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Kelowna: Seven arrested, one at-large following North End Hells Angels raid
It's been an exciting year at the Knox Mountain Store where a single mother bought a winning lottery ticket, the owner of Urban Distilleries cashed in his winning ticket and police may have found $4 million in the Hells Angels clubhouse across the street this past Saturday.
The stacks of $50 and $100 bills were on display in Vancouver Monday morning as RCMP gave reporters a briefing on five raids conducted throughout the province to take down an international drug smuggling operation, including one at the Roanoke Avenue clubhouse Saturday at 3 p.m.
RCMP are not confirming which of the locations the cash was seized from, but the seven people arrested in conjunction with the event include Kelowna Hells Angels Chapter vice-president David Giles and there is a Canada-wide warrant out for the arrest of the chapter's sergeant at arms, Brian Oldham.
"The investigation began in November 2011 and initially focused upon the evidence suggesting a marijuana and trafficking organization was active in the southeast district of British Columbia. RCMP gathered evidence indicating the drug trafficking organization was prepared to import and traffic 500 kilograms of cocaine," Superintendent Brian Cantera, officer in charge of the RCMP Drug Enforcement Branch in B.C. explained in the press conference.
Searches were conducted in Osoyoos, Coquitlam and directly across from Tolko at the Okanagan clubhouse where bystanders reportedly heard glass smashing, but little else to indicate the raid was underway.
The location has long raised eyebrows in the neighbourhood and residents have met with police from time to time over the club's presence.
"When it was first built, there were some initial concerns about the fortress-like appearance. It doesn't even appear to have a front door," said Heather Rice, president of the Kelowna Downtown Knox Mountain Neighbourhood Association.
In the years since, the residents' association has nevertheless only received comments about the noise from the bikes.
Along with the $4 million dollars seized, RCMP say they also brought in an assault rifle and handguns from one of the raid locations, suggesting there may be some serious implications the neighbours have not had to think about to date and the police raised the point during the press conference.
"This investigation demonstrated how organized criminal groups engaged in drug trafficking have no respect for municipal, provincial or international borders. More concerning is the complete disregard these groups show for Canadian families and public safety, both of which pay the devastating price exacted for criminal profits," Cantera said in his statement.
Giles was arrested and charged with conspiracy to import a controlled substance and traffic a controlled substance along with Kevin Van Kalkeran, Michael Read and James Howard.
Orhan Saydam, Murray Trekofski and Shawn Womacks were arrested and charged with possession for the purposes of trafficking a controlled substance.
And Oldham is also charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking a controlled substance, but remains at large.
RCMP say the case demonstrates the role marijuana, a drug oft-characterized as harmless, plays in the drug trade.
"The evidence gathered through this investigation is a stark reminder of the central role marijuana plays in the international drug trade and the influx of dangerous drugs like cocaine into Canada," said Cantera. "The flow of marijuana, synthetic drugs and cocaine has always been, and continues to be, international in scope and all effective drug enforcement efforts have recognized this fact."
The investigation took 20 months and saw the Southeast District RCMP work with the Mexican Federal Police, U.S. law enforcement and Panamanian authorities.
The six in custody were to appear in court Monday; anyone with information on the whereabouts of Oldham is asked to contact the RCMP or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222TIPS (1-800-222-8477).