For more than two decades, federal law enforcement authorities pursued the Mongols, a notorious motorcycle club whose members had a long history of murder, assault, drug dealing and robbery.
In 2018, the government scored a victory of sorts. Prosecutors convinced a jury in California that these crimes were not just the result of individual bikers behaving badly, but the work of an organized criminal enterprise that had participated in a campaign of mayhem. The club was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine in what prosecutors hoped would be a down payment on putting it out of business.
But the group that was once the most powerful biker organization in the West other than its archrivals, the Hells Angels, is returning to court next week, hoping to set aside the racketeering and conspiracy convictions based on what it says is new evidence about its previous leader, David Santillan. The Mongols are now claiming that throughout their attempt to defend the club in the long-running criminal case, their own leader was secretly talking to the government.
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A petition for a new trial and reversal of the half-million-dollar fine, which is scheduled for an initial hearing on Monday in the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif., claims that Mr. Santillan, 52, covertly cooperated for years with a special agent from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In exchange, the club said in its motion, the agent appears to have spared Mr. Santillan from serious legal consequences for several offenses since 2011.