Ontario prosecutors have dropped a massive illegal gambling case against GTA-based Hells Angels due to untenable delays.
The complex case, Project Hobart, culminated with multiple arrests and the disruption of an illegal Ontario online casino scheme. At the time (in 2019), estimates put the unlawful network’s worth at $131 million.
Since then, murder ended the life of one of the sting’s original targets. Another survived at least one attempt on his life.
“All of the charges on both indictments are withdrawn,” added Mr. Justice Bruce Durno of the Superior Court of Justice.
“These decisions are not arrived at lightly,” lawyer Anil Kapoor added on behalf of the Crown.
“The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the delays in a complex case involving multiple accused and “voluminous” amounts of disclosure documents, prosecutors said, praising the Ontario Provincial Police for conducting a “thorough and effective investigation.”
Police return Illegal online gambling spoils with dismissal
“We, of course, are very happy,” said defence lawyer Craig Bottomley from the courthouse. “The prosecution is dead.”
Bottomley is the lawyer for Craig (Truck) McIlquham, 49, at the time of his arrest. The full-patch Hells Angel from Oakville faced charges including possession of a restricted weapon, bookmaking and the commission of an offence for a criminal organization.
Other full-patch club members facing charges included Eugenio (Gino) Reda, then 55, of King City and Robert Barletta, then 49, of London.
A landmark 2016 Supreme Court ruling laid out a constitutional ceiling for a trial length at 30 months. That meant this case — estimated to take 41 months and seven days to wrap fully — fell outside allowable limits.
The Angels faced numerous charges, including the commission of offences for a criminal organization, firearms bookmaking, money laundering and tax evasion. Despite that, those still alive are now free.
In total, police laid 228 charges against 28 people from across Ontario and into Oka, Québec.
The illegal Ontario online sports betting and casino operation allegedly raked in upwards of $131 million in revenues. Online gambling sites in question included Ultimate SB, Titan SB, PlaytoWin WB, Privada SB and Players SB, according to police.
The group charged also ran a retail gaming operation in Mississauga. Through the network, gamblers had access to credit limits up to $20,000, said police. But any debts had to be settled within a week.
At the time of the arrests, the OPP announced the seizure of more than $12 million in money and other assets. That sweep included sports cars, golf carts, multiple residences, nine illegal handguns, jewelry worth approximately $300,000, and cash totalling $1.7 million.
With the case’s dismissal, the property will return to those who had it seized.
Risky business leads to Project Hobart suspect’s murder
In January, a first-degree murder trial found three men guilty of killing Michael (Diaz) Deabaitua-Schulde.
The Niagara-based Hells Angel was originally a Hobart target before his death in March 2019. The trio of attackers shot Deabaitua-Schulde six times at close range after he left a Mississauga gym.
Also, while out on bail, Barletta survived an attack by shooters just south of Gerrard Street East in Cabbagetown. An arson attack in January 2018 also destroyed his luxury family vacation home in Thornbury.
Barletta helped establish the London Hells Angels chapter in 2003 after initially joining the Toronto North club in 2002. He later became president of the organization’s Niagara arm.
Hundreds of Hells Angels gathered recently at Ontario events, including a national gathering in Durham Region earlier this month.