There are two ongoing cases against members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in South Carolina. Federal prosecutors seem to be trying to win the one titled United States versus Bifield et al. The other case, titled Operation Red Harvest was probably never more than a publicity stunt to get an interim police chief a permanent appointment.
The stunt was in Horry County, South Carolina which includes and surrounds Myrtle Beach – a resort on the make that expends an awful lot of effort building its brand and polishing its image. Myrtle Beach shut down a major motorcycle run called Myrtle Beach Bike Week in 2010 with draconian noise, helmet and loitering prohibitions. Then the next year the city was proud to serve as the location for the HBO series Eastbound and Down about a fictional stoner, egomaniac and baseball pitcher named Kenny Powers.
Powers spoke for bikers everywhere when he voiced this judgment of South Carolina’s best known party place: “I can take a hint. These people have been acting like assholes, so I don’t want to party here either. Fucking get off of me, thank you. Fuck this party!”
Operation Red Harvest
Operation Red Harvest was a name given to a collection of 226 criminal complaints brought against 34 people. Many of the accused had ties to the Hells Angels or the Red Devils. It was also the name given to an 18 month long investigation that began after a member of one of the clubs was expelled and ordered to black out or remove his club tattoos. After some of his former club brothers took the informant aside and reasoned with him he went to the police and complained that he had been kidnapped and assaulted.
The ex-brother also confessed that a prospective member was growing marijuana and some of the club members were selling it. Verifying this gripping and important story took a year and a half and culminated in a series of raids last April 30. Police told local television journalists they had seized “three bales” of marijuana and three dead marijuana plants. The actual weight of this drug bust has never been described.
Police also seized personal computers, cell phones, cash, a scale, surveillance cameras, legal firearms, a bullet proof vest, filing cabinets, club meeting minutes, other club records, thumb drives, a satellite dish, two sets of brass knuckles, Hells Angels cuts, two printers, a glass pipe, more than 200 tee shirts, earrings, framed photos, old Christmas cards, burned trash and “a plastic baggie” containing “a white rock-like substance.”
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The interim police chief, Saundra Rhodes, bragged “We believe this will have a significant impact on the Hell’s Angels. In my 18 years with the department I’ve never seen a grand jury investigation that netted 226 indictments…. This is a pretty big deal.”
A local prosecutor named Greg Hembree told the cameras, “It’s going to take up a lot of their (the defendants) time and energy and resources to defend these charges.” And, it certainly has. And it was a big deal for Rhodes who was permanently appointed Horry County Police Chief in September.
But two months after that none of the accused yet has a trial date. Eighty-five percent of the assets and goods seized last April have been returned to their owners. Records pertaining to the motorcycle clubs have never been returned and have been fed into the great, all devouring maw of the Homeland Security fusion center network.
A defense attorney named John Hilliard who is representing some of the defendants told television station WPDE “As I’ve gone through this process, I’ve found all those charged polite, hardworking, cooperative members of the community with jobs, families and work and that they are all responsible citizens.”
So far the case has not had “a significant impact on the Hell’s Angels” but it has had a significant impact on the lives of “polite, hardworking, cooperative members of the community.” And Saundra Rhodes got the job.