Drug Agents Launch Hells Angels Roundup
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The arrests of 38 Hells Angels in five states on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and the use of explosives, drugs and weapons could help shut down the motorcycle gang’s drug network, officials say.
Among those arrested Tuesday, authorities said, was Ralph ″Sonny″ Barger, founder of the Oakland chapter and a leading member of Hells Angels, which has 60 chapters in the United States and abroad.
The gang has used violence to control the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine, or ″speed,″ in the region, said state Attorney General John Van de Kamp at a news conference Tuesday.
″I am happy to say that today’s arrests should seriously disrupt their organization and the supply of this dangerous drug here in California,″ he said. The raids and arrests ″have laid bare the Hells Angels’ extensive role in drug trafficking and violent crime that supports it.″
Officials said 38 people in California, Alaska, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina were charged with a variety of counts including drug and weapons violations, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering, said Van de Kamp.
In Northern California, more than 400 agents fanned out in the undercover operation to make 11 arrests and search homes and other properties, officials said. More than 100 weapons were seized.
The government said it obtained indictments with the help of an FBI informant who rose through the ranks of the motorcycle gang in two years to become a national officer.
According to a U.S. Justice Department statement, the informant and undercover agents purchased $1.6 million in methamphetamine and cocaine from Hells Angels members.
In addition, three methamphetamine laboratories were seized in Oakland, Vallejo and Portola, all in California.
Federal agents also seized five residences. Approximately $1 million in cash was discovered at the Oakland home of Kenneth J. Owen, a gang member arrested for investigation of distribution of methamphetamine, officials said.
Authorities allege that several officers and members of the club, including Barger, conspired to transport and receive explosives in an attempt to kill members of a rival group, the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
No known deaths are known to have resulted.
Barger has served prison time including part of a 10-years-to-life sentence on a narcotics conviction.
Founded 37 years ago in the California town of Fontana, the Hells Angels have maintained a reputation as the most notorious of outlaw motorcycle groups with about 800 members.