CALGARY — Nine Calgary-area marijuana grow operations containing plants worth millions of dollars have links to the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang.
Authorities announced Thursday they seized 13,500 marijuana plants and 44 kilograms of harvested bud from the properties during an investigation that began in 2009. Police estimated the marijuana had a street value exceeding $17 million.
Investigators would only say publicly that the illegal enterprise was allegedly the work of two unnamed organized crime groups working together.
However, police confirmed information from Herald sources that some of the eight suspects charged in connection with the case are associated with the Hells Angels.
"We are aware there are some ties with members of the Hells Angels," said Staff Sgt. Tom Hanson of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams. The extent of those ties isn't exactly known, Hanson said, but he added investigators believe the bust dealt a crippling blow to the local operation.
Police said losing $17 million has the potential to hurt even a large organization like the Hells Angels, which claims chapters in 35 countries.
Seven of the nine grow operations were found in Calgary. Two were outside the city.
In an indication of the enterprise's scope and reach, Hanson said most of the marijuana was being moved out of Calgary for sale elsewhere.
The seizures took place during an 18-month investigation by ALERT, a provincial umbrella group targeting organized crime with nearly 400 members from municipal police, the RCMP and Alberta Sheriffs.
Eight suspects are facing 80 charges relating to drugs and theft of utilities: Tina Batsch and Michael Cornies, both 40; Thang Cuong, 28; Vinh Dang, 40; Shi Deng, 43; Brian Gainor, 34; Zhong Huang, 43; and Gregory Marosi, 39.
BY JASON VAN RASSEL,
JULY 14, 2011
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