A year and a week after mass arrests of the Rock Hill Hells Angels, the last walls of the outlaw motorcycle gang’s house of cards will crash down Wednesday.
Freedom ends Wednesday. Maybe forever.
Just like the Mafia, the Crips and Bloods, and MS-13, many in the “Rock Hell Nomads” chapter were proved in a federal racketeering trial to be a gang committing ongoing crimes of mayhem.
A gang that sold enough drugs to fill gym bags and packed assault rifles and pistols and shotguns that maim and kill. A gang whose leaders demanded cuts of the profits while money was laundered to hide it from the government.
A dozen arrested in South Carolina and North Carolina pleaded guilty and are now in prison after a massive sweep of 20 bikers and associates in early June 2012. Two minor players went to trial and were found not guilty, and charges were dismissed against two other small fish.
One drug dealer named Carlos Hernandez awaits sentencing later, but on Wednesday three main players in the Rock Hill chapter who were in the middle of all the racketeering crimes – Mark Baker, Dave Oiler and Bruce Long – are looking at up to life behind bars.
The federal trial in Columbia that ended in March lasted five weeks. The evidence was so overwhelming that jurors needed less time than it takes to buy groceries and bake a cake to come back with convictions.
The end arrives without the roar of big Harley motorcycles, because all the bikes were seized by squadrons of federal and local cops. No more wild summer parties outside roadside beer joints, bikes lined up, Hells Angels death head logo on vests.
“The bad guys are in jail, and the community is safer for it,” said York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, whose deputies along with Rock Hill Police officers started the investigation in 2010 and 2011 after complaints from the public about growing violence and crime.
With the FBI, they organized a Hells Angels Task Force to go after the criminals and stop the crimes.
“Officers put in hundreds of hours,” Bryant said. “They were committed to this, and it led to convictions.”
Rock Hell Nomads chapter President Mark “Lightning” Baker, 50, of Lancaster, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, drug dealing, and money laundering. His only criminal record before that was an arrest for illegally carrying a weapon in 2010.
Police paid more than $150,000 to an informant, an ex-con mobster jeweler from New York named Joe Dillulio, to get enough evidence to arrest the Hells Angels. All the bikers cried foul before, during and after the trials and guilty pleas, claiming the informant entrapped them and that the FBI was the bad guy.
The Hells Angels claimed to live by their own code outside normal society, but cried foul when called dope-dealing criminals. All despite so many wiretaps showing guns and dope and profits.
Baker’s lawyer, John Delgado, filed court documents Monday claiming the investigation using the informant to go after Baker defies “humaneness” and “justice,” accusing the government of “manipulation” of the court system to get longer sentences. Delgado has always claimed Baker was entrapped.
Delgado also blames Oiler for selling the drugs, maintaining that Baker was just a trucker. Delgado even submitted, in hopes of reducing Baker’s sentence to 14 years, a picture of Baker with a kid and a birthday cake. Baker also was a methamphetamine user every day, his lawyer admits.
Prosecutors in court showed pictures of enough Hells Angels’ methamphetamine and cocaine and guns to fill a truck bed.
Still, Baker refuses to say anything bad about the Hells Angels, even if he ends up dying in prison because of it. Baker is a “proud member” of the Hells Angels and “will be until he dies as a member,” Delgado wrote.
Baker is regretful of decisions he made while associated with the Hells Angels, Delgado claims, but “is an aficionado of the lifestyle of his version of freedom.”
The Hells Angels have a hierarchal system. Baker was the president who directed the members. Delgado claims Baker directed no crimes, but the government proved Baker had his hands all over crimes.
Delgado submitted three letters, stating Baker is a good family man, to U.S. District Court Judge Cameron Currie, who presided over the trial and will sentence Baker and the others Wednesday.
Delgado could not be reached for comment Monday.
David “Gravel Dave” Oiler, 49, also of Lancaster, was proven to be in the middle of most of the dope dealing. They didn’t use sandwich bags, but bags the size of bowling balls requiring extra stitching from the weight of coke and meth. He was convicted of 16 charges.
His lawyer, Michael Duncan, declined to comment, but in court filings he states Oiler was “a functioning drug addict” and only got involved with the Hells Angels because of a “burning desire to fit in.”
Oiler fit right in – he kick-started drug deals and funneled the money. His criminal record shows two pending assaults in Lancaster. His lawyer wants him to serve less than life.
Bruce Long, 32, of West Columbia, also to be sentenced Wednesday, allegedly threatened prosecutors and the judge while in jail awaiting trial, although he disputes those claims in court documents.
Long, who once worked for FedEx, was convicted of 14 charges involving Hells Angels drugs and guns and conspiracy to continue to commit crimes.
His lawyer, Joshua Kendrick, could not be reached for comment Monday. Kendrick submitted documents to Judge Currie stating Long was law-abiding and decent until this case. Long has shoplifting convictions from his teen years but no other convictions.
Evidence presented in court put Long in the middle of enough cocaine to cover an admiral’s desk.
On Monday, federal prosecutors filed papers in an effort to seize $300,000 in assets, everything these guys own or stole that came from crime profits.
Prosecutors, armed with wiretaps and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, crushed the bikers because they were so brazen in their ongoing crimes.
The bikers called dope “ice cream,” delivered guns in guitar cases and joked about it. First local cops, then federal agents swarmed in with court-ordered wiretaps. Officers needed to buy extra tapes because these Hells Angels talked so much about buying and selling dope and guns.
A York County clubhouse of the associated biker group Red Devils, on U.S. 21 south of Rock Hill, has a “for rent” sign out front. It now resembles the gang itself after prosecution – dilapidated and crushed. The rebel flag, proudly displayed to show that blacks were not part of their purported love of freedom, is long gone.
The Hells Angels still have a clubhouse on Dobys Bridge Road, just across the bridge from Fort Mill in Lancaster County’s panhandle. It has signs posted that say “private property” and security cameras and wooden fencing to keep people from looking inside.
A look over the fence from the public roadside, though, shows not much more than a shed with a Hells Angels logo on it and some plastic chairs.
Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said his office has “aggressively targeted drugs and guns and gangs and will continue to do so.”
Sending a bunch of the local Hells Angels away does not mean the police will stop cracking down on those in gangs who sell drugs and use guns for violence, said both Bryant and Faile.
Federal prosecutor Jay Richardson, who spent two years proving the Rock Hill Hells Angels motorcycle club leadership and underlings sold drugs and dozens of guns in an ongoing conspiracy of crime and intimidation, declined to comment Monday.
But after the final sentencing hearings on Wednesday, a flotilla of local and federal cops and prosecutors will stand together and talk, finally, about the dismantling of the Hells Angels tough guys who claim to love freedom.
Then Richardson, who stands about 5-foot-5 and weighs in at maybe 140 pounds, who never claimed to be tough, who carries no guns and whose only weapon was the law, will have the last word.