Federal prosecutors claim that the most infamous illegal motorcycle club in America has rules, and violating them may land even seasoned members in serious trouble with the group’s leadership.
In a recent federal racketeering case in California, severe consequences were revealed that included getting shot in the back of the head and having your face tattooed.
The information has come to light through independent trials involving 11 accused and three sister club chapters: one in the Massachusetts area of Salem/Boston and the other in California’s Sonoma County and Fresno.
In one instance, according to court filings, a former president of the Sonoma chapter exacted revenge on the man who had slept with his wife by beating him with a bat, getting a forehead tattoo, and sexually abusing the victim’s wife while he was being held captive for more than four hours in November 2016. He sustained permanent vision loss in addition to facial fractures.
In another, the remains of a member who was killed for picking a fight with a Salem club member were surreptitiously cremated by a 54-year-old Fresno member who had no past criminal record.
“The Hells Angels murdered one of their own,” U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey said in a statement about blacklisted member Joel Silva.
Federal prosecutors claim that club members concealed evidence following Silva’s 2014 death at the hands of two other people and a chapter president from Northern California.
According to the Justice Department, sentences have already been given to five of the defendants in this case. The other five, which include the three members found guilty of killing the man who was burned, are still awaiting their destiny. They are President Brian Wendt of the Fresno Hells Angels, President Jonathan “Jon Jon” Nelson of the Hells Angels Sonoma County Chapter (HASC), and Former President Russell Ott of the HASC. Life in jail is a mandatory penalty for them.
Ott, Wendt, and Nelson were found guilty of Silva’s murder last year. The president of the club’s Salem branch, Christopher “Rainman” Ranieri, was found guilty in May of orchestrating the scheme.
Shortly before he was killed, Silva got into a fight with a member of Massachusetts during a gathering in New Hampshire. Additionally, he had been charged with “badmouthing” Nelson.
According to the Justice Department, as a result, “they agreed that Silva had to be killed” when Ranieri summoned his counterparts from California to a conference.
According to court filings, on July 15, 2014, prosecutors allegedly lured Silva to the Fresno clubhouse.
Then Wendt gave him a headshot to the back.
Then Silva was cremated in a downtown funeral home by Merl Hefferman, a Fresno clubhouse member best known for organising yearly charity activities for underprivileged kids. Prosecutors claimed Hefferman may have participated in more covert cremations in court documents following his conviction; however, his defence team objected to this claim, citing Hefferman’s lone charge being impeding evidence related to Silva’s demise.
Prosecutors claim that Ranieri took a plane to Fresno for a celebration of the murder after it was carried out.
“For eight years, the victim’s family grieved without a body to mourn or certainty about what had happened to their loved one,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Tripp said in a statement.
Former HASC chapter president Raymond Foakes was found guilty of racketeering after torturing an ex-member who had slept with his common-law wife.
While the victim was being held captive, Foakes sexually assaulted her and beat him with a bat. He also got a tattoo over his forehead. Foakes is not yet facing a court case.
Hefferman, Jeremy Greer, Russell Lyles, Damien Cesena, 52 months, David Diaz, 30 months, and Russell Lyles, seven years, are the five members who have already received sentences.