Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

From outlaw to model citizen

Parole board sings praises of former Hells Angel

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From bad-boy biker to model citizen: One of Manitoba's most notorious Hells Angels has apparently turned his back on the outlaw motorcycle gang -- and walked out of prison a decade early for his squeaky clean behaviour.

Ian Grant was sentenced in 2007 to 15 years in custody for his role in an elaborate drug operation that was busted during an undercover police sting. It is one of the largest sentences ever given in Manitoba for drug offences. But documents obtained by the Free Press show Grant was released last month on day parole (he spends his nights in a halfway house) and commended for the strides he's made during his time behind bars.

The most dramatic move Grant made was strolling into a Winnipeg tattoo parlour while on a temporary absence from prison last year and having his Hells Angels ink "dated," which signifies the official end of a member's association. The physically imposing Grant has also turned heads by "confronting" other Hells members and associates while in prison to let them know he was out of the gang.

"Disaffiliation is frowned upon and you demonstrated both persistence and courage in confronting these individuals with your intention," the National Parole Board wrote in their recent decision to give Grant early freedom.

Grant, 37, has been scored as a low risk to reoffend and participated in numerous counselling and treatment programs since his arrest. He had been transferred to a minimum-security jail in July 2011 and there were no reported incidents. Grant apparently started several inmate book clubs, used his temporary absences to attend church and even participated in restorative justice week activities.

"You were considered highly motivated to make changes in your lifestyle," the parole board wrote. "The board found you to be credible in your explanation and commitment to living a pro-social lifestyle. You understand the influences that attracted you into the illegal lifestyle and you present with a plan and, more importantly, the support to see you live a pro-social experience."

Not everyone is buying Grant's new good-guy image. The parole board said police in Manitoba were opposed to his release. Grant has always been known for being an incredible public speaker and having above-average intelligence, which he displayed during his trial when he acted as his own lawyer and impressed many with his legal knowledge.

It is for those reasons, sources say, police are less than convinced Grant has truly embarked on a better path in life. He will be watched closely in the community, and any breaches of parole would land him back behind bars where he could be forced to serve the remaining 10 years of his sentence.

His release conditions include having no contact with any members or associates of any outlaw motorcycle gang and providing full financial disclosure to his parole officer based on the fact his crimes were ones "of greed."

Police arrested Grant and 12 other biker associates in February 2006 based on the work of career criminal Franco Atanasovic, who was paid $525,000 to infiltrate the Hells Angels.

Grant wasn't even an original target when police began their investigation in early 2005, but he quickly came on the radar when he began extorting an old drug debt from Atanasovic. Police ended up giving their agent thousands of dollars to pay Grant to buy him more time.

Grant eventually sold two kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of crystal meth to Atanasovic, although he was never caught in the act. He used lower-level couriers to do his bidding, but jurors accepted the agent's word they were acting on Grant's directions.

More than $6,000 in marked police money used in the drug buys was found inside Grant's safety deposit box, along with nearly $60,000 in cash from drug proceeds.

Grant was first eligible for accelerated day parole in 2009 because he had served one-sixth of his first federal sentence for what are considered non-violent crimes. But the parole board rejected that bid, saying he had more work to do.

"The board is satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe that, if released, you are likely to commit an offence involving violence before the expiration of your sentence," the board wrote three years ago. Clearly much has changed since then, given how much the board is now singing Grant's praises.

"You have done everything asked of you by your case-management team and gone the extra distance to address issues raised by them, and the board, to the best of your ability," the recent decision stated.

"The board believes you are ready for the next steps in your efforts at reintegration and recognize you have a long period on parole to prove you are committed to the pro-social lifestyle you proclaim."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2012 A3

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