Saturday, October 25, 2008

Organized Crime Still Active in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Metro Police arrested seven Mongol motorcycle gang members on a variety of charges out of an estimated 10 to 11 gang members believed to be in Southern Nevada.

"This has effectively dismantled both chapters in Southern Nevada," said Lt. David Logue, head of Metro's intelligence unit. Mongol chapters operated in Las Vegas and Henderson, he said.

Its members and their charges include:

  • -- Harold Reynolds, known as "Face," 40, of Las Vegas, charged in federal warrants with racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.
  • -- David Padilla, also known as "Lazy Dave," 36, of Las Vegas, charged in federal warrants with RICO conspiracy, racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
  • -- Ismael Padilla, also known as "Milo," 33, of Las Vegas, charged in federal warrants with RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.
  • -- William Ramirez, also known as "Moreno," 38, of Las Vegas, charged in federal warrants with RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.
  • -- Jason Hull, also known as "Big Jay," 33, of Las Vegas, charged in federal warrants with RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.
  • -- John Babcock, also known as "Sinister," 43, of Las Vegas, charged in a state warrant with unlawful transfer of a firearm.
  • -- Gary Lawson, also known as "T.C.," 49, of Las Vegas was taken into custody in California as part of the operation.

Metro Police said at least nine motorcycles were confiscated, along with five revolvers, a chrome-plated pistol, three shotguns, numerous rifles and semi-automatic weapons. Some weapons and money were on display at a Tuesday news conference, said Bill Cassel, public information officer for Metro Police.

The federal racketeering indictment unsealed in Los Angeles also alleges the name "Mongols," which was trademarked by the gang, is subject to forfeiture.

The massive law enforcement crackdown against the Mongols, dubbed "Operation Black Rain," began three and a half years ago by various agencies, including local police, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Lt. David Logue, Metro Police intelligence chief.

Four agents outside of Nevada went undercover and earned a patch, becoming Mongol members, Logue said.

Former national Mongol president Ruben Cavazos was arrested at his home near South Hills Country Club in West Covina, authorities said.

Law enforcement officers served a total of 110 federal arrest warrants and 160 search warrants in Southern California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Washington state and Ohio. Seven of those warrants were served in Las Vegas by members of Metro Police, Henderson and North Las Vegas SWAT teams. No one resisted arrest and there were no injuries, Logue said.

Mongol members have been involved in previous criminal activity in Las Vegas.

Nine men, two of them Mongol members, were named in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed in April 2004 in Las Vegas on 73 counts of murder in connection with a shootout at Harrah's Laughlin casino at a 2002 gathering known as the River Run that left three people dead. Others involved were from the rival Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, authorities said. The shootout killed Salvador Barrera, Robert Tumelty and Jeremy Bell.

About a half dozen people formed the gang in the 1970s because they were banned from joining the notorious Hell's Angels motorcycle group due to their Hispanic heritage. The Mongol gang began attracting members with criminal tendencies as it grew and was then labeled "outlaw" by law enforcement officials.

The Mongols tend to recruit younger, more violent people from street gangs, said Thomas L. Chittum III, resident agent in charge in the Las Vegas branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Thanks to Mary Manning

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