Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Motorcycle Clubs fight to keep colors

Feds going after MC's trademarks

WASHINGTON, DC (August 30, 2016) Federal prosecutors have dropped a controversial bid to seize the trademark owned by a motorcycle club called the “Devils Diciples.”

But while the development this week cheers the Midwestern group and the California-based lawyer who represents them, it does not entirely slam the brakes on other trademark challenges involving motorcycle clubs fierce and distinctive logos.

Still in the government’s cross hairs, notably, is the trademarked logo for the Mongol Nation, a Southern California-based motorcycle club whose intellectual property has been sought by federal prosecutors since 2008. A federal appellate court is now considering the Mongol Nation case.

“These trademark cases are important to the clubs, whose free association has been threatened by the attempts by (prosecutors) to enjoin use of their membership (marks) by non-indicted persons,” A Mongol attorney said Tuesday.

Members of the Mongols and the Devils Diciples call their organizations clubs, while law enforcement officials refer to them as gangs or criminal enterprises.

A Devils Diciples MC member's back patch

Prosecutors began trying to seize the Devils Diciples trademark as a byproduct of a criminal case that culminated in the February convictions  of six Devils Diciples leaders on drugs, firearms and other charges.

The prosecutors’ decision now to leave the Devils Diciples’ trademark alone was noted through filings made Monday in federal court in Detroit. The prosecutors explained in one filing that they had “learned the identity of the trademark’s owner,” who has not been charged with crimes.

“Generally, the government can only criminally forfeit property, under an applicable forfeiture statute, in which a defendant in a criminal case has an ownership interest,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Aouate explained Tuesday.

Most law enforcement asset-forfeiture efforts target  conventional property. As part of their original Devils Diciples case, prosecutors in October 2014 itemized property they wanted to seize, from Glock handguns and Mossberg shotguns to slot machines and “two Devils Diciples bandanas.”

At the end of the 32-page property listing, prosecutors included the club’s trademark.

That trademark , including the deliberately rebellious spelling, consists of an upper arc framing the words “Devils Diciples,” a design with two crossed pitchforks over a spoked wheel, and the letters “M.C.”

If prosecutors had prevailed in their trademark-forfeiture effort, the government could have eventually owned the mark and protected its property interests, such as by demanding that club members surrender their treasured designs.

“I was pleased the (prosecutors) easily recognized that the facts and law favored my client, so that the matter need not be submitted to the court for decision,” the attorney said.

Over the past eight years, the Mongols trademark cases established important precedents regarding forfeiture of collective membership marks and the implications of free speech and association. Fritz Clapp, intellectual property attorney for the Devils Diciples

In 2013, for instance, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club sued the Dillard’s department store chain and a clothing line associated with the rapper Young Jeezy over the use of the club’s trademarked “Death Head” logo. The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento federal court, was resolved in a confidential settlement.

Other motorcycle clubs – ranging from the Thug Nomads and the Persecuted Souls to the Knights of Fire and the Immortal Soulz – have likewise secured trademarks for their names or logos, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records show .

In the Devils Diciples case, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade  of the Eastern District of Michigan said the individual defendants were “responsible for violence and trafficking in methamphetamine in Macomb County and across the country.”

The still-simmering Mongol Nation case began when then-U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien unveiled in Los Angeles an indictment of 79 Mongols for a variety of offenses. As part of his campaign, O’Brien sought the Mongols’ trademarks.

“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.

All but two of the original 79 defendants were eventually convicted. Prosecutors failed, though (link is external), in their attempt to seize the club’s trademark, an effort they are trying to revive at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“In an audacious, novel move, a select group of the gang – so-called ‘full-patched’ members – federally registered two marks used by the gang to identify members and to terrorize enemies,” prosecutors wrote in an Aug. 8 filing.

The Mongol Nation has until Nov. 10 to respond.

Clubber Pride

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gypsy Joker MC Member dies

Gypsy Joker MC Member dies in motorcycle crash in Spokane

SPOKANE, WA (August 29, 2016) – A member of the Gypsy Jokers Motorcycle Club identified as William C. Casteel, 47, was involved in a wreck pronounced dead at the scene.  

A post on a Facebook page associated with the Jokers identified Casteel as the Spokane chapter president. A source familiar with the club also said he was the president.

FBI Special Agent Christian Parker said he couldn’t confirm or deny that. No one could be reached for comment at the Jokers’ east Spokane clubhouse Monday afternoon.

Gypsy Jokers MC

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office identified Casteel as the crash victim on Monday. According to the Sheriff’s Office, he was riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle east on Broadway Avenue when a truck turned in front of him near Havana Street.

Casteel is believed to have been speeding; he laid his bike down and slid a long distance before striking the truck, Deputy Mark Gregory said. The driver of the truck has not been cited, although the crash is still under investigation, Gregory said.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Outlaws MC member denied club’s seized property

Outlaws MC member denied club’s seized property

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA  (August 24, 2016) – A member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club who wanted to intervene in a forfeiture action involving paraphernalia bearing the Outlaws insignia couldn’t convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that a federal court was incorrect in denying his motions.

The FBI with search warrants raided the Outlaws’ clubhouses in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne in 2012 and seized numerous items bearing the Outlaws name, such as vests, flags, and signs. All members of the Indianapolis chapter were criminally charged, including Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations charges. All but one pleaded guilty, and as part of the plea agreements, each agreed to forfeit the Outlaws paraphernalia seized by the FBI.

Motorcycles seized during a 2012 raid of the Outlaws MC clubhouse in Indianapolis, IN

Bradley W. Carlson tried to intervene while the government was in the process of finalizing the forfeiture with the last Outlaws defendant. The government sought to dismiss the motion as untimely as the final forfeiture orders had already been issued. Carlson contended that he had a property interest in all of the paraphernalia and the government failed to provide him with direct notice of the forfeiture actions. He claimed that he had been elected by the collective membership of the club to protect, manage and oversee all memorabilia of the Outlaws, and that the property is not owned by the individuals but collectively by the members.

The government provided notices to all of the defendants and also posted notice of the forfeitures on the official government forfeiture site for 30 days. The district court denied Carlson’s motion as well as his motion to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Federal Civil Procedure Rule 59(e).

“Although he has alleged an understanding that property cannot be transferred to non-members, he does not identify what type of interest, if any, in that property was retained by the Outlaws –whether an option to purchase back, a right of first refusal, a termination of bailment or least, etc. – and whether that interest is a legal interest that grants standing or an equitable or other interest that does not,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote. “He fails in fact to cite to Indiana law at all to establish the legal interest in the property despite recognizing that property interests are defined by state law.”

The judges also rejected Carlson’s request that the court hold in a criminal forfeiture, an assertion of ownership, without more, is sufficient to alert the government that he has a property interest in the items as against those who were in possession of the items and conceded their forfeiture.

“Carlson has failed to identify the origin of the items or allege the Outlaws relationship at its inception, and the district court properly held that Carlson was not entitled to individualized notice,” she wrote in United States of America v. Joshua N. Bowser, et al.; appeal of:Bradley W. Carlson, 15-2258.

Cruising along

A couple of club members sharing a trike 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hells Angels MC still in the city

2006 raid effectively spelled the end of the Thunder Bay chapter

THUNDER BAY, CANADA  (August 23, 2016) – Thunder Bay police say despite a raid  10 years ago that shut down the local chapter, the Hells Angels motorcycle club continues to have a presence in the city.

Spokesperson Chris Adams told CBC News there are still members of the organization in town, but they're connected with the Hamilton chapter.

"The Hells Angels obviously still see Thunder Bay and the members here as having some viability and I'm sure they would like to see their full chapter status back at some point," he said.

Police spokesperson Chris Adams said the Hells Angels have their eye on the city as a lucrative place to do their drug trade

He also expressed concern that the city could become the site of "turf wars" between rival groups.

"Any time you have the potential to make money illegally, you're going to have these groups sort of butting heads from time to time," Adams said.

"We're fortunate we haven't seen a full turf war here but the potential exists and this is definitely what we're concerned about."

The Hells Angels Ontario logo appeared at a building on Simpson Street in Thunder Bay. 

The group's Thunder Bay chapter was effectively shut down in 2006 after a large-scale investigation, involving city and provincial police, as well as the RCMP, led to several arrests and the seizure of the organization's club house on Heron Street. Thunder Bay police also raided a Simpson Street building in 2014 they claimed was a club house for the group.

Looking at a 'potential marketplace'

City police have said the area is a lucrative market for the drug trade, and Adams said the Hells Angels motorcycle club continues to eye Thunder Bay because of it.

"They essentially are looking at their potential marketplace, and when there's vacuums that are created from time to time, with organized crime, other groups come in and try and fill that vacuum."


Friday, August 19, 2016

Rhode Island cops nervous with feuding MC’s

Outlaws moving into Hells Angels territory

PROVIDENCE, R.I.  (August 18, 2016) – Law enforcement officials are concerned a feud between two outlaw motorcycle clubs in Rhode Island is a tinderbox on the verge of exploding into a violent turf war.

In June, the Rhode Island State Police organized a meeting between 13 local police departments as well as representatives from the Massachusetts and Connecticut state police amidst growing tensions between the Hells Angels and the Outlaws motorcycle clubs.

Lt. Christopher Zarrella, head of the Rhode Island State Police Intelligence Unit, said the Outlaws recently moved into Rhode Island, which has traditionally been an area solely controlled by the Hells Angels.

“The Outlaws have never been in Rhode Island,” Zarrella said. “Bikers are very territorial. Like any gang … people own their turf, and outlaw motorcycle gangs are no different.”

According to police officials interviewed by Target 12, the Outlaws moved into a clubhouse in Woonsocket in the spring of 2014. The Hells Angels have had a clubhouse in Providence for years.

“[The Hells Angels have] controlled this area for a while,” said East Providence Police Lt. Raymond Blinn. “Now the Outlaws – which they have always had a feud with – have moved into this area.”

“It’s bravado,” Blinn added.

And there already have been some clashes.

A West Warwick police report from July 7 revealed an argument inside a Dunkin’ Donuts in the middle of the afternoon quickly escalated into a fistfight.

The report said a biker from an affiliate of the Hells Angels walked into the coffee shop and spotted a member of the Outlaws and an argument immediately erupted. Before the manager could ask them to leave, fists started to fly. One biker pushed the other “onto a dining area table causing its leg to collapse and causing damage to the table.” Both men were arrested.

One week later, a Woonsocket detective pulled over a truck and discovered a member of the Outlaws with a “large cut on his forehead” that needed medical attention.

“Prior to this motor vehicle stop it was known there was [a] large altercation earlier in the night in West Warwick involving the Outlaw MC and Hells Angels MC,” the reports states.

A police log from West Warwick states calls were pouring into police “reporting 20 bikers fighting in the roadway with bats and wrenches.”

Zarrella said there is “unquestionably” a threat to public safety.

“When there is violence there is collateral damage and that is where the threat to civilians is,” said Zarrella.

Two Rival Groups

“Where there are a greater number of motorcycle gangs in the same area, you’re going to have more problems,” Zarrella said. “I think what you’re seeing in other parts of the country where there are these clashes between rival groups is something you are going to potentially see here in Rhode Island, because Rhode Island is now a territory occupied by two rival groups.”

And it’s not just fights that could lead to outsiders getting hurt. According to a Rhode Island State Police report, a civilian motorcyclist unaffiliated with either gang was seriously injured when a member of the Outlaws driving a truck slammed on his brakes, causing the biker to crash into the back of the truck.

The driver of the truck was acting as a “follow” vehicle, riding behind a pack of Outlaws making sure no other vehicle penetrated their ranks, according to the report.

When the trooper approached the injured motorcyclist, who was thrown from his bike, the rider was “screaming in agony.”

“I observed [the rider] to have road rash all over his body and it appeared his teeth went through his upper lip,” the trooper wrote. “I observed his collar bone was broken and his shoulder was out of place.”

The driver of the pickup truck, Spencer Gould of Biddeford, Maine, was identified as a “full patch” member of the Outlaws and charged with driving to endanger. Three passengers in the truck were also identified as members of the Outlaws.

“Although the above occupants advised they were passengers inside Gould’s vehicle at the time of the crash they all refused to cooperate and provide police with witness statements,” the report said.

“Because of something a group of outlaws were doing caused an accident and an innocent motorcyclist was badly injured because of that,” said Zarrella.

Keeping Watch

Target 12 asked to interview leaders from both the Outlaws and Hells Angels, but lawyers for the clubs declined the request.

Police officials said they have increased their monitoring of both groups and are watching for any large gatherings that could lead to violence.

“We do our best to keep tabs and maintain some degree of intelligence up to date,” Zarrella said. “Local law enforcement has been very, very good about aggressively policing their towns with respect to outlaw motorcycle gang activity.”

Zarrella said authorities believe both the Hells Angels and Outlaws have been increasing their memberships in recent months. He said there are also smaller motorcycle clubs that align themselves with one of the two organizations, making it harder to track how many members there are statewide.

“You’ve got some 30-plus organizations affiliated with the two main outlaw motorcycle groups in Rhode Island,” Zarrella said. “That’s a lot of groups for a state this size.”


Friday, August 12, 2016

El Paso bar fight leads to Bandidos arrest

Bandidos MC members arrested after El Paso fight

EL PASO, Texas  (August 11, 2016) — The leaders of the El Paso chapter of the Bandidos were arrested after being accused of attacking and trying to take the vests of two members of a rival motorcycle club last week outside a far East Side restaurant, police said Thursday.

Bandidos chapter president Juan Martinez, 60; sergeant-at-arms James Heredia, 45; and secretary Thomas Decarlo, 32, were arrested last week by the Gang Unit on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity-aggravated robbery, police said.

The fight allegedly stemmed from problems between the Bandidos and another biker club, according to court documents filed by police gang investigators. The other club is not named in documents.

A 29-year-old man was "badly hurt" when he was hit in the head with a baseball bat and an expandable baton during the assault on the night of Aug. 3 outside Hot Chicks Wing House at 2281 N. Zaragoza Road, a complaint affidavit filed by police states.

According to documents, members of the Bandidos allegedly pulled up on motorcycles, got off and confronted a member of another club, identified only as G. Quesada, who was smoking a cigarette outside the restaurant.

Martinez allegedly went up to Quesada, asked him who was in charge and Quesada told him not to worry about it, the documents state. Martinez told Quesada to move out of the way. When Quesada refused to move, he was allegedly punched by the three men.

Another biker, E. Delgado, came out of the restaurant when he saw Quesada being assaulted, documents state. Bandidos then allegedly hit Delgado on the head with an expandable baton and a baseball bat, but he managed to block some of the blows with his left hand.

Quesada went after the man with the baseball bat but allegedly was tackled by Decarlo before men began to punch and kick him while he was on the ground, the documents state.

"Take their vest," Martinez allegedly ordered, according to the affidavit.

Vests, adorned with patches with various meanings, are symbolic of a biker's membership in a motorcycle club. It is a custom for outlaw motorcycle club members to remove a rival's vest as a sign of disrespect, law enforcement investigators have said.

During the assault, a cellphone was allegedly taken from Delgado's vest, but the men were able to hold on to their vests, the complaint states. Martinez also allegedly unholstered a handgun, but Delgado was able to punch him before being beaten by men again, the complaint states.

Police eventually arrived on a call about a fight with weapons and a man with a gun.

Documents state Delgado was taken for treatment to Del Sol Medical Center and had bruises, swelling to the left side of his face and needed stitches on his left ear.

Martinez, Decarlo and Heredia were arrested Aug. 4. Martinez and Decarlo were each booked into the El Paso County Jail under a $75,000 bond, while Heredia was jailed under a $60,000 bond, police said. Heredia and Martinez bonded out of jail the same day they were arrested. Decarlo posted bond Saturday.

Court documents state that the incident was recorded on security camera video and that the attackers were also identified by witnesses. During the investigation, gang investigators seized four guns, three bats and an expandable baton, police officials said.

The Bandidos for decades have been the dominant motorcycle club in the El Paso region, but there have been conflicts with other clubs in recent years.

In 2012, several members and associates of the Bandidos were arrested by El Paso police after a man was beaten with brass knuckles at a biker bar because he was wearing a shirt of another motorcycle club, according to El Paso Times archives.

The Bandidos are described in the indictment as an outlaw motorcycle organization with an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 members in about 175 chapters in 15 countries. They have 107 chapters in the United States, including about 42 in Texas.

"The conflict between the Bandidos and the Cossacks appears to have originated from territorial disputes," according to the 2015 Texas Gang Threat Assessment by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"Cossacks members have recently started wearing the Texas patch on the bottom of their vests without the approval of the Bandidos," the threat report states. "Traditionally, the Bandidos have been the dominant motorcycle club in Texas, and thus no other club is allowed to wear the Texas patch without their consent.