A couple of readers have raised the issue of RICO, the Sober Riders Motorcycle Club and the Mongols Motorcycle Club. The briefest possible response to these questions runs at least 800 words. So that response is running here on the page instead of being buried in the comments.
The Sober Riders
The Sober Riders Motorcycle Club is in no imminent danger of being hit with a RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization) case. RICO cases are brought by the Federales. It is commonly believed that two or more members of the SRMC are being sought as suspects in the double murder in Phoenix in February. If they actually are, in fact, being sought anything that followed their apprehension would still be a state matter.
Just wearing the patch at a crime scene is not enough to demonstrate the existence of a criminal conspiracy. But, if the Sober Riders are organized as one corporation, as one reader has asserted, rather than as a corporation with franchises, that structure would provide a shortcut for any law enforcement agency to allege a conspiracy, not necessarily RICO but a conspiracy, if they ever wanted to do so.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the ATF), the motorcycle club police, is not going to get into the Phoenix murders. I cannot prove it in print, but I will flat out say that there is no Federal investigation of the Sober Riders Motorcycle Club and there is not going to be one. The only Feds involved in the case would be US Marshalls and maybe the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No ATF. No Drug Enforcement Agency.
The official, 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment names only five clubs as a “national gang threat:” “Bandidos, Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, Sons of Silence….” Almost everything the Department of Justice says is a lie but after awhile the lies build up their own kind of inertia. So these five clubs may in fact be the clubs most likely to be investigated by the Federal government. Whatever the investigative pecking order is, the Sober Riders are pretty far down the list.
The Mongols Case
The RICO case against the Mongols is a very different situation. The issue of the federal property seizure of the Mongols patch is legally questionable. There has been no trial yet so there can not yet be an appeal. Right now, the Mongols RICO trial is scheduled to begin in July.
The legal objections to seizing the Mongols patch are constitutional. The patch is commonly assumed to be a protected symbol, a form of free speech. Civil liberties lawyers throughout the land think that allowing the patch to be forfeited would set a bad precedent.
But, the Feds might still be able to steal the Mongols patch because they might yet be able to prove that the Mongols Motorcycle Club was a corrupt racket. It now all boils down to the dance of the lawyers.
Knowing And Proving
In the Mongols case the Feds know everything. Everything! This investigation took place during the Bush Administration during the War on Terror. It was, in part, carried out as a national security threat investigation. Spy satellites, all sorts of Buck Rogers electronic intercepts, the National Security Agency. The Feds could not get Al Qaeda so they settled for the Mongols. Don’t ask the lawyers what the Feds have. They don’t know. Ask Dick Cheney. He knows.
The guy who is in charge of following the trail of bread crumbs from the bottom of the club all the way up to former Mongols President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos is an Assistant US Attorney named Steven R. Welk. Welk is the guy who is in charge of tracing the money. That is all he does. He is, by reputation, very, very good at his job. He probably won’t even be at the trial. But, he is a key guy in the Mongols case.
What makes proving RICO against the Mongols plausible is that the club was, allegedly, not shrewdly run. All due respect to the Mongols, but the Feds make the club out to be a Woody Allen movie.
And, still nobody knows whether the case is actually ever going to go anywhere or not. It may not pop like a balloon but it sure might deflate. The problem is that there is a lot of evidence that might have been illegally obtained. The Feds might know everything but they cannot truthfully say how they know what they know and they cannot use much of what they know.
So right now the Feds are trying to flip guys. They are trying to convince suspects to testify so that their testimony will prove to a jury what the Feds already know. Or, think they know. In order to put pressure on the Mongols, “confidential sources” have been leaking stories in Los Angeles about all the Mongols who are eager to make a deal.
“Better make a deal now! We might not need your testimony later! So many of your fellow defendants are cooperating already!” Perhaps you have seen this song and dance before.
As far as I know, everybody in the Mongols case is standing tall. To the best of my knowledge, nobody knows nothing. But then, again, I would not know if anybody has flipped or not. Any plea and sentencing agreements that are being made are being sealed. They are top secret. The defendants lawyers are supposed to know about them but they probably do not.
In classical game theory this is a model called “The Prisoners Dilemma.” Go ahead, Google it, and then you can tell me whether you think anybody is going to flip or not.
The specific problem with the Mongols patch is, to put it simply, the Feds think they can prove that the patch was a de facto license to sell drugs. No patch, no sales. And, every time a patch was issued, a percentage of the patch fee got sent upstairs to Doc. That is the classic, pyramidal structure, the cause and effect, that makes the patch itself part of what the Feds allege was an ongoing criminal organization.
The Feds are arguing that the Mongols patch was like a liquor license. So it can be seized just like any other piece of intellectual property can be seized. If you run a crooked company, your company logo can be taken and sold. If you run a crooked motorcycle club, your patch can be taken. That is the theory of that.
But so far the Feds haven’t proven that the Mongols are any more crooked than the girl scouts. The current prohibition against the patch is part of a temporary injunction. If the most the Feds can prove is that only some Mongols broke the law, then the injunction will be lifted.
Anybody who is inclined to do so, please feel free to talk back to me on this one.