Three top leaders of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club have been arrested on racketeering, assault and drug distribution charges after waging a deadly turf ‘war’ on the rival Cossacks gang, authorities said.
National president Jeffrey Pike, 60, national vice president John Portillo, 56, and national sergeant at arms Justin Forster, 31, are facing life in prison, prosecutors said.
The trio were named in a grand jury indictment that was unsealed on Wednesday.
The indictment accuses the three Bandidos leaders of sanctioning a three-year fight that included violent clashes with rival gangs and distribution of methamphetamine.
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Three top leaders of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club have been arrested on charges of racketeering, assault and drug distribution, authorities said. Pictured, Jeffrey Pike, the national president of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, is escorted from the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse on Wednesday
The Bandidos, one of the biggest motorcycle gangs in the country, with branches overseas, are suspected of being involved in a shootout last May in Waco, Texas, between rival gangs that left nine people dead.
While none of the charges are directly connected to the Waco shootout, prosecutors said, many of the suspected crimes stemmed from a turf war starting in Texas in 2013 between the Bandidos and the Cossacks, another prominent motorcycle gang allegedly involved in the deadly fight.
Authorities believe that the fatal confrontation began when members of the Cossacks crashed a meeting of a confederation of biker clubs that included the Bandidos at a Twin Peaks restaurant.
The dispute ended in gunfire between the bikers and police standing nearby.
The indictment charged that the three men were behind the shootings, stabbings and assaults of Cossack members.
The federal indictment accuses Portillo of raising dues to pay legal expenses of its members days after the Waco shooting.
National vice president John Portillo (left) and national sergeant at arms Justin Forster (right) are facing life in prison, prosecutors said
‘This really is an all-out war we got going on,’ Portillo was quoted as telling members in June 2015 after brawls across Texas fought with guns, knives and fists, according to the indictment.
The indictment, stemming from a 23-month investigation, detailed several alleged incidents where Bandidos members appeared bristling with weapons and killed or assaulted members of rival gangs. Extensive drug transactions are also alleged.
The alleged crimes occurred before and after the Waco incident, authorities said. If convicted on the most serious federal charges, the men could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The indictment alleges that Bandidos bikers have harassed and attacked bikers across Texas as part of the ‘war’ that Portillo declared in 2013. Prosecutors allege the group also gained money and territory by extorting and intimidating other biker groups, and trafficking methamphetamines.
It outlines several clashes between the Bandidos and rival clubs, including a December 2014 shooting at a bar in Fort Worth, Texas, where a biker from a different club was killed.
Two suspected Bandidos were charged in that killing, according to prosecutors.
The Bandidos, one of the biggest motorcycle gangs in the country, are suspected of being involved in a shootout last May in Waco, Texas, between rival gangs that left nine people dead. Pictured, authorities investigate the shooting in the parking lot of Twin Peaks restaurant in May last year
Portillo took charge of the national organization for several months in 2015, when Pike was sidelined due to surgery, but both men at various times had ultimate decision-making authority over Bandidos criminal activities nationwide, according to the indictment. Forster is described as having control over Bandidos activities in Texas.
The indictment alleges that in March 2015, Portillo ordered several Bandidos members to ‘get a little aggressive’ with Cossacks in West Texas, where Bandidos responded by striking a member of the rival group repeatedly in the head with a claw hammer.
In April, Bandidos members from other parts of Texas and New Mexico arrived in Odessa, Texas, at Portillo’s direction. They were stopped and found to be carrying firearms and ammunition, allegedly to use to confront Cossacks.
Of course, the defendants will have their day in court, but today’s arrests have struck a significant blow to the Bandidos’ criminal enterprise
U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin, Jr.
Days after the May shootout in Waco, the Bandidos monthly dues were doubled to support legal fees for Bandidos in what Portillo later described as an ‘all-out war’ against the Cossacks.
All three of the accused are based in Texas, where there are 42 Bandidos chapters, according to the indictment.
The arrests are expected to send shock waves through the Bandidos, , considered an outlaw gang by U.S. authorities, who have about 1,500 to 2,000 members in the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas said in a statement.
‘Of course, the defendants will have their day in court, but today’s arrests have struck a significant blow to the Bandidos’ criminal enterprise,’ U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin, Jr. said.
The indictment characterizes the Bandidos as an international group with about 175 chapters and as many as 2,000 members.
They ‘do not fear authority and have a complete disdain for the rules of society,’ it adds, yet adhere to an elaborate series of internal rules for record-keeping, information-gathering, meetings, and admission of new members.
The group also maintains a formal taxation scheme that supports the criminal defense of members, the indictment says.
All three men are in federal custody. Bandidos officials were not immediately available for comment.