POLITICS

Winnipeg RCMP make arrests, say they have wiped out Rock Machine biker club

01/31/2013 12:40 EST | Updated 04/02/2013 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - Mounties believe they have dismantled an outlaw motorcycle club in the Manitoba capital, but one expert thinks the gang is bound to continue its criminal ways in the city.

RCMP announced Thursday that they have arrested 11 people, including four members and one prospect, of the Rock Machine biker club. The others arrested were described as independent drug traffickers.

They all face various charges related to drug and firearms trafficking.

At a news conference, officers displayed black Rock Machine jackets, shirts and patches alongside drugs, guns and cash seized during the arrests Wednesday.

Insp. Len Delpino said the arrests have wiped out the gang's operation in Winnipeg.

"We have in custody the entire, full Winnipeg chapter of the Rock Machine," he said. "We brought down a very high level, organized crime group and ... it's a safe and better place here in Manitoba today."

Some pipe bombs and dynamite were also discovered during a raid at a building on Wall Street where one Rock Machine member worked, said Delpino. Nearby homes and businesses were temporarily evacuated.

Supt. Robert Bazin said the complicated investigation, dubbed Operation Dilemma, began last summer and involved more than 140 officers, including Winnipeg police.

The investigation will continue and the accused may face additional charges, he said.

Shootings and firebombings erupted in Winnipeg in 2011 during a turf war between two rival gangs believed to be the Rock Machine and Hells Angels.

In most cases, there were no injuries, but a 14-year-old boy was wounded during one exchange of gunfire.

In an unusual move, police went door to door in neighbourhoods where gang members were known to live and warned residents about potential violence.

Last March, Winnipeg police wrapped up an undercover operation by arresting three Hells Angels members, including the club's local president.

Mark Totten, author of several books including the recent "Nasty Brutish and Short: The Lives of Gang Members in Canada," said it's great to get gang members off the street.

But it's only a short-term fix, he suggested. Totten expects the Rock Machine will be back at work in Winnipeg in no time.

"It's not unusual for a chapter to be wiped out, but what we need to understand is the Winnipeg chapter talks with all the other chapters. And they'll quickly devise a plan to get that chapter up and running again."

Totten said the club may not be as widespread and sophisticated as the Hells Angels, but the Rock Machine are definitely notorious.

He expects a chapter in another city will send members to Winnipeg or the accused bikers could continue operating the chapter while behind bars.

"Biker gang members are really good at running their gangs inside of prisons and jails. Just because they're locked up doesn't mean the street-level crime associated with this gang is going to stop."

Prison is also a perfect place for bikers to recruit new members or prospects, Totten said. "Some would argue that by locking them up you're actually making the problem worse."

RCMP said they have charged alleged Rock Machine members Todd Kenneth Murray, 43; John Adam Curwin, 31; Cameron Adam Hemminger, 42 — all of Winnipeg — and Joseph John Strachan, 42, of East St. Paul with offences related to participating in a criminal organization.

Alleged club prospect Shannon Chad Campbell, 35, of St. Andrews is charged with possession of ammunition while prohibited and failing to comply with a court order.

Christopher Lee Camara, 33; Donny Syraxa, 27; Danny Vu Tran, 27; Patrick La, 26; Teagveer Singh Gill, 28 and Richard Dennis Lunch, 29, are all from Winnipeg and face charges of trafficking cocaine and possessing the proceeds of crime.

— With files from CJOB