Pubdate: Wed, 20 Aug 2008
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Rob Shaw and Louise Dickson, Canwest News Service, Kelly Sinoski,
Vancouver Sun
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


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

Police arrested seven people in their late teens and early 20s last
week and raided a Saanich home they said was the base for a burgeoning
"dial-a-dope" operation.

Police seized $3,000 in cash, $1,000 in cocaine and a loaded sawed-off
shotgun in the home, said Const. Colin Brown, a lead

The raid culminated a month-long undercover operation by the Greater
Victoria Regional Crime Unit. Officers bought crack cocaine from
dealers in the city's downtown core, Brown said.

"We certainly believe that we've made a dent in this group," he said.
"Of the initial 11 members we identified, seven are in custody, one is
on house arrest in the Lower Mainland and the other three are facing
charges as a result of this file."

The seven arrested -- Ashley Marie Apolinario, John Romar Supena,
Kurtis Schmidt, Mark Andrew Hubahib, Hishem Bennick, Raphael Jose
Blanco and a youth who can't be named -- face a variety of drug
trafficking and possession for the purpose of trafficking charges.

Victoria police will ask the court to bar some of the accused from
returning to Vancouver Island, Brown said.

The Red Scorpions gang was believed to be recruiting members in
Victoria by distributing free crack cocaine using a phone number it
staffed 24 hours a day, Brown said. Members were "very aggressive"
with other dealers and police were concerned about the potential for
further violence.

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

The gang was established eight years ago by a group of young men who
met in a youth detention facility and has been growing over the years.
Many members have a unique "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 pleaded guilty, it
was believed the Scorpions had disbanded, but police said earlier this
year they were still active.

Sgt. Shinder Kirk of the B.C. Integrated Gang Task Force said he was
aware of the Red Scorpions connection in Victoria.

He said many individuals operate under the banner of gangs like the
Scorpions in a franchise-type situation. Some may not have links to
the core group.

It's difficult to gauge how large such groups are, he said, because
there are so many splinter groups and membership is fluid.

"We've certainly seen individuals operating under the moniker of the
Red Scorpions. Any community that offers an opportunity to make money,
groups will operate there," Kirk said.

"No community is immune; if there's a market for their product,
they'll operate there."

Kirk wasn't familiar with the individuals arrested.

"These are the lowest level of any sort of organized or unorganized
group," he said. "These seem be the front-line individuals; they're
young and may not have had the time in to be considered anything but

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

"I believe they'd see Victoria as a potential expansion," Bown

Victoria may be only a ferry ride away from Vancouver, but that
distance had largely insulated it from the violent gang activity seen
on the mainland, he said. "It's worrisome those tentacles could reach

Victoria launched its 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

Somphavanh Chanthabouala, of Surrey, and a 16-year-old youth were
charged with first-degree murder in the case. They also face charges
of attempted murder after two other men, Binh Truan Le and Robin
Lepard, sustained gunshot injuries.

Apolinario, 19, is charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose
of trafficking and trafficking cocaine. She remained in custody and
was scheduled to appear at a bail hearing today.

Supena, 21, is charged with four counts of trafficking cocaine and one
count of possession for the purpose of trafficking, while Schmidt, 18,
is charged with two counts of trafficking cocaine and one count of
possession for the purpose of trafficking. Schmidt was scheduled for a
bail hearing Thursday.

Hubahib, 21, has been charged with two counts of trafficking cocaine.
His bail hearing is set for Thursday.

He is also to appear Sept. 8 on charges of trafficking and possession
of a controlled substance.

Hishem Bennink is charged with numerous counts of trafficking cocaine.
His bail hearing is also scheduled Thursday.

Raphael Jose Blanco, 20, is charged with possessing cocaine for the
purpose of trafficking.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin