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August 18, 2019

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Vagos biker gang members indicted in Las Vegas in wide-ranging case

Vagos Motorcycle Club

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.

Updated Friday, June 16, 2017 | 7:15 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

In this Nov. 17, 2011 file photo, Vagos motorcycle gang member Ernesto Gonzalez is led from district court under heavy security in Reno, Nev., after pleading guilty in the shooting death of Hells Angels member Jeffrey "Jethrow" Pettigrew. The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for Gonzalez, convicted in a 2011 shootout between rival motorcycle clubs at a Reno-area casino.

A federal grand jury in Las Vegas indicted 23 Vagos biker gang members and associates in a racketeering case alleging crimes as serious as murder. And agents have conducted sweeps for suspects here, California and Hawaii, according to federal officials.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) indictment, which alleges numerous violent acts, such as murder, kidnapping and firearms crimes, was unsealed Friday, officials said.

At least three suspects were arrested in Las Vegas and made court appearances Friday, a U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman said. Further details on who was arrested or the outcome of their appearances were not immediately available.

Those indicted from Southern Nevada are Victor Adam “Slick” Ramirez, 35, Steven Earl “Big Steve” Carr, 43, and Robert Allen “Mayhem” Coleman, of Las Vegas, officials said.

James Walter “CJ” Henderson, 64, of Henderson and John “Maniak” Halgat, 39, of North Las Vegas were also indicted, officials said.

The 12-count indictment includes charges for eight suspects, including Ernesto Manuel "Romero" Gonzalez, for the slaying of a rival Hells Angels gang member, who was killed on Sept. 23, 2011, at the Nugget resort in Sparks, officials said.

"The indictment alleges that the Vagos gang is a highly organized criminal organization that adheres to a hierarchical chain of command, and whose members conspired to enrich the gang; to preserve, protect and enhance the power of the gang; and to keep victims in fear of the gang through acts and threats of violence," officials wrote in a news release.

The indictment identified Ramirez, Carr and Coleman as having leadership roles, directing others and also participating in criminal activities themselves. Henderson and Halgat had undertaken sergeant roles.

Some of the alleged crimes, according to the complaint:

In 2009, Carr and Coleman allegedly severely injured a fellow gang member and stole his belongings, including his motorcycle, when he failed to pay his dues.

In 2011, Coleman is accused of selling methamphetamine to an informant. He also allegedly told an undercover officer that he was willing to “kill for the Vagos and do the time (in prison).”

In 2012, Halgat allegedly sold a semi-automatic rifle and cocaine to at least one undercover officer posing as a Vagos member. That same year, he announced in a meeting that they were at war with a rival gang. “Every once in a while you need to smash a (expletive) to let him know who’s on top of the food chain.”

Coleman, Halgat and a group of bikers went around “hunting” for rivals at a Las Vegas bar.

In 2013, Ramirez and a group “trapped” a patron they felt had disrespected them at a west valley bar bathroom and beat and severely injured him. Henderson helped the group escape.

The same year, Henderson ordered fellow gang members to gather “intelligence” on rivals. He also instructed members to “take off their top guy” and to “make sure they have plenty of bullets and our families have a safe place to go.”

The gang is active in at least seven countries, including about 75 chapters in the U.S., 54 of which are in Nevada and California, officials said.

The investigation has brought together multiple local and federal law enforcement agencies.

“My department remains steadfast in its commitment to work in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies to disrupt and dismantle violent crime and gang activities in Clark County, Nevada,” said Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo in the release. “This RICO indictment represents a critical step toward dismantling this violent organization and clearly signals that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and our law enforcement partners have an unwavering commitment to hold those individuals accountable who insist on creating an atmosphere of violence and fear in our communities.”