Raid puts handcuffs on club county-wide
By Irene McCormack Jackson, San Diego Union-Tribune
Seventeen members and associates of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club
were arraigned in Federal Court yesterday on racketeering, drug and
The arrests and charges have seriously weakened the club's ability to
operate in San Diego County, authorities said.
Twenty of the 28 known Hells Angels in the county, including its
leaders, are incarcerated, either as a result of an indictment issued
by the U.S. Attorney's Office on Thursday or on unrelated criminal
charges, said Michael Vigil, special agent in charge for the Drug
"We have eliminated a scourge from Southern California . . . that had
tentacles into the international community," Vigil said.
Ten Hells Angels were arrested Thursday night during a raid on their
clubhouse on El Cajon Boulevard in El Cajon. Officers seized guns and
a small amount of drugs there and at simultaneous searches at the
homes of some club members.
Because the racketeering charges carry heavy sentences, "the issue is
not the quantity of the drugs but the quality of people arrested,"
More than 150 officers from El Cajon police, the DEA, San Diego
County sheriff's, San Diego police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms, descended on the club about 8:30 p.m. They threw
several concussion grenades through the windows, forcing the men out
the back door and into the hands of SWAT officers.
The raid culminated a two-year undercover investigation that involved
nine months of authorized wire taps, surveillances, informants and
search warrants, Vigil said.
It grew out of an investigation into two drug trafficking rings with
which the Hells Angels had connections in moving marijuana, cocaine
and methamphetamine throughout the United States from Mexico.
In the two weeks leading to the raid, authorities arrested nearly 30
people involved in those trafficking rings on similar charges. All
are expected to have hearings June 18, said Alana Wong, deputy chief
U.S. attorney for the Narcotics Enforcement Section.
Forty-four people are in custody as a result of the investigation by
the multi-agency task force.
Wong said a conviction on all of the charges of racketeering,
conspiracy, loan sharking and a pattern of intimidation and violence
could lead to life sentences.
There are "only eight Hells Angels left on the street," Wong said.
"We've effectively decimated the chapter."
Officers even confiscated the Hells Angels' 6-foot Styrofoam sign
that hung for years over the clubhouse's front door.
A Hells Angels representative from the Oakland chapter said he could
not comment on the arrests and instead passed messages on to an
attorney heading to San Diego. The attorney was not reached.
The Hells Angels and associates indicted and arraigned in Federal
Court in San Diego yesterday are:
Guy "Big Daddy" or "the Boss" Castiglione, 52, chapter president from
Lakeside; Mark "In the Dark" Toycen, 44, chapter sergeant-at-arms,
Ramona; Donny "Mikey" Griffin, 31, Rancho Penasquitos;
And, Michael Rush, also known as Mickey Canyon, 50, San Diego; Greg
"G" Bunch, 39, San Diego; John "T" Tieken, 31, Ramona; Daymond
"Daymo" or "Peter" Buchanan, 34, San Diego; Frank "Nick" Caruso III,
32, La Mesa.
Also indicted and arraigned were:
Patrick "Young Pat" Haggerty, 23, Oceanside; Zachary Carpenter, 33,
Lakeside; Larry "Bones" or "Coach" Kirkpatrick, 31, Bonita; David
Mello, 42, El Cajon;
And, James "Jimbo" Sheehan, 46, El Cajon; Paul "Pauly" Ybarra, 49,
Ramona; JoAnn Hebert, 58, San Diego; Michael "Dog Mike" Copenhaver,
38, Solana Beach; Sean "Armadillo" Jones, 32, San Diego.
The clubhouse on El Cajon Boulevard opened in 1994, said El Cajon
police Capt. Dan Moody. The Hells Angels chapter, nicknamed DAGO, was
founded years earlier. Painted white with a smattering of red trim
lettering (the Hells Angels official colors), it has bars on the
windows and doors.
The club is an international organization with 50 U.S. chapters and
200 international. It was founded in 1948 in San Bernardino.
The DEA's Vigil said law enforcement considers the club to be an
outlaw biker gang profiting from crime. He pointed to the shootout
between the Hells Angels and the Southern California-based Mongols
club in Laughlin, Nev., in April 2002.
Vigil acknowledged that the Mongols may try to move into the Hells
Angels terrority but said investigators would be watching.