15 Rock Hill Hells Angels guilty; 6 face up to life in prison

adys@heraldonline.comMarch 20, 2013 

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— At least six of the 15 Hells Angels with connections to the Rock Hill chapter of the motorcycle outlaws could face life in prison after being convicted in a widespread drug, weapons and criminal conspiracy web, according to federal prosecutors.

Three members – including the president of the Rock Hell City Nomads chapter – were found guilty Thursday after a federal court trial that lasted more than a month. Twelve already had pleaded guilty.

All face at least 10 years in prison because of the amount of drugs involved.

The 12 who pleaded guilty are expected to be sentenced May 9, and the three found guilty at trial will be sentenced June 19, said Jay Richardson, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the cases.

In June, 20 people connected to the Hells Angels were arrested in raids at clubhouses and homes across South Carolina and North Carolina. Charges were dismissed during the trial against another Hells Angels member and one prospective member. Charges were dropped before trial against two others.

A trial is scheduled to start Monday on narcotics conspiracy charges against the final member of the 20 arrested, Carlos Hernandez of Charlotte.

Prosecutors proved in the trial that ended last week that the members sold cocaine, methamphetamine and guns, and laundered money as part of a crime ring that reached the Northeast, with leadership of the group getting kickbacks from all the criminal activity.

Local, state and federal police infiltrated the biker gang in 2011 and 2012 with informants, wiretaps, surveillance and other measures. The criminal conspiracy centered on Rock Hill and York County, and clubhouses for both the Hells Angels and Red Devils motorcycle clubs.

The trial showed how the Hells Angels moved drugs throughout South Carolina and North Carolina and how they trafficked more than 40 weapons for use in crimes, including assault rifles.

Here’s how the 15 convictions played out in court:

• Facing up to life in prison after convictions at trial on conspiracy, drug and weapons charges are Mark “Lightning” Baker of Lancaster, president of the Rock Hell Nomads; David “Gravel Dave” Oiler of Lancaster; and Bruce “Bruce-Bruce” Long of West Columbia.

• Facing up to life in prison after pleading guilty to a drug conspiracy are Ron “Big Ron” Byrum and Kerry “Gowilla” Chitwood, both of Gastonia. Trent Brown of West Columbia also pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy; he faces up to 40 years in prison.

• Facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy are Dan “Diamond Dan” Bifield of Batesburg-Leesville, vice president of the Rock Hell Nomads; Richard “Rat” Thrower of Lancaster; David “Yard Owl” Pryor of York; Fred “Big Fred” Keach of Pelion; Frank “Big Frank” Enriquez of Rock Hill; and Johanna Looper of York.

Bifield has asked to withdraw his guilty plea. No hearing has been held, but federal prosecutors plan to oppose the move, Richardson said.

• Lisa Bifield of Batesburg-Leesville, Dan Bifield’s wife, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and a crime of violence. She faces up to life in prison.

• James “Sonny” Rhodus, hometown not listed, pleaded guilty to money laundering and faces up to 20 years in prison.

• Bruce “Diesel” Wilson of Swansea pleaded guilty to selling a firearm to a known felon and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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