Hells Angels exist almost worldwide.
In ‘No Angel’
The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) landmark ‘Black Biscuit’ case set out to prove their suspicion the Hells Angels (HA) is a criminal organization and not a club composed of ageing toy-run bike enthusiasts.
Twenty months of dangerous undercover work by Jay Dobyns –or Bird, his outlaw biker nickname – almost got him killed, divorced and losing himself in his undercover persona.
Dobyns, a former college American football star, is a 6ft 1 bald-headed tattooed dangerous looking meat-head. He is also a devoted to his wife and two children.
With his ‘gang’ of undercover agents and paid informants, Dobyns sets up a chapter in a real Mexican outlaw biker club called the ‘Solo Angeles’ in order to win the trust and infiltrate the Arizona HA.
HA members were introduced to Bird as a gun runner, debt collector and knee-capper for
“I did become Bird. I was living and breathing the life of a Hells Angel. I found balance in other areas and parts of my life but I was overboard, no doubt.” Many of the best undercover agents walk a fine line between good and bad. That is what makes them great, the ability to understand and reason with the criminal mind.
But this supercop does not pretend to be superman, admitting there were many times when he was scared. “Being alone surrounded by hundreds of Hells Angels who, if they knew who I truly was, would likely have killed me in a very unpleasant manner.
Having a portion of the membership turn on me and come after me with the intent to kill me. Being sent on an assassination mission and told that if I didn’t kill the target, they were going to kill me,” he recalls.
“Riding my motorcycle at 90mph in a pack of drunk, stoned, drugged, crazy, unstable, mean, nasty boys scared the shit out of me.” Dobyns was told to drop his Solo Angeles club, and join the HA as a ‘hangaround’ – the necessary first stage of membership.
Dobyns and his two colleagues were treated like hired help – servants – of the Skull Valley HA chapter. They were promoted to prospects (prospective members), the final stage before becoming a fully ‘patched’ HA.
But things we moving too slow for Dobyns and the ATF, the latter having invested millions of dollars in Black Biscuit and were worried Dobyns’ maverick ways would bring them more trouble than results.
To speed up the process of being made full members, where they would finally be granted full access to the inner working of the HA, they concocted a wicked plan. Dobyns and his boys were going to murder a member of HA archrivals outlaw gang, the Mongols, in
With the help of another agent; a confiscated Mongols cut (the vest which carries the club patches, or ‘colours’); a splattering of goat blood and guts; and a camera; they staged a murder.
At this time, the undercover crew were Dobyns, a fellow agent ‘Timmy’ and a paid informant ‘Pops’. As part of the charade, they told the HA Pops had been killed trying to take out the Mongol on his own. Timmy and Dobyns presented their HA superiors the evidence of the murder as proof of their loyalty to the club.
This was one of the most frightening meetings for Dobyns “not knowing what type of reaction I would get” he feared they would kill him and Timmy.
Skull Valley chapter second in command, and Dobyns’ HA mentor, Bobby Reinstra, later claimed in a History Channel documentary that while they were initially impressed with the (fake) Mongol murder, it made them suspect Dobyns and Timmy might be cops as they had heard of similar stunts by UC agents in the past.
After the fake Mongol murder, ATF bosses pulled the plug on Black Biscuit when Dobyns is finally offered to become a full member of the HA. It was too risky, they said.
Although Dobyns concedes the risk-factor was huge, at the time he felt frustrated because he he was finally ‘in’ and he was confident his progression in the HA was going to be a fast one. “I had been told by leaders in the club that they would not be surprised if I had my own chapter before too much longer, so, I believe I would have ended up in some type of leadership position before too long.”
Following a string of arrests during coordinated ATF raids, Dobyns saw the case fall apart.
Prosecutors failed to prove the HA are an organized criminal organization.
While Dobyns describes this result as a great frustration he says it was not a waste of time. “Our investigation is every bit as winnable today based on the evidence and testimony of the agents. The problem was with disagreements between the prosecutors and my agency, not the investigation or the facts that we produced. We did our jobs well,” he says.
Although never proved, Dobyns is confident the outlaw gang is an organized crime organization, something the HA has always denied.
“They are a nasty version of traditional organized crime. They have a local, regional, national and worldwide management structure. They have rules and laws and policies beyond belief.”
“They don’t hide their association. They are proud of it and advertise it on their vests. They are the most sophisticated and intelligent of all the outlaw motorcycle clubs. They are the kings of the mountain in the world of bikers. They have international name recognition. All the other biker super-powers want what they have which is immediate recognition and respect.”
But one of the most shocking things to Dobyns about the Angels were all the protocols. “They present themselves as individuals who refuse to live by society’s rules but they have as many or more HA rules once you are inside the club,” he says.
Yet some of the HA members he got close to during his time undercover he considered friends. “Outside of the criminality I liked them. I spent time with them. Slept at their homes, they slept at mine. Held their babies, ate with their families, spent holidays with them.”
“Just because you are UC doesn’t mean you forfeit your humanity or compassion and completely disregard the human factor,” he says. Since the case fell apart Dobyns has launched a $4m lawsuit against the ATF for failing to protect him and his family.
“My house was burned down in 2008. I don’t know that the HA did it but based on all the previous threats they are definitely in the realm of suspicion. This is a big part of my dispute with ATF. ATF did nothing about any of the threats. I was told that the HA were too big to investigate and contain and that I was on my own to defend myself against an international crime syndicate who had displayed intent to murder me and my family.
He moved more than 10 times in four years, removing his name from official records – living as a fugitive – a fugitive from the very people he risked his life to put behind bars
“Murder contracts solicited against me to other crime gangs. Threats to murder me by injecting me with the AIDS virus. Threats to locate and torture my kids. Threats to kidnap and video tape the gang rape of my wife.”
But Dobyns says he refuses to let the HA dictate his life. “I did my job. I am the good guy. I didn’t lie about them in court or cheat to make my case. I am not going to allow them to chase me into a cave like I’m Bin Laden waiting for a rocket to get shot up my ass. I live my life on my terms and what happens, happens. I do not want a problem. I will walk away from a problem. But, if they insist on bringing the problem to me with no escape or if they endanger my family then I will do my best to figure it out. I live my life in concern. I have God on one hip and a pistol on the other and between the three of us, I will be OK,” he says.
Did you keep your Hells Angels prospect cut?
I was actually given a full patch cut by the leadership in my charter after I presented the evidence of the murder (faked). I was advised that I was now a Hells Angel, Welcome to the club, You showed you got what it takes to be a Hells Angel, You’re a member now – so yes, I have that cut.
Are you still in touch with any of the UC team: Slats, Rudy, Timmy, JJ or Pops?
Yes with the exception of Rudy. He went into Witness Protection and I never saw or spoke to him again. All are doing well, happy, productive and healthy.
Do you feel the ATF has made you a scapegoat?
Absolutely. When the case crashed because of the inability of the the prosecutors and ATF to agree on how to present the case, the government began to issue plea deals and dismiss charges with no explanation to any why this was happening. Logical speculation was to assume that their must have been something wrong or corrupt with the investigation. This was never the case. The prosecutors and the ATF leadership never felt the need to explain their dismissal of charges and were all very willing to leave the me with the appearance that I somehow was unethical in my investigation. Thousands of pieces of evidence and hundreds and hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings containing criminal conversations and acts proved otherwise. I was a convenient person to blame so those truly responsible did not have to be held accountable.
Was there ever part of you that wished you were not UC and could stay with the Angels as Bird for good? No. Never. Not one single time.
How does the HA red tape in delaying making you a fully patched member after the fake Mongol murder you committed compare to the bureaucracy involving the ATF’s handling of the case once your UC work was over? Power. Everyone wants power over someone or something.
How much of what went down during your undercover time were you unable to publish in the book for legal reasons?
None. I didn’t pull any punches and told the story as honestly as I could even when much of the story was not flattering of me. I did not want to write the typical cop “hero” book. I wanted it to be honest and real and let the audience decide if they liked me or did not like me. Some do. Many don’t.
Is your lawsuit against the ATF another Jay Dobyns crusade? You want to call it that then feel free. If it is a crusade, it is to hold the management of ATF responsible and accountable for their abandonment of me and many other undercover agents. After our jobs are complete and our value to the executives is reduced then the undercovers are cast aside, mistreated and abandoned. These are the people who take on the law enforcement jobs that no one else can or will do.
These are the people who go toe to toe with violence and great personal risk. For a US Federal Law Enforcement Agency to turn their collective backs on these men and women will never be acceptable to me or to the public.
So, to use your word, my Crusade it to bring accountability to those who damaged me and do my best that they don’t do it again to the next UC down the road.
Will Bird ever leave you? Or has it become part of who you are? Bird is buried down deep somewhere. He pops out in a time of drama or stress or danger but I do my best to keep him in the basement.
Knowing what you do now, would you do it all again? Yes. If not me or the other undercovers in the world then who? Who is going to take a stand? Who is going to risk their lives, leave their families, and in the end be forgotten and left to defend themselves from the very violence they are employed to confront, if me and my partners and peers don’t?
Without someone to stand up to these guys, we have anarchy. Someone has to do the job and I have been proud to be one of the ones who has for the last 25 years has been willing to confront the ‘bullies’ of the world and stand up for the good and innocent people everywhere who either can’t or won’t stand up for themselves. It has been my honour and privilege to do so.