|A member of the Hells Angels parks his motorcycle along Bernard Avenue last year when a number of the club's members were in town to celebrate the Kelowna chapter's 25th anniversary. The Hells Angels are our 2012 Newsmaker.|
The notorious motorcycle club had what the Queen would call an annus horribilis, ending with provincial and federal authorities announcing they plan to seize the Kelowna chapter's clubhouse on Ellis Street as the proceeds of crime.
In a year that saw numerous headlines about the gang, the biggest story involved criminal charges laid against two top-level Angels in Kelowna and others after a two-year investigation that covered the U.S., Panama, Mexico and Canada.
Investigators allege the men were growing pot in the Southern Interior and preparing to buy 500 kilograms of cocaine worth $15 million from crime groups south of the border.
In August, police searched five B.C.
locations, including the Kelowna clubhouse, and seized an assault rifle, handguns and nearly $4 million in cash. Mounties arrested Kelowna vice-president David Giles and full-patch member Bryan Oldham. Both are charged with trafficking, conspiracy and committing crimes on behalf of a criminal organization, the Hells Angels.
Perhaps a speech in Kelowna by Vancouver Sun reporter Kim Bolan was a harbinger of the charges to come. Bolan told a Crime Stoppers' luncheon in January that violent gang crime like the Jonathan Bacon murder outside the Delta Grand hotel in 2011 can happen in any B.C. city.
"People should understand what's going on . . . These guys are around here. You see them on the ski hill; you see them on the Jet Skis," said Bolan, who has covered gang wars involving the HA, the Bacon brothers' Red Scorpions, Indo-Canadian Mafia, Independent Soldiers and UN gang.
The Bacon murder was a game-changer for Kelowna. Ruthless violence in broad daylight was no longer a disease of the Lower Mainland. The brazen shooting terrified scores of people nearby, and prompted the RCMP's Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit's Gang Task Force to scrutinize organized crime in this city like never before.
The gunman who killed Bacon also shot Larry Amero, then a full-patch member of the HA's White Rock chapter, in the leg and upper body. Leah Hadden-Watts, 21, whose uncle Michael James "Spike" Hadden is a full-patch member of the Angels' Haney chapter, was shot in the neck and paralyzed.
Amero later moved to Montreal. Last month, he was among 103 people arrested in a series of raids against an alleged consortium of organized-crime groups that had tentacles stretching from Mexico to Montreal. Police said the Hells Angels as well as Italian and Irish mafia were involved.
The consortium hatched its plan in B.C. and moved east, police said. It raked in an estimated $50 million in six months with a capacity to import and distribute 75 kilograms of cocaine each week. Police seized an arsenal of weapons, including 400 firearms as well as explosives like 1,486 sticks of dynamite.
Closer to home, the RCMP clamped down on the Hells Angels in Kelowna.
In late August, Giles was convicted of impaired driving, fined $1,150 and barred from driving for a year. He was slapped with the more serious criminal charges in September. Those charges identified the Hells Angels as a criminal organization. This month, Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board also designated the organization as criminal, which it hopes will speed up deportations of people associated with the group.
The clampdown didn't stop there. In September, RCMP announced they had busted a stolen-property network in West Kelowna with ties to biker gangs. The raid prompted the first charges of trafficking stolen property against a local business owner in the Interior.
The five-month investigation culminated on Aug. 2 with police recovering more than $750,000 worth of stolen property. Officers dismantled a Peachland grow-op and arrested John Edward Newcome, a Peachland businessman and purportedly an HA member.
RCMP stayed quiet about the arrest to give the Kelowna drug squad time to complete its probe of other members in town. Investigators spotted numerous members of criminal organizations, such as Hells Angels from Nanaimo and Calgary, and the Throttle Lockers and Kingpin Crew in Kelowna at Newcome's business, Cycle Logic. Two gang members from the Kingpin Crew and the Nanaimo chapter were employees there, allegedly processing stolen vehicles.
Three of the vehicles were seized from members of the Hells Angels in Calgary. The president of the Hells Angels chapter in Kelowna, not named by police, once reported his property was stolen. Two years later, it turned up at Cycle Logic.
As the year ended, the B.C. government announced it wants to seize Hells Angels clubhouses in Kelowna and Vancouver. The provincial director of civil forfeiture says the clubhouses have been used to engage in drug trafficking, assaults, extortion, uttering threats, manslaughter and murder. Named in the lawsuit is Giles and more than 20 other defendants.
Then the Canada Revenue Agency obtained a court order under the Income Tax Act against one of the owners of the Kelowna clubhouse for more than $319,000. The Federal Court of Canada signed off Sept. 20 on the CRA claim against Hans Frederick Kurth, an owner of the bikers' clubhouse at 837 Ellis St.
The taxman has now put a lien on Kurth's half-interest in the property, which is also the subject of the civil forfeiture suit. It is assessed at $503,000.
Giles has joined the battle against the CRA. The taxman claims Giles lied about his income between 2004 and 2008, failing to declare more than $1.1 million in "earnings from a drug trafficking business."
Court documents say Giles reported earnings of just $43,101 in 2004, $15,000 in 2005, $33,508 in 2006, $33,003 in 2007 and $13,503 in 2008.
"The appellant's reported income for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 was insufficient to support his personal expenditures of $185,947, $271,101, $78,961, $205,755 and $311,401 in those years," the government claimed.
The documents said Giles acquired high-value assets, including property, a boat and several motor vehicles. The allegations have yet to be proven in court.
- With files from The Canadian Press and Kim Bolan