Mongols motorcycle gang arrested in federal sweep

By: AP
By: AP

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dozens of burly, tattoo-covered members of the Mongol motorcycle gang were arrested Tuesday by federal agents in six states following a three-year investigation in which undercover agents infiltrated the group.

At least 38 members of the Southern California-based Mongol Motorcycle Club were arrested under a federal racketeering indictment that included charges of murder, attempted murder, assault, as well as gun and drug violations, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman Mike Hoffman.

During some arrests, sharpshooters stood guard on surrounding rooftops as motorcycles were lined up and confiscated.

"It's going to be a large hit to their organization. We are arresting many of their top members," Hoffman said.

Among those arrested were the gang's former national president, Ruben Cavazos.

Federal and local agents had 110 federal arrest warrants and 160 search warrants that were being served across Southern California and in Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Ohio. The sweep, dubbed Operation Black Rain, was to continue throughout the day Tuesday, agents said.

Hoffman said the Mongols had been recruiting members of Los Angeles street gangs to assist in their operations.

The Mongols are primarily Latino and formed because the Hells Angels refused to allow Hispanic members.

Four ATF agents infiltrated the gang and were accepted as full members, a difficult process that requires winning the trust of the gang's top leaders over a period of months, Hoffman said.

The agents were required to live away from their families in homes set up to make it look like they lived a Mongols lifestyle, Hoffman said. Four undercover women ATF agents also were involved in the operation, pretending to be biker girlfriends and attending parties with the agents; women are not allowed to become full members of the gang.

"If you go to a party all the time and you don't ever bring a girl around, it's kind of weird," Hoffman said. "Someone might get suspicious."

To be accepted in the gang, the ATF agents had to run errands and were subject to a background check by private detectives.

Outside Cavazos' home in West Covina, about 18 miles east of Los Angeles, a red, custom-modified Harley-Davidson motorbike sat outside. No occupants were home but several police and ATF agents were seen going through items in the house.

Cavazos wrote a memoir titled "Honor Few, Fear None: The Life and Times of a Mongol," published by HarperCollins in June.

HarperCollins publicist Sarah Burningham in New York City said she only handles book-related issues for Cavazos, but would forward an e-mail from The Associated Press requesting comment.

At least 22 motorcycles were on display outside the Los Angeles Police Department's main building Tuesday morning. All were modified, chrome-covered Harleys with custom artwork. One had a fiberglass skull on the clutch, another's kick stand had been modified to make it look like bird talons. Several bore Mongols insignia.

Las Vegas police reported serving several warrants at homes in southern Nevada, where five men were in federal custody pending an appearance before a federal magistrate, said Natalie Collins, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Las Vegas.

In 2002, a Mongols member got two to five years in Nevada state prison for his part in a deadly casino brawl with rival Hells Angels during a biker rally. Three people died in the fight.


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