Five hundred state, local and federal police officers participated in a series of raids in San Bernardino, Imperial, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Santa Barbara counties in Southern California this morning on residences and other locations associated with members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club.
The raids culminated what authorities described as an 18 month long investigation of club members that is now called “Operation Simple Green.” The Aging Rebel believes the investigation has been going on for at least two years and has included extensive electronic surveillance.
Police served 52 search warrants including warrants for Vagos clubhouses in Riverside County and North Hollywood and a storefront on Lankershim Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. According to police, 200 firearms and 100 additional weapons including a grenade launcher and an anti-tank rocket were seized. Police claimed to have also seized more than 200 pounds of drugs during the course of Operation Simple Green.
Police also served 12 arrest warrants. At least nine Vagos were taken into custody. News sources reported that Vagos Motorcycle Club President Pastor Palafox was still at large and attempting to negotiate a dignified surrender.
California Department of Justice Special Agent Andy Spillman told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s going to be a tremendous blow, because we’re targeting their (the Vagos) top leaders.”
According to a press release issued by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, “Seventy special agents from the California Department of Justice, along with law enforcement from 42 allied local and federal agencies, executed…warrants and arrested subjects for crimes ranging from murder, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy, rape and narcotic related crimes.”
“The California Department of Justice led the investigation,” the release continued, “with support from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the San Bernardino County Sherriff’s Department, the San Bernardino County District Attorney, San Bernardino Police Department, Riverside Police Department, and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.”
Multiple sources over an extended period of time have identified the Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as an active participant in both an ongoing investigation of the Vagos and in this morning’s raids. The ATF has conducted numerous investigations of motorcycle clubs in the last 15 years including two investigations of the Vagos. Those two previous, acknowledged investigations included the participation of well-known, Los Angeles based ATF agents. The exploits of those agents have been chronicled in at least five well-selling books. Two of those books were authored by ATF agents. No explanation has been offered for the lack of credit given the ATF in Operation Simple Green.
Harris’ release characterized the Vagos as “a transnational gang operating in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.”
“Our Department of Justice agents lead California’s efforts to combat gang violence,” said Attorney General Harris (in her press release). “Their expertise and ability to coordinate large-scale operations targeting the most organized and lethal gangs cannot be replicated. There is significant evidence that outlaw motorcycle gangs, like the ones whose member we arrested today, regularly perpetrate serious, violent crimes. Today’s action will make Californians safer.”
“This outlaw biker gang has been terrorizing our community for years and what happened today is another huge step in the war on gangs I declared in 2005,” said San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos (in the same press release). “This task force is a clear example of how a cooperative team approach can be effective in making our citizens safe. I want to thank California Attorney General Kamala Harris for her continued support and the hard work of her special agents in the Department of Justice for being such a key part of this team.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that “The state Department of Justice launched Operation Simple Green in 2010 to dismantle the Vagos’ extensive narcotics and money-laundering operations, which included the wholesale distribution of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.”
Among other atrocities, authorities have accused “four, fully patched Vagos” with gang raping a women at a bar called the Starting Gate in Los Alamitos last March. The victim of that attack has not been identified and police speculated that she has been intimidated by the Vagos into silence.