Project Flatlined involved a 10 month investigation beginning in May 2011 into the criminal activities of members of the Manitoba chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the Redlined Support Crew. The Redlined Support Crew was a subsidiary group of the Hells Angels in Manitoba formed to provide ‘street-level enforcement’ for the Hells Angels in a dispute with another motorcycle gang, Rock Machine, over territory for drug trafficking in Manitoba. The dispute had been ongoing since early 2010. The two warring gangs had been involved in a number of violent conflicts, including drive-by shootings, firebombings and physical assaults. Project Flatlined ultimately led to the arrest of 25 members of the Hells Angels and Redlined and associates of these clubs in relation to the criminal operation involved in this case, with charges being laid against 16 of those people. At least 9 of these 16 people were successfully convicted. Information about the criminal proceedings against the other 7 people was not available at the time of writing. In relation to the 9 people not charged with criminal offences, sureties to keep the peace were successfully obtained in relation to at least 6 of these people. Information about whether sureties were successfully obtained against the other 3 was not available at the time of writing.
The organized criminal group in this case was involved in trafficking between one and two kilograms of cocaine every month between May 2011 and February 2012 in Winnipeg, primarily in Elmwood. A court heard that the operation generated more than CAD 100,000 every month. During the period of the group’s operation, dealers for the group were receiving more than 500 phone calls per day on dedicated cellphones used for their illegal activities. A judge later described the organization as ‘well organized, well equipped, well financed and highly profitable’.
The criminal group was led by Mr Dale Jason Sweeney, who bought the cocaine from suppliers in British Columbia. He then gave the cocaine to members of the Redlined Support Crew, a subsidiary gang of the Hells Angels, who turned the cocaine into crack cocaine and sold it in small quantities to users on the street. This was performed at two properties in Winnipeg. The Hells Angels and the Redlined Support Crew met weekly to exchange profits from their operations. In January 2012, police arrested one of the accused as he was leaving one of these weekly meetings and seized nearly CAD 20,000 in cash. In a later operation in February 2012, police seized one kilogram of cocaine.
At 7AM on 16 March 2012, more than 150 Winnipeg officers raided the properties of a number of Hells Angels’ members and associates. Search warrants were executed at six addresses. Nine people were arrested, including the chapter president, Mr Dale Jason Sweeney, as well as Messrs Roderick (Rod) Patrick Sweeney, Carmine Puteri, Kurtis Donald Scott, Christopher Allan Gerula, Brendin Kyle Wall, Thomas Clinton Barnecki, Jonathon Stewart and Donovan Michael Lafrance. Only four members of the Hells Angels’ Manitoba chapter at the time were not arrested in the raids.
Police seized approximately two kilograms of cocaine and an undisclosed amount of cash in the raids. Police also seized a motorcycle owned by Mr Dale Sweeney which was on show at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. A number of items were also seized from Mr Scott’s property during the execution of the search warrant. These included a 2005 Buick Rendezvous sport utility vehicle.
On 21 April 2016, Winnipeg police reported that they had arrested a total of 23 men through Project Flatlined, and that four further men were wanted on arrest warrants in relation to the operation: Messrs Shawn Justin Colbert, Adam Matthew Wood, Jared James Irving and Jesse Richard Thomas. Mr Colbert turned himself in at police headquarters the following day. Mr Wood was arrested in Crestview, Winnipeg on 23 April 2016.
Mr Irving was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on 1 June 2012 after being pulled over by police at a traffic stop in Headingley, Manitoba, bringing the total number of arrested persons to 25.
Mr Thomas was the last remaining person wanted in connection to Project Redlined. Further information about whether he was apprehended by Canadian authorities was not available at the time of writing.
Manitoba authorities made several seizures in Project Flatlined and successfully obtained forfeiture orders in the criminal proceedings that followed. In January 2012, police arrested one of the accused as he was leaving one of these weekly meetings and seized nearly CAD 20,000 in cash. In a later operation in February 2012, police seized one kilogram of cocaine. In the raids of 16 March 2012, police seized approximately two kilograms of cocaine and an undisclosed amount of cash. A number of items were also seized from Mr Scott’s property. These included a 2005 Buick Rendezvous sport utility vehicle.
Against Mr Dale Sweeney, prosecutors successfully obtained orders for the forfeiture of his family home, several bank accounts containing more than CAD 500,000, at least two Harley Davidson motorcycles, a Bayliner boat and trailer, a Chevrolet Corvette car and a Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck.
Project Flatlined was the fourth major police bust of the Manitoba chapter of the Hells Angels since 2006. The operation was notable in that unlike previous operations, police did not use a paid informant. Rather, the police relied on court-ordered wiretaps and hidden surveillance devices. The Winnipeg Police Service obtained two authorizations from Manitoba courts, the first on 3 September 2011 and the second on 1 December 2011. These authorizations included:
(a) the interception of communications pursuant to the wiretap provisions in ss 185 and 186 of the Criminal Code;
(b) a general video warrant to make observations by video camera in named places where persons have an expectation of privacy pursuant to s 487.01(4) of the Criminal Code;
(c) a general warrant for display and recording of digits dialed pursuant to s 487.01 of the Criminal Code;
(d) assistance orders necessary for the implementation of the authorization to intercept private communications and the general warrants, pursuant to s 487.02;
(e) a sealing order, denying access to information relating to the warrants, orders or authorizations, pursuant to s 487.3; and
(f) orders allowing the material collected to be opened and considered, pursuant to s 187(1.2).
Under these authorizations, Winnipeg Police covertly entered one property used by the group, the Moncton Avenue premises, on 12 occasions, taking photos and videos of cocaine inside the property, installing a hidden camera, and taking samples of the cocaine. The hidden camera took photographs of members of the group cooking the cocaine. Mr Wall actually discovered the hidden camera, but instead of ceasing their criminal activities completely, the members of the group only temporarily discontinued their operations before shifting them to a residence on St Anne’s Road. This property was later raided in February 2012.
The group communicated using software that encrypted text messages sent from their cellphones. Winnipeg police cracked the encryption in their investigation of the group’s activities. More than 155,000 text messages were sent by three mobile phone numbers used to arrange drug deals between during the period of May 2011 to February 2012.
Winnipeg police officers also posed as prospective purchasers on 37 different occasions between September 2011 and January 2012. During this period, they purchased 262 pieces of crack cocaine for CAD 5,140 in marked bills. A later news article put the number of undercover purchases at 41.
Twenty-five people, members of the Hells Angels in Manitoba and the Redlined Support Crew and their associates, were arrested in relation to the criminal operation uncovered by Project Redlined. Against 9 of these 25 people, police did not lay any charges but instead sought orders forcing the men to enter into sureties to keep the peace. This case note concerns these peace bond proceedings.
Charges were laid against 16 of the 25 people arrested in Project Flatlined. Information about the criminal proceedings of 9 of these 16 people was available at the time of writing. All 9 of these people were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment.
Detailed case notes on SHERLOC are available regarding the criminal proceedings against Mr Kurtis Donald Scott (CANx058), Mr Justin MacLeod (CANx059) and Mr Dale Sweeney (CANx060).
Less information is publicly available regarding the prosecutions of Messrs Brendin Kyle Wall, Jonathon Stewart, Brian Chesney, Christopher Gerula, Shawn Manzuik and Thomas Barnecki. As such, these cases will be summarized below instead of in their own case notes.
Mr Brendin Kyle Wall did not apply for bail. On 22 January 2013, he pled guilty to several charges, including trafficking cocaine and trafficking for the benefit of a criminal organization. He was sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment, with six months of the sentence credited for pre-sentence custody. Further ancillary orders were also made.
On 10 June 2013 Mr Jonathon Stewart was sentenced to 4 years and 9 months’ imprisonment for charges relating to participation in a criminal organization and conspiracy. On the same day, Mr Brian Chesney was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months’ imprisonment for trafficking cocaine and committing acts for the benefit of a criminal organization.
In August 2013 Mr Christopher Gerula pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, but claimed that he did not know anything about Mr Dale Sweeney’s criminal organization or its activities. Judge Wyant rejected this claim and sentenced Mr Gerula to 3 years and 6 months’ imprisonment. In the same month Mr Shawn Manzuik pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine and trafficking for the furtherance of a criminal organization. He was due to be sentenced later that year.
Mr Thomas Barnecki entered into a plea bargain with prosecutors. Further information about the criminal proceedings against Mr Barnecki and the sentence he received was not available at the time of writing.about the criminal proceedings against Mr Barnecki and the sentence he received was not available at the time of writing.
Manitoba authorities sought orders for sureties to keep the peace in relation to nine of the persons arrested as part of the Project Flatlined raids. These sureties were sought pursuant to s 810 of the Canadian Criminal Code. At least three members of the group, including Messrs Puteri, Sichewski, Irving and Rod Sweeney consented to these orders. The Winnipeg Free Press, a Canadian newspaper, reported that this was the first time authorities in Manitoba had obtained such an order in relation to organized crime.
Pursuant to the sureties, the gang members agreed to 14 conditions including leaving the Hells Angels, not possessing any gang clothing or paraphernalia, abiding by a midnight curfew and having no contact with any Hells Angels member or associate. The number of people with which the person subjected to the order was prohibited from communicating appears to have differed from order to order, but was between approximately 50 and 100 people. The orders lasted for a period of one year.
At least four members of the group, including Messrs Plouffe and Pinnel, did not consent to entering into a surety to keep the peace. Mr Plouffe argued before a Manitoba court that much of the evidence the crown was relying on in seeking the order was hearsay and inadmissible. Mr Plouffe’s challenge failed and in early June he was ordered to enter into the surety. The period of the surety was, however, reduced to 10 months instead of 12, partly in recognition of Mr Plouffe’s lack of a criminal history.
Mr Pinnel challenged the order sought against him on the basis that denied being involved in the criminal activities involved in the case. He argued that a reference to a ‘Cory’ in a transcript of an intercepted phone conversation was not sufficiently clear for authorities to obtain a surety against him. Mr Pinnel’s bid to fight the surety to keep the peace was rejected by Judge Lismer, who ordered Mr Pinnel to enter into the surety. Mr Pinnel was required to refrain from communicating with more than 80 past and present members of the Hells Angels, Redlined Crew and the former Zig Zag Crew, once a support club to the Manitoba Hells Angels. Judge Lismer agreed to remove the curfew from the list of surety conditions, citing Mr Pinnel’s lack of a criminal history. He described this condition as ‘unreasonable’ in the circumstances. Judge Lismer, however, rejected a request from Mr Pinnel to allow him to stay in touch with Messrs Dale and Rod Sweeney, his half-brothers.
As at 9 June 2012, it was reported that Winnipeg police has succeeded in obtaining sureties against 6 of the 9 people. No further information about the proceedings against the other 3 people was available at the time of writing.
Mr Roderick Patrick Sweeney a member of the Hells Angels. He was 43 at the time of his arrest. In 2001, he was shot by a member of a rival gang, Mr Kevin Sylvester, while he was sitting in a tow truck with his young son. His house was also firebombed by rival gang members shortly before the Project Flatlined raids.
Following the 16 March 2012 raids, police also obtained a surety from Mr Rod Sweeney to keep the peace.
Mr Carmine Puteri was a member of the Hells Angels and was 39 at the time of the 16 March 2012 raids. He was not charged with any criminal offence, but he consented to entering into a surety to keep the peace.
Mr Jared James Irving was wanted for participating in or contributing to the activities of a criminal organization. He was 26 as at 22 April 2012.
Mr Irving was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on 1 June 2012 after being pulled over by police at a traffic stop in Headingley, Manitoba.
Mr Shawn Lloyd Sichewski, aged 28 as at 5 May 2012, was a member of the Redlined Support Crew. He consented to enter into a surety to keep the peace following the Project Flatlined Raids. On 4 May 2012 he was arrested and charged with breaching his surety for communicating with a proscribed person.
Raymond Plouffe was 48 years old at the time of the Project Flatlined Raids. He had no prior criminal record and was not charged with any criminal offence, but authorities sought a court order requiring him to enter into a surety to keep the peace.
A detective testified that, following the firebombing of Mr Rod Sweeney’s house, Mr Plouffe was among those who assembled to get retribution against members of the rival motorcycle gang, the Rock Machine.
Mr Cory Pinnel was the half-brother of Messrs Dale and Rod Sweeney, and was 30 years’ old at the time of proceedings against him for a surety to keep the peace. He had no criminal record.
Twenty-five people, members of the Hells Angels in Manitoba and the Redlined Support Crew and their associates, were arrested in relation to the criminal operation uncovered by Project Redlined. Against 9 of these 25 people, police did not lay any charges but instead sought orders forcing the men to enter into sureties to keep the peace. This case note concerns these proceedings. Separate case notes detailing the criminal proceedings and the background of Messrs Kurtis Scott Donald (CANx058), Justin MacLeod (CANx059) and Dale Sweeney (CANx060) are also available on SHERLOC.
The background of the remaining defendants, in relation to whom insufficient information was available for individual case notes, will be outlined below.
Mr Brendin Kyle Wall was a member of the Redlined support crew and was 24 at the time of his arrest. Mr Wall was a high-ranking member of the criminal enterprise, allegedly third in charge below Messrs Dale Sweeney and MacLeod. He handled the production of crack cocaine and the day-to-day management of the organization. He gave instructions to Mr Barnecki as to how the rocks of crack cocaine should be apportioned for sale.
Mr Thomas Clinton Barnecki was a Redlined associate and was 31 at the time of his arrest. Prosecutors alleged that Mr Barnecki was the ‘street boss’ of the operation.
Mr Christopher Allan Gerula acted as a cocaine courier for Mr Dale Sweeney. He was not a member of the Hells Angels or the drug ring, but was a friend of Mr Dale Sweeney and, on one occasion in February 2012, agreed to deliver a kilogram of cocaine for him. Prior to this case he had no criminal history and he was described as a ‘hard-working and skilled’ carpenter.
Mr Shawn Justin Colbert was charged with possession of proceeds of crime, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, participating in a criminal organization, commission of an offence for a criminal organization, and eight counts of trafficking in cocaine. He was 30 years of age as at 22 April 2012. Mr Colbert turned himself in at police headquarters the day after police publicly announced that he was wanted.
Mr Adam Matthew Wood was charged with possession of proceeds of crime, participating in a criminal organization, commission of an offence for a criminal organization, failing to comply with the conditions of a recognizance, and five counts of trafficking in cocaine. He was 34 years of age as at 22 April 2012.
Mr Brian Chesney was the roommate of Mr Thomas Barnecki. He was caught making deliveries of crack cocaine to undercover police officers. He also rented the St Anne’s Road residence which was used for the purposes of producing crack cocaine following the discovery of the hidden camera at the Moncton Avenue residence. At the time of his arrest, he was a recently married and had four children.
Mr Donovan Michael Lafrance was a Redlined prospect and was 27 at the time of his arrest. It was not known whether he was one of the defendants against whom criminal charges were brought or whether he was instead subject to proceedings for a surety to keep the peace.
Mr Shawn Manzuik allegedly trafficked cocaine for the criminal enterprise in this case. It was not known whether criminal charges were brought against him.
Mr Jesse Richard Thomas was 27 as at 22 April 2012 and was wanted for participating in or contributing to the activities of a criminal organization. At the time of writing it was not known whether he had been apprehended by Canadian authorities.
R v MacLeod, 2013 MBQB 242
R v Scott, 2015 MBCA 43
R v Scott, 2015 MBCA 80
R v Scott, 2015 MBQB 87
R v Sweeney, 2016 MBCA 6
King, Tamara, ‘Cops corral Hells Angel: Gangster hit with a slew of court restrictions’, The Winnipeg Sun, 9 June 2012, 5
King, Tamara, ‘Cops, Crown win peace-bond fight’, The Winnipeg Sun, 9 May 2012, 13
King, Tamara, ‘Flatlined gets another: 25th arrest in massive police sweep’, Toronto Sun, 25 April 2012, 18 <http://www.torontosun.com/2012/04/19/reputed-biker>
King, Tamara, ‘Hells associate in jail after breaching bond’, The Winnipeg Sun, 5 May 2012, 6
King, Tamara, ‘Jailed gang leader facing long list of additional charges’, The Winnipeg Sun, 28 July 2012
King, Tamara, ‘Laying down the law: Court documents reveal cops’ gang-fighting tactics’, The Winnipeg Sun, 28 April 2012, 2
King, Tamara, ‘Redlined fugitive busted at Headingley weigh scale’, The Winnipeg Sun, 3 June 2012, 3
King, Tamara, ‘Redlined president arrested in Stony’, The Winnipeg Sun, 22 May 2012, 3
King, Tamara, ‘Reputed biker fights court conditions’, Toronto Sun (online), 19 April 2012 <http://www.torontosun.com/2012/04/19/reputed-biker>
McIntyre, Mike, ‘Bikers dealt body blow – Raids, arrests of top figures seriously weaken local Hells Angels’, Winnipeg Free Press, 17 March 2012, B1
McIntyre, Mike, ‘Cops make life hell for Angels – Arrested even if they haven’t done a crime’, Winnipeg Free Press, 10 April 2012, A6
McIntyre, Mike, ‘Judge doesn’t buy tale of biker’s bounty’, Winnipeg Free Press, 10 March 2015
McIntyre, Mike, ‘Jurors on drug case in for the long haul’, Winnipeg Free Press, 11 September 2015, B6
McIntyre, Mike, ‘Old-fashioned police work – Crackdown on Hells Angels first without informants’, Winnipeg Free Press, 24 March 2012, A8
McIntyre, Mike, ‘Police seize Hells bike at show – Harley taken from World of Wheels – Gang member agrees to leave Angels’ Winnipeg Free Press, 20 March 2012, B1
McIntyre, Mike, ‘Seized property will stay that way: court’, Winnipeg Free Press, 21 January 2016, B3
Owen, Bruce, ‘Hells Angels, vengeance dominate’, Winnipeg Free Press, 15 July 2011, A11
Pritchard, Dean, ‘Drug courier pleads guilty’, The Winnipeg Sun, 20 October 2015, 18
Pritchard, Dean, ‘Former Hells chief gets 11 years in jail’, The Winnipeg Sun, 30 April 2013, 10
Santin, Aldo, ‘Former Hells Angel leader gets 11 years – Sweeney accepts plea, admits running drug operation’, Winnipeg Free Press, 30 April 2013, 0
Turenne, Paul and Tamara King, ‘Police hobble Hells Angels: 9 arrested, cops now eye Rock Machine’, The Winnipeg Sun, 17 March 2012, 3
Turner, James, ‘Legal challenge launched: Gangster facing sentencing seeks time-served credit’, Winnipeg Free Press, 27 August 2013, B3
Turner, James, ‘Not large, but in charge: Red rules’, The Winnipeg Sun, 22 March 2012, 2
Turner, James, ‘Reputed biker prospect fights peace bond’, The Winnipeg Sun, 19 April 2012, 3
Turner, James, ‘Ringing up sales: Cops allege Hells Angels netted over $1.5M in dial-a-dealer scheme’, The Winnipeg Sun, 26 July 2012, 3
Turner, James, ‘Two more bikers sentenced to jail in Project Flatlined bust’, The Winnipeg Sun, 11 June 2013, 5
Turner, James, ‘Unclear if biker gangs will be Flatlined’, The Winnipeg Sun, 22 March 2012, 3
Treusch, Adam, ‘Cops still searching for four wanted in Project Flatlined’, The Winnipeg Sun, 22 April 2012, 4
‘Biker suspect turns self in’, The Winnipeg Sun, 24 April 2012, 13
‘Courts roundup’, Winnipeg Free Press, 20 August 2013, B2
‘Hells Angels president’s bail request rejected’, The Winnipeg Sun, 20 December 2012, 12
‘Police detail ‘Project Flatlined’’, Winnipeg Free Press (online), 16 March 2012 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvvDblPnbsM>
‘Wanted man arrested, warrants in effect for 2 other in project aimed at Hells Angels’, CTV News Winnipeg (online), 24 April 2012 <http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/wanted-man-arrested-warrants-in-effect-for-2-others-in-project-aimed-at-hells-angels-1.799442>
‘Winnipeg police nab man wanted in connection with Hells Angels activity’, CTV News Winnipeg (online), 2 June 2012 <http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/winnipeg-police-nab-man-wanted-in-connection-with-hells-angels-activity-1.834634>
In the related case of R v MacLeod, 2013 MBQB 242, which also arose out of Project Flatlined, Justice Martin a number of comments in obiter about the nature of drug trafficking by organized criminal groups within Manitoba:
‘The ugly fact of the matter is that cocaine and crack trafficking is a disease on our community and there is nothing noble or romantic about the gangs behind it. No matter what the outward show or the claims of being mere social clubs, at the core, gangs like the Hells Angels or Redlined or Rock Machine are a bunch of violent, selfish criminals who prey on, and use, others in all social and economic levels of society. They harm to any community from Winnipeg to isolated northern aboriginal reserves is seen daily by the consequences of cocaine trafficking, from users who steal and rob to support their habit, to shootings over turf, to violent beatings over debts, to extortion, and to other violent assault [sic], rapes and killings while under the influence of these drugs. Trafficking in serious drugs like cocaine and crack destroys people, it destroys families. All this should never be forgotten […]’
The use of sureties to keep the peace in this case was controversial. The orders, which may be granted pursuant to s 810 of the Canadian Criminal Code, do not require a criminal conviction before they may be used against a person. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association criticized the used of these orders in this case, arguing that they were inappropriate when a number of the persons involved in this case had not been convicted of a criminal offence and, indeed, no criminal charges had been laid against them.