A member of the Hells Angels from South Carolina rides down California Street… (Steve Osman / Los Angeles…)
Federal authorities and police in North and South Carolina have arrested 20 alleged members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang on drug, weapons and money-laundering charges.
The 16 men and four women, allegedly members of a Hells Angels affiliate called the Rock Hell City Nomads based in York County, S.C., sold drugs, ran prostitution rings and committed arsons, according to authorities. They also sold weapons they knew would be used in crimes, U.S. Atty. Bill Nettles in Columbia, S.C., said in a statement.
Nettles said the gang members promoted "a climate of fear through intimidation, violence and threats of violence.’’
In raids in two states Thursday, police said they recovered stockpiles of drugs and more than 100 weapons, including two automatic machine guns. In a 91-count indictment, authorities identified the alleged gang leaders as Mark William Baker, known as "Lightning," of Lancaster, S.C., and David Allen Pryor, known as "Yard Owl," of York, S.C.
Authorities said the arrests and indictment culminated a two-year investigation into the gang’s activities, centered in South Carolina, with a few members from North Carolina.
Criminal activity linked to motorcycle clubs is increasing across the country, Tom Barker, a sociologist at Eastern Kentucky University, told the Charlotte Observer.
"The general public doesn't notice it, but these guys are really dangerous," said Barker, who studies motorcycle gangs.
The indictment also described the inner workings of the Hells Angels.
According to police, the gang holds regular members-only meetings called "church.’’ Members must ride American-made motorcycles, and wear a diamond-shaped "one percenter’’ patch that symbolizes the gang’s belief that members represent the 1% of motorcycle club members who are violent outlaws.
Prospective members can become "hang arounds,’’ performing menial chores and petty crimes, and must follow orders issued by full gang members, according to the indictment. Most members have nicknames; among the nicknames of those arrested this week are "Gravel Dave,’’ "Diesel,’’ and "Rat.’’
The investigation was conducted by two federal and 10 state and local law enforcement agencies, Nettles said.
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