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Five-state sweep produces arrests of 32 Hells Angels

By RAY MEANS

SAN FRANCISCO -- A high-ranking Hells Angel became an FBI informant and wore a 'wire' in an investigation that produced charges against 38 bikers and undercut the motorcycle gang's drug-dealing operations, authorities said.

California Attorney General John Van de Kamp told a news conference that 32 Hells Angels were arrested in raids Tuesday in Alaska, California, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina, culminating a 2 -year investigation that began when a high-ranking gang member from Anchorage offered to tell the FBI about drugs and explosives trafficking.

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Authorities said the informer wore a 'body wire' that secretly recorded some meetings of the gang. Six of those charged were still fugitives.

Before the raids, undercover agents purchased explosives, three automatic weapons and two silencers, in addition to about $1.6 million of cocaine and 'speed' from Hells Angels, Assistant Attorney General Duane Peterson II said.

Describing the effect the undercover operation could have on future drug deals, Van de Kamp said, 'The Hells Angels have an unwritten code that says, in effect, 'no one need ever worry about being cheated or burned when dealing with one of their narcotics dealers' -- a kind of 'satisfaction or your money back.' I am here to tell you that code no longer applies.'

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Most of the charges involved drugs, but Sonny Barger, 48, the Oakland chapter president who is battling throat cancer, was accused in western Kentucky of transporting and receiving explosives meant 'to kill, maim or threaten.'

Barger and Michael O'Farrell, also of Oakland, were accused of a conspiracy aimed at the rival Outlaws Motorcycle Club, which was suspected of involvement in the murder of Anchorage Hells Angels chapter president John Cleve Webb, who was killed in 1986 in a Louisville nightclub for wearing an Angels emblem in defiance of an Outlaw warning.

Some 250 state and federal agents conducting 26 raids in the San Francisco Bay area seized drug labs, more than 100 weapons, and about $1 million in cash and drugs, Van de Kamp said.

Van De Kamp said the Angels had used drug money to invest in legitimate businesses, cars and real estate, which also would be seized.

An Angel not charged in the complaint reacted angrily to the arrests when he spoke with reporters at the federal building in San Francisco.

'It makes me sick to my stomach,' said 370-pound Albert 'Big Al' Perryman, 49, an Angel for 23 years. 'It seems that every election year this happens. We are not political but they make us political.'

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Asked whether Hells Angels are involved in drug trafficking, Perryman said, 'If I did, we wouldn't be here. We'd be rich.'

Hells Angels leaders arrested included Edwin Hubert, president of the Anchorage, Alaska, chapter; Dennis Pailing, president of the Fairbanks, Alaska, chapter, and Horace Anderson Powell, president of the Charleston, S.C., chapter.

In Alaska, a small army of agents wearing bullet-proof vests raided homes in Anchorage and a compound in Fairbanks, making 14 arrests in what the FBI said was one of the biggest operations it ever conducted in the state.

'We took a hell of a hunk out of them,' the FBI's Charles Lontor said, adding that the arrests were made without violence.

The Hells Angels were formed by members of a World War II bomber crew in California, and over the years gained a reputation for violence.

The sight of the Angels on their 'hogs' -- usually chopped down Harley-Davidson motorcyles -- and wearing grimy clothes and jackets with a winged emblem on the back struck fear in many a small town.

In recent years, authorities say the Hells Angels have dominated the U.S. production of 'speed,' or amphetamines.

A 1985 report on organized crime in California said the Angels had more than 60 chapters worldwide, including 35 in the United States, and were the most powerful of the 55 outlaw motorcycle gangs in California, with 300 members.

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