Motorcycle Clubs and Organized Crime There are different types of gangs; this paper will explore the origin of outlaw motorcycle gangs. I will explore the history of the motorcycle, origin of outlaw motorcycle gangs, their bureaucratic structure, illegal activities and involvement in organized crime. The four major biker gangs that exist within the United States and those that have expanded internationally will be discussed. Let’s start with a little history lesson. The first motorcycle appeared in 1884, with the three-wheeled variety and the first to hit the road, followed by its two-wheeled cousin, a motorized bicycle, the following year.
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In 1901, the modern form with the engine underneath the seat made its debut. A significant number of motorcycle producers had been setup by 1903 (Brotherhood 22). In that year the manufacturer that would become synonymous with bikers and outlaw motorcycle clubs made its debut with a single cylinder 25 cubic inch engine capable of three horse power – Harley Davidson (Brotherhood 23). By 1909 the two-wheeler had gained its reputation. A Harper’s weekly magazine article headlined “The rise of the motorcycle” stated: They [motorcyclists] would ride in city or open country with their mufflers ut out, or in numerous cases absolutely devoid of muffling attachments. In some instances it was the rider’s desire for noise, or to bring attention to the fact that he owned a motorcycle; in other instances it was the owner’s desire for more power; but, whichever the case, this offence in principle and in conjunction with the unsuitable attire has done more to retard the advancement of motorcycling in general than all other arguments combined(Brotherhood 23). Due to the major role motorcycles played in WWI the motorcycle boomed.
From 1910 to 1929, the motorcycle industry booked, due mainly to young men discovering that there was nothing more exciting than getting on a motorcycle and riding as fast as possible. In 1929, motorcycle sales dropped due to the Depression. However, this adversity actually created the first motorcycle clubs (Brotherhood 24). By 1939, when World War II began, motorcycle production rose again (Brotherhood25). World War II also produced a significant grudge against Japanese bikes among the hard core biker groups. Even today, the outlaw clubs often refer to Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki motorcycles as Jap crap.
Harley Davidson named one model Fat Boy, an amalgam of Fat man and Little Boy, the names of the two atomic bombs dropped by the Allies on Japan in 1945 (Brotherhood 26). The United States Veteran returning home from World War II where looking for ways to spend their final Army pay and to let off some steam after years of military discipline. Many joined the motorcycle clubs of the American Motorcycle Association. Veterans who had buried their comrades in Europe and the Pacific Islands found the rallies and runs offered by the clubs just didn’t offer the same excitement (Brotherhood 26).
James Jones sums it up in his book WWII: About the last thing to go was the sense of spirit. That was the hardest thing to let go of, because there was nothing in civilian life that could replace it…the love and understanding of men for men in dangerous times, and places and situations. Just as there was nothing in civilian life that could replace the heavy daily excitement of danger. Families and other civilian types would never understand that sense of esprit any more than they would understand the excitement of danger (Brotherhood 27).
At this point outlaw motorcycle clubs didn’t really exist. Before WWII, motorcycle clubs were like gentlemen’s clubs – riders actually wore coats and ties. After WWII, veterans retained both the aggressive spirit of war and combat and the look – leather bomber jackets, flight goggles, and long scarves (Hells 29). On 4 July 1947 in the town of Hollister, California at the American Motorcycle Association even called the Gypsy Tour the first outlaw motorcycle club was born (Brotherhood 27). There was an estimated 2500 AMA – affiliated riders, plus another 500 riders from patch clubs.
There are claims that police arrested a patch blub member of the poised off Bastards, Wino Willie Faulker, for disorderly conduct and 2000 motorcyclist went to the police station demanding his release. When the police refused there was a full scale riot with motorcycles ridden into bars and restaurants, bottles being thrown from multistory buildings, bikers riding through red lights, urinated in public, and an attempted breakout of Wino (Brotherhood 28). The media made it a landmark event for the outlaw motorcycle clubs.
The San Francisco Chronicle of 7 July 1947 described the event as “The 40 hours that shook Hollister”. Life Magazine also picked up the story. The AMA blamed the unaffiliated clubs. The President of the AMA released a press statement describing the motorcycling community as being comprised of 99 per cent law abiding citizens and 1 per cent outlaws. The 1 per cent statement referred to the patch clubs (Brotherhood 28). The patch clubs responded to the rejection by embracing the 1 per cent tag. It was soon worn as a badge on the riding gear to at least one club.
These clubs soon became known as the 1 percenters, or it’s now represented on patches, the 1%ers (Brotherhood 29). One patch club was so annoyed by what happened it decided to change its name. On 17 March 1948, the Pissed Off Bastards from Berdoo became the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. There were many other renegade clubs across the United States at the time, but the first chapter of the Hells angels in San Bernardino, California, is regarded as the first outlaw motorcycle club to have a formal organizational structure and constitution with bylaws.
With the fallout in Hollister and all the media coverage of what took place the Hell’s Angels were now placed firmly in the spotlight as being a renegade outlaw club (Brotherhood 29). A mini-explosion in numbers of people joining outlaw motorcycle clubs across the world happened when servicemen returned from Vietnam War. Vietnam War servicemen were shunned and felt let down by the system and abandoned by politicians and leaders who had sent them to fight a war that seemed meaningless. Joining a motorcycle club enabled many to catch up on the part of their lives (Brotherhood 31).
Becoming an outlaw motorcycle club member may be a long, arduous process of admission and members must adhere to strict rules to maintain their membership. To become an outlaw motorcyclist can require years of reticule by fellow club members and may require an illegal act (Brotherhood 51). Once the biker is recognized by outlaw club members to be a committed biker he’s is invited to be a “hang around” with the club as a friend of the club or an associate. He won’t be allowed to vote, attend club meetings or be involved in club business. The hang around is only allowed to be around as long as they are invited (Brotherhood 51).
If the hang around wants to become a member he must show loyalty, masculinity, discipline, independence, courage, and attend many functions open to them as possible (Brotherhood 52). When a club member nominates the hang around the hang around can then move onto the next stageknown as the prospect stage or nominee stage. This stage is a time to test the prospective member. The prospect or nominee must prove he can be a worthy member of the club by demonstrating that he’s willing to be part of a brotherhood, be disciplined enough to follow club order, and own a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
No jap crap is allowed. The prospect or nominee stage use to last three months, but after gaining public enemy status, the stage lengthened up to four years. To weed out police infiltrators, some clubs in the US now require a nominee to commit a crime to gain membership. After the nominee receives full vote of the membership he receive his full colors, which includes the club logo (Brotherhood 55). The term “Hell’s Angels” had been bouncing around the military as far back as World War I, when a fighter squadron first took on the name.
In 1930 Howard Hughs produced a war movie called Hell’s Angels. A group of mercenary war pilots called the flying Tigers flew for the Chinese, one of their squadrons called themselves the Hell’s Angels. WWII had a few groups called Hell’s Angels; including an American Air Force bomber company stationed in England, the 358 Bomber Squadron, another Navy torpedo squadron, and the 188th Airborne, paratroopers during the Korean War (Hells 28). Hell’s Angels are international with active chapters in Argentina, Australia,
Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Arica, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. U. S. chapters are in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington (National).
Hell’s Angels death’s head emblem wearing a leather helmet, which has been patented by the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, originally appeared on the fuselage of the 358th Bomber Squadron (Brotherhood 25). It was worn on the back of leather or denim vests called cuts. Above the Death Head is the top rocker – a white patch with Hells Angels spelled in large red letters. Bellow the Death Head is the rocker – a white patch with the chapter’s location spelled in red letters. To the right of the Death Head members where an MC patch (National). Another OMG are the Bandidos.
The Bandidos OMG, also referred to as Bandido Nation, was formed in Houston, Texas, in1966. Bandidos have chapters all over Texas and chapters throughout the United States in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Washington State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and several other states. The first international chapter was established in Australia in 1983. Other chapters are in Asia, Europe, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, and Sweden.
Bandidos members wear distinctive patches of a caricature of a Mexican bandit. Above the bandit patch is the top rocker a gold patch with Bandidos spelled in large, red, block letters. Below the bandit patch is the bottom rocker a gold patch with the chapter’s location spelled in red letters. To the right of the bandit patch many members wear an MC patch. To the left of the bandit, many members wear a 1% patch (Bandidos). The third and wealthiest of the motorcycle gangs is The Outlaws, also known as the McCook Outlaws Motorcycle Club. The Outlaws were established in 1935 in Maida’s Bar off old Route 66 just outside Chicago.
In 1950, they moved out of McCook and re-established itself in Chicago, the club decided to change its name. The “McCook Outlaws” became the “Chicago Outlaws’. The club logo also underwent a change; a small skull replaced the winged motorcycle and old English style letters. The design was embroidered on black shirts and hand painted on leather jackets. In 1954, a set of crossed pistons were added to the small skull. This time the design was embroidered on black western style shirts with white piping. In 1959, the skull and crossed pistons were redesigned, making them much larger with more detail (Outlaws).
In 1963, the Outlaws became the first true 1%er club east of the Mississippi. Currently the Outlaws have chapters in 24 states that include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Outlaws also have chapters outside the United States in Canada, France, Australia, Norway, Belgian, Ireland, Germany, Asia, Thailand, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Russia, and Japan (Outlaws).
The Pagans Motorcycle Club was formed in 1959 in Prince George’s County, Maryland by Lou Dobkins. The Pagans MC patch depicts the Norse fire-giant Surtr sitting on the sun, wielding a sword, plus the word Pagan’s in red, white and blue. Unlike most motorcycle clubs, the Pagans do not include on their club insignia a bottom rocker indicating the geographical chapter of the member wearing the club’s full patch. They do this because they do not want law enforcement to know what state chapters’ individual Pagans belong to.
Pagans wear blue denim vests called cuts or cutoffs with club patches, known as colors (White). On September 29, 2009, a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, James Hicks Jr. , was shot by Virginia State Police tactical team after they tried to serve a federal warrant to Hick’s house. The warrant is part of a multi-state crackdown on the Pagans Motorcycle club. Fifty-five members in eight states were recently indicted for following orders of the Vice President in 2003. The V. P. Ordered members to beat and kidnap a member of another motorcycle club to extort money, which led to the indictments.
The indictment also accuses other Pagans members of recruiting a prison guard to kill an inmate they suspected of snitching and the clubs V. P. ordered another member to commit murder. Neither target was killed (Pellerano). “Operation On The Road Again’ was a 21 month investigation where two ATF agents were inducted into the secretive gang. The agents secretly taped a planning session. On September 15, 2010 federal agents rounded up nineteen Pagans in Long Island, New Jersey and Delaware. Pagans were planning to kill rival Hells Angels members with homemade grenades (Marzulli).
On Monday, February 26, 2002 the Pagans Motorcycle Club were hit with racketeering charges for the groups attack on a Hell’s Angel convention in Long Island. On Saturday at 4:15 73 Pagans went after the Angels with knives and guns in plainview. Hells Angels Ray Dwyer allegedly fired a gun hitting five Pagans. Ten Pagans suffered series injuries but no Angels were hurt. The former National Sergeant-At-Arms of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club, Keith “Conan” Richter, was convicted in 1998 of conspiracy and attempted murder in aid of racketeering and assault with a dangerous weapon.
He is scheduled to be released from prison in 2012. Another Pagans MC leader, Jay Carl Wagner, was arrested in Washington County, Maryland by 60 plus officers on May 9, 2007, and later charged with possession of a regulated firearm after conviction of a violent crime. Police and agents recovered seven handguns, two alleged explosive devices and 13 long rifles. On March 5, 2008, Wagner pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on August 8, 2008 (White).
The Pagans have been linked to the production and smuggling of drugs such as methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and PCP. The Pagans also have had strong ties to organized crime, especially in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Most of the violence carried out by the Pagans is directed to rivals such as the Hells Angels. The most successful undercover operation ever pulled on an outlaw motorcycle club is known as “Operation Black Biscuit”. Three dozen Arizona Hells Angels suspects were charged with gunrunning, murder for hire and narcotics violations in July 2003.
Five months later, sixteen Arizona Hells Angels members and associates, including three chapter presidents, in racketeering, conspiracy, murder and drug dealing. Those arrests were synchronized with raids in Nevada, California, Alaska and Washington state netting scores of additional suspects (Wagner). Hell’s Angels have been involved in illegal activity for years. George Wethern, former vice president of the Oakland Chapter states, “We didn’t believe in granting charters for the sake of growth.
The additions designed to contribute to our image and business concerns by providing a drug route link, manufacturing a drug, supplying chemicals or distributing drugs in an untapped area” (Wethern 102). In March 2001, 28 HAMC members and associates were indicted for selling drugs to high school students in Ventura, California (Kelley). From 1994 to 2000 HAMC and an MC club in Canada called Rock Machine had been committing violence against each other. When Rock Machine patched over to Bandidos in 2000, it sparked violence in Canada between Bandidos and Hells Angels.
The eight year feud has resulted in over 150 deaths (National). On June 15, 2010, a federal grand jury in Virginia indicted 27 members of the gang on charges that included attempted murder, kidnapping and assault. Jack Rosaga, Outlaws National President, and 26 others are named in the indictment that also lists robbery, extortion, witness intimidation, drug dealing, illegal gambling and weapons violations. The arrests were made in Wisconsin, Maine, Montana, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia (CNN).
The World Leader of the Outlaws, Harry Joseph Bowman, was the interrnational president of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club was sent to prison for three murders in 1999 after being on the F. B. I. ’s Most Wanted Fugitive list in 1998. Across the globe members of the Outlaws have been suspected, arrested, tried and convicted of countless crimes from prostitution, trafficking in narcotics and stolen goods, arms dealing, extortion and murder (Enigma). In November 2006, Glenn Merritt of the Bandidos Washington chapter was sentenced to four years in prison for drug possession and trafficking in stolen property.
A total of 32 members were indicted and 18 plead guilty in the associated investigation, on charges including, witness tampering, and various drug and gun violations. The international president, George Wegers, plead guilty and received a two-year sentence for conspiracy to engage in racketeering. Richard Merla, a member of the Bandidos, was arrested in 2006 for stabbing and killing Robert uiroga, International Boxing Federation Super flyweight champion from 1990 to 1993. Merla pleaded no contest to murdering Quiroga in 2007, and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. The club stated that
Merla’s actions were his own, and was removed from the Club due to his actions (Bandidos). There is a significant difference between cultivated Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and bikers who choose to ride for the sport. Real outlaw bikers are a menace to society, wreak havoc, known for violent outburst and illegal activity. They give motorcycle riders a bad name, but not all motorcycle clubs are bad. There are motorcycle clubs that due a lot of good for the community. They have toy drives at Christmas, have poker runs to raise money for someone that is ill or in a bad situation, have poker runs to help raise money for the community, etc.
There are also motorcycle riders that belong to an association like the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. Currently the CVMA has members from nearly all 50 states and living abroad. Unlike motorcycle clubs the CVMA does not claim territory. Many members of the CVMA continue to serve in our Armed Forces, with several serving in Combat areas now. The difference with the CVMA and a club is to become a full member of the CVMA you must have served in the military in a combat area. If you where in the military but didn’t see combat then you can be a support member in the CVMA.
The CVMA’s emblem is in the shape of a skull encompassed by the following colors: Red, representing the blood that has been shed on the battlefield; military gold, representing all branches of the military service in the United States; and black representing the heavy hearts possessed for those who gave their lives and for those that are considered missing in action or prisoners of war. The Skull and ace of spade represents the death that war leaves in its wake. Members of the CVMA are from branches of the United States Armed Forces who ride motorcycles as a hobby.
Their mission now is to support and defend those who have defended our country and our freedoms. Their focus is to help veteran care facilities provide a warm meal, clothing, shelter, and guidance, or simply say “Thank You’ and “Welcome Home. ” They sponsor and/or participate in many motorcycle-related charity events each year, and as non-profit organization, donate to various veteran care facilities and veteran charities (Combat). A few rogue clubs ultimately chose to break rules, be different, and pursue a life of rebellion and crime.
A couple of these motorcycle clubs have spanned internationally, and are considered by law enforcement agencies as organized criminals. There is nothing wrong with riding motorcycles or belonging to a group of enthusiasts who ride for the sport. It becomes a problem, for not only society in general, but for law enforcement, and the government when people associate illegal activities into their groups, and they become associated as a criminal organization. Works Cited Bandidos Motorcycle Club Worldwide. Chapters. 7 Nov. 2010 < http://www. andidosmc. dk/>. Barger, Sonny, Keith Zimmerman, and Kent Zimmerman. Hell’s Angel The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. CNN Justice. 15 June 2010. Feds hit biker gang leaders in 7 states. 26 Nov 2010 . Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. 2010. History. www. combatvet. org. It’s An Enigma. 27 Nov. 2010. Biker Gangs http://jcs-group. com/enigma/gangs/biker. html. Kelley, Daryl. “Hells Angels Leader Retains L. A. Lawyer in Drug-Ring Case. ” Los Angeles Times 8 March 2001. 7 Nov 2010 . Marzulli, John. “Pagans biker gang Plotted to kill rival Hells Angels with Grenade Attacks, say Feds. ” New York Daily News 15 Sept. 2010 http://www. nydailynews. com/news/ny_crime/2010/09/15/2010-09-15_pagans_biker_gang_plotted_to_kill_rival_hells_angels_gang _with_grenade_attack_sa. html>. National Drug Intelligence Center. Oct 2002. Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Oct 2002. < http://cryptome. org/gangs/hells. pdf>. Outlaws Motorcycle Club. History. 12 Nov. 2010 < http://www. outlawsmc. com/home. html>. Pellerano, Angela. Pagan Motorcycle Club Under Federal Investigation. ” WTVR. com 6 Oct. 2009. < http://www. wtvr. com/wtvr-pagans-indictments,0,265528. story>. Veno, Arthur, and Ed Gannon. The Brotherhood. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, 2003. Wagner, Dennis. “Hells Angels: The Federal Infiltration. ” The Arizona Republic 23 Jan 2005. Wethern, George, and Vincent Conett. A Wayward Angel. New York: First Lyons Press, 1978. White Prison Gang Identification Task Force. 26 Nov. 2010. Pagans Motorcycle Club < http://whiteprisongangs. blogspot. com/2009/06/pagans-motorcycle-club. html>.