16 charged, 18 arrested in major operation targeting organized crime in Quebec

Click to play video: '18 arrested in connection to gang-related crimes in Quebec'
18 arrested in connection to gang-related crimes in Quebec
Watch: In Quebec, 18 individuals have been arrested in connection to a series of gang-related crimes near Quebec City. Mike Armstrong explains that an organization called “Blood Family Mafia” appears to have picked a fight with the Hells Angels – Feb 25, 2024

Sixteen suspects have been charged and 18 have been arrested in what authorities call a large-scale operation targeting organized crime in Quebec City this weekend.

About 100 officers from specialized units from various police forces including the RCMP were deployed. Led by the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), raids began Friday evening at multiple establishments in and around the capital city targeting those involved in the conflict between what the SQ called the ‘Blood Family Mafia (BFM)’ gang and the Hells Angels crime organization.

The ongoing dispute has resulted in a worrying uptick in violence. Incidents included a hostage-taking last week in the town of St-Malachie, Que., where three men with ties to the Hells were, according to reports, taken hostage and tortured by members of the BFM group. One of the men escaped, killed the captor who was watching him and went to a nearby home to call police.

Click to play video: 'Over 100 police officers deployed in organized crime crackdown in Quebec'
Over 100 police officers deployed in organized crime crackdown in Quebec

Three days later, the BFM is believed to have kidnapped another man linked to the Hells. He was reported missing from Saguenay, Que., and then dropped off hundreds of kilometers away in Montreal. Officials say he didn’t cooperate with police but was found mutilated. Local media reports allege that one of the man’s toes and fingers had been cut off.

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Authorities say the recent violence is linked to a drug-trafficking territory war between the BFM, led by Dave Turmel, 27, who is currently on the run and believed to be in Europe, and the Hells. The turf war going on between both groups in Quebec City, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, the Lower St-Lawrence and the North Shore has “reached a boiling point,” according to authorities.

According to former MP and criminologist Maria Mourani, police are targeting the BFM in their arrests.

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Mourani says the conflict is over the 10 per cent cut drug traffickers normally pay the Hells to sell in Quebec City, which the BFM has allegedly refused to do for months.

Sixteen suspects charged, prosecution objects to their release

According to the crown prosecutors office, nine suspects were charged on Saturday and another seven on Sunday.

Francis Gauthier-Marcoux, 33, and Bianca Simard were charged with attempted murder by firearm, assault and conspiracy to commit criminal acts.

Three charges were laid against Andréanne Dominique, 37, Dave Galienne-Picard, 30, Evan Lavoie, 21, and Rémi Fournier, 38, for kidnapping, forcible confinement and aggravated assault.

Charlotte Montambault-Vaillancour, 32, was charged with three counts of possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.

Maxime Maheux, 26, faces two counts of arson while Nicholas Coté, 45, has been charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and arson.

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The prosecution objected to the release of all nine suspects and their cases were postponed until Feb. 28 for further proceedings.

The following seven suspects were charged throughout Sunday: Karl Horkheimer Pierre, 26, William Monger Gagnon, 26, David Marceau-Morin, 36, Jean-François Dion, 36, Dereck Morin Martel, 23, James Célestin, 40, and David Marceau-Maillefert, 35.

‘They don’t care about traditional organized crime’

The police effort “won’t stop until we put an end to the violence we’re seeing,” said SQ Lieutenant Benoit Richard.

The SQ provincial police are working with local police forces from Quebec City, Lévis and Saguenay along with the RCMP.

Authorities said the weekend’s events had the goal of sending a very clear message to criminal gangs: “We’re going to go after all the people who commit these crimes and we’re going to take them to court.”

Quebec’s public security minister François Bonnardel issued a statement Friday saying the operation showed the seriousness with which authorities were devoted to the fight against organized crime.

Mourani said the BFM’s recent violent tactics are borrowed from drug cartels and street gangs in Central America. She said the tactics are to scare individuals from fighting against the group and to dissuade them from working with the Hells.

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She added that the Hells had actually been in contact with police for weeks, warning them to act, otherwise members from other cities would move in and the situation would degenerate — something the province hasn’t seen since the bloody biker war years from 1994 to 2002 which killed 160 people.

Former Montreal Police detective Pietro Poletti told Global News that the street gangs in Quebec are a serious problem, partially due to their lack of respect for the more established organized crime network.

“These young adults have no notion of what organized crime is. They weren’t even born in the year 2000 for the most part. They don’t care about traditional organized crime or the Hells Angels.”

He said the fight between “local gangs, clans and street thugs will only get worse with immigration from South America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.”

“These people grew up with violence at a very young age, so they aren’t impressed. The only way to stop this is to put the right people at the right place.”

Poletti spoke to Global News from Rome, where he said random police checks and roadblocks were very frequent, and in his view, one of the ways to combat the issue.

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“When there’s a lot of violence on the streets, those who complain about police racism (with regards to random police checks) stay quiet.”

He added that police and politicians have to stop being reactive with “these types of show-of-force operations — a smokescreen responding to the outcry in the media.”

Combatting crime must be done on a daily, constant, proactive basis he said.

Back in June of 2023, a report commissioned by the Montreal police concluded that random police checks disproportionately target racialized minorities with little to no evidence that the practice reduced criminality.

–with files from The Canadian Press

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