The basement workshop of a gun trafficker and alleged black market gunsmith was fitted with pipe bombs and a warning to any one curious enough to enter.
But before police could make their way past the spray-painted graffiti walls, the guns and Hells Angels paraphernalia in December 2017, the bomb squad had to be called to detonate improvised explosive devices.
It was take-down day for the targets of Project Sabotage, but Miles Kempffer-Hossack, whose arrest would net the largest chunk of the 24 guns seized by Ottawa police, wasn’t initially a target on their radar.
Sabotage was “born out of concern for the volume and increase in gun violence in Ottawa,” Crown prosecutor Jason Neubauer told court last month during Kempffer-Hossack’s guilty plea for his crimes.
Looking to curb the violence, detectives in the force’s guns and gangs and intelligence units were speaking to people involved in the gun and drug trade. They were approached by a man in May 2017 who “wanted to get out of the gang lifestyle” and wanted to do it by becoming a paid police agent.
Sabotage began in July of that year after the force entered into a contract with the agent, with investigators telling him to entrench himself into the gang world.
During the project, the agent bought guns and drugs in 21 separate transactions.
Wiretaps made it so cops could intercept the communications between the agent and people he spoke to. Police could also covertly film any of the transactions.
Kempffer-Hossack only became known to police through a broker who set up six buys for the agent, three of which were for Kempffer-Hossack’s guns.
Kempffer-Hossack sold a semi-automatic handgun, 12-gauge shotgun and a rifle on three separate occasions in the fall of 2017.
In one meeting at a McDonald’s, he slid a black duffel bad under the table and took a McDonald’s bag full of cash over the table.
The duffel bag contained a handgun with “no identifiable markings,” Neubauer said.
The broker would tell the agent before handing it over in the agent’s car: “Don’t burn it too much, don’t squeeze it too much. You can tell this guy made it by hand.”
OPS firearms experts ruled it unsafe to fire the gun and sent it out for forensic testing, which found it could and did fire.
Weeks later, the broker would send the agent a string of text messages asking if he wants an “all-black” pistol-grip, pump-action shotgun “like some SWAT s–t”. The asking price: $2,000.
The broker would pay Kempffer-Hossack at a St-Hubert restaurant in Gatineau, then later turn the gun over to the agent. The serial number on it had been ground out.
The next day, another gun. This time, a rifle.
“He gets all the parts and s–t. It’s not like a manufacturer like Smith & Wesson or Heckler & Koch, that type of thing,” the broker would text. “That’s one of the f—–g things … he’s a smith … he knows what the f— he’s like doing at the end of the day. Like that’s how he makes his bread, and that’s his bread and butter is making straps, you know.“
Kempffer-Hossack would take a taxi to The Laff in the Market holding another large black duffel bag. The broker would leave six minutes later, with that same bag, on his way to meet the agent to turn over the rifle.
On Dec. 14, 2017, a series of raids were carried out across the region. Kempffer-Hossack came out of the front door of his home on Rue St-Hélène in Gatineau. Police would find four bombs and seven guns — two rifles, two shotguns, three handguns — by the end of the search.
Police found ammunition in the basement, on a workbench, in the TV stand and in the microwave.
There was graffiti on the walls throughout the home in spray paint including “support the 81” — a reference to the Hells Angels — and “f–k the police” on the way into the basement, where police found what they believe to be his workshop. Police also found brass knuckles, a collapsible baton and a baseball ball with spikes driven into it. Nearly 30 grams of crystal meth was found on the floor, $8000 worth of cannabis products and 184 methamphetamine pills.
The Crown called it a “disturbing arsenal of weapons” in the home of a person “who is deeply entrenched in a criminal subculture,” and has asked for a sentence of 10 years in custody less time he’s already served.
Shootings in Ottawa are happening in public, where they are a danger to innocent bystanders in addition to the intended targets, the Crown argued.
“It is gun traffickers who make this possible,” Neubauer said. “Without them this type of damage wouldn’t be meted out to people in Ottawa.”
Kempffer-Hossack didn’t know he was selling guns to a police agent and that weapons would be seized. “He had to know they were meant for the streets,” Neubauer said.
Defence lawyer Ewan Lyttle asked for a six-year sentence, one that would see the trafficker spend just less than four more years behind bars with credit for time served.
Lyttle called him a “youthful first time offender” who experimented socially with drugs that eventually led him astray and estranged him from his family. At the time of the project, Kempffer-Hossack was using hard drugs and Lyttle said police found no cash on him when he was arrested, suggesting he wasn’t earning big profits from gun trafficking.
Lyttle also disputed the police allegation that he was manufacturing guns. There was mechanical work going on in the home, but not evidence of making guns, he said.
Kempffer-Hossack apologized to the public for his actions. At the time, he said, he didn’t appreciate what he was doing but now he’s ashamed for putting people in danger.
“I would also like to apologize to my family for putting them through all this. I’m really sorry for everything.”
To date, the majority of the 16 people charged in Sabotage have pleaded guilty to their crimes. Two are currently on trial, with another two set to begin trial later this fall. One has had all charges withdrawn.
Kempffer-Hossack is set to be sentenced next week.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019