What started as an investigation into drunken thuggery on George Street 18 months ago has climaxed in a massive RNC drug bust with national implications that is now officially linked to the Hells Angels.
An initial investigation into increased violence on the famed downtown St. John's party strip eventually evolved into Operation Roadrunner - which saw early morning raids and arrests in 11 homes Thursday in St. John's as well as arrests in rural Quebec.
On Friday, RNC Chief Joe Browne showed off evidence seized in the bust and confirmed speculation the drug ring was controlled by the Hells Angels in Quebec.
"(The St. John's members are) not full-patch members. They're all associates in one way or another to Quebec organized crime groups, including the Hells Angels. They've been here in the past and we're under no illusion that they won't be here in the future," said Browne.
Police arrested 24 in total as part of its investigation, including 14 on Thursday. One of those was on the Quebec provincial police's 10 most-wanted list.
Marc-Andre Hinse of the Trois-Rivieres Hells Angels chapter was arrested and faces charges of drug trafficking and gangsterism. Provincial police say the 36-year-old was picked up at a cottage in central Quebec. Police had been looking for Hinse since May 2004. Browne described Hinse as the president of the Trois-Rivieres chapter.
Browne said the Hells Angels do not have a permanent chapter or headquarters in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Their tentacles reach throughout the country. We're not isolated from it. They're not as established here as they are in Quebec, where they actually have identifiable headquarters. And our job is, to the extent we can, to prevent that from happening."
The RNC seized 51 lbs of marijuana, 19 lbs of cocaine, $300,000 in cash, six motor vehicles, weapons and laptop computers.
Quebec police seized $170, 000 and four homes.
"We've made a significant dent in the drug trade in this province. I think we slowed it for a period of time. Now, we're not foolish enough to believe that the void we've created won't be filled at some point in the future so our efforts have to be continued," said Browne.
A police source with the Ontario Provincial Police Biker Enforcement Unit called the arrests "significant" and "a good day's work" for his police colleagues. He said the ring fits a pattern of Quebec-based full-patch members controlling operations in smaller regions of the country. He described the St. John's group as a "low-level associate cell" of the Hells Angels, which explains why the familiar "death head" patch of the Hells Angels is not usually seen on the backs of bikers on the streets of St. John's.
It's a sign of the times the RNC chief said.
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"Unfortunately, with prosperity comes increased criminal activity. As our province becomes more prosperous we can expect to interrupt more organizations like this," Browne said.
Arrested from St. John's are: Patrick Dickson, 35; Kim Kennedy, 33; Shawn Squires, 25; Stephen Andrew Browne, 22; John Stanley, 36; Mike Samson, 19 and David Cantwell, 34. From Portugal Cove: Brad Harding, 20; Stephen Doyle, 27 and Mark Kane, 19. Scott Martin, 27, is from C.B.S. and Christopher Archibald, 38, is from Topsail.
Ali Farrokh, from Quebec is scheduled to be brought to St. John's.
All made an appearance in court either Thursday or Friday and were released, with the exception of Stanley, Kane and Dickson, who were remanded into custody.