There are change of plea hearings tomorrow for five of the 51 defendants in the continuing racketeering case against members of the American Outlaws Association in Indiana. After Judge Tanya Walton Pratt formally accepts the pleas of Joshua Bowser, Jamie Bolinger, Stephen Duff, Vance Canner and Charles Ernstes 27 of the 51 men charged in the case will have ended and 24 will remain open.
Bowser, the lead defendant in United States versus Bowser et al., and Jamie Bolinger will plead nolo contendre , or no contest, to racketeering. Bradley A. Blackington, the lead prosecutor, had objected to that. The government is trying to prove that the AOA is a criminal racket.
The press release published the day the men were arrested claimed, “This enterprise-based investigation and today’s takedown focused on disrupting and dismantling what the indictment alleges to be a violent, criminal outlaw motorcycle gang by targeting its senior leaders and key members.” The release continued, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and our partner agencies are committed to making the streets of Indiana safer by the disruption and dismantlement of gangs like the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.”
A guilty plea by Bowser and Bolinger might be used as proof that the club is in fact a criminal racket. The no contest plea probably prevents that. Bowser and Bolinger will plead guilty to several other racketeering predicates including gambling, extortion and “wire fraud.”
Conjuring A Racket
The men had been scheduled to stand trial beginning Friday. Judge Walton Pratt told Blackington that she “cannot justify the time, expense and resources of a six to seven week trial.”
The lengthy and complicated case began with a sealed indictment on July 3, 2012 and has produced 2166 filings so far. The underlying investigation in the case began in May 2009 and was one subject in a book titled Vagos, Mongols and Outlaws: My Infiltration of America’s Deadliest Biker Gangs by Charles Falco and Kerrie Droban. You can read this page’s review of the book here.
Although multiple defendants in the case appear to have violated various, mostly state, laws the federal accusations are mostly conjured up with rhetoric that is intended to portray the Outlaws as something they are not.
The indictment alleges the accused “engaged in criminal activity including the use and distribution of controlled substances, the use and threatened use of violence, extortion, firearms violations, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling and insurance fraud.” As is common in biker RICO cases the indictment charges defendants with “being persons employed by and associated with the OMC (Outlaws Motorcycle Club), an enterprise engaged in and the activities of which affected interstate commerce” and that they “did knowingly and unlawfully conduct and participate, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of the OMC enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity within the meaning of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961 (1) and (5).”
The allegations include using the US Mail in a scheme to make false or contrived insurance claims; laundering the money obtained from the false insurance claims by buying a motorcycle and a Van; extorting the repayment of a loan; extorting a bar owner, distributing cocaine, morphine, methadone and Vicodin; discussing club business on the phone; threatening an unnamed person; and running an illegal lottery.