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Posts Tagged ‘Vagos MC’

Pumpkin Festival

I previously blogged about Street Vibrations and the club-on-club shooting in Sparks, NV last month at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino which left dead the HAMC San Jose Chapter President (Jeffrey Pettigrew).

We now have the first documented incident of how the HAMC and Vagos violence has provoked a response from law enforcement in Manteca, CA which is about 75 miles east of San Francisco.

It happened at a Pumpkin Festival in “the family city.”  Yes a Pumpkin Festival.  Two members of the Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry were asked to leave the street fair by the Manteca Police because they were wearing their motorcycle vest with ministry patches on the back. They were told it was due to the shooting in Sparks, NV.

Keep in mind that the Christian Motorcycle Ministry is a non-profit ministry.  Not a street gang, or are they really even a motorcycle club.   Their purpose is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the biker world, a section of society,  that many have chosen not to associate with. The ministry has been operating for 21 years without problems.

Isn’t profiling against the law?  The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Cohen vs. California, 403 U.S.15 (1971) that individuals have the constitutional right under the First Amendment to wear clothing which displays writings or designs. In addition, the right of an individual to have freedom of association has long been recognized and protected by the Courts.

What’s next?  I suppose, motorcyclists will be asked to leave events because they are wearing a H.O.G. emblem on a vest or people wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt or one from their favorite Sons of Anarchy television show. I find this whole situation discouraging.

Photo taken by author in Hood River.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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About a week ago in Josephine county it was time for the 7th annual Grants Pass Toy Run.

In case you are unfamiliar with toy runs, they are about bikers of all persuasion getting together to help disadvantage children during a bad time in their life.  Or another way to say it is these are children who would have a minimal or no Christmas had it not been for the direct effort of a toy run event.  Most if not all of the toy runs are supported by ABATE members and ABATE of Oregon exists to promote the rights and interests of all motorcyclists, both patch holders and independents alike.

But, there is an unfortunate pattern developing in law enforcement in some parts of the country which was visible in Grants Pass, Oregon on October 3rd.

Officials stated that police and fire personnel would not to take part in a charity “toy run” because members of the Vagos MC were in attendance.  Specifically Deputy Chief Bill Landis told the Daily Courier that the city considers the Vagos MC to be a criminal organization and took what amounts to a “there goes the neighborhood a’tude.”

Motorcycle clubs are often prominent at charity events, such as toy runs.  The non-motorcycle riding public might conclude from the city’s police and fire personnel actions that any motorcyclist attending a toy run is possibly affiliated with a criminal enterprise.  It’s true that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has weighed in on the topic complaining of the bad publicity for motorcycling in general caused by so-called “outlaw” clubs.  They’ve previously stated that the presence of these clubs at charity events has actually harmed the needy by driving down public participation and reducing donations. The shootout’s between rival motorcycle clubs in the midst of a charity toy drive have not helped.  In fact, they have influenced authorities in some states to attempt a ban on certain clubs from charity events, or to restrict the wearing of colors at those events.  This in turn prompted litigation in Pennsylvania on the unfair exclusions.

Before you get the wrong idea… does giving presents to boys and girls make up for bad things that some of the motorcycle club members do?  No.  But, neither should we consider ALL cops bad because some of them instead of catching criminals ARE criminals?

I’ve participated in a number of toy runs and find this maneuvering and attempt to cast a guilt by association on what otherwise would be acts of kindness for kids very disappointing.

Previous posts about the Vagos MC in Grants Pass are HERE and “Operation Everywhere” HERE.

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Starting in 1994 with only 1,500 bikers participating, Street Vibrations has grown into the nation’s 6th largest bike event.  It was estimated (no info supplied on how) that slightly more than 25,000 motorcycles attended Street Vibrations in 2010.  About the same as previous years, however, hotels like the Peppermill, Grand Sierra Resort, the Nugget and Atlantis all reported shorter stays for guests on average vs. other years.

During the event period there was an increase in motorcycle accidents.  It’s unclear if the increase was attributable to the split-event in Sparks which many riders complained about.  Here is how the stats break down:

Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) arrested 39 people of which 21 were DUI arrests.  There were 15 accidents investigated, which included 2 fatal crashes, including one with a motorcycle.  In total there were 8 injury crashes and 5 crashes involving property damage only.  NHP didn’t report which arrests involved only motorcycles.

Reno Police reported making 72 arrests for various offenses stating alcohol was a factor in most.  They handed out 533 traffic citations and placed 4 people in civil protective custody (public intoxication).  They also handed out an additional 428 traffic warnings.  There were 6 stolen motorcycles (which the Pepper Mill Casino seemed to be hit most often) and 10 stolen tour packs (saddle bags).

Stealing saddle bags? That is just down-right mean! I hope they set up sting operations in the future to take down the jerks.

In addition, there was a brawl reported between 30 people (unknown if it was bikers?) that left one man stabbed in Sparks and was sent to the hospital.  The Carson City man was treated with multiple stab wounds which were non-life threatening.

Speaking of large groups… it’s unclear if related to last month’s HAMC and Vagos MC shootout in Arizona (Chino Valley, north of Prescott) where 27 people were booked on charges ranging from attempted murder to participation in a criminal street gang and where more than 50 rounds were fired between the two clubs… but, there was an extraordinarily large mass of the “Green Machine”, and the “Red & White” along with support clubs like the “Miscreants” on the corner of 4th and Virginia Street on Saturday.  I was on the street at the time and the atmosphere was most tense, it looked as if a confrontation would explode similar to scene’s from the problem-oriented “Hot August Nights” event.  Even the few LEO’s looked somewhat threatened.  Fortunately no confrontation occurred and within a half-hour the groups had mostly cleared out.

And speaking of the Reno police, they worked a lot of overtime and were paid based on a grant called “Joining Forces”.  The “Joining Forces” grant program is one of the many Nevada Office of Traffic Safety’s proactive safety initiatives coordinated directly with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide grant funding for special enforcement campaigns, education, equipment and training throughout the calendar year.  There are currently 28 law enforcement agencies in Nevada that participate in this program. Some of those enforcement campaigns include DUI saturation patrols and checkpoints, speed enforcement, traffic signal enforcement at identified high-accident intersections, and crosswalk & pedestrian safety enforcement initiatives.

Lastly, is my rant about the fact that Nevada has over 49,000 miles of road and nothing is more treacherous than the I-80 and U.S. 395 interchange (known by locals as the “Spaghetti Bowl”) in downtown Reno.  Motorcyclists have seen at least 2 years of congested traffic flow from this construction project, but more important is trying to navigate through or ride over and avoid the deep crevices and cracks in the concrete.  It’s dangerous for motorcycles and get it done already!

Stat sources: Daily Sparks Tribune #1#2News 4Carson Now.

Photo’s taken at the event.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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NO ANGEL 5.26.qxd

There are many ways to talk about the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC); as a reporter illuminating the record, as an advocate praising their actions or as an undercover agent providing clear insight into the mind of a biker enterprise.  Sure, not everyone agrees with the mission and tactics of law enforcement just like not everyone is going to praise OMG. It’s the way of the world.

Much thanks to G. Walker (Det. Retired) who provided me a preview of the book “No Angel” by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton.  I wanted to pass this along because as the preview suggests, this is going to be one great read!

“No Angel – My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels”

ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton

(Crown Publishers, 2009)

      ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns sat with his back to me.  He was furiously typing on a well-used keyboard.  He wore a white wife-beater t-shirt and both his exposed arms were fully “sleeved”, or covered with tattoo work.  Pulled down low over his bald skull was a dirty blue knit cap.  I quietly watched him as his fingers danced over the keyboard, wondering how no one else at the outlaw motorcycle gang conference I was attending hadn’t spotted this brazen infiltrator who was even now probably sending license plate numbers and other handy information to whichever 1%er club he belonged to.

      It had happened before.  Two full patch members of the Vagos MC had openly walked into a past OMG conference presentation, the room filled with cops and investigators.  The Vagos went unnoticed for several minutes before being identified and ushered out of the hotel.

      I found the conference coordinator and shared my concern about the tough-looking b*astard using the business room Internet service.  “Oh,” he replied, “that’s just Jay…Jay Dobyns.  He’s our ATF guest speaker on the Hells Angels.”

      Well f*ck me…

      Later in the conference I listened to Dobyns speak about his role in Operation Black Biscuit, a two-year ATF undercover operation against the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Arizona.  Pacing back and forth in front of a table featuring some of the OMG props he and his ATF team of UC bikers, known as the “Solo Angels”, had used to gain introduction and then admittance into the inner sanctum of the HAMC, Jay’s rapid-fire account of the deepest UC thrust into the heart of the Angels’ organization came alive.

      Today Jay Dobyns, in conjunction with co-author Nils Johnson-Shelton, has written the true story of both his greatest professional and near personally ruinous achievement – riding shoulder to shoulder with the Hells Angels to include the ultimate Angel himself, Ralph “Sonny” Barger.  It is a book the Red & White won’t appreciate; however in all fairness, it’s also a book some in the ATF will hate with equal passion.

      Whether brokering deals for illegal automatic weapons, taking on murder for hire contracts, arming up to do battle with the rival Banditos on behalf of the “81”, or riding 18″ off the rear wheel of an Angel juggernaut Jay Dobyns shoves us down the slippery steep steps that lead to the glowing red inferno that is the world of the Hells Angels.

      Finely woven throughout the book is the agent’s personal decent into the madness of both the investigation and his increasing loss of identity as a human being.  He writes “As I said, dark days.  I turned to the only things I had left: God, friend, and family…It wasn’t my job, it wasn’t ATF, and it wasn’t the Hells Angels that had transformed me into the worst version of myself.  It was I alone who had done that.”

      There have been several previous books on the HAMC and Operation Black Biscuit but none comes close to the knife-edge reality and factual accuracy of Jay’s memoir.  Of the Hells Angels he observes “I realized in that single moment that the brotherhood the Hells Angels claimed to be part of was nothing more than a support group for misunderstood loners held together by hate and money…I’d thought I was the one infiltrating them.  I had it backwards.  They were the ones who had infiltrated me.”

      In mid-2003 Operation Black Biscuit was brought to closure in a series of search warrants and arrests.  The case, however, was gutted by squabbles among prosecutors and the decision makers at the ATF and by 2006 “Black Biscuit” looked more like Brier Rabbit’s badass tar baby.  Earlier, in 2004, the Angels put a contract on Dobyns’ head.  In 2008 his home mysteriously caught on fire and while no one was injured the implications were obvious to the man once draped with the Angel’s coveted Deathhead for “killing” a rival Mongol down Mexico way, an elaborate mock murder that brought Dobyns to the goal he’d always thought he wanted – to become a fully patched Hells Angel as an undercover ATF agent.

      You can advance order your copy of “No Angel” through Amazon.com. The book will be released this February.  Warning! Once you’ve opened its cover and entered the world of Special Agent Jay “Bird” Dobyns there’s no putting it down.  This is one 5-star weekend’s reading about the man who dared enter the innermost sanctuaries of the Hells Angels and returned with his soul singed but intact.

More information available on Jay Dobyns web site.  Book pre-order information from Amazon.

Previous posts on 1%er bikers (1, 2, 3, 4).

UPDATE: February 5, 2009 – Good interview and summary written by Leo W. Banks of the Tucson Weekly.

Book cover photo used with permission.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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KOBI News is reporting that the “GREEN NATION”, aka the Vagos Motorcycle Club is holding a west coast “meeting” in Grants Pass this weekend (August 9-10).  Their signature “colors” – shades of green and a red demon caricature of Loki, the Norse god of mischief will be “flying” in southern Oregon.

Should we care?  I’m not so sure, but given all the historical issues (dating back to 1999 and mostly bad) and the hefty fines, I find it curious the Vagos decided to hold a meeting in Josephine county again.  Sure, it’s a free country…at least the last time I checked the First Amendment was alive and well, but the bad blood and community fears of violence will surely loom over the event and may cause an overreaction from Sheriff Gil Gilbertson…similar to Sheriff Dave Daniels days.  Why risk police stops for “DWV” – driving while Vagos?

The group plans to meet at Schroeder Park, just outside of Grants Pass. Vagos MC member, Harry Hart (a Dentist in CA.) claims they are a “motorcycle family who come together and associate with one another and the police have it all wrong”…”it’s blown all out of proportion”.

I’m a bit skeptical and have written about colors flying in Oregon previously.  The Vagos MC is identified as an outlaw motorcycle gang (OMG) in the CA. Organized Crime Annual Report and the DOJ states:

The Vagos Motorcycle Club (Vagos) has hundreds of members in the U.S. and Mexico and poses a serious criminal threat to those areas in which its chapters are located. U.S. law enforcement authorities report that the Vagos have approximately 300 members among 24 chapters located in the states of California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and three chapters located in Mexico. The Vagos produce, transport and distribute methamphetamine and are also involved in the distribution of marijuana. The Vagos have also been implicated in other criminal activities including assault, extortion, insurance fraud, money laundering, murder, vehicle theft, witness intimidation and weapons violations. In the U.S., the Vagos are mainly active in the Southwest and Pacific regions.

Before I get a bunch of comments about taking too many falls without a helmet, let me just say I know one member breaking the law is one thing and to paint an entire club or over-generalize is quite another.  But I also know that OMG want to give the impression they are a just a harmless riding club.  Maybe its because so many states are doing what California is, once linked to a gang, the penalty for a crime is much more severe.

Here’s my point.  I’m not passing judgement, but hope the Vagos MC members avoid big trouble in a small town so the state can avoid an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars and focus on higher profile criminally active street gangs.

Photo courtesy of Venice Beach org.

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