Jeffery Fay Pike, president of the Bandidos biker gang, walked out of a federal courthouse in Houston yesterday, set free on a $250,000 bond after he pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges.
Pike was arrested, along with two other prominent Bandidos members last week, and accused of ordering other gang members to commit murder. The Bandidos have been in the national spotlight since being involved in a shootout last summer in Waco that left nine dead, four from police bullets.
But the Bandidos have been part of the underground biker scene for decades. Why this new attention – and from the feds, no less? Helping us get some insight is criminal justice professor Mitchel Roth, at Sam Houston State University.
Roth, who specializes in organized crime, says the last five Bandidos presidents have been arrested and served jail time.
“Really, when you have this position, it’s only a matter of time before you are targeted and they get enough information,” he says. “What this goes to show you is how well insulated the upper management of biker clubs [are].”
Law enforcement says that the operation, called Texas Rocker in reference to the patches on the backs of biker jackets, is “unrelated” to the Waco shootout, Roth says. The Bandidos have long maintained they’re a social group, rather than a racketeering outfit. Of all the major known motorcycle gangs, Roth says probably “the least is known” about the Bandidos.
“Most of them are not felons,” he says. “They go to great extent to try to get people without criminal records to join the organization. And they’re great at managing their public persona.”
Previously, law enforcement has been able to infiltrate the Hell’s Angels and other biker gangs, but Roth says they haven’t been able to do so with the Bandidos. Roth says the Bandidos have been involved in criminal activities, like the meth trade.
“[Arresting Pike] is the only way to really get to them, is to target one individual,” he says. “Once you target an individual you can use the RICO statute very broadly perhaps, and get an indictment that includes more people.”
Roth says law enforcement has been after the Bandidos for a long time, and the timing is more coincidence than colluding. “I think a lot of it is kind of serendipitous,” he says, “that [the indictment] happens at the same time as the Waco thing is ongoing.”