Members Of Sonoma Motorcycle Gang Charged With Murder, Racketeering Conspiracy, And Related Crimes:

Members Of Sonoma Motorcycle Gang Charged With Murder, Racketeering Conspiracy, And Related Crimes:

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 20, 2017
Indictment describes wide-ranging crimes including murder, narcotics distribution, assault, robbery, extortion, illegal firearms possession, and obstruction of justice.

SAN FRANCISCO- A federal grand jury indicted eleven people including eight alleged associates of the Hells Angels Sonoma County chapter (HASC), one alleged associate of the Fresno Hells Angels chapter, and one alleged associate of the Salem/Boston Hells Angels chapter for their respective roles in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) conspiracy and for committing numerous related crimes including murder, assault, maiming, and witness intimidation, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  The eleventh defendant is an alleged HASC associate who was charged with witness intimidation.  The indictment, filed October 10, 2017, was unsealed today following the arrest of nine of the defendants.

The indictment describes the Hells Angels as a transnational violent outlaw motorcycle gang and the HASC as a subset of the gang whose members primarily operate in Sonoma County, Calif.  According to the indictment, HASC works cooperatively with other Hells Angels chapters to engage in criminal activity including murder, narcotics distribution, assault, robbery, extortion, illegal firearms possession, and obstruction of justice.

“This week we have taken a significant step toward bringing to justice an alleged conspiracy whose aim has been to commit violent crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Stretch. “The indictment unsealed this morning describes an array of serious offenses allegedly committed by the defendants including conspiracy to commit murder, assault, maiming, home invasion robbery, extortion, and witness intimidation.  This operation proves once again the value of pooling the resources of the federal government with those of our state and local law enforcement partners—it is only through this coordination that we are able to stamp out violence in our communities.  I commend and thank all of our law enforcement partners for their extraordinary work in bringing this phase of the operation to a successful conclusion.”

The indictment alleges that HASC members and associates commit acts of violence to maintain and enhance membership and discipline within the gang, including violence against rival gang members, those perceived to be rival gang members, rivals in general, those who disrespect or commit violence against HASC members or other Hells Angels, friends or family, as well as HASC members and associates who violate the gang’s rules.  In this case, the indictment alleges, Brian Wendt committed the murder of an unnamed victim on July 15, 2014, at the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse.  According to the indictment, co-conspirator Jonathan Nelson directed the victim to meet with Wendt and co-conspirator Russell Ott accompanied the victim from the Northern District of California to the Fresno clubhouse where Wendt committed the murder.

According to the indictment, some of the defendants were involved in the RICO conspiracy as early as July and August of 2007 when Raymond Foakes allegedly committed bank fraud and money laundering to obtain a residence in which to establish an indoor marijuana cultivation operation.  Additional crimes that are alleged to have been committed as part of the conspiracy include a home invasion robbery, extortion, assault, maiming, and the illegal possession of weapons and drugs.

HASC members also are alleged to have obstructed justice by threatening, intimidating, and retaliating against witnesses whom they believed to be cooperating with law enforcement and by destroying evidence and providing false information to law enforcement.  In this case, Brian Allen Burke is accused of attempting to intimidate and threaten and corruptly persuade a victim by threatening to shoot the victim with a firearm.  Burke is alleged to have attempted to persuade the victim not to provide evidence in the adjudication of Foakes’ violation of the conditions of his supervised release in a federal case.

The precise charges against each defendant, as well as their ages and places of residence where known, are set out in the chart below.

Defendant Age/Residence Charges Statute
JONATHAN JOSEPH NELSON a/k/a Jon Jon 41/Santa Rosa RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)
Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)
Maiming in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(2)
Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3)
Use/Possession of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)
RAYMOND MICHAEL FOAKES

a/k/a Ray Ray

54/ Rohnert Park RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)
Maiming in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(2)
Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3)
Witness Intimidation 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)
RUSSELL ALLEN LYLES, JR.

a/k/a J.R.

36/Windsor, CA RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)
Maiming in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(2)
Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3)
JEREMY DANIEL GREER 37/Santa Rosa RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)
Hobbs Act Robbery

(3 counts)

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)(1)
Maiming in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(2)
Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3)
Use/Possession of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)
BRIAN WAYNE WENDT

 

40/Tulare RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)
Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)
RUSSELL TAYLOR OTT, a/k/a Rusty

 

64/Santa Rosa RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)
Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)
CHRISTOPHER RANIERI

a/k/a Rain Man

49/Lynn, MA RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)
Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)
DAMIEN DAVID CESENA 36/Santa Rosa RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)
Hobbs Act Robbery 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)(1)
BRIAN ALLEN BURKE

a/k/a Bucky

 

 

 

 

37/ Windsor, CA Witness Intimidation 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)
JASON RANDALL CLIFF

a/k/a Agro

 

50 Maiming in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(2)
Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3)
DAVID SALVATORE DIAZ, III 45 RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)

 

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The maximum statutory penalties for the crimes of which the defendants have been accused are as follows:

Charge Statute Maximum Statutory Penalty
RICO Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) Life imprisonment, $250,000 fine, five years’ supervised release, $100 special assessment
Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, three years’ supervised release, $100 special assessment
Maiming in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(2) 30 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, five years’ supervised release, $100 special assessment
Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3) 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, three years’ supervised release, $100 special assessment
Use/Possession of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) A consecutive sentence of not less than seven years and not more than life, $250,000 fine, five years’ supervised release, $100 special assessment
Witness Intimidation 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b) 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, three years’ supervised release, $100 special assessment
Hobbs Act Robbery

(each count)

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)(1) 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, three years’ supervised release, $100 special assessment

 

Further, additional fines, forfeitures, and restitution may be ordered; however, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Several of the defendants were arrested in Santa Rosa on Saturday, November 18, 2017, as part of a criminal enforcement operation.  All the defendants except Lyles, Wendt, Foakes, and Ranieri appeared before the Honorable Maria Elena James, U.S. Magistrate Judge, on November 20, 2017.  The following appearances are scheduled for the defendants before the Honorable Sallie Kim, U.S. Magistrate Judge:  Russell Ott, November 21, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. for identification of counsel; Brian Burke, November 21, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. for bond hearing; Jason Cliff, November 21, 2017 for identification of counsel; Jonathan Nelson, November 21, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. for identification of counsel; Jeremy Greer, November 21, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. for identification of counsel; David Diaz, November 27, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. for detention hearing; Damien Cesena, November 29, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. for detention hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Barry and Erin Cornell are prosecuting the case.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the Santa Rosa Police Department, the Sonoma county Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol.

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