Paid informant used in Hells Angels takedown
Gang member breaks outlaw code of silence
Arrests continued Thursday in what Manitoba police are calling the largest organized crime crackdown in the province's history, and CBC News has obtained court documents outlining the investigation — which included the use of a paid informant.
RCMP said seven more people have been arrested in Project Divide, a probe into the allegedly illegal activities of the Manitoba Hells Angels and their street-enforcement puppet club, the Zig Zag Crew.
The investigation started in the fall of 2008.
The latest arrests bring the total number to 33 since raids began in Manitoba and B.C. at about 6 a.m. CT Wednesday. RCMP and Winnipeg police are still searching for five suspects.
Charges ranging from drug and weapons trafficking and conspiracy, to those relating to participating in a criminal organization, have been laid, police said.
A handful of 24 suspects detained Wednesday have made an initial appearance in court, but none have yet applied for bail.
Straight to trial
Due to the covert and high-risk nature of the investigation, the Crown has elected to directly indict each suspect, meaning they will proceed directly to trial without evidence against them being previewed and tested at a preliminary hearing.
It's believed the informant was paid as much as $500,000 to infiltrate the gang, record their activities and report back to police investigators about them. Police also used wiretaps and other surveillance methods, court documents said.
The identity of the informant remains a closely guarded secret and in documents the RCMP refer to him only as "the Agent."`
Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober is representing two Project Divide suspects. He first learned of the informant's existence Thursday morning and criticized the use of the tactic by police.
"I … find it distasteful because you're paying an individual hundreds of thousands of dollars to go out and have people commit criminal offences which they might not have otherwise," Prober said. "This is an agent who's being paid to trap these individuals."
Prober said video and audio evidence aren't easy to refute in court. "It makes it tougher to defend, there's no doubt about that. Not impossible, but tougher," he said.
RCMP said after all arrests have been made, the entire Zig Zag Crew will be off the streets. Police said they believe it will make a huge dent in Winnipeg's drug trade.
High-ranking Hells Angel arrested
In an affidavit filed three days before Wednesday's arrest of Sean Sebastian Wolfe, Cpl. Jonathan Morriseau asked for what was described as a "no-knock" warrant to enter and search his apartment in the Tuxedo neighbourhood of Winnipeg.
Morriseau said the use of surprise and "overwhelming force" by heavily armed officers was necessary to give Wolfe less time to react.
"Sean Wolfe has the reputation within the Zig Zag Crew and Hells Angels as a person one should not cross," Morriseau said. "He is not only highly respected, but feared by numerous individuals and has the propensity to resort to violence," he said.
Morriseau also writes of an incident recorded by police during the investigation, where a Zig Zag member pleads for the informant to repay a debt to Wolfe, "otherwise Wolfe was going to 'lose it,'" Morriseau said.
It's not the first time Wolfe has been involved in a case where a paid informant was used. In February 2003, he was charged in a similar clandestine police investigation but was set free after the informant used in the case backed out.
Karpish said they are not to be approached if spotted. Anyone who sees them is asked to call the police.