Two years after a federal jury deemed the notorious Mongols Motorcycle Club a criminal organization, attorneys for the club are asking a judge for a new trial — accusing its former president of being a secret government informant unfairly working against the Mongols during their long legal battle.
An apparently drunken and surreptitiously recorded phone call between then-Mongols President David Santillan and his at-the-time-estranged wife, which she later leaked to other Mongols members, was the center of testimony in a federal courtroom in Santa Ana this week.
Club attorneys argued that it is proof the former president was a government “rat” serving as a confidential informant for a then-agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Santillan — who served as the public face of the Mongols during their legal battles and repeatedly spoke of his efforts to clean up the club — denied during testimony this week to being a government informant.
He and his wife have apparently reconciled, and during testimony this week she also backed away from the allegations that she herself helped spread.
Formed in Montebello in the 1970s by Hispanic motorcycle riders who weren’t allowed to join the rival Hells Angels, the club, now based in West Covina, was infiltrated by law enforcement agents during a multi-agency investigation known as Operation Black Rain. A years-long criminal case against specific Mongols members led to the conviction of 77 people on racketeering-related charges
A second legal battle — which played out over several months at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana in late 2018 — saw the government try to seize the Mongols’ trademarks by finding that the club was a criminal organization that supported drug trafficking and encouraged vicious assaults and even murder.
By taking the trademarks — and preventing members from using the prized patches that adorn the bikers’ vests — prosecutors hoped to deal a death blow to the organization.
Judge David Carter overrode a portion of the jury’s verdict, ruling that taking the club’s trademark would be unconstitutional. The judge did order the club to pay a $500,000 fine and placed the organization on five years of supervised probation.