COLUMBIA, SC. -- An FBI raid on Hells Angels chapters in North and South Carolina netted 19 arrests and provided authorties with a rare glimpse into the inner-working of what they call a highly organized national criminal enterprise.
Agents seized cocaine, marijuana, methampethamines, pills and about 100 firearms, including two machine guns, in a raid Thursday on a Gaston County club headquarters in North Carolina, The Charlotte Observer reports.
Prosecutors in South Carolina charged that members of the Rock Hell City Nomad chapter engaged in intimidation, extortion, narcotics distribution, money laundering, arson, trafficking in stolen goods, prostitution and firearms trafficking, WIS-TV reports.
The raids were the culmination of a two-year joint effort by the FBI and authorities in both states, WCNC-TV reports.
According to authorities, the clubs follow a tightly controlled chain of command that includes a president, vice president, treasurer/secretary and sergeant at arms/enforcer, as well as general members, WIS reports.
The Observer, quoting from a federal indictment, says the clubs follow strict rules, with only members allowed to attend chapter meetings, which were held regularly and referred to as "church."
Memberships are limited to white males who must own one or more American-made motorcycles, mostly Harley-Davidsons.
The chapter president is the ultimate decider in the group and reports directly to regional officers. Representatives of chapters on the East Coast meet periodically in different states, the newspaper reports.
Full members are known as "full patch" and are the only ones allowed to wear the full Hells Angels three-piece patch on jackets and vests.
Prosecutors say any member who gets kicked out of a chapter must "outdate" or color over his Hells Angels tattoos.
Like the mafia, Hells Angels suspects favor colorful nicknames, according to a federal indictment, The Observer reports. Among them: "Rat," "Lightning," "Gravel Dave," "Diamond Dan" and "Diesel."
Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY