LONDON, ONTARIO (January 16, 2017) – A high-profile, multi-million-dollar gambling bust three years ago has sent one Londoner to jail and two more to trial, but allowed the former head of the city’s Hells Angels to keep his clean record.
The quiet withdrawal of charges against Robert Barletta last fall, the same day his trial began, adds to his reputation as the “Teflon biker” but raises many questions, biker analyst Yves Lavigne said.
“It’s highly suspect that a case in which police spent so many resources would end with the Crown withdrawing charges,” he said.
No one could blame those in Ontario’s underworld for thinking either the police messed up or Barletta played some get-out-of-jail-free card, Lavigne said.
“How can the cops bring to court the former president of the London chapter of the Hells Angels without having done their job properly? It’s incredible to me the former president would be free.”
Barletta, as usual, isn’t talking either directly, or via his lawyer, Richard Posner of Toronto.
About 400 police officers raided a Markham Super Bowl party in February 2013, busting up a multimillion-dollar online gaming site called Platinum Sports book.
Initial arrests were followed by raids a month later in 10 locations, including London, after which several London men faced charges.
The trial for Barletta and Andrew Bielli, also linked to the Hells Angels, began Sept. 12, 2016, in Toronto. Both pleaded not guilty to bookmaking for the benefit of a criminal organization and possessing proceeds of crime.
They then walked to another court to see Gordon Baird, 59, admit he was administrator of the illegal sports ring that grossed more than $103 million in 2009-13. With no criminal record and because he pleaded guilty to bookmaking as participation in a criminal organization, Baird received an 18-month conditional sentence, to be served in his home, and a $400,000 fine.
Asked by the judge if was pressured by anyone to take the plea, Baird said, “No, sir.”
According to a clerk with the Superior Court of Justice, charges against Barletta were withdrawn the same day.
On Jan. 5, Bielli pleaded guilty to possessing property obtained by crime over $5,000 and was sentenced to 15 months in custody, the clerk said, in response to recent Free Press questions about the status of the trials. Two other London men, David Hair and Christopher Rutledge, have trial dates set for January 2018.
There were no records in the computer system for two more London men charged in 2013, Jeffrey Fuchs and Hiesam Kadri, the clerk said. Still facing trial is William (Billy) Miller, former president of the London chapter of Hells Angels, now living in Toronto.
Barletta has long balanced leadership in the Hells Angels with a squeaky clean record. He was a founding member of the London chapter when it was established in 2003 and ran a strip club that became the target of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
A protracted legal battle ended with Barletta losing his liquor license, despite not having a criminal record, because of his association with the Hells Angels.