A 2016 assault and kidnapping comitted by a Hells Angels member and two associates against another man in Hope was related to a business deal involving local cannabis grow operations.
Edmonton Hells Angels member Neil Cantrill, his son Stephan Cantrill, and Robert Lowry were found guilty July 17 in BC Supreme Court on charges including aggravated assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement and extortion. Court documents made public the victim of the assault, Richard Houle, and detailed the circumstances in which Houle was beaten and threatened by the three men who were arrested by police later the same day.
Houle operated illegal cannabis grow-ops for years before the 2016 assault, a written judgement by Justice Ward Branch read. In 2001 or 2002 Houle began working with Neil Cantrill to have Cantrill’s organization distribute the cannabis he grew at various properties.
Houle agreed to deliver the product to Edmonton and from there Cantrill would take over distribution. Cantrill went by the name ‘Nitro’ in a Nomads Chapter of the Alberta Hells Angels, yet according to Vancouver Sun reporter Kim Bolan has since joined the Westridge chapter of the Hells Angels.
Houle earned between $60,000 to $100,000 annually, in an arrangement where “the expenses of each grow-op would be taken off the top before the distribution of profits between Houle, (Neil Cantrill), and Houle’s other partners,” court documents stated.
One of Houle’s grow-ops was in the basement of an address on Johnson Road in Kawkawa Lake which he owned through a nominee to minimize the risk of the property being seized as a proceed of crimes, and where he also lived.
While Houle said there were “no major difficulties” in this business relationship save for seizures by police and ‘third party thefts’, the relationship ended in 2014 as Houle informed Cantrill he planned to stop growing cannabis.”Houle does not recall (Neil Cantrill) raising any concerns about this change in their relationship,” the court documents stated.
Two years later, on July 31, 2016, Houle found a note on his fence on Johnson Road. The note read: “Redgy: This is Neil – I really need some information on something we talked about. Call me pls…” The back of the note read “My son and I are in town for a bit.”
Houle assumed this was about growing equipment he had told Cantrill he would be able to provide to him.
The following day Houle met Neil, who was accompanied by his son Stephan and Lowry, at a highway pullout near the Hope Garden Centre past the Fraser River bridge. It was at the pullout where Houle said the assault began, he was beaten and wrestled into the vehicle the three were driving, a white SUV, and driven to a turnout Houle believed to be at Ruby Creek.
Houle said he was repeatedly threatened and told by one of the three men that they believed he was behind a 2012 theft at another grow-op in a property described as the “Dogwood House.” The three said they believed Houle had $1 million buried, which he denied while offering them $5,000. The men then turned to Houle’s Johnson Road home, telling him he would have to turn it over to them.
They then drove to the home, where they proceded to make arrangements to have Houle sign the property over to them. At this point four officers arrived, having been alerted to an assault at the pullout.
Houle was taken to hospital with injuries that included his sinus linings torn, his orbital bone fractured under his right eye, cuts to his forehead and under his right eye as well as a burn on his head caused by a heated spoon he said Neil Cantrill applied during the assault.
During an interview with police, Houle asked to be placed in the RCMP’s witness protection program. He was compensated for living expenses for a year as well as some financial help to relocate, he also sold the Johnson Road home and earned a “substantial profit” on it, according to court documents.
Houle also admitted to having guns illegally stored and loaded at his residence, yet was not charged for this. Police found a loaded shotgun, a handgun, a baton, knives and ammunition in their search of the property, none of which were secured.
Despite his background growing cannabis, illegal at the time, and other criminal activities, Judge Branch deemed the evidence Houle provided about the assault could be relied on.
The two Cantrills and Lowry are scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 2, 2020.
- with files from Paul Henderson
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