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Friday, September 01, 2006

Biker Gangs - The Bandidos

The Toyota Way

The Bandidos, also called the Bandido Nation or Bandidos MC, is a motorcycle club with a worldwide membership, founded in the U.S. state of Texas in 1966. Its slogan is We are the people your parents warned you about. Their colors are red and gold.

The club was first formed in Houston by Donald Eugene Chambers in 1966. There is a myth that the club's colors came from the cartoon of Frito Bandito; untrue, since that cartoon was not developed till 1967. After Chambers' tenure Ronny Hodge became president and expanded the club internationally.

All past presidents of the Bandidos have gone to prison for activities related to the group: Chambers (now deceased) was convicted in 1972 of a double murder; Hodge (now deceased) was convicted on federal charges of conspiracy to commit murder with a bomb; James Lang is still in prison as of 2006 on drug charges; Craig Johnston, also in prison on drug charges, is scheduled to be released in 2007; George Wegers, generally seen as a reformer, nonetheless pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy involving stolen bike parts and witness tampering, for which he is to be sentenced September 22, 2006

The Bandidos is the fastest growing outlaw biker motorcycle club in the United States, with more than 90 chapters nationwide. The club is mostly concentrated in the Southwest with the largest grouping in Texas, though chapters exist as far north as Washington.

Internationally, chapters are found in Asia (Bangkok), Australia, and Western Europe. The Bandidos have had chapters in Canada since 2000 but as of 2006 have only a minimal presence.

The Bandidos enjoy a reputation for being highly organized with state and regional officers to coordinate its chapters, grouped under a national chapter with four regional vice presidents and a national president.

One of the Bandidos' ex-members is being investigated by Texas police to see if he and the motorcycle club are connected with the 2004 murder of former boxing world champion Robert Quiroga.

The Bandidos are also known in Australia for their involvement in the Milperra massacre in 1984. Two heavily armed bikie gangs known as the Comancheros and the Bandidos clashed in a hotel carpark. Seven people were killed and a number of others injured. Among the dead was a 15 year old girl. As a result of the massacre the New South Wales Firearms and Dangerous Weapons Act 1973 was subsequently amended. Commonwealth Games gold Medallist boxer Phillip McEliwain was the only bikie to be acquitted after the trial of both manslaughter and murder charges.

On July 19, 2006 - Thai National newspapers report that three members of the Bandidos were arrested yesterday. The suspects were charged with extortion, money laundering and six counts of illegal sale of public land. A police spokesman claims the suspects brought more than Bt 3 billion (79 million dollars) into Thailand over the past two years and laundered it through various tourist-related businesses. A six-month investigation by police found that the Bandidos had a network that extended to Bangkok, Pattaya, Koh Samui, and Phuket.

Certainly the Bandidos are not simply a criminal enterprise. Seattle Bandido Strokker Al has defended the group as a "true brotherhood, a motorcycle club, not a gang or any other type of organization that some bureaucracy wants to attempt to label for their own selfish gains." Recent president George Wegers was widely viewed as a reformer. According to reporter Rick Anderson, he banned certain hazing rituals and violent punishments, and discouraged both the use and dealing of drugs. "Wegers … reputedly harped on reform to everyone—impressionable hang-arounds, eager bikers-in-waiting, and seasoned full-patch members." Ex-Bandido Edward Winterhalder, describes him as wishing to recruit members who were "men of respect, not pieces of shit." His attorney says that he "has had a reputation for several years that he does not associate with people who deal in drugs and carry weapons. He was adamant about getting drugs out of the club." Nonetheless, he, like other Bandidos presidents, eventually ran afoul of the law, although on relatively minor charges: conspiracy involving stolen bike parts and witness tampering.

The gang has been connected to the April 8, 2006 Shedden massacre in southwestern Ontario, Canada. Eight members or associate members of the Bandidos were found dead in several vehicles located on a remote farm. Two days later, five people, including one Bandidos member, were arrested and charged with eight counts of first-degree murder. A month later, police dropped first-degree murder charges against two of the five and charged them instead with being accessories after the fact. In June 2006, three additional people, two believed to be full members and the other a prospective member, were arrested in Winnipeg. The three were also charged with eight counts of first-degree murder. Numerous theories for the murders have been put forward, but to date nothing has proven conclusive. Police are now saying, however, that more arrests will be forthcoming. The mass murder is one of the worst in Ontario's history. The massacre has effectively ended the Bandidos' presence in Canada, at least in the short term, as the crime has not only annihilated much of their leadership (by death and arrest), but damaged their credibility among would-be bikers, which will make recruitment difficult.

The Road to Hell: How the Biker Gangs are Conquering Canada


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