On Tuesday, October 8, 2013, Members of the WPS attended a residence in the 100 block of Quelch Street looking for a suspect wanted regarding a criminal investigation.
Police located the suspect and observed obvious signs consistent with drug trafficking activities occurring in the residence. As a result, the residence was secured and Officers obtained and executed a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) Search Warrant that resulted in the seizure of;
- 15.2 grams Crack Cocaine with an estimated street value of $1540.00
- 77.2 grams Marihuana with an estimated street value of $770.00
- 61 tabs Restoril valued at $91.50
- 196 Tylenol 3 valued at $98.00
- $3990.00 in Canadian Currency
- Brass knuckles
- Scales and other drug paraphernalia
A total of six (6) persons, including the wanted suspect, were arrested without incident.
- Leon Edward Vermette (38) of Winnipeg faces several drug and weapons related offences due to his alleged involvement.
- Peter George Scott (28) of Winnipeg also faces several drug, weapons and breach of Court Order offences due to his alleged involvement.
Both Vermette & Scott were detained at the Provincial Remand Center.
- Four (4) other subjects, three (3) women aged 21, 24 & 31 and a 43-year-old male, all of Winnipeg, are facing drug and weapons related offences due to their alleged involvement.
All four (4) subjects were released by Promise to Appear.
Leon Edward Vermette (38) is an individual Police Officers in Winnipeg might call a frequent flyer. Vermette not only sports an impressive criminal record, he’s also had several highly publicized conflicts with the law.
In May of 2008 Vermette was arrested by WPS members after he broke into an elderly woman’s home while brandishing a large knife. He subsequently barricaded himself in the woman’s bathroom as she frantically called 911. Police report Vermette was violent, drunk and high on magic mushrooms at the time of his arrest. At some point he told Police he entered the woman’s home because he was being chased by gang members.
The story didn’t end there.
Vermette subsequently made allegations he was “raped” by his arresting officers who he accused of shoving a crucifix up his rectum. The allegations inflamed members of the Aboriginal Community, Aboriginal Leaders and civil liberties activists who made incessant demands for more Police oversight in the City of Winnipeg.
Unfortunately for Vermette, his claims of abuse failed to hold up to close scrutiny by the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA) or Provincial Court Judge Brian Corrin who wrote, “A review of the many files, reports and progress notes provided to the commissioner’s office by the Health Sciences Centre and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service clearly do not support the allegations.”
The allegations against the officers were dismissed.
(Vermette was never held to account for the damage to the officers reputations, the stress the allegations caused or for the cost of the LERA investigation or judicial proceedings into his outrageous allegations.)
It wouldn’t take long for Vermette to become re-involved with Law Enforcement.
In the fall of 2008, members of the Organized Crime Unit (OCU) initiated a criminal investigation into the Manitoba Warriors infiltration of a Government Agency called Paapiiwak.
According to Paapiiwaks mandate, it was “to operate a “traditional” housing shelter at 38 Maple Street with the primary objective to promote, protect and support the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of Aboriginal men who desire a change in lifestyle apart from gang, drug and alcohol addiction and associated activity.”
As the primary supervisor, I dubbed the investigation”Project Octopus,” an in-depth investigation with eight (8) distinctive arms or phases.
One of the first phases was to identify and investigate subjects on Court Orders to determine their level of compliance and the level of compliance of Paapiiwak staff in enforcing “house rules” and reporting criminal breaches. (It’s important to note alcohol was strictly prohibited at the Paapiiwak “safe haven” as all residential clients had strict Court Ordered requirements to abstain from intoxicating substances.)
Leon Edward Vermette was a Paapiiwak client who was on a Court ordered twenty-four hour curfew to reside at 38 Maple St and to abide by a number of conditions that included abstaining from alcohol and illicit drugs.
On December 10, 2008 we set up surveillance on 38 Maple Street.
Within the first two (2) days of the project it was clear the Paapiiwak “safe haven” was nothing less than a party house where booze and drugs were being used by both clients and “staff.” It was also clear the Manitoba Warriors had their hooks deeply set into this Government Organization.
On Tuesday, December 16, 2008, Detectives conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle being operated by Leon Vermette. Vermette was found to be breaching conditions of his Court Order (24 hour curfew) and was also found in possession of three (3) flaps with what appeared to be cocaine residue. Investigators also noted he reeked of stale booze and was driving without a licence. Of more import, he was found to have a Manitoba Warriors tattoo on his left shoulder.
(It’s a well-known fact that “ex” gang members, or people trying to get out of the gangster lifestyle, do not sport gang tattoos.)
Vermette was detained at the Provincial Remand Center.
In a matter of days members of the OCU determined the Manitoba Warriors were using Paapiiwak to further their criminal enterprise in the following ways:
- by providing a legitimate source of income for active gang members
- by giving gang members authority to extricate fellow gang members from jail
- by giving gang members the authority to supervise other gang members
- by empowering gang members to amend court orders rendering them ineffective and impossible to enforce
The OCU probe into Paapiiwak found evidence of;
- pervasive use of alcohol by clients, guests and staff
- a complete lack of compliance with house “rules”
- use and abuse of cocaine
- drug trafficking by dial a dealers associated to the Manitoba Warriors
- no supervision or breach protocols
- non compliance of staff to report breaches
- staff interference and obstruction of Law Enforcement
- prevalence of active gang members and criminal activity
After completing the fourth phase of the operation it was clear there was no point in continuing the investigation. The investigative results were made known to the funding branches of the Provincial Government and the plug was pulled on Paapiiwak.
The case was an excellent example of how the good intentions of Government officials can be horribly exploited by brazen hard-core criminals. The results of Project Octopus should serve as a warning to any Government funded initiative contemplating the disbursement of funds to any agency purporting to serve “ex” gang members. Some form of interface with Law Enforcement is essential if our politicians want to avoid the embarrassment of future Paapiiwaks.
In the meantime, I’m betting we haven’t heard the last from Leon Vermette.
*Feature photo is Leon Vermette displaying injuries he incurred during his May 2008 arrest.