Hells Angels Convicted and Sentenced After Joint Investigation Uncovers Racketeering Conspiracy Dealing in Guns, Drugs, Armed Robbery, Arson, and Money Laundering
Contact Person: Jay Richardson (803) 929-3000
Columbia, South Carolina -----As part of a cooperative federal, state, and local investigation, sixteen members and associates of the Hells Angels were convicted in federal court of crimes related to a racketeering conspiracy (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO- 18 U.S.C. §1962). Today, three full-patch members of the Hells Angels – Hells Angels Charter President Mark “Lightning” Baker, as well as “Gravel” Dave Oiler, and Bruce “Bruce-Bruce” Long – were sentenced after having been convicted by a jury of racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking, money laundering, and firearm offenses. United States District Judge Cameron Currie sentenced Baker to 188 months, Oiler to 200 months, and Long to 168 months. Previously, twelve other members and associates of the Hells Angels were sentenced after having pleaded guilty. One defendant, Carlos Hernandez, remains to be sentenced. United States Attorney Bill Nettles said, “We are pleased to partner with federal, state, and local law enforcement in response to community concerns about outlaw motorcycle gangs. Removing machine-guns, silencers, assault rifles, other illegal firearms, and drugs from our streets while disrupting the trafficking activities of violent gangs, such as the Hells Angels, is and will remain a priority of the United States Attorney’s Office.”
Members and associates of the Hells Angels South Carolina Nomads Charter operated from Lexington to Rock Hill, South Carolina. As part of the coordinated criminal activity, the group engaged in drug dealing, money laundering, firearms trafficking, use of firearms in relation to crimes of violence and drug dealing, attempted armed robbery, arson, and other offenses. The Hells Angels’ leadership coordinated the criminal activity and received kickbacks or cuts of the illicit proceeds generated by members and associates of the Hells Angels. During the investigation, the gang’s leadership transitioned from long-time Hells Angels member, “Diamond” Dan Bifield, to recent inductee, Mark “Lightning” Baker, after the Charter’s members voted Bifield out as President. Throughout, as Baker and Bifield explained in recorded conversations, members of the Hells Angels were to pay a cut of their profits from illegal activity to the Hells Angels and its leadership.
Though professing to live outside the structure of society’s laws as so-called “outlaws” or “one-percenters” (denoting that they are the one percent that refuses to abide by the law), the investigation showed the Hells Angels to have a highly-organized hierarchical chain of command governed by extensive written rules. Membership, which is limited to white males that own an American-made motorcycle, requires more than a year of association with the gang. Only full members may wear the three-piece patch with the winged death head that has become synonymous with the Hells Angels.
The investigation revealed that the Hells Angels trafficked in a wide-array of firearms, knowing that the weapons were being sold to known felons for use in armed robberies of other drug dealers. In excess of one hundred guns were trafficked by the group (including by Bifield, Long, Pryor, Keach, and others) and recovered during the execution of search warrants, including fully-automatic machine-guns, silencers, assault rifles with high-capacity magazines, pistols, and sawed-off shotguns.
Members of the organization not only supplied weapons, they also supplied methamphetamine (known as “biker’s coffee”) and cocaine, along with bath salts and prescription pain pills. The evidence showed that the defendants were responsible for more than five pounds of methamphetamine and multiple kilograms of cocaine. For example, Baker and Oiler obtained for re-distribution pounds of high-quality methamphetamine from Kerry Chitwood, a member of the Gastonia, NC-based Southern Gentlemen Motorcycle Club. During their drug trafficking activities, club members traded on the Hells Angels’ infamous reputation to instill fear and obtain the drugs they wanted. Similarly, Bifield and Long distributed more than a kilogram of cocaine and bath salts obtained from a variety of sources. Other members of this drug conspiracy (including “Big” Frank Enriquez and Baker) trafficked in prescription pain pills.
“The Hells Angels are one of the most notorious biker gangs in the United States,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David A. Thomas explained. “Working with our Federal, State, and Local partners, we are committed to using our resources on the most significant problems facing our state. These convictions send a strong message that the coordinated efforts of law enforcement can disrupt, and hopefully dismantle, organized gang activity.”
After a month-long trial, a federal jury convicted Baker of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, and money laundering; Oiler of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, various counts of narcotics distribution and attempted distribution, money laundering, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and a crime of violence, and illegal possession of a machine-gun and silencer; and Long of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, various counts of narcotics distribution and attempted distribution, money laundering, and sale of firearms for use in drug trafficking and a crime of violence. These three received sentences ranging from 14 years to over 16 years.
Previously, six defendants pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy and were sentenced by the Court: Diamond Dan Bifield (210 months), David “Yard Owl” Pryor (84 months), Richard “Little Mark” Thrower (27 months), “Big” Frank Enriquez (24 months), Fred Keach (10 months), and Johanna Looper (15 months). Three defendants pleaded guilty to a narcotics conspiracy and were sentenced by the Court: Kerry “Gowilla” Chitwood (240 months), “Big” Ron Byrum (51 months), and Trent Brown (24 months). Lisa Bifield pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and a crime of violence and was sentenced to 84 months in prison. James “Sonny” Rhodus pleaded guilty to money laundering, receiving 5 years of probation, while Bruce “Diesel” Wilson pleaded guilty to selling a firearm to a known felon and received 18 months in federal prison.
“ATF will continue to work in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies to identify organized violent criminals in our joint effort to protect the public,” said ATF Charlotte Division Special Agent in Charge Wayne Dixie, “The sentencing of members and associates of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in federal court should send a loud and clear message to anyone who chooses to engage in this type of criminal activity; it cannot and will not be tolerated and you will be held accountable.”
This multi-agency investigation led by FBI Special Agent Devon Mahoney began in response to community concerns about the infiltration of the Rock Hill community by outlaw motorcycle gangs and the brewing violence developing between members of rival outlaw motorcycle gangs. Ultimately, the investigation - through cooperating individuals, surveillance, search warrants, court-authorized wiretaps, consensual recordings, controlled buys, stings, and other investigative techniques - provided a window into the Hells Angels’ criminal activities that led to these arrests and convictions. This investigative partnership – the South Carolina Hells Angels Task Force –included officers and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Lexington Police Department; Lexington County Sheriff’s Department; York County Sheriff’s Department; and Rock Hill Police Department; and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Richardson and Jim May. Attachment (Photograph of the guns and drugs obtained from the Hells Angels in South Carolina. Click the images for larger photos)