Kelowna Hells Angels' convictions referenced in forfeiture case

Hells Angels’ criminal past

In its failed attempt to seize three Hells Angels clubhouses, including one in Kelowna, the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office highlighted several current and former Kelowna Hells Angels members who've been convicted of criminal charges, including manslaughter.

Last week, Justice Barry Davies issued a judgment on a civil forfeiture case that dates back to November 2007, in which the B.C. government sought to seize three Hells Angels clubhouses in Kelowna, Nanaimo and East Vancouver. Ultimately, Justice Davies found in favour of the Hells Angels, ruling there was not sufficient evidence that the motorcycle club would use the three properties to carry out future crimes.

Additionally, he ruled the “future instrument of unlawful activity" provisions of the Civil Forfeiture Act is outside of the province's jurisdiction, and therefore unconstitutional.

The Kelowna chapter of the Hells Angels was started in June 2007 by seven East End chapter members from Vancouver. In its suit against the Hells Angels, the B.C. government identified 14 people who have been members of the Kelowna chapter at some time, and said there are nine current members, including one member who's “in the box” – or suspended – due to his drug addiction. At the time of the trial, the chapter also had two official “hangarounds” and one prospect.

In his very lengthy decision, Justice Davies noted the convictions of several Kelowna Hells Angels, all of whom transferred to the Kelowna chapter from Vancouver upon the Kelowna chapter's creation in 2007.

Full-patch members Norman Cocks and Robert Thomas were convicted of a 2014 killing, after a 51-year-old man was beaten to death with a baseball bat and hammer on June 12, 2011 in Rutland.

Bruce Skreptak was convicted of a 2010 aggravated assault in Kelowna, in addition to a number of firearms convictions stemming from a 2010 traffic stop in Salmon Arm.

David Giles and Bryan Oldham were caught up in an elaborate police sting operation in 2012 that involved a fake South American crime boss and a fictional $4 million cocaine purchase. Giles was convicted of conspiracy to import and traffic cocaine and sentenced to 18 years in jail, the longest sentence ever given to a B.C Hells Angel, while Oldham was convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine and sentenced to four years.

Despite these examples of criminality, Justice Davies noted there was no direct evidence the Kelowna clubhouse had been used in the commission of, or in the planning of any criminal activity. Additionally, police found no weapons during their searches of the Kelowna clubhouse in 2005 and 2012.

The B.C. government alleged that the Hells Angels' continued loyalty to members that had been convicted of violent crimes shows that the club “enables and empowers” its members to engage in crime. As an example, the government pointed to Kelowna members Norman Cocks and Robert Thomas who remained members after both were convicted of manslaughter. Thomas was only later expelled due to his “anger and talking guys down” while incarcerated, according to another Kelowna chapter member.

Other than Giles, who died from advanced liver disease shortly after his 2017 conviction, the other men referred to remain members of the Kelowna chapter.

Ultimately, Justice Davies ruled the evidence at trial did not prove the Hells Angels is a “worldwide criminal organization.”

“The 'sheer number of convictions' that have been entered into evidence conclusively prove that many members and associates of the East End, Kelowna and Nanaimo chapters of the Hells Angels have committed serious criminal offences,” Justice Davies wrote.

“That 'sheer number of convictions' does not, however, prove that any of the offending was done at the direction of or for the benefit of any of those chapters or the Hells Angels as an organization."

Justice Davies did note the Hells Angels organization has a reputation for violence that is "at times used by members for the purposes of intimidation."

A "known associate" of the Kelowna Hells Angels is scheduled to begin trial in September for an alleged aggravated assault that put a 41-year-old man in the hospital in May 2019. Kelowna RCMP executed a search warrant at the Kelowna clubhouse as part of Colin Bayley's arrest, but the findings of that search were not included in the recent forfeiture trial. 

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