An operation police dubbed Project Flatlined -- an obvious shot at Redlined, which is the Hells Angels puppet club -- rolled out across Winnipeg Friday, with more than 150 officers taking part in raids at an auto parts business and five homes, including a Winnipeg house sources say belongs to current Hells Angels president Dale Sweeney.
Sweeney, one of the province's original Hells Angels, was among those arrested, as was his brother Rod, who is also a full-patch HA member. Seven others, including members and associates of the HA and Redlined, were also arrested, while more arrests are expected.
All those arrested, except for Rod Sweeney and HA member Carmine Puteri, will be facing a variety of charges including drug trafficking, laundering money and participating in a criminal organization.
Police allege the biker gang and its support crew control a good portion of the drug trade in Manitoba, but expect these busts to have a significant impact on their ability to operate.
"It should hinder the organization," said Insp. Rick Guyader. "They'll have to shut down until they can recruit some other people into their line of business."
Guyader said it would be "naive" not to expect other gangs to attempt to fill the void, but had a message for at least one potential competitor.
"The Rock Machine is in our sights," he said.
The raid at Sweeney's home Friday raised eyebrows in the posh Waverley West neighbourhood. When Wes Bergen arrived at the new subdivision to work installing insulation, he noticed two police cruiser cars. "I figured that's a bit much for a parking ticket," he said.
Sweeney was sentenced to six years in prison in 2002 for his role in a biker feud that occurred the previous summer. It started when former Spartan Kevin Sylvester shot Rod Sweeney while he sat in a tow truck with his young son. One month and three-related shootings later, Sylvester was shot behind the wheel.
Sylvester pleaded guilty in April 2002 to discharging a firearm with intent in connection with Sweeney's shooting. Later that year, Dale Sweeney was sentenced for his role in shooting back at Sylvester.