Archive for the ‘Bandidos’ Category

mixed_clubsRegardless of one’s stance on motorcycle clubs, rider associations, riding groups, or one-percent clubs, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the surging use of technology to reach out across the motorcycle base in the nation. In some instances, simple email proves useful for coordinating events, or the more sophisticated computer/cell/social networking/BB’s technology helps members interact and reach like-minded constituents, create grass-root initiatives and develop coordinated “calls to action.”

Such is the world of Bandido “Gimmi” Jimmy who is the National Commander for US Defenders, a grass root organization that helps educate motorcyclists on legislation strategies.  This past weekend in a capacity filled WaCoC meeting, “Gimmi Jimmy” shared learning’s and presented concepts and ideas which have obtained legislative results elsewhere in the U.S. regardless of motorcycle club discipline or background.  The Defenders program is about training constituents, developing strategies around letter writing campaigns, email campaigns, reaching out and touching (telephoning) state and national legislators and even canvassing motorcycle rally crowds who will then take that information/training back to their motorcycle clubs or riding groups to implement a motorcycle-centric “call-to-action” on biker legislation.  The Defenders program is not a Motorcycle Rights Organization (MRO) such as the TMRA, TMRA II, ABATE, AIM, MRF and the AMA, but is manageable units of Motorcycle Clubs and Independent Riders manpower.

So, what does this really mean?  Simply put, the Defenders are working cross-club i.e. Bandidos, Hells Angels, Gypsy Jokers, Mongols, independents, motorcycle riding groups/associations and women’s clubs for the improvement of motorcycling!  They are helping energize grass root initiatives and providing methods for riders to protect rider rights from legislators who think it’s okay to indiscriminately tell us what to do…telling us what to THINK can’t be far behind, right?

There are some serious issues confronting the motorcycle community beyond the routine “drum beat” of helmet laws.  For example; association rights, enhanced “affiliation” penalties, inattentive driver penalties, accident coverage, noise abatement, intellectual property rights, exhaust mandates, ordinances to eliminate rallies are just a few.  Being organized to conduct legislative business in a professional way prevents misunderstanding or being marginalized on the sidelines while others do our thinking and make decisions.

If you want to get involved with grass root initiatives attend the next regional CoC meeting in your state or contact their offices.  If you have questions concerning the US Defenders Program you can contact Defenders Lt. Commander, Companero Paul.

Photo courtesy of Jay Janner American-Statesman

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An outlaw biker and his “colors” declare membership in a particular club. Colors usually consist of a three-piece patch embroidered on a leather or denim jacket which contains the name of the club, the club’s logo, and the club’s location.

Bryan Denson of The Oregonian wrote an interesting article (April 20, 2008 – with Bruce Ely (photographer)) about the rise of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMG) in Oregon.   Specifically it detailed how the Mongols Motorcycle Club (MMC) had discretely opened a 4th chapter in Eugene after previously setting up chapters in Portland, Medford and Bend.  The article characterized them as one of the most violent OMGs of the “Big Five” and it made me wonder if Oregon was set for a bloody turf war like the late 60’s in San Francisco.  The aftermath of many killed bikers was that the Gypsy Jokers MC left California and the Hells Angels agreed to stay out of Oregon.

So what’s going on here?  Are rivalries between OMGs sparking a local trend and a recruitment drive to expand their network?  Will Oregon witness more violent confrontations and increased criminal activity?  Will this impact the Taco Wednesday riders who seldom throw a leg over anything and live to ride…to a dealer to buy something bright and shiny?

A little background and context — OMGs are well-organized with a hierarchical structure, bylaws, and a written constitution. The organizational structure is complex.  Members are required to pay dues and attend meetings and events (e.g., “runs”) to demonstrate loyalty to the club leadership.  Infractions are punished by penalties with the most severe being death.  Club members refer to themselves as “1%ers” (or One Percenters) and most display “1%” patches on their jackets, or “Colors 13”.  The label refers to a quote by the American Motorcycle Association stating that “ninety nine percent of all motorcycle riders in this country are law abiding citizens.”   The OMGs claim to make up the remaining one percent, thus the reference.

The Oregon Attorney General (Hardy Myers) completed a comprehensive review of the organized crime threat to citizens of Oregon back in 2006.  The review included everything from possible terrorist attacks to threats from outlaw motorcycle gangs.  The “Big Five” refer’s to the five major U.S. OMGs (Hells Angels (3500 members worldwide), Bandidos, Pagans, Outlaws, and Sons of Silence).

The illegal activities of “1%ers” include narcotics manufacturing and trafficking, vehicle thefts (in particular, Harley motorcycles), assaults, and prostitution. Some OMG members have diversified into “legitimate” businesses (e.g., motorcycle shops, night clubs, strip clubs), though more often these businesses have been set up for money laundering and fueled by unlawful activities.  Oregon now has five separate OMGs. Most have multiple chapters in the state and at least one chapter in three bordering states. In addition, the largest OMG in Oregon has established a chapter in Germany and has affiliated clubs in Australia and South Africa.  Below is a list of the estimated members of each OMG:

OMG                       Founded                  OR Members

Free Souls               1968                      105

Brother Speed          1969                      45

Gypsy Joker             1956                      40

Outsiders                 1968                      26

Mongols                   1969                      12-15

Vagos                      1965                      15

Source: Police estimates; Attorney General report

The typical response from an outlaw member is “It’s not a gang…we’re a bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts getting together”, but do a Google search on any day of the week and you’ll find news about numerous arrests across the country from manufacture of illegal drugs to trafficking and for all the mystique of being just a bunch of rowdy dudes riding together for the fun of the camaraderie…a lot of dead bodies are piling up!  Does this mean all outlaw clubs are filled with miscreants?  No, I’ve personally met and talked with Hells Angels and Jokers members and found them to be reasonable.  If you treat them with respect then they are reasonable.  But they are not all saints either. My advice is to show respect, but to have as little interaction as possible.

The biker legend runs deep in America and many fun loving riders cherish the freedom of the open road and the wind in their face.   But, I don’t buy into the outlaw clubs attempting to wrap themselves in a Harley flag of defiance and rebellion.  I’ve posted on the Laughlin River Run melee previously and a freewheeling, even raucous lifestyle is one thing, but pushing drugs and killing people are not.

The increased appearance of “colors” flying in Oregon no matter who the “club” means that for us true motorcycle enthusiasts the road just gets a little rougher to navigate.


UPDATE: June 20, 2008 — Accused of a litany of felony and misdemeanor crimes, Justin “Mooch” DeLoretto, (27), took his case to trial.  A Lane County jury found him guilty of reckless driving and other misdemeanor charges from the April 23 incident in which he was accused of trying to run two biker-gang investigators off Interstate 5 during rush hour. The jury acquitted Mr. DeLoretto of eight felony charges, including conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping.  Circuit Judge Debra Vogt sentenced the president of Oregon’s Mongols Motorcycle Club to a year in jail and ordered him not to associate with other Mongols — including his twin brother Jeremy, who was at the time acting MMC President — or any outlaw biker gangs.  The judge ordered Mr. DeLoretto, to serve six months for each of two counts of menacing. She also suspended his driver’s license and ordered him to serve five years of probation in which he can neither associate with the Mongols nor wear their insignia.

UPDATE: June 24, 2008 — One day after Lane County Circuit Judge Debra Vogt sentenced Justin “Mooch” DeLoretto to a year in jail, he was released to make room for more serious criminals.  The Mongols Oregon Chapters president remained in jail before and during his trial which had his bail set very high.  He served 62 days  and was released because of jail overcrowding.

UPDATED: June 25, 2008 — More HERE, but DeLoretto was sentenced Monday (23rd) to one year in jail on two counts of menacing (misdemeanor).  The real kicker is that the DA influenced the judge who order DeLoretto not to associate with the Mongols or wear their insignia for 5 years.  Essentially striking down his constitutional right of freedom to associate.  He was processed into Lane County jail after sentencing and then promptly released 24 hours later due to jail overcrowding!  In total, DeLoretto served 62 days in Lane County jail — 61 of those while waiting trial and unable to post a very high bail.

UPDATE: September 30, 2008 – the Oregonian reported that Justin “Mooch” DeLoretto, the founder of the Mongols Motorcycle Club‘s Oregon chapters, who was ordered not to associate with the organization after a June conviction for menacing a pair of outlaw biker investigators, has left secretly to California.  According to Detective Dave Burroughs there will be a warrant for his arrest.  Mr. DeLoretto, joined the San Diego Mongols chapter and went to work in a tattoo parlor owned by a member of the motorcycle club.

UPDATE: October 2008 — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) raided all people, places and things Mongol in October and they raided that tattoo parlor. DeLoretto was detained and investigated. And, so Lane County, Oregon learned that he had violated his probation by leaving the state. Oregon issued a warrant for his arrest and asked him to please return to account for his misdeeds.

UPDATE: January 2009 — Justin “Mooch” DeLoretto, turned himself into the Lane County Jail again.  He was being held on $50,000 bail, but according to Lane County Sheriff Captain Doug Hooley commented to the Eugene Register-Guard, that there was nothing with his risk assessment score that keeps him from getting out.  He was eligible for release later that day.

UPDATE: April 4, 2017 — According to Oregonian news reports, Mr. DeLoretto is a George Fox University graduate student, who is required to complete an internship at a social service agency to obtain a master’s degree in social work.  He started an internship a year ago at the Oregon Youth Authority and would of course use what he learned to work with gang-affected youth in the criminal justice system when he completed his studies.  But, four months later, the state agency ended his internship after learning he was a founding and member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.

At any rate, as of this week Mr. DeLoretto has filed a federal lawsuit against the Oregon Youth Authority, claiming his internship was terminated solely because of his club “membership” which violated his constitutional rights of free speech and due process.  DeLoretto, (now 35), is seeking undetermined monetary damages for the loss of the internship and punitive damages.


Mongol photo courtesy of Bruce Ely of The Oregonian.  Person in photo is reported to be Justin J. “Mooch” DeLoretto, 27, and credited with setting up the Oregon chapters.

Gypsy Joker photo courtesy Flickr


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Ever since watching the 1989 Ridley Scott directed movie Black Rain with Michael Douglas, I’ve been intrigued by the Japanese Yakuza. And after watching the recently released hi-def version of The Yakuza, a 1975 movie starring Robert Mitchum who takes on gangsters during Japan’s post-war occupation…I became intrigued how Japan biker gangs seem to imitate the U.S. clubs.

The Japanese word bōsōzoku is typically applied to biker gangs who share interest in modifications (often illegal) for motorcycles, such as removing the mufflers and engaging in dangerous street racing or reckless driving, such as weaving in traffic, running red lights or not wearing motorcycle helmets. There are bōsōzoku clubs throughout Japan, including female bike gangs (レディース, “ladies”), identified more by fashion statements and customized motorcycles. The club members take part in mass rallies and have run ins with the police. Having just returned from Sturgis this sounds very familiar.

Descended from medieval gamblers and outlaws, yakuza have been portrayed as latter-day samurai, bound by traditions of honor and duty and living extravagant lives. The Japanese Police estimate that full-fledged membership in yakuza groups fell to 41,500 last year, down from 43,000 in 2005, a decline they attribute to tighter laws against organized crime. However, the number of yakuza hangers-on, including thugs and members of motorcycle gangs, who are willing to do their dirty work, rose to 43,200.

The author of Yakuza Moon,” a best-selling memoir just out in English, written by the 39-year-old, Shoko Tendo writes about her father who was the leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang, the largest yakuza group, and how he led a “classic” life with Italian suits, imported cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Shoko was raised with strict ideas of honor, and was both spoiled and scolded by the tattooed men who frequented her home.

I plan to get/read the book and learn if this is a reflection of or an imitation of the U.S.

The Shoko Tendo photo above is from REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

UPDATE: Read the book and while interesting background on Tendo it doesn’t really explore the Japan motorcycle/gang element as much as you would have thought possible. Mostly about Shoko Tendo overcoming adversity in her life. It was a tough life and she has done well just to be alive! An easy read.

UPDATE: February 10, 2009 – the Mainichi Daily News reports Japan biker gangs (bosozoku) decline.

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1 Percent’r

Publisher Constable & Robinson - Photo courtesy Edward WinterhalderThe Bandidos Motorcycle Club is a 40-year-old club, which has 170 chapters in the U.S. and 15 other countries. Though its leader lived in Bellingham, the Bandidos have always been considered a Texas enterprise, where it was formed in 1966 by defiant Vietnam veteran Don Chambers.

The late and first founder Don Chambers, went up for a double murder in ’72. The second, [and late] Ronnie Hodge, went to federal prison for conspiracy to commit murder with a bomb. James Lang, the third president went to jail for drugs, he’s still in. Craig Johnston, the forth, went to jail for drugs. He’s getting out next year, but he’s got health problems. Which leaves the current George Wegers. Appointed in 1998 by club leaders to president of the 2,400-member Bandidos MC.

The Bandidos have been prominent in the Northwest. Of 90 U.S. chapters, 14 are in Washington. There are more than 50 patched members in Bellingham, Bremerton, Wenatchee, Everett, Mount Vernon, Tacoma, the Tri-Cities, and Yakima. (Most outlaw clubs allow patched members to have puppet members, a group of budding club bikers who swell the ranks well beyond the official count.) There are three chapters in the Seattle area alone.

Ultimately nabbed in a 19-count indictment, el presidente, George Wegers and 27 other Bandidos and associates were paraded into federal in the summer of 2006, later striking plea deals. Most were bearded and balding, some were in their 60s. They look like a bunch of ol’ grandpas. Wegers has heart problems and high blood pressure and regularly saw three different doctors. Divorced, with a grown son, two grandkids, and other family in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

A former cohort, ex-Bandidos national officer Edward Winterhalder, has written the above book about the club, says Wegers thought the Bandidos needed more members who simply were “men of respect, not pieces of shit.”

So, the next time you see the colorful patches the outlaw motorcycle clubs wear…think again about what goes on inside the motorcycle gangs.

Book Info: Contributing Author: Edward Winterhalder; Published By Constable & Robinson (England); Distributed By Carroll & Graf (New York); Edited By Australian Motorcycle Club Authority Dr. Arthur Veno.

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