A HELLS ANGELS KINGPIN AT CENTRE OF STING
Cambridge Entrepreneur, Others Arrested; $1.5-Million Worth Of Cocaine Is Seized
CAMBRIDGE, ONT. -- As snow and wind whipped across Waterloo International Airport's runway yesterday morning, a Hells Angels kingpin was bundled aboard an OPP aircraft in handcuffs and flown to Thunder Bay -- which police say is the hub of an Angels-orchestrated cocaine distribution network that has supplied Northern Ontario for years.
The early-morning arrest of entrepreneur Andre Watteel, former president of the Angels' Kitchener chapter and long a local fixture in sleepy Cambridge, was part of a wave of arrests that encompasses dozens of charges from Montreal to Calgary.
Dishevelled after being roused from his comfortable, ranch-style home on the outskirts of town, Mr. Watteel appeared perplexed as he was led from a Waterloo Regional Police cruiser into the Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12 for the two-hour trip north, his feet shackled to the aircraft floor.
"Who's the photo guy?" he asked as he shielded his face from a camera.
Arrest warrants were issued for 22 other people, including four full-patch members of Thunder Bay's small Hells Angels chapter. Some suspects were still being sought last night, but all five bikers were behind bars.
Cocaine worth an estimated $1.5-million was also seized, together with handguns, rifles and about $100,000 in cash.
More unusual, the alleged network was brought down after the successful infiltration of the Thunder Bay Hells Angels by a police agent who spent nearly two years undercover.
How did he gain their trust?
"It was a simple fact of having something they wanted -- a commodity," said a source within Ontario's biker enforcement unit, a joint forces group led by the Ontario Provincial Police. "We provided them with that commodity. This shows that these guys are not untouchable; they are not beyond infiltration."
Wiretaps were also deployed.
Details of the police operation -- dubbed Project Husky and aided by the RCMP, Thunder Bay police, OPP and the Surete du Quebec -- are to be announced in Thunder Bay this morning.
Mr. Watteel, 53, is not accused of any drug offences; the four charges he faces involve fraud and stolen property.
He was flown to Thunder Bay to be formally charged because it was alleged that midway through the cocaine investigation, it became apparent that the city's Hells Angels were involved in property transactions.
Cocaine, however, was the focus of yesterday's raids. The police source said the fact that Thunder Bay was the base of the alleged trafficking operation, five years after the Angels expanded into Ontario from Quebec, was a sign of the times.
"The Hells Angels have been increasing their influence throughout Northern Ontario -- something that historically we have not seen," the source said. "So this is significant because it will cause substantial disruption to the cocaine trade in the north."
Word of the arrests spread quickly, and the Hells Angels announced it on their website.
"We've had a lot of calls from lawyers already, with people wanting to turn themselves in," the source said.
Organized-crime charges have also been laid, but they do not name the Hells Angels. Rather, the charges simply target instances where three or more people were alleged to have worked together to sell drugs.
In the charges, the non-Angels are not described as "associates," which denotes a specific status within the organization. Instead, they are, for the most part, described as drug sellers who worked in conjunction with the Angels rather than being affiliated with them.
Mr. Watteel, by contrast, has been a full-fledged Hells Angel since he and fellow Satan's Choice bikers "patched over" to the Angels in an elaborate ritual at the end of 1999.
And despite the group's reputation, it might come as a surprise to Cambridge and Kitchener residents that Mr. Watteel faces two counts of fraud, one count of possession of stolen property and one count of conspiracy to possess stolen property.
Along with his motorcycles, Mr. Watteel owns a restaurant and a bar in Cambridge and a string of residential properties.
Until recently, he was president of the 11-member Kitchener chapter of the Hells Angels. ( He was also at one time provincial secretary for the Ontario Hells Angels. )
But last year he was voted out, and since then has been a rank-and-file member, a local law-enforcement source said.
What has not changed, however, is Mr. Watteel's long-time image as a useful citizen -- a family man who sponsored minor sports teams, organized Cambridge's summer musical festival and provided turkey dinners for the needy at Christmas.
"From what I understand, they're business people," Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig said a couple of years ago of the Hells Angels.
2006, The Globe and Mail Company