Federal indictment names Sonoma County Hells Angels
A sweeping federal indictment unsealed Monday following a three-year investigation accused 11 members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang — including six from the Sonoma County chapter arrested this weekend — of racketeering and conspiracy involving murder, assault, robbery, extortion and witness tampering.
Eight members of the Sonoma County Hells Angels chapter were named in the indictment, plus three others arrested over the weekend and Monday in San Francisco, Fresno and Boston related to the investigation and indictment, U.S. Assistant Attorney Alex Tse said at a Monday press conference at the San Francisco Federal Building.
Of the eight Sonoma County members named, one, Raymond Michael Foakes, 54, of Rohnert Park, was already in federal prison.
In addition to Foakes, the Sonoma County defendants named in the suit were Jonathan Joseph Nelson, Russell Allen Lyles Jr., Russell Taylor Ott, Damien David Cesena, Brian Allen Burke, Jason Randall Cliff and David Salvatore Diaz III.
Also named as defendants were former Sonoma County chapter member Jeremy Daniel Greer, Brian Wayne Wendt of the Fresno chapter, and Christopher Ranieri of the Salem/Boston chapter.
The FBI, with assistance from local agencies including Santa Rosa police and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, raided 16 locations and seized 13 firearms and 10 motorcycles while serving the sealed federal warrant, FBI Special Agent John Bennett said at the press conference. The raids included one Saturday afternoon at the Wagon Wheel Saloon in Santa Rosa, where six Hells Angels members were arrested.
Santa Rosa Police Chief Hank Schreeder, Capt. Craig Schwartz, Sonoma County Sheriff Sgt. Spencer Crum and CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Paul Fontana attended the Monday briefing but made no public comments.
The federal indictment issued Oct. 11 alleges two Sonoma County Hells Angels aided in a murder at the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse on July 15, 2014.
Nelson, 41, the current Sonoma County Hells Angels president, is said to have sent an unnamed victim from Northern California to Fresno for a meeting. The victim was allegedly accompanied by Ott, 64, a former Sonoma County Hells Angels president. While at the clubhouse the unnamed victim was allegedly killed by Wendt, 40, of Tulare.
The alleged murder is one of numerous crimes outlined in the indictment. The first crime listed occurred in July 2007 when Foakes committed mortgage fraud while attempting to buy a house for an indoor marijuana grow, federal prosecutors alleged.
Foakes was arrested again in Sonoma County in November 2016 for allegedly raping the 49-year-old wife of a member the Sonoma County Hells Angels were kicking out of the club. Foakes is currently being held at a federal prison in Merced County for violating federal probation.
The 11 counts in the federal indictment also include armed robbery of marijuana grows, multiple assaults, illegal firearms possession, obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence.
“Every one of these people has come through our system at one time or another,” Crum said of the Sonoma County Hells Angels named on the federal indictment.
While the motorcycle club has been in operation locally since the early 1970s and openly promotes events on Facebook, “the Hells Angels’ history shows they’re known for criminal activity,” Crum said.
At the high-profile raid at 1 p.m. Saturday at a Hells Angels event at the Wagon Wheel Saloon on Mendocino Avenue, law enforcement officers led by the FBI surrounded the bar and also conducted an armed search of an Antelope Lane home in southwest Santa Rosa.
Witnesses at the Wagon Wheel Saloon said they saw motorcycles seized and riders detained outside the bar.
A tactical team from the FBI was on-site, as were a number of CHP officers and the armored SWAT vehicle shared by Santa Rosa police and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Some of the heavily armed officers wore full tactical gear, including Kevlar helmets and bulletproof vests, and wielded assault rifles. No shots were fired and no physical altercations were reported.
You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.