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The ranks of the nation's most violent outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) include active-duty soldiers who fly their biker colors while serving overseas and even commit crimes on American soil, according to a federal investigation.
And military-oriented motorcycle clubs not considered outlaws are starting to adopt the "traits and mannerisms" of their criminal counterparts, the report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found.
"Even though only a small percentage of active-duty military personnel, DoD (Department of Defense) employees and contractors have been involved in the shootings or violent acts against adversaries, they belong to and/or (are) associated with OMGs and motorcycle clubs that are pulling the triggers," the report said.
The findings in the 2014 report — which was first made public by First Look Media after a biker clash in Waco, Texas left nine dead — came as no surprise to Charles Falco, who infiltrated three biker gangs as an undercover informant for the ATF.
As an officer of the Outlaws in California, he said, other members who were soldiers or contractors would send photos from Iraq and Afghanistan that showed them displaying gang regalia.
"Are they loyal to the government or are they loyal to the gang? They're more loyal to the gangs," Falco said.
The ATF report said the Highwaymen, Hells Angels, Bandidos, Warlocks and Mongols have created colors or T-shirts for members serving overseas.
The 40-page dossier does not give hard numbers for military participation in the 300 or so outlaw groups identified by the feds as "conduits for criminal enterprises." But includes names and photos of service members from all branches who ride with some of the dominant clubs and their support clubs.
A handful have been linked to weapons seizures or violent episodes. Three Army soldiers were sent to prison for the 2012 murder of an unarmed man who was tossed out of the Sin City Disciples Clubhouse in Colorado Springs, Colorado. One was the gang's sergeant-at-arms, and another was a three-tour Iraq war veteran.
Military members are considered prized prospects — which comes as no surprise given the gangs' mission of amassing as much territory as possible, Falco said.
"They're trained, they're great at conducting war and they have the ability to access weapons," he said. "The question is, why would the military allow current military folks to be in an active gang."
According to the Defense Department, military personnel cannot be involved in "extremist groups" or actively advocate "criminal gang doctrine," but the regulations do not explicitly prohibit membership in an outlaw motorcycle gang. Commanders have the authority to discipline or take criminal action against anyone who flouts the rule.
Gang recruitment isn't limited to the armed forces, according to the report, which said "the OMG community continues to spread its tentacles through all facets of government."
Although Falco said actual law-enforcement officers are generally banned, the report says gang prospects, members and associates include employees of police and fire departments and 911 call centers.
It notes that while the ATF's annual report on military gangs ties is labeled "law enforcement sensitive," it has been found at the Outlaws' Fort Lauderdale clubhouse and in Hells Angels email traffic.