Friday, October 7, 2011 – 09:45 a.m.

You’ve got to hand it to politicians with aspirations for higher office and a desire to deflect. The compare and contrast of the following two stories says it all.

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A team of officers from the San Bernardino Police Department and state Department of Justice raid the home of Vagos international president Pastor Palafox in Colton. Palafox was not there, but evidence was seized from the home. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / October 6, 2011)

10 Vagos motorcycle gang members arrested in Southland raids
Multi-county crackdown nets members suspected of drug trafficking and violent activities but is eluded by the gang’s

By Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times
October 7, 2011

Authorities arrested 10 members of the Vagos motorcycle gang suspected of drug trafficking and a rash of violence during a series of raids early Thursday across Southern California, a crackdown that comes less than two weeks after a Vagos member allegedly killed a rival Hells Angels member at a Nevada casino.

The arrests were the result of an 18-month investigation led by state investigators into one of the most “violent criminal” motorcycle gangs in the nation, authorities said. Members of the gang, which started in the Inland Empire in the 1960s, face allegations of conspiracy to commit murder, rape, weapons violations, money laundering and drug violations.

“It’s a dangerous organization … that’s responsible for putting drugs into our communities and schools,” said Senior Special Agent in Charge David King of the state Department of Justice in Riverside. “These individuals are armed to protect their criminal enterprise, and they’ve shown how quickly they are willing to use their guns in public.”

Law enforcement authorities Thursday executed 52 search warrants in San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Imperial counties. Arrest warrants also were issued for 12 high-ranking Vagos members, 10 of whom were in custody by late morning. Two associates also were arrested.

A team of officers from the San Bernardino Police Department and state Department of Justice took a battering ram to the door of Pastor Palafox of Colton, the Vagos international president, bursting into the house with weapons drawn.

The Vagos leader was gone and remains at large, though officers carted off evidence from the house. The only outside indication of who lived there was the black Harley-Davidson emblem on the home’s curbside address.

Authorities also raided a Vagos clubhouse in the remote Riverside County town of Anza, as well as one in North Hollywood. More than 300 weapons were seized, including 100 from a home in Alhambra.

“This gang … has been terrorizing our community for years,” San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Michael Ramos said at an afternoon news conference. “This is a major, major takedown.”

To read entire story, click here.

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San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos speaks at a press conference with San Bernardino Police Chief Keith Kilmer (center) and David King of the Department of Justice. Authorities disclosed an 18-month-long investigation and the arrest of nine members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club. KURT MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

SAN BERNARDINO: Police announce drug raid, arrests
BY DARRELL R. SANTSCHI
STAFF WRITER
dsantschi@pe.com

Published: 06 October 2011 02:18 PM

A small army of federal, state and local law enforcement agents fanned out across seven Southern California counties Thursday, arresting nine members and associates of a motorcycle club and seizing drugs and weapons.

The raids targeted the Vagos Motorcycle Club, an organization formed in San Bernardino in the 1960s that authorities say has about 500 members operating in the United States and four other countries as far away as New Zealand.

The raids were dubbed Operation Simple Green, an apparent reference to the Vagos’ club colors.

“This is a major takedown today,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos told reporters at a mid-afternoon news conference at the San Bernardino Police Department.

Laid out on tables flanking authorities were some of the 46 pounds of cocaine, eight pounds of methamphetamine and 300 weapons seized during the raids. The firearms included assault rifles and two shoulder-fired anti-tank rocket launchers.

Seventy state narcotics investigators, joined by local and federal authorities, served 52 search warrants in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, among others.

Officers arrested nine people on warrants for crimes including from rape and murder. Three others sought on arrest warrants were still at large.

David King, senior special agent in charge of the California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotics’ Riverside office, said authorities believe 40 to 50 more people may be arrested before the 18-month-long drug investigation ends.

There had been 25 other arrests earlier in the investigation, Ramos said.

“This … ruthless criminal motorcycle gang has been terrorizing our community for years, if not decades,” the district attorney said. “In the last decade I can tell you we have prosecuted them for drug charges, weapons charges … kidnapping, witness intimidation, murder, rape. These are criminals.”

He made reference to sweeps dating at least five years in which members of the Vagos were arrested.

Two months ago, Riverside County settled a defamation lawsuit filed on behalf of the club after a series of attacks against Hemet police. There was no monetary compensation, but county officials released a public statement calling comments from then-Riverside County DA Rod Pacheco “offensive” and “unfortunate” when he insinuated that the Vagos may have been involved in the attacks.

Vagos attorney Joseph Yanny did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Thursday’s raids.

Details of the arrests, including the names and hometowns of those taken into custody, were not released.

To read entire story, click here.