TOLEDO, Ohio – Ten members of a motorcycle club accused of running a violent drug enterprise in the Midwest during the 1990s were convicted of racketeering (search) Tuesday.
Two other members of the Outlaws (search) were convicted of conspiracy to commit racketeering and two were cleared of all counts in U.S. District Court.
The club's leader, James "Frank" Wheeler, was convicted of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and conspiracy to distribute drugs, but was acquitted on a firearms charge. Wheeler already is serving a 161/2-year federal sentence, handed down in January, for racketeering and other convictions in Florida.
Prosecutors said Wheeler oversaw an operation that sold drugs in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Oklahoma while threatening and assaulting rivals to protect their territory.
Defense attorneys contended that while the Outlaws often gathered for parties and road trips, the chapters operated independently and never conspired to sell drugs.
They also criticized the government's use of former Outlaws members who struck deals to avoid prison. Some informants received money from the government and had their rent paid for cooperating with investigators, defense attorneys said.
In August, another trial is planned for other Outlaws members charged in the same indictment.
The Outlaws are one of the nation's four largest motorcycle gangs, along with the Hell's Angels, Pagans and Bandidos. The Outlaws have chapters in 20 states, Europe, Canada and Australia.