Pubdate: Sat, 27 Jan 2001
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2001 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Randy Richmond


'The biggest and best-equipped army always wins' - RCMP Sgt. Ken Mitchell

Several of the toughest criminals in London attended the Hells Angels 
recent patch-over in Quebec, though they didn't become members, The Free 
Press has learned. Also:

- - Several of the most feared names on the street in London are backing 
Hells Angels, making them a link between Kitchener and Windsor.

- - The London chapter of the Outlaws -- the only other dominant club in the 
region -- is trying to match the Hells Angels growing strength by 
recruiting their own young toughs.

- - The former president of the Outlaws was involved in a stabbing incident, 
fuelling rumours the chapter is in trouble and only help from outside can 
stop the Hells Angels from taking control of Southwestern Ontario.

The impact on ordinary people will range from increased property crime to 
scenes of biker violence, police suggest.

London, the most populated urban centre in the region, could easily become 
the centre of the struggle.

"London has been an Outlaw town for a long time," OPP Staff Sgt. Don Bell 
said. But police aren't sure how strong the Outlaws really are. Nine 
members of the Outlaws in Southwestern Ontario patched over to the 
Quebec-based Rock Machine this summer, Bell said. The nine appeared to gain 
a lot of clout after the Rock Machine in turn patched over to the Bandidos, 
the second largest club in the world after the Hells Angels.

In fact, the Bandidos were going to open a Western chapter in London, Bell 
said. But the Bandidos have cancelled those plans. "There's a good chance 
they (the London area Outlaws) didn't meet the criteria of the Bandidos," 
Bell said.

Like the Hells Angels, the Bandidos insist on 24-hour-a-day, 
seven-day-a-week commitment. The London Outlaws have a reputation as being 
more traditional, party bikers involved in crime rather than a serious 
organized unit.

Sources in London's criminal world say there's been some division in the 
ranks of the Outlaws over joining the Bandidos/Rock Machine. That division 
may have something to do with the recent and bizarre London stabbing of a 
powerful Outlaw, ex-president of the chapter Randy Robitaille.

Police were called to a house Sept. 7 and confronted Robitaille, 39, who 
was arguing with a woman. Police said Robitaille cut his own neck, then was 
pepper sprayed and taken to hospital.

Those in the biker world heard a different story: Robitaille was in trouble 
because he refused pressure from the Bandidos/Rock Machine supporters in 
the club to leave the Outlaws behind.

The rumours on the street suggest the once powerful Outlaws in London are 
in trouble.

"We don't see the Outlaws as being that active in this town," said RCMP 
Staff Sgt. Ritchie Barlow, head of the London drug unit. "They've gotten 
older and have fallen by the wayside."

The recent arrest of Outlaws president Thomas Hughes at Pearson 
International Airport shows the Outlaws are outdated, said one source with 
ties to a rival club.

Hughes came off a plane from Jamaica wearing the full colours of the 
Outlaws. He was pulled over and checked and charged with possession of 
cocaine. "That's just typical of the Outlaws," said the source. But the 
Outlaws show no signs of giving up their turf without a fight.

"They're recruiting every young tough they can get their hands on," said 
one criminal.

London police have also heard about the recruitment drive. And London 
police Insp. Rick Gillespie isn't counting the Outlaws out yet.

But the Hells Angels have powerful names attached to them in the London 
area, including two men involved in the shooting death of an Outlaws president.

Paul Lewis admitted to fatally shooting London Outlaw president Jeffrey 
LaBrash outside the Beef Baron strip club in 1998, while with his brother, 
Duane Lewis. Outlaw Jody Hart was also killed in the incident. The Lewis 
brothers were acquitted of second-degree murder because they acted in 
self-defence, a jury found.

After the killing of the Outlaws president, biker experts said the Lewis 
brothers were as good as dead. The brothers, both in jail on drug charges, 
are still alive -- despite a $50,000 bounty on their heads by the Outlaws. 
A source inside the prison system said the Hells Angels have been 
protecting the brothers since they were placed in the Elgin-Middlesex 
Detention Centre in London.

Another source said the Angels are stepping up their recruitment drive in 
jails and detention centres throughout Southwestern Ontario. It appears 
they're trying to expand in London. Some bikers in London were invited by 
the Hells Angels to the patch-over ceremony that took place in Quebec Dec. 
28, several sources say.

Police would neither confirm nor deny that. But they're aware the Angels 
are taking a closer look at London.

The Hells Angels always had a lion's share of the market in London, said 
the RCMP. They control the cocaine coming into the region and much of the 
traffic in softer drugs.

But police don't expect to see a clubhouse in London. "They can establish a 
larger drug market and not be visible. They can sponsor someone," RCMP 
Insp. Marty Van Doren said. Criminal sources back up that perception.

A biker source said there's no doubt the Hells Angels are growing in power 
in the region. The Outlaws may be getting lots of new people, but that 
doesn't mean much, the source said. "The Outlaws take in the wrong people. 
They're so obsessed with size."

Police aren't sure of the effect of the Outlaws recruitment and the Hells 
Angels growing power in Southwestern Ontario.

Bell said the Hells Angels and the Outlaws can co-exist in the same region, 
just as the previous clubs and the Outlaws did; the danger comes when 
someone tries to expand.

Police hedge on the question of the danger to the public. People might see 
increased property crime as the more organized Hells Angels take over and 
enlarge the drug market.

"With any criminal activity, there's a fallout effect. People have to get 
money to support their habits," Van Doren said.

There may be battles if the Hells Angels expand too much for the Outlaws 

The Hells Angels presence makes it harder for police to crack the criminal 
rings they operate.

"The more sophisticated the gang, the more difficult it is to infiltrate," 
Van Doren said.

One thing is clear though: The Hells Angels want Southwestern Ontario and 
only one opponent, the Outlaws, stands in their way -- with Windsor and 
London potential flashpoints.

"The biggest and best-equipped army always wins," said RCMP Sgt. Ken Mitchell.

And, ironically, police have an impact, said a source close to the Hells 
Angels. "Who wins depends on who gets raided by police next.

Everybody is just sitting back to see what happens." Then, said the source, 
whoever's left standing will make their move.
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