In carefully choreographed pre-dawn raids yesterday, heavily armed police tactical units in Eastern Ontario and the Montreal area arrested more than a dozen Hells Angels or close associates on drug and conspiracy charges.
Several of the accused also face organized-crime charges, which under toughened legislation can stiffen the penalty for a conviction by up to 14 years.
Among those scooped up in Ottawa was Brett (Lucky Luke) Simmons, a former member of the Hells Angels' deadly Rock Machine rivals. Before he switched allegiance to become part of the Angels' elite Nomads squad -- following the Angels' expansion into Ontario more than four years ago -- Mr. Simmons was a top-ranking soldier in Quebec's biker wars, which left more than 160 dead.
Mr. Simmons, 36, was one of three "full-patch" Hells Angels arrested yesterday. All are from Ontario.
Police provided little information about the raids.
"The operation was lengthy and covert, beyond that I can't say much," Ontario Provincial Police spokeswoman Sergeant Kristine Cholette said. "Everything will be released tomorrow."
A news conference detailing the charges will be held this morning at the OPP detachment in Napanee, just west of Kingston. All the accused were taken to Napanee for processing.
They are to appear in court in Kingston today for bail hearings.
Along with an associate detained on Friday, 13 people were believed to have been arrested, including two or three women, described as lesser players in an alleged drug-distribution conspiracy.
About half the accused are Ontario residents, while about half live in Quebec.
At least two other biker associates were being sought. Additional arrests are also expected.
"It's coming down in phases," a police source said of the takedown. "This was significant. This will have a definite effect on drug distribution in the eastern region."
Tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs, including cocaine, were seized in yesterday's raids, police said.
The arrests mark the second such set of anti-biker charges in Eastern Ontario in less than three weeks.
On June 2, an 11-month investigation by the OPP-led biker enforcement unit resulted in the shutdown of an alleged drug-trafficking network based in and around Peterborough. Of the 25 men and women arrested then, two are Hells Angels, one is a former member and the others are regarded by police as associates.
Drugs seized in those raids, along with $50,000 in cash, included cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and oxycodone.
But there was no overt link between the two alleged networks, the police source said yesterday, describing the Peterborough-based operation "as very much under the Toronto-London influence."
Codenamed Operation Dante, the investigation culminating in yesterday's arrests involved the BEU, the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec (the provincial police) and police from Ottawa, Belleville and Kingston.
Since expanding into Ontario at the beginning of 2000, the province's roughly 250 Hells Angels and associates have insisted they are a motorcycle club, not a criminal organization. A much-anticipated Superior Court ruling next week will test that premise.
The Angels' Nomads group, to which Mr. Simmons belongs, was founded by Quebec Hells Angels kingpin Maurice (Mom) Boucher, currently serving a life sentence for ordering the murders of two prison guards.
After Quebec's biker wars peaked in the mid-1990s, in a struggle for control of the province's drug trade, the upstart Rock Machine was absorbed into the Bandidos, now considered the world's second most powerful outlaw motorcycle gang.
But Mr. Simmons, along with long-time friend and Rock Machine co-founder Paul (Sasquatch) Porter, were part of a mass defection to the Hells Angels, which they formally joined in December, 2000.
Traditionally, as their name implies, the Nomads had no clubhouse or specific geographic location.
But in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, the Nomads became more rooted.
Mr. Simmons was arrested yesterday morning at the Nomads' clubhouse in Ottawa, where he was sleeping.