Nearly 1,000 police, including agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Marshalls, The Metro Gang Task Force of the Denver Police, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Montebello (CA) Police Department and the Las Vegas Metro Police Department served 110 arrest warrants and 160 search warrants on members and associates of the Mongols Motorcycle Club in California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Ohio.
Among those arrested in the raids, which began around 5 am Pacific Time, was Mongols International President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos. Cavazos was taken into custody at his home on Cordova Court near the South Hills Country Club in West Covina, CA. The charges against Cavazos have not been announced.
But, according to ATF spokesman Mike Hoffman, 38 members of the club were arrested under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute on charges of murder, attempted murder, assault, and the usual gun and drug offenses. “It’s going to be a large hit to their organization,” Hoffman said.
We are arresting many of their top members,” Hoffman boasted to the Los Angeles Times. And, since “Doc” Cavazos is the leader of the Mongols it may be reasonable to assume that he faces the same RICO charge as 37 other, anonymous Mongols.
Attempts to prosecute members of motorcycle clubs under the RICO statute have repeatedly failed over the last three decades.
In the last year, Cavazos has been astoundingly strident for a motorcycle outlaw. His memoir, Honor Few, Fear None was published earlier this year by Harper-Collins. The deal was brokered by heavyweight Hollywood Agent Alan Nevins of The Firm.
This morning, Harper-Collins publicist Sarah Burningham told the Associated Press in New York City that she only handles book-related issues for Cavazos so she could not comment. She did promise, however, to email Cavazos to let him know that about a million reporters were looking for quotes.
Also, within the last year, the Mongols have appeared to go out of their way to try to antagonize other motorcycle clubs including the Gypsy Jokers in Oregon and the Hells Angels in California.
Within the last month, Cavazos spoke with breathtaking candor about what sounded like Mongols criminal activity-including drug deals and shootings that resulted from those drug deals-on the History Channel reality television show Gangland. Presumably, he discussed his comments with an attorney before appearing on television.
The Mongols are well known to have small chapters of six to ten members. And, a fairly standard defense against RICO by Motorcycle Clubs is to argue that each chapter is more or less independent.
And frankly, the closer one gets to any motorcycle club the more that defense looks impeccable. Getting outlaws in any one chapter to agree to anything is harder than herding cats.
However Cavazos appeared on camera in that History Channel broadcast leading at least a hundred Mongols in a chant that went approximately, “Mighty, Mighty, Christ almighty who the fuck are we!? We are Mongol Nation!” That scene and others in the telecast seemed to suggest that Cavazos was not afraid of a conspiracy charge.
In his memoir, Cavazos was critical of several former Mongols for allowing the infiltration of the club by former ATF agent Billy Queen. That infiltration led to a newsworthy morning of raids and arrests similar to today’s. At the same time, Cavazos was also critical of the usual process by which an independent biker becomes a patch holder in club. By his own account, he never prospected.
So it may be seen as slightly ironic that today’s arrests were the culmination of a three-year-long investigation of the Mongols by the ATV called “Operation Black Rain” that resulted in four ATF agents becoming patched members of the club.
Tom Mangan, a Senior Agent with the ATF in Los Angeles, told Los Angeles television station KTLA that the infiltration was a “massive operation with four extremely experienced ATF deep cover operatives.”
“They were so experienced,” Mangan bragged, “they became full-patch members of the Mongols….They were living and breathing day to day with those guys.”
Hoffman told the Associated Press that the ATF spies lived away from their families in homes “set up to make it look like they lived the Mongols’ lifestyle.”
Four female ATF agents were also assigned to Operation Black Rain. They pretended to be the male agents’ girlfriends.
“If you go to a party all the time and you don’t ever bring a girl around, it’s kind of weird,” Hoffman reportedly explained. “Someone might get suspicious.”
Among the Charges
Among the accusations detailed in the Federal indictment, individual Mongols are charged with:
* fighting with members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Laughlin, NV in April 2002 and at a Toy Run in 2005.
* Mongols, identified by their road names as “Danger” and “Villain” allegedly beat a man to death in a club in Lancaster, CA in February of this year.
* An unidentified Mongol allegedly shot and ran over customers at a bar in Riverside, CA.
* A Mongol named “Dago Bull” is accused of torturing a man in 2006.
* Another unnamed Mongol knocked out a man’s tooth in a fight and kept the tooth as a souvenir.
* A Mongol named “Monster” beat up a black man in a bar in Hollywood and taunted him with racial epithets as he beat him
* Other, unnamed Mongols, allegedly beat and stabbed an Hispanic woman for dating a black man.
The Great Circle of News
As is usual in these cases, the ATF is teasing a news conference for sometime Tuesday afternoon at which various items of contraband will be displayed on a table.
Typically, very photogenic items like guns, knives and dollar bills that may or may not be contraband will be displayed next to the contraband. Photographs of all the items on this table by accredited members of the professional working press will be allowed and encouraged. At the discretion of the many, many news editors, these photos may be published in newspapers throughout the world beginning tonight.
So far, at least 30 custom motorcycles have also been seized. And following past raids, prominent news organizations have also found these custom motorcycles to be particularly photogenic and telegenic.