Two cellphones used in a dial-a-dealer cocaine network run by the Manitoba Hells Angels and its support club rang an average of 530 times a day over the 10 months cops secretly monitored the operation, which netted more than $1.5-million in drug sales in that time, police allege.
The sales total is a conservative estimate based on halving the total number of calls traced to the phones over the life of the investigation (159,154) and assumes only a single $20 rock of crack was sold as a result, police say.
They believe the volume of sales was likely much higher.
The figures are disclosed in court documents relating to Project Flatlined, a covert police sting probing the activities of the HA and their support crew, Redlined, between May 1, 2011 and Feb. 29, primarily in the Elmwood area of the city.
Winnipeg police conducted extensive covert surveillance and used wiretaps to gather evidence against the affiliated biker gangs.
The clandestine investigation netted the arrests of 16 suspects who are today facing a wide range of drug and criminal organization-related charges.
Federal prosecutors have begun authorizing direct criminal indictments against four who are alleged to be key players in the busy dial-a-dealer enterprise.
They include reputed full-patch HA member Dale Sweeney and two high-ranking Redlined members, Brendin Wall and Thomas Barnecki.
The direct indictments mean the men will bypass the provincial court system completely and head straight to trial in the Court of Queen’s Bench. They are presumed innocent.
Det. Sgt. Michelle Bacik of the Winnipeg organized crime unit filed a comprehensive overview of the Flatlined investigation in support of the Crown’s legal manoeuvre.
The document alleges Sweeney was at the pinnacle of the drug network and supplied cocaine to underlings for the purpose of the drug being cut and broken down into .17 gram rocks for sale on the street.
Barnecki acted as the “reloader and street boss” for the dial-a-dealer operation who would take instructions from Wall on how many rocks should be portioned out, police allege.
The street-level dealers primarily used two mobile phones in a “quite organized” operation, Bacik says.
Wall and Barnecki would constantly communicate with the dealers “to check up on drug sales, ensure they had adequate cocaine … shift schedules, staffing and answering the phone calls from customers requesting cocaine,” she states.
Aside from simply selling drugs, seven street dealers also helped out by collecting money, scouting competition and marketing the enterprise.
The document notes that “cheque days” in the city were busy on these fronts.
Police installed a secret camera in a Moncton Avenue suite where they allege bulk cocaine was stored and portioned down.
The camera was ultimately discovered by Wall, police say, and operations were suspended.
After only a short time, however, operations resumed using a stash house on St. Anne’s Road, despite the suspects realizing they were under investigation, police say.
Cops busted the new stash house in early February and seized a kilogram of cocaine and some cutting agent.
Bacik says by Feb. 10, the targets of Project Flatlined had learned of the police probe.
Police say the cocaine sales netted a minimum of $150,000 a month. Officers also made a total 41 separate undercover buys from dealers using traceable cash, Bacik says.
In a wiretapped conversation with a Redlined associate, Wall said “the minimum” sales per day for the operation was 250 rocks at $20 apiece, according to the documents.