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Wednesday, 1 October 2008
Kenneth (Wags) Wagner, a founder of the Niagara chapter who was found guilty yesterday of trafficking cocaine and firearms
Hells Angels were able to obtain confidential documents regarding police intelligence, the trial for a member of the notorious Hells Angels heard yesterday.
A handbook produced by the provincial Biker Enforcement Unit for front-line officers and intelligence reports about members of a rival gang were among documents seized from the clubhouse and homes of senior gang members, including Kenneth (Wags) Wagner, a founder of the Niagara chapter who was found guilty yesterday of trafficking cocaine and firearms for the benefit of a criminal organization.
The police documents and a member's wiretapped statements that he received "paperwork" from a police source were part of an agreed statement of facts read before the court."This was a highly sophisticated criminal operation that was using informants," prosecutor Tom Andreopoulos said during a break in the proceedings, adding that the Hells Angels' ability to penetrate police intelligence is a long-standing concern.Mr. Wagner was arrested in late September, 2006 along with 23 others in raids on homes and clubhouses in Toronto, Oshawa, Windsor and Niagara Region. The arrests were the culmination of an 18-month undercover operation called Project Tandem, which involved 500 officers from 11 forces and resulted in the seizure of more than $3-million worth of drugs and an array of weapons, in addition to the police documents.Project Tandem was executed with the help of a police agent named Steven Gault.In the agreed statement of facts, a Niagara chapter member and co-accused of Mr. Wagner's, Gerald Ward, revealed to Mr. Gault in a conversation recorded in August, 2005 that he knew a police officer who would tell him "a lot of stuff" and bring him "paperwork all the time."Mr. Ward's court proceedings are separate and ongoing.Mr. Wagner pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine and to possession of the proceeds of crime, and has admitted to being an executive member of the Niagara Chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. However, he pleaded not guilty to trafficking cocaine and transferring a firearm for the benefit of a criminal organization, leaving it to the court to determine whether that group constituted a criminal organization. The confidential police documents formed part of Mr. Andreopoulos's argument that they are, and the judge ruled that Mr. Wagner's crimes were therefore to the benefit of a criminal organization.Justice John McMahon is scheduled to pronounce sentence on Oct. 7.In April, 2007, seven months after Project Tandem ended , Constable Frank Dean Rudge, 44, of Niagara Regional Police, was arrested and charged with breach of trust.Suspended with pay on a $30,000 surety and required to surrender all his police gear, including his service pistol, Constable Rudge is midway through a preliminary hearing, set to resume in December, which will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to send him to trial.Constable Rudge was arrested at the Port Colborne police station where he worked. At his bail hearing, according to news reports at the time, he was ordered to stay away from members of the Hells Angels.Prior to his arrest, he had spent 21 years with the Niagara force.