Sweep nets 25 in ‘ruthless’ biker gang

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant Green is the club’s chosen color and 22 corresponds to V, the 22nd letter of the alphabet. Authorities said the three-year investigation was among the largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region. More than 80 search and arrest warrants were issued and 25 people were taken into custody Thursday on federal or state charges that included firearms and drug violations. An additional five people already were in custody. Those arrested Thursday included seven chapter presidents, one vice president, one secretary, one treasurer and seven sergeants-at-arms. The vice president, Ryan Matteson, 29, was arrested for investigation of murder in connection with a home-invasion robbery in Lucerne Valley where three people were robbed and one was killed, authorities said. In a statement, Torres said investigators seized 95 illegal firearms, some illegal drugs, $6,000 in cash and two stolen motorcycles. RANCHO CUCAMONGA – Hundreds of law enforcement officers targeted the Vagos motorcycle club Thursday in a Southern California sweep that netted 25 arrests of leaders and associates of what officials labeled an outlaw gang. “The Vagos are a ruthless criminal biker gang that virtually held our communities hostage” by dealing in “guns, drugs and death,” said John Torres, a special agent in charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “We’re going to continue to fight this war on our local terrorists,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said at a news conference. “Operation 22 Green,” as it was called, targeted Vagos associates in five Southern California counties. It involved 700 ATF and local police and sheriff’s departments. Ramos said the sweep effectively “dismantled,” the club, which he estimated has several hundred members. Torres said he anticipated that many of those arrested will have their cases incorporated into a federal racketeering case against the club. An e-mail message seeking comment from the club was not immediately returned. However, leaders in the past have said Vagos is a social club, not a criminal enterprise and frequently have complained of being subjected to witch-hunts. “It’s about riding motorcycles together. Spending time as a family, a pack, a club, a tribe,” James Cross, 34, former president of the Placer County Vagos told The Sacramento Bee. His comments were published Wednesday. “The club frowns on criminal activity,” said Cross, who is one of three people accused of conspiring to kill a fellow member. Vagos (pronounced VAH’-gohs), whose patch includes the Norse god of mischief, Loki, was founded in San Bernardino in the 1960s. The Spanish name means “traveling gypsy” or “a street-wise person that’s always up to something,” according to the club Web site. In the past decade, there have been several sweeps against members and associates in connection with crimes ranging from marijuana sales to murder. More than 30 of them have been convicted of various crimes. In San Bernardino County, two murder cases and two attempted-murder cases have been filed against Vagos associates or members, Ramos said. He did not provide details. In September 2004, a state investigation involving the gang led to the arrests of 26 people and the seizure of more than $125,000 in cash, drugs and guns. In October 1998, a two-year undercover investigation of the gang resulted in the arrests of more than a dozen people in connection with alleged kidnapping, drug and weapons crimes. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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