Maybe the Feds have the Mongols by the huevos. Maybe after, numerous attempts over the last 30 years, the Department of Justice is finally, actually going to deconstruct a major outlaw motorcycle club. Maybe not. But, don’t dismiss the possibility.
“The future right now,” former Mongol Tony Vodnik rhetorically asked the Associated Press yesterday. Vodnik was one of about 200 Mongols patch holders purged by ex-Mongols President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos. “Well it’s kind of hard to say. Hopefully the club will always be out there.”
Hopefully but maybe not. Maybe this is it for the Mongols.
First of all, in all the world there are probably only 600 Mongols and right now about 10 percent of them are in jail. Who is going to pay the suits? Criminal lawyers are expensive. And, the Feds have also sent the Mongols a bill for $5,000,000.
Bye Bye Mongols Patch
The Feds are already seeking the permanent forfeiture of the “intellectual rights” to the Mongols trademarked name and logo. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper granted an injunction that prohibits gang members, their family members and associates from wearing, licensing, selling or distributing the Mongols patch which depicts the head of a Mongol warrior wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette.
Starting today, any cop anywhere who sees anyone wearing a set of Mongols colors can confiscate them on sight. Which is exactly the sort of things cops dream.
And so, there goes even the club income from the “Support Your Local Mongols” coffee cup business. Maybe there goes the Mongols.
Cavazos Property Of
Even more important than the money, right this minute, the Feds own Ruben “Doc” Cavazos. Right this minute, all those Dudley Do Rights own Cavazos’ house, car, motorcycles, guns, his son, his credit cards and his bank accounts.
Cavazos, who has become almost famous as the leader of the Mongols, was voted out of the club “in bad standing” at a meeting in Vernon, CA on August 30. Apparently, a majority of the membership believed Cavazos was stealing from the club and was provoking a war with the Mexican Mafia.
Apparently, many Mongols and ex-Mongols have thought Cavazos was stealing from the club for a long time.
Exiled Mongols Speak
“Doc was all about the money,” former Mongols President Roger Pinney told the AP. Cavazos was “out for himself and not the brotherhood of the club.”
“I heard on one run he made $900,000. That’s a lot of money,” former member Vodnik said. “He was stripping the club of money. That was the club’s money not his money…No President is supposed to gain from the club. And he bought houses, bikes, cars for his son and his brother.”
Cavazos is on his own. And, because of the enemies he has made, he is very unlikely to be greeted by friends in prison. He might become the first motorcycle outlaw in the history of motorcycle outlaws to do his time in protective custody. If, that is, he does his time.
If Cavazos does his time he will not be able to return to his club because it is no longer his club. They are no longer his brothers. Right now Cavazos might get turned down by HOG. He has burned so many bridges behind him that it might be a good idea for Cavazos if he just stays away from all motorcyclists everywhere forever.
Doc Cavazos, however, is not completely painted into a corner. He has repeatedly demonstrated a real actual talent for self promotion. He has a book out. He has been on TV. He has a most excellent, Beverly Hills agent. He is printed by a leading publisher. He is not shy. He seems confidant that he can pull anything off. All of which brings to mind another famous piece of Federal property.
Sammy The Bull Gravano
Sammy “the Bull” Gravano was a tough guy’s tough guy. He was plain spoken, taciturn and camera shy. He was a business man, a family man and a ladies man. He had the blood of a couple of dozen other tough guys on his hands. Nobody ever thought Sonny Gravano would flip. Then he sang like a canary.
So far, nobody has ever exactly accused Cavazos of being Gravano. But, it is an absolute certainty that if “Doc” Cavazos flips, the Mongols Motorcycle Club is toast.
You see this. This morning, everyone sees this.
One hand weighs the rest of a life in a really crappy prison on constant guard from the contracts that have been placed on one’s head by La Eme, the Brand and the BGF. The other hand weighs four or five years in a mediocre motel room on an Army base followed by a new beginning in, oh say, Ka’u, under the shadow of the volcano on the Big Island. Or, worst case, a little fishing village in Alaska.
You see this. And, if you see this the Federales see this. The Feds saw this coming months ago.
Operation Black Rain
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the Federal law enforcement agency that investigates outlaw motorcycle clubs. Over the last decade, the ATF has carried out largely unfruitful infiltrations of the Vagos in Los Angeles, the Sons of Silence in Colorado and the Hells Angels in Arizona.
The ATF has also infiltrated the Mongols once before. The “Under and Alone” undercover agent that time was a man named Billy Queen, whom it is rumored, will be portrayed by Mel Gibson in a forthcoming movie.
It is not certain but it is possible that the ATF learned something from all its previous failures.
The evidence with which the Department of Justice will attempt to prosecute the Mongols Motorcycle Club was gathered by eight ATF agents and four snitches, or cooperating witnesses. Four of the ATF agents prospected and patched with the Mongols. Four Female agents impersonated their old ladies. Additionally, it appears that most of the Mongols’ cell phones were tapped.
The Feds are prosecuting the Mongols under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO.) RICO was enacted as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. It was written to ease the prosecution of organized crime bosses who might carry out a discernible pattern of criminal activity through subordinates while they actually committed no criminal act themselves.
The acronym RICO was contrived as a reference to the classic Edward G. Robinson gangster film Little Caesar. The film was intended to portray Al Capone and the Capone-like crime boss played by Robinson in that film called himself Rico.
RICO works best against associations that are organized into a hierarchy that can be drawn as a pyramid. In a perfect RICO case, a clear connection can be shown between a leader or leaders at the top of the pyramid and followers at the bottom of the pyramid.
And, it is the absence of this clearly discernible, highly organized structure that has made it virtually impossible to prosecute motorcycle clubs under the RICO statute.
In United States v. Barger in 1979 the Department of Justice unsuccessfully prosecuted several members of the Oakland Charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club using RICO. But all the jurors could see was a motorcycle club that had some criminals for members. And the RICO case fell apart.
The Mongols And Rico
The problem the Mongols have right now is that Ruben “Doc” Cavazos was clearly in charge. And, on top of that, the Mongols have already voted that Cavazos was running the club for his own profit. There have even been allegations that Cavazos was pocketing each new member’s $500 prospecting fee.
And, Cavazos was apparently not declaring any of this on his income tax. One of the charges in the indictment is money laundering.
So all of this might actually look like a fairly well defined, top to bottom, pyramid shaped crime organization to a jury of good, straight citizens. It could be.
The federal indictment alleges that the Mongols were a “criminal enterprise…involved in a wide range of criminal activity including murder, hate crimes against African-Americans, assaults, firearms violations and narcotics trafficking.”
Making Sense Of The Indictment
This is a 177 page indictment that attempts to throw everything down to and including the kitchen sink at the Mongols. The crimes, or “overt acts,” enumerated in the indictment fall into the following categories:
* Minor drug and firearms crimes;
* crimes that will seem particularly egregious and offensive to jurors;
* major drug crimes;
* murders and attempted murders;
* and crimes committed by Doc Cavazos, his son “Little Rubes” Cavazos and a few close associates to expand, enhance and enrich a Cavazos criminal organization.
Minor Drug And Firearms Offenses
Small drug and gun offenses comprise most of the indictment. For example:
“On November 17, 2005, defendant William ‘Moreno” Ramirez is alleged to have possessed a .22 caliber rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, an M-1 carbine .30 caliber rifle, a .45 caliber handgun, a .38 caliber revolver, ammunition, and numerous articles of clothing that identified his membership in the Mongols gang, at a residence in Montebello, California.”
“On October 21, 2005, by telephone using coded language, defendant Jorge Viramontes arranged to sell approximately 28 grams of cocaine and 14 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover law enforcement officer.”
Crimes That Will Offend Jurors
Prosecutors can’t wait to tell jurors a few allegations that include:
“On October 9, 2005, multiple Mongols members, riding in a pack of motorcycles and wearing Mongols riding vests, attacked motorists on the highway near Palm Springs, California, by using their motorcycles to ‘trap’ the vehicles between them while a Mongol attempted to stab the motorists with a knife.”
Oh no! The Mongols tried to stab Grandma on her way to her golf game!
And, since there is a good chance that the jury that decides this case may include a black face or two, there are also several allegations like the following:
“On December 10, 2006, defendants Shawn Buss, Robert Vincent Rios, Abram Wedig and Joseph Braden attacked and beat an African-American patron at the Tokio Lounge in Hollywood, California, while shouting racist slurs at the victim.”
Major Drug Crimes
The amount of the drugs stated in a couple of the charges obviously exceeds the usual amount consumed by average recreational users.
“On September 18, 2007, in San Bernardino, California, defendants Rafael Lozano, Harold Reynolds and Ismael Padilla and an unindicted co-conspirator armed themselves with firearms and arranged to purchase 33 kilograms of cocaine with an undercover law enforcement officer and a confidential government informant.”
Needless to say, 33 keys is a phrase that wakes up jurors.
Murders And Attempted Murders
All together, the government is alleging dozens of counts homicide and attempted homicide and the indictment hints that additional counts may be prosecuted in state court.
“On February 14, 2007, defendants Norberto Jose Montes and Austin Melcer beat L.H. to death at ‘Young’s Tavern’ in Lancaster, California.”
“On or about April 8, 2007, in Los Angeles County, within the Central District of California, defendant Denis Maldonado willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation, unlawfully attempted to kill with malice aforethought M.G. and Z.S.”
Ruben Doc Cavazos
Doc Cavazos is portrayed in the indictment as being the mastermind behind an almost purely criminal organization. The specifics are too numerous to even adequately sample here. But, almost at random, the charges include the following.
In the General Allegations of the indictment Cavazos is alleged to:
* “negotiate with Mexican Mafia representatives concerning the collection of “tax” payments for the narcotics trafficking activities of Mongols members in areas otherwise controlled by the Mexican Mafia.”
* “direct Mongols members to travel to different locations and commit acts of violence, including murder, against rival gang members, law enforcement or other persons who would challenge the authority of the Mongols criminal enterprise.” And,
* “conduct financial transactions to conceal the proceeds derived from the crimes of the organization and convert those proceeds to promote the crimes of the Mongols and enrich themselves.”
Most perilous for the former Mongols president is that the government seems to have multiple witnesses who will testify that Cavazos ran an aggressive, for profit, criminal enterprise across state line and national borders.
While his phone was being tapped Cavazos “advised approximately 200 members that Mongols should be alert to the possibility of wiretap monitoring by federal law enforcement agents and should be careful not to discuss incriminating matters on the telephone, and Cavazos also discussed criminal investigations conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as the risk to the Mongols of prosecution for its racketeering crimes.”
In April, 2006 “Cavazos addressed a Mongols ‘All Members’ Meeting in Baja, Mexico, and advised members that the Mongols would ‘exterminate’ the ‘rats’ who had provided incriminating information about (him) to law enforcement.”
In July, 2007 Cavazos “and others conducted a Mongols ‘Presidents and Sergeant-at-Arms’ meeting in Los Angeles County, California, and Cavazos told members that they needed to demonstrate the ‘strength and muscle’ of the Mongols and described the expansion of the Mongols gang into other states across the nation, and Cavazos discussed the need to use violence to expand the authority of the Mongols into new areas not previously controlled by the Mongols.”
What Do You Think
Do you think it might just be possible that the Feds have some of this on audio tape? Is it possible that they might have this on video?
“On February 5, 2008, by telephone using coded language, defendants Cavazos and William Michael Munz discussed the Mongols’ conflicts with the Mexican Mafia based on the Mongols’ refusal to pay ‘taxes’ to ‘La Eme’ for their narcotics trafficking and the consequences of Mongols members entering protective custody while in prison.”
But Wait There’s More
“On March 11, 2008, by telephone, defendant Cavazos discussed preparing a story on the Mongols with a news reporter, and Cavazos told the reporter that he could provide specific details about a Mongols murder committed at a tattoo shop and involving the Mexican Mafia, including information about the planning and preparation for the murder.”
With a news reporter!? He talked about a murder with a reporter!?
“On July 24, 2008, by telephone using coded language, defendant Hector Gonzalez told a confidential government informant that he delivered approximately $15,000 to $17,000 in United States currency from Mongols chapters every month to defendants Cavazos and Ruben Cavazos, Jr.; that Cavazos had directed him to
destroy the records of collecting the funds; and that the funds collected were now missing.”
Fifteen thousand to $17,000 every month. What are the chances a jury will determine that the Mongols were a for-profit criminal enterprise?
Life Is Full Of Hard Choices
In The Friends of Eddie Coyle by the late George V. Higgins, a gun runner named Jackie Brown speaks the nine truest words every imagined in the English language: “Life is hard. But it’s harder when you’re stupid.”
With all due respect to Ruben Cavazos, his Beverly Hills agent, his publisher and any admirers he may still have, with all due and sincere respect to present and former members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, your club and your former president seemed to have behaved really stupidly.
Maybe the Feds don’t have a case. Maybe they are just making all this up.
But also, just maybe, at this very moment, Ruben “Doc” Cavazos is sitting alone in a cell at FCI Terminal Island in Long Beach, in protective custody, weighing something invisible in his hands. Moving whatever it is from hand to hand. Maybe what he has in one hand is the weight of a soul and in the other hand he holds the weight of a last chance at a life. Which is more? Which weighs more?
And at this same moment, 20 miles north of Terminal Island prison, in the Federal Building in Westwood, a committee of lawyers and politicians are weighing something, too. And, what they are weighing is even lighter than a man’s destiny.
They are weighing what will be the most important question of their precious government careers. They are weighing the question among themselves. They are asking, “Who do we want more? The Mongols Motorcycle Club or Doc Cavazos?”