The government wants to portray George Christie as the godfather of tattoos when the trial of the retired President of the Ventura charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club gets underway January 31.
Christie owns a Ventura tattoo shop named “The Ink House.” He and alleged co-conspirators Kyle Gilbertson, Brian Russell, Richard Russell and Benito Hurtado are all accused of firebombing two other Ventura tattoo shops named “Scratch the Surface” and “Twisted Ink” in July 2007. Four unnamed co-conspirators are also accused of participating in the arson plot. Two of those co-conspirators have been named in public documents. Those men are James David Ivans, Jr. and Jared Ostrum “Crash” Plomell.
The case is being prosecuted by United States Attorneys assigned to the Los Angeles Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Hello Fellow Tattoo Aficionados
According to a motion filed last week by one of those attorneys, Jay H. Robinson, the government will introduce evidence that Christie attempted to bully and dominate other tattoo businesses the way Microsoft treated other software companies. Robinson wrote that he intended to offer, “Evidence of defendant Christie’s other criminal conduct directed not only at the victims in this case, but also against other competing tattoo shops located in Ventura…as well as his common scheme or plan to eliminate any competition to his tattoo shop.”
According to the prosecutor, Kyle Gilbertson, Brian Russell and Richard Russell greeted employees of Scratch the Surface by stating, “There is only one tattoo shop in this town. Pack up your stuff. Your time is up. Pass it on to the owner.”
The government also alleged that the accused men then went to Twisted Ink and told employees there, “Time’s up! How many tattoo shops are there in Ventura? There’s one less now.”
The Slingers Arson
The government also alleges that:
“On October 1, 2000, ‘Slingers’ tattoo parlor opened in the city of Ventura, California. Slingers’ owner was a tattoo artist who once worked for defendant Christie at The Ink House. Prior to opening Slingers, the owner met with defendant Christie and told defendant Christie that he ‘meant no disrespect’ by opening Slingers in Ventura. According to Slingers’ owner, defendant Christie pulled out a piece of paper, wrote on it, and gave the paper to the Slingers’ owner. The piece of paper had the following words written on it: ‘Take it to Oxnard.’”
“On October 13, 2000, Slingers was completely destroyed by fire. An ensuing investigation by the Ventura County Arson Task Force and 8 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms concluded that arson was the likely cause of the fire.”
The government also thinks it can prove that Christie was collecting money from other tattoo shops in Ventura County. The motion characterizes these collections as “taxes.” The source for the allegation is one of the unnamed cooperating witnesses.
“In November 2009,” the motion claims, “defendant Christie called a cooperating witness and asked the witness to go over to defendant Christie’s house. The witness walked through a security gate and met defendant Christie at his front door. There, defendant Christie gave the witness an envelope containing a laminated list of local tattoo shops. According to the witness, defendant Christie told the witness to ‘go collect money from the tattoo shops’ and added that ‘they will know what they have to give you.’ Asking no questions, the witness left defendant Christie’s house and collected $1200 from the owner of local tattoo shop. (sic) The witness then took the money to The Ink House, walked to the back of the shop, and put the money beneath a cash register drawer. The witness said an HAVC (Hells Angels Ventura County) prospect usually collected these taxes. The witness once saw the prospect’s truck parked outside the competing tattoo shops, and later putting money in the same cash register drawer at The Ink House.”