Warrant expands biker probe

Authorities try to find Modesto private eye

12/03/2008 1:10 AM

12/03/2008 1:14 AM

Local and federal authorities Tuesday night were looking for a Modesto private investigator suspected of extortion and racketeering stemming from a federal investigation into a retired Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy who owns a Denair motorcycle shop.

Members of the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force searched for Gary Ermoian, 50, at his Modesto home and his business Tuesday morning, said Steven Jacobson, an investigator from the Stanislaus County district attorney's office and a task force member.

Authorities described Ermoian as 6 feet tall, weighing about 180 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

The task force is a federally funded countywide group that has members from local law enforcement agencies and the FBI.

Federal prosecutors and inves- tigators were tight-lipped about Ermoian's arrest warrant and declined to discuss the circumstances that led to it.

The felony arrest warrant was issued by the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of California and tied to high-profile raids of Road Dog Cycle, owned by Robert Holloway, task force members said.

Court documents filed earlier this year in the Road Dog Cycle investigation indicated a suspected link between Ermoian, a former Stanislaus County sheriff's custodial deputy, and retired Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy Dave Swanson.

Swanson, 52, worked as a court bailiff for 25 years before he was placed on administrative leave three days before his retirement in February. Swanson is suspected of passing information to Holloway that could compromise law enforcement investigations, according to a search warrant.

Collision ended career

Holloway's 16-year career as a sheriff's deputy ended in 1985 after 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 a scuffle. A jury acquitted Holloway of murder charges in 2001.

A grand jury indicted Holloway, 61, his son Brent Holloway, 35, and 11 others in July on charges related to suspected illegal operations at Hol- loway's Denair motorcycle shop going back to 1997.

Authorities say the Holloways ran a racketeering enterprise at the shop, allowing motorcycle club members to take bikes on credit without official loans. Authorities say club presidents would repossess the bikes for Robert Holloway when members missed payments.

Robert Holloway has been in custody since July 15. Brent Holloway was released pending trial in early August.

Ermoian has worked as a private investigator for defense attorney Kirk McAlli- ster and other attorneys around the region.

McAllister is a longtime friend of Robert Holloway. He has represented Holloway and won the not-guilty verdict when Holloway was accused of murder.

Swanson has said he has no connection to the Road Dog Cycle owners and has not compromised any investigation.

A search warrant, signed by U.S. District Court Judge Oliver W. Wanger in Fresno, was prepared by district attorney's investigator Jacobson.

Bailiff served while working

Jacobson and several FBI agents served the warrant on Swanson while at work at the Stanislaus County courthouse. The investigators confiscated Swanson's cell phone and sifted through his desk, filing cabinet, mailbox and locker.

An affidavit filed in support of the search warrant shows that authorities were looking for anything that would tie the bailiff to Ermoian, Holloway, McAllister and the Hells Angels or any other outlaw motorcycle gang.

McAllister, reached by phone Tuesday evening, said about Ermoian's arrest warrant, "I don't know anything about it. I really don't have a comment right now."

FBI spokesman Steve Dupre declined to comment about Ermoian's arrest warrant and referred media questions to the U.S. attorney's office.

Federal prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office, who are leading the Road Dog Cycle investigation, also declined to comment about Ermoian's arrest warrant and the nature of the charges.

Authorities ask anyone with information about Gary Ermoian's whereabouts to call the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force at 538-5636 or Crime Stoppers at 521-4636. Tipsters also can e-mail tips through the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.modestopolice.com/CrimeStoppers, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus your message. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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