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Press Release

Two Prominent Hells Angels Members Convicted Of Racketeering Conspiracy And Murder Conspiracy In Second Trial

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Jury’s Verdicts Bring To Nine the Number of Defendants Convicted of Crimes Related to the Criminal Enterprise

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal jury found Raymond Foakes, a/k/a Ray Ray, and Christopher Ranieri, a/k/a Rainman, guilty of racketeering conspiracy, murder conspiracy and related crimes for their participation in the criminal enterprise of the Sonoma County charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HASC), announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp. The verdicts follow a two-month trial before the Honorable Edward M. Chen, United States District Judge. A third defendant, Brian Burke, was acquitted of a single count of witness intimidation. 

“Foakes and Ranieri followed a malicious code of conduct that permitted—and sometimes encouraged—the beating, maiming, and even killing of anyone who dared to cross their criminal enterprise,” said U.S. Attorney Ramsey. “The defendants now will be sentenced for their conduct and face the consequences of their violent racketeering activities.” 

“This criminal enterprise tried to intimidate the community through fear into silence,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Tripp. “The prosecution of a dozen members and associates of the Sonoma County Hells Angels brings an end to that fear and keeps our community safe. I commend the witnesses who did not succumb to this group's intimidation tactics and came forward to law enforcement. I am proud of the collaboration of the FBI with our partners at the United States Attorney's Office, California Highway Patrol, and Santa Rosa Police Department. All of us stand committed to removing violent criminals from our neighborhoods.” 

The trial is the second following the October 10, 2017, indictment from a federal grand jury. The indictment described the Hells Angels as a violent transnational outlaw motorcycle gang and the HASC as a subset of the gang whose members primarily operate in Sonoma County, California. The indictment charged eleven members and associates of the HASC with being part of the criminal conspiracy that engaged in a broad swath of criminal activity including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, narcotics distribution, assault, robbery, extortion, illegal firearms possession, obstruction of justice, and witness intimidation. With yesterday’s jury verdict, nine of the eleven defendants, one of whom became deceased, have been convicted of crimes related to HASC activities, five by jury verdicts. The convicted defendants include five former Presidents of three Hells Angels charters: Sonoma County, Fresno, and Salem (Boston). 

The first trial in 2022 centered on the murder of former HASC members, Joel Silva, a/k/a Doughboy. The jury convicted Jonathan Nelson, a/k/a Jon Jon, 46, of Santa Rosa; Brian Wayne Wendt, 45, of Tulare; and Russell Taylor Ott, a/k/a Rusty, 69, of Santa Rosa, each of whom played a role in carrying out the July 15, 2014, murder of Silva. 

In the second trial, Christopher Ranieri, President of the Salem charter of the Hells Angels, was convicted for his role in hatching the plan to murder Silva, along with Wendt, President of Fresno charter of the Hells Angels, and Nelson, President of the Sonoma charter of the Hells Angels. In 2014, at a motorcycle event in Laconia, New Hampshire, Silva threatened a member of the Salem charter close to Ranieri, which was perceived to be disrespectful to Ranieri, Wendt, and Nelson. The three agreed that Silva had to be killed. On July 15, 2014, Silva was lured to the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse and shot in the back of the head by Wendt. The next morning, Silva’s body was incinerated at a local crematory and his truck set on fire. Ranieri met with Wendt and others at Ranieri’s home in Lynn, Massachusetts, after the Laconia event, where they decided to kill Silva. Ranieri also met with Wendt and Nelson two days before the murder and was in frequent phone contact with Wendt and Nelson the day before and following Silva’s murder. Ranieri returned to Fresno, California for a party to celebrate the successful killing of Silva afterwards. 

Foakes, former President of the Sonoma charter of the Hells Angels, was convicted of assault with a firearm in aid of racketeering, in connection with the multi-hour beating of a former HASC member by Foakes and other HASC members to expel the former member from the enterprise. The former member had an affair with Foakes’ then common law wife, which was a violation of HASC rules. During the expulsion, among other acts of violence, Foakes beat the victim with a baseball bat, forcibly tattooed the victim’s forehead, and induced Nelson to pistol-whip the victim in the face. Foakes was also convicted of witness intimidation, in connection with his sexual assault of the victim’s wife while the victim was still being beaten at the HASC clubhouse and threatening her to comply with his demands and not report to the authorities. 

Ranieri and Foakes were additionally convicted of racketeering conspiracy for their agreement to conduct the affairs of the HASC through a pattern of racketeering activity, to include conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, drug dealing, witness intimidation, obstruction of justice, and arson. Ranieri was found to have understood that murder was a part of the pattern of racketeering activity. 

In sum, the jury convicted both Ranieri and Foakes of participating in a racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). In addition, the jury convicted Foakes of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(2), and witness intimidation, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1512(b)(1). Further, Ranieri also was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5). 

Ranieri faces a statutory maximum prison term of life. Foakes faces a statutory maximum prison term of 60 years. Further, additional fines, forfeitures, and restitution may be ordered; however, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 
Both defendants are in federal custody pending sentencing. Judge Chen has not yet scheduled the defendants’ sentencing hearings. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lina Peng and Kevin Barry conducted the trial with the assistance of paralegal specialist Kevin Costello. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the Santa Rosa Police Department, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol.

Updated May 19, 2023