Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ex-cop blasts 'Strike Force Raptor' plan

Moree, New South Wales, Australia (November 27, 2019) BTN — A former Australian detective has ridiculed National's zero-tolerance approach to gangs, saying the strategy has been a "disaster" across the ditch. The opposition party yesterday proposed setting up an elite police squad - modelled on Strike Force Raptor in New South Wales - with the sole purpose of crushing gangs.

National leader Simon Bridges repeatedly described the unit as "devastatingly effective" and referenced media reports which claimed it was driving outlaw bikies into extinction.

But former NSW detective Mike Kennedy told RNZ that was "nonsense" and Mr Bridges was "living a dream" if he believed that. "He needs to pull his head out of whatever it's stuck in because ... [gangs] exist. They're always going to exist. They just go underground. "I'm not a bleeding heart liberal," he said. "But [the zero-tolerance strategy has] just been a disaster."

Dr Kennedy spent much of his time with the police as an undercover officer working in organised crime and is now a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University. He said there was no evidence to suggest that gang numbers had fallen dramatically since the formation of Strike Force Raptor a decade ago. "Outlaw motorcycle gangs are unregulated, so how would you know?" he said. "They're not required to pay a fee ... and register with government. So any suggestion that the numbers are down is just nonsense."

Dr Kennedy said the problem had just been driven underground. "People don't stop being members of groups just because they've been arrested. They go into jail, they reinforce themselves, they come out, [and] they get more of a reason to remain in the group they're in."

Police officers needed a working relationship with communities, including gang members, so they would cooperate with investigations, he said.

"You need this community to trust you so that when things need to be brought into line, the police are able to go in and speak to people and find out who's ... behaving really badly, and who needs to be put in jail," Dr Kennedy said. "If you want those families to help the police ... then you can't just tar them all with the same brush. And that's what Raptor does."

National's law and order discussion document describes Strike Force Raptor as a "proactive, high-impact specialist unit" designed to target outlaw motorcycle gangs and associated criminal enterprises.

The elite military-style unit was set up in 2009 following a deadly clash between the Hells Angels and Comancheros at Sydney Airport. The strike force is designed to punish gang members via all legal avenues, coming after them for any infraction, no matter how minor, from a parking fine to a punch-up.

A Nine News report earlier this year stated Strike Force Raptor had made more than 5000 arrests and laid more than 12,000 charges over the past decade. The unit had also seized 1700 illegal firearms and shut down more than 50 clubhouses, it said.

NSW Police declined to provide RNZ with evidence of Strike Force Raptor's success, saying it was not "appropriate" for it to comment on a matter "out of our jurisdiction". The media team also refused to reveal the size of the unit or its annual operating cost.

Speaking to Morning Report, Mr Bridges promised the party would release figures "in the next little while" which would prove the unit's effectiveness. "We are at this moment, in fact, talking to the government in New South Wales to compile the data."


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Ex-firefighter fights to get job back

Waco, Texas, USA (November 27, 2019) BTN – A Waco firefighter who lost his job in part over his ties to the Bandidos Motorcycle Club is fighting to be reinstated, saying he was unjustly terminated four years ago.

Bill Dudley, a 13-year veteran with the Waco Fire Department, testified in an all-day hearing Tuesday in a third-party arbitration review of his termination in October 2015.

Dudley was arrested during a traffic stop in Tarrant County on May 12, 2015 and charged with unlawfully carrying an unconcealed weapon in his truck. Crowley police ran a safety check on Dudley and found that the Texas Department of Public Safety flagged him as a member of the Bandidos, which DPS classifies as a "criminal street gang."

The arrest occurred five days before a deadly shootout at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco between the Bandidos and rival Cossacks motorcycle club.

"It is my opinion that they used the Twin Peaks (incident) to fire me," Dudley said in the hearing. "I believe they used things outside the statute for punishment. I did not do anything in that traffic stop that showed poor moral character. I did everything the officers asked me."

Dudley, 37, said he was a former member of a support club for the Bandidos and wanted to start a new chapter of the Bandidos near his home in Burleson. He said he was considered a Bandidos recruit for several months, but he left active membership in the clubs after he was injured in a Fort Worth bar shootout involving Bandidos in 2014.

Waco fire Lt. Philip Burnett, president of the Waco Professional Firefighters Association Local 478, sat with Dudley in support during Tuesday's hearing. He said he is a friend of Dudley and said he would have no hesitation serving with Dudley on any call for service with the department.

"The Texas State Association of Firefighters and the Waco Professional Association of Firefighters want to make sure that firefighter Bill Dudley receives all he is entitled to under our Civil Service rights as firefighters pursuant to the Texas local government code," Burnett said.

Arbitrator Thomas Cipolla with American Arbitrator Association oversaw the hearing and heard testimony from city staff, Crowley police, and current Waco firefighters and friends. Attorneys Lu Phan and Antonio Allen represented the city while state-level union representative Rafael Torres represented Dudley during the hearing.

The daylong hearing ended with no action Tuesday evening. Cipolla said attorneys will have the option to submit briefs and allow Cipolla to review the case before he issues a decision to uphold the termination, reduce the disciplinary or dismiss Dudley's claim.

"Today the city presented the facts and findings from the original investigation to the arbitrator," Waco Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Vranich said. "We now will have to wait for the arbitrator to make his decision."

The city presented its claims that Dudley was fired for the Crowley arrest, as well as not obeying rules and regulations; being absent from work without good reason; failing to notify the department within 24 hours of his arrest; using poor judgment that reflects negatively toward the fire department and the city; and demonstrating poor moral character by associating with and/or being a member of a known criminal street gang.

Torres said Dudley was not a member of the motorcycle club, and the city did not have the legal right to terminate him. Torres said the city denied Dudley's due process rights and relied on circumstances outside the scope of a 180-day Civil Service review for disciplinary action.

Those testifying for the city included Vranich, who served as acting fire chief Tuesday, as well as former Waco Fire Chief John Johnston and Crowley police officers. Johnston indefinitely suspended Dudley in October 2015 following a three-month internal affairs review Vranich conducted.

Vranich testified he was unable to determine if Dudley was an active member of the Bandidos. Johnston stated he found cause to fire Dudley for violating city policy, department policy, and Civil Service rules and regulations. He said Dudley did not report his arrest to his supervisor within 24 hours, violating department policy.

He said Dudley used a sick day to get out of work for "personal reasons," but never told anyone about his arrest. "He would have flown under the radar," Johnston said.

Torres claimed the Twin Peaks shootout, which left nine dead and nearly two dozen injured, heightened the department's disciplinary response toward Dudley.

Dudley pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge in 2017 and received deferred adjudication for 24 months in Tarrant County. The plea deal required him to plead guilty to the charge.

The hearing ended late Tuesday afternoon no action. Cipolla said he will likely review the case and briefs submitted by attorneys before coming to his decision in the next few months.

SOURCE: Waco Tribune - Herald

Friday, November 22, 2019

13 charged in Hells Angels clubhouse raid

Denver, Colorado, USA (November 22, 2019) BTN — Thirteen people are accused of running an organized crime ring in Denver. District Attorney Beth McCann charged them following raids on the Denver Charter Hells Angels Club House, two tattoo shops and a business that advertises as specializing in customizing trucks, among others.

The suspects are aged 27 to 81 years old.

Federal agents raided multiple locations around the Denver area earlier this month. Agents say they seized dozens of firearms in addition to methamphetamine, cocaine, cash and passports.

Video captured by neighbor shows about 10 agents and several uniformed officers outside a building in the 3200 Block of Navajo Street, and patrol cars blocking a nearby intersection.
“The Hells Angels just got raided next to us,” a man can be heard saying in one of the video clips. “I haven’t seen a person come out.”

The district attorney’s office say the people accused face charges of assault, kidnapping, robbery, motor vehicle theft and chop shop activity.

Neighbors told CBS4 they heard flash bangs as the agents went into the home but things quieted down fairly quickly after that.

ATF Special Agent David Booth had confirmed that some of the individuals “have ties to motorcycle gangs.” He said at least two motorcycle clubs were involved.

Top row, from left: Jason P. Sellers, Michael J. Dire, Jared B. Orland, Clinton Williams. Middle row, from left: William “Kelly” Henderson, William “Curly” E. Whitney, Justin A. Wright, Peter M. Baron. Bottom row, from left: Dominic P. Robichaud, Adam Mulcahy, Jimmy Salazar, Derek A. Beste

The names of the accused are:

Jason P. Sellers, 44
Michael J. Dire, 74
Jared B. Orland, 47
Clinton Williams, 45
William “Kelly” Henderson, 42
William “Curly” E. Whitney, 81
Justin A. Wright, 35
Peter M. Baron, 30
Dominic Robichaud, 47
Dustin Ullerich, 47
Adam Mulcahy, 27
Jimmy D. Salazar, 44
Derek A. Beste, 30
Jerome J. Guardiola, 35, remains at large

Investigators said raids took place in Denver, the metro area, Colorado Springs, and Weld County. They said the raids were successful but there are still individual agents are working to locate.

Booth said the ATF was involved to coordinate the effort between state and local agencies but would say the specific nature of the crimes being investigated.


Judge rules Vagos MC members will face charges

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (November 22, 2019) BTN — A little more than two months after a major disruption in a federal trial against eight reputed members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club, a federal judge has ruled that the most serious charges of murder and conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise will not be thrown out.

The motion to dismiss the charges surfaced after the government’s star witness — an ousted Vagos member who had been cooperating with authorities and agreed to testify against his former allies — admitted to repeatedly lying on the witness stand in September.

Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick had spent more than three days telling jurors that Vagos members had plotted to kill a rival biker in 2011 in Sparks.

“This was one of the worst witnesses ever put forth in a courtroom,” Jess Marchese, an attorney for one of the eight men on trial, said Thursday. He and attorneys for the remaining defendants had asked U.S. District Chief Judge Gloria Navarro to throw out the murder and racketeering charges due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

Related | Star witness in Vagos MC trial lied
Related | Jury selection begins in Vagos MC case

After more than four hours of arguments Thursday, Navarro agreed with the defense that the case was “a lot weaker than it was in the beginning” but said that she weighed the “totality of the circumstances” when making her decision.

The trial, which began in August and was expected to last through the end of the year, resumes Monday morning.

The charges stem from a racketeering indictment in 2017 against 23 Vagos members arrested in Nevada, Hawaii and California.

Vagos, the Spanish term for “lazy,” is a reference to a vagabond. According to the indictment, the biker gang was formed in San Bernardino, California, in the mid-1960s and has spread to at least seven countries. It is said to have 75 chapters in the United States, 54 of which are in Nevada and California, the states where authorities have said most of the criminal activity occurred.

The eight men on trial — Pastor Fausto Palafox, Albert Lopez, Albert Benjamin Perez, James Patrick Gillespie, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, Bradley Michael Campos, Cesar Vaquera Morales and Diego Chavez Garcia — also face one count of using a firearm to commit murder during and in retaliation to a crime of violence in addition to the murder and conspiracy charges.

The bikers are accused of a laundry list of violent crimes, including the 2011 fatal shooting of a rival Hells Angel club member at the Sparks Nugget hotel-casino — a crime described, at the time, as part of a broader criminal conspiracy that involved a coordinated cover-up and threats of retaliation against club members who cooperated with law enforcement.

Thirteen more defendants are awaiting trial in a case that prosecutors allege involves Vagos and crimes in Nevada, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon and Utah.

SOURCE: U.S. News and World Report

Hells Angels clubhouse destroyed by fire

Thunder Bay District, Ontario, Canada (November 22, 2019) BTN — A fire Tuesday night destroyed the Hells Angels Clubhouse on Simpson Street. Thunder Bay Fire Rescue says the initial call came in at 10:24 pm. Platoon Chief Edward Hill said more calls were coming in while crews were on their way to the fire, with crews calling a second alarm while heading to the scene.

Hill said arriving firefighters found heavy flame and smoke coming from the back of the Hells Angels Clubhouse and the fire was spread into the roof of Rizzo's Cabinets, but they were able to keep it from spreading further.

"We actually managed to make a good stop and the old, I believe it's European Bakery, we managed to keep the fire from spreading into that structure or the Underground Gym that was south of that structure," said Hill.

The fire was already deep seated when firefighters arrived to the scene, and crews used a defensive tactic to fight the fire. Aerial ladder trucks were set up at the front of the buildings to protect exposures, while crews started an attack from the rear of the buildings.

"The way it collapsed there's still flames underneath all the collapsed roof structure and it will be a while before we get that out."

Hill said no one was in the building at the time and there were no injuries to firefighters. Hill told CBC, the European Bakery building had some damage from fire fighting suppression activities and the Underground Gym has some water damage.

Firefighters were still on the scene Wednesday morning putting out hotspots and Simpson Street was expected to remain closed for some time for clean up.

Hill said the cause of the fire is unknown and will be under investigation.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Sentencing in Outlaws MC Prez's murder

Tampa, Florida, USA (November 20, 2019) BTN – A federal judge will decide Wednesday if Christopher “Durty” Cosimano and Michael “Pumpkin” Mencher should spend the rest of their lives in prison for crimes related to their involvement in the 69′ers Motorcycle Club.

Both men were found guilty this summer in a trial that centered on the December 2017 assassination of Paul Anderson, president of the Pasco County chapter of the rival Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Anderson was shot repeatedly while his pickup truck was stopped in rush-hour traffic off the Suncoast Parkway.

Prosecutors said the killing was the culmination of a months-long campaign of violence that began with the beating of two 69′ers and the theft of their biker vests.

The story of the feud and the resulting criminal cases against five 69′ers has been widely told. Less discussed are the details of how such groups operate in the Tampa Bay area and elsewhere. Images and documents used as evidence in the trial offer a look at the inner workings of the 69′ers, a motorcycle club governed by strict rules, part of a subculture seldom glimpsed by outsiders.

In the hours after Anderson was murdered on Dec. 21, 2017, investigators from Pasco County and the federal government turned their attention to a modest house on Riverview Drive east of U.S. 41 in Hillsborough County. The home sits a few hundred feet north of the banks of the Alafia River.

Shaded by tall oaks, with a flagpole and mailbox out front, the house doesn’t appear much different from others in the working-class neighborhood near a large phosphate mine. But behind its walls investigators found biker vests, weapons, drugs and photographs of 69′er gatherings. A front garage housed a set of motorcycles.

A photograph used as evidence in the federal trial of Chrisopher Cosimano and Michael Mencher shows the bar area inside the clubhouse of the local chapter of the 69'ers Motorcycle Club. [U.S. District Court] [U.S. District Court]

A rear garage served as the 69′ers “clubhouse,” a headquarters for the local chapter they called “Killsborough.” Inside was a liquor bar with walls adorned with banners and posters featuring the menacing red-tongued wolf that is the centerpiece of the 69′ers logo. There are framed snapshots of members donning their vests, which bear the patches denoting their status as part of the “1%” — the small fraction of bikers who shirk society’s rules.

The men who pose in the photos are mostly white, though some appear to be people of color. Some make obscene hand gestures for the camera. In the trial, prosecutors showed a jury a nine-page constitution which outlines the national rules governing all local chapters of the 69′ers Motorcycle Club.

A photograph used as evidence in the federal trial of Christopher Cosimano and Michael Mencher shows the inside of the Hillsborough clubhouse of the 69'ers Motorcycle Club. [U.S. District Court] [U.S. District Court]

All chapters are overseen by a collection of officers known as “The Council,” according to the document. The Council meets twice a year. Their task is to maintain standards for all 69′er chapters.

The document details each chapter’s internal structure. It mandates four officers, including a president who must “rule with an iron fist,” vice president, sergeant at arms and treasurer. The constitution dictates that each chapter must be registered as a non-profit, and that a club accountant must file a tax return for the group each year.

“It is the responsibility of all officers to maintain their position with the highest level of respect for all members, property, family and employment,” the document reads.

Related Outlaws MC President was killed over club colors
The membership requirements: you must be at least 18 years old, own an American-made motorcycle, possess a valid motorcycle license, have never been a member of law enforcement, complete a one-year period as a “prospect” and meet the approval of all members. A member can retire from the club with the approval of the Council after five consecutive years of service to the club. The document forbids fighting among members.

“Any member caught stealing from the club or banging another member’s old lady will be ejected from the club,” it states. “Old ladies are off limits.”

“Members shall not discuss club business with citizens,” the document states in large letters. “What’s said in the house stays in the house.”

A total of five men were charged with federal crimes related to Anderson’s murder. Three of them, Allan Guinto, Erick Robinson, and Cody Wesling, signed plea agreements. Guinto and Wesling testified against Cosimano and Mencher.

They were accused of following Anderson on motorcycles through traffic on the Suncoast Parkway and shooting him through the windows of his pickup truck as he stopped at a traffic light at the end of an off-ramp at State Road 54.

Cosimano and Mencher were both found guilty in August on charges that included murder in aid of racketeering.

SOURCE: Tampa Bay Times

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Feds Raid Grim Reapers Motorcycle Club

Evansville, Indiana, USA (November 19, 2019) BTN - Federal and local law enforcement agents served a search warrant at the Grim Reapers Motorcycle Club this morning. Agents used heavy equipment to breakdown the building's door.

The warrant was served by the ATF's Special Response Team, which is often deployed for search warrants or high-risk situations, said an agency spokeswoman at the scene. An alphabet soup of agencies assisted the ATF in the raid, which took place around 6 a.m. at the club at 1104 E. Diamond Ave., including the FBI and DEA.

Other law enforcement assisting at the scene included Indiana State Police, Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office and Evansville Police Department. Suzanne Dabkowski, an ATF public information officer at the scene, would not say whether there were any arrests or if the building was occupied when officers arrived. Two motorcycles were taken from the scene.

She did say that the investigation that led to the search warrant had been going on for "quite awhile." The Grim Reapers Motorcycle Club was founded in Louisville in 1965 and a local chapter was organized in Warrick County in the mid-1970s.

In June 1983, the local chapter moved its club to a house on Indiana Street near First Avenue, where it stayed until September 2017. The motorcycle club's current hangout on Diamond Avenue is the former location of the Exotic She Lounge strip club.

This is not the first time the motorcycle club has been targeted by federal investigators.

The Evansville club was raided several times in the late 1990s, culminating in the 1999 indictment of three members on federal criminal charges. The Evansville members were indicted on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and transporting stolen vehicles. Those indictments came just days after agents raided Grim Reapers clubhouses in five states, including the Evansville club.

The three-year undercover operation resulted in a total of 59 indictments and the seizure of guns, drugs, stolen vehicles and other contraband, according to an Evansville Courier report.