DON’T get fooled into believing that everything is hunky-dory just because you have a couple of weeks without a shootout or someone getting whacked!
With an estimated 130 to 180 gangs or criminal groups in B.C. you can’t expect much peace.
Gang expert Sgt. Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – BC told me: “Now those groups could be as few as three or four people or they could be like the Hells Angels and have over 100 members in their gang.”
I asked Houghton what the gang landscape in B.C. looked like now because the Red Scorpions appeared to be in disarray with the Bacon brothers either dead or in jail.
He pointed out: “Alignments are always changing. It’s an extremely fluid and dynamic environment that these people find themselves in. As police, we are constantly targeting them and monitoring and disrupting their activities and conducting enforcement both locally and as they travel around, whether it is within British Columbia or across Canada.”
There are still remnants of the United Nations and Independent Soldiers and other gangs.
Houghton noted: “Most of what we see nowadays are people who aren’t necessarily calling themselves by a specific name but they operate within small, sometimes very tight-knit groups, and these groups go by the names of who their identified leader is or some other name that they seem to choose and that name may change two or three times year.”
(PHOTOS: Sgt. Lindsey Houghton Photo by Chandra Bodalia / Red Scorpions’ jacket. / CFSEU-BC displays drugs worth almost $400,000 seized from “856” gang. Photo submitted)
Houghton said: “The Red Scorpions still exist and members of the Red Scorpions are still around and they still call themselves the Red Scorpions.”
He pointed out that about two weeks ago, Red Scorpion member Cory James Lesperance was arrested from a neighbourhood just outside Red Deer city limits.
As this newspaper reported online (voiceonline.com), Lesperance, 29, originally from B.C., now faces a total of 14 drug and weapons related charges as the result of the police investigation that focused on the Red Scorpions’ drug trafficking operation and their infiltration of the Alberta market. Three associate members were also arrested.
Houghton said: “That’s just a reminder that yet again reinforces what we’ve been saying for a very long time – that B.C. gang members move around and travel all over not only British Columbia, but Western Canada and Eastern Canada and internationally to conduct their business. They have a wide area of influence.”
So who’s controlling the Red Scorpions now?
Houghton said: “We would still consider [the two surviving Bacon brothers] to be leaders of the Red Scorpions despite the fact that they are incarcerated.”
He added: “But on the outside, the last leader of the Red Scorpions … Matthew Campbell … was murdered earlier this year in Abbotsford. So right now they’re in a bit of flux in terms of leadership on the outside. There are some people who we believe are sort of controlling things on the outside but to call them the leaders of the Red Scorpions I think would probably be inaccurate because you still have the Bacon brothers in jail.
“They are still the figurehead of the gang. They are the symbol of the Red Scorpions. I don’t anybody when you say the words Red Scorpions doesn’t automatically think of the Bacon brothers. And a lot of that has to do with the Surrey Six [murders] and those tragic events. But their names are synonymous [with the Red Scorpions].”
[Innocent victims Chris Mohan, 22, and Edward J. Schellenberg, 55, of Abbotsford and four other victims who police say led criminal lifestyles – brothers Corey Jason Michael Lal, 21, and Michael Justin Lal, 26, and Edward (Eddie) Sousakhone Narong, 22, and Ryan Bartolomeo, 19 – were executed in typical gang-style fashion at the Balmoral Towers in Surrey on October 19, 2007.]
That’s the gang he spoke about at a press conference last week that this newspaper reported online (voiceonline.com). The CFSEU-BC had almost $400,000 worth of drugs that were reportedly seized from the gang on display. Named for the phone prefix in the Aldergrove area, the “856” gang is a violent criminal group that have been in existence for close to a decade and have been featured in local and other media for their involvement in assaults, drugs, weapon-related, property-related, and other types of crimes.
Houghton said: “A number of them were arrested in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, late last year. This is not an insignificant group by any stretch (of the imagination). There are probably about a dozen core members but they have a lot of associates, a lot of people who do their bidding and operate their drug lines.”
He added: “What they do is they look at small communities as an opportunity for them to muscle their way, sometimes by very violent means, into these communities to take over the drug lines. And that can often lead to violence in certain communities because there isn’t a community in existence that doesn’t have some sort of availability of drugs.
“So they have to muscle their way in and either take over by absorbing whoever is [operating] in that community or they have to violently do it. And they don’t care how it’s done as long as they are able to do it.
“And we do our best, of course, as everybody knows to keep tabs on them and keep that violence to a minimum and when there are enforcement opportunities like there was with the announcement last week, we take those when we have the evidence.”
SO which is the gang that police consider to be the most powerful in B.C.?
Houghton said: “You look at a group like the Hells Angels – by just sheer numbers they have over a hundred full patch members of the Hells Angels and then they have dozens and dozens of close associates and they’re disbursed throughout the province.
“Not only that, but they’re an international organized crime group. They have chapters and clubhouses and members all around the world. So they’re not only internationally connected but they’re in existence throughout every single province in this country and they have been so for decades and so they are unique in that respect and they’re one of the first gangs, if you want to call them that, in Canada.”
But Houghton also noted: “Many of them have been arrested and convicted and the last I heard it was about 18 per cent of British Columbia full-patch members are either in jail, have been convicted or recently convicted of criminal offences – so almost one out of every five of them.”
He said: “They’re heavily involved in criminal activity and have been for many, many years and everybody knows that – and in the gang world – perhaps less so than it used to be – but in the gang world, they were somewhat revered and feared. The name Hells Angels is very well known – it’s a ubiquitous name in our society.”
Houghton also pointed out that the richest gang would be the Hells Angels. He said: “They have been in existence for decades and they’ve been operating for decades and they’ve amassed a huge fortune – millions and millions of dollars.”
He noted that the Hells Angels don’t operate the same way as United Nations gang founder Clay Roueche and his gang or the Red Scorpions did.
AND who did Houghton consider to be the most dangerous in the sense that they were reckless?
He said: “That’s where there is a huge difference. The Hells Angels are traditionally not like that.”
He noted that members and associates of crime groups like the Red Scorpions, the Independent Soldiers, the United Nations and the Dhak-Duhre, “whose power has waned a bit,” are the ones that “have been committing the most violence in our communities and those are the ones who concern us greatly because they don’t care for the most part about public safety.”
Many of them are not calling themselves by those gang names, but the fact is that they are former members of those gangs.
Houghton said: “They’re the ones who are fighting over drug lines. You look at the Surrey Six trial and the murder of those six people was over drug lines and the most violent thing that could happen in our community is fighting over turf and that’s what these people do.”
He added: “They don’t care about the 99.9 per cent of society – the rest of us, if you will – they want to fight over the small piece of pie that is the drug market and they’re willing to put everybody at risk including themselves to fight over that.”
Houghton noted that we are talking access to millions and millions of dollars worth of drugs and profits from drugs.
But the point that police always want to make is:
‘What do those people have to show for it? They are either all dead or all in jail.”
For more on the state of gangs in B.C. read at voiceonline.com:
“Associates of Sandip Duhre and Dhak brothers are still flourishing” (February 2014)