Federal authorities suspect a law enforcement official leaked the name of a government informant that compromised – and abruptly halted – an undercover investigation of alleged criminal activity by members of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club, court documents show.
A federal investigation is under way to try and determine the source of the leak. After the undercover operation was shut down this summer, almost two dozen defendants with ties to the Outlaw Motorcycle Club and its affiliated clubs – the Black Pistons, Hoodlums and Southern Knights — were arrested and charged with federal drug and weapons offenses.
“The FBI is pursuing the leak in the Outlaw Motorcycle Club investigation,” Special Agent Stephen Emmett, spokesman for the FBI office in Atlanta, said Thursday. “We’re aware of the possibility that the leak came from law enforcement personnel.”
An FBI affidavit filed in the case details the government’s use of an FBI official who infiltrated the motorcycle clubs. It also said a Black Pistons Club member who turned government informant — and whose identity was disclosed — had been “essential to the success of the FBI’s undercover investigation into criminal activity” by club members.
The affidavit accuses a number of unnamed law enforcement officials of having cozy and illegal relationships with the motorcycle clubs.
“It is through these close and unprofessional relationships that (Outlaw Motorcycle) members often gain information that is obstructive to FBI investigations and dangerous to the safety of FBI informants,” said the affidavit, written by Special Agent Mark Sewell.
The Outlaw Motorcycle Club, founded in 1935, has numerous chapters across the country. One of its Georgia chapters has a clubhouse on Campbellton Road in Atlanta, court documents say.
Among those charged was Larry “Larry Mack” McDaniel, the 65-year-old president of the club’s “Silver Region,” which encompasses the Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs in Georgia and Alabama. He and two others face charges of obstructing the FBI undercover investigation by disclosing to other club members that a Black Pistons Club member in Cleveland, Ga., was working as an FBI informant, court documents say.
McDaniel, who also faces a firearm possession charge, has filed motions seeking to dismiss the obstruction count against him.
His lawyer, Don Samuel, said Thursday that all McDaniel did when he found out that a member of the Black Pistons Club was an informant was to close that club down. McDaniel never threatened the informant and was unaware there was an ongoing investigation, Samuel said.
“He had every right to close the club,” Samuel said. “There’s no law that says you have to allow a confidential informant to continue to operate in your midst.” Samuel declined to comment when asked if McDaniel knows the source of the leak.
During a brief court hearing Thursday, a U.S. magistrate gave the government 30 days to respond to McDaniel’s motion to dismiss the obstruction charge.
The use of “public corruption ‘leaks’” by the Outlaw Motorcycle Club and its affiliated clubs is a common tactic, Sewell, the FBI special agent, wrote in his affidavit.
“With the popularity of current television programs that glamorize the [motorcycle gang] culture, the desire for some law enforcement officials to maintain close, unprofessional and sometimes criminal relationships with [Outlaw] members will not easily disappear,” Sewell said.
The Outlaw Motorcycle Club investigation discovered that three law enforcement officials have been maintaining “close, unprofessional relationships” with motorcycle gang members, Sewell wrote. The affidavit did not identify those officials.
In his affidavit, Sewell cited a secretly recorded conversation in October 2011 between McDaniel and a top official from the Hoodlums Motorcycle Club, which is an Outlaw Motorcyle Club support group with a clubhouse in northern Gwinnett County. The conversation was recorded by the confidential informant and reveals the clubs’ strategy how to obtain “public corruption ‘leaks,’” the affidavit noted.
“We ain’t a cop club but we have an intelligence pipeline second to none,” the Hoodlums’ leader told McDaniel, according to the affidavit. “I hate cops. … But I will pat them on the [butt] and rub them on the back to get every bit of intel out of those (expletive) that I can. … We manipulate the hell out of a lot of them.”
After a rough week in Washington, President Barack Obama came to rainy Atlanta on Sunday to be with a friendlier crowd, becoming the first sitting president to give the commencement address at Morehouse College.