The Nicola’s Shooting

December 19, 2011

Features, News

One of the key events in the ATF undercover investigation of the Mongols Motorcycle Club was a shooting in the parking lot of an upscale topless bar named Nicola’s at 960 South Gerhart Avenue, near Whittier Boulevard, in Commerce, California.

The shooting was the result of an altercation at about 2:15 am on April 8, 2007 between two Mongols and members of an East LA street clique named Gage Maravilla. There were at least 79 witnesses. The LA County Sheriff’s Deputies who responded to the shooting filled out 77 Field Interview Cards. The other two witnesses were ATF Special Agent John Ciccone and his frequent sidekick, a Montebello cop and ATF Tactical Field Officer named Chris Cervantes. For the next 18 months both Ciccone and Cervantes testified about the incident to grand jurors and judges. The incident was integral to convincing impartial observers that the Mongols Motorcycle Club was a criminal conspiracy that furthered its criminal aims with calculated violence.

Facts about the shooting, which have never been stated publically before, belie official statements and suggest that both Ciccone and Cervantes perjured themselves in testimony about the case and that both men were guilty of gross dereliction of duty on the night of the shooting.

Maldonado And Gaioni

A Mongol named Denis Frank “Steaky” Maldonado, Jr. was accused of the shooting. Maldonado was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison after he was found guilty of a state charge that resulted from the incident and a federal charge of racketeering that held Maldonado and the Mongols responsible for the shooting. It was Maldonado’s second federal charge. Maldonado had previously been accused of violating a law that prohibits a person who has been convicted of domestic violence from owning a firearm. And, Maldonado’s arrest for the Nicola’s shooting was, at the least, lucky for Ciccone.

Maldonado had been charged in the earlier weapons case by ATF Special Agent Gregory Gaioni. Gaioni was one of four male undercover agents who gathered evidence of crimes during Operation Black Rain. Gaioni later patched with the Mongols.

At exactly the same time that Maldonado was conveniently charged with shooting “a rival gang member” Gaioni was attempting to infiltrate the club with the help of a paid informant named T.J. Stansbury in Ventura. Everyone involved in Operation Black Rain, including Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Brunwin, knew that Maldonado and Gaioni had previously crossed paths and that Maldonado’s freedom jeopardized the continuation of the undercover operation.

Nicola’s, Nicola’s, Nicola’s

The shooting at Nicola’s became prominent in the list of Mongols’ atrocities that were used to justify the long and expensive investigation.

Seven months after the shooting, in a sworn declaration on November 7, 2007, Ciccone stated under oath: “…based on my training, experience and knowledge of the facts of the investigation, I believe that (Ruben Doc) Cavazos and (Hector Largo) Gonzalez were discussing arrangements for the Mongols to pay an attorney to represent Maldonado. As discussed prior, Maldonado is a Mongols gang member who shot two rival Gage Maravilla gang members on April 8, 2007. Maldonado was rewarded for the attack….”

As part of the undercover investigation, a report of investigation (Black Rain ROI 522 dated March 3, 2008) also described the circumstances of the shooting. The ROI was written by John Ciccone on behalf of Greg Gaioni and reported gossip that Gaioni claimed he had been told by ATF undercover agent Darrin Kozlowski. The ROI omits the presence of Ciccone and Cervantes at the scene as eyewitnesses.

The shooting was also the subject of testimony given by Cervantes on March 4, 2008, the day after Ciccone finished typing Black Rain ROI 522.

In The Indictment

The shooting is mentioned three times in the indictment that commenced the federal racketeering case United States versus Cavazos et al.

“On April 8, 2007, defendant MALDONADO shot M.G. and Z.S. at the Nicola’s bar in Los Angeles, California.”

“On April 8, 2007, defendants MUNZ, SHAWLEY, and ROSELI, and other unidentified Mongols members drove defendant MALDONADO to San Diego, California, in order to prevent MALDONADO from being identified and apprehended by law enforcement after MALDONADO shot two victims at the Nicola’s bar in Los Angeles.”

“On April 10, 2007, defendant CAVAZOS led a Mongols Presidents and Sergeant-at-Arms Meeting in Los Angeles, California, and directed Mongols members to prepare for retaliation from rival Maravilla gang members in response to the April 8, 2007 shooting at the Nicola’s bar and also addressed similar confrontations between the Mongols and the Mexican Mafia.”

Cervantes told the judge at the preliminary hearing that he had no idea that a gunfight was about to erupt. Cervantes testified that he remained “in the car.” He testified that his first indication that trouble was brewing was when he “saw hands waving in the air like an argument.” Then, without warning he heard “several shots.”

Complaints Of Misconduct and Perjury

The official accounts of what happened in Nicola’s parking lot that night have remained mostly secret. After Maldonado was charged with racketeering in the Cavazos’ case, Assistant US Attorney Brunwin refused to give Maldonado’s attorney access to “statements made by cooperating co-defendants and a cooperating witness” and a “list of witnesses” to the shooting.

The Aging Rebel has learned the identity of numerous witnesses to the shooting. Some of those witnesses have complained to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department about official accounts of the incident. Those witnesses have complained that they were not allowed to file sworn statements about the shooting.

One eyewitness did file a formal complaint with the Montebello Police Department on November 8, 2011 about the conduct of Tactical Field Officer Cervantes immediately before and during the shooting. The witness filed the complaint with Montebello Detective Lieutenant Michael Bergman and was told by Bergman that the witness was placing himself in legal jeopardy by doing so.

The Aging Rebel is withholding the names of sources for this story. Those sources have expressed concerns about retaliation by the police forces involved.

Nicola’s Confidential Source

By April 2007, Ciccone and Cervantes were already regularly “debriefing” an unpaid, “confidential source” who had agreed to spy on numerous Mongols, including Doc Cavazos, his son Ruben Cavazos, Jr. and Maldonado, on behalf of the ATF. The source was a dancer at the club who had been arrested for possession of methamphetamine. At the time of the shooting, the confidential source was dating Ruben Cavazos, Jr.

Consequently, both Ciccone and Cervantes were known to be police officers to numerous employees at the club including the club’s security guards and were observed by those guards as they sat in a parked car and surveilled the parking lot of Nicola’s on the night of the shooting.

The Shooting

The argument between the combatants started inside the club. “The Maravilla called out” another Mongol. The Aging Rebel has verified the name of that Mongol and is withholding it. “The parking lot was crowded because the nightclub was closing,” a source said. As the Mongols emerged from the club Ciccone and Cervantes got out of their car and watched. Cervantes later testified that he was “35 feet,” about two car lengths, from the combatants.

“I was standing right next to the security guards,” a source said. “They had guns and they were wearing bullet proof vests. I asked them why they didn’t stop the argument and they said the cops would take care of it. They pointed at Ciccone and Cervantes.”

According to a source, the Maravilla member pulled a knife on the Mongol not named in this story. That Mongol then pulled a gun in self defense. Another Maravilla member then pulled his own gun and shot the unnamed Mongol. Maldonado then pulled his own gun and shot the Maravilla gunman. Ciccone has testified on multiple occasions that the shooting left the Maravilla victim “in a wheelchair.”

“Ciccone and Cervantes just stood there and watched,” a witness said. “They could have stopped it. Everybody…the security guards…thought they would. Everybody knew who they were. I don’t know why they just stood there and didn’t do anything. They were standing right there.”


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32 Responses to “The Nicola’s Shooting”

  1. troyez Says:

    If a civilian were to do nothing when they knew someone would be physically harmed, that civilian would be arrested and charged; I believe it is called the good Samaritan law. In this case Ciccone and Cervantes are clearly guilty of dereliction of duty (or something to that effect) – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, if civilians are expected to intervene, how much more so the police?!


    P.S. What ATF office/district is Ciccone’s home? Its not in AZ is it? If it is, maybe he’ll get caught up in the F&F scandal (hopefully).

  2. Rebel Says:

    Dear Troyez,

    John Ciccone works out of the Glendale, California Field Office of the ATF. His supervisor is named John Torres. Sometimes he visits other locales like Arizona. I think all he is works is biker cases.

    Merry Christmas,


  3. skunk Says:


  4. RVN69 Says:

    Why waste an opportunity to protect their investigation and add to the charges against a Motorcycle club just to actually enforce a for real law and protect a Motorcycle club member from possible death or severe injury. That wouldn’t be the Feds way.

    Ciccone your a cunt, a lying piece of shit who torments those who are better than him. You will pay for your lies either in this life or another. (This should not be interpreted to be a threat against the midget)

    Potius Mori Quam Foedare

  5. Rebel Says:

    Dear Skunk,

    Least I can do. There may be more to this but I don’t think I could ever prove it.


  6. Cege Says:

    What about the cameras in the Nicola’s parking lot??

  7. DirtyBruin Says:

    troyez: Actually, the “Good Samaritan” law is to protect people who try to assist others in good faith. Say someone has a heart attack, and a person tries to assist them by performing CPR. They don’t do it exactly right and the person dies. The idea is that the “good samaritan” tried in good faith and can’t be sued or charged with a crime. The law (at least the version here in California) does not require a bystander to assist; it simply encourages them to try by giving them a limited immunity if their attempt to help is imperfect or unsuccessful.

  8. Rashomon Says:

    Rebel – great job with the investigative journalism and hopefully the truth will lead to further investigation of the case and the role the feds played in it but methinks you’re not winning too many popularity contests with the feds – fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

    Keep up the good work.

  9. JAMES Says:

    I just have to ask sometimes if these 2 had mothers who dated bikers, did drugs, and were hookers while the 2 cops were growing up, making them feel somewhat insecure and just hating society in general ?

  10. JAMES Says:


  11. TigGirl Says:

    My guess is they did some earwhispering to escalate the situation. Too bad they can’t be charged for some sort of predicate crime.

  12. Glenn S. Says:

    Most people with any experience with the system know that the law enforcers are not “the good guys” but just another side in a conflict.

  13. Rebel Says:

    Dear Cage,

    What about them? If the footage still exists, which I doubt, I haven’t seen it. What does it matter if the government has seen it? Much of what the government does in federal cases is withhold evidence, including evidence of actual evidence. Federal justice is a cruel and cynical game.


  14. Rebel Says:

    Dear James,

    Merry Christmas to you and Merry Christmas to all.


  15. Bud Says:


    I have heard of people who were witness to assaults, shootings or any other incident where someone who they could’ve helped and did nothing being charged with failure to render aide. Don’t know if that applies in Cali. though.


  16. Cege Says:

    Youre right Rebel, that was an obvious answer… When I first read the article I thought of the people Ive known who have been arrested due to evidence on those cameras. Im a local, that parking lot has seen a lot of action….

  17. Grumbler Says:

    Googled for images of ATF Special Agent John Ciccone and ATF Tactical Field Officer Chris Cervantes, but came up with zip nada zilch. The ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu taught his men to “know your enemy” before going into battle. Has anyone ever seen them or at least has a description of those puke-complected scatological ghouls?

  18. JAQ2.0 Says:

    Thanks Rebel. This is why I love this site.

  19. The Creep Says:


    When I saw Ciccone, years ago, he was a bit shorter than average, average build, slicked back dark blonde or brown hair with a little goatee thing growing on his face. There really wasn’t anything exceptional about his appearance, but he certainly isn’t shy. He deffinately makes his presence known. He’s one of those “you know him when you see him” guys. He likes to lurk around parking lots and hassle people walking to and from their cars, especially family members and prospects, from my recollection. Wish I could be of more help.

  20. RVN69 Says:

    Go to the library or a used book store and check out Queen’s book “Under and Alone” and Dobyn’s book,”No Angel” If I remember correctly Ciccone is in Dobyn’s book and Kozlowski is in Queen’s. Try Anarchy’s site also, he may have pictures

    Potius Mori Quam Fordare

  21. rollinnorth Says:

    Are you making Ciccone dart boards for Christmas presents? I’ll tell Santa I want one!

  22. Rebel Says:

    Dear JAQ2.0,

    Look…fool. Do you want me to take down my pants so you can look at my ass and see I don’t have a tail?

    To everybody else,

    Hey everybody! Look who’s back! And, this time he is coming to us from Alhambra, California!


  23. Goldsboro Williams Says:

    Next time I want to go out, I’m going to borrow a turn of phrase from you Rebel. I will tell my wife, “But Honey, its an “upscale” titty bar.”

    I’ll see if that works.

    In the meantime, a Merry Christmas to all!

  24. YYZ Skinhead Says:


    Glad to see you back!

    YYZ Skinhead

  25. sled tramp Says:

    From party to party
    Joints n’ beer
    sled wishes you all
    Christmas cheer

  26. Roy Buchanan Says:

    Yaaay!! JAQ’S BACK! JAQ’S BACK! Gee, I wonder which post is under his new pseudonym. That’s a really tough one.

  27. gusto Says:

    Marry Xmas Rebel!

  28. Lawyer'd Up Says:

    Alhambra!? Don’t tell me JAQ is T. Martinez from Alhambra!


  29. Philo Says:


    Don’t know if you saw this yet, but if not figured you and some of the regulars would want to read it.

    Happy New Year,


  30. Rebel Says:

    Dear Philo,

    Saw it. On it.

    Thank you much,


  31. Philo Says:

    No problem. And at the risk of sounding like my nose is buried in your ass, you’re books are really good so far. I’ll admit I’m a little more partial to ‘dispatches’ at the moment. But I’ve always been more into that kind of format. ‘Out Bad’ is spectacular though. Terrifying even. How much this nation has changed since I was a kid. Twilight of the Republic if you ask me.

    Happy New Year,


  32. Spanks HFFH Says:

    That lil midget and his bed buddy Cervantes are lying scum to this day hour minute second they are still harassing club members family members wasting tax dollars !!! We are bike clubs just want to ride well these two are lying to clubs that stirring up shit trying to start club wars !!!! Little do these two scum bag know soon the media as well as there superiors are gunna not only hear but see the tape making up false accusations to club members that the black and white club is planning a war , when in fact not a DAMM thing is happening but some dads uncles brothers cousins just riding in the wind enjoying the roar in the open highway ;) soon these two will be indicted as they should have been a longtime ago !!!! The right way non violent peaceful just the way we do it all the lies the Feds police media lie about us clubs when law enforcement is indeed the most dangerous gang on this globe !!!!!! Enjoy your time in prison two lying pricks !!!!!

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