This story was published July 15, 2013 and was modified on July 16 to clarify the identity of ATF agent John Carr.
The federal portion of the cases contrived during Operation Pure Luck is still stuck in low.
Pure Luck was the ATF investigation that began in 2009 and was intended to infiltrate the Vagos, Bandidos and Chosen Few Motorcycle Clubs. The investigation also led to the arrests of men associated with the Wicked Riderz and Green Machine Motorcycle Clubs. Most of the defendants were charged with state offenses in Nevada, California, Utah, Arizona, Texas, New York and Hawaii.
Eight men have been charged with federal crimes. Those men are Robert “BK” Kane, William “East Coast Billy” Congero, Steven “Big Steve” Carr, Robert “Mayhem” Coleman, Eric Panter, Thomas “Tommy Mac” McNamara, Michael Hughes and Todd Wigner. There hasn’t been a filing in the federal case since June 28th.
Let’s Meet Tino
The federal inditees all seem to have been victimized by the sort of stings and entrapments Los Angeles Federal Prosecutor Reema M. El-Amamy called “guerilla street theater” after Operation Black Rain five years ago. And there are other similarities between Pure Luck and Black Rain besides the made for television operation names. The most obvious is Tino Brancato.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Augostino Brancato was a Task Force Officer during Operation Black Rain. In one memorable performance Brancato pretended to be a drug dealer during a multi-kilo cocaine “sting” in a Vegas hotel room. The incident was described in Out Bad, a book about the Mongols case, in part as follows. “Carr” in this scene, was ATF agent John “Hollywood” Carr. The conversation went, in part, like this:
Sheriff Brancato knocked on the door eleven minutes later. He and Carr jawed at each other like a campy, community theater remake of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. “Are we gonna do this thing,” Carr asks as he poses for the hidden camera.
“We gonna do this thing,” Brancato improvises.
“I mean we’re gonna do business right,” Carr asks. “I mean business is business.”
“I’m gonna walk out of here with 528,” Brancato glowers, “and then everybody’s happy. Okay?”
Obviously, such talent had to be rewarded so since that night in Vegas Brancato has stepped up to the big club – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Brancato was an undercover in Operation Pure Luck. He patched into the Vagos in 2012 and went undetected for at least a year.
Diablo And Others
Angel “Diablo” Ramirez helped Brancato patch in. Ramirez was a widely respected member of the Vagos, a regional leader of his club and a member of the board of the Southern Nevada Confederation of Clubs.
Multiple sources have identified Ramirez as an ATF Confidential Informant. One source said, “He instigated almost all of the alleged illegal activity” in the case. Both Ramirez and Brancato seem to have spent much of their time spreading disinformation from June 2012 onward, as if the biker world was not already paranoid enough.
The investigation began sometime before June 7, 2009 which was the date of a brawl involving members of the Bandidos, Down and Dirty and Flaming Knights Motorcycle Clubs. The Flaming Knights and the Chosen Few Motorcycle Clubs are both predominantly black clubs. The brawl allegedly involved the shouting of racial epithets which is another dramatic technique borrowed from the Mongols case.
There was a least one and possibly as many as three additional Under Covers or Confidential Informants in the Pure Luck investigation. One of them may have been, but was not necessarily, black. And, there is conflicting information that indicates there may have also been CIs in both the Bandidos and Peckerwoods Motorcycle Clubs during the four years of the investigation – one of whom may have been involved in additional examples of guerilla street theater. This was a weird investigation – cobbled together out of numerous dramatic scenes and sprawling off in many directions at once like kudzu.