from the how-American-of-them dept
Canadian law enforcement brought down a massive criminal conspiracy. Now, thanks to information it doesn’t want to release to the court, most of what was brought down will be re-erected by the suspects it’s cutting loose. (h/t Techdirt reader Pickle Monger)
Thirty five people accused of serious crimes like kidnapping and drug trafficking saw the cases brought against them in a major RCMP investigation into the Montreal Mafia dropped on Tuesday because the Crown no longer wants to prosecute them.
The Crown’s sudden change of stance in an investigation dubbed Project Clemenza meant there are only 11 accused left with cases pending following three series of arrests made between 2014 and May last year. Federal prosecutor Sabrina Delli Fraine informed Quebec Court Judge Lori Renée Weitzman of the Crown’s position during a hearing at the Montreal courthouse.
One of the defendants released is believed to be one of the leaders of the Montreal Mafia (which sounds like a Chicago mob farm team). The suspects were snared through the interception of communications, many of which appeared to originate on BlackBerry phones. As was covered here a year ago, the RCMP used a built-in BlackBerry “feature” to intercept and decrypt over “one million messages” during its investigation of a Mafia killing.
Here’s the key part of the interception effort:
The RCMP maintains a server in Ottawa that “simulates a mobile device that receives a message intended for [the rightful recipient].” In an affidavit, RCMP sergeant Patrick Boismenu states that the server “performs the decryption of the message using the appropriate decryption key.” The RCMP calls this the “BlackBerry interception and processing system.”
This is part of the reason these Mafia defendants are seeing their charges dropped. The RCMP does not want to publicly discuss its BlackBerry interception methods. The other reason has to do with how the RCMP tracked down the phone numbers it wanted to intercept.
The RCMP used a mobile device identifier and Stober ordered that the Crown disclose information like the device’s signal strength and its potential impact on a BlackBerrys ability to make or receive phone calls while text messages are being intercepted from it.
This would likely be RCMP Stingray devices. Just like here in the US, Canadian law enforcement would rather see perps walk out of courtrooms than turn over information on interception efforts to defendants.
This is the largest of the RCMP’s catch-and-release efforts, but it isn’t the first. The National Post points out a similar dumping of defendants occurred last year for the same reason.
The Crown apparently does not want to disclose the investigative techniques used with the device. Last year, it did an about face in a murder trial and six men who were about to go on trial for the first-degree murder of Mafioso Salvatore Montagna were able to plead guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder.
At least in that case, law enforcement still ended up with a few convictions — albeit on charges lower than what it had hoped to obtain going in.
Cell tower spoofers are resulting in a lot of contradictory law enforcement behavior. Cops say they don’t want to turn over info on Stingrays to public records requesters for “public safety” reasons, claiming it could compromise methods and techniques and allow criminals to stay out of their reach. They make the same claims in court when refusing to turn over information to defendants, which results in freshly-caught criminals being put back on the streets — something that certainly doesn’t make the public any safer.