September 30, 2014 - 2:25 PM
KELOWNA – The public may never know what would have happened had four armed men not been pulled over for speeding two years ago—but what police found inside the vehicle that night was enough to convict two of them of almost a dozen charges.
Full patch Hells Angel Joseph Bruce Skreptak and alleged gang associate Cory Montemurro were pulled over November 25, 2010 after leaving a legal marijuana grow operation in Salmon Arm. Inside the rented Jeep Cherokee police found a cache of weapons, including loaded handguns, a sawed off shotgun, body armour, gloves, duct tape and masks.
Skreptak and Montemurro, as well as Carl Ennis and Dennis Miner, were arrested and Skreptak and Montemurro charged with 11 counts of gun related offences.
Since the start of the trial September 17, Crown lawyer Sandra Dworkin alleged the men were planning on confronting someone in the Tappen area, as evidenced by a hand-drawn map found shortly after the arrest.
Although Montemurro did not testify during the trial, Skreptak said he had no idea there were guns in the vehicle, nor did he know the items he put into his sock that night were bullets to a snub-nosed .38 revolver found later on the side of the road where they pulled over.
Justice Geoff Barrow said the denial was “beyond common sense.”
“There were items throughout the vehicle, some visible to the occupants and others not, but there is one item that sheds light on the issue and provides context,” Barrow said. “The hand-drawn map found… shows a route to a specific house, a route that involves taking Bolton Road.”
The arrests were made only metres from the turnoff to Bolton Road.
“That fact… tends to support the Crown’s thesis that the accused were involved in a joint nefarious activity that evening.”
Barrow acknowledged that much of the evidence in the case is circumstantial, but said the probability was extremely low that four men could be in a vehicle with four guns and not know anything about them.
“There is a correspondence between the number of weapons that came out of the vehicle and the number of occupants,” he said. “This fact provides some support for the inference of joint possession.”
Police also found body armour and a black balaclava in a duffel bag and a second black balaclava was on the floor beneath the driver’s seat. There were also two-way radios and duct tape in the glove box, a mask made out of a pair of boxer shorts in the centre console and a cell phone jammer under the driver’s seat as well as multiple knives, bear spray and a baseball bat.
Skreptak and Montemurro were convicted on all 11 charges, four of which carry a mandatory minimum sentence of three years each. Sentencing will take place sometime in November.
Charges against Dennis Miner and Carl Ennis were dropped.
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— This story was updated at 2 p.m. September 30 to include information from the decision.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014