-bond terms and were released. But freedom comes with a hefty price. Terms of the year-long court orders include having no contact with any Hells Angels member or associate in the province -- a list of people that runs three typed pages and includes more than 50 names. Any breaches of the conditions would result in a stand-alone criminal offence and would be grounds for immediate arrest. The peace bonds have 13 other terms, including a midnight curfew and an order not to possess any gang clothing or paraphernalia. Police arrested nine Hells Angels members and associates last month as part of Project Flatlined and laid a number of drug and gang-related charges. Those arrested include president Dale Sweeney, who had several vehicles, including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, seized under the Criminal Property Forfeiture Act, which allows authorities to take possession of the proceeds of crime. The remaining few members and associates who weren't snared by the criminal investigation, including Sweeney's brother, Rod, are being caught in the peace-bond net. The result is that almost every person linked to the Manitoba Hells Angels is either in custody or barred from having contact with any other member or associate. Insp. Rick Guyader of the Winnipeg police organized crime unit said last month the Manitoba Hells Angels may be in violation of the biker gang's charter, which requires at least seven active members. Operation Flatlined was the fourth major bust of the Manitoba Hells Angels since 2006. Unlike in the previous roundups, police did not use a paid informant in Flatlined. Sources told the Free Press the undercover probe relied on court-ordered wiretaps that allowed police to gain insight and evidence. The Flatlined code name is a reference to the Redlined Support Crew, a puppet club of the Hells Angels. The Hells Angels created the Redlined gang in 2010 to stand up to other criminal networks that might muscle in on their drug turf after many of their members were arrested and jailed in the other police stings. At the top of the list of rival gangs was the Rock Machine, which waged war with the Hells Angels in Quebec during the 1990s but hasn't had much presence in Manitoba until recently. Tensions escalated last summer when more than a dozen reported incidents, including drive-by shootings and firebombings between Redlined and Rock Machine members, prompted police to canvass neighbourhoods where well-known biker-gang members lived to warn residents an active gang war was underway.


A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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