42 held in US biker gang swoop
BIKER GANG OUTLAWED: An entire chapter of the Outlaws biker gang (not pictured) in the US has been arrested following a year-long investigation.
Author: CHARLES WILSON
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - Dozens of people connected to the Outlaws motorcycle gang were arrested during early-morning raids on Wednesday that federal prosecutors said were aimed at dismantling a criminal organisation which used violence as part of doing business.
An indictment shows that 42 people - from gang members to a millionaire CEO - are facing a wide range of charges that include drug trafficking, extortion, money-laundering, witness tampering and illegal gambling. The charges, which come after a more than year-long investigation, were filed in a US District Court in Indianapolis.
Brad Blackington, lead prosecutor, said: "All kinds of people from different walks of life are involved in criminal activity."
GUNS, CASH AND MORE MOTORCYCLES
Every member of the Outlaws' Indianapolis chapter was in custody, along with several gang associates and members of the group's chapters in Ohio and Illinois, Blackington said. Only one suspects remained at large after the raids in several Indiana cities and towns that netted about 35 guns including several assault rifles, about $14 000 (close to R177 000) in cash and more than a dozen motorcycles.
Investigators said the gang's criminal operations included using violence to collect debts, insurance fraud and illegal gambling. The 70-page indictment also alleges the gang trafficked drugs, including cocaine and prescription pain-killers.
Joshua Bowser, among those facing the most charges, was described by the authorities as the gang's enforcer and, among other things, is accused of conspiring with businessman Charles Ernstes II to extort money from a person who declared bankruptcy after Ernstes gave him a loan. Ernstes, described as "a millionaire CEO", is also facing charges.
HOSPITAL EMPLOYEE SUSPECT
His lawyer, Michael Allen, issued a statement saying his client pleaded not guilty "and will vigorously defend himself in court".
Another suspect is a hospital employee accused of being involved in trafficking prescription drugs, investigators said.
Investigators used a variety of ways to infiltrate the gang, including wire taps, drug buys and an undercover agent who posed as an extortion victim, Blackington said.
"Basically, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies threw the kitchen sink at these folks," he said.