FRESNO — The widespread FBI probe into the Hells Angels included a criminal investigation into the February disappearance of a member of the outlaw biker gang’s Fresno chapter who went missing in February 2015, according to recently filed court records.
On February 11, 2015, Robbie Lane Huff, then 34, of Fresno, seemingly vanished. He is still listed as a missing person on the California Attorney General’s website, though neither local nor state authorities would comment on the current status of his case.
But the attorneys for Russell Ott — one of 11 alleged Hells Angels members indicted on racketeering charges in 2017 — wrote in recent court records that federal prosecutors disclosed records involving Huff’s disappearance to the defense. Though none of the charges relate to Huff’s disappearance, the FBI has cellphone records that authorities say show locations of certain phones that somehow relate to Huff’s disappearance, the defense motion says.
The records by FBI Special Agent Meredith Sparano were turned over to the defense along with similar records related to the alleged murder of Joel Silva, a sergeant-at-arms of the Hells Angels. Prosecutors say Silva was lured to the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse, shot in the head, and then illegally cremated by a Fresno chapter member. That was in July 2014, roughly seven months before Huff disappeared.
“(Sparano’s) presentations are a matter of processing call detail records (CDRs) from multiple cell phones, address information/facts regarding the alleged crimes (the disappearances of Joel Silva and Robbie Huff), and information regarding the towers accessed for each phone call, text message, and data session,” attorneys representing Ott wrote in court records filed late last month. They do not detail the investigation into Huff nor say how it relates to the Hells Angels case.
A public information officer for the Fresno police department did not respond to requests for comment on the Huff case. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Northern California — which is prosecuting the case — declined to comment, citing legal and ethical restrictions that prevent prosecutors from publicly discussing uncharged allegations or details of pending cases.
But while the Huff disappearance remains a major question mark in the case, new details about the alleged murder of Silva are slowly being made public. At a court hearing Wednesday, Kevin Barry, the lead federal prosecutor said that in 2017, authorities searched the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse and found evidence that blood had been spilled there. But Barry conceded that prosecutors had no “biological evidence” to support what he described as multiple witness statements that Silva was murdered there and later illegally cremated.
Marcia Morrissey, one of Ott’s attorneys, took issue with the prosecution’s contention that Silva was illegally cremated. She said in court Wednesday that based on material listed as “for attorneys’ eyes only,” there were other witness accounts of how Silva’s body was allegedly disposed of.
“I have to be careful … but if, for example, the prosecution had information from other witnesses who said Mr. Silva was buried or Mr. Silva was dumped in the ocean, why should the government get to pick its favorite component of cooperator testimony?” she asked U.S. District Judge Edward Chen, later adding, “There are other versions of what happened.”
Defense attorneys raised a number of other concerns before Chen at Wednesday’s hearing, which lasted three hours and only ended because another judge needed to use the virtual “courthouse” that the group was occupying.
Among the defense concerns: that prosecutors are lagging at turning over discovery materials, that the coronavirus pandemic may force the postponement of the first trial (currently scheduled for 10 months from now), that prosecutors are trying to gloss over serious factual disputes regarding cellphone location records, and whether prosecutors should be allowed to discuss the fact that testing to search for presumptive indications of blood was done at the Fresno clubhouse.
Barry maintained that prosecutors should be able to tell jurors about the tests looking for blood evidence if the defense tries to argue the feds were “sloppy” in their investigation, and accused defense attorneys of trying to “ferret out” the names of confidential informants whose identities remain a mystery. On that latter point, Barry said there had been an unspecified “breach” by an employee for a defense attorney involving a confidential informant’s name, and that in coming weeks there would be a court hearing on the matter before a different judge.
Prosecutors contend that Silva was killed because he’d angered a number of high-ranking Hells Angels members. It is alleged that the Sonoma chapter president, Jonathan “Jon Jon” Nelson, lured him to the Fresno clubhouse and that Brian Wendt, the president of the Fresno chapter, shot Silva in the back of the head. Another Fresno chapter member, Merl Hefferman, is charged with obstruction of justice because prosecutors allege he’s the one who got rid of Silva’s body.
Huff was last seen in Fresno on Feb. 11, 2015 wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans. He is described as a white man, 5′ 11″, 250 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He has tattoos that may distinguish him: a “full sleeve color tribal tattoo” on his right forearm, and a Hells Angel symbol on his left forearm, according to the missing person’s flyer. Anyone with information on his whereabouts can call Fresno police at 559-621-7000.