The arrests of 18 Hells Angels members — including two from the East Valley — will likely have an immediate and dramatic effect on the organization, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Now that high-level gang members are gone, the Hells Angels’ criminal activities will be in disarray as those remaining work to replace the ones they’ve lost, said Terry Katz, former president of the International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association.
"This has created a crisis in their ability to manage their operation, especially their criminal operations," said Katz, who likened the Hells Angels’ sophistication to the Mafia’s. "Does that mean they are going to go out of business? No. They are a self-perpetuating organization."
Early Tuesday, about 500 federal and local law enforcement officers conducted 40 predawn raids across the state. Eighteen of the 30 people arrested on suspicion of weapons-related charges were members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
Chandler resident Calvin Schaefer, 34, was indicted on five drug and weaponsrelated charges. Duane Williams of Mesa was indicted on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The raids were orchestrated after two years of undercover work by federal agents and a Phoenix police detective, all of whom infiltrated the Hells Angels by posing as members of a Mexico-based gang.
Another law enforcement officer and expert on outlaw biker gangs said he expects Arizona members to seek assistance from out-of-state Hells Angels members.
The officer, who requested anonymity, said the group will make every attempt to keep their drug and weapons trade.
"The Hells Angels fought hard to get Arizona and they don’t want to lose it overnight," he said.
The officer described the busts as "significant, but not crippling."
"As far as a world organization, this was a tiny footstep in the right direction. As far as Arizona, it was a huge step," the officer said.
There are approximately 3,500 Hells Angels members worldwide and between 125 and 150 in Arizona, he said.
The leader of a motorcycle club said law enforcement officials have blown the arrests out of proportion and, as a result, the public will form an unfavorable opinion of all motorcyclists.
"You can find drugs in any organization, period, whether it’s Motorola, Bashas’ or the Hells Angels," said Rick Kloeckner of Mesa, president of the Sober Brothers Motorcycle Club. "The cops are blowing up this situation to where people look at me and think I’m going to rape their daughter and that’s not fair."
Ninety-eight percent of the Hells Angels members go to work every day, support families and participate in charity events — and not as a front, as police have alleged, Kloeckner said.