Morbid Curiosity


Waisberg Commission: “Dark Underbelly” – The Waisberg Inquiry was established to probe a wave of violence that had swept the Ontario construction business between 1968 and 1973, and the 1974 report of County Court Judge Harry Waisberg was as thick as a cement foundation block, filling 770 pages in two volumes entitled, “Report of the Royal Commission on Certain Sectors of the Building Industry.”

Those weighty volumes were jammed with what the judge called “a sinister array of characters.” In the words of Geoffrey Stevens of the Globe and Mail , Waisberg “laid open the dark underbelly of the Ontario construction industry,” cataloging assaults, shootings (including an incident where a submachine gun strafed a construction-company office), bombings, theft, and sudden death, and the recruitment of enforcers with underworld connections to people like mobster Paul Volpe.

Waisberg’s reports were rife with accounts of bribery. Union business agents had been bribed by employers to supply them workers at low wages. Subcontractors had paid off contractors for work, and companies had bribed civil servants to throw jobs their way with liquor, gift certificates, porcelain and crystal, a stereo, a Bahamas vacation, a silver tea service, and a colour television.

In the words of plaster-and-drywall contractor Anthony Cesaroni, “The construction business is not a lily-white business, as we all know.”

See also: Giacomo Luppino, John “Johnny Pops” Papalia, Pietro Scarcella, Paul Volpe .

Walkley Crew: Mean Street – This Montreal Jamaican street gang took its name from treelined Walkley Avenue, where it set up eight crack houses in the early 1990s.

At its peak, the crew had only eighteen members, but they made a violent impact on the underworld. The crew ceased operations in June 1994, after its leader Delroy Anthony Hunter stepped out of a shoe store with a pair of suede desert boots in hand and was shot dead with a bullet to the head.

At the time, his crew was fighting for dominance with three other Montreal Jamaican–Canadian drug gangs, most of whom were based in the downtown and Côte-des-Neiges districts. Two days after his death, a carload of men fired shots in the air in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant near Walkley Avenue, signalling that the territory now belonged to the rival gang Grand Massive.

Violence was a trademark of the gangs, who were made up largely of illegal immigrants or permanent residents (formerly called landed immigrants) or refugee claimants. Most gang members had lived in Canada less than ten years. Most of Hunter’s crew came to Canada from Jamaica in their late teens, sponsored by relatives or on student visas.

Jamaican drug gangs first surfaced in the United States and Canada in the 1970s, as members fled political violence in their island country. By the time of Hunter’s murder, a dozen of his fellow gang members had been ordered deported. Three of them had actually been deported, with the rest either serving prison terms or appealing deportation orders.

See also: Robert Blackwood, Jamaican Posses .

Wallace, Charles – See Michipicoten .

Ward, David: Disgraced Stock Promoter – The Vancouver man left the headlights on and the engine running when he double-parked his Nissan Pathfinder on a quiet suburban street in the east end of Vancouver early on the evening of January 14, 1997.

Whoever he was meeting, he didn’t plan on staying long.

Ward was still behind the wheel when someone shot him in the head at close range, execution-style. The killer didn’t bother to take the cash or the jewellery Ward was wearing.

Ward had been a key figure in one of the Vancouver Stock Exchange’s most notorious scandals. In May 1984, Ward and Toronto promoter Edward Carter cut a lucrative deal with a San Antonio, Texas, mutual-fund manager to trade fifteen different stocks on the Vancouver Stock Exchange controlled by Carter and Ward.

Between them, they had 147 accounts that bought and sold shares from one another at increasingly inflated prices. This gave the investing public a false impression of prosperity and sucked many of them into the market.

Their scam went undetected for twelve months, and exactly how much money Ward made was impossible to determine, as funds were funnelled into overseas bank accounts.

Ward eventually pleaded guilty to stock-manipulation and bribery charges, and was given three years. Less than a year later, he was released and back on the streets of Vancouver, working ties with companies listed on the Alberta Stock Exchange.

Police investigated whether Ward’s murder was linked to the 1990 slaying of stock promoter John “Ramon” Ray Ginnetti, but no charges were laid and Ward’s death remains a mystery.

See also: Vancouver Stock Exchange .

Warriors – See Manitoba Warriors .

Watts, Terrance Frederick: Shady Trade – He had a blemished reputation on the Vancouver Stock Exchange even before he tried to buy $731,000 of hashish from an undercover RCMP detective posing as a drug dealer. The case was dismissed on constitutional grounds, but Watts still had to worry about his alleged debts to the Hells Angels. In August 2003, Watts, forty-one, was found shot to death in the trunk of his car in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

See also: Vancouver Stock Exchange .

Webmasters: Net Worth – Barrel-chested Frederick Landry-Hétu certainly looked like a biker, with his leather vest and scruffy beard. However, the Hells Angels value him not because of his brawn, but rather for his computer smarts, which made him the Angels’ Webmaster for the Canadian East Coast.

It was Landry-Hétu, with a degree in computer engineering, who was credited with building the club’s database of information on members of the rival Rock Machine, which has since merged with the American-based Bandidos.

In September 1999, Landry-Hétu was arrested in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga on drug-trafficking and weapons charges. During a search of his home, police found nearly two kilograms of cocaine, $76,000 in cash, a list of drug debts, fake identification, weapons and ammunition, Hells Angels paraphernalia, a credit-card-embossing machine, and a number of computers.

Landry-Hétu was eventually convicted and sentenced in 2000 to close to four and a half years in prison. During his incarceration at a medium-security Ontario prison, sources say he was discovered with what police grimly called his “cellphone.” It is not unheard of for guards to discover bikers with phones in their cells. What startled guards was that Landry-Hétu had managed to hook up his computer to a satellite dish, devising a homemade Internet connection.

Sylvain “Sly” Grégoire was Landry-Hétu’s Webmaster counterpart in the rival Bandidos. Before the Bandidos gang member was shot to death in August 2001 in his Montreal car dealership, Automobiles Sans Tracas (Automobiles without Trouble), Grégoire had stumbled onto a shocking discovery.

The thirty-three-year-old found a CD-ROM containing the names of 614 people connected to the Rock Machine/Bandidos gang in Quebec and Ontario. Compiled by the Angels, the CD-ROM contained a wealth of information – names, dates of birth, addresses, licence-plate numbers, social-insurance numbers, driver’s-licence identifications, addresses of wives and mistresses, favourite haunts, a physical description, photos, and members’ status in the Rock/Bandidos organization. In short, it was a Michelin’s Guide for a Hells Angels’ hit man.

The CD-ROM also contained information on more than a dozen businesses friendly with the Bandidos in Ontario and Quebec, in addition to information on other rivals in the criminal underworld, including the Outlaws motorcycle gang and the Sicilian Mafia.

Grégoire was fatally shot shortly after discovering this information, and police have made no arrests in the murder. By the time he was slain, the CD-ROM had already been copied and passed on to other gang members.

He must have known that running an outlaw Web site was a dangerous business, as the previous Bandidos Webmaster, Réal “Tintin” Dupont, was murdered in January 2001. Police found computer files of information on the Hells Angels in the forty-one-year-old’s home, but, again, no arrests were made.

See also: Claude De Serres .

West End Gang: Irish Mafia – They don’t have elaborate rituals like the Mafia and Triads, or coast-to-coast reach, like the Hells Angels biker gang. However, the West End Gang does have considerable clout on the waterfront of Montreal.

In the first half of the twentieth century, they were known simply as the Irish gang. They grew in strength through the 1960s, through truck hijackings, kidnapping, and armed robbery.

However, the gang became a top-level power in the underworld in the 1970s when it got into large-scale importation of hashish and cocaine through the Montreal dockyards. At the same time, the gang nurtured contacts in Colombia, the United States, and Europe.

The gang has about 150 individuals members, many drawn from the bleak streets of the Pointe St. Charles district near the Lachine Canal. They were once known simply as the Irish Gang, and never developed a strict Mafia-like hierarchy. Instead, the gang has a series of captains who run separate crews.

Today, the West End Gang sits alongside the Mafia and Hells Angels on the “Consortium,” fixing the price of drugs for the wholesale and retail markets. Often the gangs work together importing drugs through the port, and their work was made easier in 1997 when the federal government disbanded the national ports police, which specialized in waterfront corruption.

See also: Gerald Matticks, Allan “The Weasel” Ross, Frank Peter “Dunie” Ryan, Claude Savoie .

Whisky Runners: Prairie Plague – Until the North-West Mounted Police was established in 1873, whisky runners roamed the West at will, trading rotgut booze for furs, robes, and horses.

In his book Firewater , author Hugh Dempsey wrote that hundreds of Native peoples died in what is now southern Alberta between 1870 and 1875 as a result of the illegal whisky trade. Deaths came from drunken quarrels, from bullets fired by whisky traders, by freezing while drunk, and from the noxious whisky itself.

Dempsey noted that chiefs lost their authority and families disintegrated, with children suffering abandonment and neglect, while whisky traders John J. Healy, Al Hamilton, I.G. Baker and Company, and T.C. Power and Brother each pulled in some $50,000 a month.

Part of the blame for the sweeping negative effects on the Blackfoot people goes to the fact that the Canadian government didn’t bring in any law enforcement after it purchased what is now Alberta from the British government in 1869.

About that time, to the south, there had been rumblings that Washington was about to shut down the whisky trade, and now Montana whisky peddlers needed new markets, which they found across the border in Canada.

When the North-West Mounted Police finally arrived in 1874, at least fifty whisky-trading posts existed north of the border, with names like Fort Standoff, Robber’s Roost, and Fort Slideout. Their trade of rotgut liquor caused enormous misery on the Blackfoot reserve, which spanned the modern-day Montana and Alberta border.

They were seen as a politically destabilizing force, and the North-West Mounted Police were formed in large measure to bring them under control. The force assembled at Dufferin, Manitoba, in the summer of 1874, and then some three hundred officers marched out toward the Rocky Mountain Foothills, looking for whisky forts and traders. By 1875, the Mounties had set up Fort Macleod on the banks of the Oldman River, along with outposts in Fort Saskatchewan, Fort Calgary, and Fort Walsh.

See also: Al Hamilton, Fort Whoop-Up, Wolfers .

Winterhalder, Edward Warren: Don’t Bomb the Messenger – Immigration officials didn’t accept his argument that the Canadian government should welcome the American biker as a messenger of peace. Winterhalder, a top member of the U.S.-based Bandidos biker gang, wanted to cross the border freely, despite his criminal record and reputed ties to organized crime.

Winterhalder argued in 2001 that he should be welcomed into Canada to visit newly created Bandidos chapters, saying the Bandidos actually calmed the Quebec biker war that had killed some 160 people since 1994. The Bandidos absorbed the Rock Machine gang in December 2000, and hostilities with the Angels cooled but were not extinguished.

Winterhalder and a driver were waved through when they crossed on January 5, 2001, at Fort Erie, Ontario. They drove on to Kingston to oversee the induction of about sixty probationary members, mostly former Rock Machine bikers.

Shortly afterwards, police arrested Winterhalder, saying he had entered the country illegally by not identifying himself as a gang member to the border guard. They also argued that he posed a danger to the public because of his alleged links to organized crime. Immigration officers wanted to detain Winterhalder for up to six months, so they could have time to look into criminal allegations against the biker, but an adjudicator quashed the government’s motion, saying the forty-six-year-old single father should not be separated for so long from his daughter and his construction business in Oklahoma.

See also: Bandidos, Hells Angels, Nomads, Rock Machine .

Wolfers: Poisonous Relationship – Wolf pelts were worth plenty of money in the late nineteenth century, and the wolfers had an easy way of killing their prey. They would simply poison a buffalo and then poison the carcass with strychnine. The wolves would die when they fed on it.

Not surprisingly, the Native peoples of the plains hated this practice, since they respected wolves and were also upset that the poisoned buffalo killed their own dogs.

Meanwhile, the wolfers were upset at the whisky traders, who sold Natives repeating rifles, which made them a far more dangerous enemy.

One of the leading wolfers of the day was a man named Harry Taylor, whose Native name, Kamoose, meant “Squaw Thief.” In the summer of 1872, Taylor rode out from his base at Fort Spitzee in what is now southern Alberta with a band of about ten men, who called themselves the Spitzee Cavalry.

The “cavalry” forced whisky traders to sign pledges to end the arms trade, but when they reached Fort Whoop-Up, the biggest arms-trader on the plains, its leader, Johnny Healy, called them mad dogs and refused to promise anything. Then Healy told them he had a cannon trained on the fort, and would have it blown up with them inside. Another version of the story is that Healy held a lit cigar over a powder keg, and threatened to ignite it, if the wolfers didn’t come around to his way of thinking. At that point, the wolfers agreed that they were all in the business of making money off of the Indians, and returned to poisoning buffalo.

Business interests in Fort Benton, Montana, backed both the wolfers and whisky traders. That’s where American and Canadian wolfers were heading in the spring of 1873, when their horses were stolen by Indians, who considered this sport.

The wolfers were furious that they had to complete the trip on foot. Thirteen of them got horses and chased the Indians to Cypress Hills, in southern Saskatchewan. They lost sight of their quarry, but near Battle Creek they found another band of Assiniboines, led by Chief Little Soldier.

The wolfers started that first Sunday of May with a whisky breakfast. There had been another horse theft, and by the time the liquid meal was over, the wolfers were furious. They went to the Assiniboine camp of Little Soldier, who told them the animal had probably wandered off.

A battle followed shortly afterwards, the Indians using muzzle loaders and bows and arrows, while the wolfers opened fired with high-powered repeating rifles. When the fighting was over, some thirty Natives and one wolfer lay dead, and the head of Little Soldier was mounted on a pole. The wolfers also tore apart the camp and abused Native women and children.

Back in Fort Benton, the slaughter was called a great victory, and the wolfers were hailed in the local press as “thirteen Kit Carsons.” Canadian newspapers described the raid as a criminal assault of the Canadian West, and pressured Ottawa to do something.

The North-West Mounted Police were formed, as people around Fort Benton agitated for an outright invasion of Western Canada.

See also: Fort Whoop-Up, Whisky Runners .

Wolverine: Crime Biters – This special Quebec anti-gang squad included the RCMP , the Sûreté du Québec, and the Montreal police. It was established after eleven-year-old Daniel Desrochers was killed on August 9, 1995, by a biker’s bomb in the peak of the Hells Angels–Rock Machine biker war.

Although racked by serious police in-fighting between the Montreal police and the Sûreté du Québec, the Wolverine squad, with its budget of some $5 million, eventually helped contain the bikers. Some members of the Wolverine squad considered containment the best they could hope for, grumbling that an outright victory was unrealistic.

See also: Maurice “Mom” Boucher, Daniel Desrochers, Nomads, Red Zone, Rock Machine .

Woody the Lion: Four-Legged Biker – The residents of a farmhouse just north of Toronto said, in January 2001, that they would like to be thought of as average pet owners.

However, their pet was a declawed, neutered eighty-hundred-pound African lion named Woody. And the pet owners at a compound on Jane Street, about ten minutes north of Canada’s Wonderland were members of the Loners motorcycle club, referred to by police as criminal bikers and occasional associates of the Hells Angels.

“He’s more like a dog or a domesticated cat,” a woman who did not wish to be identified said during a visit by the Toronto Star . “He wants you to play with him, pet him just like a housepet.”

“The only thing is, he’s eight hundred pounds,” cautioned a Loners member. “You don’t want him to jump on you.” The bikers didn’t normally give tours of their grounds, but they were appealing for public sympathy, as local authorities tried to take away their pet.

The jungle beast had been a club pet since he was a three-week-old cub, the Loner said, adding authorities have known about him since a June 1998 raid by the Ontario Provincial Police on a previous gang clubhouse on Rutherford Road, near Highway 400. Woody was not put behind bars by police after that raid netted police some $11,000 worth of heroin.

During the reporter’s visit, the bikers noted that Woody got regular visits from a veterinarian, dined on at least ten pounds of beef and chicken daily, and had two separate sheds for shelter and privacy. A biker said he could not comprehend why local authorities wanted to take away Woody. “Tell me, what is the big issue?” the biker asked.

He said that Woody was named after a biker who originally owned him, who was killed in a motorcycle accident. “It was given to him as a gift. I don’t know exactly how he got him.”

Woody had been neutered and had no mane as a result. He had also been declawed, and the bikers have made a point of making sure he has never got the taste of warm blood during feedings. “He’s never had anything live given to him and never will,” said the biker.

The 0.9-acre biker compound was surrounded by a locked 3.5-metre-tall gate with barbed wire on top and Woody was locked inside a steel-framed cage inside that fence. The Loner dismissed the suggestion that Woody the lion was there for security, pointing to his solidly built cage and asking, “Now, can he do guard duty when he’s in a cage?”

Eventually, the bikers lost their court fight and Woody was transferred to a non-biker compound in the Barrie area in Ontario’s cottage country. The Loners faded from the landscape with the arrival of the Hells Angels en masse into Ontario in December 2000.

Woody the Biker Lion (Ken Faught , Toronto Star)

Back to home and table of contents