Nfld. & Labrador

Hells Angels, Vikings, fentanyl: possible deadly mix in Newfoundland and Labrador

How does a motorcycle gang in Newfoundland and Labrador make the jump to the big leagues?
Local Vikings Motorcycle club use the same colours as Hells Angels. (CBC)

How does a motorcycle gang in Newfoundland and Labrador make the jump to the big leagues?

When the police made 12 arrests and laid dozens of charges last week, including murder, they linked the local Vikings Motorcycle Club to the notorious Hells Angels. But that affiliation didn't happen overnight.

"Someone has to reach out to the Hells Angels and indicate to them that we want to be members of your group," said RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Conohan. "It's usually several years in the making, and they start them off very slowly, and then there is a progression of steps." 

RCMP say Hells Angels are big business and local Vikings MC are part of the enterprise.

Red and white are the Angels' official colours, notes Conohan.

"No one in the biker world is even allowed to wear red and white unless they are sanctioned by the Hells Angels."

The Hells Angels are like a multinational corporation, he says.

"They are international in scope. They have chapters throughout the world with thousands of members," he said. "There is the Hells Angels motorcycle gang that everyone sees and fears, but they have the Hells Angels Corporation that licenses and patents the Hells Angels calendars, sweaters, T-shirts, rings, jewelry and other items."

How a biker gang works

6 years ago
Duration 5:10
RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Conohan was involved in last week's takedown of the Vikings Motorcycle Club. He spoke with Jonathan Crowe in the Here and Now studio.

Conohan says they are tough businesspeople.

"They rigorously enforce copyright and patent violations. So, if someone was to make knockoffs of Hells Angels items, they would have their legal department go after them."

Closer to home, Conohan says the arrests and charges last week in connection the the Vikings Motorcycle Club dealt with the homicide investigation into the death of Dale Porter, but also the criminal organization of the club.

Fentanyl too dangerous to display at press conference

"It mainly centred on drug trafficking," he said. "There was cocaine, hashish, oxycodone, and fentanyl seized. Fentanyl is so dangerous a drug that I didn't even bring it out for the display that we had for the media. We try to minimize our handling of it because it is so dangerous."

Conohan says police have seen fentanyl in the province for about three years. "We are not seeing a whole lot of it, but we are seeing it sporadically. We are seeing it in transdermal patches that are prescribed by physicians, and some of those are getting diverted to the street."

RCMP in the province now have training and special spray to counteract the effects of fentanyl and other opiate overdose. (CBC)

"We are seeing it in the powder form, which we seized in this investigation. And we are seeing it in the form of counterfeit medications."

Conohan says fentanyl is ending up on the street and being taken by people who think they are getting Oxycontin. But fentanyl can cause respiratory problems leading to possible coma and death. The equivalent of three grains of table salt of fentanyl could cause a fatal overdose, he says.

Drugs aren't going away

Provincial RCMP now have 500 special nasal spray kits to counter the effects of fentanyl or other opioid overdoses, he says, adding that officers have to be certified to use the spray. Officer education includes the signs and symptoms of overdoses, and how to handle the drug itself.

"You can get exposed by just touching it. So we have to wear two sets of gloves. We have to wear long-sleeve shirts," said Conohan. "We have to wear a full face mask respirator, so we don't accidentally inhale the fentanyl, and a bio-hazard suit."

And all the equipment gets incinerated after the police are done with it, he says.

I liken it to an onion. There are many layers to an onion. This was one big step.- Steve Conohan

Even though the arrests last week took the Vikings are off the streets in this province, says Conohan, the drugs aren't going away.

"I liken it to an onion. There are many layers to an onion. This was one big step. Bikers control the distribution of the drugs," said Conohan. "But there are other organized crime groups that are involved in the distribution of drugs. And I'm sure some of that filters down to here. I'd be naive to think otherwise." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Glenn Payette

Videojournalist

A veteran journalist with more than 30 years' experience, Glenn Payette is a videojournalist with CBC News in St. John's.

With files from Jonathan Crowe

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