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December 21, 2014

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Four-year, multistate probe of Las Vegas motorcycle gangs brings 25 arrests

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Jae C. Hong / AP

A police officer shows the Vagos motorcycle gang patches confiscated in a raid at a command post in San Bernardino, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.

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Steven Shaw, 39, of Las Vegas was charged with theft with gang enhancement, insurance fraud with gang enhancement, conspiracy to commit theft and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

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Chard Kruger, 46, of Henderson was charged with theft with gang enhancement, insurance fraud with gang enhancement, conspiracy to commit theft and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

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George Ward, 44, of Las Vegas was charged with sale of Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances.

A four-year undercover investigation into outlaw motorcycle gangs that began in Las Vegas culminated with the arrest of 25 people Thursday morning, mostly on drug and weapons charges, Metro Police said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Operation Pure Luck, named for an “unexpected opportunity” allowing local and federal agents to infiltrate the Vagos Motorcycle Club, was initiated in 2009, authorities announced. The ensuing investigation expanded beyond Las Vegas and ultimately stretched to Arizona, California, Hawaii, Texas and New York, Metro Assistant Sheriff Greg McCurdy said.

In all, 32 people have been charged with crimes, ranging from drug trafficking and gun trafficking to robbery and other firearms-related crimes, including one person who is being charged with distributing meth within 1,000 feet of an elementary school, McCurdy said. In Nevada, indictments were made last week against 21 motorcycle gang members but remained sealed until today, authorities said.

Though the U.S. Justice Department estimates that the Vagos motorcycle club has more than 300 members throughout the U.S. and Mexico, with chapters in California, Hawaii, Nevada and Oregon, Metro said many of those arrested held gang leadership positions. That, combined with gun and drug seizures, should significantly affect gang activities, District Attorney Steven Wolfson said.

“As a result of this operation, illegal guns, illegal drugs and violent criminals are off the street,” Wolfson said. “It’s going to put a dent (in their operations). Not a huge dent, but a dent.”

The Vagos gang produces, transports and sells methamphetamine and has in the past been implicated in other criminal activities, including assault, extortion, insurance fraud, money laundering, murder, vehicle theft and witness intimidation, according to the Department of Justice.

In Las Vegas, an estimated 300 law enforcement officers — including 200 officers from Metro, North Las Vegas and Henderson — began arresting suspects starting at 5 a.m. Thursday. Seven suspects remain at large, and investigators are still compiling evidence for additional charges, United State Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden said.

Those charged face anywhere from five-year sentences to life sentences, Wolfson said. He added that his office will "vigorously prosecute" those charged in the operation and will seek to add gang-related extensions to the charges.

The arrests primarily targeted members of the Vagos motorcycle club but also included members of the Banditos, Chosen Few and other valley-area motorcycle gangs.

Those arrested in Nevada include:

• Chard Kruger, 46, of Henderson, who was charged with theft with gang enhancement, insurance fraud with gang enhancement, conspiracy to commit theft and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

• George Ward, 44, of Las Vegas, who was charged with sale of Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances.

• Steven Shaw, 39, of Las Vegas, who was charged with theft with gang enhancement, insurance fraud with gang enhancement, conspiracy to commit theft and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

• Donald Dussell, 58, of Hawaii, who was charged with battery with substantial bodily harm and false imprisonment.

• Victor Ramirez, 31, of Hawaii, who was charged with battery with substantial bodily harm and false imprisonment.

• Edward Chelby, 53, of Hawaii, who was charged with battery with substantial bodily harm and false imprisonment.

• Michel Hughes, 40, of Las Vegas, who was charged with conspiracy to distribute Hydrocodone, a Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substance.

At the news conference, authorities said the arrests nationally yielded a number of confiscated items:

• 43 firearms, including two short-barrel rifles

• 7½ pounds of methamphetamine

• 161 grams of cocaine

• 2,000 pills of prescription narcotics, predominantly hydrocodine

• Multiple vehicles

• $8,100 in cash

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  1. Ehh....I have a feeling the police thought they'd turn up more, and didnt.

  2. Come again? Agents from multiple agencies - over a period of four years - and they collect 8,000 dollars? Some cars and guns, probably "legal" but just happened to be associated with these guys under investigation. And an amount of drugs that is probably used in one day on a corner street?

    Show us the expense report - how much shall we bet this cost tax payers millions for this inter-state investigation?

    8,000 dollars? They probably spent that much on coffee on any given day.

    Like Mred said - Rush Limbaugh had twice the supply of prescription drugs.

    Four years!

    Is crime really decreasing that much?

  3. They will be able to recoup their gun confiscations in anonymity thanks to Brian Sandoval and the Background Check bill veto. That veto was the equivalent of job security for law enforcement personnel because they can immediately begin another 4 year investigation and probably haul in twice as many guns and drugs the next time. Does this mean there will be some low cost choppers up for auction?