Nfld. & Labrador

Police say 2 outlaw biker gangs eye expansion as summer riding season begins

Police say two outlaw motorcycle gangs have expansion plans in Newfoundland, but a past investigation has resulted in a big setback for the Hells Angels.

But past investigation means N.L. now only province without Hells Angels support club

RCMP Staff-Sgt. Steve Conohan is warning the public of an expected increase in the presence of outlaw motorcycle gangs in the province as the summer riding season gets going. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Police in Newfoundland are warning about expansion plans for what they are calling two outlaw motorcycle gangs in the province, as the summer riding season approaches.

But they add that a past investigation has resulted in a big setback for the Hells Angels.

Police stress it's the time of year when these gangs are more visible, and they are advising people to be wary.

"We're asking the public if they see any large group of potential outlaw motorcycle gang members to notify the police of jurisdiction and then basically we'll send investigators out to check it out," RCMP Staff-Sgt. Steve Conohan told reporters Thursday afternoon.

A man wears Bacchus colours at a 2017 gathering in Prince Edward Island. The Mounties believe the Bacchus club has expansion plans in Newfoundland. (Mathieu Bernier/Radio-Canada)

Two of those groups are Bacchus and Outlaws, both with chapters in Grand Falls-Windsor, and both looking to expand elsewhere.

"We have seen two additional prospective chapters of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club that have opened up in Bishop's Falls and Centreville (Bayside)," Conohan said.

"As well, we've had an additional prospective chapter of Bacchus that opened up, and that's here in Conception Bay South."

Vikings now 'defunct,' police say

But police say one outlaw motorcycle group that won't be on the roads this summer is the Vikings MC.

The Vikings were affiliated with the Hells Angels, before a two-year police investigation dubbed Operation Bombard swept up 10 people in 2016.

That probe was launched after the 2014 homicide of Dale Porter in North River, and resulted in dozens of charges.

Bombard effectively spelled the end for that biker gang, according to Conohan.

"With the conclusion of that file we did see the Vikings around for a short time, but then they were dismantled," he said.

"They did try to make a little bit of a comeback, but at this current time, they're defunct."

Various items of clothing and patches with the Vikings Motorcycle Club branding were seized by the police back in 2016. The RCMP says the Vikings are now "defunct," and Newfoundland and Labrador is now the only province that does not have a Hells Angels support club. (CBC)

That means Newfoundland and Labrador is now the only province that does not have a Hells Angels support club.

Members of outlaw biker gangs are called "one-per-centers," to distinguish themselves from the 99 per cent of motorcycle riders who are law-abiding citizens.

"One of things with one-per-centers is they band together and they enforce their own rules through violence, so that's a big concern for us, certainly," Conohan said.

Bacchus member says group unfairly targeted

But a longtime gang member from New Brunswick dismissed the police warning, saying his group is unfairly targeted.

Charlie Burrell of Bacchus MC in New Brunswick says his members are basically a drinking and eating club with a motorcycle problem.

He says they raise money for community groups, and have regular day jobs, but are increasingly harassed by police.

Wouldn't you rather sit around watch a bunch of bikers drink and eating hamburgers. That would be a slack job, wouldn't it? On overtime money, that would be a good gig. Who wouldn't take that deal?- Charlie Burrell of Bacchus MC

"Wouldn't you rather sit around watch a bunch of bikers drink and eating hamburgers," Burrell said.

"That would be a slack job, wouldn't it? On overtime money, that would be a good gig. Who wouldn't take that deal?"

But the Mounties reject that claim, pointing to past charges laid against members of motorcycle clubs they have classified as outlaw gangs.

"We just concluded a two-year investigation where we saw involvement in fentanyl, cocaine, hashish. There was also a homicide. So that's one group," Conohan said.

"Other groups in central, we have had convictions for trafficking in Oxycontin, trafficking in molly (MDMA), trafficking in cannabis there."

He said there are "PR efforts" underway by some outlaw groups to convince people they are great citizens.

"Is that to say that each and every member of these groups is a bad guy? No. Some are very cordial. They're respectful when you talk to them. But they do their own thing. And they operate under their own rules."

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