News Item: (CAN) Probe into West Island drug trafficking ring was sparked by gangland murder
(Category: Biker News)
Posted by ace
Tuesday 10 July 2018 - 01:09:24

Three summers ago, West Island resident Darrell (Dutch) Van Elk was alleged to be the head of a very active cocaine trafficking network operating in western Montreal.

When he and eleven other people were arrested following an investigation by the Montreal police the Dollard-des-Ormeaux resident faced drug trafficking and firearms-related charges that could have resulted in him being placed behind bars for years. But, on Nov. 27, Van Elk, 52, saw the most serious accusation he faced, a drug trafficking conspiracy charge, be dropped with no explanation from the Crown.

During a court hearing that lasted no more than two minutes, prosecutor Eric Poudrier said a decision was made to separate the cases of those charged in 2015 and that the prosecution would rely on what was found when police carried out search warrants at the end of the investigation. The decision meant a probe by the Montreal police organized crime division — based on information from eight informants, more than 200 surveillance operations, GPS tracking and wiretaps — was essentially worthless.

A search warrant carried out in Van Elk’s suburban home turned up three handguns and on June 19, he walked into the Montreal courthouse, pleaded guilty to the careless storage of firearms and was sentenced to a five-month prison term. Six men who were alleged to have worked under Van Elk received sentences longer than his.

Evidence presented during the bail hearing, which was under a publication ban until he pleaded guilty, revealed that Van Elk and his right hand man, Bryan Cullen, 30, another Dollard-des-Ormeaux resident, drew the attention of police following a gangland murder in Laval that remains unsolved to this day.

On Dec. 18, 2013, Van Elk and Cullen dined with Roger Valiquette, a loanshark well known to police, at a restaurant in Laval. At around 3:45 p.m., the three men left the restaurant together and parted ways in the parking lot. Valiquette, 54, never made it to his Mercedes sports utility vehicle. He was fatally shot and, according to the testimony of Victor Perna, the Montreal police investigator who testified during the bail hearing, Van Elk and Cullen walked over to where Valiquette was lying, looked toward him and then left. Ambulance technicians tried to revive Valiquette in the parking lot but they ceased their efforts 20 minutes after he was shot. He was declared dead inside the parking lot and Van Elk and Cullen returned to the scene of the shooting to talk to homicide investigators.

Because of Valiquette’s ties to organized crime, the Montreal police organized crime division was asked to assist in the homicide investigation. Perna said the squad talked to informants who alleged that Van Elk was the head of a cocaine trafficking network that was very active in western Montreal and, based on this, the Montreal police launched Project Associé.

“The investigation allowed us to place Van Elk as the head of a very structured organization,” Perna said in 2015. The assessment calls into question why the conspiracy charge was dropped in November. Van Elk’s case became part of a growing list where alleged organized crime figures in Montreal saw their cases come to end with little, if any, explanation offered in open court. It began in July last year when the Crown announced it would no longer prosecute cases related to Project Clemenza, an RCMP investigation into different groups tied to the Montreal Mafia. And, six months after Van Elk’s conspiracy charge was dropped, a case brought against alleged Mafia leader Andrea (Andrew) Scoppa, 54, was dropped even though the police had evidence he had distributed more than 110 kilograms of cocaine.

During Project Associé, the Montreal police took note and, in some cases, video-recorded as Van Elk met with several influential organized crime figures like Salvatore Cazzetta and Gilles Lambert, both members of the Hells Angels since 2005.

The organized crime figure Van Elk met with most often while under investigation was Tonino Callocchia, a member of the Montreal Mafia. Perna said the two men were seen together ten times during Project Associé. That included a visit Callocchia made, in September 2014, to Van Elk’s home in the West Island. Perna said it appeared that Van Elk did not like talking to people like Callocchia inside his home and was sometimes seen walking along the tree-lined street in Dollard des Ormeaux while he discussed matters with his associates. On the day Callocchia paid a visit, the police recorded video images of the two men as they walked and talked along the quiet street.

Perna said Callocchia was, at the time, the subject of a cocaine and heroin trafficking investigation and described him as Valiquette’s partner in loansharking (evidence from a different case indicates the two men had more than $8 million out in loans when Valiquette was killed). Callocchia ended up meeting the same fate as Valiquette when he was fatally shot, on Dec. 1, 2014, outside a restaurant in Rivière des Prairies. He was accompanied by Marco Pizzi, 48, an alleged drug trafficker who also has ties to the Montreal Mafia.

Two days after Callocchia was killed, Perna said, Pizzi was observed at a restaurant in St-Hubert involved in a discussion with Van Elk, Cullen, a Mafia-linked drug trafficker named Erasmo Crivello, 38, and three street gang leaders.

The following month, Van Elk, Cullen and William Stewart, 33, another Dollard des Ormeaux resident charged in Project Associé, were observed by police while they attended the funeral of Richard Matticks, a leader of the West End Gang who died of natural causes in January 2015.

Stewart ended up being the only person who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge filed in Project Associé. He was sentenced to a six-month prison term early in 2017. Four other men charged in Project Associé who took the risk of handling what the police alleged was Van Elk’s kilos of cocaine ended up with longer sentences because the evidence against them involved the search warrants Poudrier referred to in November.

One of those men, Michael Soucy, 25, of Montreal, is serving a 32-month prison term (the longest sentence meted out in Project Associé) that he received in January. Perna testified that, during November 2014, investigators monitored an empty apartment rented by Soucy and discovered 16 kilograms of cocaine inside it. They suspected the apartment was a distribution point for Van Elk’s network and decided not to seize the cocaine right way. Over the course of nine days nine kilos left the apartment.

https://montrealgazette.com/news/why-an-alleged-drug-supplier-to-the-mafia-and-west-end-gang-had-charges-dropped


This news item is from White Trash Networks
( http://www.bikernews.org/wtn/news.php?extend.17786 )