Calgary

Michael Roberto loses bid for parole after serving 7 years in prison

Notorious gang killer Michael Roberto lied to his parole officer, has no community support, no halfway house has accepted him and he is a high risk to violently reoffend so the Parole Board of Canada refused his request to be released from prison.

Gangster's most notorious crime was involvement in 2009 Bolsa Restaurant triple murder

Michael Roberto lost his bid on Wednesday to be released on day parole.

Notorious gang killer Michael Roberto lied to his parole officer, has no community support, no halfway house has accepted him and he is a high risk to violently reoffend so the Parole Board of Canada refused his request to be released from prison.

The Calgary gangster and murderer, who was involved in the notorious Bolsa Restaurant triple murder in 2009, has been serving seven years behind bars.

On Wednesday he appeared before the parole board via CCTV in Edmonton from an undisclosed location in order to protect his safety.

"Your risk would be undue," said board member, Michael Crowley at the end of the hearing. "We are denying day parole."

The hearing gave a glimpse into Roberto's life — past and present.

Roberto — who was originally charged with three counts of first-degree murder — made a partial immunity deal in 2013, pleading guilty to charges of murder in association with a criminal organization, conspiring to commit murder and discharging a firearm.

In exchange for his testimony against other gangsters Roberto received a 16-year sentence and got double credit for the time he had already served since his arrest in 2009.

High risk for future violence

The panel consisted of two senior parole board members, Crowley and Chris Trowbridge, who made their decision after hearing from Roberto and his parole officer.

The first thing board members learned was that Roberto's key supporter, his wife, had not called or visited him since April and that Roberto had lied to his parole officer Diane Aitchison about their status.

In speaking with Roberto's wife Aitchison learned the former gangster had sent a letter asking for a divorce, though he'd told his parole officer they were simply taking a break.

It was discovered that Roberto has been in communication with another woman, a Calgary student, who he said is simply interested in his case. Her request to attend the hearing as an observer was denied.

Roberto described her as "very passionate" about following his case from a "legal standpoint" and denied having an intimate relationship with her.

"I did lie to Miss Aichison," said Roberto. "I was embarrassed to discuss my feelings with her."

"I've never been really good with discussing my feelings with strangers." 

"This shows that you're prepared to lie to someone in authority," said Crowley. "It speaks loudly to the issue of — can you be trusted?"

Though Roberto has completed at least one violence management program while in prison, he declined to participate in another which caused Crowley and Trowbridge concern.

They also noted two assessments that found Roberto to be at a medium to high risk to violently reoffend.

$2k per week, tax free

Roberto said he became part of the FOB gang because of his older brother and for "approval and money."

His fellow gangsters became family for Roberto who says he grew up in a high crime neighbourhood, with a mother who drank and did drugs, while his older brother was involved in gangs.

Roberto described himself as one of the key players in the gang war that lasted from 2002 to 2009. 

His involvement with the FOBs began with a "dial-a-dope" phone and selling crack cocaine. 

"A few hundred a day," said Roberto of the amount of money he was making at the time. "Not much." 

He estimated he was earning about $2,000 each week, which Crowley pointed out was tax free.

The war between Roberto's FOB gang and the rival FKs reached its pinnacle with the Bolsa killings, at which time the two groups were credited with at least 25 murders in just seven years.

Two rival gang members, Sanjeev Mann and Aaron Bendle, were shot and killed in the Bolsa Restaurant. Keni S'ua, a bystander, was shot dead in the parking lot of the Vietnamese restaurant.

In an agreed statement of facts, Roberto admitted to killing Mann. 

Plea deals

Roberto was originally charged and convicted of three counts of first-degree murder but successfully appealed and a new trial was ordered. 

Before that trial was scheduled police were able to flip Roberto against his former friends and gang associates and offered him a plea deal in exchange for his testimony as a witness for the prosecution.

Though his evidence has not resulted in any convictions, several of those he was supposed to testify against have made plea deals so it's unclear how he may have influenced the pleas.

There are still two other murder trials Roberto must testify at in order to fulfil the obligations of his immunity deal.

Right before his request for parole was denied Roberto made a final plea to the panel members.

"I know just going on my word isn't enough," said Roberto. "With what I'm doing with the Calgary police, if I was to reoffend, go back to that way of life, I would lose that agreement."

"Essentially my life would be over, I think that's a pretty good reason why I won't reoffend."

Michael Roberto wanted to be released from prison after serving seven years for his role in the Bolsa Restaurant triple murders. (CBC)

'I would look forward to a boring lifestyle'

Roberto was questioned about why he continued to live a violent, dead-end criminal lifestyle.

"Why not be a straight person?" Crowley asked.

"I wish I would have but it's all I knew," said Roberto. "They were my brothers, my family ... I didn't realize where it would have led to."

Crowley pointed out that life on the outside, living crime free would likely bore Roberto.

"I would look forward to a boring lifestyle at this point," Roberto said. "I have changed, I don't want to go back."

In a public service announcement video that plays at the Calgary Police Service's new interpretive centre Roberto advises kids to stay away from the gang life and speaks of the violent lifestyle that kept him looking over his shoulder every day.

He told Crowley and Trowbridge that continuing to reach out to kids was part of his release plan.

"I think I can make a difference," he said. "Making those videos and talking to young kids."

Though victims are allowed to make presentations, none registered for Roberto's hearing.

Right now, Roberto is eligible for full parole and can apply at any time but if he wants to try for day parole again he must wait one year.

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