A Fairfax County police detective's two-year infiltration of an offshoot of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang led to the arrest yesterday of 11 gang members on drug, weapon and gang charges.
Fairfax police said the sweep -- throughout eastern Virginia and Southern Maryland -- marked the first time a Virginia anti-gang law, enacted in 2000 in response to the rise of street gangs, had been used to target traditional motorcycle gangs.
Police said gangs such as Hells Angels and their affiliates are far better organized and more "business-oriented" than their younger, Los Angeles-based counterparts in gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and South Side Locos.
"This is a much more organized, networked organization across the country, and in 27 countries total," Fairfax police Maj. Steve Sellers said of the Hells Angels. "They communicate; they take meeting notes; they collect intelligence and share intelligence." Sellers added there was "a great deal of linkage" between Northern Virginia gang members and the Hells Angels chapter in New York City, "and there is some linkage to western United States chapters."
Police served 11 search warrants yesterday at 6 a.m. in Fairfax, Loudoun and Spotsylvania counties in the Washington area, the cities of Colonial Heights and Petersburg, Va., and Huntingtown and Owings, in Calvert County. Eleven people were charged, but no names or charges were released while investigations and interrogations continued. Search warrants were not publicly available yesterday.
Federal authorities, particularly agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, also were involved in the investigation. Police declined to comment yesterday on whether any federal charges were forthcoming.
The case began when Fairfax police assigned a detective in early 2002 to investigate the Red Devils Motorcycle Club, which Sellers said was based in Northern Virginia. Soon, the detective also became a member of the Fates Assembly Motorcycle Club, which has an extensive criminal history in Northern Virginia but had been largely silent since the early 1990s.
Sellers said both the Red Devils and Fates Assembly are affiliates of the Hells Angels, which has a chapter in North Beach, in Calvert County. He likened the local gangs to minor league teams, subservient to the Hells Angels. "If you can cut it as a gang member in some of the subordinate motorcycle gangs," Sellers said, "then you can work your way up to a full member of Hells Angels."
One specific way to earn stripes was to deal drugs, Sellers said. Methamphetamine was the main drug of choice, Sellers said, both imported from gangs in other countries and manufactured locally.
He said the Hells Angels are "a big player in the meth drug dealing world, both in this area and in the U.S." Gang members also sold OxyContin and marijuana, but in lesser quantities, Sellers said.
The undercover detective learned that the Hells Angels wanted to establish a chapter in Virginia, Sellers said, and the formation of the Red Devils two years ago was part of that process. "A lot of the participants came from different parts of Virginia and Maryland, and all these things are being controlled by the New York City chapter of Hells Angels," Sellers said.
Sellers declined to identify or discuss specific activities of the undercover investigator, other than to say, "This was a daily assignment for the detective."
Police in the Washington area had not seen much activity from Hells Angels. The predominant motorcycle gangs from the 1970s to the early 1990s were the Pagans and the Fates Assembly, two rivals whose violence was mainly directed at each other, Sellers said. Drug dealing also was a prime method of business for motorcycle gangs then.
The current situation is similar, with violence mostly traded between gangs, Sellers said. He said gang members had committed murder, rape, malicious wounding and assault, and that some assault charges would be included in the latest roundup.
"Further indictments and warrants are expected, and further deterioration of their efforts are expected," Sellers said.