Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/6/2010 (3912 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A respected football coach and a cancer survivor are headed to prison after admitting their involvement in a Hells Angels drug and weapons smuggling operation.
Edwin Panting and Eric Sandberg were two of the most unlikely suspects nabbed last winter in an undercover police sting dubbed "Project Divide". The well-educated men had no prior criminal records or substance abuse issues and came from strong family backgrounds with plenty of community support. Neither had direct ties to the outlaw gang but were drawn in by others.
"The sole motivation here was greed," Crown attorney Chris Mainella told court on Wednesday.
Panting, 25, and Sandberg, 28, were both sentenced to four and-a-half years behind bars, in addition to six months of time already served. Their guilty pleas mean 12 of the 31 suspects have now resolved their cases. Others caught in the criminal net included a former RCMP officer and the cousin of an NHL hockey player.
Panting was a talented football player who had been working as the defensive back coach for the provincial junior team over the past four years, said Mainella. Only days before his December 2009 arrest, Panting had been in talks with Sisler High School about helping to coach their football program.
Police had been monitoring him for several months after he crossed paths with secret agent Michael Satsatin, a former Hells associate who agreed to work for the police in exchange for more than $450,000 and witness protection.
Panting wasn’t an original police target but came onto the radar when he approached the agent in May 2009, telling him he had access to high-quality cocaine that would be 80 per cent pure. He eventually agreed to sell the agent five ounces for $4,500, which went down in the parking lot of the Boston Pizza restaurant on McPhillips Street. The drug he claimed would be "primo" was actually only 14 per cent pure, court was told.
"There seems to be an element in Winnipeg’s drug sub-culture that wants to sell really bad cocaine to increase their profits," said Mainella.
"Who can you trust these days?" replied Queen’s Bench Justice Brenda Keyser.
Panting apologized in court for letting down his family and friends through a series of "poor choices", which included working as an "independent" drug dealer in Winnipeg.
"It is very sad to see someone like you come before me. You’ve probably screwed up your chance of being involved (in football coaching) for quite some time," said Keyser.
Sandberg’s involvement was more extensive - he facilitated the repayment of an $11,000 debt between the agent and a British Columbia drug dealer, sold several thousand ecstasy pills to the agent, and claimed to be able to import several high-powered weapons on request, including a rocket launcher. However, no weapons were sold.
Defence lawyer Gerri Wiebe said her client was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago and was undergoing extensive treatment, including chemotherapy, at the time of his involvement. He grew up with the agent in Charleswood and had been friends for years. He got criminally involved thinking it was an easy way to make money.
Sandberg also apologized in court Wednesday. His health continues to be a major question mark as he heads to prison, considering his type of cancer only has a 35 per cent survival rate.
"It’s hard to imagine how this came to this, someone with your background and family support," said Justice Shawn Greenberg.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.