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38 Hells Angels Arrested In ‘Operation Roughrider’

November 11, 1987 GMT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Thirty-eight members of the Hells Angels in five states were arrested Tuesday in an undercover investigation involving drugs, weapons, explosives and conspiracy to murder members of a rival gang, the Justice Department said.

The government said it obtained indictments with the help of an FBI informant who rose through the ranks of the notorious motorcycle club during two years to become a national officer.

Arrests were made in Alaska, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina and California.

Officials said approximately $1 million in cash was discovered at the Oakland, Calif. home of Kenneth J. Owen, a club member arrested for investigation of distribution of methamphetamine, or ″speed.″

Eleven Northern California members were taken into custody for investigation of criminal charges ranging from drug and weapons violations, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering, said state Attorney General John Van de Kamp at a news conference.

Van de Kamp said the raids and arrests ″have laid bare the Hells Angels extensive role in drug trafficking and violent crime that supports it.″

More than 400 agents fanned out to make arrests and conduct searches of homes and other properties in Northern California, officials said. More than 100 weapons and three methamphetamine laboratories were seized.

According to a statement released in Washington by the Justice Department, the informant and undercover agents purchased $1.6 million in methamphetamine and cocaine from club members.

Federal agents said they seized five residences, which prosecutors will seek to have forfeited on the grounds they were used in drug transactions.

Agents also said they were able to purchase more than 20 pounds of high explosives, three automatic weapons and two silencers.

One complaint filed in the case alleged that a number of officers and members of the Hells Angels conspired to transport and receive explosives in a plot against members of a rival group, the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.

The arrests were conducted by teams of FBI agents, investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and local authorities.

In North Carolina, authorities arrested Timothy J. Blackwell, 30, of Durham; Lawrence Dean Lenihan, 43, of Durham; and Larry William White, 40, of Hillsborough, on warrants charging them with acquiring explosive devices and with conspiring to use the explosive ″with intent to kill or intimidate″ members of the Outlaws, said Chuck Richards of the FBI office in Charlotte.

The conspiracy was allegedly in retaliation for the Aug. 12, 1986, killing of Hells Angels member John Cleve in Louisville, Ky., Richards said.

In 1985, the FBI led numerous raids in 11 states against the Hells Angels for alleged drugs and weapons violations. The raids culminated a three-year undercover investigation dubbed ″Operation Roughrider.″

Founded 37 years ago in the California steeltown of Fontana, the Hells Angels have maintained a reputation as the most notorious of outlaw motorcycle groups.