Bikers busted in early morning raid

Police sirens

Police sirens

Bill Sawchuk, St. Catharines Standard

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

An early-morning raid stopped Outlaws motorcycle gang plans to re-establish themselves in Niagara, police said.

A nine-month investigation into Outlaws activities resulted in Niagara Regional Police, with assistance of about 220 officers from across Ontario, executing 30 search and arrests warrants in and around Niagara before dawn Wednesday morning.

A total of 28 Niagara residents were arrested for various alleged criminal offences. More arrests are expected, police said.

Project Resurgence began in early 2013 when the NRP began investigating the activity of the Outlaws and Black Pistons motorcycle gangs in Niagara.

Police said the investigation uncovered evidence of narcotics trafficking — including heroin, cocaine and marijuana — along with weapons trafficking, break and enter, assault, extortion and participation in a criminal organization.

“In the last year or so, there has been a push to re-establish the Outlaws here,” NRP Staff Sgt. Shawn Clarkson said. “The way they have done that is create this Black Pistons motorcycle club. It's a support club of the outlaws. They would have become a full-patch Outlaws motorcycle club. They were just putting in their time as Black Pistons.

“They were operating out of the building at Welland Avenue and Page Street in St. Catharines. We will be seizing the building as part of the investigation.”

Leonard Lech, 26, lives on Page Street near the biker clubhouse.

“About 4:30 a.m., I heard two big bangs,” he said. “I thought someone was breaking into the car in the back of the building. I came outside, and I saw the whole street full of police.

“It was like they had tossed a flash-bang grenade or something. I came back when it was a little lighter out and the whole front gate was taken off. The front door was taken out. The front window was taken out.”

Lech said he was uncomfortable sharing the street with the bikers.

“I knew they were bikers because they wear their patches all day long. They weren't shy about it. They were walking around wearing shirts that say, Support Your Local Outlaws. They come and go 24-hours a day.

“You worry about other gangs coming by and beating them up or shooting up the building. You worry about stray bullets. I'm glad they are gone.”

In 2002, a joint-force police operation broke the Outlaws in Niagara. The Outlaws clubhouse in St. Catharines was seized and most of the gang members were arrested on charges ranging from attempted murder to drug trafficking.

Into that vacuum moved the Hells Angels, but, in 2006, Project Tandem, a joint forces, OPP-led operation, cracked down on Hells Angels across the province. The Welland clubhouse was raided.

“The fact the Hells Angels were taken out of Niagara was reflected in the Outlaws decision to target the St. Catharines Niagara area as a new spot for an Outlaws chapter,” Clarkson said.

“We don't need this kind of organized criminal group existing in this area because of the business they run — narcotics trafficking, extortion, weapons.”

bill.sawchuk@sunmedia.ca

THURSDAY: Watch live coverage of the police press conference at 10 a.m. On The Standard's website.

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Key events in Niagara biker gang history:

1998-1999: Former Hells Angels national president Walter Stadnick, a member of the Quebec Nomads Chapter of the Hells Angels with ties to Hamilton, makes frequent trips to Niagara. Police say at the time they believe he is laying the foundation for an Angels takeover of the region by 2000. This sparks fears of a gang war between the Angels and their longtime rivals, The Outlaws, long established in St. Catharines.

* July 1999: The Sherbrooke, Que., chapter of the Hells Angels arrives in Niagara Falls. It's the first time the Angels have visited Niagara in such large numbers. They are in the Falls for an annual ride - essentially a big party. However, Stadnick meets with Welland resident and convicted criminal Gerald Ward during the Angels' weeklong stay.

* 2000: The much-touted arrival of a Niagara Hells Angels chapter and an ensuing turf war with the Outlaws never happens.

* December 2000: In a massive ceremony in Sorel, Que., nearly all of Ontario's 13 biker gangs adopt the colours and name of the Hells Angels. The move shocks police who expected a bloody turf war with the province's native gangs. The Outlaws remain independent of the Angels.

* 2001: Stadnick's hand-picked men become probationary members of the Hells Angels. None of them have a previous history of being bikers, including Ward, who will become the club president. They set up shop in a clubhouse on Darby Road in Welland.

* May 2001: The new Niagara chapter hosts Angels from across Canada for the first time in Welland.

* September 2002: A joint-force police operation breaks the back of the Outlaws. The Outlaws clubhouse in St. Catharines is seized and most of the gang members are arrested on charges ranging from attempted murder to drug trafficking.

* September 2004: Stadnick is convicted in a Quebec court for drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder. He is sentenced to 20 years in prison.

* Sept. 28, 2006: Project Tandem, a joint forces, OPP-led operation, cracks down on Hells Angels across the province. The Welland clubhouse and at least one Hells Angels residence in Niagara is raided. Ward is arrested.

* March, 2010: Eight years after the club was broken by police, The Outlaws club house on Oakdale Ave is demolished. It takes two days to finally bring down the fortified building.

* Nov. 6, 2013: Project Resurgence, a nine-month investigation in to Outlaw motorcycle gang activities resulted in the NRP executing 30 search and arrests warrants with the affliliated Black Pistons clubhouse in St. Catharines raided and seized .

IN THE COURTS: 

Court staff were working overtime Wednesday as 18 of the accused in Project Resurgence were paraded through a special bail hearing.

The 17 men and one woman started being brought into a St. Catharines courtroom just before 3 p.m. But with so many people being processed, by 5 p.m. seven were still making their way from the police station and court didn't wrap up until 5:45 p.m.

All were put over to future dates for brief appearances by video, in person or for actual bail hearings.

— Karena Walter, Standard Staff


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