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Biker club members face drug, gun charges

July 25, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Homes were searched and 10 people were arrested in the Berkeley County, W.Va., communities of Martinsburg, Hedgesville, Inwood and Bunker Hill Thursday as part of a six-state federal crackdown on drugs and guns involving the Warlock Motorcycle Club, federal officials said.

The investigation began in Shenandoah County, Va., approximately 40 miles south of Berkeley County, after local authorities there alleged that a large amount of methamphetamine was being distributed by a local motorcycle group, according to a press release from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

A two-year undercover investigation began in which two ATF agents infiltrated and joined the Warlocks Motorcycle Club, ATF officials said.

The investigation spread and on Thursday ATF officials announced that 34 people had been arrested and 47 search warrants executed in Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Maryland, South Carolina and Florida.

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In the Eastern Panhandle, 10 people were arrested, said ATF spokesman Dan Woloszynowski.

Federal authorities would not specify the charges lodged against the local residents.

Thirty-nine weapons, including a sawed-off shotgun, and narcotics, including prescription drugs and marijuana, and drug paraphernalia, were found in the local towns and in Keyser, W.Va., said ATF spokeswoman Vera Fedorak.

Those arrested in two days of raids were charged with offenses such as felon in possession of a firearm, unlawful transfer or possession of a machine gun and unlawful use of a controlled substance while in possession of a firearm, Fedorak said.

The local people arrested in the raid were taken to an Army National Guard facility in Woodstock, Va., where they were processed, Fedorak said.

They were making appearances in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, Va., Thursday afternoon, Fedorak said.

Evidence seized, purchased, or recovered during the six-state investigation included more than 120 firearms, including handguns, sawed-off shotguns, machine guns and silencers, ATF officials said.

Other items included a pipe bomb, more than $25,000 in currency, body armor and large quantities of narcotics, including methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, officials alleged.

In the days leading up to Thursday, approximately 300 ATF officials and local law enforcement officers worked to make arrests and conduct searches over the six-state area, officials said.

Everyone who was arrested was either a member of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club or was associated with it, Fedorak said.

As investigators worked on their probe, they discovered that the Hells Angels motorcycle group was involved, too, Fedorak alleged.

ATF officials said Thursday that federal search and arrest warrants were carried out at a Hells Angels North Beach clubhouse in Owings, Md.

Fedorak said the Warlocks Motorcycle Club and Hells Angels were "in alliance. If one had a problem with a rival group, the other would back them up."

The Warlocks typically wear leather vests with the word "Warlocks" across the back, Fedorak said. A picture of a phoenix, a mythical bird, is in the middle of the vest and some members wear patches on their vest designating what state they were from, Fedorak said.

Warlock members have been in and out of the Berkeley County area for years, said Kenny Lemaster, chief deputy of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

Lemaster said he saw two members of the group when he was at a convenience store about two weeks ago.

"One of them had a Florida logo. I forget where the other one was from," Lemaster said.

Lemaster said he did not know many specifics about the local part of the raid. He said ATF agents contacted sheriff's investigators to let them know they were in town to serve the arrest warrants.

"This investigation is a commendable example of the results that can be achieved by the cooperative efforts of federal, state and local authorities. (Thursday's) enforcement action demonstrates an unwavering commitment by law enforcement authorities at all levels throughout the county to reducing violent crime and drug trafficking in our communities," said U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee.

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