Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Warriors, Angels partners in crime

Aboriginal gang 'back in business'

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Manitoba Warriors are once again a viable force in the city's criminal underworld as they slide under the wing of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang, Winnipeg police sources say.

"Most are out of jail and they're back in business," a police source said. "They've been rebuilding and they've gotten smarter."

Police say the Manitoba Warriors, targets of Nov. 4, 1998's massive police raid dubbed Northern Snow, are restructuring themselves under the Hells Angels, expanding a criminal network in the province that extends to rural areas and reserves.

The developing alliance between the internationally connected Hells Angels and aboriginal-based Manitoba Warriors broadens the scope of the Angels and their chief enterprise -- drug trafficking.

"The whole picture is blurred," a police source said. "You've got the Indian Posse, the Native Syndicate, the Deuce out there, too, and the Warriors now vying for favoured status under the Hells Angels."

A suspect in Friday night's shooting of RCMP Const. Mike Templeton is described by police sources as a "full-blown" member of the Warriors. Police say Daniel Joseph Courchene, 25, has a Manitoba Warriors tattoo, or "backpack," across his back.

Courchene was not prosecuted under Northern Snow because he was already in jail serving a six-year sentence for his involvement in the Headingley jail riot in 1996.

Another crime group linked to the Angels is the Zig Zag Crew, a group of about 40 young men who are believed to do grunt work for the motorcycle gang -- so-called "working status."

Sources say Warriors members were seen with Hells Angels and Zig Zag Crew at a recent boxing event. The three gangs had each bought tables beside each other.

Police sources say the Warriors are aligning themselves with the Hells Angels for one reason -- money.

It's unlikely any of them will rise in the gang hierarchy to become Hells Angels, as the biker gang has traditionally restricted membership to whites.

"There's huge money to be made," a police source said, adding most of it is earned selling crack cocaine. "It's the one thing they can do without working very hard."

Thirty-five members of the Manitoba Warriors, plus 15 lower-level associates, were scooped up in the police dragnet three years ago and charged under then-new federal anti-gang legislation. It was the first time the new law had been used in Canada.

The suspects faced a total of 142 criminal charges, including drug trafficking, weapons possession, fraud, conspiracy and prostitution.

However, the most serious charge they faced was being involved in a criminal organization, which carried a maximum 14-year sentence. None of the accused was granted bail after their arrests.

The then-Filmon government built a special $3.6-million courthouse in Fort Garry to prosecute the gang members. However, most of the accused opted to plead guilty to mostly drug-related charges before their cases got to trial.

Only two members received lengthy sentences -- eight and nine years. Most received lesser sentences and because of time spent in pre-trial custody, most are now on parole.

A police source confirmed their intelligence indicates most of those sentenced are back on the street, with some apparently reverting to their criminal ways.

"They're smarter," a source said. "They learned how to defend themselves from being prosecuted."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2002 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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