A federal indictment was unsealed today charging 23 alleged members and associates of the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG), including some of its most senior leaders, in a conspiracy involving racketeering, murder, robbery, kidnapping and aggravated assault, among other charges.
While the indictment was returned by a grand jury in Las Vegas, earlier today, federal, state and local law enforcement officials arrested individuals in Hawaii and across Southern California and Nevada, including in the Las Vegas metro area and in Reno.
Acting Assistant Attorney Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Steven W. Myhre of the District of Nevada; Acting Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI); Special Agent in Charge Jill A. Snyder of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) San Francisco Field Division; Sheriff Joseph Lombardo for Clark County, Nevada; and District Attorney Christopher Hicks for Washoe County, Nevada, made the announcement.
“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,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Today’s coordinated takedown 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.”
“Today’s indictment charges members and associates of a violent outlaw motorcycle gang with committing racketeering, murder, robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and other violent crimes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Myhre. “These charges are the result of the outstanding work of multiple state, local and federal law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in our joint effort to combat crime and to address the dangerous threats facing our communities today.”
“These arrests and indictments are the culmination of a far-reaching, meticulous, long-term probe involving HSI and multiple other law enforcement agencies aimed at dealing a crippling blow to one of this country’s most ruthless and violent criminal gangs,” said Acting Executive Associate Director Benner. “Members of this organization wrongly believed themselves to be above the law and immune from justice, but as today’s enforcement actions make abundantly clear, they should not have underestimated our collective resolve.”
“The Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang is a criminal organization which engages in acts of violence. Those acts, which included kidnapping and murder, threaten the safety of the communities in which the Vagos operate,” said Special Agent in Charge Snyder. “At ATF, our mission is to reduce violent crime within our communities and as a result of today’s arrests our neighborhoods are a safer place.”
“My department remains steadfast in its commitment to work in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies to disrupt and dismantle violent crime and gang activities in Clark County, Nevada,” said Sheriff Lombardo. “This RICO indictment represents a critical step toward dismantling this violent organization and clearly signals that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and our law enforcement partners have an unwavering commitment to hold those individuals accountable who insist on creating an atmosphere of violence and fear in our communities.”
The 12-count superseding indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to participate in the affairs of the Vagos OMG, a transnational gang with approximately 87 or more chapters in at least seven countries, on four continents, and approximately 75 chapters in the U.S., including approximately 54 chapters in Nevada and California. The indictment alleges that the Vagos OMG is a highly organized criminal organization which adheres to a hierarchical chain of command, and whose members conspired to enrich the gang; to preserve, protect and enhance the power of the gang; and to keep victims in fear of the gang through acts and threats of violence. Among other crimes, the indictment charges eight Vagos OMG leaders and members, including Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, aka “Romeo,” for the September 23, 2011 murder of a member of the rival Hells Angels gang at the Nugget Hotel and Casino in Sparks, Nevada.
“The murder committed by Ernesto Gonzalez in the Nugget Casino was always a part of a larger criminal conspiracy, which has been made even more clear today,” said District Attorney Hicks. “Prosecuting Gonzalez for his actions has been a priority for my office. As such, we welcomed the opportunity to work closely with federal authorities in this RICO investigation that not only seeks to hold Gonzales accountable but the entire involved Vagos criminal enterprise.”
The superseding indictment also alleges that the Vagos OMG is a closed society whose members value allegiance to the gang and its fellow members above all else, do not fear authority, and exhibit a complete disdain for the rules of society. According to the allegations in the indictment, witnesses to the gang’s criminal acts are typically victims of acts of obstruction, intimidation and harassment who are too afraid to approach law enforcement or testify in court proceedings.
The 23 defendants charged for their alleged roles in the federal racketeering conspiracy and violent crimes in aid of racketeering offenses are Pastor Fausto Palafox, a/k/a “Ta Ta,” 53, of Beaumont, Calif.; Albert Lopez, a/k/a “Al,” 39, of Canyon Country, Calif.; Albert Benjamin Perez, a/k/a “Dragon Man,” 57, of Santa Barbara, Calif.; James Patrick Gillespie, a/k/a “Jimbo,” 68, of Granada Hills, Calif.; Andrew Eloy Lozano, a/k/a “Hulk,” 42, of Fontana, Calif.; Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, a/k/a “Romeo,” of San Francisco; Victor Adam Ramirez, a/k/a “Slick,” 35, of Las Vegas; James Walter Henderson, a/k/a “CJ,” 64, of Henderson, Nev.; Steven Earl Carr, a/k/a “Big Steve,” 43, of Las Vegas; Robert Allen Coleman, a/k/a “Mayhem,” 59, of Las Vegas; Jeremy John Halgat, a/k/a “Maniak,” 39, of North Las Vegas, Nev.; Paul Jeffrey Voll, a/k/a “Shyster,” 52, of Pasadena, Calif.; John Joseph Siemer, a/k/a “Rocky,” 60, of Baldwin Park, Calif.; Bradley Michael Campos, a/k/a “Candy Man,” 50, of Alhambra, Calif.; Cesar Vaquera Morales, a/k/a “C,” 49, of San Jose, Calif.; Diego Chavez Garcia, a/k/a “Boo,” 34, of San Jose, Calif.; Edward Claridan Chelby, a/k/a “Recon,” 57, of Kailua, Hawaii; Johnny Russell Neddenriep, a/k/a “Johnny Bolts,” 51, of Reno, Nev.; Darin Kieth Grieder, a/k/a “Midget,” 48, of Sparks, Nev.; Bert Wayne Davisson, a/k/a “Flash,” 45, of Sparks, Nev.; Mathew Keith Dunlap, a/k/a “Big Mat,” 46, of Sparks, Nev., and John Chrispin Juarez, a/k/a “Quicky,” 69, of Moreno Valley, Calif.
The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by a multi-agency task force consisting of ICE-HSI; ATF; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department; Washoe County District Attorney’s Office; San Bernardino Police Department; San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; Riverside County Sheriff’s Office; California Department of Justice; San Diego County Sheriff’s Department; Sparks Police Department; Washoe County Sheriff’s Department; Carson City Sheriff’s Department; Douglas County Sheriff’s Office; Reno Police Department; North Las Vegas Police Department; Long Beach Police Department; Montebello Police Department; Henderson Police Department; San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office; Orange County, California District Attorney’s Office; Carson City District Attorney’s Office; and Clark County District Attorney’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney David Karpel of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Cristina D. Silva of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.