LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Federal agents and police in seven states arrested more than 60 members of the Mongols motorcycle gang on Tuesday in a sweep that also targeted for the first time an outlaw group’s “intellectual property,” prosecutors said.
The arrests cap a three-year undercover investigation in which U.S. agents posed as gang members and their girlfriends to infiltrate the group, even submitting to polygraph tests administered by the bikers.
Those arrested were charged in an 86-count federal racketeering indictment accusing the California-based gang of engaging in criminal acts ranging from murder and robbery to extortion, money laundering, gun trafficking and drug dealing.
The Mongols are particularly associated with violent attacks on blacks and have engaged in an escalating battle with the rival Hells Angels gang since clashing in a 2002 casino riot in Laughlin, Nevada, prosecutors said.
The gang also has been feuding with Mexican-based organized crime figures over the Mongols’ drug trafficking in areas controlled by the Mexican mob, according to authorities.
“In addition to pursuing the criminal charges set forth in the indictment, for the first time ever, we are seeking to forfeit the intellectual property of the gang,” U.S. Attorney Thomas O‘Brien said in a statement.
He said the name “Mongols,” which appears on the gang’s arm patch insignia, was trademarked by the group. The indictment seeks a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any police officer “who sees a Mongol wearing this patch ... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back,” O‘Brien added.
The 61 gang members and 10 other defendants arrested so far were rounded up in raids conducted in California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, Florida and Ohio. Most were taken into custody in the Los Angeles area, prosecutors said.
Those arrested include the reputed former Mongols national president, Ruben “Doc” Cavazo, several chapter presidents and various other high-ranking gang members.
According to prosecutors, the Mongols were founded in the 1970s in Montebello, California, just east of Los Angeles, and its members now number 600 nationwide.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman