updated 6/10/2005 5:02:59 AM ET 2005-06-10T09:02:59

Police and federal agents began rounding up members of the Bandidos biker gang Thursday after they were charged with crimes ranging from racketeering to dealing drugs and stolen Harley Davidson motorcycles.

At least a dozen had been arrested by midday Thursday, including the organization’s international president. About 300 investigators working the case in Washington, Montana and South Dakota had arrest warrants for 20 more members, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said.

Investigators also served 21 search warrants, including one at a Harley Davidson dealership in Bellingham in northwestern Washington, where the investigation was centered. The Bandidos have operated in the region for two decades, officials said.

“Hopefully this case will serve to dismantle the Bandido motorcycle organization in our area and will have a significant impact upon methamphetamine distribution, thefts, burglaries, crimes of violence and other nefarious activities,” Sheriff Bill Elfo said.

The Bandidos have about 170 chapters in 14 countries, including 90 in the U.S. and 14 in Washington state, the federal indictment says. Membership is estimated at 2,400 bikers, all of whom must ride Harleys.

The indictment named 22 gang members and said they engaged in a pattern of threatening behavior to protect their turf and criminal enterprises. Several bikers from the Bandidos’ Missoula, Mont., chapter were charged with kidnapping an individual in May 2003.

Pot, meth dealing alleged
Ten counts of the indictment relate to alleged dealing in marijuana and methamphetamine by Glenn William Merritt, president of the Bellingham chapter and a trusted lieutenant of Bellingham resident George Wegers, the organization’s international president.

Merritt, Henschel and Wegers were among those arrested Thursday and were scheduled to make their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Friday, said magistrate clerk Heather Arent-Zachary.

Merritt and others were also accused of trafficking in stolen motor vehicles, including pickup trucks and Harleys.

The investigation began in 2002, the ATF said.

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