Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Mongols organization is led by a mother chapter, which operates out of Southern California

Members of the Mongols biker gang implicated in the shooting of a suspected Hells Angel in early November have all accepted plea agreements offered by the Humboldt County district attorney. In the agreement offered on the third day of the preliminary hearing, three of four men admitted to participating in a criminal street gang -- an outcome that sets new precedent for prosecutors in Humboldt County, potentially easing legal efforts against gang members in the future.
Eric Gunner Lundin, the 28-year-old who shot Robert Thompson outside The Shanty in Old Town Eureka, pleaded no contest to felony charges of assault with a firearm and participating in a criminal street gang. Lundin now faces between two and three years in prison at his sentencing Jan. 15. Dustin Liebes, 36, and Eric Garcia, 28, both pleaded no contest to the felony charge of participation in a criminal street gang, and 26-year-old Brad Miller -- whom investigators believe was attempting to become a member of the gang -- pleaded no contest to being an accessory after the fact. Those three men face up to one year in jail or one year probation at the Jan. 15 sentencing. Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin, who prosecuted the case, said he intends to request the sentencing judge prohibit the men from associating with other gang members, which would legally bar the men from each other's company.
McLaughlin called the outcome “appropriate,” after facts in the Nov. 7 shooting incident surfaced late in the investigation showing 43-year-old Thompson may have fired the first shot. Eureka Police Detective Todd Wilcox said when authorities arrived at the scene of the shooting they found a .22-caliber handgun with one spent shell lying next to Thompson. McLaughlin said Thompson, a convicted sex offender and kidnapper, refused to provide testimony at the men's trial, and declined ownership of the gun. Chris Cervantes, a Montebello police detective and ATF investigator working the outlaw biker gang unit, said no matter who fired first, the shooting was a gang-related act, and it was appropriate for the men to be prosecuted.

”A gun is a tool of a gang. It's a sign of power -- it's a sign of respect,” Cervantes said. “There's no self-defense there.”

Cervantes was flown to Humboldt County to provide expert testimony about the Mongols street gang, which the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has labeled the most “violent and dangerous” in the nation. The gang has between 500 and 600 members in chapters throughout the United States, as well as Canada and Italy.
Cervantes said following a Tuesday night intelligence briefing that he believes there are Mongols chapters in Eureka and elsewhere in Humboldt County. But for the most part, he said, the entire Eureka chapter is now in jail, and there appears to be only a small Mongol presence in the region. The Mongols organization is led by a mother chapter, which operates out of Southern California. The long-standing rivalry between the Hells Angels and the Mongols began decades ago over disputes about similarities between patches worn by the two gangs. But the violence has escalated over the years into a bloody gang war.
McLaughlin said jail recordings have shown Lundin has requested attorney fees from the mother chapter, and Wilcox said recordings show others have attempted to communicate with Mongols members outside of jail. Ultimately, Cervantes said the men's admission has bolstered law enforcement's battle against the outlaw biker gang. Leaders of the organization call the group the Mongols Motorcycle Club. The group organizes rides that distribute toys to children, operates in accordance to a constitution and requires new prospective members fill out an application. The seemingly legitimate exterior made it difficult in the past for authorities to legally establish the Mongols are, in fact, a gang, Cervantes said.
With Wednesday's conviction, authorities will have greater power prosecuting members of biker gangs in Humboldt County, Cervantes said.
”We went into some uncharted grounds here in Eureka,” he said. “It's far more successful that the gang allegations were sustained rather than these guys getting more time.”


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