SEATTLE – Police and federal agents began rounding up members of the Bandidos biker gang across the Northwest on Thursday, after a grand jury returned a 19-count indictment accusing them of crimes ranging from racketeering and witness tampering to dealing drugs and stolen Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
At least a dozen had been arrested by Thursday afternoon, including the organization’s international president. About 300 investigators working the case in Washington, Montana and South Dakota had arrest warrants for 20 more members, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said in a news release. They also served 21 search warrants, including one at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Bellingham.
The investigation centered on that city in Whatcom County, which is in the northwestern corner of Washington along the Canadian border. The Bandidos have operated there for two decades, officials said.
“The international leadership of the Bandido organization has been operating in Whatcom County with perceived impunity for many years,” Sheriff Bill Elfo said. “Hopefully this case will serve to dismantle the Bandido motorcycle organization in our area and will have a significant impact upon methamphetamine distribution, thefts, burglaries, crimes of violence and other nefarious activities that plague our community.”
The federal indictment named 22 gang members and said they engaged in a pattern of threatening behavior to protect their turf and criminal enterprises. Several bikers from the Bandidos’ Missoula chapter were charged with kidnapping an individual identified as SS in May 2003. Britt Anderson, a member in Western Washington, allegedly tried to improve his standing in the gang by assaulting a man identified as GB with a knife.
Last December, the gang’s national sergeant-at-arms, Hugh Gale Henschel of Bellingham, approached that victim and said, “It would be your best interest to drop the charges against Britt,” the indictment reads.
Two months later, a gang member allegedly told GB’s wife that if the charges weren’t dropped, “you won’t wake up some morning,” and the next morning four live bullets were found on the roof of her husband’s car.
Ten counts of the indictment relate to alleged dealing in marijuana and methamphetamine by Glenn William Merritt, president of the Bellingham chapter and a trusted lieutenant of Bellingham resident George Wegers, the organization’s international president. Merritt, Henschel and Wegers were among those arrested Thursday and were scheduled to make their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle today, said magistrate support clerk Heather Arent-Zachary.
Merritt and others were also accused of trafficking in stolen motor vehicles, including pickup trucks, a 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead motorcycle, a ‘98 Harley Bagger and a ‘92 Harley Fatboy.
The investigation began in 2002, the ATF said.
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