Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jan 2004
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Province
Author: Adrienne Tanner
Bookmark: (Outlaw Bikers)


Federal justice officials yesterday denied police claims that some Crown 
prosecutors in the Vancouver office were too afraid to prosecute the Hells 

No one turned down the case of Francisco "Chico" Pires and Ronaldo Lising, 
who were charged with trafficking in cocaine, said justice spokeswoman Lyse 

"The file was assigned as soon as we received it."

Cantin was responding to statements by Vancouver police who said it took 
almost a year to find a prosecutor willing to take the case.

The reluctance was due to "concern for the safety of themselves and their 
families," the police said in a press release.

But Cantin said the file was given immediately to Peter Hogg, an 
experienced federal Crown prosecutor who was moving to B.C. from Manitoba. 
Ernie Froess was assigned as co-counsel and accepted.

Vancouver police spokeswoman Sarah Bloor said yesterday it took time to 
find the appropriate prosecutor and police are pleased with the result.

The convictions against Pires and Lising were upheld by the B.C. Court of 
Appeal last week, marking a pivotal victory for the Vancouver police 
against organized crime. Never before in B.C. has a Hells Angel been 
successfully prosecuted and jailed.

Threats were aimed at Froess the day after the two Angels were convicted.

Froess was sitting in the Pacific Centre Mall food court eating lunch when 
he was approached and threatened by a Hells Angels associate who attended 
part of the trial.

Froess recognized John Virgil Punko from court and police moved quickly to 
charge him with uttering threats.

During testimony at the trial, Froess recalled Punko kicking his chair. "He 
said, 'You better watch your f---ing back.' He then said, 'You're f---ing 
dead.'" Froess described the ordeal as "disconcerting, to say the least."

"But we have a job to do and we're obviously not going to allow ourselves 
to be intimidated by thugs."

Froess said police took precautions to enhance his security and he paid 
extra attention to his surroundings for a time. "But it's not like I locked 
myself away in hotel for a month or anything of that nature."

And if the Hells Angels hoped the threats would send a chill through the 
prosecutors' office, they were wrong, Froess said.

The threats, because they drew such a swift reaction from police, had quite 
the opposite effect.

"It demonstrated that the Department of Justice is going to stand behind us 
and the police are going to stand behind us," Froess said.

Despite his ordeal, Froess did not hesitate to take on another Hells Angel 
prosecution. He is in charge of the case against Glen Jonathan Hehn, 30, a 
member of the Nomads, an elite chapter of the Hells Angels.

Hehn and Ewen Lilford were charged with trafficking in cocaine after the 
Organized Crime Agency seized 51 kilos of cocaine from a truck in Surrey.

As they celebrated this week's appeal court decision on Lising and Pires, 
prosecutors and police predicted the convictions are the first of many more 
to come.

Insp. Brad Parker, one of the lead investigators, said the case is a 
testament to the vision of former Vancouver Police Chief Ray Canuel, who 
died in 1998.

"Ray Canuel was a huge support," said Parker, now a member of the Organized 
Crime Agency.

Drug investigations of the sort that jailed Lising and Pires are time 
consuming and expensive. "You've got to have support from your senior 
management to make it work."

Parker said the recent shift to a style of policing which brings together 
officers from different jurisdictions will increase the likelihood of 
success in complex cases involving organized crime.
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