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Friday, October 19, 2018

Finks MC: High ranking member pleads guilty to 1st ever order

Newcastle, NSW (October 19, 2018) BTN — Toast with beetroot and feta, a flat white, two months in jail and the state's first ever conviction for breaching a Serious Crime Prevention Order.

Former high-ranking Finks bikie Troy Vanderlight only ordered the first two when he sat down for a light lunch with the president of the Gladiators Port Stephens chapter at the Heritage Gardens cafe at Ashtonfield in August.

Police photograph Troy Vanderlight's Finks vest during raids earlier this year. 

But when Strike Force Raptor investigators got a tip-off, it turned out that the time in jail and the conviction for contravening the order, imposed by the NSW Supreme Court in April in an unprecedented attempt to put a stop to the Hunter's violent bikie “civil war”, were also on the menu.

Vanderlight was one of five Finks, as well as five Nomads, hit with the strict 12-month orders, which banned them from associating with any member of any bikie gang.

And ironically, Vanderlight was meeting with the Gladiator to discuss how he could attend a funeral without breaching the orders.

“He was breaching the orders to see how he could avoid breaching the orders,” Magistrate John Chicken said on Friday.

Vanderlight, 27, who police allege was the Newcastle president of the Finks outlaw motorcycle gang, and who twice had his house shot up during the tit-for-tat attacks earlier this year, had pleaded not guilty to contravening the serious crime prevention order and two other charges after his arrest outside the Ashtonfield cafe on August 17. He was due to face a hearing in Maitland Local Court on Friday, but pleaded guilty to contravening the order - the first of its kind in NSW - after prosecutor Benjamin Bickford agreed to withdraw the other two charges.

Mr Chicken said there was nothing to suggest the lunch meeting on August 17 was for a “nefarious purpose” and noted the conflict earlier this year had not involved the Gladiators.

Mr Chicken also said a discrepancy in the NSW Supreme Court orders meant he could not be satisfied that Vanderlight was the Newcastle president of the Finks. That fact reduced the objective seriousness of the offence and he ordered Vanderlight serve an 18-month community corrections order, the new equivalent of a good behaviour bond, that Mr Chicken said would test Vanderlight’s claims that he was no longer a member of the Finks.  

Vanderlight remains in jail, refused bail on charges of affray and participating in a criminal group relating to an alleged brawl with a member of the Newcastle Nomads in a car park of Charlestown Square in January this year.

And, despite serving his time for breaching the Serious Crime Prevention Order, Vanderlight might be destined to live under even more stringent conditions, with the matter listed again in the NSW Supreme Court next Thursday to vary the conditions against him. 

Ready Panhead

Harley-Davidson Panhead Chopper

Sleeping In

He needs a House Mouse to take care of things

Devils Henchmen MC: Celebrating 40 years of Brotherhood

Washdyke, New Zealand (October 19, 2018) BTN — Some might see them as unorthodox but the Devils Henchmen MC say they're maturing as the Timaru club revs up to celebrate 40 years. They will mark the milestone this long weekend and say there's plenty of life left in the club - despite an ageing membership.

The club has gained notoriety over the years - specifically in the early 90s - when gang tensions intensified in South Canterbury, capturing national attention. On the eve of their birthday, club members maintain there have been misconceptions over the years.

"Everyone is getting older and wiser; no one is getting any younger," club member Bryn Cox said.

The Devils Henchmen are celebrating 40 years over Labour Weekend. Bryn Cox stands at the gates 
of the club's Washdyke headquarters.

Founding members of the Devils Henchmen in 1978, from left, Smiley, Bird, Pogal and Woody

The Devils Henchmen MC during a ride in the 1970's.

Things have changed and he acknowledges periods of violence.

He said the club still can't get past the stigma of past problems.

Devils Henchmen MC member Bryn Cox stands at the gates of their Washdyke headquarters.

"We are not gang members, we are motorcycle club members." 

The celebrations kick off on Friday with a ride around South Canterbury on Saturday, and live entertainment in the evening.

The club is expecting 300 to 400 people from around the country for the weekend, he said.

Some agencies are "still portraying that we are dirty bikie scum and drug dealers", he said.

The club's Washdyke headquarters, photographed by John Bisset in 2004.
Cox has been a member for 19 years and started hanging around the club in 1981 - aged 19.

"It's my family.

"These are my brothers, their wives and children are my family too."

At 40, the club is maturing and more savvy, he says. "We are tax paying members of the Timaru public."

The club still has a healthy membership, he said.

While protesters took to the streets of Timaru to drive the destructive and highly addictive drug methamphetamine out of the district last month, the Devils Henchmen banned the drug "very early", he said. "We seen what it was doing to other clubs."

Founding member John (Woody) Woodhams says the motorcycle club scene has changed a lot in the past 40 years. "It's a lot more streamlined and polished now. We used to sleep on the sides of roads, now it's the motel or camping ground."

Woodhams, 68, said he is one of the lucky ones. "I don't drink, smoke or take drugs."

Woodhams was introduced to motorcycle clubs in 1970 when he met a member of the Antarctic Angels in Invercargill and rode to Timaru where there were about five motorcycle clubs.

"It's all about motorcycles at the end of the day.

"A motorcycle club is an organisation. In large the police would like to see all motorcycle clubs and street gangs gone; it's not going to happen."

Woodhams acknowledges the club's ageing membership. "Some of us are getting so old now we are drawing a pension. "We are getting long in the tooth but we are still quite fit.

"If you can survive all the trouble of when you are young then you develop more tolerance at the end of the day." Tolerance is a virtue, he said. "Instead of smacking someone in the head you tend to give them a warning.

"All we can do is try to present a good image but you are fighting a tide."  

Co-founding member Smiley said club membership is about trust and honesty. "The biggest one is respecting each other. "The whole scene has changed, we haven't changed as people. "We all stand for camaraderie and respect each other."

Sergeant Grant Lord, of Timaru, said police are aware of the anniversary celebrations and had attempted to contact the club. "We have attempted to contact the Devils Henchmen and they have not responded in relation to what their celebrations entail," Lord said.  

"It's not unusual for police to maintain contact with gangs or clubs when they have activities including celebrations and funerals. The Devils Henchmen have always had an event over Labour Weekend and we have always policed them." 

Story and Photographs by: Al Williams and John Bisset


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hells Angels MC: Member turned snitch granted escorted prison outings

Quebec, Canada (October 17, 2018) BTN — Stéphane "Godasse" Gagné, a former high-ranking Hells Angel MC member sentenced to life behind bars in 1997 for killing a prison guard, has been granted escorted leave from prison. The Parole Board of Canada authorized Gagné's first outing at the end of a hearing that lasted just under two hours Wednesday morning.

Hells Angels MC members on a run

Gagné, 48, a former hitman whose testimony helped convict the longtime head of the Quebec Hells Angels, Maurice Boucher, in 2002, simply nodded when board commissioners told him his request for an escorted temporary absence was approved.

"Merci," he offered as he left the room, appearing to choke up.

'Ultimate assassin'
 Gagné pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in December 1997 for the killing of Diane Lavigne as she drove home from her shift at Montreal's Bordeaux jail.

He was also involved in the murder months later of another prison guard, Pierre Rondeau, and the attempted murder of a third guard, Robert Corriveau.

Gagné agreed to testify against Boucher, fingering him as the man who ordered the killings — testimony that was instrumental in putting the crime boss behind bars.

In exchange, prosecutors agreed to charge Gagné with a single count of first-degree murder, for Lavigne's death, and one of attempted murder.

Gagné was sentenced to life in prison and has now served about 21 years.

Julian Sher, an investigative journalist and the author of several books on organized crime and the Hells Angels, said in an interview with CBC News that Gagné was "the ultimate snitch, the ultimate traitor, but also the ultimate assassin."

Though not actually eligible for parole until 2023, Gagné​ applied for early parole and was granted a hearing in 2016. At that initial hearing, Gagné recognized the harm he did as a drug dealer and assassin, apologizing to the two daughters of the prison guard he killed.

But it wasn't enough to gain his release. Board members at that time challenged his motives, telling him he sounded self-centred.

Buddhist monk taught him to meditate

At Wednesday's hearing, the parole board heard how Gagné had gained self-awareness, recognizing past errors and acknowledging he is not immune to making others.

He told the board he had learned to meditate from a Buddhist monk while in prison.

"I don't use violence to solve my problems," he said, when asked about his risk factors. "I now know how to manage my emotions. Meditation helps me a lot."

Gagné's case management worker described how the convict had come to recognize his own errors and that he is not immune to making others.

The parole board heard that he takes part in group activities and AA meetings, quitting smoking even before tobacco was prohibited in prison, working out regularly and abstaining from alcohol and drugs.

Gagné has worked in the kitchen of the institution where he's being held since July, his case worker noted, calling him "a devoted worker" who is helpful and shows initiative — qualities that will one day help him find a job on the outside.

54 months in isolation
Gagné said he is well aware his safety and the safety of those around him is at risk, because he's known as an informant.

"When I'm in the gym and someone arrives after being transferred from another institution, I watch out for myself," he told the parole board commissioners.

Stéphane "Godasse" Gagné

He said of the 21 years he's served in prison, he's spent a total of 54 months in isolation, for his own safety.

"I've lived through all that and fought to stay alive," he said. "I'm done with criminality."

Pressed by Parole Board Commissioner Marie-Claude Frenette on how he could have taken the lives of innocent people, Gagné said he'd done it because he needed recognition.

"What I did makes no damned sense and was disgusting," he said. "I still need recognition, but I seek it out in positive activities rather than negative ones."

He said he used to be cold and detached from his emotions, not thinking of the future.

"Now I'm patient," he said. "That wall that caused me to be so cold is falling away," although he said the years in solitary confinement had left him scarred.

His lawyer, Sandra Brouillette, said her client had become more transparent in the two years since his first application for early parole was refused.

Brouillette said Gagné recognizes that as an informant, he presents a risk to people around him, and he's aware of what will happen if he does not do as he's told by the escorts during his outing.

As for whether his own life is still in danger — and how his safety will be protected, should he be granted parole — journalists present at the hearing were asked to leave the room when that aspect of Gagné's case was discussed with the inmate, his case workers and his lawyer.

Hells Angels MC: Member pleads guilty, sentenced to 4 ½ years

Fredericton, Canada (October 17, 2018) BTN — A Fredericton man and woman associated with the Hells Angels will be incarcerated for various drug and weapons charges.

Robin Moulton, 49, a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, was sentenced in Woodstock Court of Queen's Bench on Wednesday to four and half years for possession of cocaine with the intention of trafficking and possessing a drug press intended for trafficking purposes.

Marie Antonette Bugay, 41, described by the court as an associate of the Angels, was sentenced to 30 months in jail for possession of a loaded firearm without a license, possession of property obtained by crime and possession of cocaine.

Both plead guilty and, as a result, the Crown withdrew 10 additional charges, including illegal weapons possession and illegal weapons storage. At the time of the charges, the pair were in a romantic relationship and Bugay was associated with Moulton's company that sold clothing representing the Angels.

Both were sentenced together as part of a joint indictment stemming from their arrest on Aug. 22, 2017. They were apprehended by police as part of an ongoing joint-force investigation into motorcycle club activities in New Brunswick. Moulton, described by the court as a full-patch Hells Angels member for 12 years, sat next to Bugay during Wednesday's sentencing.

Moulton, wearing a black long-sleeve shirt with a grey goatee and his grey hair in a ponytail, kept his gaze lowered for most of the proceeding, occasionally sharing glances with Bugay, who wore a black shirt with a grey vest and black thick-rimmed glasses.

The investigation
During the delivery of the facts by Justice Richard G. Petrie, the court heard that Moulton had been under police surveillance as a part of Operation J-Trident. Police witnessed Moulton using three storage lockers in Fredericton and one in the Woodstock area. On May 11, 2017, Moulton was observed by police to be moving a large hydraulic shop press from a storage locker in Fredericton to a storage locker in Woodstock.

Robin Moulton being led away in handcuffs 

Police determined that to be significant as it is often used as a tool to compress cocaine. After obtaining a general warrant, police covertly entered the Woodstock storage locker and found trace amounts of cocaine on metal blocks and the hydraulic press.

A second warrant allowed officers to covertly place a motion-activated camera inside the locker, and another warrant led police to find a 9-millimetre Berretta pistol stuffed inside a mitten. Police disabled the weapon before returning it. When the handgun was later analyzed, Bugay's DNA was found on the trigger.

The camera installed in the storage locker captured images of Moulton using the hydraulic press to compress a white powdered substance into bricks, which were then put into clear bags and placed into a duffel bag before leaving.

Police then followed Moulton, pulled over his rental car and, upon searching the vehicle, found 272.4 grams of cocaine at about 35 per cent purity valued at between $12,000 and $24,000. Moulton was arrested, leading to search warrants at his residence, Bugay's residence and the additional search lockers in Fredericton. Police found 28.9 grams of cocaine valued at between $1,400 and $4,000 at Bugay's home. She was later arrested while in her vehicle, where a duffel bag stuffed with $77,000 in cash was discovered. It was determined this to be the proceeds of crime.

In addition to prison time, both Bugay and Moulton are ordered to provide a sample of DNA for a databank. Bugay will be required to forfeit the $77,000 seized by police, is prohibited from owning a firearm for 10 years and was fined $600 in victim surcharges, while Moulton is banned for life from owning a firearm and was fined $400 in victim surcharges. Bugay had no prior charges before her arrest. The court mentioned that Moulton also had a prior drug possession charge from about 10 years ago.

Previous incarceration
Although not mentioned as a part of Wednesday's court proceedings, Moulton was previously sentenced to five years and four months in federal prison for trafficking cocaine and for possessing a prohibited or restricted weapon with ammunition.

His sentence began on July 30, 2008, but he was released on February 17, 2012, with special conditions.

Moulton was not to associate with anyone known or believed to be involved in criminal activity or associate with club members, including the Angels. He was also ordered to provide his parole officer with financial records as well as to reside at a specific place.

Hells Angels Club Run

Members of the Hells Angels MC rolling down the freeway

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Snitch Files: An ATF agent has a story to tell

Los Angeles, California (October 16, 2018) BTN — The following is an account of an ATF agent and his skewed view of motorcycle clubs. What is not amusing is him betraying the trust of the clubs he prospected and joined. His story is presented here, unadulterated and in his own self glorifying words.  

How I Infiltrated One of L.A.’s Most Vicious Motorcycle Gangs—and Lived to Talk About It

ATF agent Darrin Kozlowski went deep undercover to take down the Hollywood chapter of the Vagos
By Mike Kessler and Darrin Kozlowski

On and off for almost 20 years, I investigated and infiltrated outlaw motorcycle gangs as an agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. I wasn’t the only agent to go deep undercover, and I don’t claim to be the best. But the work I did took a lot of bad guys off the streets. I infiltrated the Warlocks in West Virginia in a case that took me up and down the East Coast—Florida, South Carolina, Brooklyn, the Bronx—and resulted in 57 federal arrests (including four Hells Angels) and 49 search warrants executed in six states that turned up 175 firearms (including two sawed-of shotguns and one machine gun), one silencer, one pipe bomb, and body armor.

Here in L.A., I infiltrated the Mongols for three years on what was ATF’s most successful undercover case to date and remains the largest single enforcement operation we’ve done. We prosecuted more than 100 members of the Mongols on weapons and drug charges; 79 of those members were hit with RICO charges, too.

Through all these cases, I came to learn what it’s like to be inside the heads of the guys who ride with outlaw motorcycle gangs—their mentality, their conversations, how they perceive the public and their enemies, and their lack of regard for law enforcement and for innocent lives when there’s a confrontation. Like in Laughlin, Nevada, in 2002, when the Mongols and Hells Angels opened fire on each other in a casino, or the 2015 Twin Peaks restaurant shoot-out between the Bandidos and Cossacks in Waco, Texas.

Even though I’m retired, there’s a lot I still can’t say—partly for my own safety and partly because it would be potentially dangerous for other agents. But there’s one case I can talk about: my infiltration of the Vagos in L.A. back in 1997. It was my first long-term undercover case—in Los Angeles or anywhere—and it nearly got me killed.

The Vagos were as bad as outlaw motorcycle gangs got—right up there with other “one-percenter” gangs like the Hells Angels and the Mongols. If you look closely at the patches on their jackets, you’ll see a diamond with “1%” in the middle. That’s their way of saying they don’t live like the rest of us. Some of these guys had rap sheets as long as a traffic jam on the 101. We’re talking about drug running, illegal weapons sales, and any other moneymaking schemes. Of course, they never refer to themselves as “gangs,” and they might have some regular guys as members. Some even hand out toys at Christmas. But that’s to enhance their public image. That diamond is there for a reason. The Vagos had hundreds of members and dozens of chapters, stretching across the country and into Mexico. And they were growing fast. That’s the outlaw motorcycle gang way: Recruit, grow, and take over more territory by any means necessary. These are the same dudes who’d one day kill a Hells Angel in public up in Reno, and then murder someone else in public in Bakersfield. We wanted to go deep and pull them out by the root.

I don’t know what surprised me more, that Junior had been killed or that his girlfriend knew who I was. I’d never met the woman—didn’t even know her name, and, to my knowledge, she didn’t have mine. I’d been cultivating her boyfriend as an informant when he got run down by a car on Sunset. He was riding a Harley I’d arranged for him to use, and the car hit him so hard it lopped off one of his feet. Died on the spot.

This was in early ’97, a few months after I’d transferred to L.A. from ATF’s Milwaukee office. I was an ambitious 31-year-old agent with a wife, a kid, and another on the way. Back in Wisconsin, I’d taken an interest in working outlaw biker gangs, so I learned to ride on a friend’s Honda, then managed to get a Harley that ATF had seized, a Fat Boy with straight handlebars, no windshield, no saddlebags. I rode to biker bars and events. I let my hair grow, dressed the part, tried to understand the scene. I’m originally from Chicago’s South Side—a tough, working-class part of the city. I knew how to be around bad guys because I grew up with a lot of them. I’m not sure if I blended in because I was fairly quiet and soft-spoken, or if I got that way in order to blend in.

After four years in Milwaukee I was reassigned to California and brought the bike, Wisconsin plates and all. My goal, the one I proposed to my new bosses, was to investigate and infiltrate the one-percenters of Greater L.A. After arriving, I got in touch with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. They’d been keeping tabs on these guys. My contact there told me about a potential confidential informant—a CI—named Junior. He said Junior’d tried to join the Hells Angels but had been “run down the road” for some reason. I got Junior a bike and gave him some cash. We started in Hollywood, where he had a connection with the local Vagos chapter.

The name is Spanish slang for someone who does nothing all day—a vagrant or vagabond. They formed in the 1960s in the Inland Empire, and while they do have a Hispanic presence—the Venice chapter back in the day was pretty much entirely Hispanic—they’re mostly white; no blacks. The horned creature on their patch is Loki, a god of mischief in Norse mythology.

But you don’t get to wear that logo as a “full-patch” member without putting in a lot of time. Unless you have enough street cred or contacts to get “windowed in,” the first step is to hang around until they give you permission to refer to yourself as, well, a “hang-around.” Make it through that phase, and you become a “prospect.” Then they give you the “rocker”—the bottom part of the patch that goes on the back of a vest—which means they’re gonna really test you to get the full patch. Junior wasn’t an official hang-around, but I was playing the long game: I wanted him to get his patch, and he’d be able to vouch for me so I could try to get my patch, too.

Junior had some contact with a guy in the Vagos’ Hollywood chapter named Chuck [names have been changed], a short, beer-bellied dude with black-framed glasses. He wore a painter’s cap with the brim flipped up, had ink from neck to toes, and ran a tattoo shop in West Hollywood. Junior started hanging around there, and he was a good CI—showed up on time, took license plate numbers, eavesdropped, reported back to me. In fact I’d seen him a few hours before the accident, at a bar on the Strip where he gave me some information and I gave him some cash.

I was sitting in my office downtown the day after Junior died when his girlfriend called. I offered my condolences and hung up, wondering if I was screwed. “Junior must have talked about me,” I thought. Did his girlfriend know any of the Vagos he’d been hanging around with? Did he tell her he was working with ATF? If the same thing happened today, I’d call of the operation. But I was young, and ATF hadn’t done many of these biker gang infiltrations; there wasn’t a lot of official protocol. So I decided I’d pay Chuck a visit.

I parked my bike outside the tattoo shop. I knew what Chuck looked like from the sherif’s department’s binders, but I had to fake it and ask for him inside. I introduced myself as Koz, which is my real nickname—short for Kozlowski—but I figured if anyone asked, I could say that it was short for “Kamikaze” because of how I rode my Harley or some bullshit like that. I wanted a name that I responded to instinctively.

I told Chuck I was a buddy of Junior’s, that I knew he’d been hanging around the Hollywood Vagos, and that I had some bad news. Chuck knew about the crash on the Strip but not that Junior was involved. We talked for a while, and he told me to come back in a few hours. When I showed up again, Chuck got on his bike and had me follow him east to their clubhouse—basically a two-level cinder-block warehouse at Hollywood and Kenmore—where I rode in and somebody locked the chain-link gate behind me. There were about ten guys, their bikes all lined up. Chuck introduced me. “Wait here,” he said and went in the building with the other guys.

An hour or so later, someone came out and called for me. “Get in here.” As I walked inside, this heavily fortified metal door slammed behind me, and they patted me down for a wire. Now I’m scared shitless, locked in a windowless building with a bunch of outlaw biker dudes who were very likely convicted felons. I had no cover team, and I didn’t have much in the way of what we call a “backstop”—a story about who I am or what I do for a living, though I was at least carrying a driver’s license and Social Security card under my alias.

They patted me down and found my service weapon in my boot, a SIG Sauer semiautomatic. Back then, the LAPD carried Berettas, so I wasn’t too concerned that they’d suspect me of being undercover. Even though their guns were on a table, they let me keep mine. Next thing I knew, I was being interrogated. Four Vagos kind of stood out. There were Tiny Dan and L.A. Lenny, who happened to be badge-carrying L.A. County juvenile probation officers. There was Lars, the chapter president, who was super fit from training as a boxer and whose wardrobe consisted of jeans and a white T-shirt. And then there was Big Rick, a large guy in his late thirties or early forties with a long ponytail, a Fu Manchu mustache, and a “nobody fucks with me” air of authority. He held the title of international sergeant at arms. Outlaw biker gangs are organized like the mafia or the military, which makes sense, since the gangs were started by ex-military guys after World War II.

I was shaking so hard I couldn’t even work the kickstand on my bike. I just dropped it.

So there I was, in what’s essentially a bunker, and I knew I was shaking. I was pretty sure they knew it, too. Big Rick did most of the talking.

“How did you know Junior?”

“Why are you carrying a gun?”

“Why do you have Wisconsin tags on your bike?”

This went on for at least 30 minutes, and I had to wing it. Big Rick took notes the whole time, and I was trying to keep my story straight, thinking, “What kind of outlaw takes notes!?”

At one point, Big Rick said to me, “We have reason to believe that Junior was working with ATF.”

It felt like my head went completely sideways. He didn’t say “LAPD” or “the cops” or “the feds.” He said “ATF.” I have no idea what came out of my mouth next, except that it was pure bullshit. I wasn’t thinking about my wife or my kid or my kid on the way. I was focused on not getting a bullet in the head.

Whatever I said satisfied them. When we got back outside the building, they told me they were going to a bar and that I should follow. They got on their bikes and turned east on Hollywood. I turned west, gunning it to the 101 and the 170 into North Hollywood, where two ATF agents waited for me in a parking lot. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t even work the kickstand on my bike. I just dropped it.

Maybe the Vagos knew someone in the LAPD who pulled the VIN off Junior’s bike and linked it to ATF. In any case, I figured it was a lost cause. But a week later my pager went off. It was Big Rick. I had more bravado on the phone: “You’re probably calling to tell me you checked into my story and learned it’s all bullshit. And guess what? You’re right. You guys had some hair up your ass about who I am, talkin’ about cops and ATF and a bunch of other nonsense. I don’t know any of you, and I had no reason to trust any of you, so I fed you some bullshit and got the hell out of there. I didn’t know where you were going or if you were gonna take a pipe to my head or what. And you know you’d have done the same damn thing.”

Rick didn’t seem fazed. “Hey man,” he said, “I’m just calling because we’re having a function this weekend at the clubhouse. We want you to come back. But leave your gun at home.”

This meant one of two things: Either they were gonna let me become a hang-around or they were gonna kill me.

The Hollywood chapter, which had about ten members who lived all over L.A., threw a regular party called Green Hell. (Sometimes the Vagos refer to themselves as Green Nation.) Plus Loki has sort of a Satanic vibe, what with his horns and all. They also flaunt the number 22, since “V” is the 22nd letter in the alphabet.

Green Hell went from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. at the clubhouse. It was a moneymaker. The guys would go to bars and strip clubs, recruit guests, and offer late-night work to the strippers. There was a cover charge and a cash bar, a pool table, a couple of stripper poles. It drew a big crowd. Hollywood people always showed up. The band Matchbox 20 came one night. The Guns N’ Roses drummer, too. Even a few movie stars came. People liked the underground feel. I don’t think most realized that it was a Vagos party or that if things jumped off, there could be serious violence.

My job was to stock the bar, watch the gate, work the door. At one Green Hell, a guy from the Armenian Power gang was making trouble, and when we tried to throw him out, he put up a fight. I knew I had to put hands on him to avoid blowing my cover. A few of us escorted him to the street and threw him into a parked car, which caused his head to smash the side-view mirror. A few days later, during church—what outlaw motorcycle gangs call weekly chapter meetings—a bunch of Armenian guys came to the clubhouse when I was watching the gate. One of them said, “I wanna talk to Lars.” Lars came out, they walked down the block, and within a few minutes they’d brokered a peace deal. Everything was cool. A few months later, in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant where they all hung out, the Armenian guys showed me a trunk full of machine guns.

On another church night, I was outside by the gate when I looked up and saw a car rolling by. Then a hand with a gun emerged from the sunroof. Blap-blap-blap-blap-blap! I heard the zing of a bullet as it went past my ears. We never figured out who it was.

By that point it was late spring, and I’d gotten more backstops in order: a place to live, some address history. My Harley had California plates, and I had a truck registered to my undercover name. I’d rented a little apartment in a North Hollywood fourplex near Victory and Lankershim with its own garage. I’d park my ATF vehicle, a small GMC truck, a few blocks away and walk to my undercover place and slip in through the alley. Sometimes Vagos would come by to hang out or see what I was up to. I had an ATF cover team in place about 50, maybe 60 percent of the time, doing drive-bys, but a cover team can’t really save you in this type of role; it just keeps an eye out from time to time and cleans up if things go bad.

My best friend from the academy, Frank D’Alesio, was doing the same sort of infiltrating with the Vagos in Las Vegas at the time. It was a coincidence, but we used it to our advantage. Being an Italian American from a Rust Belt city with a mafia presence, Frank portrayed himself as a connected guy with side hustles across the country. He told them that he had a business associate from back East named Koz who was hanging around with Vagos in Hollywood, and I told the Hollywood Vagos about Frank. The Vagos have a rule that’s basically “if it doesn’t have to do with the club, it’s no one else’s business.” Frank and I figured if we followed the rules, maybe they’d respect us enough to do business together.

We would talk at night to keep our stories straight. Pretty soon Frank and one of his informants were making runs to L.A. We’d see each other at Vagos functions, go on errands together—taking packages from Point A to Point B, that kind of thing. We knew better than to ask what was in the packages; it was way too soon for that.

The head of the entire Vagos organization was a scraggly-haired, bald-domed guy called Whitey who was in his fifties and wore a cowboy hat and Fu Manchu. He looked like the comedian Gallagher, or a clown, which is funny because he’d brag that he was the first person to play Ronald McDonald in a commercial. He lived in the San Gabriel Valley. I remember one time he made me and Frank try to sell a bunch of videos of him riding around on a motorcycle. Anything to make money for the gang. We took the tapes to ATF, got some cash, and brought it back to Whitey.

By month three of my hang-around phase, I’d seen plenty—felons in possession of firearms, guys using or selling drugs, the two probation officers associating with known felons involved in a criminal enterprise. I watched and listened and filled out reports as I got to know some of the Vagos. Big Rick would have me to his house in Covina, where he had a lot of weapons. We’d go drink beer and play darts. He was kind of my sponsor, my main point of contact, not unlike Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco. (My original contact—Chuck from the tattoo shop—wound up moving away.) I liked Rick, and I have to admit it felt good to have his confidence in me. People ask if I ever felt conflicted about tricking these guys. Sometimes I did, but you have to reel yourself in and remember they’re part of a criminal organization.

One weekend in the summer of ’97, about four months after becoming a hang-around, I was with a bunch of them headed to Las Vegas for a big officers’ meeting, which happens maybe once a year. They ride in tight formation, wheel to wheel and basically shoulder to shoulder—ranking members up front, rank-and-file in the middle, followed by prospects, and finally the hang-arounds in the back, choking on exhaust and dust. And they ride fast. When you see a pack of them on the highway, there’s a good chance they’re going to a meeting, unless they’re out to show their presence and mark territory. Or they could be on a “run” to a fund-raiser where they’ll take over a park or campground, hand out fliers, charge a cover, sell food and beer—it’s basically a bake sale for bad guys.

On that weekend in Vegas, the Vagos rented out a VFW hall. Whitey, Lars, Chuck, and Big Rick were there. So was Frank, since he was local. We knew we were close to becoming prospects because they’d made us fill out applications. That’s another weird thing: Outlaw biker gangs make the path to membership pretty damn official. They do background checks. You give them a Social Security number, driver’s license—all sorts of stuff, including a fee, which goes toward a private investigator. By chance, I met the PI vetting me. He was hanging around with some Vagos, and when I introduced myself, he was like, “Yeah, man—I know who you are.”

At the VFW hall, Frank and I weren’t allowed to hear the others talk business. We sat in another room, waiting to be called in. I believe I went first. As I walked in, I was facing all the high-ranking officers. They asked, “Are you willing to kill for the club?” They more or less played head games with me to see what I’d say and to test my commitment. But after a few minutes, they eased up and gave me my bottom rocker—the part of the patch that says “SoCal” on it.

It was official: I was a prospect. When they were done with me, they called for Frank and did the same routine on him. Even though you can wear what you want, outlaw motorcycle gang members always wear a denim or leather vest. It’s basically the uniform. The Vagos told me and Frank we had 30 minutes to get the rockers on our vests, so we found an upholstery shop nearby and had our bottom rockers sewn on. Later, when I was with the Warlocks, I was ordered to carry a sewing kit. I think one-percenters are the only outlaws on the planet who keep a needle and thread handy.

Being undercover is a terrible way to live. You actually have three lives: your undercover persona, your family persona, and the persona as a law enforcement officer, doing the paperwork and acting like a respectable civil servant. Even though I knew management had my back, dealing with them was the hardest part. They wanted results faster than I could deliver, and they didn’t understand—not in any real way—that every time I was with the Vagos I could have wound up dead. And at the same time I was wondering if I was gonna get whacked, I had to take mental notes about everything I was seeing and hearing—the guns, where I was told to take a package, who’s in possession of what illegal substances. The only reason it didn’t drive me insane was because I was too busy trying to juggle it all, to keep it straight and survive.

Once you’re a prospect, they own you, especially if you don’t have a straight job. I wished I’d made a real job part of my backstory. They thought my hustle with Frank was the extent of it, so they figured I had loads of free time when, really, I had a family at home. They called me a lot. It could be anything from “Hey, prospect, cut my grass” or “Hey, prospect, take this package over to Big Rick’s place” to just hanging out. Saying no wasn’t an option.

I was missing doctors’ appointments for the kids, coming home too tired to do dad duties, and making my wife deal with the whims of my undercover work. I knew it was tough for her. Later, when I traveled back East to infiltrate the Warlocks, I’d be gone for months at a time, which put a huge strain on my family life. My long shaggy hair, goatee, grubby clothes, and steel-toed boots didn’t help, especially in the suburbs, where I lived during those cases. I can’t tell you how many times I showed up at my kids’ school functions only to see parents and teachers shy away from me. If I wanted to lie low, I’d dress a bit nicer, but I was hardly clean-cut. When I infiltrated the Mongols in L.A., I got fully sleeved out with tattoos, so blending in as a civilian got even harder.

Some Vagos, mostly guys from the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley chapters, used to hang out at a bar near Sunland and Foothill boulevards in the Tujunga area. The owners supposedly didn’t like them wearing their patches in the place and gave them a hard time. So that juvenile probation officer, Tiny Dan—he was obese, with close-cropped hair and a dark goatee— decided, “Let’s go to this bar and document how they’re harassing us and discriminating against us.” The idea was to file a lawsuit and make some money. About a dozen of us rolled to this bar after meeting up and establishing the ground rules. One rule was “No weapons of any kind.” The thing is, since becoming a prospect I’d begun secretly carrying my gun again. My thinking was “If shit breaks bad and I’m supposed to help these guys or defend myself, I don’t want to be caught flat-footed.”

We walked into the bar, and the Vagos had a chip on their shoulder from the jump, looking to stir shit up, talking with the bartender about wearing their colors. Somebody must have made a call or tripped an alarm because LAPD showed up within minutes—multiple cars, lights flashing. They brought us outside one by one, lined us up in front of the bar, and started patting us down. One of them found my gun tucked in my waistband and called out, “Gun!”

As I was being cuffed I looked down the line and the Vagos looked at me like, “What the fuck, Koz!? We said, ‘No guns.’ ”

I was the only guy who got arrested, and I had to make it look legit. A neighbor of mine happened to be a ranking LAPD officer based in the Foothill station. He knew I was ATF, but he didn’t know I was undercover until I told him everything in my cell. Even though I had an alias, a fingerprint check would have turned up my real identity because it’s cross-referenced with an FBI database. Tiny Dan also knew a girl at the front desk, which I learned only later; if she’d gotten my real identity, she could’ve spilled the beans. But Dan came and bailed me out the next morning. The whole night, my wife was at home, wondering why she hadn’t heard from me. When I finally saw her, she said, “I see that you’re not dead. So if you weren’t in jail, you’ve got some explaining to do.”

Before I went to court, my ATF colleagues met with the judge, and he agreed to go along with it to make things look by the numbers. In court, he sentenced me to two years of probation and time served at the Foothill station for carrying a concealed weapon. The whole episode actually gave me more street cred, but I hadn’t forgotten about Junior’s girlfriend or the grilling I’d gotten a few months earlier.

By the fall of 1997, about seven months into the case, Frank and I had already been getting hints that we were going to get our full patches when all the Vagos met up at the next national run. This was good news. The bad news? Rumor was that it’d be in Mexico. Working on foreign soil as a federal agent is a bureaucratic nightmare. ATF would have had to notify the Mexican authorities, who could be corrupt or incompetent or simply unwilling to let us work there. And even if we thought we could pull it of, we still had to run it through the proper channels in D.C. We asked, “Hey, can guys in an undercover role dip in and out of Mexico?” The answer wasn’t only no, it was “Hell no!”

The easiest thing would have been to go regardless, hope nothing happened, and come back without telling anyone. But if we got caught, our careers would be over. Frank and I decided our only option was to come up with an excuse not to go. At the time, ATF was part of the U.S. Treasury Department, which had its own federal criminal database. We managed to get something put into the system that red-flagged our aliases for suspicion of trafficking marijuana from Mexico into the U.S. near Brownsville, Texas. That way we could tell the Vagos, “Hey, we got red-flagged a while back and can’t cross the border.” And if they had a source with access to the system, it’d look true.

Fortunately, at the eleventh hour, the national run wound up being slated not in Mexico but in Fontana, near San Bernardino. That happens to be where the first biker gang, the Hells Angels, was founded; in nearby Redlands, a gang called Psychos got started before some of its members split off and formed the Vagos. For whatever reason, Frank, his CI, and the other Vegas guys didn’t go to Fontana, but a hundred Vagos from other chapters made the run to this large property with a long dirt driveway. I worked security in front, bored as hell, watching my cover team drive by now and then. Finally someone from the gathering yelled, “Prospect, get back here. And bring your bike.”

I got on my Harley, and as I rode down the driveway the gate closed behind me; up ahead, they all stood in a horseshoe formation, blocking me. Someone yelled, “Get off your bike, prospect!” I’d barely put the kickstand down when they started pushing, shoving, slapping, even punching me. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I was thinking, “Did I do something wrong? Do they know I’m an undercover cop?” I was glad I wasn’t wearing a wire, but mostly I was thinking, “If this gets bad, just claw your way over that fence to the street! Don’t let yourself fall to the ground with a hundred guys trying to stomp you with steel-toed boots.”

Lars, the Hollywood chapter president with a boxer’s build, was in front of me, pushing, yelling stuff I could barely process, like, “You fucked up, Koz! First you got rough with the Armenian. Then you got people coming around shooting at you. Then you get arrested for possession when we agreed not to carry weapons. You’re fucking trouble, man!”

I tried to stick up for myself without getting physical or making anybody angrier. I’m like, “That’s fuckin’ bullshit, Lars. I did what I needed to do.”

Then after a minute or two—it felt like hours—it all came to a stop. Lars handed me my full patch, grinned, and said, “Get that patch on.” Everybody started cheering.

When we left, my cover team was watching for me, assuming I’d be at the back of the pack. But I was closer to the middle. After they finally spotted me, they were high-fiving one another. “He got his patch! He’s in!”

I was excited, too. I’d be able to attend church meetings, learn more about the inner workings of the gang. The six or seven months of work—the stress on me and my family—all of it was paying off.

Halloween came soon after I got my patch, and there was a party at a member’s house in the San Fernando Valley, around Reseda and Parthenia. Some Vagos lived in two or three houses on the same block, and the party was hopping. I was even kind of enjoying myself. But then Lars, Tiny Dan, and a smelly, raspy-voiced guy named Pig Pen Pete found me and said, “We need to talk.” We went to another backyard, which was empty, and Dan, the probation officer, said something like, “Hey, we know you got patched in, but we still have some checking out to do. I’m going to have to roll your fingerprints.” He was acting like it was a formality they forgot about, so I wasn’t getting too hinked up. “Sure man, whatever you need,” I said, trying to play it cool.

Dan pulled out an ink pad and fingerprint cards and took my fingerprints, asking me, “Do you go by any other names?” I told him no, and then we walked back to the party.

A few days later, I parked my government vehicle down the street from my undercover apartment in North Hollywood and walked down the alley so I could enter through the back door as usual. My undercover truck and Harley were in the garage.

No more than five minutes after I arrived, there was a knock at the door. It was Lars. “Hey, we gotta call Big Rick,” he said, sounding kind of cold.

“Alright, what’s up?”

He said, “Let’s just get Rick on the phone.”

When I put the phone to my ear, Big Rick said, “What were you doing today?”

I’m like, “I don’t know. I was out and about.”

Rick’s like, “Oh, yeah? What were you doing?”

“Taking care of some business, nothing related to the club.”

Then he asked, “Well, what car were you in?”

I told him I drove my truck, and he said, “I don’t think you were in your truck.” Turns out Lars and some guys were at my place earlier in the day. “They went in your garage and saw your truck and bike.”

I started backpedaling: “OK, well, yeah, you’re right. I had a different car.”

“What kind of car was it?”

“It’s really none of your concern. I was in someone else’s car, taking care of some stuff with other people. Nothing to do with the club.”

Rick told me to put Lars back on the phone, who didn’t say much to Rick other than “Yeah…yeah…yeah.…” He hung up, turned to me, and said, “We still got some concerns about who you are. Where’s your patch?”

I’m like, “Lars, are you kidding me?”

“We may be wrong about this,” he said, “and if so, we’ll owe you an apology. But right now, I need your patch until further notice.”

I was pissed. I wasn’t about to let these assholes blow up all my hard work. I doubled down: “This is bullshit. This is amateur hour. Why didn’t you sort this shit out before? Is this some kind of joke?”

But Lars said, “Don’t make contact and don’t come around the clubhouse.”

At one of the SFV houses, we found a human skull wrapped in a bag. It wasn’t decorative; it had material on it.

So I gave him my patch, vest and all. He was kicking me out of the Vagos two weeks after I was patched in and seven months into an operation that had taken me away from my wife, my newborn, and my two-year-old. Once I knew Lars was gone, I called my cover team, which rolled by to be sure other Vagos weren’t outside waiting to kick my ass. Then they got me out of there. For the next eight weeks or so, I was back at the office, helping put together all the evidence we had on these guys so we could make some arrests and, hopefully, weaken the gang.

Looking back, I was lucky. According to an ATF agent in San Diego who’d heard it from his own CI, the whole thing could be traced back to Junior, my own informant, and his girlfriend. She’d crossed paths with some Vagos right after I was patched in, and she told them that Junior had been working for the ATF when he died. She even gave them the business card I’d handed Junior, which had my Wisconsin information on it. (I’d crossed out the old phone number and written my L.A. number on it while I was waiting for new cards.) So the Vagos put the pieces together, and according to the CI, they were going to “take care” of me.

Out in Las Vegas, nobody suspected Frank of being undercover. They actually thought he was my target and warned him, “Hey, your buddy Koz out in L.A., he’s with the ATF and he’s been working you.” Frank wound up on the phone with Big Rick and the Vagos president, Whitey, who said something along the lines of “I think Koz needs to be eliminated.” At that point Rick said, “I’m getting off this phone call right now,” and hung up. Frank used me as an excuse to lie low and slowly drift away from the Vagos without suspicion.

Over the next several months, we got warrants for Vagos in L.A., Vegas, and San Diego, and we assembled teams of officers—ATF, LASD, LAPD, and local law enforcement from other counties—to move on multiple locations. That included Rick’s place, Lars’s place, Tiny Dan’s place, the Hollywood clubhouse, and the San Fernando Valley houses from the night of the Halloween party. The raids happened before dawn. I didn’t participate, but I was at the SFV properties right after it all went down. Three Vagos were sitting handcuffed on the sidewalk. Pig Pen Pete was one of them, and he started yelling at me, calling me a motherfucker. All told, my work helped us make 13 arrests on everything from drug and gun possession in L.A. and Vegas to possession of commercial-grade explosives down in San Diego. At one of the SFV houses, we found a human skull wrapped in a bag. It wasn’t decorative; it had material on it.

Frank and I received official recognition from headquarters in D.C., and our work inspired enough confidence to help ramp up and improve the undercover branch. It also helped us avoid making some of the same mistakes again in future cases. Looking back, I did a lot of things wrong and made a lot of mistakes. I was mostly flying by the seat of my pants, but that made me a better undercover agent when I infiltrated the Warlocks and the Mongols.

After my Vagos infiltration, the Hollywood chapter lost more or less half its membership. And when it started to pick back up, I worked behind the scenes as a co-case agent and supervising CIs on a two-year infiltration that netted several arrests across five Southern California counties on charges ranging from drug and gun sales to street terrorism, attempted murder, and murder. It wasn’t lost on us that the number of people we put in handcuffs was 22. And if it wasn’t for my first case with the Vagos, my work—and ATF’s—taking down major players in the Warlocks, the Mongols, the Hells Angels, and the Aryan Brotherhood might not have landed indictments and convictions numbering in the hundreds. We didn’t put them out of business, but we sure as hell slowed them down.

Darrin Kozlowski spent 28 years as an ATF agent before retiring in 2017. Mike Kessler is a regular contributor to Los Angeles. His last piece was about peacocks being poached on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.


Gladiators MC: Member charged with animal cruelty and growing weed

Grafton, NSW, Australia  (October 16, 2018) BTN — A life-member of the Gladiators motorcycle club has been charged after Raptor North located prohibited drugs and weapons, and the RSPCA seized animals from a property near Grafton, NSW Police say.

On September 30, 2018, officers from the Criminal Groups Squad’s Strike Force Raptor North and Coffs/Clarence Police District attended a rural property at Lanitza for the purpose of a Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) search.

While attempting to locate the subject of the FPO – a 36-year-old man – officers located a small cannabis crop growing on the property.

They also located a .303 rifle in long grass a short distance from the main homestead. It has been seized for forensic and ballistic examination.

Further, Raptor North located a number of animals that appeared to be malnourished, had limited access to clean water, and some were locked in small cages or confined to small spaces. They also located deceased animals on the property.

A crime scene was established and following an extensive search, officers seized ten cannabis plants, cannabis, cocaine, various calibres of ammunition, a firearm scope, fireworks, and a sling shot.

Police also contacted RSPCA NSW, who attended, seized the animals and commenced an investigation.

Following extensive attempts to locate the man, he was arrested at Grafton Police Station just before 10 am Monday 15 October 2018.

He was charged with fail to provide reasonable care to animal, fail to provide water to animal, four counts of contravene firearms prohibition order, three counts of possess ammunition without authority, contravene weapons prohibition order, cultivate prohibited plant, possess prohibited plant, and two counts of possess prohibited drug.

The man was granted strict conditional bail to appear at Grafton Local Court on Monday 19 November 2018.

Investigations are continuing.

Strike Force Raptor was established in 2009 and conducts proactive investigations and intelligence-based, high-impact policing operations to prevent and disrupt conflicts, and dismantle any network engaged in serious organised criminal activity.

SOURCE: Mirage News

Monday, October 15, 2018

Pagans MC: The cops were drunk and started the fight

Pittsburgh, PA  (October 15, 2018) BTN — Four members of the Pagans motorcycle club are facing charges after brawling with undercover police officers in a South Side bar last weekend. Video of the brawl at Kopy's quickly surfaced and spread on social media.

According to the criminal complaint, members of the Pagans came into the bar on South 12th Street, and one of the club members realized who the police were and blew their cover.

One of the club members became hostile and detectives tried to control the situation, the complaint said.

Bruce Thomas, one of the men charged, disputes those claims. He told Pittsburgh's Action News 4 that the undercover officers were visibly intoxicated and initiated the encounter.

"Next thing you know, one of them said something disrespectful, and one of our guys got mad and we never knew they were cops," Thomas said.

Video from the fight shows Thomas being taken down by one of the undercover officers.

"I got handcuffed, kicked in the ribs, and kneed in the back and the spine," Thomas said. "I didn't even hit anybody. We didn't think police would be in a bar drinking."

Surveillance video from the bar was turned over to Pittsburgh police.

Pittsburgh's Citizen Police Review Board is investigating the force used and the demeanor of the officers during the incident, and is asking anyone with information.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Mongols MC: Members converge downtown for meeting

Palm Springs, California (October 11, 2018) BTN — If you see more police on the streets of Palm Springs this weekend, it's because the Mongols Motorcycle Club is coming to town.

The motorcycle club will hold a membership meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Downtown Palm Springs, prompting police to increase their presence as part of what Palm Springs police Lt. Frank Browning calls "an abundance of caution."

Police wouldn't comment on their plans, but Browning, in a post on the social media site Nextdoor, said the department is expecting several hundred members of the Mongols to hit the streets this weekend.

"We have sought out the assistance of numerous police agencies to ensure everyone’s safety, and security remains a priority," he wrote.

The Mongols have had a contentious relationship with the law and with their rival club, the Hells Angels MC. They are considered an "outlaw" motorcycle club, similar to the Bandidos, Pagans and Hells Angels groups, police say. 

The labels "outlaw" or "one percenter" among motorcycle clubs originates from the time of the 1947 Hollister Riot in Hollister, Calif., after which the American Motorcycle Association sought to distance itself from clubs that participated in violence by issuing a statement claiming that 99 percent of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, while 1 percent were outlaws.

"There's a difference between biker clubs and outlaw clubs," said Thomas Barker, an expert on outlaw motorcycle clubs. "It doesn't necessarily mean they're criminal."

Barker is a former police officer who went on to earn a PhD from Mississippi State University and taught on the subject of organized crime and motorcycle gangs at Eastern Kentucky University for 13 years. 

The label "outlaw" might not be a tell-tale sign that a motorcycle gang is involved in criminal activity, but the Mongols have had plenty of run-ins with the law over the years.
On Jan. 18, the Department of Justice unsealed a 54-count federal indictment against 12 members and three associates of the club's chapter in Clarksville, Tenn., which included charges of racketeering conspiracy and large-scale drug trafficking.

In May 2017, two motorcyclists were gunned down in Riverside. One of the victims, 31-year-old James Duty of Orange, died as a result of the shooting. In a Facebook post, the Riverside Police Department identified the victim, as well as others present at the scene, as members of the Hells Angels, the Mongols' largest rival. The suspect in the fatal shooting, Joshua Herbert, denied affiliation with the Mongols but had the club's name, as well as the "one percenter" logo tattooed on his neck.

"They're the most dangerous motorcycle group in the United States and maybe the world," Barker said, pointing to the group's expansion efforts in Asia and Australia.

Still, Barker said, Palm Springs residents have little to worry about as long as they stay out of the club's way, don't take photos of the members or touch their leather vests.

"Everyday residents don't have anything to worry about," Barker said. "Just leave 'em alone."

Staff at the Hilton in Palm Springs and the neighboring Agua Caliente Spa Resort and Casino said they've had no issues with the group since its members started spending their annual retreat at the Palm Spring hotel in 2013.

"The group itself has come for many years and we've never had any issues with them," said Shannon Anderson, general manager at the Hilton. "They're quite communicative and they're actually one of our best groups."

In previous years, during the gather, the Palm Springs Police Department has arrested several members of the club on felony and misdemeanor warrants, as well as gun-related charges. 

SOURCE: Desert Sun

Hells Angels MC: Murder conviction appeal going to court

Ottawa, Canada (October 11, 2018) BTN — Eighteen years after a Halifax-area man was gunned down for having an affair with an Hells Angels MC members girlfriend, the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an appeal in the case against the alleged shooter.

Sean Simmons, 31, was shot in the head in the lobby of a Halifax-area apartment building in October 2000.

Dean Kelsie was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

But the Appeal Court of Nova Scotia ordered a new trial after ruling last year that the trial judge erred in his instructions to the jury, particularly when it came to what the jurors could make of the hearsay evidence of co-conspirators.

The appeal ruling also said the trial judge should have mentioned manslaughter to the jury as an alternative verdict, even though Kelsie’s lawyer didn’t object that it wasn’t.

In a decision issued Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the Crown’s appeal of that ruling.

“The application for leave to appeal is granted,” the court said.

Kelsie was one of four men who have been convicted of the crime, although only two of those convictions stand; testimony at the trials indicated that it was Kelsie who pulled the trigger, which he denied.

In the Nova Scotia appeal court ruling, Justice David Farrar set out how Simmons came to be targeted.

Sean Simmons, right, was shot in the head in the lobby of a Halifax-area apartment building in 2000.
The Chronicle Herald 

“Mr. Simmons, in the early 1990s, had been closely affiliated with the Halifax Hells Angels and hoped to become a member. By 1993, however, he was targeted for violence by the club and was beaten up twice. The evidence suggested that this was the result of a belief among Hells Angels members that he had had an affair with the mistress of Michael McCrea, the then president of the Halifax chapter,” the judge said in his decision

“As a result, Mr. Simmons and his wife left Halifax and spent several years in New Brunswick, returning at the end of 1998.”

When the Hells Angels learned about Simmons’ return, a hit was ordered, the judge said.

Kelsie’s conviction is the second that has been thrown out in the murder.

In October 2016, the Court of Appeal threw out — for a second time — the first-degree murder conviction of an Ottawa man, Steven Gareau, who claimed he had no idea Kelsie was planning to shoot Simmons when they went to the apartment building on Oct. 3, 2000.

Gareau, who is now in his early 60s, was first convicted in 2004, but it was thrown out eight years later because of different legal errors by a different judge. He was retried over seven months in 2013 and 2014.

In February, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge stayed the charges against Gareau, saying a third trial would undermine the integrity of the judicial process. Justice Jamie Campbell noted Gareau had served 17 years in prison, endured “two fatally flawed trials” and is confined to a wheelchair and in failing health. 

SOURCE: The Telegram

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Political Smear: Biker runs for city council seat against straights

Upland, California (October 9, 2018) NOTE: We are running this article in its original and biased wording, Biker Trash Network — A candidate for Upland City Council is more than the business owner he declares himself to be on the November ballot, according to records from Upland police.

Rudy Zuñiga, 47, is a documented member of the Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang, police records show, leading the city’s top cop to question his fitness for elected office.

During a traffic stop seven years ago, Zuñiga told Upland police Officer Maurice Duran he was a member of the outlaw group, according to the field interview report filed by Duran that day.

Upland, California City Hall 

Since Zuñiga announced his candidacy for Upland City Council, he has made mention of his affiliation with motorcycle enthusiasts but has not publicly identified the group.

On Aug. 16, Zuñiga posted a video on his campaign’s Facebook page, entitled “Confession.”

“Through the whole process of my divorce, I was building a motorcycle,” Zuñiga said on the video. “It kind of helped me get by and get through the days, and such.

“So I built my bike, I got it on the road. I started riding all the time by myself. At the time, I didn’t have any friends who had motorcycles,” Zuñiga said. “I used to go to this one spot over by my mother’s house, and there was a bunch of guys always hanging out with motorcycles and I’d stop in and hang out and talk to them. They were pretty cool. They turned out to be pretty good guys. I started hanging out with them for a bit. And more and more and more. And I ended up joining up with them.

“We had our differences,” he continued. “I decided I should move on. It was time for me to do something else.”

In the video, Zuñiga never identifies the motorcycle group he joined.

Zuñiga twice declined to discuss questions about the group when contacted by a reporter. In a brief telephone conversation Monday, however, he said he is not affiliated with a gang.

“I have not committed any crimes. I am not in a gang. I am not in a motorcycle club. I don’t know what to tell you,” Zuñiga said before hanging up on a reporter.

‘A family group’

According to documents obtained from the Upland Police Department under the California Public Records Act, however, Zuñiga has identified himself as a member of the Vagos outlaw motorcycle club.

On March 5, 2011, Officer Duran stopped Zuñiga for having a modified exhaust on his motorcycle and for not wearing a helmet.

According to the field interview report, Zuñiga was wearing Vagos gang attire and his motorcycle featured an “SGV” sticker on his front headlight (the Vagos’ fifth chapter was founded in the San Gabriel Valley, according to its website), a “22” sticker on his fuel tank (which stands for the 22nd letter of the alphabet, V), and a personalized license plate, “GNG GRN.”

“Which he states means ‘going green,’ but I believe actually means ‘gang green,’” Duran wrote in his report. Members of the Vagos refer to themselves as the “Green Nation” on their website and use green throughout their attire.

“Zuñiga refused to let me take photos of his tattoos and his fingerprint,” Duran continued in the report. Fingerprints and photos are typically collected for use on a gang card, a document shared between agencies to help them identify known and suspected gang members.

“Zuñiga stated he is a member of the Vagos,” the report reads in part, quoting Zuñiga saying the club is “nothing more than a ‘family group.’”

‘A brotherhood’

Whatever they may call themselves, Upland’s police chief says there’s little question what kind of organization the Vagos actually are. The Vagos website lists a “Badlands” chapter based in Upland.

“Vagos are an outlaw motorcycle gang that refer to themselves as a ‘club,’” Chief Darren Goodman said. “By definition, they’re a criminal street gang as defined under Penal Code 186.22. Its members go through a prospecting stage where they’re required to commit crimes at the direction of existing members.”

In 2012, Keith Allen Silva, the former president of the San Bernardino Chapter of the Vagos, was sentenced to 75 years to life for the 2003 killing of a man over the sale of a motorcycle.

Photo of Rudy Zuñiga From: Rudy4Upland

In June 2017, federal agents arrested 22 alleged Vagos Motorcycle Club members in the Inland Empire and around Southern California, accusing them of committing violence against rival gang members — and even their own — and building their territory through crime and intimidation.

According to Hunter Glass, a ationally recognized expert on street gangs, gang mentality and culture, few members ever fully cut ties with gangs like the Vagos.

“When you get into stuff like the Vagos and the (Hells) Angels, that’s a brotherhood. You don’t just turn your back on your old buddies,” he said. “It’s a fraternal order you don’t walk away from. No matter what you think, you will always have those ties.”

Outlaw motorcycle gang members often own businesses, usually bars or nightclubs, in which they typically engage in illegal activity, Glass said.

“I’d say that would be a real concern for people,” Glass said.

Political battle

Zuñiga describes himself as an “engineer/business owner” in his candidacy filing: He and his current wife run a furniture store in downtown Upland. He’s running for a council seat representing the city’s 4th District.

And Zuñiga is running, in part, by appealing to voters’ concerns about safety in the city.

“Having raised my family in a safe community we once enjoyed, it saddens me that other families can’t enjoy the same safe neighborhoods (as) it once was,” Zuñiga’s ballot statement reads in part. “If elected I would utilize my experience in budgeting to cut waste in order to save tax dollars for improvements throughout our city, provide training for our reserve police officers to assist in the lack of safety downtown, the bike trail and skate park.”

He may face an uphill battle politically. Zuñiga is running against incumbent Carol Timm and business owner Tammy Rapp. While there’s no polling on the race publicly available, campaign donations have been highly lopsided.

According to his most recently released campaign financial disclosure statement, Zuñiga has raised $4,248 in 2018, including a $600 loan to himself. Other than a $1,000 donation from Rancho Cucamonga-based RMP Management Co., the majority of his donations come from individuals, most of them described as retirees on his California Form 460, filed on Sept. 18. As of Sept. 22, Zuñiga still had $2,740 in his campaign chest.

Rapp, meanwhile, has raised $765 so far in 2018 and still has $215 left on hand.

But both trail Timm, who has raised $24,705 so far in 2018, including $1,000 received from the Police Officers Research Association of California’s political action committee donated on Sept. 29. As of Sept. 22, Timm still had $15,720 on hand.

Zuñiga has been attacked on social media, including in a Facebook page post with photos allegedly showing him in Vagos gang attire. The owner of the Facebook page did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Zuñiga’s supporters accuse Timm’s campaign of engineering the attacks on him.

“I have nothing to do with any website like that and I do not know anyone who is involved or behind it,” Timm wrote in an email.

Similarly, Rapp said the “information isn’t stemming from me or my campaign.”

Candidates with criminal records

California law was changed in 2012, making it illegal for felons to hold office in the state. But Zuñiga doesn’t appear to have been convicted of any felonies.

San Bernardino County court records indicate Zuñiga was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in 2000 and being drunk in public in 2008. Both are misdemeanors and both charges were dismissed, court records indicate. He also received a traffic infraction in 2008.

Candidates statewide have been called out for questionable ties or possible criminal activity in the past, according to Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at the University of La Verne.

Omar Navarro, the Republican candidate opposing Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, was on probation until March for placing an electronic tracking device on his wife’s car.

Richard Bunck, who’s made unsuccessful runs for Apple Valley Town Council, Claremont City Council and the Claremont Unified school board, has been dogged by what he said were former connections to a Nazi splinter group, the National Socialist White People’s Party.

And three mayoral and City Council candidates in Oroville this November have criminal convictions, including for prostitution, drug possession and impersonating a police officer.

“It is not all that rare for a former gang member or someone who got into trouble at a young age to run for political office later,” Godwin said. “Some of these candidates attribute their interest in elected office to mentors or local programs that helped them.”

Among them, she said, is Luis Rodriguez, author of “Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in LA,” who ran as the Green Party candidate for governor in 2014.

But that’s not what’s happening here, according to Upland’s chief of police.

“I believe in redemption and the power of change. I have seen scenarios where people have denounced their gang and totally changed their life,” Goodman said. “However, that doesn’t apply to people who deny they are gang members, deny what the gang is, and deny what the gang does. If a person is lying about their affiliation and deceiving people about the horrific acts of the gang, then they are not done being a member. I do not believe a gang member should sit on any city council and set policy that affects a police department. There is no legitimate, ethical police officer who would disagree with me."

“Look, I am committed to unifying this city, strengthening the police department, reducing crime and improving quality of life,” Goodman added. “How the hell do I accomplish that if a Vago gang member is on my City Council?”

SOURCE: Daily Bulletin
SOURCE: Rudy4Upland