Hells Angels FBI raid leads to racketeering indictments

By Bay City News Service

Several alleged associates of a Sonoma County motorcycle gang are among 11 people who have been indicted in a racketeering case involving murder, maiming and witness intimidation, federal officials said today.

The indictment filed Oct. 10 describes the Hells Angels as a transnational violent outlaw motorcycle gang and said nine associates of the Hells Angels Sonoma County chapter, one associate of the Fresno chapter and one associate of the Salem/Boston chapter face charges.

Among the alleged crimes were the murder of an unnamed victim by 40-year-old Tulare resident Brian Wendt at the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse on July 15, 2014, while 41-year-old Santa Rosa resident Jonathan Nelson directed the victim to meet with Wendt and 64-year-old Santa Rosa resident 

Russell Ott accompanied the victim there, prosecutors said.

Some of the crimes date as far back as July and August 2007, when 54-year-old Rohnert Park resident Raymond Foakes allegedly committed bank  fraud and money laundering to obtain a residence in which an indoor marijuana cultivation operation started.

Other crimes alleged in the indictment include home invasion robbery, extortion, assault, maiming, illegal possession of weapons and drugs, and witness intimidation.

Several of the suspects were arrested in Santa Rosa on Saturday. Wendt; Nelson; Ott; Foakes; Russell Lyles, 36, of Windsor; Jeremy Greer, 37, of Santa Rosa; Christopher Ranieri, 49, of Lynn, Massachusetts; Damien Cesena, 36, of Santa Rosa; Brian Burke, 37, of Windsor; Jason Cliff, 50, and David Diaz, 45, were the 11 suspects charged.

All but Burke and Cliff face Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) conspiracy charges and all but Diaz face additional charges such as conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering or maiming in aid of racketeering, prosecutors said.

Burke was charged with witness intimidation for allegedly threatening to shoot a victim as an attempt to persuade the victim not to provide evidence about Foakes' violation of his supervised release in a federal case.

Cliff faces charges of maiming in aid of racketeering and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, prosecutors said.

The indictment was unsealed today and officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI held a news conference about it in San Francisco.

"This week we have taken a significant step toward bringing justice an alleged conspiracy whose aim has been to commit violent crimes," U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch said.

"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," Stretch said.

All of the defendants besides Lyles, Wendt, Foakes and Ranieri appeared in court today. Ott, Burke, Cliff, Nelson and Greer will be in court Tuesday for identification of counsel, while Diaz will be in court on Nov. 27 and Cesena on Nov. 29 for detention hearings, prosecutors said.
       

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