MODESTO (CBS13) – The president of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Modesto and three others are under arrest for their alleged involvement in a federal drug conspiracy and drug trafficking case.
On Tuesday, several Stanislaus County law enforcement agencies assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in serving search warrants to seven different locations throughout the county; including the Hells Angels Clubhouse on 7th and H Streets in Downtown Modesto.
“I just saw a bunch of cop cars a SWAT truck,” said Salida resident Kamron Hook, who lives near one of the raid locations.
During the search of the club’s building, FBI and ATF agents carried away several plastics bags full of property they seized inside. They also loaded several motorcycles onto flatbed trucks and hauled them away.
This while simultaneously searching a home in Salida where agents discovered a marijuana grow and took one of the persons into custody.
“We could definitely tell someone was growing marijuana in the neighborhood,” said Hook. “We’d get the whiff or the smell when the wind was just right.”
The office of the U.S. attorney revealed four people were arrested as part of the investigation; including Modesto residents Randy Picchi, 61, president of the club; his wife Tina Picchi, 51; Michael Mize, 61; and Michael Pack, 32, a prospect with the club.
According to court documents, Randy Picchi led a drug conspiracy and directed Tina Picchi to regularly deliver drugs to Mize and other individuals in Ceres. Randy Picchi also enlisted Pack to help obtain methamphetamine on at least one occasion. Documents indicate Pack was stopped by law enforcement and found to have nearly 500 grams of methamphetamine in his possession.
On another occasion, the complaint said Randy Picchi directed Tina Picchi to drive from Modesto to Redding to deliver methamphetamine to a customer. On the way, Tina Picchi was reportedly stopped by law enforcement and found with approximately four ounces of methamphetamine, which officers said she had wrapped in a plastic glove and hidden in a cup of soda.
Members of the Modesto club declined to speak to reporters, but the owners of the property told CBS13 they were in the process of evicting the club.
They said the family has owned the property since 1992 and added the motorcycle club moved in just about a year ago and members of the family are involved in a property dispute, which is currently under litigation.
An attorney for the Hells Angels, Claire White of Oakland, told CBS13 she questions the timing of the arrests because of federal legislation now under consideration.
“The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and Coalitions have been making a major push to organize around the harassment and targeting that they’ve been subjected to by local and higher level law enforcement… and then all of a sudden search warrants and arrests pop up out of the sky,” said White.
She said a bill is currently being pushed through the California legislature regarding “motorcycle profiling.” The bill introduced by Assembly Member Anna Caballero of Salinas and co-authored by Speaker Pro-tem Kevin Mullin of San Mateo. It defines the term “motorcycle profiling” as the illegal consideration of the fact that a person is riding a motorcycle or wearing motorcycle or motorcycle club-related clothing as a factor in enforcement decisions, and would prohibit peace officers from engaging in motorcycle profiling.
The bill would also provide “a private right of action” for persons who are subjected to motorcycle profiling to seek damages, including punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs, against the peace officer and the employing agency of the peace officer.
“The time does seem relatively politically charged, but it’s a little too early to say until we have a look at what the government claims to have uncovered over the course of their investigation.”
The case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the IRS Criminal Investigation, the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force, the Modesto Police Department, the Turlock Police Department, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the California Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ross Pearson and Laurel Montoya are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, the office said, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison, a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison and a $10 million fine.
The defendants are expected to appear in federal court on Wednesday in Fresno.