POLITICS

Five conspirators await sentencing for plotting to murder gang rivals

07/10/2013 04:12 EDT | Updated 09/09/2013 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - Five men who admitted to murder conspiracy charges for their roles in a lengthy Metro Vancouver gang war are facing 11 to 14 years behind bars when a B.C. Supreme Court judge sentences them next week.

Justice Janice Dillon accepted a joint sentencing submission from Crown and defence lawyers Wednesday, and reserved her decision until next Monday for the five men linked to the United Nations crime gang.

Yong Sung John Lee, Dilun Heng, Barzan Tilli-Choli, Karwan Ahmet Saed and Ion Kroitoru were arrested in 2009. All five pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder rival gang members the Bacon brothers and their associates earlier this week.

An agreed statement of facts presented in court outlined multiple attempts by the five men and others to murder Jamie, Jarrod and Jonathan Bacon and three of their associates.

At one point rewards were even posted by the UN gang leaders for the deaths of each of the brothers, reaching a peak of $300,000 for Jamie's death, the statement said.

The court documents said the turf war between the UN gang and the Bacon Red Scorpion group began around 2006, and escalated in 2007 after UN gang leader Clay Roueche was shot at by one of the Bacon brothers' associates.

On Wednesday, Kroitoru's lawyer John Turner appeared to downplay his client's involvement in the gang conflict in 2008 and 2009, telling reporters outside the courthouse that Kroitoru was never a gang member.

He also described Kroitoru, a former actor and wrestler, as someone who "fell into a life of crime" and who hopes to turn his life around after his time in prison.

"It was his own decision to go into the sort of lifestyle that he was involved in," Turner said.

"Of course, now he's got these young children and they don't have a father. He's planning on, when he gets out, to try and go on the straight and narrow … and be the proper father that he hasn't been for a long time."

According to court documents, Kroitoru travelled to Montreal in April 2008 with Roueche and Saed to attend an Ultimate Fighting Championship match because the Bacon brothers and their associates — referred to as "those goofs" — were expected to be in the city.

Approximately 50 UN gang members and 50 of their associates were in Montreal, and a killer was hired to take out the Bacon brothers, the statement said.

However, the hitman, who cannot be named due to a court-ordered publication ban, could not get the job done because he couldn't find the three brothers.

Conversations between Roueche and Kroitoru in their hotel were intercepted by the police.

Speaking to Roueche, Kroitoru appeared frustrated that the hitman, whom he recommended, was unsuccessful, the court documents said.

A transcript quoted Kroitoru telling Roueche that he told the hitman, "Just get this job done. You're making me look bad."

The document said Kroitoru told Roueche that it wasn't easy to locate the Bacon Brothers, but, "We got to get these guys anyway. Got to get them — got to take them out Dawg. They're, they're a thorn in your side, eh?"

On Wednesday, each of the five men were given an opportunity to speak. Two of them thanked the court, including Saed, who also apologized to his family.

As a result of the plea agreement, the Crown will not proceed with murder and attempted murder charges against the five men for the fatal shooting of a stereo installer in 2008.

Jonathan Barber was killed while driving a car that belonged to Jonathan Bacon, the eldest of the Bacon brothers who was fatally shot in Kelowna in 2011. Barber's girlfriend, who was following Barber in her own car, was wounded in the shooting.

Earlier this year, Daniel Russell of the UN gang pleaded guilty to manslaughter for his role in Barber's death, as well as to a murder conspiracy charge.

Crown prosecutor Ralph Keefer said the five men's guilty pleas are a significant step in addressing the gang violence that gripped the Vancouver area several years ago.

All five will receive credit for time already spent behind bars.