Eleven men -- including five with law enforcement backgrounds -- have been indicted after a federal investigation into a decade of suspected racketeering and extortion at a Denair motorcycle shop.
Nine of the men were taken into custody early Tuesday morning in a series of coordinated arrests across Stanislaus and Santa Clara counties, officials said. Some of the men are believed to have ties to outlaw motorcycle clubs, such as the Hells Angels.
Robert C. Holloway, 61, and his son, Brent F. Holloway, 36, along with six others, were indicted on racketeering and conspiracy charges related to the operation of Road Dog Cycle in Denair. Robert Holloway lives in Turlock and Brent Holloway in Modesto.
Authorities say that for more than a decade, the Holloways participated in illegal activities including trafficking stolen motor vehicle parts, operating a chop shop and extending "extortionate" lines of credit, as well as collecting that credit by force or threat of force.
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Authorities identified the other men as East Bay Dragons outlaw motorcycle club member Alfredo F. Rincon, 37, and the chapter president of the Alky Haulers outlaw motorcycle club, Michael J. Orozco, 51, both of Manteca; retired California Highway Patrol officer and former part-time Merced County sheriff's deputy Joseph S. Tyler, 65, of Merced; the former chief executive officer of Indian Motorcycles, Reynaldo W. Sotelo, 52, of Gilroy; Fredrick A. Noreberg, 36, of Sweden, the chapter president of the Red Devils outlaw motorcycle club in that country; and Ray M. Heffington, 40, of Chowchilla, Merced chapter president of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle club.
Stanislaus County sheriff's Capt. Raul DeLeon, 51, and David A. Swanson, 52, a former deputy who was a court bailiff, face charges of making false statements about the Road Dog Cycle case to federal investigators. Both men live in Modesto.
A third man, Stephen J. Johnson of Linden, who also has a background in law enforcement, is accused of making false statements to investigators and lying to a federal grand jury in June.
Sheriff's captain on leave
DeLeon has been on administrative leave since December. Swanson retired in February, a few weeks after he was placed on administrative leave.
Johnson formerly worked as a corrections officer for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, federal officials said. He is a dog trainer for law enforcement and military groups.
The charges were announced Tuesday afternoon at the Modesto Police Department by Drew Parenti, Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent-in-charge, and U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, both from Sacramento.
The suspects are expected to appear today in federal court in Fresno. If convicted, they could face decades in prison and fines of $250,000 to $2.5 million.
Investigators said wiretaps placed on telephones associated with Robert Holloway and Road Dog Cycle allowed them to identify several people, including some associated with law enforcement, who helped Holloway carry out criminal activities. Authorities would not comment on the length of the investigation, but said it lasted at least two years.
Authorities are looking for Noreberg and Heffington. The other men were arrested Tuesday morning. All were arrested in Stanislaus County, except Sotelo, who was found in Gilroy, authorities said.
A federal grand jury in Fresno returned the indictment Thursday, but it was sealed until Tuesday morning, Scott said.
Bike business called a front
Robert Holloway is a retired Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy whose 16-year career was cut short in 1985 when a drunken driver slammed head-on into his patrol car. He gained notoriety in July 1997 after he confronted a career criminal who tried to rob his shop, accidentally killing the man during the scuffle. A jury acquitted Holloway of murder charges in 2001.
Robert and Brent Holloway, co-owners of Road Dog Cycle, are alleged to have led a "racketeering enterprise" since 1997. The shop "was also a gathering place and a commercial supplier for various outlaw motorcycle clubs, including, but not limited to, the Hells Angels, the Jus Brothers, the Alky Haulers and the East Bay Dragons," the indictment says. It alleges that Robert Holloway protected the biker clubs from law enforcement.
Investigators claim that Road Dog Cycle was a front for "chop shop operations, the purchase and sale of stolen motorcycle parts, the exportation of stolen motorcycles and motorcycle parts, and extortionate credit transactions."
The indictment lists five people who, it alleges, took some kind of credit from Holloway and were at least threatened with force or violence when they failed to repay the debt.
One man took "an extension of credit" worth $5,000 from Holloway and Orozco on Aug. 1, according to the indictment. The credit was taken with the understanding that "failure to make repayment could result in the use of violence," the indictment says. It continues by saying Holloway and Orozco started to threaten the man in October to try to collect the debt. On Dec. 10, they took his motorcycle, it says.
From August 2006 to December 2007, the indictment alleges, the Holloways, Rincon, Heffington and several others trafficked in motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts. An unnamed individual approached the Holloways about buying a stolen motorcycle so he could possibly ride with the Hells Angels. The indictment alleges that the men got stolen motorcycle parts and assembled a bike for the buyer. The unnamed individual began to pay for the bike in June 2007, and was given the bike, after paying off the balance, in October.
Another section of the indictment alleges that, in September and October 2007, Robert Holloway, Sotelo and Noreberg worked together to export a motorcycle with a fictitious identification number to Sweden.
Chop shop operations at Road Dog Cycle, 4600 Main St. in Denair, are alleged to have taken place from March 2003 to March 2008. The Holloways would buy or receive stolen motorcycles and motorcycle parts, the indictment says. Then, it says, they would "disguise, falsify, forge, obliterate and remove the identity" of the items.
To help with the operation, the indictment says, Tyler, the retired Merced County sheriff's deputy, would check on the stolen merchandise through law enforcement databases and tell the Holloways whether items were stolen. It is not clear when Tyler retired from the department.
Targets learned of investigation
The indictment indicates that Robert Holloway learned in late 2007 about investigations related to some of the allegations against him. In early December, an unnamed individual spoke to him about "the possibility that an individual might be a government informant" and that Holloway "needed to be careful around that individual."
Several weeks later, Holloway and Orozco spoke on the telephone about a law enforcement investigation regarding the motorcycle they had taken from the man who owed them $5,000.
But it would be two months before law enforcement took overt action. Members of the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force raided Road Dog Cycle twice in February. They also searched the home of Robert Holloway and his wife, Kathy, and Brent Holloway's home.
In March, Robert Holloway filed a motion with the U.S. District Court in Fresno requesting the return of property seized during the raids.
Among the items listed was $10,000 in cash taken from a safe at his home and a $7,000 check taken from his briefcase. Authorities also took 30 pink slips related to motorcycles in the shop, a laptop computer and firearms seized from Road Dog Cycle and Holloway's home. The government returned copies of certain items, and a motorcycle it had removed, but declined to return the firearms.
Authorities Tuesday said the case had been built from an investigation by the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force, which is made up of state and federal law enforcement agencies. Representatives of those agencies, including Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden, Stanislaus County Probation Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers, Ceres Police Chief Art DeWerk, Turlock Police Chief Gary Hampton and Jenni Avila, the parole administrator for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, attended the news conference at which the indictment was announced.
Scott, the federal prosecutor, said the investigation should bolster the public's faith in local authorities rather than erode it. It was local law enforcement officers who initially brought attention to the alleged misdeeds, he said.
There was, he said, "the sense that this was a matter best dealt with by the federal authorities to come in and make a clean sweep of this taint, or at least perceived taint, on law enforcement in this community. ... And I think that really well represents the motivations that these people have, your elected and appointed leaders here in Stanislaus County."
Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2235.