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Gang crackdown: Vagos Motorcycle Club targeted in police raids

Police arrested 30 members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club across the western US Wednesday, in a crackdown that could be tied to gang activity.

By Michael B. FarrellStaff writer / March 18, 2010

The Vagos Motorcycle Club, members of which are shown in this 2008 photo, was the subject of a multistate police raid Wednesday.

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San Francisco

At least 30 members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club were arrested Wednesday in a multistate police raid that brings new attention to the California-based gang known for its violent past.

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The raids that reportedly took place in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown is expected to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon to release more details on the scope of the investigation, which official say is intended to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.

"Within the last few months, the Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang has gotten our significant attention," said Rod Pacheco, district attorney for Riverside, Calif., at a Wednesday press conference. "Today, we’ve delivered and returned some of that significant attention, and we intend to continue in that effort.”

While it's unclear exactly what provoked Wednesday's raids, the operation follows the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers' headquarters.

Mr. Pacheco said the operation against the Vagos motorcycle gang will continue until the threat posed “has been eliminated.”

The gang has “hundreds of members in the US and Mexico and poses a serious criminal threat to those areas in which its chapters are located,” according to the US Department of Justice.

The Justice Department’s fact sheet on US motorcycle gangs says the Vagos have at least 24 chapters across the Western US and are known for their involvement in the illegal drug trade. They have been “implicated in other criminal activities including assault, extortion, insurance fraud, money laundering, murder, vehicle theft, witness intimidation and weapons violations,” the Justice Department says.

The Vagos, also known as “Green Nation,” first formed in the late 1960s and has since been the subject of numerous investigations. In 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

At the time, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) called the group a “ruthless criminal bike gang” that deals in “guns, drugs, and death.”

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