VENTURA — Capping a 15-month investigation of a local Hells Angels chapter, authorities announced Tuesday that they have broken a drug ring that sold such drugs as Valium and methamphetamine to middle and high school students as they left campuses.
Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks said his department has arrested nine Hells Angels, four of them Monday, since the investigation began in January 1998. Authorities in the last year have seized $27,000 in cash, 15 weapons and drugs valued at $364,000.
Undercover officers bought drugs from Hells Angels members or their associates about 25 times over the same period, Brooks said, sometimes as students left school campuses.
The suspects typically sold plastic bags containing two or three Valium pills for $1 a pill, Vicoden for $3 a tablet and a form of methamphetamine known as Ecstasy for $20 a tablet, investigators said.
"The Hells Angels like to portray themselves as misunderstood recreational bikers who are harassed by the police," Brooks said. "We arrested these suspects not because of their club membership, but because they deal drugs that end up on our streets and in our schools."
Brooks said a task force of law enforcement agencies--including the FBI and Ventura and Oxnard police--have arrested nine of 22 local Hells Angels in the last two weeks. So far, however, charges have been filed against only one club member, Edward Gregory. He recently pleaded guilty to possession of 4 1/2 pounds of cocaine and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Brooks said additional charges are expected soon.
Meanwhile, authorities said county prosecutors have stepped up a separate drug and tax evasion case against local Hells Angels President George Christie Jr., calling witnesses in recent weeks before a criminal grand jury.
Christie said he was outraged by charges that club members would stake out campuses and sell drugs to youths. "That's ludicrous," he said. "That is just not happening. I would not allow something like that to happen."
Arrested Monday evening at the Hells Angels clubhouse in Ventura were: Edward M. Quintanilla, 44, of Oak View, on suspicion of drug sales and conspiracy; Robert E. Lee Hill Jr., 26, of Ventura, on suspicion of drug sales and selling weapons without a license; Jimmy "Tiny" Shankles, 42, of Ventura, for parole violations; and Brian John Applegate, 24, of Ventura, on suspicion of drug sales and illegally obtaining pharmaceuticals. Christie said all were club members except Applegate, whom he described as a club prospect.
Over the course of the investigation, authorities said, they seized from Hells Angels two kilograms of cocaine worth $27,200; 300,000 Valium tablets worth $300,000; 800 Ecstasy tablets worth $16,000; about 1 pound of methamphetamine worth $12,800; 300 Vicoden tablets worth $9,000; and two ounces of marijuana worth $1,000.