Over view of the Hell’s Angel’s Motorcycle Club (HAMC) In Canada: Extracted from Expert Evidence In R. v. Bonner and Lindsay O.J. No. 2870 (QL). Introduction
In this overview, information regarding the Hell’s Angel’s Motorcycle Club (HAMC) is from the case R. v. Bonner & Lindsay  O.J. No. 2870 (QL). This is the first Canadian case that states the HAMC is a “criminal organization” under s. 467.12(1) beyond a reasonable doubt. It supports that the HAMC in Canada has as one of its main purposes or main activities the facilitation of one or more serious offences that would likely result in the receipt of a financial benefit by its members, in particular drug trafficking.
The particulars of evidence from the case have been removed to simply provide general information about and overview of the HAMC. Five experts have provided the evidence. All of the experts have been accepted as experts by the judge, peers and have taken steps to gather confirmation from multiple sources for all information and evidence collected. Other sources include surveillance, witness or extensive minutes of meetings. Partial evidence from the case was considered hearsay and partial evidence was non-hearsay; if hearsay evidence was included then it had to be supported by alternative sources. The experts include Sergeant Jacques Lemieux, Detective Sergeant Benoit Roberge, Mr. Guy Ouellette, Dr. Howard Abadinsky with Sergeant Pierre Boucher providing support evidence. All discussion in this article and information about the HAMC has been provided by one or more of these experts in their evidence from R. v. Bonner & Lindsay  O.J. No. 2870 (QL) .
Background and Structure of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC)
The HAMC began in 1948 in California and by 1957 consisted of three chapters, all located in California. The organization expanded over time to currently include 2500 members located in 29 countries around the world mostly in North America and Asia. HAMC consists of 227 chapters, plus 9 prospect and 15 hang-around chapters. The HAMC is an incorporated entity with an address in Oakland, California. The Oakland chapter is the “mother” chapter, meaning that matters concerning the club must go through the Oakland chapter. Ralph "Sonny" Barger, who founded the Oakland chapter, is the unofficial world president of the HAMC. Barger is the author of a book about the HAMC, entitled “The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club”.
The Hells Angels came into Canada in 1977, forming an initial chapter in Montreal, and then another in Laval. At that time, the Outlaws were the only other major outlaw motorcycle club in Canada, located in Ontario. The Montreal chapter, which has its clubhouse in Sorel, is the “mother” chapter of the Canadian HAMC. r
In 1983 the Hells Angels opened a chapter in Vancouver, followed by other chapters in British Columbia. In 1984 the Sherbrooke and Halifax chapters were created. In 1985 members of the Montreal, Sherbrooke, and Halifax chapters murdered members of the Laval chapter who had attracted police attention and interfered with the HAMC image because of narcotics problems and debts. The Montreal and Sherbrooke chapters absorbed the Laval chapter. Canada has the second largest HAMC membership in the world. In 2002, there were 178 full members of the HAMC in Ontario, plus some prospects and hang-arounds, for a total of 244 individuals.
The HAMC is organized on a chapter, regional, national and world basis. The HAMC divides Canada into three administrative regions, East Coast, West Coast, and Central Canada. The HAMC divided both Canada and the United States into regions. The United States is divided into East, and West Coast Regions. Canada is divided into East, Central, and West Coast Regions. The East Coast Region consists of Quebec, the Central Region consists of Ontario, and the West Coast Region consists of Manitoba through to British Columbia. Before the Ontario chapters were formed, there were just two regions, East and West Coast, with Halifax and Quebec constituting the East Coast Region. The Halifax chapter ultimately closed. Each region is a separate administrative region, but act under the HAMC umbrella. Each region is autonomous to govern the chapters in its region, but under the administrative rules of the HAMC. The chapter, or charter, is the basic unit. A chapter is located in a specific geographic area assigned to it as the territory in which to conduct its business, which is criminal activity. There may be multiple chapters in a single country. This is the case in Canada, but all Canadian chapters are governed by the same rules. The chapter has an executive comprised of a president, vice-president, sergeant-at-arms, secretary and treasurer. A chapter meets once a week.
In addition to chapter meetings, meetings are held at provincial and regional levels, and also at Canada and world levels. Canadian national meetings are held four times a year. Every Canadian chapter sends one or two members of its executive to a Canada officers meeting. Representatives from each country attend world meetings twice a year. One of the world meetings is held at the same time as a world motorcycle run. World meetings deal with matters affecting the HAMC as a whole. Any motions being proposed are circulated in advance. Individual members of chapters are entitled to vote on activities, on the basis of one man, one vote. Votes are taken on chapter motions, regional motions, and world motions. World motions are considered at world meetings, and need two-thirds approval to pass. The evidence is clear that the HAMC adheres to a sophisticated organizational structure, involving the application of fundamental rules and principles. It includes a lengthy graduated process for membership, a requirement of unwavering loyalty to the club, obsessive commitment to protecting the secrecy of information, strict internal discipline over members, and anti-establishment attitudes. It enables the HAMC to protect itself from challenges by rivals, and also from law enforcement. It facilitates criminal activities by its members.
The HAMC is a self-identified one percenter or “outlaw” motorcycle club, along with its rivals the Bandidos, the Outlaws, and the Pagans. Each of the four clubs has one percenter patches that members wear to identify themselves as part of such a club. One percenter motorcycle clubs are those that do not want to abide by society's laws, as distinct from mere motorcycle enthusiasts. One percenter club members and associates are referred to as "bikers".
While historically the HAMC liked to have motorcycle outings, in the last few years many new members are not part of the group to bike but join to be part of a powerful criminal organization. Some members have the attitude that there is too much business involved and the biking aspect is forgotten. Motorcycling does play a role in the existence of the HAMC in Canada. There are requirements, for example, that members maintain Harley Davidson motorcycles and participate in motorcycle events. There is evidence that the HAMC in Canada use motorcycling to build alliances with other one percenter motorcycle clubs, to make a show of force, and to foster a reputation for violence and intimidation. In these ways, motorcycling is connected to the facilitation of criminal offences. Moreover, many of the organization's rules, practices, and concerns have little to do with motorcycling.
A chapter has a designated territory and each chapter attempts to control the narcotics trade in its area. In general, the members of a chapter carry on their activities and reside in the area of the chapter, but there are many exceptions. Members are not obliged to carry on all of their activities in that area, and there is no rule that prevents them from expanding. There are examples of members conducting activities outside their own chapters. For example, while Boucher was a member of the Montreal chapter, he developed a puppet club called the Rockers in northern British Columbia. While Carroll was a Montreal member and then a Nomad, he had a trafficking network in Nova Scotia.
Chapters are created by vote. If no chapter exists in a country, all members worldwide must vote to open a chapter there. If a Canadian province does not yet have a chapter, then all chapters in Canada must vote on whether to bring it into existence. Once there is a chapter in a province, it must exist for one year before it can decide to open other chapters in that province. Subsequently, the chapters in the province make the decision to create others there and each member of the HAMC in the province has a vote. Each chapter must be 66% in favour of the new chapter, so that all chapters are in agreement. Another method would be by donating or transferring members from existing chapters. The point of creating a new chapter is to exert control over criminal activities in the area. A new chapter must have a sponsoring chapter that will responsible for it for one year while it is on probation. The sponsoring chapter makes sure that the new chapter obeys all the HAMC rules. Another one percenter club can become part of the HAMC, if it has been in existence at least five years. It first becomes a hangaround club, then a prospect chapter, and finally a full-fledged chapter.
In British Columbia there are seven HAMC chapters, and a chapter of the Renegades, which is a puppet club for the Vancouver HAMC chapter. In Manitoba there is one HAMC chapter. The Zigzag Crew is associated with it. In Saskatchewan there are two HAMC chapters. There are two Free Wheelers puppet clubs under the supervision of the Saskatoon chapter of the HAMC. In Alberta there are three HAMC chapters. There is no HAMC chapter in Atlantic Canada. There are four other clubs, all of which support the HAMC. In Ontario there are 15 HAMC chapters. Four chapters of a puppet club called the Red Line Crew are under the supervision of the West Toronto HAMC chapter, and the Nomads in Ottawa supervise another chapter of that support club. There are three chapters of a support club called the Foundation, one supervised by the Oshawa chapter and another by the Niagara chapter of the HAMC. Currently there are five active HAMC chapters in Quebec. Project Rush dismantled the Nomads chapter, because its members were jailed. There are now 118 members, including the jailed Nomads.
There is a degree of autonomy among chapters. Every chapter has great autonomy, notably in the commission of criminal offences. This autonomy applies in the same sense to individual members. Each is self-sufficient in that all its members have a say in the chapter's decisions, internal disciplinary measures, and criminal activities. Each chapter is somewhat independent and responsible for its own criminal activities. Chapters do not share profits with one another and each has its own bank account. Every chapter is supposed to have a web page and an email address, so that it can communicate with members worldwide. Chapter cards list the clubhouse address and contact information, as well as the members of the particular chapter, usually by their club pseudonyms, and their telephone numbers.
The only chapter that does not have a specific territory assigned to it is a Nomads chapter. There can be only one Nomads chapter per province. Nomads chapters exist in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. The members of a Nomads chapter are influential Hells Angels who conduct an enormous amount of business. Although Nomads are not restricted to a specific area, if they want to do business in a chapter's territory, they first ask permission, which usually is granted.
Each chapter has a clubhouse, with the exception of the Nomads. The chapter is responsible for the upkeep of the clubhouse. Some clubhouses have a 24-hour watch. All have security such as steel fences, barbed wire, and video cameras. These measures are taken to defend the chapter from attack by rival groups and to prevent infiltration by law enforcement. The Hells Angels are very conscious of police surveillance techniques, such as listening devices. There are signs in clubhouses warning occupants to be careful about what is said because it is not known who is listening.
There is a high degree of communication and collaboration between the HAMC chapters in Canada, and worldwide. Information is distributed through regular meetings at which minutes are taken. Chapter meetings are held weekly, regional meetings monthly, and Canada Officers meetings four times a year. Each chapter is represented at the regional and national meetings. Countries are expected to attend world meetings, and are sanctioned if they fail to do so without a valid excuse. Each of Canada's three regions is represented at world meetings twice a year.
A chapter generally meets once a month, but meetings may be required at any time. Usually chapter meetings are held at the clubhouse. Clubhouses are considered secure, because there is 24 hour a day security to prevent the police from installing wiretapping devices. If a chapter does not have a clubhouse, meetings are held at hotels, restaurants or other places judged appropriate for avoiding police observation. Minutes of meetings do not record discussion or votes about criminal activity. They deal with bureaucratic matters. There is a written requirement that members of the organization give 10% of the proceeds of their criminal activity to the club on a monthly basis. The chapter has a president, who is one of its members. He presides over the chapter ("church") meetings, looks after chapter administration, signs cheques, holds a veto and so has the last word in votes, and leads the chapter.
Topics frequently discussed include concerns about rival organizations, security of information and events, police infiltration, law enforcement activities, and non-dilution of the club name and symbol, along with news about who was out of the club and who was to attend anniversary parties and other events. No criminal activity is discussed in HAMC minutes of meetings.
Each chapter has various executive positions. They include president, vice-president, sergeant-at-arms, secretary and treasurer or a combined secretary/treasurer. Officers attend regional and national meetings of the club. In Ontario, the presidents of each chapter meet regularly.
A puppet or support club is a subservient club to the HAMC. The Hells Angels use puppet clubs to create a base to study who will become HAMC members, and to extend the HAMC network of narcotics trafficking to broader territory. A puppet club has certain autonomy from the HAMC, but the HAMC chapter directing it must approve every important decision it makes. The HAMC decides what activities the puppet club can carry out. If a decision of the puppet club might affect the image of the HAMC, it must consult the HAMC. Puppet clubs never use the red and white colours of the HAMC, but their members always wear the initials MC to indicate motorcycle club.
The HAMC use affiliated clubs as a recruitment pool. They serve as "schools" that teach individuals how to become Hells Angels. They are also used to get a foothold for criminal activities in different areas of the province, and to increase the number of people who could be used for criminal activities. An affiliated club exists only to serve the HAMC and its members. It must obey the HAMC, and cannot engage in violence or criminal activities without the permission of a HAMC member. The Hells Angels in Quebec referred to a member of an affiliated club as a "nephew". The affiliated club referred to a Hells Angel as an "uncle". Not all members of an affiliated club will become Hells Angels. HAMC members are all kinds of people, but they share the same goal: to follow the vision of the HAMC, and make money. The Hells Angels recruit the best from an affiliated club, for whatever criminal ability is needed.
The Rockers established themselves as a motorcycle club in 1992. It became a puppet club for the Montreal chapter of the HAMC. The Rockers were an integral part of the HAMC. They were used as a pool from which to recruit new HAMC members. Their criminal activities were supervised by the HAMC.
A clic is not a motorcycle club. A clic is a street gang that does not have colours, and is not a one percenter club. Usually a HAMC chapter creates a puppet club in a territory where there is no HAMC chapter, and uses it to gain the profit of criminal activity there. Once the puppet club has proven itself, it can open other chapters and they in turn can report to different HAMC chapters. In other instances, an existing outlaw motorcycle club becomes a HAMC puppet club. The advantages of a puppet club include the expansion of HAMC territory without having to open another chapter, and the distancing of HAMC members from the commission of crime and to have better control and expand without itself expanding. In April 2004, the HAMC abolished all puppet clubs in Quebec because of infiltration of those clubs by police agents.
When the HAMC moves into an area, it takes complete control of it for the purpose of criminal activity. No other outlaw motorcycle group is to conduct criminal activity in that area. If it goes into the area, the HAMC will take any measures necessary to remove it. It will not allow another club to establish itself in HAMC territory. However, the HAMC will sometimes make alliances with other clubs in the area, instead of starting a war.
The Hells Angels decides which members of a puppet club to take on as hangarounds or prospects. Not all puppet club members necessarily wish to join the HAMC since it requires a 24 hour a day commitment and to commit murder to prove loyalty. The use of puppet clubs changed after the spring of 2001, when Projects Rush and Ocean finished. The Quebec Hells Angels eliminated puppet clubs because the police had infiltrated the Rockers with two agents and some repentant witnesses, in order to shut down the Nomads.
Territoriality is defined as a system of behaviours used by an individual or group to define and defend a set of beneficial relationships within its environment. Those relationships are personal pride, group power, public relations, and for some clubs criminal profit. If one outlaw motorcycle club decides to expand into territory occupied by another, it forms alliances with other existing clubs, or incorporates established clubs. A characteristic of a criminal organization is that it is monopolistic, in that it attempts to dominate a territory, an industry or both. The objective is to reduce competition in order to increase profits from illegal activities.
Territoriality is a feature of the four major outlaw motorcycle clubs, including the HAMC. It is used to protect criminal profit. The main criminal activity of the Hells Angels is drug trafficking, although members and associates are involved in other criminal activities. Sometimes the HAMC takes over a formerly independent club as a way of expanding into new territory. Motorcycle runs, in which all members wear their colours, and go from one place to another, are a way of demonstrating territory. Each HAMC chapter is to have two mandatory runs a year.
The "Biker War"
The "biker war" between the HAMC and the Rock Machine in Quebec lasted from 1994 to 2002, with some peace periods. More than 150 people were killed, including innocent victims who were not associated with the protagonists. There were many murder attempts, bombing attempts of businesses and clubhouses, and arsons.
The RM came into existence in 1989. It was friendly with the HAMC. The RM was a non-traditional motorcycle club in that it had some characteristics of an outlaw motorcycle club, but its members did not wear colours. They had an insignia with the initials MC, and a ring. The RM was referred to as a clic, signifying a small gang. The RM was associated with other groups in Quebec, namely the Dark Circle, the Palmer clan, and the Pelletier clan, which were all clics involved in drug trafficking, and also with some independent drug traffickers. In 1994 those groups and the RM formed the Alliance, and war began with the HAMC. In 1996 the RM developed contacts with and eventually began the process of becoming a chapter of the Bandidos. There was a truce between the groups in October 2000 after a lot of negative publicity following the attempted murder of journalist Michel Auger.
Some RM wanted to join the HAMC, but some joined the Bandidos. In December 2000 the RM obtained probationary status as Bandidos. There were four probationary chapters created, in Quebec City, Montreal, Kingston and Toronto. By February 2001 the war was on again. The RM became full Bandidos in 2001. The war lasted until 2002. Both the RM and the HAMC suffered casualties during the war, and both were hurt by police activities. The result of the war was that the RM and the Bandidos were eliminated or absorbed.
The general reputation of the HAMC in Quebec is that it is a structured criminal organization that is very violent. Citizens, as well as the criminal milieu have a lot of information about HAMC activities through the written and televised media, including coverage of police investigations and court proceedings. A run is a motorcycle parade, with meeting places at clubhouses. A run can be organized by a chapter, or on a provincial, national or world basis. A member can participate with or without his colours. The rules require that runs be held, and there are compulsory outings. Rules also require that all members have a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and all chapters have a road date. These outings where many members are present indicate the power and numbers of the HAMC. Motorcycling is very important to the HAMC, as a means of making a show of force.
The HAMC has a reputation for intimidation and violence. It is one of the organization's most powerful tools. It has cultivated that reputation. When it first came into Canada, other organized crime groups used it for criminal activities, including debt collection and drug trafficking. Because of its reputation, it was able to conduct criminal activities more easily. Now it is considered a partner with other organized crime groups, including the Italian Mafia, the West End Gang in Montreal, and Asian groups. One of the advantages of the HAMC is its ability to adapt to situations quickly. Members look more and more like average citizens, and when traveling to other countries, make an effort not to be identified as Hells Angels.
The reputation of the HAMC is not just within the criminal milieu, but also among the public. Members will identify their motorcycles as belonging to a Hells Angel. By wearing the three-piece patch, an individual identifies himself as a member of that organization, an organization that is reputed to be violent and involved in intimidation. He does not have to identify himself in order to commit criminal activities. The individual also enjoys the benefit of the organization backing its members. Barger referred to this in his book as "one on all, all on one", meaning when a person fights with one Hells Angel, he fights with them all. The organization also offers its membership territory. A chapter has a monopoly over criminal activities in its area. Because the organization is worldwide, members have the opportunity to carry on their criminal activity anywhere in the world, and even to be harboured elsewhere if the police want them, as happened with a Sherbrooke member who hid in Amsterdam.
The HAMC rules, including the process to full membership and identification of who is in and out of the club facilitate the commission of criminal activity by the organization's members, because they provide assurance that others in the organization with whom they deal are not police officers. The main activities of the Hells Angels organization are drug trafficking, and other crimes including money laundering, loan sharking, extortion, assaults, and homicides. One of the main purposes of the Hells Angels may be social gatherings, but it is not their main purpose. The Hells Angels have toy runs to reduce some of the bad publicity about them. It is a goal of the HAMC to demonstrate that the Hells Angels are not a criminal organization.
For the Hells Angels, wearing colours can be as effective as a cocked shotgun, brothers will always protect brothers, and the patch told outsiders that if you start a fight with the club, you lose because it you against the whole HAMC. The reputation for violence of outlaw bikers renders them able to suppress enemies, and that reputation is a marketable commodity and is the same for the HAMC. In the Canadian community, the HAMC patch means violence. It creates fear and insecurity. That reputation is deliberately promoted by the HAMC. For example, the organization's New York City website, which was displayed during these proceedings, warns that those who use the HAMC name or logo will be hunted down and hurt. At Boucher's trial in 1998, the Crown surveyed prospective jurors, and 82% of them said they did not want to act as a juror because they feared the HAMC would go after them. That fear extends beyond the provincial level, because the HAMC is an international organization.
The HAMC have written world, country and chapter rules. Although there are separate rules for separate countries, and a degree of autonomy among countries, all must abide by the world rules. In Canada, the chapter rules mimic the country rules. Any change to the Canada rules requires approval of all chapters, or a two-thirds majority if there is a deadlock. A country can make a motion to change a world rule. Canada did so in 1996, to increase the number of world meetings per year and separate them from world runs. In 2001, Canada wanted world meetings to deal with the concerns of the HAMC rather than partying.
The Hells Angels have both written and unwritten rules. Sometimes they overlap, for example, rules that those who are part of the organization must not obstruct the image and operation of the club. There is autonomy of individuals in the HAMC, of chapters, and of regions. Nonetheless, no-one can contravene the rules, which include written rules. A chapter has its own criminal activities, which have nothing to do with those of another chapter. Each member is autonomous as to which criminal activity he chooses, but he has to operate under the HAMC rules. A rule made by one chapter does not affect other chapters, and a rule made by one region does not affect other regions. However, international rules must be followed by each member and by the chapters, and national, regional, and chapter rules also must be followed. Just as a Canadian rule cannot conflict with a world rule, a regional rule governs chapters in that region, but cannot be inconsistent with the world or Canadian rules.
HAMC Guidelines for Canada include among the rules "No rapes", "A member retired in bad standing or kicked out must get his Hells Angels tattoos dated out", and "AU contact or use of heroin is strictly forbidden". The rule that reads "No dealings of any kind that will reflect badly on the club" also appears as "No burns or dealings of any kind that will reflect badly on the club". "Burns" refers to bad drug deals and the rule was amended so that it could not be relied on in criminal prosecutions of Hells Angels members.
The HAMC unwritten rules include no criminal activity in the clubhouse, not to disgrace the organization by bringing attention to oneself, and no women as members. It is now an unwritten rule that telephones and pagers are to be left outside during meetings, because of an instance where an agent used his telephone to record a meeting. This is to ensure that nobody but members knows what goes on at meetings. There are many unwritten rules, including the criteria to become a member. They vary according to the times, the chapters, and members. Many, but not all unwritten rules are related to criminal activities. They include that a member must be ready to help another if needed; must put aside his family and be dedicated to the Hells Angels 24 hours a day; must not make a statement to the police; and must not give out information to betray the club. In Quebec there is an unwritten rule that members must not use cocaine and many chapters follow this guideline. These rules are unwritten so that the Hells Angels can manage their criminal activities, while protecting themselves against prosecution.
Collective & Individual Membership
A chapter consists of a minimum of six full-fledged members who are not in jail or bound by restrictions. If it falls below six members, the chapter is closed or frozen meaning put on standby, or members of other chapters transfer to it. The HAMC finds that six members are required so that the chapter can control its territory and avoid losing it to a rival group. On occasion, the HAMC will open new chapters by the assimilation of existing “one percenter” motorcycle clubs. This has occurred in Canada. The phraseology "coming around", "coming our way", and being "on the program" are used to refer to recruitment of other clubs by the HAMC. On extremely rare occasions, the HAMC will "patch over" existing outlaw motorcycle clubs, by offering them "patch for patch", meaning that a full member of that club becomes a full member of the HAMC without having to go through the normal steps. When the HAMC decided to expand into Ontario, they courted existing outlaw motorcycle clubs there rather than simply opening up a new chapter, to avoid starting a war over territory. When the HAMC considers taking over an existing club, it takes the time to make sure the club is worthy and shares the HAMC mentality. HAMC members visit the club regularly, and invite it to HAMC parties. This is for the purpose of assessing the club's members.
An individual who wants to join an existing chapter usually must be known by the organization for five years. He must be sponsored by a HAMC member and often is sponsored by two or three members. The sponsor remains responsible for him until he becomes a member, and even after that should the individual draw attention to himself and the club. The sponsor makes sure that the individual keeps in line with HAMC policies and rules. If he does not, the sponsor must correct the problem. Therefore, a Hells Angels member is careful about who they sponsor because they are responsible for an individual one brings in, until he dies.
Three unwritten rules of the HAMC are: the individual must be 100% devoted to the HAMC organization. His first family is the HAMC. He must always be available, and he must have the organization at heart completely; the individual must have a good criminal network; which is a requirement that the individual at minimum has encouraged murder, or been involved in conspiracy to commit murder. This was regarded as proof of solidarity with the club. In order to become a prospect for the Nomads, an individual has to kill for the organization. All of the HAMC must demonstrate 100% devotion and loyalty to the club, must have a good aptitude for criminal activities (a good "business sense"), and be prepared to resort to violence as well as solidarity against police officers. These qualities take on a multitude of meanings. A rule prohibiting the use of injected drugs including heroin is reflective of the requirement of loyalty to the club since members with addictions pose a security risk, and are not fully committed to the organization.
There is a ladder to membership in the HAMC. First the individual becomes a "friend". He does menial tasks to test his loyalty to the club, and his worthiness as a member. After six months to a year he becomes a "hangaround". He is asked to do more to prove his worthiness, meaning that he has something to bring to the organization. He may commit criminal acts directed by others. Usually after one year as a hangaround he becomes a "prospect". An individual usually is a prospect for a minimum of one year. In order to move from prospect to full member, he must be completely loyal to the club and not bring undue attention to the club. A prospect will be asked to commit certain criminal acts; so that the club is assured that he will not become a police informant. One hundred per cent of existing chapter members must vote in favour of promoting an individual from one stage to the next. A chapter must notify the presidents meeting in advance before a hangaround or a prospect moved up to allow any objection to be voiced in advance. Every prospect is required to visit every chapter in their province before he is proposed for membership, so that every prospective member is known before a vote about membership is taken. Prospects are not permitted to use the name Hells Angels.
It usually takes a minimum of three to four years to move through the stages to become a full member. One of the reasons for this lengthy process is to prevent infiltration of the organization by law enforcement. Membership in the HAMC is exclusive, and based on rigorous requirements. There are international blanket restrictions, including "no cops or ex-cops in the club" which extend to anyone who once applied to become a police officer. Even a person who has ever considered training for a law enforcement position cannot join the HAMC for fear of infiltration by law enforcement. A normal citizen cannot just apply to join the HAMC. The organization has strict rules, including that black men cannot join the club. In 2001 the Oshawa chapter decided to make a black man a hangaround. After this was brought to the attention of HAMC World, he had to be removed, because his involvement contravened a world rule.
Laminated chapter cards bearing the club names and telephone or pager numbers of members, prospects, and hangarounds of the particular chapter, as well as the clubhouse coordinates are a means of enabling contact between HAMC members across Canada. Photographs are taken of all members, prospects and hangarounds of a chapter, and sent out to chapters worldwide. This is to ensure that individuals are known. A security file is maintained on each member and usually contains an individual's photograph, description, and as much information as can be gathered. It has been recommended that prospective members are security checked back to high school. Only full members are entitled to attend the weekly chapter meetings, called "church" meetings, at which chapter business is discussed. Minutes are taken as a record of the meetings. Members vote on issues raised, on the basis of one man, one vote. A member of one chapter has full rights in another chapter, and with the consent of members of the other chapter can carry on criminal activities in that area. One chapter may call on another chapter to assist with criminal activities. Canada abides by the rule that a new member may not transfer from one chapter to another during his first year, and after that may do so only with the blessing of both chapters; the rule being necessary for the individual's "education".
Former members of the club are classified as those who have left honourably, or in good standing, and those who have been kicked out, or left dishonourably or in bad standing. An individual who is kicked out of the club in bad standing or kicked out dishonourably has broken a written or an unwritten rule of the HAMC. His name and photograph are sent to all chapters worldwide, so they know he no longer has the privileges of membership. Individuals are automatically kicked out of the club for lying to or stealing from those within the organization. The HAMC also shuns individuals who give information to law enforcement. Sanctions are applied to them, ranging from being kicked out of the club, to being beaten, to death.
An individual can leave the club honourably, by quitting. There are rules about the treatment of ex-members. He must forfeit anything that belongs to the Hells Angels, or bears the name "Hells Angels". They are not entitled to use the club name or insignia, or to receive information about the organization. Those who have left in good standing must add the date of departure to their Hells Angels tattoos, while those who have left in bad standing must cover over or remove their tattoos. Chapters worldwide are notified when an individual leaves the club. These very specific rules are intended to prevent former members from accessing sensitive information about the club, or from using the privileges of membership including the club name within the criminal milieu, and to prevent law enforcement infiltration. Members can associate only with ex-members who had "left" the club, and not with those who were out of the club in “bad standing”. This exemplifies the exertion of control over members' freedom of association.
A person who is in jail is not supposed to be given full membership in the HAMC until he is out of prison. The HAMC refers to members in prison as the Big House Crew. Everyone in the organization who is incarcerated receives a newsletter about the club and where individuals are imprisoned, so that they can correspond. Prospects and hangarounds are obliged to write to those in jail in order to prevent those in prison from feeling abandoned and becoming informants. When an individual is jailed it is distributed throughout the organization so everyone knows the individual is not on the street. The HAMC plan for all contingencies and are well prepared for the risks of being in the organization. The Hells Angels in Canada maintain two defence funds. The C-95 Defence Fund is used to defend those charged with a criminal organization offence. Every individual who is part of the organization pays $50 per month to this fund.
The second fund is for individuals who are arrested. The chapters have parties and sell support items to assist in the defence of those charged. As well, everybody in the HAMC has a will and life insurance payable to the club so when a member dies, the club buries him. Also, there are runs for funerals of HAMC members. It is common to see members of other HAMC chapters and countries at funerals. The Hells Angels colours are worn at funerals, members are present in great numbers, and there is a motorcycle parade between the funeral home and the cemetery. This is deliberately done to demonstrate the power and force of the HAMC.
In light of the long period of time, extreme requirements and restrictions it takes to become a HAMC member, there is no doubt that an individual knows exactly what the organization is about by the time he becomes a full-fledged member. There are benefits to HAMC membership. Membership in the club provides assurance that the individual is "safe" to deal with. As well, members have the ability to call upon a range of subordinates including prospects and support club members to assist with criminal activities. One expert even likened it to winning the lottery.
Security & Clubhouses
Each chapter, with the exception of the Nomads, is required to have a clubhouse. The clubhouse serves as the chapter's base of operations. It is used for chapter meetings, as a location where members can access club information including information about other chapters, for parties, and to host visiting HAMC members. It is an unwritten rule that no criminal activities take place in the clubhouse. The clubhouse typically has a conference room with a blackboard and erasers, so that confidential information can be written and erased, a bar and poolroom, kitchen, living room and bedrooms. The clubhouse is used to display trophies identifying the chapter and members' anniversaries, plaques, photographs of members of various chapters, maps from other chapters, and a message board. There is always a garage with lockers where each member may place clothing.
The reason for the security is to prevent law enforcement easy access to the clubhouse, and to prevent attack from unfriendly outlaw motorcycle groups. Generally, clubhouses are protected by a gate or wall. They often have fortified doors and windows, cameras, dogs, and an intercom system to address people outside. They are painted the traditional HAMC colour, red and white and often have a HAMC flag on the roof. There may be a sign identifying the building as the clubhouse. There are various security measures in place at clubhouses, including closed circuit television to monitor the exterior, motion detectors, steel doors, numeric entry codes, bullet-proof glass, barbed wire, windows with steel shutters, barricades in front of the clubhouse, and gates. These features go beyond the kind of security needed to protect a meeting place from burglary or vandalism and the purpose of these security features is to protect against attack by rival clubs, and to impede entry by law enforcement. Each clubhouse has a watch room that is supposed to be manned at all times, from where access to the clubhouse is monitored. Usually entrance to the watch room is restricted to members, and individuals assigned to the watch.
Inside, there is a watch room reserved for those who look after surveillance of the clubhouse. Usually it is in an area that allows good observation. The watch room is always equipped with a camera and television. Any exterior cameras can be manipulated from the watch room. The watch room has a telephone, a book with the telephone numbers of members, their lawyers, caretakers and others who look after the clubhouse, and member cards of other chapters. Each chapter is required to have at least one permanent telephone number that is answered at all times by someone who is able to contact anyone in the chapter. Each member is required to have a permanent telephone number where he can be reached for HAMC business within a reasonable amount of time. Generally, phone conversations are short between HAMC members and veiled language is used to maintain secrecy. For example, a kilogram of cocaine or hashish is referred to as "one package", "high flying" means involved with drug trafficking, “factoring" means buying debts from other groups and collecting them, "biker side", meaning the social activities, and the "other side" meaning criminal activities.
To counter police surveillance in the clubhouse, the Hells Angels also use signs to refer to matters such as cocaine, hashish, pistol, murder or attempt, placement of a bomb under a vehicle, arson, surveillance and the patch. HAMC are concerned with secrecy of operations and control of information. Sensitive club materials including minutes are not faxed, because they are intercepted by the police on occasion. Chapters are obliged to encrypt emails. Chapters that do not encrypt are removed from mailing lists. Encryption makes it difficult for law enforcement to intercept information. HAMC members also meet to discuss business in person, and use members of puppet clubs to hand deliver documents.
Each chapter has a sergeant-at-arms who is in charge of security. When he is not at the clubhouse, another person will perform the watch. There is always someone present to look after security. A sergeant-at-arms for each chapter must be notified about security meetings and present at all meetings. This person is the unofficial enforcer who carries out sanctions against those who break the rules, and keeps order during club meetings. There is a “Watch List” that is a set of rules for the person in charge of the watch. It specifies his duties, including verifying the "watch tool", meaning a hidden pistol. The sergeant-at-arms enforces club rules and enforcement can include physical measures. The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for security of the clubhouse, as well as security at HAMC events. Security is maintained at anniversary parties, funerals, and marriages, to protect members when there is a war with another club, and to identify surveillance if the police are present. Puppet club members often look after protection of HAMC members, as individuals and as a group. During the war with the RM, a Rocker guarded each HAMC member at meetings.
The HAMC use a security officer for major functions. This person ensures that doors are guarded, members are protected, motorcycles are secured, and law enforcement does not gain access to the function. Guard duty at functions is performed by prospects, hangarounds and friends. The HAMC consider security and protection of information high priorities. The effectiveness of the person on guard duty will affect the mobility of the individual within the organization. For example, the HAMC felt they would be vulnerable, meaning worried about retaliation by other clubs, during a Canada Run and the members who did not carry out their duties at the Canada Run could be demoted to prospect status. The members had to stay in secured hotels, meaning hotels where the HAMC had put security measures in place. To maintain security at the World meeting when traveling, members are checked with their home chapters. This is to ensure that individuals are whom they say.
The Hells Angels will go to extreme lengths to learn everything about an individual with whom they are dealing. They have a security intelligence officer whose main role is to gather intelligence on individuals who oppose the club, and on law enforcement and even conduct surveillance of an individual they plan to deal with. A security file usually contains an individual's photograph, description, and as much information as can be gathered. The Hells Angels constantly check who an individual is, and whether he has a criminal record. The HAMC also makes information and photographs of known police officers on a website link for members.
The HAMC logo is the winged death head, a skull with plumage behind it. The club also uses the number 81 to signify Hells Angels. The Hells Angels take precautions to protect their name and the death head logo. Hells Angels members often have tattoos of the death head. When a member leaves the club honourably, he must put the out date on the tattoo. If he is kicked out of the club, he must have the tattoo covered over. This is to ensure that ex-members no longer receive information about the club, and can no longer portray themselves as Hells Angels. The name and photograph of anyone who is kicked out is circulated to chapters worldwide, for this reason. An individual who leaves the club honourably is not permitted to have anything that bears the Hells Angels name, other than his tattoos. As discussed earlier, this is to prevent him from using the Hells Angels name to his own benefit once he is out of the club.
The HAMC colours are red and white. Colours belong to the club. Each member signs documentation to this effect. This practice was started to prevent law enforcement from retaining seized colours. Each chapter keeps track of its own count of colours. Only full members are allowed to wear HAMC colours. The Hells Angels go to great lengths to make sure that only members wear the club's colours or "patch". The patch signifies that the wearer is part of a sophisticated organized crime group, and anyone who deals with the wearer deals with the whole organization. The Hells Angels do not want the intimidation value of the patch to be diminished by non-members wearing it.
A set of colours consists of a three-piece patch sewn onto a vest. The top portion or rocker has the name Hells Angels. In the middle is the death head logo, and the letters MC, for Motorcycle Club. The bottom portion or rocker has the name of the territory, which in Canada is the province. A member also wears a crest on the front of the vest with the name of his chapter. A hangaround wears a small patch that names the chapter he is hanging around for, with the words "hangaround". A prospect wears a bottom rocker, and also a patch with the word "prospect" and the name of the chapter. Also, the Hells Angels have a Filthy Few patch that identifies the wearer as someone who has killed for the club. The Hells Angels also have a Dequiallo patch that signifies that the wearer has fought law enforcement on arrest. . One HAMC t-shirt design is a demon holding a map of Canada and within the map is the death head that is making a statement that the HAMC would control outlaw biker groups in Canada. Another t-shirt design showed the CN Tower with the name Hells Angels Ontario, the death head, and the words "The First Wave" over top. In this, the Hells Angels were making a statement that they were going to establish themselves in Ontario. A HAMC poster design showed Canada and the maple leaf, with the death head swooping across the country, demonstrating the Hells Angels moving across the country.
Within the HAMC, there is concern about the return of colours confiscated by law enforcement, other clubs having logos resembling that of the Hells Angels, and non-members having paraphernalia bearing the name Hells Angels. The Hells Angels go to extreme lengths to make sure only its members wear its name and logo. They do not want outsiders portraying themselves as members of the organization and diminishing its reputation. As well, a trademark must be monitored by its owner to protect against its loss. The Hells Angels protect their name and logo in the same way around the world. The HAMC has trademarked its name and the death head logo, The HAMC Corporation is the registered owner of those trademarks. Each chapter in Canada must sign a licensing agreement with the HAMC Corporation, permitting its members to use the trademarks in accordance with the rules and policies of the HAMC. The agreement is sent out from and returned to Oakland. The trademarks have been registered in various countries, including the United States and Canada. There is a member to whom all Canadian chapters must send a fee of $200 per year in relation to the trademarks. He in turn sends the money to the Oakland mother chapter. Every person who is part of the Hells Angels organization worldwide must pay $20 per year toward the cost of, registering the trademarks. Trademark infractions are reported to the “mother” chapter.
Although, the HAMC makes money from the sale of support merchandise or "biker gear"; nothing is sold that bears the death head or the name Hells Angels. While support merchandise is sold, nothing bearing the death head logo or the name is offered for sale to a non-member. The HAMC resorts to a range of methods to prevent non-members from using the club name or logo, ranging from legal proceedings based on trademark infringement, to force. The HAMC preoccupation with protecting its name and logo is driven by a desire to avoid the dilution of its reputation. That reputation provides indirect pecuniary advantages to members. If outsiders who did not meet the HAMC standard were able to use the name and logo to portray themselves as part of the club, the organization's reputation for ferocity, and its economic benefit to its members, would be diminished.
The banking system is known as "the Table". All chapters of the HAMC in Quebec purchased cocaine and hashish through the Table. Drugs were supplied on credit, and payment provided later. The banking system involved is elaborate and received payments for drug sales, made payments for large-scale drug purchases, and paid profits to different individuals. Internally, they referred to drug purchasers by code names and numbers.
The detailed electronic accounting records tracked cocaine and hashish transactions totaling millions of dollars. The electronic accounting records also included information about drug suppliers and everything was well tracked. It was even suggested that any money owed was expected to be paid by cheque, so that a paper trail could be created to prove where the money came from.
Although there is a structure with regional, national and world levels, this is for administrative purposes only. Chapters, regions and countries do not operate as autonomous entities. The organization strictly maintains written and unwritten rules. Many of them have nothing to do with motorcycling. Some of the written rules are antithetical to conventional organizations. The unwritten rules primarily govern criminal activities of members. The rules are enforced by sanctions for their breach, which can include physical beatings and even death.
Additionally, the organization's scrupulous screening and graduated membership processes enable the HAMC to resist infiltration by law enforcement. The evidence shows that all chapters adhere to the same membership process and have the same security concerns as chapters elsewhere in Canada and around the world. The organization provides an umbrella under which members can network and form partnerships with "brothers" who can be trusted. The organization fosters a high degree of communication and cooperation among its members, through regular meetings and a system of information sharing.
As the Hells Angels organization presently exists, one of its main purposes is the facilitation of serious criminal offences that afford a material benefit to its members. The extensive involvement in crime, as indicated by convictions of its leading members in the United States and elsewhere could not be just by chance. Affiliation with the HAMC provides a member with opportunities for criminal activity at a level that would not otherwise be possible. Membership provides networking with individuals involved in criminal activity, and the ability to form business enterprises on a national and sometimes international basis. Membership also provides an entry into criminal activity in that the member has been certified as safe to deal with. Further, the organization is a form of intimidation, which is very important for a member's survival in the predatory world of criminal activities.
The HAMC facilitates the commission of serious criminal offences by its members in three ways. The first is its deliberately fostered reputation for violence. That reputation has two elements: the willingness of its members to engage in violent and aggressive acts, and the retaliatory power of the organization if one of its members is attacked. The organization administers its reputation as an economic asset, refining it when necessary to ensure that it is an advantage and not an obstacle to the ability of its members to pursue illicit economic activity such as drug trafficking. The evidence demonstrates that members use the reputation as a business tool, drawing on it to achieve direct or indirect economic benefit, but lowering their profile when necessary to sidestep unwanted public scrutiny.
The second way in which the HAMC facilitates the commission of serious criminal offences by its members is by its strategic territorial expansion in Canada for the economic benefit of its membership, and to the detriment of its competitors. The evidence shows that the organization's purpose in procuring additional territories was to further criminal activities by its members, particularly drug trafficking. The principal mechanism used to acquire new territories in Canada has been the assimilation of existing outlaw motorcycle clubs. The evidence establishes that securing control over Ontario and its lucrative drug markets was a longstanding goal of the HAMC. When the war with the RM in Quebec over drug trafficking territories in the Montreal area led that group to align itself with the Bandidos and open chapters in Ontario, the HAMC determined to assimilate the existing major clubs in Ontario, and squeeze out rivals such as the RM, to take control of the province. That plan was completed successfully by the HAMC.
The third way in which the HAMC facilitates the commission of serious criminal offences by its members is through its operational structure and basic tenets. The structure of the organization is centralized and para-military, enabling it to maintain internal discipline over its membership. It assigns territories to its chapters, within which members may carry out illicit activities.
The characteristics of outlaw motorcycle clubs make police infiltration virtually impossible. So far no police officer has ever infiltrated the Hells Angels or their puppet clubs. It is too dangerous, and takes too much time given the membership structure and requirements.