Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Former Hells Angel leader gets 11 years

Sweeney accepts plea, admits running drug operation

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The former president of the local Hells Angels was given an 11-year prison sentence Monday for running a lucrative cocaine operation in the city.

Dale Sweeney showed no emotion as Justice Richard Saull handed down the sentence, which was the result of a plea bargain between defence and Crown counsel.

Sweeney was one of 11 suspects arrested in March 2012 following a lengthy Winnipeg police investigation dubbed Project Flatlined.

Sweeney pleaded guilty to charges of trafficking cocaine and possession of proceeds of crime. He admitted in court he ran the sophisticated drug-dealing operation, which saw between one and two kilograms of cocaine being sold every month on Winnipeg streets between May 2011 and February 2012.

Sweeney was buying the cocaine from suppliers in British Columbia and then handing it off to the Redlined Support Crew, the puppet gang of the Hells Angels, who turned the cocaine into crack cocaine and sold it in smaller amounts through street dealers.

Court was told the illegal operation was generating sales of more than $100,000 every month.

Saull said Sweeney was the boss of the illegal operation. Court was told the group was receiving upwards of 500 calls per day on dedicated cellphones for street dealers.

Sweeney was communicating with and giving orders to underlings using cellphones with software that encrypted the text messages. Winnipeg police were able to break the encryption and discovered Sweeney was instructing underlings on how to "cook" the cocaine to transform it into crack cocaine and encouraging them and berating them to deal drugs and generate more revenue.

The group had operated two "stash" houses where the cocaine was transformed into crack, one in East Kildonan and another in St. Vital. Winnipeg police used warrants to enter the suite on Moncton Avenue, where they installed a hidden camera and captured images of suspects involved in the "cooking" process.

Sweeney was arrested in March 2012 at the airport as he was preparing to leave with his wife for a vacation to Jamaica.

Saull said the Manitoba Court of Appeal had determined the appropriate sentence for similar offences is a range of eight to 12 years, adding he was satisfied the 11-year sentence arranged through the plea bargain was appropriate.

Saull gave Sweeney credit for the time he has served since his arrest, leaving him with 10 more years to serve. Sweeney will also have to serve four years before he is eligible for parole.

In addition to the prison sentence, the court seized Sweeney's family home on Autumnview Drive in Waverley West, several bank accounts that held more than $500,000 and two Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 30, 2013 0

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