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BIKER NEWS: Biker raid seen as long time coming

(Note: This story was originally published in The Indianapolis Star on July 12, 2012.) BN- The brown house at 2204 E. New York St. now si...

(Note: This story was originally published in The Indianapolis Star on July 12, 2012.)

BN- The brown house at 2204 E. New York St. now sits empty.

In a Wednesday morning raid, the FBI stripped it of its contents: pool tables, signs with skulls and, most notably, the bikers who are members of a national motorcycle gang.

The only thing left was a barricade of yellow crime tape.

Forty-two people associated with the Indianapolis chapter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club have been charged with 37 counts of federal crimes. All but one Wednesday were in the Marion County Jail. Prosecutors said that if convicted, they could be sentenced to decades in prison.

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett touted the arrests as the largest organized crime prosecution federal prosecutors have ever pursued in Indianapolis.

The gang's crimes, authorities said, ranged from hiding one another's cars so they could collect insurance on the "stolen" vehicles to threatening to make people "disappear" if they didn't pay their debts to others.

But Hogsett said during a news conference Wednesday that the city's streets are much safer without the Outlaws.Their reputation on New York Street was just as varied. Some neighbors said they kept the neighborhood safe; others said they were bullies.

"This indictment describes a dangerous criminal operation that was as well-layered and sophisticated as most businesses in this city," Hogsett said in a statement. "Today's announcement serves as a warning that we as a city will not accept this kind of behavior on our streets -- not now, not ever."

Some of the Outlaws have been arrested in the past, but Hogsett said he was unsure why no one previously tried to dismantle the organization, which has been around for decades and made no secret about its ties to criminal activity.

The club displayed signs that said it was part of the "1 percent," a term that means it's among the small portion of motorcycle clubs that don't abide by the law.

Bob Hammerle, an Indianapolis attorney who represented several Outlaws from the 1970s to the 1980s, likened the group to the Hole in the Wall Gang from the classic western "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," except, he said, the gang members "are not as attractive as Paul Newman and Robert Redford," who played the lead roles in the movie.

"They were almost like old cowboys," Hammerle said. "They were making their living off of whatever miscreant deeds they were involved in at that particular time."

Police have raided the clubhouse before.

The city paid the Outlaws $112,000 in 1996 for a botched raid of the clubhouse five years before. A Marion County judge called it a "fiasco."

Police used stun grenades, plastic bullets and a pickup truck to smash through the headquarters looking for drugs. They said they expected at least 20 armed gang members, but only three members were inside.

Two chained dogs were shot and killed, and all three Outlaws were injured. No drugs were found.

The current federal investigation began in 2009, but Hogsett and others declined to say what triggered it.

The FBI used informants, as well as undercover agents and wiretaps, to gather information about the group, said Brad Blackington, the lead prosecutor on the case.

Authorities said the gang's offenses included drug dealing and running an illegal gambling operation that trafficked thousands of dollars every day, as well as other crimes such as fraud.

In 2010, gang members paid someone to drive a U-Haul truck into the back of a vehicle carrying several gang members, a news release from Hogsett's office said. The gang members then filed insurance claims for thousands of dollars.

And the activities sometimes included people outside the gang.

According to a 70-page indictment that lists those who were charged and their alleged crimes, an Indiana University Medical Center employee helped an Outlaws member obtain prescription medications so he could sell them. And an Indianapolis business owner hired one of the Outlaws to attack someone who owed him money, the indictment said.

Authorities seized 35 guns, including some assault rifles; $14,000; various drugs, including a kilogram of cocaine; and cars and motorcycles throughout the investigation and during Wednesday's raid.

They are still trying to find one of the Outlaws, 28-year-old Terrell Lamont Adams.

The FBI also busted an Outlaws clubhouse in Fort Wayne and chapters in other states.

The raid on the New York Street clubhouse saddened some of the neighbors, including Mary Case, who has lived nearby for a little more than a year.

"In my eyes, they're good people," Case said. "They keep this part of this neighborhood safe. . . . They don't bother nobody."

But Chris Jones, who has lived in the area for three years, said the Outlaws are nothing but bullies.

"They don't associate with anyone in the neighborhood unless they try to mess them up," Jones said. "They wouldn't say anything to you. If you mess with them, then you got a problem."

Hammerle said he doesn't condone their behavior or the crimes they committed but being their attorney was "an adventure."

"They did have personalities," he said. "They did have a sense of humor. They did violate the law, and they didn't make excuses for it."

He said he used to visit their clubhouse when he needed to interview witnesses for cases. The clubhouse always was filled with women, he said, and gang members shooting pool. He remembers seeing a plaque on the wall that said, "An Outlaw never talks."

The last time he went there was to pay his respects to former Outlaws leader David "Pigpen" Lakes after he was killed. His body was laid out on the pool table.

Hammerle doesn't know the Outlaws now, but he said he wasn't surprised by the raid.

"Let me put it this way," he said. "I got to know those guys from afar over a 10-year period or longer. Let's assume there is something of an afterlife. . . . There is no question at all that all of the Outlaws will be found partying at a lower rung of Dante's seventh level of hell. It's simply what's destined to happen."




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Outlaws Bikers News : BIKER NEWS: Biker raid seen as long time coming
BIKER NEWS: Biker raid seen as long time coming
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