BUSTING THE BIKERS

YOU'RE A TATTOOED GIANT ON A HARLEY. YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THE DIRTY DOZEN. YOU'RE TOAST.

If they have killed police officers, club members say, it's news to them, and they don't have any patches torn from sleeves to show for it. It seems probable they would be on death row right now if they had.

And the badges for variations on oral sex don't exist, they say. Even if they did, performing it on a dead woman would not be worth it.

The cops have simply got it all wrong about them, Dirty Dozen members contend.
"They keep calling us a gang. We're not a gang," says Dan "Hoover" Seybert, a 36-year-old motorcycle mechanic and the Cave Creek chapter vice president. "This club is basically for going on runs and drinking beer."
Surely, just as the police are inclined to overstate the club's notoriety, club members are prone to emboss their innocence.

But so far, if the results of an ongoing investigation into the Dozen are any indication, the truth rests closer to the club's version.

For almost two years, a task force including DPS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and investigators from the Phoenix and Mesa police departments has targeted the club.

The most intense scrutiny possible by law enforcement has been brought to bear on the Dirty Dozen in an effort to prove that it is the "most powerful and violent biker gang" in the state, presiding over an empire of drugs and mayhem.

So far, it looks as if the police are spending a lot of time and money spinning their wheels.

@rule:
@body:The Dirty Dozen task force, overseen by Gonzales, has spared no effort or cost in its pursuit of the club. The investigation, paid for with money seized in other drug cases, has included the cultivation of confidential informants, the tapping of telephones, the bugging of living rooms and meeting places and the posting of 24-hour watches on some members.

The two investigators the club hates most--Phoenix police detective Jack Ballentine and Mesa police detective Larry Elliget--were assigned to the task force.

Between them, the two men have spent more than 14 years of their careers dogging outlaw motorcycle clubs, particularly the Dirty Dozen. (Neither would talk about the task force's investigation.)

The effort is rooted in history. In the mid-1980s, a similar federal probe using wiretaps and surveillance resulted in charges against almost 60 club members and associates for running a widespread methamphetamine ring, including a manufacturing lab.

Many members of the Dirty Dozen, including state leaders, went to prison, and some are still there.

Chuck Martin, one of the 12 original bikers who formed the club in 1964, says there was drug trafficking at the time, and that he dropped out of the club because of it.

But since the 1985 busts, he and other members claim, the club has cleaned up its act. Martin, who has rejoined in the last few years, says the club has stopped electing statewide officers and stuck to riding bikes. Most of the rogue element is gone.

"It's just been good from that point," Martin says.
Police scoff at the assertion. In the past several years, they claim, the club has been up to its old tricks, setting out to reclaim control of the state's methamphetamine commerce.

After 14 months of investigation, authorities brought the hammer down last September 23, the day of the raids which deprived so many club members of their bikes.

It was an overwhelming display of police might.
In teams, more than 400 police of various stripes descended in the morning on the homes of Dirty Dozen members and their friends. Altogether, 68 search warrants were served in the military-style raids, most in the Phoenix area, but some also in Tucson, where there is another Dirty Dozen chapter.

The raids were picture-perfect "show busts." Reporters were invited and television cameras rolled as motorcycles and their longhaired owners were paraded down to a temporary processing center at Arizona State Fairgrounds. The daily newspapers reported that police were gloriously successful in their efforts to "smash the Dirty Dozen."

After the raids, police trumpeted some impressive-sounding numbers, saying they had seized almost 40 bikes, more than 1,000 guns, knives and other weapons and about $18,000 in cash.

(Club members say it's no secret that they have motorcycles, guns and knives. It is, in fact, pretty much the point of being in the club. The vast majority of the weapons would turn out to be legal.)

Curiously, authorities were less specific about the amount of drugs they had found. Newspaper reports noted that police found "some" methamphetamine and marijuana.

To club members, virtually all of whom have yet to be charged with anything as a result of the now-eight-month-old raids, the day was hardly the clear-cut law enforcement triumph described in the news.

Many members tell stories about wives, girlfriends and children--some of the kids as young as 3--held at gunpoint and frisked by zealous police.

Deana Tucker, a Denny's restaurant waitress and wife of one Mesa chapter member, says a gun was held to her back as she asked police to be careful not to harm her 13-year-old daughter.

Joe Weber, a Mesa chapter member, says his 11-year-old daughter was just stepping out of the shower when police burst into the house, and that she was forced to dry off and dress under the watchful eyes of hooded SWAT team members. "There's no reason for all this bullshit," he says. "None."

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