Cocaine trafficker linked to Hayer case gets bail pending appeal

It was third time lucky Monday for convicted cocaine trafficker Jean Gaetan Gingras.
In September, B.C. Court of Appeal Chief Justice Lance Finch denied him bail pending an appeal of his drug conviction, saying to release Gingras would diminish the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.
Again last month, five other appeal court judges agreed with Finch and denied Gingras bail a second time.
But on Monday, Gingras, 70, was released on bail by another appeal court judge, just in time for Christmas.
The fact that Gingras got three attempts in front of the same court to get out of jail until his April appeal frustrates Liberal MLA Dave Hayer, whose journalist father Tara was the target of an attempted bombing by Gingras in 1986. Gingras has never been charged in connection to the plot.
“I am really upset by this,” Dave Hayer said Tuesday. “We have heard over and over again how some of these criminals really know how to manipulate the system.”
Hayer said the courts appear to place the rights of criminals before the rights of victims.
“I have been raising this issue for a long time. Things need to change,” Hayer said.
Gingras was convicted last March of conspiracy to purchase cocaine and money laundering. He was sentenced in August to 10 years in jail.
The drug case stemmed from an undercover RCMP investigation into several attempts on the life of Tara Singh Hayer, who was murdered on Nov. 18, 1998. Hayer, who had helped police in the Air India investigation, was also paralyzed in a 1988 shooting.
During a 2008 police probe, Gingras admitted to a Mountie posing as a South American drug smuggler that he was hired to place a bomb outside Hayer’s Surrey newspaper office in January 1986 by a Montreal man linked to the Babbar Khalsa terrorist group.
Gingras told the cop the bomb was meant to send a message to Hayer. He also denied having anything to do with Hayer’s murder.
The conversation, like 80 per cent of those captured on intercepts during the investigation, was in English.
Gingras, a francophone originally from Montreal, is now appealing his convictions, claiming he was entitled to a trial in French. He also claims he only understood 30 per of what was said during the B.C. Supreme Court proceedings, despite the fact that he had a French interpreter throughout the trial and often chatted on breaks in English.
The Crown argued that Gingras never requested a trial in French, nor complained during the proceedings that he couldn’t understand. He is now saying that his former lawyer, Karen Bastow, gave him misleading advice about having a French trial.
The first two appeal court rulings said that Gingras’ grounds of appeal are not likely to succeed.
“The appellant has been convicted of serious offences and has received a sentence of 10 years imprisonment,” Chief Justice Finch said in his Sept. 5 ruling. “I consider none of the grounds of appeal advanced to be strong. On balance, I consider that public confidence in the administration of justice could well be diminished if bail were to be granted.”
The second appeal court ruling on Nov. 20 said “Gingras has some difficult hurdles to overcome. His prospects for success are far from certain.”
The new bail hearing was granted after Bastow swore out an affidavit about Gingras’ difficulty understanding English, as well as his hearing problems. The affidavit was considered new information and bail was granted.

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New West murder victim identified as Sam Balani

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has confirmed that a man found dead in New Westminster Wednesday was in fact murdered.

And IHIT has identified the victim as 32-year-old Sam Balani, who was shot to death about 6:15 am in his basement suite in the 500-block of Colby Street.

“Investigators have been processing the crime scene overnight and in to the day and can say this suspicious death has been confirmed as a targeted homicide,” Sgt. Jennifer Pound said in a news release.

She said no one has been arrested. Investigators are asking anyone with information to contact the IHIT tip line at  1-877-551-IHIT(4448) or  email ihittipline@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

Balani was known to police.

Five men convicted in three slayings in Greeks murder trial: Sentencing Thursday

Five men connected to a ruthless drug gang known as the Greeks have been convicted of three brutal slayings around Vernon after B.C.’s longest-ever jury trial.
A B.C. Supreme Court jury deliberated for a record 12 days before coming back just after noon Sunday to announce the verdict.
The 11 jurors found Peter Manolakos, Dale Sipes, Leslie Podolski, Sheldon O’Donnell and Douglas Brownell guilty for their roles in killing three men who had run-ins with the Greeks gang just before their deaths.
David Barry Marniuk, who delivered drugs for the Greeks, was beaten to death with a baseball bat, a hammer and a blowtorch because he had taken off with some cash and the gang’s cell phone in the middle of a shift in the summer of 2004.
Both Sipes and Podolski were found guilty of the first-degree murder of Marniuk. O’Donnell was convicted of second-degree and Manolakos was convicted of manslaughter in Marniuk’s death.
Thomas Edward Bryce was a rival drug trafficker fighting the Greeks for turf when he was also beaten with a wooden bat, then stomped, at a popular beach near Vernon in November 2004. He died 17 days later in hospital.
O’Donnell was convicted of second-degree murder in Bryce’s death, while the jury found Brownell guilty of manslaughter.
Ronald James Thom was shot to death on May 31, 2005 because Manolakos heard Thom may have provided police with information about the Greeks criminal activity.
Sipes, O’Donnell and Manolakos were convicted of the Thom’s first-degree murder, while Brownell was convicted of manslaughter.
Justice Bill Smart said the killers will be brought back to court Thursday for sentencing.
The four convicted of first-degree murder will receive an automatic life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years, while Smart will have to rule on Brownell’s term for two manslaughter convictions.
Smart thanked the jury for their service through 18 months of evidence, weeks of closing arguments and his own instructions, as well as 12 long days of deliberations.
Crown David Jardine, one of the senior prosecutors on the case, also expressed gratitude for the jurors’ commitment.
“We are extremely pleased and full of admiration for the work that the jury put in in18 months of service that’s over and above the call of duty,” Jardine said. “We are full of appreciation for the work that the jury put it.”
Some of the controversial key Crown witnesses at the trial cannot be named because of publication bans on any information that could identify them.
Defence lawyers for the accused attacked the credibility of the Crown witnesses, saying some of them were killers with lengthy criminal histories.
Crown lawyers said that despite the criminal records of some of the witnesses, jurors should not reject any of their testimony in its entirety.
Smart began his six-day charge to the jury on Nov. 7. The jury started their deliberations on Nov. 14 and generally met from 9:30 am to 7:30 p.m. with a one break for lunch.
Jurors heard that Manolakos led the deadly gang, named after his Greek heritage. Sipes, Podolski and O’Donnell were senior gang members, while Brownell was an associate who did drug deals with the Greeks.
Manolakos provided gold rings and vests to his members, who also had a tattoo of the word “ema” – which means “blood” in Greek – as well as the omega symbol.
And jurors heard that the Greeks had different ranks within the organization, including “runners” like Marniuk who worked the drug lines at the street level, “bankers” who would supply drugs to the runners and collect the profits, and “enforcers” who would mete out punishment to those who broke the Greeks’ rules.
They also listened to testimony of gruesome evidence about how Marniuk’s battered remains were taken out to a remote spot and set on fire. A former gang member testified that Manolakos wanted Thom’s bullet-ridden body left on a Vernon street as a warning to others not to cross the Greeks.
More than 100 Crown witnesses testified at the trial, which was held in the special high-security courtroom built for the Air India bombing case. Twenty-five lawyers were involved in the historic trial.
The RCMP put together a special task force to look into the gang’s activities in 2004 and 2005, resulting in arrests and charges in May 2006.
While jurors heard evidence in three murders, Greek gang members are also suspects in four other slayings in the north Okanagan.
At the time of their arrests in May 2006, police said the Greeks were major players in the drug trade in the Okanagan and also had tentacles that reached to Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Vancouver and other cities. The Greeks also had links to the Hells Angels.
A Vernon lawyer connected to the Greeks is due to go to trial in January on criminal organization charges.

Abbotsford Police make record cocaine seizure

Abbotsford Police announced Monday that officers had made a record seizure of cocaine over the weekend. In a news release, Const. Ian MacDonald said the department’s patrol division came upon a man in a parking lot in the 2000 block of Clearbrook Road about 7:45 am Saturday.
He was in possession of two medium-sized duffle bags, which had padlocks on them.
When police asked him about the bags, he was unable to explain why they had the locks on them
“A search of those bags revealed numerous packaged bricks of what is suspected to be approximately 60 kilograms of cocaine,” MacDonald said.
 The 24-year old was arrested for possession for the purposes of trafficking. The investigation is continuing.
“This represents the largest cocaine seizure in the department’s history,” MacDonald said.
NOTE: I was off Monday and skiiing and NOT on this blog, so am just going through comments now.
And this CP story about the Asian crime boss was really fascinating. Hopefully I can cover the immigration hearing later this month.

Surrey substitute teacher charged with trafficking

A Surrey substitute teacher has been suspended after being charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and trafficking.
Eugenio Alfonso Bahamonde, 41, will next be in court on the charges Jan. 16.
 Richmond RCMP Cpl. Sherrdean Turley said that Mounties witnessed what they believed was a hand-to-hand drug transaction near an elementary school in Vancouver Nov. 7 while working on an unrelated property crime  investigation.
 “A vehicle approached the area at which time the plainclothes officers watched as the driver of the vehicle appeared to make a drug transaction with a pedestrian.  The driver was also seen smoking what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette,” Turley said in a release.  “The vehicle drove away & was pulled over in a neighboring parking lot where the driver was arrested & issued a 24 hour driving prohibition.  A search incidental to arrest revealed marijuana and evidence of drug trafficking.”
 Bahamonde told police he was a teacher as they were arresting him.

Richmond RCMP says woman shot an innocent victim

Richmond RCMP is updating information about the woman shot in a local tattoo parlour Friday night.
Sgt. Cam Kowalski told the Richmond News that the woman, who is recovering in hospital, was an innocent victim and not the target of the shooting at the Floating World Tattoo Parlor about 8 pm Friday.
Fortunately it looks like she will be okay. Police are always saying it is only a matter of time before more innocent bystanders are caught in Metro Vancouver’s gun violence. Now it looks like we have someone who was just out patronizing a local business who is now dealing with serious injuries.
Here’s the story:

Kelowna’s Matt Schrader charged with trafficking

Kelowna gangster Matthew Schrader and his girlfriend have been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking after police executed a search warrant on their home earlier this month.
Kelowna RCMP said Thursday that investigators searched Schrader’s luxury rental apartment in the 1300-block of Ellis Street Feb. 9 and found cocaine, heroin and 11 cell phones.
“Schrader has well-documented links to several different organized crime groups,” RCMP Const. Kris Clark said.
Clark said the RCMP has notified the Ministry of Children and Family Development about a 15-year-old boy who was living in the drug-filled apartment.
Schrader and Pratt have both been released by the Court on strict conditions and are scheduled to appear in Kelowna Provincial Court on April 15th, 2013.
Schrader, a former  Abbotsford resident, is close to several B.C. men convicted in Washington state in a major cross-border pot and cocaine smuggling ring linked to the Hells Angels.
And Schrader is also associated to former Mountie Rob Sidhu, who appeared in a Seattle courtroom this week charged with being one of the leaders of the same drug ring.
Matt Schrader self portrait

Man dies after assault on Commercial Drive Saturday morning: UPDATE

Vancouver Police have arrested a 27-year old after a man was fatally assaulted in East Vancouver just after 10:30 am Saturday morning.
The suspect has not yet been charged.
Sgt. Randy Fincham issued a news release saying what had been initially described as a serious assault had become  Vancouver’s second homicide of 2013.
Fincham said police were called to the scene after reports of a fight on Commercial Drive at Venables Street.
 “When they got there, they found one man suffering from serious injuries. The man was rushed to hospital by paramedics where he has since died. The man’s name is not being released until the man’s family has been notified,” Fincham said.
He said the investigation is ongoing and detectives from the Vancouver Police Major Crime Section and the Forensic Identification Unit will be at the scene throughout the day.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vancouver Police Homicide Unit at (604) 717-2500 or Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-8477.

Missing Surrey man found slain in car

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has confirmed that a dead man found inside a car Wednesday night is Vimal Chand, 29.
Chand was reported missing my his family just days ago and Surrey RCMP released a plea for public information.
His body was discovered about 6:30 p.m., inside a car across from an elementary school. He may have been there for several days.
“Initial response and subsequent investigation by the Surrey RCMP determined that this case was likely a homicide and IHIT was called,” IHIT’s Cpl. Bari Emam said in a news release.

“I can confirm that the body of the young man located inside the car was that of 29 year old Vimal Chand of Surrey. This investigation is in the very early stages and the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Chand are yet to be determined,” Emam said.

Greeks’ lawyer took gangsters to gun range to practice: Crown

A Vernon lawyer who admits that he illegally aided the violent Greeks gang took members of the criminal organization target shooting on at least two occasions, B.C. Supreme Court heard Tuesday.
Prosecutor David Jardine argued at a sentencing hearing for William Mastop that the lawyer’s actions enhanced the ability of the Greeks to commit more crimes by improving their “shooting accuracy” and gun handling skills.
Jardine, who wants the disgraced lawyer to serve up to three years in jail, said Mastop provided the ammunition for the Greeks when they visited a local gun range just outside of Vernon.
“The gang members would bring their own guns, which included a 45 calibre handgun, a 9 mm Glock handgun and a 22 revolver,” Jardine told Justice Mark McEwan. “He permitted the group to shoot his guns as well as their guns.”
Jardine said Mastop knew the Greeks to be members of a violent drug trafficking organization at the time.
“The Crown position is that this isn’t just a benign social outing,” Jardine said on the second day of the sentencing hearing at the Vancouver Law Courts.
Sheldon O’Donnell, one of Mastop’s shooting guests, was convicted of first-degree murder last November for shooting Ron Thom to death on May 31, 2005.
Four others associated to the Greeks, including leader Peter Manolakos, were also convicted in the slayings of Thom and two others in Vernon in 2004 and 2005.
Mastop entered a surprise guilty plea in December to illegally working to benefit a criminal organization.
Jardine also said that when a search warrant was executed Mastop’s home on May 11, 2007, police found a high-powered rifle that belonged to a member of the Greeks, whose identity is shielded by court order.
“Knowingly carrying and storing a rifle for [the Greeks member,] a drug trafficker, facilitates in the Crown’s submission the ability of a criminal organization to commit a criminal offence,” Jardine said.
He also cited an instance where Mastop passed along documents given to him by a Calgary Hells Angel he was representing to Manolakos.
And Mastop routinely attempted to get information from prosecutors and prison officials for the Greeks about associates who had been arrested.
In an intercepted call played Tuesday, Manolakos told Mastop to reassure Greeks associate Douglas Brownell, who had been arrested, that the gang would be there for him.
Jardine said Manolakos used Mastop to make sure Brownell wouldn’t cooperate with police.
Another Greeks member told Mastop that he planned to tell a suspected complainant against a gang associate that he better not show up in court.
Mastop’s lawyer David Crossin will make his submissions Wednesday.