Ontario’s anti-biker squad has been called in, with London’s top cop now saying a rash of weekend arsons at adult businesses appear linked.

Two of the blazes were at establishments connected to biker gangs.
While the motives behind the fires at a strip club, tattoo shop and two massage parlours remain unknown, London police Chief Brad Duncan says Ontario’s biker-enforcement unit is helping with the investigation.
“Clearly, there’s (biker) overtones here,” Duncan said Tuesday.

Duncan stopped short of confirming speculation by organized-crime experts London has become a new battleground in the turf war between longtime rivals Hells Angels and the Outlaws, but did say the arsons are a threat to public safety.

“I’m certainly concerned for our public and our citizenry when we have a short space of time and four arsons.”

Damage from the blazes is pegged at $186,000, says London fire department’s Rick Jefferson.

The first fire hit a Hamilton Rd. tattoo shop owned by a man who’s an admitted member of the Outlaws.

Nearly 24 hours later, a second blaze struck the Blue Lagoon massage parlour on Oxford St. E.

There was third fire at Famous Flesh Gordon’s strip club on Dundas St. less than an hour later. The bar is owned by Rob Barletta, a former president of the London Hells Angels and a current member.

Almost 10 minutes later, a fourth and final blaze broke out at Virginia’s massage parlour on Clarke Rd. “There’s lots of tentacles here,” Duncan said.

With no suspects in custody, police are appealing to the public for information.

But that may be difficult, since all four fires broke out in the early-morning hours when few people were around.

Another challenge investigators face, Duncan acknowledged, is citizens’ fear of crossing the bikers.

“They (bikers) don’t want their business interests compromised, and will go to great lengths to ensure that,” he said. “And it’s well known that intimidation and other tactics are part of that environment . . . so clearly it’s more difficult for police to engage witnesses because they are, in fact, concerned about reprisals.”

London has long been home to biker gangs, with the Outlaws opening a chapter in 1977 and establishing their dominance, often through violence, by the 1990s.

The Hells Angels moved into London in 2001 and began challenging their rivals. A series of raids on the Outlaws and the self-destruction of a local Bandidos chapter, made up of several ex-Outlaw supporters, in 2006 tipped the balance of power in the region to the Hells Angels.

But the Outlaws never really left London, and resurfaced last summer with a mixture of older bikers and newcomers, OPP said.

Perhaps in response, the Hells Angels re-opened what looks to be a clubhouse in the city and invited 100 supporters to a party in the fall.

The two clubs and their affiliates have clashed often in the past, with several shootings and two deaths the result of their battles.


BY THE NUMBERS: FIRE DAMAGE

  1. $1,000: La Tinta Latina tattoo shop, 328 Hamilton Rd.
  2. $150,000: Blue Lagoon II massage parlour, 1180 Oxford St. E
  3. $10,000: Famous Flesh Gordon’s strip club, 2190 Dundas St.
  4. $25,000: Virginia’s massage parlour, 125 Clarke Rd.