One of the country's former top biker cops, now accused of selling information to the Hells Angels, says he will "not go down alone," in a telephone conversation obtained by a joint CBC and Radio-Canada investigation.
Benoit Roberge, a former sergeant-detective with the Montreal police, was arrested in October, and is now facing two charges of gangsterism, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of breach of trust. His case will be back in court on Thursday.[Watch the fifth estate's documentary on the case, called Walk The Line, on Friday Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. on CBC television.]
"They'd like to see me dead," Roberge told his friend Benoit Perron, in a phone call from jail. "They wanna send me to hell, but I'm not going down alone. That's it."
Perron told the Radio-Canada program Enquete and CBC's the fifth estate about several phone conversations he had with Roberge since his arrest. Roberge also sent a letter to Perron, obtained by Enquete, with his first words for the media since his arrest last October.
"I cried so much," Roberge wrote. "I'm still crying while I write this letter sitting cross-legged on my bed with no bench or chair. My cell is in ruins."
'We know there's a constant shadow of the mob, of the organized crime, trying to get into the police organization, to get information. The pressure is there.' - Marc Parent, Montreal police chief
Roberge played a key role in putting many leaders of the Hells Angels behind bars, before retiring from the police force last August to work for Revenue Quebec.
His arrest prompted the Montreal police force to launch an internal investigation to determine if other officers might be implicated.
The fifth estate has learned that Montreal police are investigating one of Roberge’s colleagues and close friend from the anti-biker squad. He was given a polygraph test, and he failed it. The officer was reassigned.
Montreal police announced on Wednesday they will now rotate intelligence officers more often to prevent possible leaks in the future.
- Timeline: Benoit Roberge and Rene Charlebois
- Timeline: Biker wars
- Video: Former undercover RCMP officer talks about how playing roles can become too real
Montreal police Chief Marc Parent says he is aware of the pressure on officers who investigate organized crime.
"We know there's a constant shadow of the mob, of the organized crime, trying to get into the police organization, to get information," Parent told the fifth estate’s Mark Kelley.
"So those people working close to the organized crime, we do know that we have to check that. It's a near miss for us, so we have to check that very close."
Parent says he did not know of any reason not to trust Roberge when he was on the force.
"I met with the partner that worked for him for five years. And he never saw a sign for five years," the chief told Kelley. "And we know that police officers are suspicious, they have this instinct, but he never saw anything."
But others who knew Roberge say there were red flags in the past.
Guy Ouellette was a member of the Sûreté du Quebec, its provincial police, and he worked with Roberge for years on a police team to stop the biker wars.
"My surprise would be that nobody never saw, nobody close to him never saw or never ask," he said. "There's some people somewhere who were sleeping. That's my concern."
Roberge routinely broke police protocol by meeting sources without his partner, according to one of his long-time informants, Eric Nadeau.
"For the 10 years we met, he was alone about 80 per cent of the time. We were meeting in parking lots, under bridges," he said.
In 2004, Richard Dupuis was the head of Montreal's major crimes division, and Roberge's boss. He kicked Roberge off the anti-biker unit after the officer told him about a meeting with a well-known Hells Angel from Montreal, where the biker paid for a very expensive bottle of wine for them to share.
"I told him, you're putting yourself at risk. You're in danger and you're putting the whole organization in danger. This is not acceptable behaviour," Dupuis said.
"You're gonna finish your reports and you're never gonna do that again. Then he [Roberge] said: 'you know nothing.'"
In 2009, Roberge was called back to the anti-biker unit to help with Operation SharQc. More than 100 bikers were arrested, thanks to testimony from a Hells Angels informant.
Still, nearly 30 members of the gang avoided arrest. And Dupuis, now a security analyst for the TVA network, says many police were convinced the bikers were getting inside information.
"There were leaks going back to 2004," Dupuis said. "Whenever there were big operations or raids, if there was a big sweep planned, some people just disappeared. Or they moved away. Or else they were right there when we arrived, waiting for us."
Roberge was arrested after police found some incriminating audio recordings left behind by a biker who escaped from a Laval prison, then killed himself.
Rene Charlebois had been sentenced to life in prison for killing a police informant for the Hells Angels. In 2009, Roberge began visiting him, trying to convince him to become an informant from behind bars.
Last September, Charlebois walked out of his minimum security prison and didn't return. Police tracked him to a cottage more than 100 kilometres from the prison. But before they arrived, Charlebois committed suicide, leaving behind 10 audio recordings he had secretly taped during his conversations with Roberge.
'I've had an incredible life with a tragic destiny, but a lot of good memories. This is the price of justice. What an unbelievable situation.' - Benoit Roberge, in a letter to a friend
According to a source who has listened to them, the tapes reveal that instead of buying information from Charlebois, Roberge was selling it to the biker.
One of the key pieces of information they discussed was the whereabouts of the Hells Angels informant whose testimony led to the mass arrests of gang members in 2009.
If Roberge sold that information, it could not only be a death sentence for the informant, but it could also put his police protectors in danger.
Charlebois also told Roberge to leave one of his car doors open so members of the Hells Angels could drop off an envelope with $100,000 to help Roberge if he was caught, according to the source.
The Quebec police set up a sting operation to test the possibility these recordings were fake. An agent posing as an associate of Charlebois told Roberge he had the tapes, and the former detective offered to pay $50,000 for them.
"That's how police confirmed what was in those recordings. Because nobody would pay 50,000 bucks if they had nothing to hide," Dupuis said.
None of the charges against Roberge have been proven in court.
Roberge is now being held in solitary confinement to protect him from people he may have helped put behind bars during his time as a police officer.
In a letter to his childhood friend Perron, Roberge writes about the dramatic reversal in his life. "I feel alone, up against a powerful state.
"In spite of all the ups and downs, I am on the road to recovery. I will be a better person.
"I've had an incredible life with a tragic destiny, but a lot of good memories. This is the price of justice. What an unbelievable situation."