Saturday, January 8, 2011

New biker gang moving in

There’s a new biker gang in town, the Vagos — and it’s growing fast.
And so is the threat of a deadly war with its traditional rivals the Hells Angels, law enforcement sources say.
“They’re at war with the Hells Angels in California” and any other place where each have chapters, share the same territory, Ontario Biker Enforcement Unit Det.-Sgt. Len Isnor says.
“If they spread into Canada, the Ontario Hells Angels will do whatever it takes to support their brothers in California,” he says.
“So there could be violence.”
A state of animosity between the Vagos and Hells has existed since the 1960s — mostly over turf and drugs but sometimes it’s because they simply hate each other.
“I think it comes into the machismo thing. I think it’s as simple as that in a lot of cases,” says a source with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The most recent violent spat between the Vagos and Hells Angels was in Chino Valley, Ariz., last July when members exchanged about 50 rounds in a street gun battle.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges in a fact sheet the Vagos have been implicated in assault, extortion, insurance fraud, money laundering, murder, vehicle theft, witness intimidation and weapons violations.”
Vagos members in Canada, known as the Nomads chapter, are so far only wearing soft patches, such as T-shirts and hoods with gang insignia, but it’s expected members soon will be officially patched — wearing the traditional vest with the logo on the back.
The California-based 1% biker gang known as Green Machine or Green Nation absorbed nine Toronto-area Rock Machine members, including its founder, in November.
(The term “1%” refers to biker gangs who live beyond the law and shun society’s rules.)
The Ontario members of the Rock Machine — a gang reborn three years ago with some surviving members of the now defunct Bandidos — were ousted in a nationwide vote among members on Nov. 23.
The members were kicked out in “bad standing,” including the founder of the reborn Rock Machine and then-national president, Sean “Dog” Brown.
The explanations for the vote vary, but sources say those who remain with the Rock Machine wanted to expand faster than Brown did.
The Rock Machine spread from the GTA to include Winnipeg, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and a Montreal chapter. They are also in Australia, the U.S., and Indonesia.
Brown took pains not to provoke the Hells, and wanted to stay out of Quebec, concerned it could rekindle old animosities.
The original Rock Machine and the Quebec Hells were locked in a deadly drug-fuelled feud in the 1990s that left about 160 bodies on the streets.
In 2008, Brown relaunched the Rock Machine, using the same eagle-head logo but different colours.
He took pains to publicly declare the group is no threat to any other gang, particularly the Hells Angels, and was reportedly staying clear of drugs and Quebec.
Brown envisioned a return to the “glory days” of the 1940s and 1950s before the focus turned to drugs and money.
During the three years he ran the Rock Machine, they generally stayed out of trouble, both with the law and Hells.
But when a Rock Machine chapter recently formed in Montreal, it was an early sign Brown was losing control.
And since the Nov. 23 ouster of the Ontario members, a Rock Machine member in Edmonton was murdered.
Andrew Block, also known as Rock or Blaklistid, was found shot to death in mid-December and the slaying appears to be biker-related.
Contacted by the Sun, Brown refuses to comment about the ouster from the Rock Machine or the arrival of the Vagos.
“I have no comment on this matter,” Dog says.
However, piecing together Internet chatter on both the Rock Machine and Vagos websites, it appears Ontario’s Rock Machine members were considering jumping ship as early as last summer.
“Happy holidays to all my brothers around the world from all of us in the Green Nation Canada,” Brown wrote Dec. 23, using his nickname.
“It was many long months in the making my brothers and all our love goes out to the Vagos brothers who helped make this happen.”
“Canada’s finally gone Green! Live Vagos, Die Vagos,” Brown posted.
Other posts suggest American Rock Machine members also patched over in the summer.
Brown was successful at expanding the Rock Machine, so it’s not surprising the Vagos want him on board.
And it seems his building skills have already had an impact.
It’s believed the Vagos’ first Canadian chapter has already swelled from the nine bikers who joined with him to about 25, including members and prospects.
Originally called the Psychos and the Los Vagos, the Vagos were formed in the mid-1960s, incorporating an image of Loki, the Norse god of mischief, in its patch.

BIKER GANG TIMELINE
n 2007 — A new Rock Machine biker gang forms in the GTA along with a chapter of the Mongols, a California-based biker gang, after Bandidos Canada disappeared and police cracked down on the Hells Angels.
n July 2009 — The Mongols shut down their Canadian experiment, in part because of unrelenting pressure by law enforcement in California. The former members are now planning to launch the Forty Thieves.
n 2010 — While being courted by the Vagos, a number of Ontario-based members of the Rock Machine were ousted in bad standing last November. They turned to the Vagos and established a Nomads chapter.
n 2011 — The Rock Machine continues to expand from the GTA, moving into Alberta and Manitoba, and eastward to Montreal, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, along with chapters in the U.S., Australia and Indonesia.
n 2011 — Outlaws Canada is actively recruiting new members, including launching a Kawartha chapter, while reportedly planning others in south Toronto and Durham Region. Police said they are also wooing the Swordsmen of Newmarket, and formed a puppet gang called the Vigilantes.

The move by the Vagos into Canada comes after major police actions against the Hells in Ontario and Quebec and the demise of the Bandidos in 2007 left a biker power vacuum.
“So all the Hells Angels in Quebec are in jail, a lot of big name Hells Angels in Ontario are in jail or are on some sort” of court restriction, Ontario Biker Enforcement Unit Det.-Sgt. Len Isnor says.
“So this is the perfect environment right now for somebody to try and establish a club in Ontario.”
Before that crackdown “either you’re a Hells Angel in this province, or you’re an Outlaw, or you’re a nobody because no one is allowed to start up a 1% gang” without their approval, he says.
The Outlaws and Hells weren’t going to sanction another biker gang in their territory unless it was a puppet gang “to do their dirty work,” Isnor says.
The only way to circumvent that barrier is to be sanctioned by another major U.S. 1% gang, like the Vagos, he says.
“Unless you’re one of those big clubs from the U.S., you’re a nobody,” Isnor says.
The Bandidos imploded violently in 2006 in Shedden, Ont., near London, when six members, a prospect and an associate were massacred in an internal power struggle. The charter for Bandidos Canada was pulled by its Texas parent.
“There’s a number of Bandido people that were basically left without a gang, and the Outlaws weren’t taking them on and the Hells Angels for sure weren’t going to be taking them on,” Isnor says.
“They were looking for somewhere to belong,” he says.
“This is just another route that group of people are trying to take and they don’t want to settle for being just a motorcycle club. They want to be a 1% club.”

The Vagos biker club is accelerating hard to recruit new members and is quickly catching up to its archrivals the Hells Angels.
“I think it’s as simple as the Vagos want to expand as quickly as possible,” says a source with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
It now has about 900 known members in the U.S., the ATF source says.
Other sources indicate the gang has about 1,300 members worldwide, which includes chapters in Mexico.
“I think these guys are blossoming everywhere,” the source says. “They have almost as many chapters as the Hells Angels in the United States. They probably have equal numbers to the Hells Angels in the United States.”
He refused to speculate about the gang’s aims in Canada: “It’s tough to do that. The only thing that is very clear is the continuing expansion efforts of this group.”
But some say drugs are at the root behind the international expansion.
“My best guess would be to extend their drug trafficking, maybe drug manufacturing,” says a criminal intelligence specialist with the California justice department.
The U.S. attorney general’s 2008 report to congress on the growth of street gangs in suburbia alleged the Vagos were linked to Tijuana’s Arellano-Felix drug trafficking cartel, particularly for supplies of marijuana and cocaine.
The ATF source believes a new Nicaragua chapter was formed to help in the drug trade.
Last March, the gang’s chapters in California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona were targeted in Operation Everywhere. Police seized weapons and drugs, and uncovered a meth lab.

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