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A Kilo Full of Kryptonite 

Big Joe Bralic thought he was Superman. Then the Canadian tried to do a drug deal in L.A.

Thursday, Apr 29 2004
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“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.”

Sources say that Bralic, besides being the middleman, was also setting up his own deal to trade 25 pounds of B.C. bud for cocaine. At the time, the exchange was 5.1 pounds of weed for one kilogram of coke.

What made Bralic turn from hometown hero into international drug smuggler? Friends and family believe it was a combination of things — partly it was being young, feeling like a hotshot and loving the rush; partly it was Bralic’s belief that he had to be “the man” and provide for his family after his father died. Some also blame the new culture of fast cash sweeping through Vancouver. Joe Ciccone believes that a lot of people in Vancouver have fallen in love with the idea of making quick money on B.C. bud with little risk of being caught or fined. Bralic, who was not rich but was far from poor, was just one of many. “A lot of people don’t think about the consequences,” says Ciccone. “I think he thought about the chance to make a little bit of money. I know right now I can quit my job and deal drugs, but for me it is not worth it. I don’t want to put myself in that position. It isn’t worth dying over.”

 

The last call registered on Bralic’s cell phone on July 5, 2001, came two hours and 11 minutes before his body was found at 2:08 p.m. in the alley in Fullerton. Authorities believe that Bralic met up with his killers shortly after noon in a secluded place where the sound of a gunshot would not be heard or wouldn’t rouse phone calls to the police. What happened after that is unclear. Bralic and the locals may have argued over the price, as one source says is the case. According to this source, Bralic tried to lowball the original asking price and pissed off his associates, who weren’t likely to look too kindly on a Canadian rube, no matter how large, trying to haggle with them. But one friend of Bralic’s says he believes it was a simple robbery, because there would be no consequences for the killer or killers. “There would be no recourse, because Joe was not with an organization,” says the friend. “If he was with an organization, it wouldn’t have happened. If you shoot someone from a gang, they will retaliate, especially the Hells Angels.”

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