Thursday, January 31, 2019

Blue Angels MC members threaten rival club

Leeds, West Yorkshire (January 30, 2019) BTN – Leeds Crown Court heard the defendants were wearing “motorcycle club attire” when they turned up at the house and began “shouting and bawling” and making threats.  Howard Shaw, prosecuting, said the complainant - known as ‘Spike’ - had previously been a member of the Blue Angels until leaving the club in 2015.

Explaining the background to the incident on July 27 last year, the prosecutor said: “It appears some kind of falling out went on and he was warned in 2015 not to associate with any motorcycle club ever again and, according to the complainant, was assaulted.” Mr Shaw said the man then joined the rival Mongrel Mob club. He added: “He claims to have been high up within the ranks of the club, becoming the European Secretary.”

The court heard the four men turned up outside the property in Beeston around 9.30pm in a Nissan Navara while the man was at his home with family and friends. Mr Shaw said: “The four defendants were wearing motorcycle club attire and then engaged in shouting, bawling, threats and finger pointing. “They did not enter the garden but their conduct was such that the complainant threw out, from the first floor window, his motorcycle jacket which had the insignia of his own club. “With that, the defendants left and drove off.”

Mr Shaw said the man only contacted police because there was “an unwritten rule” among motorcycle clubs that no such visits would be paid to members’ homes when family were present. All four men were arrested and refused to comment. They were later identified at an identification procedure. The men were initially charged with robbery.

The complainant refused to attend court to give evidence against when they were due to go on trial on Monday The defendants pleaded guilty to threatening behaviour and were made the subject of 12-month community orders. 

Recorder Richard Thyne said: “The offence is aggravated on any view by the fact that it was planned, you were in a group, there was a history of bad feeling and it was in a residential street at night. “Each of you in the past has been capable of serious criminality and your conduct on that evening has to be viewed in that context.” 

Those sentenced were: David Hansbury, 49, of Midland Road, Hyde Park, Leeds.
He was made the subject of a two-month electronically-tagged curfew order. Hansbury has previous convictions for robbery, affray and firearms offences. 

David Torr, 55, of Miles Hill Avenue, Scott Hall, Leeds. Ordered to do 40 hours of unpaid work. He has convictions for robbery, assault and possession of an offensive weapon. 

Steven Clayton, 59, of Meadow Road, Bradford, Ordered to do 45 hours of unpaid work. He has convictions for affray, wounding and possession of an offensive weapon.

Martin Booth, 48, of Crook Farm Caravan Park, Shipley. Ordered to do 45 hours of unpaid work. Booth has previous convictions for possession of a prohibited firearm.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Hells Angel MC member pleads guilty

Staunton, Virginia (January 29, 2019) BTN – In a surprising development, three members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club and a prospect pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with a September ambush at the Hometown Inn that saw a rival motorcycle club member shot and another beaten.

Both men survived the attack.

In Augusta County Circuit Court on Tuesday, one of the alleged shooters, Anthony Milan, 28, of East Elmhurst, New York, a Hells Angel prospect at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to malicious wounding by a mob and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

"He was a triggerman," Augusta County prosecutor Tim Martin said.

Milan was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Three other defendants, none of them one of the two shooters, were sentenced to four years in prison. Nathaniel A. Villaman, 28, of East Brunswick, New Jersey; Joseph Anthony Paturzo, 52, of the Bronx, New York; and Richard E. West, 53, of Baldwin, New York, all pleaded guilty to malicious wounding by a mob.

The second shooter is alleged to be Dominick J. Eadicicco, 48, of Staten Island, New York. He is scheduled for trial March 18.

Martin said he was pleased with the guilty verdicts, and noted: The shooting victim was not cooperating with authorities and wouldn't be a witness at trial.

Motions in the case were scheduled to be heard Tuesday before the plea deals were reached.

Two other Hells Angels members who were not charged in the attack face drug and gun charges.

Earlier evidence showed ambush

Motel video surveillance viewed at an earlier bond hearing in October showed five Hells Angels were lying in wait after two members of the rival Pagans Motorcycle Club were spotted across the street at the Pilot Travel Center during the early-morning hours of Sept. 10.

Roughly 90 minutes later, shortly before 3 a.m. as the two Pagans pulled into the motel parking lot on their motorcycles, an ambush was unleashed, video evidence showed.

One of the Pagans was shot, the other knocked off his motorcycle and beaten with a hammer.

Prior to the shooting, after the two Pagans were seen at the travel center, one of the motorcycle club members rousted four others from their rooms at the Hometown Inn, which is near Greenville.

After the men took off their Hells Angels gear and changed into different clothing, one of the Hells Angels kept close tabs on the Pagans across the street with binoculars. Another was seen holding an iPad in their direction as he presumably filmed them, video evidence showed. Other Hells Angels club members were nearby.

When the Pagans went to the Hometown Inn, the clerk, unaware there were now rival gang members registered at the motel, gave them a room next to one of three rooms rented by the Hells Angels, according to evidence.

As the Pagans pulled up to their room, one following the other, the second rider was knocked off his motorcycle as it was still moving. The rider in front wiped out as he attempted to escape the ambush, skidding his bike to the ground. As he ran, two Hells Angels opened fire on him, video showed. An investigator testified four to five gunshots were fired.

The victim was struck once in the lower left side of his back. He survived the shooting and was released from the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville after a week-long stay, according to testimony.

The beating victim was not seriously injured.

Both victims were members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club out of southern Virginia, the sheriff's office said.

Seven suspects were arrested at the scene. Two guns and a shell casing were recovered at the motel by investigators.

At a press conference held after the shooting, Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith said both groups were passing through the area following an unidentified convention.

SOURCE: News Leader

Hells Angel MC member arrested after car ramming

Franklin, Indiana (January 28, 2019) BTN – About 57 pounds of marijuana were found in a Franklin home early Saturday morning after police were called to the neighborhood because a vehicle was repeatedly ramming a parked car in a driveway.

The incident, which got the attention of neighbors and required the SWAT team come to the scene, unfolded in the Franklin Lakes neighborhood off U.S. 31 beginning at 2 a.m. Saturday. A resident called police to report that someone was repeatedly ramming a vehicle parked in a neighbor’s driveway, and the parked vehicle was eventually forced into the garage, damaging motorcycles that were parked inside, a Franklin Police Department report said.

After an hours-long incident, including getting a search warrant, police arrested Jamie Ray Harper on four felony charges — dealing marijuana, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance and possession of a restricted drug injection device, as well as a misdemeanor charge of possession of paraphernalia.

Another resident, Christopher P. Tinney, 46, was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia, both misdemeanors.

Police saw the damaged garage door and could smell marijuana, the report said.

Harper is known to police as a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, and the Johnson County SWAT team was called to the home as a safety precaution, the report said.

Police searched the home and found four large vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana. Together, they weighed 57 pounds, the report said. A glass pipe, scales, plastic baggies, syringes, vials labeled as testosterone and methamphetamine were also found in the home.

Harper was released from the Johnson County jail on $7,000 bond. Tinney, of Edinburgh, was held on $2,000 bond.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Loners MC clubhouse have some concerned

Cornwall, Ontario (January 26, 2019) BTN – There may be at least one motorcycle club that has quietly set up a clubhouse in Cornwall, in the heart of Le Village.

According to the building’s owner Wolfe Vracar, the Loners Motorcycle Club moved into its current location in the basement of a building on Montreal Road just over a year ago, in December of 2017.

A few motorcycles parked outside the door believed to be leased by the Loners MC in Cornwall, Ont. 

Originally founded in Ontario decades ago, the Loners is a one-percenter club and advertises the fact by including a “1%” symbol alongside its main patch. Other clubs that claim to be one percenters include the Hells Angles, Satan’s Choice, the Lobos among many others.

“The term one percenter derives from the belief that the remaining 99 per cent (of motorcycle riders) are law-abiding citizens,” explained Cornwall Community Police Service Staff Sgt. Rob Archambault, of the criminal investigation division.

A local news source began investigating the possibility of a Loners MC clubhouse in Cornwall after being told by another tenant in the building who has since moved out. That tenant said the Loners’ presence downstairs was the reason for the departure. 

The new source also spoke to some of the residential tenants of the building, who said they didn’t know much about the motorcycle club in the basement other than the fact they could be very noisy.

Vracar acknowledged he had rented the basement to the Loners MC.

When asked why he was comfortable having a one-percenter club as a tenant, Vracar said he tries not to prejudge people, and noted they have been good tenants for the past year. He refuted the concerns of his former tenant, saying he believed that tenant left for business reasons.

“I could put them out any time that I want, but they have been very respectful and there haven’t been any issues of any kind. I don’t paint anybody black until they do it themselves,” said Vracar.

On Wednesday, someone answered the door to the basement unit said to be leased by the Loners. He confirmed he was a club member, but said he did not know where the person who signed the lease was or when that person would return to the clubhouse.

He was also asked to pass along an interview request. Word of Vracar’s tenants came up as CCPS was increasing its enforcement efforts and officer training to deal with motorcycle clubs as part of a new initiative that has been dubbed “Project One Percent.”

In late November, the CCPS received a nearly $100,000 from the provincial government’s Civil Remedies Grant Program to help fund Project One Percent in Cornwall. The official description of the initiative’s goal was to “help to decrease outlaw motorcycle gang activity.”

“We are using this money for a variety of different things within the service and within the community,” said Archambault. “We are going to provide training to our officers in recognizing different criminal elements, we will also be reaching out to our community and business partners in the community to provide them with the ability to observe, notice and report criminal activity. ”

When asked outright if the CCPS was aware of any one per cent motorcycle club in Cornwall, including the Loners’ possible presence on Montreal Road, Archambault would not comment on any specifics, but said CCPS is aware of the presence of biker gangs in the city.

“We are aware of many possible locations where motorcycle gangs might be frequenting, but we are not at liberty to say what the locations are that we suspect,” he said, explaining that to share any detailed information or confirm knowledge of a specific club could jeopardize any investigations that might currently be underway.

Archambault said motorcycle clubs can be involved in the same illicit activities that other organized crime groups are. This includes smuggling everything from drugs to humans, which is a prominent issue in Cornwall.

“In Cornwall, we suspect the main source of their criminal activity is likely drug trafficking,” he said.

The CCPS’ street crime unit has the issue well in-hand, said Archambault, and there’s no reason for the public to be worried. But the police are encouraging anyone who does see something suspicious or concerning to call and tell them about it.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Member of Pagan's MC found dead

Spring Hill, Florida (January 17, 2019) BTN – Pasco County sheriff’s detectives say a documented member of the Pagan's Motorcycle Club was murdered in Spring Hill. His body was discovered in his home's driveway Wednesday morning.

Detectives say 32-year-old James William Earl died of a gunshot wound. His body was discovered in the driveway of 14383 Glenrock Road in Shady Hills.

The sheriff’s office says it’s not known if the murder had anything to do with the Pagan's Motorcycle Club activities. A local leader of the Pagan's, Glenn Buzze, wouldn’t appear on camera but said he was saddened by Earl’s death. “My best friend was murdered,” said Buzze.

He said Earl was a Navy veteran and got engaged on Christmas Eve. Buzze said he doesn’t know why someone would kill Earl.

Neighbors we spoke with told us there is known drug activity in the neighborhood and they often hear gunshots in the night.

“When I hear the guns my grandchildren run in the house because i tell them to come in when they hear the guns. You never know where the bullets going to go,” said a neighbor who didn’t want us to use her name or show her face. So far the sheriff’s office hasn’t named any suspects as the investigation continues.


Witness says he hired Hells Angels MC for hit

Vancouver, B.C. (January 16, 2019) BTN – A key government witness at the trial of Mexican Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman testified in New York this week that he met with Canadian Hells Angels on behalf of the cartel to arrange the hit of a drug dealer.

The witness, Guzman’s former right-hand man Alex Cifuentes, said the hit on the dealer was never completed, according to the New York Times and other media outlets covering the trial. Cifuentes, a Colombian, provided no details of who in the motorcycle club he contacted.

Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, of the anti-gang Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said Wednesday that the testimony about a link between Canadian Hells Angels and Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel is not startling news to law enforcement.

“It is no surprise that this information is coming to light, as the arms of the Hells Angels, especially Canadian Hells Angels, are far-reaching locally, nationally, and internationally,” Winpenny said. “The scope of their criminal involvement in the drug trade and other ventures is global and, as we’ve seen time and time again, there is almost always violence associated to it.”

In his 2018 book Hunting El Chapo, former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Andrew Hogan described Guzman’s deep links to Canada and B.C. in particular.

Hogan said Sinaloa cocaine would be moved across the Arizona border and up to the Washington-B.C. border “where the loads would be thrown on private helicopters. The birds would jump the border and drop the coke out among the tall lodgepole pines of British Columbia.”

In this Jan. 19, 2017 photo, authorities escort Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, center, from a plane to a waiting caravan of SUVs at Long Island MacArthur Airport, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

“Chapo’s men had connections with sophisticated Iranian organized-crime gangs in Canada,” Hogan wrote. “A network of outlaw bikers — primarily Hells Angels — were also moving his cocaine overland and selling it to retail dealers throughout the country.”

Hogan also said he and the other officers working on the special task force to capture Guzman “were caught off guard by his deep infiltration of Canada.”

He noted that Guzman had a young Sinaloa man set up as a college student in Vancouver in about 2009 “to run his drug distribution and money collection throughout Canada.”

The Vancouver Sun reported on some of Guzman’s cartel connections in B.C. in 2014. His cartel contacts in Metro Vancouver were dropping off hockey bags stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars destined for Guzman’s U.S. bank accounts. 

One of the B.C. men later convicted in California in the Sinaloa case was connected to Montreal’s West End gang and some B.C. Hells Angels, according to court documents obtained at the time.

Former RCMP Supt. Pat Fogarty said Wednesday that the Hells Angels had “a continuous working relationship” with other Canadian organized crime groups and with Mexican and other cartels.

Through their connections, the groups “facilitated the transport, distribution and financial requirements for cocaine distribution in Canada,” said Fogarty, now CEO of the Fathom Research Group.

Hells Angels spokesman Rick Ciarniello did not respond to a request for a comment on the testimony at the Guzman trial.

SOURCE: Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Murder trial begins for Kinfolk MC member

El Paso, Texas  (January 15, 2019) — A murder trial began Tuesday morning in a deadly motorcycle club shooting that killed an El Paso chapter president of the Bandidos.

Javier Gonzalez, a reputed member of the Kinfolk Motorcycle Club, is on trial in 34th District Court on organized crime and murder charges.

Gonzalez is accused of opening fire during a biker fight inside Mulligan's Chopped Hog bar on George Dieter Drive on July 30, 2017.

Juan Martinez Jr., the 61-year-old president of an El Paso chapter of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, was shot and later died at a hospital. Three other men were also shot.

Martinez, nicknamed "Compa," had been described by friends as a kindhearted businessman. He was owner of J. Martinez and Associates, an accredited disability representative firm that helps clients get Social Security benefits.

Jurors saw a video of a deadly 2017 El Paso biker bar brawl Tuesday, the first day of a murder trial in a shooting that killed a local chapter president of the Bandidos. The shooting was part of a club rivalry between the long-established Bandidos Motorcycle Club and the newer Kinfolk Motorcycle Club, according to court testimony.

Javier Gonzalez, a reputed member of the Kinfolk, faces organized crime and murder charges in trial that is being conducted under increased security at the El Paso County Courthouse. Bags were scanned and spectators had to pass a second set of metal detectors before entering the 34th District courtroom of Judge William E. Moody.

Gonzalez is accused of opening fire during a fight inside Mulligan's Chopped Hog bar on George Dieter Drive on the night of July 30, 2017. Juan Martinez Jr., the 61-year-old president of an El Paso chapter of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, was shot several times and later died at a hospital.

Martinez — nicknamed "Compa," short for "Compadre" — was owner of J. Martinez and Associates, an accredited disability representative firm that helps clients get Social Security benefits. Bandidos members Ballardo Salcido and Daniel Villalobos and Juan Miguel Vega-Rivera, vice president of the Organized Chaos MC, which police describe as a Bandidos support club, also were shot.

"This case isn't about the Kinfolk versus the Bandidos. It's really about the law against violence and murder," state prosecutor Rebecca Tarango said in court. Gonzalez's lawyers, Dolph Quijano Jr. and Omar Carmona, suggested that Gonzalez fired in defense of Kinfolk members being beaten during a fight.

"Can gang members be victims of crime? Yes. Can gang members defend themselves? Yes," Carmona said during opening statements.

Bar brawl video

El Paso police gang investigator Francisco "Frank" Balderrama testified that the confrontation was filmed by several security cameras at Mulligan's Chopped Hog, a known Bandidos hangout. Prior to the shooting, photos presented in court showed that Gonzalez, Manuel "Manny" Gallegos, Derek Mercado and other Kinfolk members were nearby at Jack's Beach House bar on Montwood Drive.

The Bandidos were at Mulligan's Chopped Hog after a motorcycle run when Gallegos and Mercado showed up. Gallegos was a former Bandido. Mercado was filmed making a phone call outside, which investigators later traced to Gonzalez, Balderrama said. The video showed Gallegos and Mercado order a beer and soon being confronted by seven to eight Bandidos. Gallegos allegedly punched Martinez, and "then it was on," Tarango said.

The video showed a melee, with bikers fighting between bar tables, punches flying, a biker picking up a bar stool and Kinfolk motorcycles arriving outside. Other Kinfolk then enter the bar, including a Kinfolk biker wearing a helmet who opens fire with a gun. Several men fall to the floor and a man is dragged out of the bar.

"There are eight people beating the crap out of two Kinfolk," Quijano said during cross-examination of Balderrama, mentioning that the Bandidos' violent reputation is an issue in the trial.

Police investigators allegedly found Gonzalez's motorcycle left behind at the scene.

They also found the helmet, which allegedly had DNA evidence linked to Gonzalez, and a gun found in the backyard of a home day care, Tarango said.

Gonzalez was arrested three days later at his parent's home by the Gang Unit and SWAT team, with help from other law enforcement agencies, police said.

Gallegos was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity-assault for his alleged role in the bar fight, police previously have said.

Kinfolk MC
There are three major motorcycle clubs in El Paso — the Bandidos, which have been in the city for more than 50 years; the Kinfolk, which began in 2016; and the Mongols, a recent arrival, Balderrama said. The Kinfolk MC was established by former Bandidos unhappy with the leadership of their former club, Balderrama said.

The Kinfolk have at least 15 members in El Paso and use the colors black and gray, and its emblem is a cowboy holding a gun behind his back, Balderrama said. The Bandidos, with their Mexican bandit logo, have been around since the 1960s and are one of the world's most infamous motorcycle clubs, with chapters around the globe.

The Kinfolk and Bandidos are considered "1 percenter" clubs — what law enforcement term outlaw motorcycle gangs. "They only believe in the laws they want to obey," Balderrama said.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Legislation takes aim at asset forfeiture practices

Waco, Texas (January 12, 2019) BTN – The 18-year-old was driving his flashy new Dodge Charger through a Waco suburban community when he saw the unmistakable lights of a police car behind him. He was nervous as he pulled over because he had a little weed on him. The officer was aggressive, and the man’s small marijuana stash quickly was discovered. The officer asked him about his shiny ride.

More specifically, the officer asked if the Charger was paid for, a clear sign to the young man’s lawyer that the officer was searching for a way to bump what otherwise would have been a minor infraction up to a felony. After learning the car indeed was paid for, the officer charged the man with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver in a drug-free zone, despite the fact that he had far less than an ounce of marijuana for his personal use.

Waco attorney Cody Cleveland has had at least five clients who went through that or similar scenarios in at least two Waco suburbs in the past five years. He declined to identify the cities.

“Cops are very aware of the civil asset forfeiture law,” Cleveland said. “It’s not that common, but there are a few officers in my experience who would do everything he could to get his hands on your car or motorcycle, especially if they knew it was paid off. They want assets that are free and clear so they can turn around and auction them off, but they can’t do that unless it’s a felony.

“I have had what I consider some pretty damn shady experiences with local law enforcement in that regard,” Cleveland said. “I’m like most people. I don’t want to see an abuse of the law. I don’t want a law enforcement officer to just make a criminal case so they can line their pockets, so to speak, for financial gain.”

Law enforcement agencies support civil asset forfeiture and see it as a valuable weapon by turning criminals’ ill-gotten gains against them to fight crime. Police agencies can seize cash, cars, boats, motorcycles, planes and other items in civil lawsuits if they can prove the items were obtained through illicit means, such as dealing drugs.

However, headline-grabbing abuses of the forfeiture system in recent years have prompted legislative attempts to curb the practice, though they have not succeeded. Also, a pending U.S. Supreme Court case could have a major impact on law enforcement’s ability to turn the proceeds of crime into crime-fighting cash through the forfeiture process.

Luckily for his client, Cleveland said, the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office served as a checks-and-balances system, making common-sense decisions to prevent such abuses.

“They did right by my client,” Cleveland said. “It didn’t take a lot of tooth-pulling. They said they were not playing that game and they released the car back to him. The DA’s office is supposed to be the gatekeeper, and so far, they have been pretty reasonable.”

$50 million in seizures

In civil asset forfeiture cases, police agencies team with prosecutors’ offices, who file the lawsuits and then split the proceeds with the agencies after judgments are entered.

Last year in Texas, law enforcement agencies and DA offices forfeited more than $50 million in cash, vehicles and other property allegedly linked to crime, according to a report by the Texas Tribune. That includes property under both criminal and civil forfeitures. Criminal forfeitures require a conviction before assets can be taken. Civil forfeiture cases do not.

Cleveland’s experiences with the local DA’s office were under District Attorney Abel Reyna. Reyna was replaced this month by Barry Johnson. Tom Needham, Johnson’s executive district attorney, said Johnson has just started his tenure and has not had a chance to review office policies for civil asset forfeitures.

“We are aware of the potential for abuse,” Needham said. “We feel it is a good statute and a good program to remove the fruits of crime from criminals and from criminal activity. But we recognize the potential for abuse if not handled ethically and conscientiously.

“At this point, we have just gotten into office and have not yet reviewed current policies and procedures for civil forfeitures, but we will be doing so and will ensure that they are being handled in the manner intended in the statute to promote justice.”

In the past four years under the Reyna administration, the DA’s office has averaged seizing about $250,000 in cash and property annually, according to records kept by the county auditor’s office. The DA’s office forfeiture fund balance in that time period has averaged about $550,000, and Reyna averaged spending about $100,000 each year using proceeds from the fund.

Records show the DA’s office spent forfeited funds on equipment, travel, training, investigative costs and crime prevention programs.

During the time period, an average of 75 vehicles a year were seized with the intent to sell them at auction and use the proceeds for law enforcement, or in some cases, use the vehicles for police duties.

Twin Peaks

Motorcycles seized after the Twin Peaks ambush May 17, 2015, sit on a trailer outside the restaurant. Much of the seized property has been returned. Since most of the criminal cases have been dismissed, much of the property seized that day has been returned.

After the 2015 biker ambush by law enforcement at Twin Peaks in Waco, Reyna orchestrated the arrests of about 200 bikers, sought indictments against 155 of them and filed civil forfeiture proceedings against 16 motorcycles, eight pickups and two SUVs.

The criminal cases and forfeiture cases languished for three years before Reyna, during and after the hotly contested re-election bid that led to his defeat by 20 percentage points, dismissed the vast majority of criminal cases as well as the forfeiture cases.

During that time, some of the bikes and vehicles were returned to their owners, while others were repossessed after lien holders learned the vehicles were at Twin Peaks.

Dallas attorney Brian Bouffard represented Jorge Salinas in the Twin Peaks case. Salinas, a Cossack from Lometa, walked away from his motorcycle, an older model, after it was seized because it was too expensive and too much trouble to try to get it back, Bouffard said.

Bouffard called the seizures in the Twin Peaks cases a “prime example” that reform is needed.

“The civil asset forfeiture program is about the most unconstitutional thing I can imagine,” he said. “The government can take all your stuff on a mere allegation of misconduct. In my opinion, there is no good argument to be made for the idea that just because someone is accused of a crime that the government ought to be able to steal their property.

“I think the legislative intent was to allow it to happen only on a conviction. I still have a problem with that, but I have much less of a problem with that than the way things are now. It has been nothing more than a cash grab for counties. Apparently, they don’t make enough money fleecing citizens with traffic tickets. They also have to take their property merely by a police officer thinking something happened.”

‘Tool for law enforcement’
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara and Waco Police Chief Ryan Holt both said their agencies are enhanced by profits derived through the forfeiture process.

“It’s an unbelievable tool for law enforcement,” McNamara said. “We are very mindful that there have been abuses, but we are very careful to follow the letter of the law on this. The best way of stripping drug dealers of their power is you hit them in the pocketbook. It is a way of hitting the drug dealer below the belt.”

McNamara said his department has used seized funds to buy a $50,000 search and rescue boat, to pay for training and important life-saving vests for his deputies and to upgrade other equipment.

“We use that boat to search for bodies, and it didn’t cost the county taxpayers a dime,” McNamara said. “We are very conscious of that. We are very serious about keeping the taxpayers from footing all the bills, and the forfeiture program is part of that effort.”

Holt said the police department has $236,145 in its state forfeiture account and $59,615 in its account from federal court forfeitures. The department has used those funds for travel and training for officers, office furniture, special body armor, radios and expenses related to its K-9 program.

“I certainly understand the criticism of what has been done in some locations,” Holt said. “But I don’t think it is right to use a shotgun approach to punish everybody because a few folks can’t follow the rules.

“I think it would probably be good if there was some clarification in the process that allowed you to wait for the criminal case to move forward or at least get a disposition. I think that would help potentially resolve some of the criticism of the process. But more than anything, people need to follow the rules of the programs.”

Calls for reform

Notable cases that brought attention to the program, and brought lawsuits and calls for reform, include a district attorney in Southeast Texas who bought a margarita machine with seized assets, a former DA in the Hill Country who used the money to pay for a trip to Hawaii, and a South Texas DA who pleaded guilty to misusing funds to pay bonuses to three secretaries and $81,000 to himself.

Officers in Tenaha drew a negative spotlight after it was alleged they committed “highway robbery” by extorting cash from drivers, mostly minorities, by threatening to jail them or remove their children if they did not sign waivers allowing them to seize their property without court intervention.

Holt likened those extreme cases to abuses by drug task force members in Tulia.

“After that, they cut funding for task forces and they all shriveled up and went away,” Holt said. “I think that is the tendency of some lawmakers is that they try to make a simple answer to a complex question, and this issue can be resolved through clarification of the current statutes.”

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mongols MC lose federal case against patch

Santa Ana, California, (January 11, 2019) BTN — A California jury decided Friday that the Mongols motorcycle club should be stripped of its trademarked logo in a first-of-its-kind verdict, federal prosecutors said. The jury in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana jury previously found Mongol Nation, the entity that owns the image of a Mongol warrior on a chopper, guilty of racketeering and conspiracy.

The verdict caps an unusual decade-long quest by prosecutors to dismantle the gang responsible for drug dealing and murder by seizing control of the trademark they said was core to the clubs's identity. Club members were "empowered by these symbols that they wear like armor," Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Welk argued. Attorney Joseph Yanny had argued that the organization didn't tolerate criminal activity and kicked out bad members.

Related | Jury ready to decide Mongols MC fate over patch
He said the government targeted the group because of its large Mexican-American population and had attributed crimes of some into a "group conviction." "These are ordinary people," Yanny said. "They are hardworking people. You don't see the Hells Angels here." But jurors found the Mongols were a criminal enterprise responsible for murder, attempted murder and drug dealing.

In addition to the logos, the jury found Friday that the government could keep various items bearing the mark, including vests, clothing and documents such as the Mongols’ constitution — as well as a number of guns, ammunition and armored vests it had seized in earlier raids against the group. But the jury denied forfeiture rights for belt buckles, jewelry, lighters, bandannas, stickers, and motorcycle parts — apparently unable to find the “required nexus” between the items and the group’s criminal activity. Friday’s verdict confounded Mongols members and their lawyers.

Stephen Stubbs, the club’s general counsel, described the outcome as “very strange” because the jury did not find the logo forfeitable on the count of racketeering, but did so on the racketeering conspiracy count. “How can we make sense out of that?” Mr. Stubbs said, adding that it appeared to be a compromise verdict, one agreed upon so the jury could go home after long days of deliberations. “So, we continue to fight so that Americans can’t be banned by the government from wearing symbols.”

The effort to take the logo followed the convictions of 77 club members on racketeering charges in 2008. The convictions were the result of an investigation in which four male agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives infiltrated the club and four female agents posed as their girlfriends.

SOURCE: New York Times

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Cop who pulled gun on Hells Angel MC member sentenced

Willoughby, Ohio (January 10, 2019) BTN — A judge on Thursday sentenced a fired Euclid police officer to five days in jail for pulling a gun during a bar fight with suspected members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club. Todd Gauntner, 32, previously pleaded guilty to using weapons while intoxicated, a first-degree misdemeanor, during an Aug. 24, 2017 incident at a Willoughby bar.

Willoughby Municipal Court Judge Marisa Cornachio sentenced Gauntner to 180 days in prison, but she suspended 175 days. She also sentenced him to one year on probation, and barred him from possessing a gun during that period, according to court records.

Related | Guilty: Cop pulled gun on Hells Angels members
Gauntner will report to jail Friday morning, court records say.

His attorney, Spiros Gonakis Jr., could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon. Gauntner fought with two suspected member of the Hells Angels at Frank and Tony’s Place on 2nd Street near Clark Avenue in Willoughby, according to police reports.

Gauntner pulled out a gun and held it to one of the men’s head, police said. The trio also fought in the bar and broke several bottles.

Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail fired Gauntner on Sept. 17, saying in her resignation letter that he “put [himself] and many bar patrons at a significant risk of substantial harm due to [his] reckless behavior.” The other two men involved in the bar fight -- Bradley Peterson, 40, and Dustin Wolf, 28 – each pleaded guilty to aggravated disorderly conduct. Both men were fined $200 and given 30-day jail sentences that were suspended.

Gauntner was a four-year veteran of the Euclid Police Department who was once honored for saving the life of a man shot 16 times. He is also a U.S. Marine Corps. Veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

The bar fight was the second time Gauntner was charged with a crime involving a gun. He previously pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm while he was off-duty on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2015, in Sims Park in Euclid. In that case, he told investigators he was grieving the death of a family member. A witness reported that Gauntner was “blowing off steam” by shooting into Lake Erie.

A Euclid Municipal Court judge ordered him to pay a $235 fine and to attend counseling in that case. The Euclid Police Department also suspended him for 90 days following the incident.

SOURCE: Cleveland.com

Outlaws MC murder adds to Tampa's biker history

Tampa, Florida (January 10, 2019) BTN – Court documents that were recently made public revealed shocking facts about the 2017 assassination of Pasco Outlaws motorcycle club leader Paul Anderson, who was shot by rival club members on motorcycles in rush hour traffic.

The execution-style killing put law enforcement on high alert that a motorcycle club war was brewing. It also led to numerous arrests. Some of the cases are inching toward trial.

While motorcycle clubs are far from their heyday, they’re still around in the Tampa Bay area. Many may not realize it, but motorcycle clubs actually have a long and dark history in Tampa Bay that includes everything from from prostitution and murders to a shootout with deputies at their old Tampa clubhouse near Busch Gardens.

Who are the Outlaws?
The Outlaws, or American Outlaw Association,  are the dominant outlaw motorcycle club in Florida, and one of the “Big Four” biker clubs in the United States (the others are Hells Angels, the Pagans and the Bandidos). They are classified as a violent gang by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Biker culture started to emerge after World War II. The Outlaws formed in Chicago in 1959 and now have chapters in over two dozen countries. Most of the members can be found throughout the United States, Germany, Australia and England. 

Florida has been home to various Outlaw chapters since the 1960's, and the club has been active in Tampa as early as the ’70s.  The most well-documented Outlaw activity in the state has taken place in Key West and other parts of South Florida.

Outlaws are identified by “Charlie,” the red and black logo of a skull over crossed pistons, which appears on member’s uniforms.

To be initiated a patched member, prospective Outlaws must go through a probation period that includes coming to meetings, also known as attending church.

According to Times archives, the logo is protected “like a valuable trademark.” One Florida-based member, Stephen Lemunyon, was even accused of beating a man nearly to death for falsely claiming association with the logo.

Club membership is limited to men who ride cruiser-stye motorcycles with engines of 1,000 ccs or more, such as Harley- Davidson.

Women are seen as property. Outlaws have been known to trade female supporters for items like drugs and force them into prostitution or topless dancing.

The club’s motto is “God forgives, Outlaws don’t.”

Murders, shootouts, firebombings: A history of the Outlaws in Tampa Bay

Outlaws were suspects in dozens of murder cases throughout the state in the ’70's and ’80's. But members of the club were skilled in quieting witnesses, and for decades law enforcement struggled to pin charges on them.

In the 1990's, federal prosecutors concocted a plan to wipe out the club for good. Instead of trying to nail down individuals for specific crimes, prosecutors said the Outlaws' crimes, such as murder and extortion, were “part of an ongoing criminal conspiracy.” This led to several successful convictions. But the goal to exterminate the Outlaws failed over and over again — the club is still present in the area.

Some notable moments from the Outlaws' history in Tampa Bay:

In 1976, law enforcement stopped by the club’s Tampa headquarters, located about two miles west of Busch Gardens, with a narcotics search warrant. The visit ended with a shootout. Three Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies and one Outlaw were shot, and one of the deputies was left paralyzed.

In 1983 and 1988, dozens of club leaders were convicted in Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale. One was indicted in 1989 for “threatening to skin the tattoo off the arm of a rival biker," while another allegedly disemboweled a person who cooperated with police and threw the corpse into a lake. Though these busts gutted Outlaw membership, the club maintained active chapters in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Daytona Beach.

From 1995 to 1997, several cases made Tampa the “epicenter of Outlaws prosecution,” the Associated Press reported. Federal prosecutors won convictions or guilty pleas from 30 Outlaws from Tampa Bay and South Florida. At least 20 were convicted on charges of racketeering, drugs and weapons charges from ’95 to ’97. During the trial at the end of 1997, prosecutors took aim at the regional leaders of the club to try to eliminate it.

“They’re like cancer," said Terry Katz of the Maryland State Police in 1995. “If there are any cells left, it will come back, and regenerate.”

In 1995, Florida had six Outlaws chapters -- the most out of any state. Sixteen Outlaws from the Tampa, St. Pete and Daytona Beach chapters were arrested on charges including racketeering, kidnapping, possessing illegal weapons, running drugs and firebombing a rival club’s clubhouses.

The list of accusations was long and colorful: Jeffery “Big Jeff” Hal Sprinkle was accused of purchasing a 15-year-old girl “to be his personal property.” Tampa Outlaws president Edgar “Troll” Ruof was accused of shooting a man in the head in North Carolina 20 years prior. Other Outlaws allegedly hired members of the Bandidos motorcycle club to kill a Tampa police officer.

According to the Times archives, the 1995 federal trial in Tampa was one of the most important prosecutions of a biker club in the country. By the end, a federal jury convicted 14 of 16 members.

In 1996, authorities carried out Operation Silverspoke and Shovelhead and arrested seven Outlaws on accusations that they were running a 16-year crime scheme. The members were arrested on an 18-count federal indictment aimed at taking out the upper ranks of the club. Authorities accused the Outlaws of eight murders, three bombings and 17 drug charges.

St. Petersburg-based Outlaw Christopher Maiale was targeted for distributing meth and extortion for threats against two people. After the arrests, U.S. Attorney Charles Wilson said, “We think this eliminates the Outlaw club as a significant threat to Florida.”

In 1997, four Outlaws went on trial: Maiale, then 36; former Tampa Outlaws president Clarence “Smitty" Smith, then 53, of Lighthouse Point; James Evan “Pinball” Agnew, then 45, of Hollywood; and Bobby “Breeze” Mann, of West Palm Beach. By November, the government had spent nearly $250,000 bringing the case against the Outlaws. The prosecution resulted in four convictions.

In 2001, international Outlaws leader Harry “Taco” Bowman received two life sentences plus 83 years in a federal trial in Tampa, toppling his 20-year reign of absolute power. Bowman became one of the top national and international leaders of the club in the ‘80's. He was indicted in 1997 and remained on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for two years. Authorities tracked him down while he was visiting family in Detroit in 1999.

Former Outlaws testified against Bowman in exchange for lighter sentences. A stream of tattooed bikers admitted to blowing up rival clubhouses and throwing delinquent club members off of motel balconies. By the end, jurors found Bowman guilty of using clubhouses in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach for gang activities. The list of crimes includes fire bombings, drug trafficking, ordering killings of rival club members, and the transfer of firearms including machine guns and silencers.

In 2003, Bowman’s successor, James Lee “Frank” Wheeler, was convicted in U.S. district court in Tampa. He was the second international Outlaws president to be convicted in Tampa. Wheeler got 16 1/2 years for racketeering, drug distribution and obstruction of justice. Wheeler’s criminal record stretches back to 1967. Once again, prosecutors cut deals with former Outlaws in exchange for information that could be used to put the leader away.

In 2015, a violent shootout involving cops and at least six clubs in Waco, Texas, left nine bikers dead in a strip mall parking lot and resulted in the arrest of 177 members. The slayings prompted Tampa Bay Times criminal justice reporter Dan Sullivan to investigate motorcycle gang culture in Tampa Bay. He found that biker gangs are still dangerous and widespread in Florida, though the clubs became more secretive after all of the public attention they received in previous decades. An expert on biker gangs estimated that Florida had probably 800-1,000 members. Many have day jobs, from operating strip clubs to practicing medicine or law.

In September 2016, a bar fight broke out in Key West. About 15 Outlaws members were suspected, including Hillsborough fire rescue medic Clinton Neal Walker, then 33, of Bradenton.

Walker was arrested and placed on paid administrative leave, but his actions sparked a series of countywide ordinances that prohibited Hillsborough County employees from participating in motorcycle clubs or other gang activity. In a memo, county administrator Mike Merrill said being a member of a criminal organization was “contrary to the mission of public service.”

Walker had already been placed on administrative leave three months prior to the Key West fight -- he had joined in another bar fight in May and brawled with a St. Petersburg police officer.

After the new ordinances were in place, he became the first county employee to be investigated for gang activity.

In January 2018, Walker was fired after an internal investigation revealed he had worn his firefighter uniform while off-duty in order to help another club member, James Costa, who was shot while riding his bike in July 2017.

Costa was president of the St. Petersburg Outlaws and had recently retired as a Hillsborough County Fire Rescue captain after the media publicized his ties to the Outlaws.

December 2017: While idling in his truck at a red light during rush hour, Cross Bayou Outlaws chapter leader Paul Anderson was executed by members of a rival gang.

Three members of the 69ers Motorcycle club were arrested on charges of first-degree murder. According to Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, Allan “Big Bee” Guinto had been tracking Anderson in a scout vehicle, while Christopher Brian “Durty” Cosimano and Michael Dominick “Pumpkin” Mencher followed on motorcycles. Anderson sat in his vehicle near the Suncoast Parkway and State 54 interchange.

Related Outlaws MC President was killed over club colors
Cosimano knocked on the truck window to get his attention before shooting Anderson, deputies said. After the arrests, Nocco said he worried that a war could erupt between the clubs. “There’s no doubt in my mind there’s going to be more violence because of this,” Nocco said.

Thousands of bikers showed up for a funeral procession to honor Anderson.

The three 69ers are still in jail. Two others, Erick “Big E” Robinson, and Cody “Little Savage” Wesling, were also indicted. If found guilty, each man would face up to life in prison, Dan Sullivan reported.

The court documents that were recently released showed that the killing was prompted by a fight at a local brewery between Outlaws and members of the 69′ers -- who identify their local group as the “Killsborough” Chapter. The 69′ers were particularly upset because the Outlaws had stolen some of their uniforms during the fight.

First, the documents state, the 69′ers tried to assassinate an Outlaws leader by shooting Costa as he drove his Harley across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. He was able to escape. Weeks later, the Outlaws clubhouse in St. Petersburg was destroyed in a fire that the 69′ers are suspected of setting.

Several months later, Anderson was shot and killed.

Times senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Police raids linked to the Hells Angels MC

Montreal, Canada (January 9, 2019) BTN – More than 150 police officers were mobilized early Wednesday morning in a series of raids in eastern Quebec and New Brunswick.

The operation targeted a suspected drug-trafficking ring that police say is directly linked to high-ranking members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club.

Investigators from the Sûreté du Québec’s anti-organized crime unit carried out 35 searches, police said. However, no arrests were made. Police say the drug-trafficking network is particularly active in the Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspé and Îles-de-la-Madeleine regions.

Ann Mathieu, a SQ spokesperson, said police searched 15 homes, two businesses and 18 vehicles.

In Quebec, searches took place in Longueuil, Brossard, Drummondville, Scott, Ste-Marguerite, Mascouche, Blainville and St-Jérôme.

In New Brunswick, RCMP officers took part in the operation in Edmundston and Ste-Anne-de-Madawaska.

Jury ready to decide Mongols MC fate over patch

Santa Ana, California, (January 9, 2019) BTN — Allowing the government to take control of the Mongols motorcycle club’s prized patches would be a “death sentence” for the organization, an attorney for the motorcycle club argued on Tuesday.  

It is a muscled Genghis Khan-like figure on a chopper, part of a set of patches which members say display their brotherhood with other members.

Unknown Mongols MC members

A jury recently convicted the organization on racketeering and conspiracy charges.

Now that same jury must decide if there is a link between the patches and the racketeering acts. If so, the Mongols must give up what is called their collective membership marks, their patches. The forfeiture would be a penalty for outlaw activity.

Related | Mongols MC found guilty of racketeering
The Mongols did not speak to the media Tuesday while the case was in trial, but days ago they described the significance of the badges.

"It means everything to us. This is a lifestyle, a culture and a way of life," said David Santillan, national president of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.

The Mongols say that the criminal convictions sprang from acts committed a decade ago, under the leadership of a president that the Mongols kicked out themselves .

"If it wasn't sad it would be funny, these things have nothing to do with alleged racketeering," lead Mongols attorney Joe Yanny told the jury.

Retired ATF undercover agent Darrin Kozlowski testified that members were allowed to buy patches or had them awarded according to what they carried out for the club.

Prosecutor Steve Welk told the jury that the marks serve as a unifying symbol for an organization that deals drugs, intimidates, engages in violence and even commits murder.

The Mongols say the racketeering acts and other offenses were committed by bad apples, not the entire membership.

It's a case like none other undertaken by the U.S. government. If the jury finds for the prosecution a separate proceeding will follow to determine whether compelled forfeiture of the patches would violate the Mongols' First Amendment rights.

SOURCE: LA Daily News

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Police arrest Hells Angel MC member during raid

London, Ontario (January 8, 2019) BTN — One person remains on the lam, yet two people were arrested and a slew of items was seized — including drugs and three Hells Angels vests — during police raids in London over the weekend.

Police are still looking for a 27-year-old woman, but made the two arrests and seized the drugs during raids on Saturday morning in London.

Provincial police executed the search warrants with the help of the Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, the Biker Enforcement Unit, London police’s Guns and Drugs Section, and the RCMP.

Between two homes on Wharncliffe Road North and Springmeadow Road and a storage locker on Scanlon Street, officers seized $15,400 worth of cocaine, 12 Percocet pills, two Tasers, brass knuckles, drug packaging, weigh scales, cell phones, cash, and three Hell’s Angels vests.
Sean Burger, a 47-year-old London man and known Hell’s Angel member, has been charged with possession of cocaine and Percocet for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a firearm or ammunition, and possession of a prohibited device. He appeared in court Monday.

Jessica Boloshetshenko, a 33-year-old London woman, has been charged with possession of Percocet and unauthorized possession of a weapon. She’s expected to appear in court Feb. 15.
Police say they continue to search for a 27-year-old woman.

SOURCE: Twitter

Bandidos MC member allegedly threatens cop

St. Marys, New South Wales, Australia (January 8, 2019) BTN — A senior member of the St Marys Bandidos Motorcycle Club has fronted Penrith Court on Monday after he allegedly threatened a St Marys police officer last week.

Police allege the 29-year-old St Clair man went to the St Marys police station on Thursday and threatened one of the officers.

The man was being investigated after Strike Force Raptor detectives raided his home in November of last year and allegedly seized drugs, various prescription medications and a gun safe containing a 12-guage shotgun, ammunition and various documentations.

The raid was part of ongoing operation Strike Force Raptor which served a firearms prohibition order to the then 28-year-old man at a St Clair home on Saturday November 3.