California - In "Gods of Mischief," George Rowe shares his account of the three-year informant investigation that resulted in 42 arrests and several convictions for crimes as serious as murder.
George Rowe was a private citizen with his own criminal past when he volunteered in 2003 to infiltrate the Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang, which had taken over his hometown of Hemet, Calif. He worked closely with an ATF agent, but the harrowing risk in Operation 22 Green was all his own as he worked his way up from a lowly prospect to earn his patch. "Gods of Mischief" is his account of the three-year investigation that resulted in 42 arrests and several convictions for crimes as serious as murder. Rowe is now in the federal witness protection program.
BY GEORGE ROWE
A ny brother worth his colors takes a certain pride in being a Harley-riding, hard-drinking, gangbanging sonofab----. Take away that patch and it'd be damn hard to tell one from the other - they're all cut from the same denim. But like many families, some brothers just don't get along.
That's how it is, and how it's always been, between the Vagos and the Hells Angels.
When we entered The Crossroads Bar and Grill, the Angels were already inside getting hammered and shooting pool.
There was tension in the bar that night - not unexpected given the amount of booze and testosterone - but the two sides were behaving themselves and minding their own business. I ordered a drink and shot the s--- with the bartender, careful to steer clear of the Hells Angels in the vicinity.
Unfortunately, the Hells Angels wouldn't steer clear of me. The green bandanna around my head and the rocker on my back pegged me as a Vagos prospect, drawing unwanted attention from a scraggly bearded Angel wearing the infamous "death's head" patch on his back. As I tried to pass him in those tight quarters, he couldn't resist opening his mouth.
"Hey, boy," he said scornfully. "Why don't you get some real colors 'stead of that green s---."
That's all the man said. But it was enough. I might have only been a lowly prospect, but that sonofab---- was disrespecting me in front of a brother. And that just couldn't stand - not if I was to have an ounce of credibility with the Vagos. Like I've said, a top requirement among one percenters (criminal biker gangs) is giving and getting respect. And that afternoon at The Crossroads, I wasn't feeling it.
I turned to find that Angel smirking back at me. But not for long. Faster than a cat can lick its a--, I cold-cocked that f-----. The man hit the floor like a stunned mullet.
And that's when all hell broke loose.
Angels and Vagos came flying in from all directions, ready to throw down right then and there. As I stood over that fallen Angel, daring him to stand up, powerful arms suddenly wrapped me from behind. I was in the iron grip of a man-mountain. He shoved me toward a group of rubbernecking greenies.
"Get him out of here!" the booming voice commanded. And when Rhino, the Vagos' international sergeant at arms gave an order, people followed it.
Few men have the b---s to hit a Hells Angel, nevermind in an Angels bar.
"You two take George back to Hemet," he instructed. "And make sure he f------ stays there."
Then Roy turned to me with a grave look. "You really f----- up, George," he said. "This time you f----- up good."
Sometime around midnight Big Todd showed up at the shack in Valle Vista. He shook my hand and told me the Hells Angels were buzzing like hornets and wanted a piece of my a--. Big Roy's orders were to stay put until Tramp figured out what to do.
I had that gnawing gut sense that something bad was coming - like a big ol' locomotive bearing down on me. If Tramp decided to hand the Angels my a-- on a platter, I'd have to offer it up. To refuse would get me booted from the Vagos, in which case Operation 22 Green would become an early-term abortion. Course I wasn't thrilled with the idea of being dead, either.
"What do you think'll happen?" I asked Todd.
"Who the f--- knows?" was all he could offer. But as Todd left the apartment, I could tell that even he was worried.
Sometime before noon, Roy called to say he was coming by to pick me up. Tramp wanted to see us at his place in the High Desert, and Roy was nervous.
"We're in trouble, George," he said ominously before hanging up.
It was a long, quiet ride in Big Roy's truck as we headed for Hesperia - the longest ride of my life. When we pulled into Tramp's property about 90 minutes later, it looked like we'd stumbled on a wake.
Beyond the chain-link gate, 10 to 15 Harleys were parked in front of a gray stucco ranch. Grim-faced men in gang colors milled about, every one of them a Vagos officer.
This was some serious s---.
Roy left me standing outside the truck and headed over to speak to one of the Vagos. I lit a cigarette, tucked the lighter away, then looked up to find those outlaws gawking at me like . . . well, like I was the wake's guest of honor. Soon Big Roy started back again, trailed by Psycho, the P of the Victorville chapter. Those desert boys were insane. I think the heat boiled their brains.
"All right, listen up," Roy said. "Tramp, Ta Ta and Rhino are inside with the Angels."
F---! The Angels are here?! I felt my chest grip.
"Tramp wants you to wait in the garage until you're called," Roy continued. "No one knows anything more than that, George."
Psycho shook his head. "I'd hate to be in your shoes, brother," he said. "Just don't let them see you shaking when you walk in."
"I ain't shaking," I replied as calmly as I could.
"Oh, no? Check out your cigarette."
Psycho was right. That Marlboro was shaking between my fingers like a dog s------' tacks.
Right away in the garage I was looking for a way out, but the only exit was through a single door leading into the house. Beyond it, the Vagos national leadership and members of the San Bernardino Hells Angels had gathered to decide my fate - and the longer I sweated in that garage, the more convinced I was they'd gathered for a lynching.
The door to the house opened and Rhino appeared.
F--- me. This was the same brutal bastard who'd zip-tied poor Shorty, that Vagos hang-around from Berdoo, then blown his brains out.
And god---n was he big.
"Let's go," said Rhino, stone-faced.
I stepped into Tramp's kitchen - sauna hot and reeking of musty sweat and body odor. Jammed inside that cramped space and the adjoining dining room were seven grim-faced outlaws flying their colors, four of them wearing the red and white. A trio of Hells Angels was seated at the dining room table, each with a revolver resting in front of him.
The fourth Angel was leaning his shoulder against the kitchen wall with a cocky grin on his face. It was the same a------ I'd decked at The Crossroads Bar and Grill.
"Take a seat, prospect."
Terry the Tramp was speaking. He motioned to the empty seat between him and Ta Ta. The moment I sat down, Rhino took a standing position directly behind me, blocking my exit.
Definitely not good.
"You know why you're here?" Tramp asked me right off.
I was about to open my mouth when one of the Hells Angels leaned over the table.
"F--- this a-----e. He ain't even patched."
"Don't matter," Ta Ta shot back. "He rides with us."
"He's a f-----' prospect," spat the Angel. "Give him to us and we'll settle this right now."
I felt my heart jump. The Angels were going to drag me into the Mojave and do me right there. But I wouldn't go easy. Hell, no. Not without a fight. Now my brain went into overdrive. I needed an escape plan. I'd have to take Rhino down first. No easy trick. Maybe a quick upward thrust into that thick neck might pop the carotid. And if the man-mountain falls . . .
"You ain't takin' our brother nowhere," came Rhino's voice like a bullhorn above my head.
Man, I could've kissed that mullet-headed sonofab----.
The kitchen grew pin-drop quiet. Strike a match in that tension and the whole damn room might've gone off like Mount St. Helens.
"Everybody just calm the f--- down."
This was the biggest and hairiest of the Hells Angels who spoke.
"All right, prospect," he said to me, "why'd you hit him?"
I nodded toward the smirking Angel leaning against the wall.
"That dude said, 'Why don't you get some real colors.' I took that as disrespect, so I popped him."
All eyes now swung toward my accuser.
"That how it happened?" the big Angel asked.
"F--- no. Like I told you. That p---- swung for no good reason."
"You lyin' sack of s---!" I exploded.
"F--- you, prospect!" he barked back.
"We ain't gettin' nowhere like this," interrupted Tramp.
"Let's just stick 'em both in the backyard and let 'em fight it out." Rhino clapped a meaty paw on my shoulder.
"What about it, prospect? You good with that?"
"Yeah, I'm good with that," I said without hesitation.
"What about you?" Tramp asked my opponent.
The smirk was already wavering on that lying bastard's face. He squirmed for a moment, then shifted a nervous glance toward his brothers at the table.
"Check it out," said Rhino with contempt. "He's a g------ pussy."
"I'll fight him," volunteered the Angel who wanted me buried in the desert.
"F--- you will," bellowed Rhino. "If that's the way it's gonna be, let's just go four on four and settle it that way."
The Hells Angels weren't so hot on that idea, especially with Rhino fighting for the other team, so the two clubs bickered for the next few minutes - just like the good old days - until my gutless opponent finally caved under pressure and copped to the lie.
Now his three amigos were p-----. They'd put their a---- on the line and been embarrassed.
As the Angels mounted their choppers and rumbled off toward San Bernardino, Rhino, Ta Ta and Tramp were grinning clear back to the molars. Tramp even wrapped me in a bear hug and asked if I wanted a drink.
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