The federal persecution of more than 120 men who were members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club between 2005 and 2009 continues. That persecution can be roughly summarized in the names of three criminal and two civil cases which included: U.S. v. Cavazos et al.; U.S. v. Maestas et al.; U.S. v. Christopher Ablett; and Ramon Rivera v. Ronnie A. Carter, Acting Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Los Angeles Field Division; and Eric H. Holder, United States Attorney General.
The largest of the unresolved cases is a civil case titled U.S. v. Assorted Firearms, Motorcycles and Other Personal Property. The case is complicated. It has been lingering in legal limbo March 19, 2009. It is presided over by Judge David O. Carter. It is a difficult case to summarize briefly but it is worth mentioning now because the lead defendant in the RICO case against the club, Ruben “Doc” Cavazos who has an interest in this suit, wrote a letter to Carter last week asking for his motorcycles back.
The government has tried to disappear Doc since he was arrested in October 2009. Even his sentencing to 14 years in prison last September was a state secret. The only contact, through clandestine means, that Doc has had with any news outlet in the last four years has been with this page.
The Marshall’s Service and the Bureau of Prisons have refused attempts by multiple newspapers including the Los Angeles Times to interview him. After The Aging Rebel reported that Doc Cavazos was being held in the privately operated, for profit, federal prison in California City, California he was moved to a different prison in a different state. His name does not appear in the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator. His brother, Al “The Suit” Cavazos, is currently on probation in Los Angeles. Doc’s son, Ruben “Lil Rubes” Cavazos, is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Safford, Arizona near Tucson. He is scheduled for release in two months.
This week a promotional website for Doc’s memoir, Honor Few Fear None, reappeared after four years. The site is located here. The advertisement uses the Mongols Motorcycle Club’s logo.
Dear Judge Carter
“Dear Judge Carter,” Cavazos wrote April 22. “I would like to ask for you to give me the opportunity to speak in front of your court for the chance at me retrieving three motorcycles that were taken from me by the ATF. I am writing this letter just asking that you hear what I have to say about these three motorcycles that were taken from me four years ago.”
Doc filed his claim for the return of three “special construction motorcycles” in the summer of 2009. Both his son and his brother contested the forfeiture of the same three bikes around the same time. Al Cavazos continues to pursue his claim. Lil Rubes Cavazos filed a motion on April 17 to “withdraw his claim to any of the remaining assets in this action, and releases the United States of America, its agencies, agents, and officers, including employees and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (“ATF”), from any and all claims, actions or liabilities arising out of or related to the seizure and retention of the listed defendant assets and/or the filing of this civil forfeiture action, including, without limitation, any claim for attorneys’ fees, costs or interest which may be asserted on behalf of claimant against the United States….”
Carter refused to file Doc Cavazos’ letter and enter it into the official record of the case April 24.
The Civil Case
The current civil case arises from the Department of Justice’s continuing campaign to maliciously prosecute members of motorcycle clubs simply for belonging motorcycle clubs. In many instances in the Cavazos RICO case the charges against defendants were blatantly manufactured. In other instances, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used contrived searches to wreck homes, terrorize families and steal or destroy personal property including children’s furnishings, personal photo albums, cell phones, personal computers, photo albums, loose cash and family videos.
Virtually all of the defendants in Cavazos were eventually coerced into Stalinist confessions that described the Mongols as a racketeering enterprise and in which the defendants confessed to belonging to the Mongols. All of those defendants had personal property including their motorcycles seized when they were arrested. In most cases, those defendants had the legal right to have that property returned to them after they “confessed.” In some instances defendants were at least partly enticed to confess with the promise that their motorcycles would be returned to them if they did. In most cases, the property was never returned.
Forty-eight unindicted members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club also had personal property, including their motorcycles, seized at the same time. The government claimed then that the motorcycles had been taken as “evidence.” Under federal law the government was required to notify those unindicted men within 60 days that the government intended to seize their property. When the government refused to do that after 92 days, the unindicted men sued the government to have their motorcycles and other property returned. Two months later the government filed the current civil suit.
There has been much legal wrangling and maneuvering during the last three years. A few individuals have had their property returned. Most have not.
Most of all this civil suit and the federal resources that have been squandered to pursue it epitomize how the government of the United States squandered at least $150 million to “put a stake in the heart of the Mongols.” At the time the first indictment was returned the Mongols had about 550 members. At the same time the United States of America had the power to tax 300 million citizens. The power disparity between the two sides is still evident.
There will be a motion hearing in Judge Carter’s courtroom in Santa Ana on May 21. The civil trial will begin at 8:30 a.m. on June 12.