Winnipeg police believe they’ve taken yet another bite out of organized crime by once again infiltrating the Hells Angels.
More than 150 police officers, including members of the heavily-armed tactical unit, swooped across the city Friday in a series of raids aimed at disrupting the illegal workings of the outlaw motorcycle gang and their associates.
Police arrested 11 suspects in the culmination of an extensive undercover project called "Flatlined" which involved targeting high-level drug sales throughout the province. They include current Hells Angels president Dale Sweeney and his brother Rod, a full-patch member. More arrests are expected in the coming weeks, and police will be laying charges of drug trafficking, laundering and participating in a criminal organization.
The project name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Redlined Support Crew, which is currently serving as the so-called "farm club" of the Hells Angels. Members of the group spent much of 2011 engaged in a violent street war with rival members of the Rock Machine.
There were more than a dozen reported incidents including drive-by shootings and firebombings which prompted police to take the highly unusual step of canvassing specific neighbourhoods and warning citizens about the potential for danger.
Police have conducted three other major high-profile takedowns of the Hells Angels in the past decade which has severely disrupted the growth of the gang and resulted in many full-patch members and associates facing extensive prison time for drug deals which were caught on audio and video surveillance.
Police held a news conference Friday afternoon in which Insp. Rick Guyader said the arrests leave the Manitoba chapter of the Hells Angels with just four active members, which is less than the required seven needed to continue chapter status. Guyader said they will likely have to suspend operations until they can recruit new members.
Officers stormed inside homes in several city neighbourhoods, with perhaps the biggest bust coming in a newer development on Autumview Drive in Waverley West. That home is owned by Dale Sweeney, one of the longest serving members of the Hells Angels who took the helm as president in recent years.
Sweeney was taken into custody without incident, and police were seen removing two vehicles from his property. Police will likely move to seize plenty of property as part of the Criminal Property Forfeiture Act. Other raids were reportedly in North Kildonan and East Kildonan.
At one scene in the 800 block of Government Avenue in EK, seven police cruiser cars and two other heavy paneled vehicles kept a perimeter around a specific home located near the intersection of Besant. An ambulance also sat nearby. Police are monitoring traffic flow in the area and turning vehicles and pedestrians away.