Bandidos Motorcycle Club/ Biker Gang
|Motto||We are the people your parents warned you about|
|Location||San Leon, Texas|
|Founder||Donald Eugene Chambers|
|Type||Outlaw motorcycle club|
|Region||United States, Australia, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Russia, Kosovo, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, UAE, Brunei|
The Bandidos Motorcycle Club, also known as the Bandido Nation, is a “one-percenter” motorcycle club gang with a worldwide membership. The club was formed in 1966 by Don Chambers in Texas. Its motto is “We are the people your parents warned you about.” In 2005, it was estimated to have 5,000 members in 210 chapters, located in 22 countries.
The Bandidos were founded by 36-year-old dockworker Donald Chambers in March 1966 in Houston, Texas. He named the club in honor of the Mexican bandits who lived by their own rules and he recruited members from biker bars locally in Houston as well as in Corpus Christi, Galveston, and San Antonio. Like other outlaw motorcycle clubs (Outlaws, the Pagans, and the Hells Angels), they call themselves “One Percenters”, a phrase coined by the former president of the American Motorcyclist Association who once stated that 99 percent of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens and 1 percent “outlaws.” By the early 1970s, the club had over one hundred members, including many Vietnam War veterans. The majority of the club consists of Caucasian males and Hispanics, but African Americans are not admitted. Their motto is “We are the people your parents warned you about.”
The Bandidos has over 90 chapters in the United States, 90 chapters in Europe, and another 17 in Australia, 2 in New Zealand, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
In North America
In the United States, the club is concentrated in Texas, but extends into Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and several other states.
The first Australian chapter was formed in 1983, in Sydney, by former members of the Comancheros. They have chapters in Adelaide, Ballarat, Brisbane (Bayside, Centro, City), Byron Bay, Cairns, Geelong, Gold Coast, Hunter Region, Ipswich, Melbourne, Mid North Coast, Mid State, Mission Beach, Noosa, North Victoria, Northside, Sunshine Coast, Sydney, and Toowoomba – along with nomad members.
The first European chapter opened in Marseille in France in 1989, followed by chapters in Scandinavia, in Denmark in 1993 and Sweden in 1994. In recent years the club has also expanded heavily into Germany, Spain, Norway, Finland, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Channel Islands. As of March 15, 2014, the club has opened a new “Probationary Chapter” in Sittard, in the Netherlands. Additionally, it is looking into setting up shop in Russia and Eastern Europe and also in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The Bandidos are organized by local chapters, with state and regional officers, as well as a national chapter made up of four regional vice presidents and a national president.
In Middle East
Like the Hells Angels, The Bandidos also have a number of “support” clubs. These groups usually wear reverse colors (gold border with red background rather than the Bandidos’ red-border–and–gold background). They also commonly wear a unique patch (known as the “Heart Patch”) consisting of a round patch in Bandidos colors on the front upper left of the colors (vest), as worn by the member. Most of these clubs are regional.
In November 2006, Glenn Merritt of the Bellingham, Washington chapter was sentenced to four years in prison for drug possession and trafficking in stolen property. A total of 32 members were indicted in the associated investigation, on charges including conspiracy, witness tampering, and various drug and gun violations. Eighteen of those pleaded guilty. In October, 2006, George Wegers, then Bandidos’ international president, reached a very unusual plea agreement through representation by his attorney Jeffrey A. Lustick, under which he received 22 months credit for time served and three years on supervised release. Despite this being a felony conviction, the plea agreement accepted by Judge John C. Coughenour allowed Wegers to still participate in Bandidos events, associate with known felons, and travel worldwide with court permission. No RICO forfeitures were imposed by the court. Lustick remains Wegers’s personal attorney to this day.
On 16 August 2004, a passer-by on Interstate 10 flagged down a police car after finding Robert Quiroga, International Boxing Federation Super flyweight champion from 1990 to 1993, lying next to his car. Quiroga had been stabbed multiple times. Richard Merla, a member of the Bandidos, was arrested in 2006 for the killing and in 2007 pleaded no contest to murdering Quiroga (Merla was in the process of illegally obtaining a 1983 poster for the film Scarface, which was his road name); he was sentenced to 40 years in prison. “I don’t regret it. I don’t have no remorse. I don’t feel sorry for him and his family. I don’t and I mean that,” Merla admits. In regards to the murder of Robert Quiroga (who had celebrity status as an IBF champion around the San Antonio area where the local Bandidos chapter president (John Portillo) was one of his biggest fans), the Bandidos Motorcycle Club denounced any involvement in the crime, stating that Merla’s actions were his own, and not those of the Club. Merla was expelled from the Bandidos due to his actions.
In March 2006 police in Austin, Texas announced that the Bandidos were the prime suspects in the March 18, 2006 slaying of a 44-year-old local motorcyclist named Anthony Benesh. Benesh, who had been trying to start an Austin chapter of the Hells Angels, was shot in the head by an unseen sniper, as he was leaving a North Austin restaurant with his girlfriend and two children. Police said that Benesh was flanked by other people and the shooter used only one bullet, fired at a distance from a high-powered rifle. The murder occurred on the same weekend as the annual Bandidos MC “Birthday Party” in Southeast Texas, marking the 40th anniversary of the club’s 1966 founding. According to police, in the days before his murder, Benesh had been receiving telephone calls from Bandidos telling him to stop wearing a vest that displayed Hells Angels patches.
On May 17, 2015, the Bandidos were involved in a gun battle at a Twin Peaks restaurant parking lot in Waco, Texas that killed nine people and wounded 18. Among the dead was a member of the Bandidos and members of the Cossacks. As of January, 2016 the incident remains under investigation, and it remains unclear who fired shots. There was heavy law enforcement present at the scene before any violence erupted, which leads to the belief that it might have been a set-up. Local bikers from many motorcycle clubs (amongst them many veteran and church bike groups) were present to attend a quarterly meeting of the Confederation of Clubs (COC) which had been established over 25 years ago. Twin Peaks corporate executives later revoked the franchise permit in Waco (which also included a sister location in Killeen, TX which was part of the same Twin Peaks franchise). As a result of the Twin Peaks brawl, 3 high-ranking members of the Bandidos MC (national vice president John Portillo, national president Jeffrey Ray Pike, and sergeant at-arms Justin Cole Forster), were taken into custody by the FBI between late December 2015 and January 2016. As of March 2016 Pike is free on bond.
A turf and drug war between the Hells Angels and the Bandidos, known as the “Great Nordic Biker War” raged from 1993 until 1997. It resulted in 11 murders, 74 attempted murders, and 96 wounded members of the involved biker clubs. In Denmark a law was passed in response to the biker war that banned biker clubs from owning or renting property for their club activities. The law was later repealed on constitutional grounds.
On 14 January 2009, the Bandidos Sweden President, Mehdi Seyyed, was sentenced to nine years in prison for two counts of attempted murder. He bombed two cars in Gothenburg, in September 2006, with hand grenades, in acts of revenge as the victims had previously testified against him. Four other Bandidos members received shorter sentences for their involvement in the attacks.
The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (Keskusrikospoliisi) defines Bandidos as an organized criminal group.
There have been a number of other shootings involving Bandidos Motorcycle Club members: In 2002 a member was shot and wounded by Sean Waygood and Michael Christiansen of the Anthony “Rooster” Perish criminal gang network in Haymarket, New South Wales; In 2008, Bandido member Ross Brand was shot dead, and an acquaintance injured by rival Rebels Motorcycle Club affiliate John Russell Bedson; and in 2012, Bandido member Jacques Teamo, along with an innocent female by-stander received multiple gunshot wounds from a rival gang member at the Robina Town Centre on the Gold Coast.
Hells Angels Quebec president Maurice Boucher organized “puppet clubs” to persuade local Montreal, Quebec club Rock Machine-controlled bars, and their resident drug dealers, to surrender their illegal drug business. Rock Machine resistance led to bloodshed. On July 14, 1994, two members of the Hells Angels’ top puppet club entered a downtown motorcycle shop and shot down a Rock Machine associate. That was the beginning of the Quebec Biker war.
That August, a Jeep wired with a remote-controlled bomb exploded killing a Rock Machine associate and an 11-year-old boy, Daniel Desrochers, who was playing in a nearby schoolyard. A month later, the first full Hells Angels member was shot to death entering his car at a shopping mall. Nine bombs went off around the province during his funeral.
The war ended in 2006 with mass killings by the Hells Angels, plus public outcry over the deaths of innocent bystanders resulted in police pressure including the incarceration of over 100 bikers.
This turf war prompted the over-matched Rock Machine to align itself with the Bandidos patching over as Bandidos Quebec chapter. Not all members were happy about the patch-over. Some defected to other clubs while others remained with the club but hoped to restore their sovereignty.
On April 8, 2006, four vehicles containing the bodies of eight murdered men were discovered in a farmer’s field outside of the hamlet of Shedden, Ontario, Canada. Six of the men killed in what became known as the Shedden Massacre were full members of the Bandidos Toronto branch, including the president of the organization in Canada; they were Luis Manny Raposo, John Muscedere, Jamie Flanz, George Jessome, George Kriarakis, Frank Salerno, Paul Sinopoli and Michael Trotta. The suspects in the case, Michael Sandham, Marcelo Aravena, Frank Mather, Brett Gardiner, Dwight Mushey and Wayne Kellestine, were also full members or probationary members (also known as “prospects”), in what police described as an internal cleansing of the Bandidos organization NSCC (No Surrender Crew Canada). The victims were brought to the farm of Kellestine, where they were held captive before being systematically led out of his barn and murdered “execution style.”
On October 30, 2009 after eighteen hours of deliberation a jury in London, Ontario found the six suspects guilty on 44 counts of first degree murder and four counts of manslaughter.
These murders closed the chapter on the Bandidos Canada “No Surrender Crew” and ended any hopes of Bandido dominance in the country. Many of the remaining Canadian Bandidos re-formed the Rock Machine Biker Gang in Canada early in 2008. The new club spread outside of its traditional home of Quebec and opened chapters in Australia and the United States.
On June 11, 2008, two Bandidos members were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a Hells Angels member in Ibbenbüren, Germany. Reports say they drove to his Harley-Davidson shop and shot him there on May 23, 2007. After the first day of a related lawsuit on December 17, 2007, riots between the two gangs and the police had been reported. On October 8, 2009, a Bandidos member was shot to death by a Hells Angels prospect in Duisburg.
In February 2010, about 8 ethnic Turkish Bandido members and supporters in Berlin in an unprecedented move defected and joined the Hells Angels, forming a sub-chapter known as “Hells Angels Nomads Türkiye”. This triggered a gang war in Berlin that lasted from February to April 2010.
On 26 April 2012 the authorities of North Rhine-Westphalia banned and disbanded the Aachen chapter of the Bandidos M.C., and three support clubs. In the following action carried out by the North Rhine-Westphalia Police 38 properties were searched, in which firearms and stabbing weapons were found. The display of Bandidos Symbols and the wearing of Bandidos Regalia was also forbidden in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Northrhine-Westphalia government found its actions necessary because the Bandidos wanted to build up their criminal supremacy through racketeering and violence.
Since the Bandidos motorcycle club started in the Netherlands in 2014, it has been under continuous attention by the Dutch law enforcement. Particularly the chapter in the province of Limburg was under police investigation several times. Shortly after the start, there were two assaults with explosives on the house of a local president, Harrie Ramakers and there were some confrontations with another motorcycle gang, the Hells Angels. President Ramakers is furthermore suspect in several murder investigations.
In May 2015, a large police raid at several homes of club members lead to the discovery of five rocket launchers, many automatic weapons, explosives and illegal fireworks. The raid was part of an ongoing police investigation involving large-scale drug trafficking; twenty people were arrested and accused of synthesising and dealing of hard drugs, extortion and money laundering.