Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/10/2010 (3760 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg police spent nearly a year getting an extensive look inside a massive drug network tied to a notorious outlaw motorcycle gang trying to challenge the Hells Angels for control of the lucrative trade.
Court documents obtained Monday by the Free Press reveal how investigators used a mix of high-tech trickery and old-fashioned police work to bring down a rapidly emerging criminal operation that had links to Quebec and British Columbia.
Dubbed "Operation Sport Track", police arrested six people in Winnipeg, two in Montreal and one in Langley late last month and seized an undisclosed amount of cocaine, nine kilograms of hash, seven kilograms of marijuana, $500,000 in cash, $40,000 worth of jewelry and about half a dozen vehicles. Few details have been released publicly about an investigation that began in November 2009 and is ongoing.
None of the allegations has been proven and the accused are presumed innocent.
Police dubbed some of the targets the "Greek Mafia" and say they were working in conjunction with the Rock Machine biker gang, which has been trying in recent months to establish a presence in Manitoba.
At the centre of the investigation was an empty building on Sargent Avenue that police say was a hub of illegal activity. Police obtained a warrant in March 2010 that allowed them to sneak on to the premises and install hidden video cameras. The court authorization also allowed them to return to the property at various times and take samples and photos of any drugs they located.
Between March 19 and Sept. 9, police say they watched one of the targets of their investigation process cocaine inside the building on 91 separate occasions, all of which were secretly recorded.
Police also obtained permission to conduct various telephone wiretaps in which they intercepted conversations between several of the suspects discussing future drug deals.
On June 1, police "covertly" entered the Sargent Avenue property and found two and a half kilograms of cocaine hidden inside the ceiling tiles. Investigators took pictures and a sample of the drugs for testing.
"In order to protect the integrity of the investigation, the drugs were later returned to their hiding spot," police wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
"Forensic testing later confirmed the test samples taken by police were in fact cocaine and the cutting agent benzocaine."
Police conducted three similar "sneak and peek" operations -- fuelled largely by what they were observing on video -- and took samples of other hidden drugs which tested positive for cocaine.
Police also spent days doing surveillance of several of the suspects. In January 2010, police twice entered the Leveque Street home of one suspect -- on the strength of a warrant -- to take samples and pictures of cocaine, marijuana and cash found hidden inside a dresser. The man later moved to an address on north Main Street, and police again sneaked inside his home in September 2010 to conduct similar surveillance.
In July 2010, police conducted surveillance as two of their targets met in Winnipeg with members of the Rock Machine, apparently to arrange an upcoming drug transaction. One week later, police followed the pair to a hotel in Portage la Prairie where they were believed to be processing cocaine.
"During the day, police heard the sounds of an electronic vacuum sealer being operated inside room 129," police state in their affidavit. Police then watched as their targets met later that day with a Rock Machine member who had come to Portage driving a BMW. Police say a large bag was placed in the trunk, and the biker drove off headed west.
Police followed the man all the way to Indian Head, Sask. before notifying local RCMP they wanted them to conduct a seemingly random traffic stop. RCMP pulled the BMW over on the side of the Trans Canada Highway on July 30 and found the man with $463,000 in Canadian currency inside the vehicle. He was arrested and charged with possession of proceeds of crime.
Police have charged Winnipeg-area residents Ronald King, 41, Claudia Milla-Hernandez, 39, Kosmas Dritsas, 39, Orazio Sinisi, 35, Sandy Sinisi, 35, and a 20-year-old woman whose name hasn't been released.
Dristas' 65-year-old father, George, was arrested in Montreal along with a 24-year-old Quebec woman whose name hasn't been released. Cirilio Lopez, 41, of Langley, B.C. was also taken into custody.