FORMER PRESIDENT OF VENTURA HELLS ANGELS CHAPTER ARRESTED ON FEDERAL EXTORTION AND FIREBOMBING CHARGES
LOS ANGELES – The former president of the Ventura County Chapter of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang was arrested this morning on federal charges stemming from an extortion plot and the firebombing of two Ventura tattoo shops in 2007.
George Christie Jr., 64, of Ventura, was one of four defendants arrested this morning on federal conspiracy, extortion and arson charges contained in a six-count indictment.
The indictment alleges that Christie, while the president of the Ventura County Chapter of the Hells Angels, conspired to threaten the owners of rival tattoo parlors in an effort to force them to close down their businesses. When the owners remained in business, Christie allegedly conspired to firebomb the businesses.
Christie is charged with three Hobbs Act extortion conspiracies, one count of conspiracy to use fire or explosive to damage property, and two counts of use of fire or explosive to damage property.
The three other defendants arrested this morning are:
Kyle Douglas Gilbertson, 33, of Ventura;
Benito Hurtado, 34, of Oak View; and
Richard Reeves Russell III, 29, of Ventura.
Gilbertson, Hurtado and the Russell are named along with Christie in the first Hobbs Act extortion counts.
The indictment alleges that Christie, who was the owner of The Ink House in Ventura, conspired to confront the owners of two other tattoo parlors – Scratch the Surface, of Ventura, and Twisted Ink, of Ventura. The indictment specifically alleges that Christie intended for the confrontations to induce the owners of the rival tattoo parlors to shut down their businesses.
When the owners of Scratch the Surface and Twisted Ink kept their shops open for business despite the prior threats to shut down, Christie conspired to damage or completely destroy the businesses so they could no longer compete with Christie’s tattoo shop, The Ink House, according to the indictment.
Both Scratch the Surface and Twisted Ink were damaged on July 6, 2007 when Molotov cocktails were thrown into the businesses by individuals acting in furtherance of this conspiracy. At the time of the firebombings, Twisted Ink was located directly across the street from Ventura High School, while Scratch the Surface – housed in the same building as an occupied residence – was operating next to a pre-school.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The three counts in the indictment that charge the Hobbs Act extortions each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. The counts in the indictment that allege arson each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, and a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison. Therefore, if he is convicted of all six counts in the indictment, Christie would face a statutory maximum penalty of 120 years in federal prison.
Christie and the other three defendants arrested this morning are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department; and the Ventura Police Department.
Release No. 11-112
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