Former police agent Micheal Plante met with Vancouver Sun crime reporter Kim Bolan in late 2012 to tell his incredible story about infiltrating the East End chapter of the Hells Angels and helping police put 12 men behind bars. He did not disclose his new name or residence.
In Part Four, he described what it was like when he was finally accepted into the Hells Angels program as “an official friend” and how difficult the final months of his dangerous assignment became. In Part Five, he talks about the challenge of preparing for a series of trials and how he felt when it was all over.
Above: John Bryce, President of the East End chapter of the Hells Angels, is pictured on July 16, 2005, surveying the damage that resulted from the police raid of the club’s premises at 3594 East Georgia in Vancouver one day earlier. (PNG files)
The first thing Micheal Plante needed to do after deserting the Hells Angels on Jan. 21, 2005, was decompress.
Plante, who had just spent many dangerous months infiltrating the notorious biker gang for police, was holed up in a secure location in the Lower Mainland with his girlfriend, guarded 24/7 by police.
He really needed to get away and police booked a two-week vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Cabo San Lucas. Det. Brad Stephen, one of Plante’s handlers, and Organized Crime Agency Insp. Andy Richards, who didn’t know Plante but was an expert on the Hells Angels, went for the first week to provide security.
His other handlers, Cpl. Stu Priest and Insp. Gary Shinkaruk, spelled off Richards and Stephen for the second week.
The vacation began with promise. Richards and Plante rented Harleys and went out riding. Then Stephen and Plante went on a daylong boat trip to see the sights.
By Day 3, Plante’s anxiety was kicking in. He secluded himself in his hotel room, where he spent the rest of the trip. The breakdown was a foreshadowing of what lay ahead.
After Mexico, life got really tough.
He couldn’t return to B.C., where the Hells Angels members he had betrayed could find him. So he was plunked down in another city in North America where no one knew his history.
Police set him up in an apartment. They stayed in another suite in the same building for almost two months, taking him to various court cases so he could see what to expect when his own time came to testify.
He would be the key Crown witness in a series of trials of Hells Angels and associates charged as a result of the evidence he had collected in 2004 and 2005 as part of E-Pandora, the undercover investigation targeting the East End chapter.
“They weren’t really keeping an eye on me. They were helping me,” he said.
But then Plante’s police friends returned to Vancouver.
“My anxiety went way up. I just had a major meltdown. They just left me there. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t know anybody. I am kind of like — the fog is lifting from my head and I am thinking what the f–k did I just do?” he recalled.
“All of a sudden you don’t have an identity. You don’t have anything. You have a pile of money.
Plante had collected the first $500,000 of a $1-million contract he had signed the previous year for his work on the unprecedented investigation. Police were still looking after Plante’s expenses. He was in the process of changing his identity.
He said he was like a lottery winner who blew a lot of his award money.
“I went on a spending spree. I really didn’t know how to handle myself,” he said. “All of a sudden I have no friends. I have a half a million dollars. I have nothing but time on my hands. You know what I mean? I did stupid things — just stupid things for about a year.”
He had been playing the tough-guy role for so long that he didn’t really know how to be normal. “I still had this Hells Angels crap inside me. I had been a Hells Angel for almost four years. I was used to going to the bars and nightclubs and spending money and yelling.”
Plante found a good doctor to whom he told the whole story.
Over time, the doctor noticed Plante wasn’t dropping the f-bomb or other derogatory expressions nearly as much.
“My mom was an English major. I don’t talk like that. I don’t talk like those guys. But I still had that in me,” Plante said.
Angels hunt for deserter
Back in B.C., the Hells Angels were alarmed when Plante just disappeared. They were hunting for him.
Their calls and conversations, including those about Plante, were still being surreptitiously recorded by police for months after the agent vanished.
“They were looking for me. They were calling a couple of girls that I knew,” Plante said.
Hells Angel Randy Potts thought Plante had taken off with his truck, but police had dumped it on the road to the airport within days of Plante vanishing.
Potts later found it.
Potts talked to Plante’s co-worker at the Cecil, Nima Ghavami, a Hells Angel associate, and found out that some burly men had been seen moving furniture out of Plante’s apartment. Potts said on wiretap: “Oh, that can’t be good.”
Potts was particularly worried about getting back his “black bag,” which police believed was a reference to the East End chapter’s arsenal that Plante had picked up in October and turned over to police.
Another friend was captured on wiretap claiming Plante was “on the run from the Hells Angels.”
Plante was most upset hearing from police about Cecil co-workers he considered friends quickly turning on him in their conversations with Hells Angels.
“I took care of those guys. Maybe it was my conscience. I got them all jobs. I paid for one guy’s wedding. If there were problems, I was always taking care of those guys,” Plante said. “On these wires, they were all talking shit about me afterwards. It kind of reinforced that they are all dirt bags.”
Six months after Plante had disappeared, the results of his work with the police came to fruition.
The busts went down on July 15, 2005, a sunny Friday afternoon. (View more images of what police found in the raid and the aftermath.) Police arrested 18 Hells Angels and associates and raided the clubhouse where Plante had spent so much time.
The arrests propelled Plante into a new phase in the E-Pandora investigation, one that was challenging in a different way than infiltrating the biker gang.
For weeks on end, he met teams of federal and provincial prosecutors to go over thousands of pages of wiretaps and other evidence he had worked with police to obtain.
The pretrial preparation phase continued for months, with police and Crown from B.C. staying near Plante to get him ready for court. It was gruelling, he said.
But it wasn’t as intense as his first trip to B.C. Supreme Court to defend his work on E-Pandora. He testified in September 2006 in a voir dire — or trial within a trial — on drug charges against Hells Angels Ronnie Lising and associate Nima Ghavami.
The two men he’d got to know were sitting just a few metres away. Lising was in the prisoner’s box. Ghavami, who was on bail, was sitting on a chair. They didn’t look at him.
“At one point (the Crown) asked me to point Lising out. When I pointed him out, he got all rattled and put his head down,” Plante said.
“I didn’t look at him, except the one time.”
Lising and Ghavami’s lawyers argued the evidence against their clients should be tossed because their Charter rights had been violated by the criminal conduct of Plante during E-Pandora.
In fact, they accused Plante of being the real criminal who engaged in drug trafficking and acts of violence as he infiltrated the East End chapter. Plante was not ready for the attacks.
“I show up for court and they are making me look like an asshole. I was like, ‘What? Are you serious? What’s going on here?’” Plante said. “The court was tough.”
But he held his own on the stand. He explained that he was doing a job for police, in which he had to convince the Hells Angels he was a tough enforcer and that he could help them with their drug deals. How else could he be accepted?
It was an act, by an actor with a major role, he said.
Plante’s conduct ‘not illegal’
On March 16, 2007, Justice Victor Curtis ruled the evidence would stand and that Plante’s conduct was not illegal because of exemptions in the Criminal Code that cover investigations like E-Pandora.
“I find nothing in the circumstances of this investigation which is not in accord with the community sense of fundamental justice, nothing which offends the principles of fundamental justice, and therefore no abuse of process constituting a breach of the rights of Mr. Lising or Mr. Ghavami,” Curtis said.
It was a key victory in the E-Pandora case and subsequent prosecutions, federal Crown Martha Devlin said recently.
She credited then-RCMP Insp. Bob Paulson — now the force’s top cop — with putting safeguards in place during the investigation that would allow the evidence into court.
“Because of the excellent way the RCMP conducted the investigation, it provided us with the evidence and we were able to withstand any challenges,” Devlin said.
Shinkaruk, who was in charge of Plante as he performed some of his most dangerous tasks, said the procedures instituted by Paulson included extraordinarily careful documentation.
There were videos, photos and recordings of every drug transaction involving Plante over a period of months.
He said the procedures “serve as fantastic best practices, I would say, throughout the country. It was a long investigation. It was a very challenging and intense investigation. However, the prosecution phase of the investigation was longer, equally challenging and I think there needs to be tremendous credit to Crown.”
Devlin and Shinkaruk praised Plante for his efforts during both the investigation and the prosecution phase. He had thousands of pages of wiretap transcripts to process. He spent weeks on the stand. His memory was phenomenal. He never got rattled despite intense cross-examination.
After his voir dire appearance, Plante was brought back to Vancouver under heavy police security three more times to testify in Pandora-related prosecutions. He testified in March 2007 in a methamphetamine trial, in which Lising was convicted and received a sentence of four years, eight months. Charges against Ghavami were later stayed.
Plante was back at the Vancouver Law Courts again in November 2007 to testify against full-patch Hells Angel David Giles in a cocaine trafficking case in which associates David Revell and Richard Rempel were also charged.
Giles was acquitted, but Revell and Rempel were convicted. All three were acquitted on a count of working on behalf of a criminal organization.
The biggest case Plante testified in was the jury trial of four full-patch Angels — his old friend Potts, Lising, John Punko and Jean Violette. They faced a range of charges, from extortion and assault to firearms and explosives possession. But the biggest charge was that they were part of a criminal organization: the Hells Angels.
Plante was on the stand for months, mostly under gruelling cross-examination.
Vancouver Police Det. Stephen, one of Plante’s handlers during Pandora, said the agent was a solid witness throughout the court cases.
“He did very well in court. They didn’t see him coming. All the high-end lawyers in there didn’t anticipate he would have the memory he had,” Stephen said. “They made a fatal mistake in assuming this guy is just a dumb thug. He was a star in the box. In the end, they didn’t know how to deal with him.”
When the jury came back, all four bikers were convicted on a series of charges. But they were all acquitted on the criminal organization count — a blow to both police and Crown.
Plante was disappointed too.
“Without a doubt they are a criminal organization,” he said.
Shinkaruk agrees. “The Hells Angels are a criminal organization. They are an international criminal organization and the British Columbia Hells Angels for a number of years have been held in high esteem internationally by Hells Angels,” he said.
Despite the lack of a criminal-organization conviction, there were other successes in E-Pandora.
Six accused associates pleaded guilty to various drug charges, including East End hangaround Jonathan Bryce Jr., son of the chapter president. He was sentenced to six years.
Meth cooks and traffickers Ryan Renaud, David Pearse, Chad Barroby, Jason Brown and Wissam Ayach all pleaded guilty.
Devlin said the guilty pleas were “an indication of both the quality of the evidence gathered and the reality of the situation that they were engaged in criminal activity which they admitted.”
Punko and Potts were also convicted in a separate case of trafficking both cocaine and methamphetamine.
A final criminal-organization charge against Punko was stayed on Oct. 30, 2012, freeing Plante from further obligations and allowing him to collect the rest of his $1-million payout for his work on the case.
Moving on and forward
On Nov. 2, Devlin, Shinkaruk, Priest and federal prosecutor Jim Torrance boarded an RCMP plane and flew to a private airport somewhere in North America, where they met Plante for the final time.
They handed him a bag containing the rest of his award money for working on E-Pandora. Before the meeting, Plante had been eager to just get his cash and leave, frustrated that he had been waiting three years for appeals to work their way through the system.
But once he saw the visitors, his mood changed. He joined them in reminiscing about the historic investigation. They all joked about some of its ups and downs.
Plante considers the police he met friends for life.
“Listen, people bring up all the bad cops. Well, guess what? Gary Shinkaruk, Stu Priest and Brad Stephen, they are three of the best. They are the best at what they do. They are honest, straitlaced, but they had common sense,” Plante said.
“Listen, we had fights. We had fights right up to and during court. We had arguments. It definitely wasn’t harmonious all the time. But you see at the end of the day that these guys understood.”
Plante doesn’t consider the money a huge windfall given that he has spent 10 years of his life waiting for E-Pandora to conclude. “I have actually got 40 years of my life left.”
He never undertook his amazing journey for money, but because he thought it was the right thing to do.
“I am proud of what I did. I have no regrets about what I did.”
And while he is not planning on living in fear for the rest of his life, he has to take special security measures because of the damage he did to the Hells Angels.
“Are they dangerous? For sure they are dangerous. If I was in Brazil and all of a sudden I ran into some Brazilian Hells Angels, for sure they are going to know who I am. I knew who guys were. We had pictures of guys in the clubhouse,” he said.
“But I really haven’t looked over my shoulder. I live the way I have always lived — I kind of scope things. But I don’t let it get to me.
“I am not saying I am this super-strong, super-crazy guy. I am realistic. If it did happen, it happens. But I don’t put myself in harm’s way. I don’t go to Vancouver. I really don’t say anything about it. It’s done, and what’s done is done.”
Plante has already moved on. Just as he had to do so many times as a child, he has adapted to a new city, new friends and a new life.
“I had no problem moving on. I am doing my own thing. I am pretty easygoing when it comes to stuff like that,” he said. “I just want to live my life and enjoy my life like a normal person. I don’t have any regrets. I don’t look back. I look forward.”
Click here to view more images. | Click here to view The Sun’s archival “biker files.”
Tune in for the final instalment in this six-part series Thursday, Jan. 31 at 8 p.m.
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