FRESNO -- A second defendant named in the federal racketeering case involving the Road Dog Cycle Shop in Denair pleaded guilty Monday.
Prosecutors said Ray M. Heffington, 40, admitted that he was guilty of trafficking in stolen motorcycle parts.
Heffington was one of 12 defendants indicted last year after a lengthy FBI investigation into Road Dog. Authorities say that for more than a decade, Road Dog was a hub of criminal activity involving outlaw motorcycle gangs. Investigators monitored the shop for years, recording thousands of phone calls. They contend that shop owner Bob Holloway and his son Brent ran a chop shop and used violence to collect debts.
Heffington was a Road Dog customer and "associate" of Bob Holloway, prosecutors say. He was the president of the Merced chapter of the Hells Angels when he was arrested last year.
Heffington, a Chowchilla resident, originally was charged with conspiracy to operate a chop shop, conspiracy to traffic in stolen vehicle parts and operating a chop shop.
Monday, he pleaded guilty to just one charge: trafficking in stolen vehicle parts. Heffington admitted that he bought or received motorcycle parts with altered vehicle identification numbers, then delivered those parts to Road Dog Cycle on June 29, 2007.
Defense attorney Jai Gohel said the guilty plea means Heffington accepts responsibility for illegal conduct in a "one-time transaction." But he said that Heffington's crime did not involve anyone else -- including other defendants in the case.
"He's taking responsibility for himself, and it shouldn't reflect on anyone else," said Gohel. "The reason he didn't plea to a conspiracy is because he did not conspire with anyone else."
Prosecutors have sought to link Heffington's actions to a racketeering operation at Road Dog. Gohel called Heffington's actions "peripheral" to the government's larger case.
Heffington will not testify in any proceedings related to other Road Dog defendants, Gohel said.
Heffington has been in custody at the Fresno County Jail since his arrest. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 14, before U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger.
Heffington faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Gohel said Monday that he's hopeful his client will walk away with a lighter sentence.
Wanger will consider Heffington's criminal history in deciding the sentence. Heffington has been arrested several times and convicted of two misdemeanors, but no felonies, said Gohel.
"He's a good guy, a hardworking man, and he wants to get back to his life, his family and his work," said Gohel.
Heffington is the father of four children. He works as a heavy machinery operator on road and bridge projects, said Gohel.
Heffington's guilty plea is the second in the Road Dog case. Earlier this month, defendant Michael Orozco admitted that he was guilty of one count of conspiracy to collect extensions of credit by extortionate means.
Bob Holloway, the government's prime target, was released earlier this month from the Fresno County jail and transferred to a halfway house.
Holloway's attorneys are trying to get the government's wiretap evidence thrown out of court. They say an anonymous blog raises concerns that investigators obtained wiretaps on Holloway's phones under false pretenses. A former ATF agent who claims to be the blog's author is expected to testify at a July 24 hearing on the matter.
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2378.