He was paid more than $500,000 to help police arrest a dozen Hells Angels and drug dealers and then testify against them in court.
Now, 49-year-old career criminal and police snitch Franco Atanasovic is back in court, accused of bilking friends and neighbours of tens of thousands of dollars each while living under the witness protection program.
The Winnipeg Sun is not identifying Atanasovic's alleged victims, where the incidents occurred, or any other details that might reveal his whereabouts. The alleged victims say the fraud occurred as Atanasovic was set to testify against local Hells Angels Ian Grant and Ernie Dew.
Two of the alleged victims say they notified Atanasovic's RCMP handler of his activities and were threatened with arrest if they exposed him.
"I said maybe a guy should go to the media so that other people aren't getting taken by this guy," said one man. "That's when he proceeded to tell me that if I did he would have me arrested with interfering with an RCMP investigation."
The Sun has confirmed that Atanasovic, under a new name, is before a provincial court outside Manitoba charged with fraud. His alleged victims say he convinced them to give him up to $60,000 each in return for goods that were never delivered.
Atanasovic's testimony was instrumental in the convictions of Grant and Dew. Grant was found guilty at trial of drug trafficking and extortion and sentenced in May 2007 to 15 years in prison.
Dew, the former Manitoba chapter president, was found guilty of drug and organized crime charges and sentenced last March to eight and a half years in prison. The Manitoba Court of Appeal has since overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial.
One victim who lived on the same street as Atanasovic claims he told him his real name and that he worked undercover for police.
"He actually told me the first time I met him that he worked undercover for them against the Hells Angels in Winnipeg," the man said. "He said that was why he had the motorcycle in the garage. He said the RCMP bought him the house and moved him here."
The man claims Atanasovic strung him along for months, promising him delivery of the goods he had bought.
When the man met another neighbour who also claimed to be a victim and learned about Atanasovic's criminal background, the man demanded Atanasovic give him his money back.
The man says Atanasovic continued to stall him, promising imminent delivery of his goods. Atanasovic later moved to a $1.5-million home in the same city and allegedly continued to defraud new victims, one man told the Sun.
Two subsequent victims said they never would have been cheated if police had taken action when warned of Atanasovic's alleged activities.
One man, who allegedly lost $50,000 to Atanasovic, said RCMP "turned a blind eye" to Atanasovic's criminal activities.
"I can't believe that they can put a guy in witness protection, knowing he is continuing criminal activities, and not get involved," he said.
Victims say their complaints went unanswered by the RCMP, who advised them to file civil lawsuits against Atanasovic. He was eventually charged criminally following an investigation by municipal police.