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Monday, February 20, 2017
Fort McMac Hells Angels Drug Traffickers Get Extra 5 Years
Two men affiliated with the Hells Angels had five years tacked onto their prison sentences for conspiring to traffic cocaine and benefiting a criminal organization.
The latest twist in a decade-long court battle saw Alberta's Court of Appeal increase John Reginald Alcantara and Alan Peter Knapczyk's prison sentences to 15 years from 10 years for acting as enforcers for a large Fort McMurray cocaine trafficking operation. Both men are in their mid-40s.
Although the trial judge found no evidence the two men inflicted violence on anyone or dealt or trafficked any drugs, they deserved a sentence that reflected their "hardened, wanton and greedy criminality," appeal court panel Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, Justice Jack Watson, and Justice Myra Bielby wrote in a Feb. 14 decision.
"We respectfully take a different view from the trial judge as to the magnitude of this form of parasitic profit-making by mature criminals willing to intimidate both competitors and employees and batten on the suffering of others," the panel of judges wrote.
"... The essential principle of this heinous trade is the extraction of money from damaged and afflicted people, which is bad enough, but also occurs in the reality that the 'customers,' in turn, being trapped by their addictions, may well resort to whatever means are necessary to keep the negative effects of their addiction on them personally under control," the panel wrote.
Fort McMurray cocaine trafficking charges
The case stretches back to 2005, when Knapczyk, a Hells Angels member, and Alcantara, a gang prospect, agreed to provide protection for a Fort McMurray cocaine trafficker in exchange for $20,000 a week. Multi-kilogram cocaine trafficker Jeffrey Mark Cains called in Knapczyk and Alcantara to intimidate the competition and ensure no one stole drugs from his network of distributors in 2005 and 2006.
All three men were scooped up in 2006 as part of an RCMP operation called Project Koker that relied on evidence gathered through wiretaps and surveillance.
In 2011, Caines was sentenced to 14 years in jail for trafficking and conspiring.
Nearly six years after they were initially charged, Queen's Bench Justice Sheila Greckol convicted Alcantara and Knapczyk of conspiring to traffic cocaine and doing so for the benefit of a criminal organization. She acquitted both men on a drug trafficking charge.
She handed each a 10-year sentence — eight years for conspiracy and two years for their gang ties.
Both men unsuccessfully attempted to appeal their convictions.
Prosecutors, however, successfully appealed the trafficking acquittals to the court of appeal. The men then appealed that conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada, which the country's top court dismissed.
The newer trafficking convictions returned to Justice Greckol for sentencing in January 2016, where she added eight years of prison time, to be served at the same time as their existing sentences.
This additional sentence prompted yet another round of appeals from the Crown and from Knapczyk. The Alberta Court of Appeal panel heard arguments from both sides in November 2016.
There, the Crown reiterated a push for a 20-year sentence for Alcantara and a 22-year sentence for Knapczyk. The maximum penalty for trafficking cocaine in Canada is life in prison.
Knapczyk's lawyers, meanwhile, attempted to convince the judges to knock time off his sentence because of the time he spent on bail living under restrictive conditions. The panel dismissed that appeal.
Although the judges couldn't see a basis for 20 or 22-year sentences, they were convinced the men's sentences should be longer than 10 years to "signal the fact that this province will not be in any sense other than a hostile environment for this sort of crime."
They also said the men's eligibility for parole should be up to the correctional system.