Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drug trade triggers horror

Bid for revenge sees innocent woman, 18, kidnapped and raped

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SUSPECTED drug traffickers out for revenge kidnapped and raped an 18-year-old woman whose only connection to an earlier drug robbery was the colour of her skin -- she's black like the robbers -- police said yesterday.

They say the attack is an example of how innocent people can be victimized by those involved in Winnipeg's drug trade -- a trade police say is partly controlled by the Hells Angels.

"This is an example of what can go wrong," Winnipeg police Major Crime Insp. Blair McCorrister said.

"It's horrendous, what followed. People should be outraged."

Four men are in custody, all facing kidnapping and extortion charges.

One is also charged with sexual assault with a firearm.

The teen rape victim was threatened with death and ordered to pay $4,000 to her captors, according to court documents obtained yesterday by the Free Press.

Police say the woman was kidnapped April 7 from a city residence by three men armed with guns. Court documents reveal a semi-automatic pistol and imitation handgun were used.

Earlier, two men armed with guns had forced their way into a home on Mapleglen Street in the Maples area of the city and stole $3,000 in cash and half a pound of marijuana from a man police believe is an associate of the Hells Angels.

McCorrister said the woman was abducted because the suspects thought she knew who stole the marijuana and money.

Police say the three kidnappers took the woman to various locations as they conducted a citywide search for the drug robbery culprits. She was constantly threatened with death along the way.

The men took her back to her home several hours later, where her ordeal continued.

Police say one of the men raped her at gunpoint, demanded she pay them money, and threatened to return if they didn't get the stolen marijuana and money back.

The woman and her boyfriend went into hiding and did not immediately report to police what had happened.

Police say the pair came forward about two weeks ago after they got another death threat. An investigation began and police made the arrests Thursday night.

One of the suspects has a "strong association" with a member of the Hells Angels, according to police.

During their investigation this week, police seized 6.35 kilograms of "magic (psilocybian) mushrooms" from a River Heights residence.

The mushrooms are worth $100,000 on the street and also believed to be property of the Hells Angels, police said yesterday. It is one of the largest seizures of its kind in Manitoba. Police also seized a hockey bag stuffed with magic mushrooms packaged in plastic bags from an Ash Street address.

It's believed the mushrooms grew naturally in British Columbia and were recently picked. "Shrooms" sell for about $15 a gram, mostly to high school students, and produce a feeling of giddiness and increased emotional sensitivity.

During the Thursday night arrests, police also seized a Mountie-issued bulletproof vest. The seizure of the vest set off alarm bells for police, who already believe bikers in Manitoba are carrying several high-powered firearms that were stolen from a home last year.

RCMP Sgt. Steve Saunders couldn't explain yesterday how police equipment landed in the hands of a biker associate. He said further details would be available Monday.

McCorrister said the attack on the woman may be a sign of more violence to come as people in the drug world increasingly arm themselves to protect their stashes or intimidate people.

"We see a rising potential for violence," McCorrister said.

"Our officers are seeing more weapons during searches, particularly at (marijuana) grow operations. The weapons are there to prevent break-ins and rip-offs."

Two years ago, a high-ranking member of the Hells Angels was charged with extortion in a case in which a 30-year-old woman allegedly signed away custody of her six-year-old son to cover part of her ex-husband's $8,000 drug debt.

McCorrister said yesterday police are also worried about the well-being of the two unknown men behind the original Mapleglen drug theft.

"There is a real concern for the safety of these people, or other parties that may be (alleged) to be involved," he said.

The four men arrested are:

* Jason Hamilton Masniuk, 28, who is charged with kidnapping, extortion, sexual assault with a firearm, possession of goods obtained by crime and trafficking;

* Jesse Jon Rushford, 22, who is charged with kidnapping and extortion;

* Belarmine Roque, 21, who is charged with kidnapping and extortion; and

* Richard Samuel Armstrong, 27, who is charged with kidnapping and extortion.

All have been detained in custody and will appear in court Monday. Police say more arrests are possible.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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