Twenty-three members of the Vagos motorcycle gang were arrested over the weekend in dramatic police raids across three states.
The men were picked up in California, Nevada and Hawaii and are now in custody facing charges of murder, kidnapping, assault, racketeering and drug trafficking.
Some are wanted for orchestrating the fatal shooting of a Hells Angel boss at a Las Vegas casino in 2011.
In a 45-page indictment, prosecutors described how the 23 men, who all went by nicknames including ‘Tata’, ‘Dragon Man’ and ‘Romeo’, were responsible for ‘drug addiction, death and mayhem’ across five states.
The indictment was unsealed by the Department of Justice on Friday. It details how the high-ranking suspects were known as ‘national’ or ‘international officers’ – a title of authority in the 50-year-old gang’s hierarchy.
They were marched out of their homes and one building which was operating as a rehab center on Friday and were handcuffed and lined up on the sidewalk. The charges relate to incidents between 2005 and 2017.
Twenty-three members of the Vagos motorcycle gang were arrested in raids in California, Hawaii and Nevada on Friday. Above, some of the heavily tattooed suspects who were handcuffed after they emerged from a rehab center in Moreno Valley, California
They are; Pastor Fausto Palafox, aka ‘Tata’, Albert Lopez aka ‘Al’, Albert Benjamin Perez, aka Dragon Man, James Patrick Gillespie, aka Jimbo, Andrew Eloy Lozano, aka Hulk, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, aka Romeo, Victor Adam Ramirez, aka Slick, James Walter Henderson aka CJ, Steven Earl Carr, aka Big Steve, Robert Alan Coleman, aka Mayhem, Jeremy John Halgat, aka Maniak, Paul Jeffrey Voll, aka Shyster, John Joseph Siemer, aka Rocky, Bradley Michael Campos, aka Candy Man, Cesar Vaquera Morales, aka C, Diego Chavez Garcia aka Boo, Edward Claridan Chelb, aka Recon, Johnny Russell Neddenriep aka Johnny Bolts, Darin Kieth Grieder, aka Midget, Thomas Granville Garretson, aka Tommy Guns, Bert Wayne Davisson, aka Flash, Matthew Keith Dunlap, aka Big Mat, and John Chrispin Juarez, aka Quicky.
Together, the men, who referred to the operation as a ‘brotherhood’, are accused of ordering the murders of rival gang members and instructing underlings to kill disobedient Vagos motorcyclists.
Some are accused of peddling methamphetamine while others allegedly sold counterfeit goods. One man is alleged to have beaten a female bartender unconscious in one attack.
They trafficked stolen guns and cars, talked in code on the phone to evade law enforcement and intimidated anyone who threatened to expose their criminal investigation, prosecutors claim.
The gang members ranged in age but all are considered high-ranking in the group’s hierarchy
Some of the men have the gang’s coat of arms tattooed on their backs. The indictment against them details how members are expected to pledge loyalty by wearing the gang’s colors and identifying badges on their clothes
A gang member is led away by armed police after the raid in Moreno Valley, California, on Friday
All of the men were ordered to remove their shirts as part of the raid before they were led away
Officers from the FBI and Homeland Security’s Police Gang Unit were among those involved in the investigation
WHO ARE THE VAGOS BIKERS?
The Vagos insignia depicts the Norse god Loki. It was designed by a member of the gang while they served time in prison
The Vagos Motorcycle gang, also referred to as Vagos OMG, Green Nation and Vagos MC, was founded in San Bernardino, California, in 1965.
Its name as Spanish for ‘lazy’ and honors the Norse god of mischief which is depicted in its emblem. Since its formation, the operation has grown to have 87 chapters in at least seven countries including the United States and regions of South and Central America.
According to the indictment, it has 54 chapters in Nevada and California alone and the entire organisation has between 900 and 1,000 members.
Hells Angels is a bigger operation with thousands of members across hundreds of chapters in countries around the world.
Vagos gang members are identified by its ‘colors’ or cuts, all of which feature the color green. Many have tattoos of the coat of arms, which was designed by an imprisoned gang member, on their backs.
Authorities say the gang operates as an illegal enterprise whose mission is to stamp-out rival gangs.
The gang refers to itself as a ‘one percent gang’ which denotes its status as an outlaw biker gang. Members also call themselves ‘Green Nation’.
In 2011, gang members ordered the death of Hells Angel boss Jeff Pettigrew at the Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Ernesto Gonzalez, one of those accused in the indictment, was previously charged with the killing but was freed on a technicality.
As part of their membership, they paid ‘dues’ to a mutual fund controlled by the gang which paid for individuals’ legal costs.
All were expected to wear the gang’s signature pale green colors once accepted.
The bosses gave orders to more junior recruits to carry out criminal activity, according to the indictment. This included giving the ‘green light’ for assaults on rival Hells Angels and an ‘SOS’ which stood for ‘smash on sight’.
The charges are; conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, violent crime in aid of racketeering – murder, using and carrying a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence, kidnapping, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, conspiracy to possess with intent to deliver a controlled substance, using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, taking of a motor vehicle and aiding and abetting.
Ernesto Gonzalez was among those arrested. He escaped jail in 2013 after being freed on a technicality for the murder of a Hells Angel
Hells Angel boss Jeff Pettigrew was shot dead at a casino in 2011. According to prosecutors, members of the Vagos gang ordered and carried out his killing
Pettigrew was killed at Las Vegas’s Golden Nugget casino in 2011
Among the criminal allegations are details of how the gang was structured and what rules it imposed.
Women were not allowed to join but were often called on to carry drugs or guns for the men. Some were referred to as ‘VOLS – Vagos Ol Lady’ or were considered the ‘property’ of male members.
After unsealing the indictment on Friday, Acting Assistant Attorney Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said: ‘Today, the rule of law dealt a serious blow to the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, a so-called “brotherhood” responsible for drug addiction, death and mayhem in multiple locations, including California, Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon and Nevada.
‘Today’s coordinated take-down of this biker organization’s leadership is a victory for all of us who respect and love our country, and a testament to the bravery and dedication of federal, state and local law enforcement men and women who to keep our communities safe.’
The men are all due to appear in courts in California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Vagos members are expected to wear the gang’s signifying colors once accepted into the troop. They are referred to as ‘cuts’ and ‘colors’, the indictment reads (file image above)