Gang squad and B.C. government join forces to fight casino money laundering

Reported suspicious cash transactions at Lower Mainland casinos totalled $119 million in past year A new 26-person unit has been formed to fight money laundering and other illegal activity at B.C. casinos.

New team to crack down on people bringing 'hockey bags full of money' to casinos

The newly announced Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team hopes to make a dent in money laundering and shady transactions taking place at B.C. casinos. And for good reason.

Those "suspicious cash transactions" have reached a staggering $119 million in the last 12 months, according to a B.C. government document that accompanied Monday's announcement of a crackdown.

According to Kevin Hackett, chief operating officer of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., the new investigative unit has been created to curtail a wide range of suspicious activity, including "people walking in [to a casino] with hockey bags full of money."

Money laundering bar graph

(Province of B.C.)

At the unveiling of the joint team in Vancouver, B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong referred briefly to a bar graph that showed "suspicious cash transaction reports for the Lower Mainland as received ... from gaming service providers ..."

The graph shows a peak last July of $20.7 million in suspicious cash transactions — but de Jong did not refer to the total for the past 12 months. But the chart does and according to it, the total amount of suspicious cash transactions since April of last year was $119.1 million.

Casino money laundering concerns

Money laundering can happen when individuals buy in at a casino with dirty cash, play a few games and then cash out their balance and claim it as winnings. (CBC)

In the past, CBC News investigations have shown how easily dirty money can be laundered at B.C. casinos, sometime by simply buying chips with ill-gotten cash and then turning around a short time later and cashing out.

Freedom of Information reports showed that during a three month period in 2014 almost $27 million worth of suspicious cash transactions were documented by just two Lower Mainland casinos — the River Rock in Richmond and the Starlight in New Westminster.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the new unit is different from past units tasked with cracking down on gambling crime.

"This one is focused directly on money laundering and suspected money laundering along with organized criminals operating within casinos in British Columbia," he said.

The new unit will consist of 22 law enforcement personnel from the CFSEU — the province's anti-gang agency — and four investigators from the B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.

Seventy per cent of the $4.3 million per year funding for the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team will come from the B.C. Lottery Corporation.

Hackett denied there is any conflict in having the BCLC, which profits from casino transactions regardless of their legality, fund the crack down. 

"Who writes the cheques is no concern of mine." he said. "My concern is to build the most effective team possible to enforce and advance the laws of the country."

The government claims it has already implemented some anti-money laundering strategies at B.C. casinos, including:

  • Actively promoting the use of cash alternatives such as debit cards, convenience cheques and patron gaming fund accounts.
  • Requiring that casino chips only be used at a single facility.
  • Restricting the passing of chips on casino floors.
  • Placing restrictions on patrons exchanging small bills for large currency denominations.

Surrey RCMP have found a hole in the exterior of the District 2/Guildford Community Police Station.

Surrey community police station hit by bullet, say RCMP

The Guildford Community Police Station may have been hit by a bullet.

Mounties say a maintenance worker discovered a hole in a window on the north side of the station located at 10395 148 St. on Tuesday.

"Police are currently examining the area and have found evidence consistent with a bullet causing the damage. The hole is about the size of a quarter," said a statement released by police

"The damage does not appear recent and it is not known when this incident occurred.  There are no witnesses or suspects at this point."

Anyone with more information is asked to contact the Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502 or Crime Stoppers, if they wish to remain anonymous, at 1-800-222-TIPS or www.solvecrime.ca.

There have been 32 reported shooting in Surrey since the start of the year, including four in the past four days. Police have blamed conflict between local street level drug dealers for the shootings.

$4.5 million drug bust 'will have an impact' on those behind recent shootings: Police

Surrey RCMP announced a major drug bust, Friday, revealing that earlier in March, a driver was found transporting an estimated $4.5 million in cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine.

30-year-old Abbotsford resident Pardip Hayer has been charged with four counts of trafficking in a substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act.

"It was an ongoing investigation, you know, a continued strategy on our part, that we pulled this individual over," said Surrey RCMP Superintendent Shawn Gill, adding that no weapons were found in the vehicle.

Gill said the drugs likely came from outside the country and were headed for communities across B.C. and the rest of Canada.

drug bust

Among the estimated $4.5 million in seized drugs was a sizeable quantity of fentanyl, both in pill and loose form. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"We believe the recent shootings, and the conflict that we see — the most recent conflict on our streets — is the result of the drug trade, and the seizure of this amount of drugs will have an impact on those that are fighting over it," said Gill.

Surrey RCMP Superintendent Manny Mann said the city has seen a spike in 'shots fired' incidents throughout March, and there have been 28 such incidents so far in 2016.

"This year's incidents do not involve the individuals engaged in last year's drug conflicts. In 2015, we made a significant number of arrests and disrupted the illegal activities of those that were involved," said Mann.

"I can confirm that five of the 28 incidents are associated to a new drug-related conflict between two groups," he said.

IHIT INVESTIGATING SERIOUS ACCIDENT IN SURREY

A white car is taped off as police investigate a deadly car crash on 123A Street in Surrey on March 11. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Mann said many of the bullets are fired at houses, or parked cars, but five people have been injured this year, and one person was killed in a March 11 attack.

Police have made three arrests in connection to the shootings. 

Mann said the shootings do not appear to be random, and they don't pose a significant threat to public safety. He said in many cases there are no victims, and no witnesses.

 

Nike Is Making Real Self-Lacing Shoes You Can Buy

By Eric Limer Mar 16, 2016 79 Share Tweet Text Share E-mail

Yes, we've gotten there. Nike is finally making mass-market self-lacing shoes, just like in Back to the Future. Announced Wednesday afternoon by way of its website, the shoes are called the "Nike HyperAdapt 1.0" and will be available by the end of the year. 

As Nike's website breathlessly explains

Welcome the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, the first performance vehicle for Nike's latest platform breakthrough, adaptive lacing. The shoe translates deep research in digital, electrical and mechanical engineering into a product designed for movement. It challenges traditional understanding of fit, proposing an ultimate solution to individual idiosyncrasies in lacing and tension preference.Functional simplicity reduces a typical athlete concern, distraction. "When you step in, your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten," explains Tiffany Beers, Senior Innovator, NIKE, Inc., and the project's technical lead. "Then there are two buttons on the side to tighten and loosen. You can adjust it until it's perfect."

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It is as-yet unclear if the shoes can also solve world hunger and global warming, but frankly it seems promising. 

This isn't Nikes first time around with self-lacing shoes. Nike developed a limited run last year, though they were never widely for sale. These, evidently based on the same tech, will be, though in order to purchase a pair, you'll have to be a member of Nike+

The technology is undeniably cool, the ability to tighten and loosen on the go—a feature Nike touts—probably won't be super useful for most of us. And so he question really becomes "How much are you willing to pay in order to not bend down?"

 

 

Surrey shootings: RCMP announce five arrests

RCMP say they have arrested five people and seized 13 firearms in relation to a string of more than 30 shootings which have plagued Surrey in recent months.

Speaking at a press conference called to quell growing fears about a conflict police say is linked to the drug war, Surrey mayor Linda Hepner joined police leaders to promise an increase in resources to tackle the violence which has resulted in one death.

A bail hearing is set next week for two of the men charged with weapons offences in relation to what RCMP characterize as a low-level drug war.

Alex Blanarou and Robert Dennison are scheduled for a bail hearing on April 13. 

"We're going to make it very uncomfortable," said RCMP Asst. Commissioner Dan Malo. "You're going to change your behaviour, or we're going to change it for you."

Malo announced an influx of investigators and analysts to target the problem, which he said involves a battle for control of the street-level drug market.

He said the situation is very different from the type of high-level gang fights the Lower Mainland has seen in recent years. He said the players in the latest conflict were young men whose friends and family are turning a blind eye to their activities.

Malo said new resources would include the gang unit, monitor rooms, criminal and open source analysts, as well as community and educational support.

He said officers would also call on increased air support as well as the force's behavioural scientists to identify and deal with the people involved.

The RCMP's dog handling team have also been provided photographs of perpetrators and will spend their time focusing on those individuals.

Hepner said police would also have round-the-clock access to the city's network of traffic cameras, which have previously only been accessible during the city's working hours. Surrey also plans to add 75 new cameras, bringing the total to 400.

Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said the situation angered him, but assured the community that police were making progress.

To that end, he announced charges against three individuals, including Blanarou and Dennison. 

He said RCMP need the community to unite behind police to fight the problem of youth in the drug trade and announced a forum to be held next Monday to address the issue.​

Many of the shootings have taken place between cars at major city intersections. Police believe warring dial-a-dope gangs, mostly young men between age 17 and 24, are responsible.

A recent string of four shootings in four days, and 32 targeted shootings since since the beginning of the year, has put the city and its residents on edge.

Darlene Bowyer of the Surrey Association of Sustainable Communities says it's time all levels of government come together to find solutions.

"The community is tired of hearing that it's a targeted shooting and nobody's really at risk. Yes we are," said Bowyer. "This is our community. We have bullets flying in our  streets. Good grief, anyone can get hit."