Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Two Members of the Sonoma County Hells Angels Sentenced to Prison for Racketeering Conspiracy And Obstruction Of Justice

The following is a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California:

[This stock image is from Wikicommons]

Two Hells Angels members, one from Fresno and one from Sonoma County, were sentenced to prison for four and seven years, respectively, for their participation in the activities of the criminal enterprise of the Sonoma County charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HASC), announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Edward M. Chen, United States District Judge.

Jeremy Greer, 43, a former HASC member, was sentenced to a term of 84 months in prison for his violent crimes as part of the HASC racketeering conspiracy. Greer committed multiple brutal assaults, armed robbery, home invasion robbery, and witness intimidation. While on pre-trial release, Greer committed multiple violations of his release conditions, was arrested again, and was remanded to custody.

Merl Hefferman, 54, a member of the Fresno Hells Angels, was sentenced to a term of 48 months in prison for obstruction of justice. Hefferman arranged the illegal cremation of the body of former HASC member Joel Silva after Silva was murdered by Fresno Hells Angels president Brian Wendt, together with HASC president Jonathan Nelson and former HASC president Russell Ott. The murder took place at the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse, and shortly after the killing, Hefferman arranged for Silva’s body to be taken to a nearby crematory and illegally incinerated. Wendt, Nelson, and Ott were convicted by a jury of the murder in 2022, and they are in custody awaiting sentencing by Judge Chen.

“The Hells Angels murdered one of their own, and Hefferman helped them try to get away with it. But for the dedicated efforts of FBI Task Force Officers and Special Agents, particularly officers from the Santa Rosa Police Department and the California Highway Patrol, they would have succeeded. Greer and other Hells Angels followed a malicious code of conduct, encouraging the beating, maiming, and even killing of anyone who dared to cross their criminal enterprise,” said U.S. Attorney Ramsey. “The defendants now face the consequences of their violent racketeering activities.”

“Hefferman used his connection at a funeral home to order the illegal cremation of a member of his own gang as part of the Hells Angels’ efforts to cover up a murder. For eight years, the victim’s family grieved without a body to mourn or certainty about what had happened to their loved one. Greer committed serious violent crimes, including armed robbery, beating, and maiming,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Tripp. “Hefferman, Greer, and other members of their criminal enterprise attempted to use fear and intimidation to get away with their crimes. I commend the witnesses for their courage. Without them, these men may not have pleaded guilty. Now, they have been brought to justice.”

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The sentencings bring the total number of sentenced defendants to five, out of 10 convictions—five by jury verdicts in two separate trials and five by guilty pleas. The investigation into the HASC began with Silva’s disappearance in 2014, culminating in an indictment in 2017 and a superseding indictment in 2018. Eleven members and associates of HASC were charged with racketeering conspiracy and violent crimes associated with the Hells Angels transnational outlaw motorcycle gang, including the murder of Silva, narcotics distribution, assault, robbery, extortion, illegal firearms possession, obstruction of justice, and witness intimidation. The convicted defendants include five former Presidents of three Hells Angels charters: Sonoma County, Fresno, and Salem (Boston).

The first trial in 2022 centered on the murder of Silva, a former HASC member, on July 15, 2014. In the second trial, in 2023, a jury convicted Christopher Ranieri, President of the Salem charter of the Hells Angels, for his role in hatching the plan to murder Silva, as well as a second defendant, Raymond Foakes, former President of HASC, of assault with a firearm in aid of racketeering, in connection with a multi-hour beating of a former HASC member who was expelled from the enterprise. Foakes was also convicted of witness intimidation, in connection with his sexual assault of that former member’s wife while that former member was still being beaten at the HASC clubhouse and threatening her to keep silent.

Ranieri and Foakes were additionally convicted of racketeering conspiracy for their agreement to conduct the affairs of the HASC through a pattern of racketeering activity. Ranieri and Foakes are in custody pending sentencing by Judge Chen. The sentences for these two defendants, as well as those of Wendt, Nelson, and Ott, will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

The sentencings of Hefferman and Greer were the last for the five defendants who pleaded guilty. The sentences for those five defendants are set forth below.

DefendantDate ConvictedDate SentencedSentence Imposed
Merl HeffermanDecember 21, 2022October 19, 202348 months
Jeremy GreerDecember 21, 2022October 19, 202384 months
Russell LylesNovember 17, 2022August 31, 202363 months
Damien CesenaOctober 7, 2022January 19, 202352 months
David DiazOctober 7, 2022January 26, 202330 months

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Barry, Lina Peng, and Ajay Krishnamurthy handled the case, with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Kevin Costello. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the Santa Rosa Police Department, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol.

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
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