December 4, 2003

Raids net bikers sought in gang fight

Bill Morlin The Spokesman-Review
 

Five members of a Hells Angels chapter in Spokane were among 46 members of the outlaw motorcycle gang arrested Wednesday in a five-state sweep by federal agents.

Simultaneous raids were carried out at Hells Angels clubhouses, including one in Spokane, and at individual members’ homes, authorities said.

Those arrested are charged in connection with a deadly April 2002 fight in a Laughlin, Nev., casino between Hells Angels and a rival biker gang, the Mongols.

Three men were killed and at least 16 injured in the bloody brawl, caught on videotape, involving an estimated 70 members of the rival gangs.

An indictment returned Tuesday in Las Vegas says the violence was largely carried out by prospective members - so-called prospects - eager to earn their Hells Angels patch.

The arrests on Wednesday culminated a 20-month investigation headed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Brian L. Wolff, 40, was arrested at a residence in north Spokane, and Michael Keith Mills, 45, was taken into custody in Wenatchee, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice.

Arrested in Western Washington were Ron Arnone, of Tacoma, and Steven Pearce, of Silverdale, said a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

A fifth Hells Angel from Spokane, Ricky Jenks, was served with a federal arrest warrant at the Airway Heights Corrections Center, where he is serving a 21-month term for manslaughter.

The five are named in a federal indictment, returned Tuesday in Las Vegas, accusing them of “violence in aid of racketeering” and use of firearms during crimes of violence.

All five suspects are affiliated with the Washington Nomad Chapter of the Hells Angels which has its clubhouse at 1308 E. Sprague Ave.

ATF agents, who were supported by the Spokane Police Department’s SWAT team, didn’t immediately say whether anything was seized during the search of the Spokane clubhouse.

Richard “Smilin’ Rick’ Fabel, president of the Washington Nomad Chapter, said the only thing taken by federal agents from the Spokane clubhouse were snapshots of club members.

With five members arrested, Fabel brushed off the impact on the local Hells Angels chapter. A sign on the red-and-white clubhouse says, “Honesty Matters.”

“It’s kind of like all the past deals they’ve pulled on us,” Fabel said. “We’ll come out ahead on this eventually.”

“We’ve still got plenty of members,” Fabel said, as another club member made repairs to a clubhouse door kicked in by police.

Fabel was not arrested or charged in the indictment, and did not want to discuss details surrounding the Laughlin fight.

He has risen within the ranks of the organization, recently serving as the sergeant-at-arms for the West Coast chapters of the Hells Angels.

Besides raids in Spokane and the Seattle area, others were carried out in California, Arizona, Nevada and Alaska, authorities said.

Donald Kincaid, ATF chief in Los Angeles, said nine other gang mem bers were charged with narcotics trafficking, firearms violations, possessing stolen explosives and other crimes.

Approximately 50 firearms, a device believed to be a silencer and a quarter-pound of methamphetamine were seized during the raids, Kincaid said. He did not specify where the firearms or drugs were found.

“This joint operation is just one small part of the ATF’s on-going collaborative efforts to reduce violent crime, particularly as it relates to gang violence and firearms-related violent crime,” Kincaid said.

The fight between the Hells Angels and Mongols occurred during the 20th annual Laughlin River Run, a spring event that attracted 60,000 motorcycle enthusiasts.

Laughlin is located 90 miles south of Las Vegas, along the Colorado River, where the borders of Nevada, California and Arizona meet.

Before the Laughlin gathering, there were four earlier fights in California and Nevada involving the Hells Angels and Mongols, the indictment says.

At the gathering, there were smaller encounters before the deadly fight, it says.

The bloody casino fight, including one man being shot in the head at close-range, was captured on five video cameras inside Harrah’s Casino and Hotel in Laughlin, Nev.

“Several prospects were captured on videotape participating in the shooting,” the indictment says.

As a reward, “these same prospects received full membership status or increased their positions in the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club as a result of their roles during the shooting incident,” the indictment says.

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