By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Along the way, Dowling introduced Madinski to Mihaly Illes, a Hungarian native who was kicked out of Canada and who had returned to the country illegally. Illes had previously done stints in an Alberta jail for drug offenses and weapons charges before being deported back to Hungary. Madinski said he let Illes crash in his living room, and even gave him money for food and expenses. In April 2001, Madinski says, he witnessed Illes shoot his friend Dowling twice in the head while the three were driving around Vancouver in Dowling’s van. Illes was allegedly upset that Dowling, a crack addict, was stealing his product. Madinski told police that at the time of the shooting, Illes threatened him not to go to the authorities. When Dowling’s severed head was discovered on March 26, 2002, almost a year after Illes killed him, Madinski did go to police. In February 2003, Madinski testified at the first-degree-murder trial of Illes. He told the jury that Illes cut off Dowling’s head and dismembered his body while he watched. Then both of them buried Dowling’s body parts in two separate locations outside of Vancouver in a small city called Squamish.
Besides testifying about his part in the murder, Madinski told the jury about his role in smuggling drugs across the U.S.-Canada border in exchange for cocaine, which was then smuggled back across the border into Canada. “You bring back the coke and sell it for a lot more money,” he explained to the jury. “So it’s two benefits in one.” Madinski stated that they used another man who rented a house in Burnaby so they could grow their own marijuana, eliminating the need to buy the B.C. pot they would take to the U.S. “I figured even if he was busted, he wasn’t going to jail,” he said of pot grower Garry Favell. “You get busted for weed here [Canada], and it’s a slap on the wrist.” The group typically used a person called a “cross” who smuggled the drugs across the border for a fee.
“A person arrested for trafficking pot in the U.S. would get at least two years in jail, so the risk is higher in the U.S., and it [pot] is a lot more expensive,” he added. “Canada’s sentences are much lighter — often a fine and no jail time — so marijuana prices are cheaper here.”
Finding growers among Vancouver’s 12,000 active grow-ops was the easy part. Making connections with buyers in the States was a more difficult and dangerous prospect, especially in Los Angeles, where large-scale drug deals are usually brokered through street gangs with ties to the Mexican mafia. Enter Anton Brad Hooites-Meursing, a.k.a. Compton (as he was called in Canada) or Blanco (meaning Whitey, the gang moniker given to him by his Latino friends). Riske says that Bralic met Hooites-Meursing around six months before Bralic went to Los Angeles, through a mutual friend who worked at a car dealership in Burnaby. Riske, who had met Hooites-Meursing twice himself, describes him as dangerous — a loose cannon who carried a gun with him everywhere he went and was known to shoot it off in the streets. Once, when Riske was at the mall with Bralic, Hooites-Meursing came up and had a private conversation with Bralic. Riske recalls that he heard Hooites-Meursing had affiliations with a Latino street gang that he routinely supplied with drugs.
“Joe told me that Compton knew of some guys in L.A. Joe could sell to,” Riske says. Hooites-Meursing made the connection, according to friends of Bralic. Authorities believe that Bralic flew to Los Angeles on at least two occasions to meet up with the gang associates of Hooites-Meursing to whom he would be supplying B.C. bud. Bralic told one of his friends that while he was there he was working out on Muscle Beach and hanging out “with these crazy Mexican guys.” Bralic’s friend, who doesn’t want to be identified, says that Bralic’s newfound friends had also visited him in Vancouver.
Bralic soon quit his job at the clubs and dropped out of school. Friends say he didn’t come around as much. He was more secretive. The friend of Bralic’s who requested anonymity says he tried to warn Bralic of the dangers of his new profession. “He was either naive or had a death wish. I told him it was a bad idea and that he would get killed doing it,” the friend says. “When Blow came out, he said that Johnny Depp’s character was stupid and that ‘It would never happen to me.’ That was a week before he left.”
Friends may have been alarmed, but for Bralic, things were happening. He was the middleman, a big deal.
“Joe was trying to make a name for himself through Compton. Joe was naive and wanted to break into a criminally active group. He was way over his head. It doesn’t matter how much you bench press, you can’t stop a bullet,” says a source who doesn’t want to be identified. “He was dealing with people that live and breathe gang mentality, where there is a street code and honor that we don’t have in Canada. They have guns they deal with every day.”