Morbid Curiosity

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Jamaican Posses: High-Rise Horrors – Noted by police in Toronto in the early 1990s, posses have names like Striker, Spangler and Shower, and have ties to New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Washington, and other American cities where they exercise absolute, murderous control of the crack-cocaine trade.

Other gangs of young people aren’t so organized, but use the term posse as a scare term, particularly in large Toronto apartment complexes.

Apartment complexes are appealing to posses because they house large numbers of youths, who are a ready-made market for the $20 to $60 “rocks” of crack the posses sell.

The posses smuggle in guns – especially 9 mm automatic pistols and the small submachine guns seen in many Hollywood movies – from the United States via the same route as the cocaine cooked up for crack.

The Toronto police have countered by recruiting Jamaican-born police officers who can understand the Jamaican patois picked up on wiretaps.

The posses are noted to be hard-core criminal gangs, born in the depressed areas of Jamaica and nurtured on free-enterprise drug markets. Membership is confined to Jamaicans, and each posse confines its members to Jamaicans – “Yardies” – from a particular geographic area, all of whom know each other.

Often, gangs use impoverished women as expendable couriers – “mules,” in drug parlance. Typically, the posse supplies a rental car, train, or bus ticket to New York to the woman. There cocaine is picked up and smuggled back over the border. Air tickets to Jamaica or Florida are provided for women who are lured by the promise of a holiday.

See also: Robert Blackwood, Christopher “Dudus” Coke .

Jaworski, Doug: Big Sting – The tiny private airstrip in rural Burtts Corner, New Brunswick, looked just right to the Colombian drug barons.

The Medellín cocaine cartel planned to use rural New Brunswick as a North American distribution base in the late 1980s, and the plot was approved by cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, reportedly the world’s richest criminal.

Instead, it became the site of the largest cocaine seizure in Canadian history. Unknown to Escobar and his workers, Doug Jaworski, the man who they thought was buying the tiny airstrip for them, was actually an undercover agent for the RCMP , directed by Insp. Wayne Blackburn.

Jaworski was one of only a handful of non-Colombians trusted by the drug lords. He sold many of them airplanes from a dealership he ran in Florida. He delivered planes to Colombia, and gradually got to know key cartel figures. They were impressed with his quick mind regarding technology, and he helped them with cellphone scramblers and wireless fax machines and was able to show them how a plane might find seams in radar systems to avoid detection. Eventually, however, Jaworski flipped and agreed to turn on the cartel in exchange for $200,000 and an agreement by U.S. authorities not to prosecute him on tax charges.

He told authorities he had previously earned between $300,000 and $400,000 from the Medellín drug cartel for “illegal activities” between 1984 and 1988. He said the cash was payment for ferrying drugs, selling and maintaining aircraft, and laundering “millions” in drug profits through Swiss banks.

Jaworski helped the cartel adapt to modern technology, like how to use portable FAX machines, multibranch banking, cellular phones, and transmitters that detect police bugs.

Now, the drug lords wanted him to study any weaknesses in Canada’s ability to track airplanes off its East Coast.

While working undercover for the Mounties, Jaworski helped organize a shipment of five hundred kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to New Brunswick. Backroads of rural New Brunswick had been used by bootleggers during Prohibition, and now the Colombians planned to use them for cocaine.

In April 1989, Blackburn and a crew of Mounties were hiding in the snow as the first drug plane to attempt to land in the Maritimes brushed a tree, then touched down at the secluded airstrip.

Not long after the pilots were jailed, the cartel sent up a hit team to free the jailed pilots. One of them later told police the cartel “intended to kill the informer, his wife, and cat and dog,” even though Jaworski was in witness protection.

The hit team was captured because of an alert gas-station attendant – also a moonlighting newspaper reporter – who called police about a van full of suspicious men.

Jaworski’s knowledge of internal cartel operations was so extensive that he was questioned by U.S. authorities who were preparing a drug-trafficking case against former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, and West German police tapped him for help in putting together a money-laundering trial involving cocaine that was hidden in shipments of pricey artichoke hearts.

He also helped American authorities prep for a trial involving the cartel’s reputed “finance minister,” Eduardo Martinez Romero, who was extradited from Colombia on charges of laundering or conspiring to launder $1.2 billion of cartel drug money.

Seized airplane in New Brunswick

Seized cocaine

The RCMP rated the potential risk against people on a scale from zero to seven. Jaworski, had a 6.5 security rating, just 0.5 below that of American President George Bush and the Pope and 1.5 above Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Fears that the Mounties were abandoning Jaworski’s parents drove the family to take their case for protection to the Supreme Court. Jaworski had threatened to sabotage the case from the witness stand unless he felt his parents were adequately protected and compensated for their losses in the case. The 1990 case was so sensitive that it caused the only secret hearing in the history of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Probably Jaworski’s strongest Canadian critic was Sydney Leithman, the Montreal lawyer for convicted Colombian cartel members and other underworld notables, including Mafia leader Frank Cotroni and Claude Dubois of the infamous Dubois brothers. Leithman slammed Jaworski in court as a liar, criminal, and a “tarnished and paid informant.” He also accused Jaworski then of having “a giant-sized ego,” and said he was “flippant, arrogant and insulting.”

For his part, Jaworski was unapologetic, saying he did Canada a service with his role in the sting. Police never had any evidence against him, so he could have just walked away, he said.

As Jaworski was beginning life under a new identity, the Mounties scrambled in June 1991 to assess the damage of one of his RCMP bodyguards, who they worry acted as a double-agent for the cocaine cartel. The officer under investigation faxed in his resignation and fled Canada for Portugal shortly after the May 13, 1991, contract-style slaying of Leithman, who had apparently taken on a huge retainer and then didn’t deliver in court. The murder remained unsolved.

Meanwhile, Jaworski’s old cartel friend Caycedo was also reportedly murdered in Colombia.

See also: Sydney Leithman .

Jodoin, Claude: Too Close to the Story – He grew up in east-end Montreal, studied law at McGill University, then chose a career in journalism. In 1967, two years after he began his reporting career, Jodoin met Claude Dubois, who was well on his way to becoming one of the province’s most feared criminals. The two men became friends, a bond that would influence both of their lives.

Jodoin was making $120 a week as a reporter, and crime was a hot beat. This was a time of “New Journalism,” when reporters were often encouraged to live the beat they were covering. Jodoin found himself growing closer to Dubois, who was moving up in the Montreal underworld.

The Dubois family became a household name in 1975 when the Quebec Crime Commission inquiry into organized crime described Claude and his eight brothers as the driving force behind a bloody war for control of underworld activity in Montreal.

Around this time, Jodoin was sacked by Le Journal de Montréal for becoming too close to the mobsters. He got a job running two bars for his underworld friends.

Police couldn’t find anyone to testify against the Dubois brothers in court until November 1980, when Donald Lavoie, a self-admitted underworld hit man, came to them. Lavoie, forty-two, had just narrowly escaped an attempt on his life, and was seeking police protection. He told police – and later admitted on the witness stand – that he was a hired gun for the Dubois brothers for ten years, plotting several killings and personally gunning down so many people that he had lost count.

Local underworld figures were panic-stricken when Lavoie started talking. Some went into hiding and others plotted revenge.

“I didn’t like what I was hearing,” Jodoin told the Globe and Mail in 1982. “Some were talking about murders to shut Lavoie up, including the killing of women and children. I was getting in deeper and deeper and they were asking me to do things I didn’t want anything to do with. I had to get out.”

Finally, he contacted police, who needed someone to corroborate Lavoie’s testimony about the murders of Richard Desormiers and Jacques-André Bourassa. Both men were connected to mobster Frank “Santos” Cotroni and both were slain at a Montreal nightclub in 1973.

With Jodoin’s help, prosecutors were able to lay murder charges against Dubois and two of his associates nearly nine years after the killings.

For this, police gave Jodoin $4,000 when he began working with them, then weekly payments of $400, to a maximum amount of $25,000.

Before the murder trial, Jodoin worked for eight nerve-racking months as a double-agent, feeding information to police after meeting with underworld figures. “Dubois thought I was helping him build his defence, when in fact I was doing just the opposite,” Jodoin recalled.

When the trial was over, and Dubois was convicted, his former friend Jodoin retreated far from Montreal, where he lived under the constant protection of bodyguards. “I’m not nervous about the prospect of being killed [by the underworld],” Jodoin told the Globe and Mail . “If it’s going to happen, then it’s going to happen.”

But life in protective custody has other drawbacks. Jodoin moved “somewhere in the country in a prison without bars.… All I see out in the country is trees. I’m getting to hate them. I’m a city boy. I’d rather look at buildings.”

See also: Dubois Brothers, Claude Dubois, Donald Lavoie .

Johal, Bhupinder “Bindy”: Gang-War Victim – This B.C. gang leader was involved with co-defendant Peter Gill in the longest criminal trial in Canadian history. The trial was better known for the publicity around Gill’s liaison with juror Gillian Guess than for the outcome, when Johal, Gill, and others walked free after being charged with hits on alleged gangsters Ron and Jimmy Dosanjh.

Johal was gunned down in a crowded Vancouver nightclub in December 1998. At the time of his murder, he was facing charges for the kidnapping of the younger brother of a rival gang leader. Johal’s next-door neighbour had earlier been shot dead while walking his dog, and police believe he was mistaken for the drug dealer.

See also: Ranjit “Ron” and Jimsher “Jimmy” Dosanjh, Peter Gill, Gillian Guess .

Johnston, Bill: Accidental Patriot – A pirate by profession and a patriot by accident, Johnston was born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, on February 1, 1782, and his family settled in 1784 in Bath outside Kingston. He worked as a farmer and merchant before finding his niche as a smuggler on the St. Lawrence River, where the Thousand Islands offered (and offer) countless hiding spots from authorities.

In the War of 1812, when he was suspected of smuggling goods to the American enemy, Johnston’s property was confiscated and he was jailed in Kingston. He escaped from custody and, livid over the loss of his property, offered his services to the Americans as a spy and raider, using his six-oared boats to attack boats on the St. Lawrence. He also robbed mail coaches on land.

When the war ended, he settled in New York in the community of French Creek, which later became known as Clayton, New York State. Ostensibly, he was a merchant, but French Creek was a notorious smugglers’ roost, and Johnson looked every inch the river smuggler, with six pistols and a Bowie knife tucked into his belt. He did his illegal work from a twenty-eight-foot, twelve-oared boat that could hold twenty men, and was light enough to be hauled overland.

When rebellion broke out in Upper Canada in 1837, rebels hoped for help from Americans, and Johnston the pirate found himself with the grand title of “commodore of the Navy in the East” for the rebel side. With a cloak of respectability from American authorities, Johnston terrorized the waterways, and in July 1838, Lady Durham, wife of the Governor General of British North America, travelled up the St. Lawrence and wrote to Countess Grey, “Our voyage by the Thousand Islands has been most prosperous, no appearance of Pirates or ill-disposed persons, but we heard afterwards that Bill Johnston, the most dreaded of these robbers, had been very near us.”

It was around this time that Johnston became involved with the Hunters, a patriot lodge whose members used secret signs to identify themselves and swore oaths “to promote republican institutions throughout the world.” Johnston took part in an ill-conceived effort by the Hunters to invade Canada through Prescott, Ontario, in November 1838. Their plot – and boats – literally ran aground, and Johnston surrendered to Canadian authorities near Ogdensburg, New York, on the condition that he could give his six pistols, twelve-shot rifle, and Bowie knife to a son.

Again he bolted from custody, but he was recaptured and tried in Albany for murder and piracy. Found guilty, he received a one-year sentence and a fine of $250. Six months into his term, he escaped yet again, and rather than being punished for his crime, he was granted a pardon by American President William Henry Harrison, who fought in the War of 1812.

Johnston’s final years were spent in French Creek. He owned islands in the area, which he called Ball, Shot, and Powder. He died in French Creek at age eighty-eight, on February 17, 1870.

Jones, Frank – See Sam Kelly .

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