LONDON, Ont. — The turf war that’s led to fires and shootings in London has been brewing for several weeks and involves a street gang run by an outlaw biker, sources told QMI Agency.
The war has also sent at least one prominent Hells Angels member into hiding and led to threats against two other tattoo parlours, sources said.
Sources identified the street gang as the FU Crew, and the leader as a biker with connections to the Outlaws motorcycle club.
The dispute first flared up, several said, with the burning of a vehicle belonging to the biker running the street gang and escalated into the fires at massage parlours and a strip club, and the shooting of two people Wednesday.
Police refused to confirm or deny any of the information, but did say their investigation is focusing on three of the street gangs in the city.
The FU Crew is one of seven street gangs identified by police Thursday in response to media questions.
Although the potential danger of the street gangs has come under the spotlight this week, the gangs have been growing in power for the past two years, said sources close to the city’s crime scene.
“Kids are driving BMWs from selling drugs,” said one source. People from Toronto “are coming in, and all these street gangs are selling drugs for them.”
Many full-patch, older outlaw bikers have homes and businesses that make them more vulnerable to threats, one source said.
“These young kids don’t care about anything. They have a false sense of immortality,” he added.
That assessment was shared by biker analyst Yves Lavigne, author of several books on organized crime.
“These gangs are very dangerous,” he said. “There are different levels of gangs. If the police are giving you the names of seven, they must be the high rollers. These are the guys with guns and contacts with guys from outside London with access to the drugs,” Lavigne said.
Three men in their mid to late 20s, two from London and one from Toronto, are charged in connection with the Wednesday shooting.
“No one had any idea about these gangs until this week, except for the people in the neighbourhoods they terrorize,” Lavigne said.
A battle between street gangs and the Hells Angels, not a traditional biker war between that club and longtime rival Outlaws, is behind the recent violence, police said this week.
But the Outlaws are involved in some way. This week’s violence began with a fire to an Outlaws-owned tattoo parlour Saturday morning, continued with fires to two massage parlours and a Hells Angels-owned strip club Sunday morning, and the shooting of a Hells Angels member and his friend, as well as another massage parlour fire in St. Thomas, Ont., Wednesday morning.
According to non-police sources, the dispute apparently began when Hells Angels member Diamond Ialenti — shot Wednesday morning outside the Hells Angels clubhouse — began leaning on street gangs in London to start selling drugs for the Hells Angels.
As the street gangs resisted, someone burned a vehicle belonging to the Outlaws-connected man running the FU Crew, sources said.
If their information is correct, that could explain how the Outlaws got mixed up in a war police say is between the Hells Angels and street gangs.
As the turf war over the drug trade grew, two east-end tattoo parlours were threatened, one owned by a well-known Hells Angels member, sources said.
“(He’s) been gone for weeks,” one source said of that Hells Angels member. “He left because of all the sh– coming down. A lot of the HAs (Hells Angels) have left.”
Both of the tattoo parlours were closed yesterday, despite signs saying they should be open, and the one owned by the Hells Angels member appeared abandoned.
The dispute began with Ialenti, but now involves the entire club, including high-ranking member Rob Barletta, who owns the strip club damaged by fire, sources said.
“I’m quite surprised they (street gangs) did that,” one source said. “Barletta does not like to lose money or have anything he owns destroyed.”
Barletta is a former president of the London Hells Angels chapter. It’s not clear what rank Ialenti holds in the club.
He came to the attention of police at an early age, charged at 18 in 1995 with causing willful damage for a Devil’s night melee. Six years later, he was charged with breaking court orders after being found in the Hells Angels’ clubhouse, then on York St.
In 2009, Ialenti was back in court again, this time after being found in a car with a loaded handgun and hockey bag of marijuana. He pleaded guilty to possession of a loaded handgun and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, and got less than a year added to the time already served.
The week of violence in London comes just before one of three Friday the 13th Port Dover, Ont., biker rallies this year.
Norfolk County Mayor Dennis Travale said he’s been keeping an eye on the situation in London, but wasn’t worried about any gang problems in Port Dover on Friday.
“Historically we don’t get gang activity,” Travale said. “When the gangs do show up they historically have pre-rented space somewhere and stick to that space.”
There will be the normal presence of police on hand, he said.
“Everyone can be assured that any Friday the 13th event has its fair share of police and other enforcement agencies in attendance. They may not be that noticeable to the passing public, but they will be here.”
Because of the weather, Travale expects about 5,000 to 10,000 bikers, rather than the 120,000 or more for summertime Friday the 13th rallies.