Jae C. Hong / AP
Thursday, June 27, 2013 | 2:15 p.m.
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