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Friday, November 9, 2018

Rhode Island grand jury indicts MC members and associates

Providence, R.I. (November 9, 2018) BTN — A statewide grand jury has indicted 41 of 61 people arrested this spring in a state police undercover investigation into alleged assaults, drug-dealing and gun-running by Rhode Island motorcycle club members or their associates.

Guns, drugs and a rocket launcher was seized during the May 23 raids 

The state attorney general’s office released the 171-page indictment on Thursday that listed 424 counts of alleged crimes.

Sixteen others have already waived their right to have their cases presented to the grand jury and pleaded guilty, said Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.

Some of the weapons confiscated during the May 23rd raids

Four others had their cases referred to the state’s Drug Court or to the attorney general’s Adult Diversion Unit, which serves as an alternative to prosecution for first-time nonviolent felony offenders.

Arraignments for those indicted are scheduled to begin December 5th before Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause

In the predawn hours of May 23, more than 150 state and federal investigators swarmed through northern Rhode Island, carrying out at least 29 separate raids of homes, businesses and at least one motorcycle club headquarters.

For almost a year beforehand, authorities have said, they had been gathering information through at least one confidential informant and wiretaps on several cell phones used by a Burrillville man about the Pagans Motorcycle Club trying to establish a Rhode Island chapter and that biker rivalries were spawning violence.

Those recorded conversations between Deric “Tuna” McGuire and his associates also led them to believe McGuire was not just a motorcycle club leader but the head of a Woonsocket-based drug enterprise.

McGuire, who is named in the indictment, faces more than 220 counts of narcotics and weapons charges.

Display of items confiscated during Operation Patched Out carried out on May 23rd

The raids produced a stash of weapons and drugs — even one rocket launcher. And they came just weeks after a member of the Massachusetts Pagans was shot on Route 95 in Connecticut.

Mugshots: Operation Patched Out

State police officials said at the time they decided to move in when they did to prevent any further violence.

Monday, November 5, 2018

District Attorney: Police not submitting evidence against Pagans MC in bar fight

Pittsburgh, PA (November 5, 2018) Editorial — What were members of the Pittsburgh police doing drinking in a South Side bar before fighting four men, all allegedly members of the Pagans motorcycle club, earlier last month? And why are the police stonewalling the district attorney’s office as the city attempts to figure out what led to that drunken melee?

These are the questions that must be answered as serious questions have been raised about the official police account surrounding the recent brawl.

Video still of bar fight with the Pagans MC and undercover police on October 13, 2018

The Oct. 13 dust up was ostensibly the result of a drug dealing sting gone awry. According to the police, the undercover officers had their covers blown before a Pagan allegedly started pushing and throwing punches. The officers claimed the use of force was necessary for bringing down the unruly men.

All told, four alleged Pagans were arrested and charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy and causing a riot.

Video from the incident and testimony from others have revealed discrepancies in the official account

Surveillance cameras inside the bar captured officers drinking heavily for about five hours before the confrontation. Attorney Martin A. Dietz, who represents 28-year-old Erik Heitzenrater, estimated that some of the detectives had as many as 15 drinks, usually doubles and triples on the rocks.

The officers then verbally sparred with the alleged Pagans. One detective raised his shirt to display his firearm. More words were exchanged, then pushing, then fisticuffs.

After the fight broke out, video captured one defendant, 36-year-old Frank Deluca, being pinned against the bar by one officer as another struck Mr. Deluca in the head 19 times. Mr. Deluca was hospitalized with two black eyes, one of which was swollen shut, and bruising on his forehead.

Another alleged Pagan can be seen getting punched by an officer despite standing away from the scuffle. The officer then kicks that same man on the ground.

It is clear there are significant questions to be answered about this operation. But the police have not seemed too eager to answer them.

On Oct. 25, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. publicly questioned why the police have not been forthcoming with evidence and statements about the brawl.

Not enough evidence against the Pagans MC 

Mr. Zappala said that, as of this writing, he does not have enough evidence to prosecute any of the accused Pagans. He also stated that the police have not informed if the officers were actually undercover or on an assignment in the bar.

Are officers permitted to drink on the job? What latitude is afforded to undercover officers on assignment? What is the evidence supporting the charges facing the four alleged Pagans?

Mr. Zappala is right to criticize the department for its obfuscation, an approach he has effectively used in the past. The people of Pittsburgh need to know that their police officers are comporting themselves in a respectful manner and that the department will provide transparency and accountability. They deserve answers.

SOURCE:The Editorial Board - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Friday, November 2, 2018

Mongols MC: Rat brags how he gained trust with members

Santa Ana, California. (November 2, 2018) BTN — A veteran federal agent who spent years undercover after infiltrating the Mongols Motorcycle Club offered his first-hand account Thursday of a secretive culture of violence and intimidation during testimony in an ongoing federal racketeering trial.

The three years that Darrin Kozlowski and three other U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Officers spent embedded in the outlaw motorcycle club already has led to guilty pleas from 77 members of the Mongols. 

Now, the since-retired special agents’ efforts are at the center of the government’s attempts to seize legal control over the Mongols’ trademark name, a move that would bar the bikers from wearing the patches that now adorn their vests.

Related | Mongols MC: Feds going after clubs colors at racketeering trial

During a federal trial in Santa Ana this week, prosecutors have portrayed the Mongols as a criminal organization that encourages and rewards members who take part in violent, at-times deadly assaults, including riots in Laughlin, Nev. and a melee at the Morongo Casino in Cabazon near Palm Springs in 2002, and violent attacks in bars or restaurants in more recent years in Hollywood, Pasadena, Merced, La Mirada, Wilmington and Riverside.

Kozlowski, who previously infiltrated a Hollywood chapter of the Vagos motorcycle club and an East Coast chapter of the Warlocks motorcycle club, worked his way up the ranks of the Cypress Park chapter of the Mongols between 2005 and 2008, adopting the persona of “Dirty Dan” and telling other members of the club that he had Mafia ties fostered while growing up in Chicago.

It was a risky move, Kozlowski acknowledged during his testimony, particularly since he had already infiltrated one outlaw motorcycle club in Southern California. A photo of Kozlowski had also been printed in a book written by William Queen, a since-retired ATF agent who had infiltrated the Mongols years earlier, and whose work was well known throughout the motorcycle gang.

Kozlowski testified to buying crystal methamphetamine from several members of the Mongols, to being present for several brawls in clubs or parking lots, to helping members legally barred from having firearms hide their guns and to being told that other members of the club that they had killed members of the Hells Angels, whose bloody rivalry with the Mongols dates back to the 1970s.

“Members would often talk about doing things to elevate themselves within the Mongols by doing these acts of violence,” Kozlowski said. “It was talked about as a badge of honor.”

Kozlowski said some members of the motorcycle club were initially suspicious of him and the other undercover agents, forcing them to take polygraph tests before being allowed to join. He described for jurors the inner workings of the club, including detailing the various patches members can acquire for a variety of actions, from assaults and even murders of rivals to explicit sexual conquests.

To bolster his false identity, Kozlowski said he once offered to fly his chapter president to Chicago for a tour of what he claimed were his childhood neighborhoods. The chapter president unexpectedly accepted the invitation, Kozlowski testified, and law enforcement officials were forced to set up a dinner in Chicago with other agents posing as Italian organized crime bosses who told the Mongols leader they had worked with Kozlowski on past criminal endeavors.

There were several times Kozlowski said he believed the other Mongols were on the verge of realizing he was a law enforcement officer. He recalled once entering the home of Mongols leadership to see several members holding Queen’s book and looking at the photographs, and immediately believing he had been set up before realizing it was simply a coincidence. The president of his chapter eventually saw the photo of Kozlowski in the book, and had to be convinced it wasn’t him.

“Why would a member of the ATF who infiltrated the Vagos in this area come back and be a member of the Mongols?” Kozlowski testified about telling his chapter president.

Attorney Joseph Yanny, who is representing the Mongols, has acknowledged that members of the club broke the law, but told jurors that those individuals had been kicked out for their actions. On other occasions, Yanny told jurors, the club members acted in self-defense or were induced into drug deals by undercover agents.

Kozlowski testified that during his time with the motorcycle club he never saw anyone kicked out for illegal behavior, including individuals convicted of felonies. Prosecutors have previously indicated that if they are successful in their efforts to gain legal control over the Mongols’ trademark, they could literally take the jacket off the bikers backs anywhere in the country. The club traces its roots to Montebello in the 1970s.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is presiding over the trial, was angered late Thursday morning when four bikers, including one wearing sunglasses, appeared in the courtroom. The judge initially believed that it was a violation of an agreement the club had made to only have two of its members in the courtroom at a time, but learned that two of the visitors were from other motorcycle clubs.

Carter, who noted that 40 to 50 Mongol members attended some pretrial hearings, said anyone has a right to watch the trial. But he also made clear that for every member of the Mongol’s who attends, he will have an equal number of U.S. Marshal’s in the courtroom.

“You can have 50 people in here, but I’ll match them,” Carter warned the clubs leaders. “My jury is not going to be intimidated.”

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Feds move forward with new tattoo recognition tech in prisons

Gaithersburg, MD (November 1, 2018) BTN — The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) partnered with the FBI to evaluate a tattoo recognition software to be implemented in federal prisons.

The software evaluates tattoos for political beliefs, religious beliefs and any organizational affiliation, including criminal.

NIST said the Tattoo Recognition Technology Program is designed to assess and measure the capability of systems to perform automated image-based tattoo recognition. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) question the legitimacy of how this technology benefits American citizens.

“One of the emerging technologies is tattoo recognition,” Dave Maass said. “We really would like to challenge, then criticize it before it really becomes as widespread as some of the other technologies that are out there.”

Maass is a senior investigative researcher at EFF and has followed NIST’s program since 2015, one year after its start.

NIST is reviewing this technology for use in federal prisons, and they used images of inmates’ tattoos for their Tattoo Recognition Technology Challenge (Tatt-C). NIST failed to obtain the required human subjects protection review until after the experiment. This review ensures the protection of human subjects in research and is required prior to starting the research.

“NIST regrets that its formal human subjects protection review occurred while the Tatt-C publications were being drafted and not prior to the start of the project as required,” NIST said.

Remy Cross is a sociology and criminology professor at Webster University. Cross has conducted research involving prisoners. He said prisoners, current patients and children require the greatest attention when dealing with informed consent.

“I have to meet a very high standard as a social scientist to be able to conduct research with prisoners through the National Institute of Justice and through the Department of Justice,” Cross said. “The problem is this research is coming out of [the Department of Commerce] which does not have the same understanding and the same duty to protection of these populations.”

NIST said after a full human subjects protection review was conducted, Tatt-C did not meet the criteria for human subjects research as defined by federal regulations. Since the general human subjects protection regulations did not apply, the section of the regulations related to prisoners also did not apply.  

Since the conclusion of Tatt-C, NIST said it hired additional human subjects protection experts and expanded and enhanced training for its staff. NIST began conducting Tattoo Recognition Technology Evaluation (Tatt-E) in 2016 as a continuation of Tatt-C, and plans to commence this fall.

Maass said he worries the reasons for incarceration are becoming more about data collection. He said he fears people will be incarcerated in order to get pictures of their tattoos or get their DNA.

“It’s really important that you realize that just because you’re arrested doesn’t mean you’ve actually committed a crime,” Maass said. “And yet by being booked into the system, you have all of those things robbed of you, your images relating to your body. But I think that with tattoos, there’s a lot of room for error in there and that it doesn’t serve the causes of justice.”

Cross said the belief that tattoos and criminality go hand in hand has been around for hundreds of years, and research shows it is not true.

“What you have here is myth and the Department of Commerce attempting to replicate the Soviet-era criminal tattoo tracking program, but using fancy technology for it and in the face of the fact that these tattoo tracking things are not proven to be very effective,” Cross said.

Cross said when someone gets a tattoo with criminal ties, it can be for a variety of reasons that are not criminal reasons. Other people have tattoos from a criminal past that they moved on from. Cross said this technology tries to assign people into different categories based on their tattoos without allowing them to explain their meaning for the tattoo.

Maas fears this technology will expand from solely being used in federal prisons.

“We’re not just talking about inmates,” Maass said. “We’re talking about potentially having this being used against immigrants, being used in deportation efforts, being used to add people to gang databases that even if they aren’t a gang member, being added to a database could follow them their entire lives.”

NIST’s original documents from Tatt-C mention how tattoos can identify a person’s ritualistic beliefs, religions and interests. After EFF questioned this profiling method, Maas said NIST retracted information about people’s beliefs from their papers, presentations and website.

Cross said this technology could potentially place innocent American citizens under surveillance because of their tattoos. These people do not get to know what category their tattoo places them in, or what assumptions are made from those categories. He said this situation could deny someone a federal position, chance for parole and other opportunities based on surveillance of their tattoo.

The tattoo recognition software is made up of algorithms created by outside companies like the MITRE Corporation. Cross said researchers argue algorithms cannot be biased, but Cross disagrees.

“Algorithms are made by people who put their own biases into these things when they say ‘It’s just tattoo recognition,’ yeah, but who’s putting the meaning in for these tattoos,” Cross said. “Somebody’s doing that and when they do that, they’re making assumptions about it, and because of that, the potential for harm is tremendous.”

Cross said some of the experts cited in NIST’s report are good at identifying tattoos for Hispanic and certain Chinese gangs, but they almost always miss nationalist gangs and one percenter motorcycle gangs. He said if this margin of error gets encoded into the algorithm, the algorithm will have higher hit rates on Asian and Latino suspects, but miss white supremacist, white nationalist and white biker gang suspects.

Cross worked on a surveillance project with a Department of Defense grant that aimed to assist police. The technology took audio and video from public places, and Cross found that some officers shared lewd images from the surveillance, or viewed it as a goldmine to gather information.

He found that engineers do not usually receive the same ethical training around human subjects as researchers or scientists. As a result, Cross said the engineers are not as focused on the potential harm their technology brings to the public.

“I think [NIST], as researchers, they need to take a hard look at how this kind of technology will be used to oppress people and then make a decision whether they want to be involved in that kind of research,” Maass said.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Mongols MC: Feds going after clubs colors at racketeering trial

Santa Ana, California. (October 31, 2018) BTN —The feds have called the Mongol Nation "the most violent and dangerous" biker gang in the country, and they're trying an unusual tactic to dismantle them: Stripping them of the trademarked patches that are prized by members and feared by rivals.

A racketeering trial is set to begin in Santa Ana, California, later this week — opening arguments begin Wednesday — in which prosecutors accuse Mongol Nation of operating as an organized criminal enterprise involved in murder, attempted murder, assault, drug-dealing and more.

The Feds are going after the Trademarked colors of the Mongols MC

And prosecutors want to force the organization to forfeit "any and all marks" that include the organization's logo — the word "Mongols" and a drawing of a Genghis Khan-styled rider on a motorcycle.

That caricature is serious business for the Mongols, court papers say.

Higher-ups in the estimated 600-person gang "will frequently bear patches that indicate that they are officers in the enterprise," and they earn those patches through violence and mayhem, prosecutors say.

"The Mongols Gang is a violent, drug trafficking organization that advocates and rewards its members and associates for committing violent crimes, including, and specifically, assaults and murders, on behalf of the gang and in order to promote what the gang terms 'respect,' prosecutors wrote in one court filing.

In another filing, they said the club's 'Mother Chapter' may award a specific Mongols member a 'skull and crossbones' or 'Respect Few Fear None' patch to those members who have committed murder or engaged acts of violence on behalf of the Mongols."

The Feds showing off motorcycles and colors they confiscated from the Mongols MC

The U.S. Attorney's Office for California's Central District has been trying to go after the patches for a decade. Then-U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien first announced the unusual legal bid after 79 members of the gang were indicted in 2008.

“If the court grants our request ... then if any law enforcement officer sees a Mongol wearing his patch, he will be authorized to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back," O'Brien said at the time, according to a McClatchy report.

But that bid and a later one got shot down in court. A federal appeals court gave prosecutors the green light to try again last year. Opening arguments are is set to begin for the expected eight week trial on Wednesday. Prosecutors say they expect to call 96 witnesses detailing the gang's criminal history.

Defense lawyers say the motorcycle group is simply a loose configuration of riders in the Southwest, not an organized criminal enterprise. They also maintain that the government doesn't have the right to seize the patches of members who haven't been involved in any criminal activity.

In court filings, the group's lawyers say they plan to call former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura as an expert witness on the group and its history. Ventura — also a former professional wrestler and actor — was a member of the the group in the 1970s. Defense lawyers also want to call journalist Lisa Ling, who interviewed the group for a CNN documentary in 2015, to testify about the "organization and structure of the club."

The government has objected to both Ventura and Ling being called as witnesses, saying neither is an expert.