Pubdate: Wed, 20 Aug 2008
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw and Kelly Sinoski
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Customers Lured With Crack Cocaine Giveaway, Police

Victoria police say they've dismantled a chapter of the
Vancouver-based Red Scorpions gang that aggressively expanded in the
capital city's drug trade by threatening other dealers and sometimes
giving crack cocaine away for free.

Police arrested six people, in their late teens and early 20s, last
week and raided a Saanich house -- on Borden Street, near McKenzie
Avenue -- they called the base of operations for a burgeoning Greater
Victoria "dial-a-dope" operation.

In addition to the arrests, police seized $3,000 in cash, $1,000 in
cocaine and a loaded sawed-off shotgun, said Const. Colin Brown, a
lead investigator.

The raid was the culmination of a month-long undercover operation by
the Greater Victoria Regional Crime Unit, and Victoria and Saanich
police. Plainclothes officers bought crack cocaine from dealers
downtown, said Brown.

"We certainly believe that we've made a dent in this group," said

During the undercover work, police identified 11 people they thought
were either members or associates of the Red Scorpions. Six were
arrested and face court dates this week. Two are in custody for
unrelated charges, and three remain on the loose and are wanted, say

Those arrested face a variety of drug trafficking and possession for
the purpose of trafficking charges. They are to appear in court this
week. Victoria police will ask the court to ban some of them from
returning to Vancouver Island, said Brown.

The Red Scorpion gang was recruiting members in Victoria by
distributing free crack cocaine with a phone number for orders it
filled 24 hours a day, said Brown. The Scorpions were also "very
aggressive" to other dealers and police were concerned about the
potential for future violence, said Brown.

The Red Scorpions are considered to be one of the most violent gangs
in B.C. and members have been identified as suspects in the slaughter
of six people in a Surrey highrise in October 2007.

It was established in the Lower Mainland eight years ago by a group of
young men who met each other in a youth detention facility and has
grown over the years. Many members have a "RS" tattoo on their wrists,
neck or shoulders.

Two years ago, several Red Scorpions were arrested in connection with
a large crack cocaine "dial-a-dope" operation in Coquitlam, Burnaby,
New Westminster and Port Moody. After 10 accused in the ring pleaded
guilty, it was believed the Scorpions had been disbanded but police
said earlier this year the gang was still active.

Sgt. Shinder Kirk, of the B.C. Integrated Gang Task Force, said he's
aware people in Victoria are affiliated with the Red Scorpions, but he
didn't know whether they are associates or members.

He said many individuals will operate under the moniker of certain
groups, such as the Scorpions, in a franchise-type situation in order
to intimidate and sell their drugs. "No community is immune; if
there's a market for their product, they'll operate there," said Kirk.

Police pressure on the Lower Mainland may have played a part in the
gang's decision to expand to Vancouver Island, said Sgt. Dave Bown,
head of the Greater Victoria Regional Crime Unit.

"They are always looking for expansion in their business, and I
believe they'd see Victoria as a potential expansion," said Bown. "The
drug trade in Victoria isn't really controlled by one group or loose
connection of people."

The ferry ride separating Victoria and Vancouver has largely insulated
the capital from violent gang activity seen elsewhere, said Bown.
"It's worrisome those tentacles could reach here," he said.

Victoria police launched their Red Scorpion investigation, called
Project Mongoose, just two days after 20-year-old University of
Victoria student Philbert Truong was gunned down outside a city
nightclub July 19.

Somphavanh Chanthabouala, of Surrey, and a 16-year-old youth, who
cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, were
charged with first-degree murder in the case, and also face two
charges of attempted murder after two other men sustained gunshot injuries.
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