More than 100 drums of precursor chemicals for making ecstasy and crystal meth were found this week at the Delta business of Gilles LePage, who was gunned down in Vancouver last Saturday with long-time gangster Ricardo Scarpino.
The Vancouver Sun has learned that LePage's landlord in the River Road business, David Lloyd, went to check out the premises Wednesday after hearing that LePage was likely the second victim in a targeted hit outside the posh Gotham Steakhouse on Seymour Street Jan. 19.
Lloyd told The Sun on Friday that he found the suspicious barrels of chemicals, including 71 15-kilogram drums of sodium borohydride, 30 15-kg containers of methylamine hydrochloride and 23 larger containers of a third chemical. He called police, who immediately called in fire-department emergency vehicles to secure the scene and remove the volatile chemicals.
He speculated the chemicals might be related to the motive for the brazen downtown Vancouver shooting that killed Scarpino and LePage as they pulled up outside the restaurant for Scarpino's engagement party.
Scarpino was a well-known Lower Mainland gangster who had been involved in drug trafficking for years. Vancouver police said this week LePage had no criminal record and was known only for his association with Scarpino.
"The placement of these drugs or precursor chemicals was such that I'm sure they were not intended to be there for any length of time," Lloyd said, "that they were obtained from somewhere by someone who wasn't in a position to deliver them to where they were ultimately destined for and just dropped them there for a few days."
He said there were rooms in the unit in which LePage could easily have hidden the barrels if they were going to be there a while.
"The fact that they didn't do that leads me to believe the chemicals were there for a very short period of time. Obviously, whatever plan they had was interrupted," Lloyd said.
"The quantity of these chemicals was not something I would attribute to a single small lab."
Lloyd said he was surprised when police told him he would be sent the bill for destroying the brand-new, unopened drums of chemicals, expected to be tens of thousands of dollars.
Drug investigators in B.C. have complained about methylamine hydrochloride and sodium borohydride remaining legal in Canada even though they are being used in the manufacture of illicit chemical narcotics.
But Lloyd said that aside from the initial response, no investigators from either Delta police or the Vancouver police department have returned to search the 1,800-square-foot unit in which LePage had lived and built go-karts for several years.
"There are bits and pieces of paper scattered all over the place. ... Not one piece of that paper has been touched. I think if you search through the papers, there might be something," Lloyd said.
"[LePage] was not only running a business from these premises, but he was also living there as well. All his personal stuff is there. So if there is anything that was in his possession that would help with the investigation -- it is still there."
Vancouver police Const. Tim Fanning said major crime investigators are aware of the discovery at LePage's business.
He said he couldn't comment "for investigative reasons" on whether the chemicals could be the motive for the murder.
Delta police Insp. Lorne Pike said Lloyd was not cooperative in allowing the fire department into the unit once he learned he would be responsible for the costs of removal.
"I can confirm that the police were investigating the complaint. It was quickly determined that there was no criminal act on the premises," he said, given that the chemicals are technically legal to own and the tenant was dead.
The information was passed to Vancouver police, Pike said.
LePage appeared to be struggling with his go-kart business of late, Lloyd said, and was sometimes unable to pay his rent on time.
He speculated the 38-year-old murder victim might have been used by Ricardo Scarpino.
Lloyd said he had never met Scarpino, but rents office space in the same building to Scarpino's older brother Mario, who he described as "just a great guy" and a decent, hard-working, legitimate businessman.
"He is really broken up about this," Lloyd said of Mario Scarpino. "He is just a perfect gentleman."
As family members prepared for Ricardo Scarpino's funeral, documents released by the National Parole Board on Friday say the 37-year-old gangster had admitted he was involved in "large-scale drug dealing."
And he was believed to be involved in trafficking inside a federal prison during a three-year sentence for an armed robbery of two drug dealers who he claimed owed him money.
The parole board told Scarpino that he must attend counselling "to continue addressing issues revolving around your use of violence to meet your goals."
"You were also described as extremely egocentric, manipulative and deceptive," the parole board said in a 2002 decision.
"The psychologist described you as showing a high need for excitement and sensation seeking, having high needs for affiliation and as being overbearing and controlling. He described you are being drawn to danger and to extending your power through the use of weapons."
The board let him out on day parole, only to revoke it a month later when Scarpino was caught again "in the company of a drug dealer while in possession of cellular telephones, a pager, $2,000 in cash and a large quantity of ecstasy."