2 Rock Hill men charged in motorcycle gang probe

27 alleged Outlaws arrested in 7 states, including Carolinas

Staff reportsJune 16, 2010 

Two Rock Hill men have been arrested in a federal round-up of the American Outlaw Association motorcycle gang, according to an indictment that lays out a history of violence, territory struggles and a plot to use explosives against a rival gang.

The boiling gang feud even prompted police in 1999 to "shut down" the Rock Hill Toy Run, a charity toy drive headed by local bikers that donated toys, food and money to needy families.

The arrests netted 27 Outlaws members from South Carolina, North Carolina, Maine, Montana, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Virginia, says the indictment.

The Outlaws are accused of assaulting gang members in bars - including one in Rock Hill - and at motorcycle shows from Waterbury, Conn., to Daytona, Fla., to mark their territory and fight a war against their chief rivals, the Hell's Angels.

The two men with Rock Hill ties who were among those indicted are:

Michael "M&M" Mariaca, 50, who authorities say is president of the Rock Hill Outlaws Chapter

Leslie "Les" Werth, 47, who authorities say is vice president of the Rock Hill Outlaws Chapter

Those indicted in the Charlotte region include several alleged bosses. Authorities say David "Little David" Lowry was a member of the Charlotte chapter and boss of the gang's so-called "Copper Region," which covers the Carolinas and Virginia.

The alleged presidents of the Hickory, Asheville and Lexington, N.C., chapters - Michael Smith, Chris Granger and Jamie Townsend - also were arrested.

The indictment says the chapter presidents arrested were planning an attack with "professional-grade explosives" against Hell's Angels members in Virginia, where they were fighting to establish a new chapter.

The Rock Hill Police Department assisted ATF agents on Tuesday in executing a search warrant at the Outlaws' Rock Hill clubhouse at 955 E. Main St., police spokesman Lt. Brad Redfearn said. He deferred further comment to federal authorities.

A total of 27 suspected Outlaws from seven states are charged.

The federal indictment unsealed Tuesday was handed down by a grand jury in Alexandria, Va. It details allegations and evidence gathered by undercover agents over more than a year.

On Tuesday, agents raided area motorcycle clubs, including an early-morning sweep at a club in Newton, N.C., where witnesses said authorities used explosives to blow a hole in the wall.

"The Outlaws is a highly organized criminal enterprise with a defined multi-level chain of command..." the indictment says. "(Members) use intimidation, violence and threats of violence against suspected members of rival gangs and others."

Those arrested face a variety of charges including racketeering, violent crimes in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit violence, witness tampering and drug distribution.

The gang has a notorious history in the Charlotte region. In 1979, five Outlaws members were slain at a house in Charlotte's Derita neighborhood, in what remains the city's largest unsolved murder case.

Outlaws pay monthly dues of about $100, money that's split between local and national chapters, according to the indictment. The gang also makes money, the indictment says, by operating illegal gambling rings and selling drugs, including methamphetamine.

The indictment says the gang's conflict with the Hell's Angels flared up in 2006 when the Outlaws tried to expand into Virginia. They started a chapter in Manassas and began fighting Angels-affiliated gangs at bars and bike shows.

The indictment also details gang activities in the Carolinas spanning more than a year.

At a Charlotte meeting in August, the indictment says, Werth told regional gang leaders: "Outlaws are at war with Hell's Angels...and the standing order is to assault them on sight."

In January, the indictment says Hickory president Smith told Outlaws members "how to make an explosive device for use in attacking Hell's Angels." And that same month, about 100 Outlaws traveled to Charlotte to confront Hell's Angels who they thought would be at the Easyrider Bike Expo.

No assaults were reported there, the indictment says, but authorities stopped Outlaws leaving the Expo and found six guns.

The Charlotte Observer's Ely Portillo contributed

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