Free Research Paper On Hell’s Angels And Its Ties To Organized Crime

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Angel, Crime, Criminal Justice, Law, Club, Motorcycle, Drugs, Social Issues

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/01/07

Motorcycle clubs are a group of bikers aspiring after freedom and using motorcycles and a rebellious lifestyle as a means of setting themselves free from social confines. Still, when they get loose, they come untied from restraining shackles of social decency. When they do, a social menace arises since they step on the path of criminal activities. While some reputed, respectable, and law-abiding citizens take to riding a bike, they do it for no purpose other than to entertain themselves in a socially acceptable way. Club members classified as criminal engaged in a wide range of illegal and proscribed activities fetching high income. Such activities may imply drug smuggling, distribution and production, prostitute trafficking, and extortion, to name but three that have come be synonymous with criminal motorcycle clubs. If some groups are mediocre based on the geography, some control large turfs operating not only within their birth country, but also far beyond. Hell’s Angels is one of such groups defined as criminal by the US Justice Department since it engages in a number of illegal activities like extortion, drug distribution and possession, robbery, and murder.

Who Are Hell’s Angels: Angels or Hellish Law Offenders? The Evolution and Transformation of Road Riders

Frangoulis (2014) stated that HAMC the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club one-percenter motorcycle club operating across the world. Classified as an organized criminal syndicate by the US Department of Justice, club members are used to riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Still, Gottschalk (2010) claimed Canada to be virtually the sole country to have given the Hell’s Angels the status of a criminal organization. CBC News (2014) also stated that Canada had become the first North American government to list the Hell’s Angels as a criminal group in Manitoba. Serwer (2012) asserted that, as per the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the FBI, bikers made up the largest criminal network, of which the Hell’s Angels is a part. It is third to Mafia and Asian gangs only (Serwer, 2012).
According to Frangoulis (2014), multiple international intelligence and law enforcement agencies place the organization in the group of “big four” motorcycle gangs together with Outlaws, Pagans, and Bandidos. Criminologists define the Hell’s Angels operating in Canada and the USA as united in the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Corporation. The most widespread nicknames for group members are “Red and White,” “H.A.,” and “81,” the third standing for the eighth and first alphabet letters. Who were the original initiators of the club were US war immigrants and the Bishop family from Fontana in California. The mergence of the ex-members of various motorcycle clubs like the “Pissed off Bastards of Bloomington” followed the formation of the club. Judging by the content of the official websites of the club, any word on its connection to disaffected or misfit troops has nothing to do with the actual state of affairs (Frangoulis, 2014).
On the website, authors note that Arvid Olsen was the one who gave the club its name being an associate of Hell’s Angels founders. They are reported to have served in a squadron called the “Flying Tigers’ Hell’s Angels” in China during the WW2. The early stages of the club history remain unknown for certain, and account sources differ in the representation of the organization. The founder of the Oakland HAMC chapter, Sonny Barger reported that Hell’s Angels early chapters emerged in Fontana, Gardena, San Francisco, Oakland, and a number of other locations independently of each other. One of lesser-recognized clubs with the group affiliation had was operating in the years between the 1960 and 1970 in North Chino/South Pomona, California. Some members were not to know they were HAMC members at the time. Other sources have it that Rocky Graves was the person behind the establishment of the club in San Francisco back in 1953. They are suggestive of the fact that the Frisco Hells Angels must have known about their founding precursors. The Frisco underwent reorganization in 1955 incorporating a combined number of 13 chapters, with Frank Sadilek running the club in a presidential capacity. Led by Barger, the Oakland chapter adopted a bigger version of the Death’s Head signature patch in 1959 tagged as Barger Larger. When a part of San Francisco and London’s counterculture movement of the 1960s, the Hell’s Angels rose to prominence and gained a measure of notoriety (Frangoulis, 2014).
Abadinsky (2013) stated that the Hells Angels seemed confined to New Zealand and USA’s California, yet this status quo was on the point of changing due to the Vietnam War and the overwhelming publicity the group received back then. Lavigne (1987) noted that, in the course of the 1960s and the early 1970s, membership and the interest in the club soared since dissatisfied and frustrated war veterans were making the way home (as cited in Abadinsky, 2013). Lavigne (1996) claimed that the Hell’s Angels saw further expansion in the 1980s across the globe. Hells Angels were dead-set on liquidating whatever competitors through various tools, be they intimidation or violence (as cited in Abadinsky, 2013). The motorcycle club is international in its scale. There are combined total of 2.000 members in 85 chapters in 15 countries. Interestingly, the Hell’s Angels have the so-called Nomad chapters that have no fixed location. Even so, they act as shock troops by strengthening chapters in dispute with hostile biker groups (Abadinsky, 2013). Nomadic style looks quite uncharacteristic of a conventional motorcycle gang that compete with other rivals for turfs, in which they operate selling drugs or racketeering.
Lavigne (1996) noted that Oakland Chapter leader Barger faced a sentence and imprisonment in 1973 for the sale and possession of substances like marijuana and heroin. Upon release in 1977, Barger along with other club members had other charges pressed against him. Around the time, the entire subculture of the bikers was in the middle of changing. It was after making significant profits in the drug trade that club members changed their mindset. With much to lose from then on, they chose their bank accounts over the once sacred brotherhood. The lucrative business required protecting. Unlikely though it may sound, a club member posing threat to the steady source of their income was an easy man to kill or beat from a biker ethnical perspective (as cited in Abadinsky, 2013). It seem strange Hell’s Angels may try beating some sense into fellows-in-club, the ones of their kind since brotherhood usually comes first in biker culture and societies. Normally, they would kill or physically abuse a rival or police officer threatening their brother before they would harm their fellow.
Lavigne (2013) noted the club stopped being an organization that harbored social misfit elements. It soon became a criminal enclave for the most guileful and insidious drug dealers and producers (as cited in Abadinsky, 2013). Seeing that the substance trade produces informants. In 1985, the FBI detained in excess of 100 active members of Hell’s Angels on suspicion of relatedness to drug trade. Indicted on drug charges, dozens are now in the throes of serving in penitentiary facilities in Canada and the USA (Abadinsky, 2013). In 1997, according to Ibrahim (1997), an impressing 300 Hell’s Angels bikers launched their newest chapter in Stockholm (as cited in Abadinsky, 2013). As becomes evident, the club is in the process of evolving increasing its membership worldwide. Still, the worst news is that the more profitable Hell’s Angels activities become the more criminal, unruly, and unscrupulous it grows.

A Link to the Underworld that Defies All Description: The Scope of Criminal Activities Involving the Hell’s Angels

Anthony Tait, a former FBI undercover Hell’s Angels associate, whose testimony enabled the incarceration of 30 members, patriarch Sonny Barger included, cited such observed instances of law offenses as felony battery, rape, grand and petty thefts, firearms-related violations of all types, bomb planting, and premeditated homicide, besides the use and sale of drugs and extortion (Serwer, 2012). Criminologists, intelligence, and law enforcement institutions cite a similar set of activities. Serwer (2012) stated that the organization along with other motorcycle gangs earned about 1 trillion dollars on a yearly basis through murder, gunrunning, extortion, drug trade, theft, and prostitution as of 1992. Frangoulis (2014) suggested that international intelligence and law enforcement agencies attributed violent offenses, extortion, trafficking in stolen commodities, involvement in prostitution industry, and drug dealing to the members of the Hell’s Angels. To quote the factual examples of HA activities, Saunders (2015) stated that a police raid of a HA clubhouse in San Bernardino yielded one detained suspect, one shotgun, and drugs in a powder form. Perry (2013) claimed that Stephen Sanders, a San Diego HA chapter leader, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for robbery, kidnapping, assault with force, the infliction of bodily harm, and solicitation to perpetrate murder. Reuters (2006) reported five former and active biker gang members to face charges in relation to racketeering, murder directing or sanctioning, intimidation, attempted homicide, robbery, and stolen goods smuggling.
Droban (2007) noted that outlaw motorcycle clubs like the Hell’s Angels are notorious for its members’ involvement in the distribution of explosives, firearms, stolen motorcycle parts and motorcycles and the smuggling of such serious hallucinogen as phencyclidine or PCP better known as Angel Dust, lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD, another strong hallucinogen, methamphetamine, and cocaine. They are no strangers to trafficking comfort women and exotic dancers to different sex-oriented commercial establishments. Where they have succeeded in particular is on the methamphetamine market holding a large segment thereof. An ex-member high in the rank of the criminal hierarchy of the organization in Oakland, George Wehtern stated that the Hell’s Angels were ideal intermediaries in drug deals since an anti-establishment mindset and violence have won them an appropriate reputation (as cited in Abadinsky, 2013).
As matters stand, according to Droban (2007), group members purchase substances from wholesalers only to distribute them on the streets of the American and other cities. The members of Hell’s Angels can come producing methamphetamine by themselves. It by applying violence that they can monopolize drug trade in different parts of Canada and the USA and restrict entry to the market (as cited in Abadinsky, 2013). While the better part of bikers from the Hell’s Angels operate in the spirit of hedonism or sensual self-indulgence or pleasure pursuit, they invest a portion of their revenue in a wide range of legal activities false fronts or screens for illicit activities (Abadinsky, 2013). Frangoulis (2014) noted that Hell’s Angels maintained that they were none other than motorcycle enthusiasts arranging social events like fundraisers, group road trips, motorcycle rallies, and parties. The version runs that individuals committing crimes bear no relation to the group (Frangoulis, 2014). Outlaw motorcycle clubs like Hell’s Angels have a trustworthy pipeline of chapters and members to ensure the circulation of illegal commodities. Besides, club members are very mobile, with protection readily granted within any city that has a friendly chapter (Abadinsky, 2013).
Gottschalk (2010) stated that Hell’s Angels in Norway expanded their activities to areas traditionally dominated by mafia members as they did in Canada since police largely focused on Mafiosi letting them operate unrestrained. The activities of HA went unopposed in Oslo, as did those of motorcycle gangs like Outlaws and Bandidos, with police concerned with Pakistani and other gangs. Despite Norway-based HA’s lack of direct involvement in organized crime, its members enter into team to execute criminal projects jointly. There is freedom as to the nature of a criminal project provided that it is a winning game. Group’s neophytes in Norway are tasked with executing the lion’s share of HA criminal activities. In order for a member to qualify for a higher hierarchical position, the first thing a person needs is to prove one’s worth by smuggling cocaine, collecting upon a debt, engage in a money laundering or human trafficking operation (Gottschalk, 2010). Thus, initiation crimes committed by club members do not seem to differ from activities, in which Canadian or American HA bikers involve.

Mafia-Caliber Structure, Rules, Membership

Gottschalk (2010) stated that the management of the organization made decision as regarding the rules and policies for members to follow, whether in criminal activities or legitimate motorcycle club operations. Serwer (2012) suggested that the discipline of HA was paramilitary-type if need be. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2015) stated that the rules were what created a criminal activity-conducting environment. Gottschalk (2010) noted that HA managerial hierarchy existed on chapter, city or local, continent or regional like European or American, and global levels. Global executives pay visit to local management and vice versa. Motorcycle parties serve as a rallying point for managers willing to communicate on informal terms (Gottschalk, 2010). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2015) asserted that individuals ever involved in law enforcement could no more enter the club than individuals like a police officer would-be or a prison guard could. Potential members are up for screening, whereupon they are eligible for a full-patch membership. Still, before that, they are to become a “Hang-around” and a “Prospect.” The former is grantable given a systematic engagement in criminal activities.
If a person is to qualify for the latter, an active engagement in crime is mandatory with a probation period between one to two years. The transition from one status to the other can take place if and when all 100% of members give their approval. Unless proved, trustworthiness to the gang will not be considered such. When they prove it, the newly made members become “brother” able to help with criminal activities whenever requested. HA’s members have nothing else to do but comply with the “no snitching” rule that prohibits them from reporting to police (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2015). If that is the way it is, the Hell’s Angels cannot but remind of an Italian mafia that instituted Omerta. Finckenauer (2007) noted that a pledge of Omerta demands that silence be kept by mafia members as regards family criminal affairs while dealing with the outside word. Based on the law, they cannot betray their fellows and cooperate with law enforcers, which would result in the incrimination of family members (Finckenauer, 2007).


The Hell’s Angels is a group of biker with a history of evolution spanning nearly seven decades. Considered criminal by the government of Canada and the US Justice Department, the group underwent transition, with members shifting from brotherhood commitment to personal enrichment. Once USA-based it grew to be represented in 15 different world countries. The biker organization has a clear hierarchy with ranks, the possibility of position transition, initiation procedure reminding of mafia-type loyalty proving, discipline, the system of rules, including no “no snitching” that find its echo in Italian mafia’s Omerta, the pledge of silence. Like any criminal group, the bickers have a traditionally negative attitude towards law enforcers not accepting those who used to be formerly involved in law enforcement or were planning to be. Apart from that, they engage in extortion, prostitution control, drug smuggling, stolen goods trafficking, and attempted murders, which makes them similar to Italian and other organized crime groups. Of course, it ranks third in the list of the most influential organized crime groups; still, it has every right to consider itself a full-fledged criminal group to be reckoned with. Overall, the Hell’s Angels is a legitimate criminal syndicate in its own right with a well-outlined structure, functioning rules, and a set of activities that fetch income no legitimate occupation ever would.


Abadinsky, H. (2013). Organized crime. (10th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Retrieved from:'s%20Angel%20the%20motorcycle%20club%20and%20its%20ties%20to%20organized%20crime&f=false
CBC News. (2014, February 21). Hell’s angels marked as criminals by Manitoba justice. CBC News. Retrieved from:
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Finckenauer, J.O. (2007, June 12). La Cosa Nostra in the United States. International Center. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from:
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Perry, T. (2013, September 6). Hell’s angels leader in San Diego sentenced to 25 years in prison. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from:
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Saunders, D. (2015, February 11). Police raid hell’s angels clubhouse in San Bernardino. The Sun. Gang-Related Crime. Retrieved from:
Serwer, A. (2012). The hell’s angels’ devilish business (Fortune, 1992). Fortune. Retrieved from:
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2015). Hell’s angels motorcycle club. Sharing Electronic Resources and Laws on Crime. Retrieved from:

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