Court shuts down Hells Angels appeal to keep Welland clubhouse

Try as they might, the owners of a Hells Angels clubhouse in Welland aren’t getting their building back.

Court documents show the building was a fortress

The provincial court of appeal has tossed out an attempt from the owners of a Hells Angels clubhouse to get the building back. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

Try as they might, the owners of a Hells Angels clubhouse in Welland aren't getting their building back.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a Superior Court ruling from 2017 that ordered the gang's fortress at 855 Darby Rd. to be seized, alongside a swath of Hells Angels paraphernalia.

In court documents released this week, court of appeal Justices Paul Rouleau, David Watt and David Paciocco outlined the history of the property, which was bought in 2001 by Gerald Ward, his brother Richard Ward, Tim Panetta and Randy Beres.

It was originally a machine shop, but the purchasers heavily modified it, the documents say, and then rented it out to the Niagara Prospect Chapter of the Hells Angels, to which all four belonged. It later became a full patch chapter.

The renovations included installing opaque sheeting on part of the existing fencing, replacing the first-floor windows with cement blocks and replacing the front door with a cement-filled steel door.

Security cameras were also installed, the documents say.

Lawyers for the defendants argued in appeal court last fall that the judge who ordered the forfeiture erred in reaching a decision.

Court documents show the Welland clubhouse was heavily fortified, and outfitted with security cameras. (Google)

They said there wasn't enough evidence to say for sure that the property's mortgage was paid using proceeds from criminal activity.

The justice's collectively disagreed.

"The record clearly establishes that Mr. Ward, a dues-paying member of the [Hells Angels], was involved in drug trafficking. The record also fully supports the application judge's finding that at various times, Mr. Beres and Mr. Panetta participated in the 'church' meetings at the club," court documents read. "The inference drawn by the application judge that criminal ventures were discussed and planned at such meetings was available on this record.

"The owners of the property would therefore have known that a not insignificant part of the dues collected and used to fund the mortgage payments were proceeds of unlawful activity. As a result, whether (or not) the owners were themselves personally involved in unlawful activity, they facilitated the unlawful activity of others and knowingly used the proceeds of that activity for the payment of the mortgage."

According to The Welland Tribune, a province wide police investigation called Project Tandem arrested Hells Angels members across Ontario back in 2006, which decimated the Welland chapter.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.