Federal Grand Jury Returns Superseding Indictment Against Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Organization Leadership
Indictment Includes Charges Related to 2006 Murder of Austin Man and 4 New Defendants
In San Antonio, a federal grand jury has returned a second superseding indictment against the highest ranking leaders of the Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Organization (OMO), adding four new defendants and additional murder-related charges.
That announcement was made today by United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Western District of Texas; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division; Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division; Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw; Austin Police Chief Brian Manley; and, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.
This morning, federal, state and local authorities arrested 47–year-old Bandidos National Sergeant at Arms Johnny Romo (aka “Downtown Johnny”) of San Antonio; 45-year-old Bandidos San Antonio Centro Chapter member Robert Romo of San Antonio; 40-year-old Bandidos San Antonio Centro Chapter Sergeant at Arms Jesse James Benavidez (aka “Kronic”) of San Antonio; and, 35-year-old Bandidos San Antonio Centro Chapter member Norberto Serna, Jr. (aka “Hammer”) of San Antonio for their roles in the 2006 murder of Anthony Benesh. Authorities apprehended Johnny Romo in Waco, TX; the other three, in San Antonio. The 12-count second superseding indictment, unsealed late this afternoon in San Antonio, charges all four with one count of discharging a firearm during a murder in aid of racketeering. Johnny Romo and Robert Romo are also charged with murder in aid of racketeering.
The indictment alleges that Benesh was attempting to start a Texas Chapter of the Hell’s Angels OMO in Austin, Texas in 2006. Members of the Bandidos OMO warned Benesh to cease his activities and recruitment, which Benesh ignored. The four then murdered Benesh on March 18, 2006, outside an Austin restaurant to protect the power, reputation and territory of the Bandidos enterprise.
Included in the indictment are the previous federal charges filed against 61–year-old Bandidos National President Jeffrey Fay Pike of Conroe, TX, and 57–year-old National Vice President John Xavier Portillo of San Antonio. Portillo also faces a new charge (discharging a firearm during a murder in aid of racketeering) for his role in the retaliation murder of Robert Lara in January 2002 in Atascosa County for killing one of their own. Javier Negrete, a member of the same Bandidos OMO chapter as Portillo, was killed outside a San Antonio bar in October 2001.
Pike and Portillo are charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute; one count of conspiracy to commit violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VICAR); and one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion.
Portillo is also charged with: one count of VICAR (murder); two counts of aiding and abetting VICAR (assault with a deadly weapon); one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine; one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine; and, one count of felon in possession of a firearm.
Pike and Portillo are accused of directing, sanctioning, approving and permitting members of the Bandidos organization to carry out racketeering acts including murder, attempted murder, robbery, assault, intimidation, extortion and drug trafficking to protect and enhance the organization’s power, territory, reputation and profits.
According to court records, the Bandidos OMO declared it was “at war” with the Cossacks OMO. The indictment specifically alleges a number of violent acts committed by Bandidos OMO members in furtherance of this “war.” The indictment also alleges that Portillo and other members of the Bandidos OMO were engaged in trafficking methamphetamine and cocaine and maintained an agreement with the Texas Mexican Mafia wherein Bandidos OMO members were not required to pay the 10-percent “dime” to the Texas Mexican Mafia in exchange for permission to traffic narcotics.
Pike is currently out on bond pending trial. Portillo remains incarcerated pending trial. Jury selection is currently scheduled for August 7, 2017. The other defendants remain in custody pending detention hearings next week before United States Magistrate Judge John Primomo in San Antonio. Upon conviction, the defendants face up to life in federal prison.
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the FBI, DEA and Texas DPS together with the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Austin Police Department, New Braunfels Police Department, Seguin Police Department, San Antonio Police Department, Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, Atascosa County Sheriff’s Department, and the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.
It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.