Using a paid police informant was one tactic employed in a recent RCMP-Winnipeg police sweep of the drug underworld — continuing a scheme used by police in similar high-level crime probes in the recent past.
An undercover agent is to be paid in the range of $500,000 for his or her role in Project Deplete, a justice source confirmed Monday.
The organized crime investigation, details of which were revealed last Friday, remains ongoing with two suspects remaining at large.
The latest sweep saw charges laid against people police accuse of being major players in the city’s drug trade. Some have gang associations, others are more “independent,” police said.
Among those arrested were former Hells Angel William ‘Billy’ Bowden and Joshua Lyons, who was convicted in Project Defence, a separate organized crime sting conducted in 2006.
As well, justice officials have authorized the use of direct criminal indictments against suspects in the latest case.
The bulk of those arrested so far made an initial appearance in the Court of Queen’s Bench Monday.
The use of direct indictments means preliminary hearings meant to test the Crown’s evidence are bypassed.
Direct indictments were also used in a 2009 crackdown into the Hells Angels-associated Zig Zag Crew gang code-named Project Divide.
In that case, police paid former Zig-Zag member Michael Satsatin hundreds of thousands of dollars to inform on the criminal activities of other members.
Lawyers appearing for suspects in Project Deplete Monday were given some preliminary disclosure and portable computer hard drives containing police evidence.
No evidence was put forward by prosecutors on the record in court.
The lawyer for Christopher Murrell, 36, said he plans to make a bail application prior to Mar. 14 — the date Justice Brenda Keyser remanded the cases to.
Jay Prober refused comment on the specifics or details of the investigation or allegations against Murrell, who is accused of cocaine-trafficking.
He did state he felt the use of direct indictments was unfair to accused people.
If a paid informant was used, Prober speculated, it wouldn’t be uncommon for the Crown to use the legal tactic to ensure witness safety.
“If there’s an agent involved, they inevitably use direct indictments because they don’t want to bring the agent out more often than necessary,” Prober said.
Nearly seven kilograms of cocaine, almost half a kilo of crack, more than 9,800 ecstasy tablets, a kilo of MDMA and large quantities of methamphetamine, oxycodone and marijuana were seized during Project Deplete, which started in August 2011.
Police estimate the total street value of the drugs seized at about $1 million.
FOUR MORE ARRESTS
Four more arrests were made as part of project deplete.
Kareem Martin, 31, Dane Sawatzky, 27, Mark Beitz, 31, Dalton Miller, 21 were all taken into custody since the first arrests were made on Friday.
Warrants for the arrest of two individuals are still out.
Elmer John Deato, 26 is wanted for trafficking cocaine while David Thomas, 29 is wanted for weapons trafficking, among other charges.
BY JAMES TURNER ,WINNIPEG SUN
FIRST POSTED: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 06,