Mongols Motorbike Club States Its Leader Was an InformantJune 6, 2022
For much more than two a long time, federal regulation enforcement authorities pursued the Mongols, a notorious motorbike club whose members had a very long historical past of murder, assault, drug working and robbery.
In 2018, the govt scored a victory of sorts. Prosecutors confident a jury in California that these crimes have been not just the final result of personal bikers behaving poorly, but the get the job done of an arranged prison organization that had participated in a marketing campaign of mayhem. The club was purchased to shell out a $500,000 fine in what prosecutors hoped would be a down payment on placing it out of small business.
But the group that was once the most impressive biker firm in the West other than its archrivals, the Hells Angels, is returning to court docket upcoming week, hoping to established apart the racketeering and conspiracy convictions primarily based on what it says is new evidence about its former leader, David Santillan. The Mongols are now boasting that throughout their endeavor to defend the club in the long-working felony scenario, their very own chief was secretly talking to the authorities.
A petition for a new trial and reversal of the 50 percent-million-dollar fine, which is scheduled for an initial listening to on Monday in the U.S. District Court docket in Santa Ana, Calif., promises that Mr. Santillan, 52, covertly cooperated for a long time with a specific agent from the federal Bureau of Liquor, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In exchange, the club reported in its movement, the agent seems to have spared Mr. Santillan from serious lawful outcomes for numerous offenses considering that 2011.
The abnormal legal imbroglio offers a scarce glimpse into the hidden and risky politics of the outlaw motorcycle club and the diploma to which regulation enforcement and its targets may interact in confined cooperation when it is seen as mutually valuable.
The A.T.F. and other legislation enforcement agencies have extensive gone immediately after biker businesses by co-opting associates as informants and infiltrating the teams with their individual undercover agents.
The Mongols are relying on an explosive movie shared by Mr. Santillan’s wife, Annie Santillan, who, all through a stretch when she was offended with her partner around his infidelity, experienced her daughter file a dialogue in which he appeared to refer to defense he had obtained from the A.T.F. agent.
She also reported in a textual content message to other Mongols, now submitted with the court, that her partner experienced acted for a time as a private governing administration informant. “In other terms,” she wrote, “he is a rat.”
Both equally Mr. Santillan, a Mongols member for practically 25 yrs who was voted out of the club in July, and the agent, John Ciccone, who retired in December following 32 yrs at the A.T.F., deny that Mr. Santillan was performing as an informant throughout the trial, though Mr. Ciccone’s sworn declaration does not deal with no matter if Mr. Santillan had acted as a private informant in the past. Each gentlemen also rejected the declare that Mr. Santillan had uncovered privileged protection facts to the govt while his bike club was on trial.
The existing countrywide leaders of the Mongols said they were confident that the club’s former president, who controlled the Mongols’ defense team, experienced acted improperly. “It became distinct that Dave experienced betrayed the club, his oath and everything we keep sacred,” the club explained in a statement.
Mr. Santillan has acknowledged that he talked frequently with Mr. Ciccone for a interval of many years, usually in the existence of other Mongols associates. He said they talked over issues these types of as general public protection when the Mongols or other clubs had been planning events or motorbike rallies to make sure that customers stayed in line and that rival groups stored their distance.
“Never in my everyday living have I at any time implicated any person in the club for some type of nefarious exercise. If you’re a rat, you are the scum of the earth,” he mentioned in an job interview.
In the video, Ms. Santillan was chatting to her husband on speakerphone when he told her that Mr. Ciccone was retiring. “He can not secure me, he told me, so we have to have an exit system, he informed me,” an apparently agitated Mr. Santillan claimed to her.
Ms. Santillan stated that she now felt “horrible” about disclosing the communications and that her husband was not, in fact, an informant.
“The only thing he is responsible of is speaking to John a lot and owning some sort of rapport with him,” she claimed in an interview.
Mr. Santillan claimed he talked with the A.T.F. agent over the many years since it helped avert difficulties. “John seemed out not just for me but the club,” Mr. Santillan mentioned. “That’s what I meant by ‘protect’ in the video.”
The Mongols have been fixtures on the biker scene considering that 1969, when the club was started in Montebello, Calif. The group has about 1,200 users in the United States, most of them Hispanic, and numerous chapters all-around the earth.
Through the pretty much 13 many years he led the Mongols, Mr. Santillan appeared to steer the organization away from its past recruitment of Mexican criminal gang users and a culture of “total underworld activity that the feds feasted on, in phrases of prosecutions,” explained William Dulaney, an skilled on motorcycle teams who was formerly an affiliate professor of nationwide safety at the U.S. Air Force’s Air Command and Personnel College or university.
Mr. Dulaney reported that Mr. Santillan “instituted new policies, like no a lot more club-pushed drug organization, and created it mandatory that members had to have a motorbike and issues like a valid driver’s license and registration and a task.”
As for Mr. Ciccone, he had mastered the craft of executing complicated investigations “using every thing from undercovers to informants to wiretaps to subpoenas and surveillance,” explained Frank D’Alesio, a retired A.T.F. agent who infiltrated three biker golf equipment.
“And he was tireless,” Mr. D’Alesio mentioned. “He was the male exterior all the time furnishing deal with help in scenario one thing went incorrect with the undercovers.”
In the situation that led to the racketeering conviction from the Mongols, Mr. Ciccone experienced acted as the scenario agent. The U.S. Attorney’s Office experienced earlier tried and unsuccessful to force the Mongols to forfeit their legal rights to the club’s trademarked emblem, a drawing of a brawny Genghis Khan-like figure riding a chopper while brandishing a sword, a landmark circumstance that prosecutors felt would aid weaken the club by undermining its visual id. A jury sided with the prosecution in 2019 and purchased the group to give up the emblem, but Decide David O. Carter turned down the verdict as an infringement on the club’s constitutional rights.
That quest to seize the Mongols’ patch was part of a prison scenario brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Business office in 2013 less than the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Corporations Act. The indictment did not goal any people today but alleged that the club by itself experienced engaged in an structured conspiracy of crimes these as murder, tried murder and drug dealing. That is the conviction and great the Mongols are now making an attempt to have established apart.
“In my view, the only cause the government introduced this RICO scenario was to choose an additional run at the patch, owning unsuccessful every single time in the earlier,” stated George L. Steele, a lawyer for the Mongols who is dealing with a independent enchantment in the circumstance. Federal prosecutors have been focusing on the Mongols’ symbol due to the fact 2008.
The federal government, in its own charm, is generating yet another operate at the Mongols’ emblem, renewing an earlier ask for for a narrower forfeiture order that would take absent the club’s proper to trademark exclusivity about the emblem. These kinds of an order would allow anybody to use the impression.
The lawyer in cost of the retrial movement, Joseph A. Yanny, reported the Mongols hoped to verify that an incorrect marriage concerning Mr. Santillan and Mr. Ciccone through the 2018 demo authorized the governing administration to hear matters it need to not have about the Mongols’ defense strategy — and even adversely influenced the Mongols’ presentation of their circumstance.
On a single celebration through the demo, Judge Carter expressed his displeasure to attorneys for both sides after currently being explained to by a U.S. Marshal that Mr. Santillan and Mr. Ciccone experienced been witnessed chatting at a Starbucks in close proximity to the courthouse.
In their petition, the Mongols argue that Mr. Santillan could have been pressured to leak technique and other data to the governing administration as a consequence of lenient cure the defense claimed he obtained throughout his brushes with the regulation.
In just one of them, according to their court papers, Mr. Santillan crashed his Mercedes in 2017 while driving impaired, damaging quite a few cars parked on the road. In a further instance, in 2014, Mr. Santillan and his wife acquired into a brawl with other people today at a racetrack, the Mongols’ submitting states.
“There is no way he’s gotten absent with these incidents with no much more sizeable lawful repercussions except somebody in law enforcement is in the track record greasing the slides for him,” Mr. Yanny explained.
Mr. Santillan said it was “ridiculous” to believe that Mr. Ciccone smoothed factors in excess of for him. Mr. Santillan provided documents from the conditions to present he experienced been convicted of offenses together with driving under the impact, leaving the scene of an incident and disturbing the peace, and that he experienced been arrested, fined and put on probation.
Jonathan Turley, a constitutional regulation qualified at George Washington University, explained that if a federal agent was in search of private info about a prison defense, that would be “an incredible transgression.”
“There could be a certain issue that the defense lawyer was unwittingly getting directions from anyone aligned with the govt,” he said.
Equally Mr. Ciccone and the U.S. Attorney’s Workplace declined to comment on the motion beyond the govt response filed in courtroom, which reported the petition for a new trial was “replete with phony and unsupported allegations and speculation.”
The decide will most very likely think about a sequence of procedural matters on Monday, legal professionals claimed, with extra hearings envisioned just before any remaining ruling.
Susan C. Beachy contributed study.