VENTURA — Capping a three-year investigation into national Hells Angels spokesman George Christie Jr. and the Ventura chapter of the motorcycle club, the Ventura County district attorney's office has taken its drug and racketeering case to the county grand jury.
The secret proceeding concludes the case's investigative phase, and begins a closed-door examination of allegations of theft, fraud, tax evasion, drug sales to teenagers, and the use of a street gang in a criminal conspiracy--a violation of a state organized crime law.
The case against at least two dozen Hells Angels and their associates is Ventura County's largest in recent years in the number of suspects and in time spent by law enforcement officials, and it is expected to take several months to present to the grand jury.
Dist. Atty. Michael Bradbury refused comment. But law enforcement officials said Christie and his chapter have been targets in two parallel investigations--by county prosecutors and the Sheriff's Department--for nearly three years.
At least 15 suspects have been arrested since January 1998, but only five have been charged--four on unrelated offenses--as prosecutors have tried to weave an array of alleged crimes into a single conspiracy case.
"The case is finally moving ahead," Sheriff Bob Brooks said Monday. "It went on for a considerable period of time, trying to get people caught in the web. Then it was delayed until they got a new grand jury impaneled [this month]. Now the D.A. is taking the case forward."
Brooks said he could not comment about specifics--such as when his investigators will testify. "They haven't kept us in the loop," he said of prosecutors. "There's a lot of security concerns."
Brooks said the sheriff's part of the case primarily deals with a drug distribution network that relied on young Hells Angels operatives--so-called "HA Cub Scouts"--who targeted students as they left middle and high school campuses.
"Our case deals with both methamphetamine and pharmaceuticals that were stolen and distributed all the way down to local schools," Brooks said. "The Hells Angels try to put a positive spin on their charitable activities, but the fact is we are dealing with criminals who distribute drugs and, for the most part, are people with long rap sheets and violent backgrounds."
Undercover agents bought drugs 25 times from Hells Angels or their associates, sheriff's investigators said after arresting several club members in 1999. Suspects typically peddled plastic bags containing two or three Valium pills to teenagers for $1 a pill, or sold the so-called designer drugs--Vicodin for $3 a tablet and Ecstasy for $20 a tablet, investigators said.
But the overall case is far broader--focusing on Christie, 53, and including his estranged wife, adult son and 28-year-old-daughter, a Ventura attorney who represents Hells Angels in court.
Prosecutors will attempt to prove that Christie oversees a criminal gang that not only peddled drugs to children but evaded employee taxes and hid large amounts of money in secret bank accounts.
Christie said Monday that the grand jury investigation is "business as usual"--the latest in a series of federal and state investigations over 20 years that have led to nothing more serious than a misdemeanor assault conviction. He was acquitted in 1987 in a federal murder-for-hire case.
"It's all ridiculous," Christie said. "I've done nothing criminal."
Most disturbing, he said, are allegations that the Hells Angels sell drugs to teenagers. He said he would never allow it. But investigators are now trying to justify the time and money they have wasted investigating him, he said.