FORT WAYNE – While agents wearing masks wrestled the heavy, battered front door of the Outlaws motorcycle clubhouse onto the West Main Street sidewalk early Wednesday, nearby residents and passers-by looked on with approval.
Bout time, one man said as he watched.
Another man, across the street, gave his approval for the raid as he walked by.
Early Wednesday, federal, state and local law enforcement officers served simultaneous search warrants on the clubhouse in the 1200 block of West Main Street, as well as a home in the 1200 block of Elm Street, around the corner from the Outlaws gathering place.
The motorcycle club, which has chapters around the world, is identified by Fort Wayne police as a gang.
The Fort Wayne raids were carried out by the FBIs Safe Streets Task Force, which in Fort Wayne is made up of FBI agents, working alongside officers from the Indiana State Police, Allen County Sheriffs Department, Fort Wayne Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies.
As FBI agents and task force members carried empty boxes into the clubhouse, lining them up on the bar inside the door, neighborhood residents took photos with cellphones and talked.
Helen, a woman who lives up the street, said she was not surprised to see the federal agents. She declined to give her full name.
Theyre not to be trusted, she said of the motorcycle club.
The raids on the two Fort Wayne locations were part of what U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett called the largest organized crime prosecution in Indianapolis history.
The 70-page, 37-count federal indictment, unsealed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, unveils a racketeering investigation into the Indianapolis chapter of the club but extends into Fort Wayne through the alleged actions of one identified club member: 37-year-old Steve A. Reynolds.
The 42 people arrested were accused of racketeering, drug distribution, extortion, witness tampering and money laundering, among other charges.
The clubhouses neighbors would like to see the club move on.
This used to be a nice little hillbilly neighborhood, Helen said.
Even though federal agents blew off the door to the West Main Street clubhouse, carting off the clubs signs and surveillance cameras, by early Wednesday afternoon, people were back at the location, cleaning up and surveying the damage.
The international motorcycle club, which advertises itself proudly as one of the 1% of motorcycle clubs that cause trouble, has often been the target of federal investigations.
Locally, three members of the club – William Jason Elston, Bruce Big Bruce Wendel and Danny Milky Neace – were indicted in 2007 by a federal grand jury in Detroit as part of a larger investigation. Those men pleaded guilty to federal assault charges, stemming from a 2006 fight with rival Hells Angels at a South Bend swap meet and a 2006 attack on a Fort Wayne man outside a local restaurant.
That indictment came three years after the president of the Fort Wayne Outlaws chapter was convicted by a federal jury in Toledo of several charges in connection to a racketeering and drug-conspiracy case.
Robert W. Bob Keeler, then 58, was convicted of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, known as RICO, and conspiracy to violate RICO. He also was convicted of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, Ecstasy, Valium and marijuana, as well as unlawful use of a communications facility.