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Trying to understand the ecosystem of Northeast Ohio’s outlaw motorcycle clubs was like keeping track of high school gossip. The big national gangs like Hells Angels and Pagans and Outlaws have multiple chapters; some have more influence than others. Sometimes there are rivalries between gangs. Outlaw motorcycle clubs, which have been around since the 1940s, are organized and hierarchical, so there can also be cliques, clashes, and bad blood between members of the same chapter. On top of all that, each chapter has affiliates, or support clubs — meaning other motorcycle gangs that they get along with or do business with but have less sway.

Because the Aryan Brotherhood sanctioned the Order of Blood Motorcycle Club, we came onto the scene with built-in strength. My guys and I weren’t official Aryan Brotherhood members, but Snow told me he considered us true “brothers,” and if anyone asked, we were part of the “brand.”

Power has a way of attracting trouble. One day, Aryan Jim, dumbass that he was, went to a Cleveland Hells Angels bar, rode inside, and did a burnout in the middle of the room. The rest of us didn’t know about the incident because AJ had gotten away and kept it to himself. But I got a call from a ticked-off Willie Beard, who told me all about it.

A few days later, we had to make an appearance at these drag races the Hells Angels put on at a speedway south of Cleveland. It was an annual event for them to let everyone know who ran the show in the region. We were independent and not under the grip of the Hells Angels, but we had to show up to let everyone know we were for real.

When we got there, the Hells Angels were posted up around the drag strip, waiting for AJ and the rest of us. We pulled in, made sure AJ was out of sight, and got off our bikes. JB — the guy who’d recently done more than two decades for murder — and I walked over to Johnny Merchant, the Cleveland Hells Angels’ sergeant-at-arms, and another Cleveland HA everyone called Face, a rough-looking dock worker whose mug was hidden behind a beard and glasses.

Merchant said, “Hey, Junkyard, where’s AJ? We’re gonna beat his ass.”

JB piped up: “You guys ain’t touching none of our guys.”

JB and I walked over to Snow, who, in his man-of-few-words way, told us to walk back over and let the Hells Angels know that if they touched one of our members, we’d “green-light everybody in the Ohio prison system who wears the HA patch.” Green-lighting means ordering them killed. Now, as you might have heard, the Hells Angels didn’t get their reputation by taking a lot of shit, especially from the Aryan Brotherhood. But these dudes knew about Snow’s legendary prison riot. If he could pull that off from solitary, he could have a few Hells Angels whacked. We went back over and spent a few minutes hashing things out, and then Merchant reluctantly agreed. “Okay, we’re good,” he said. “But seriously, you guys have to do something about AJ.”

So afterward, Snow walked over to AJ and said, “Gimme your patch. You’re out.” AJ tried to argue, but all Snow had to say was, “Are we going to have a problem?” That was code for, “Am I going to have to kill you here and now?” AJ handed over his patch. He was out.

The way we handled the incident earned the respect of the Hells Angels. But they tested us again a few hours later, after the other clubs had cleared out. The Hells Angels wanted us to hang back and talk some more. One of their guys took out a shotgun and put it on the bench seat of a parked pickup with an open door so it was pointing in our direction. Then he started putting on black leather gloves. I said to my guys, “If that son of a bitch picks that thing up and aims at us, we’re killing everybody who doesn’t have our patch.” There were more of us in that area of the speedway than there were Hells Angels. We surrounded three of them to let the would-be shooter know that if one of us got shot, his three guys would die immediately. I guess they respected that maneuver, too, because Face and Merchant called off their goon.

What felt like a near-death experience turned out to be a game changer. Right after that event, all of us agreed it was time to grow the Order of Blood Motorcycle Club. The Aryan Brotherhood liked the idea because they wanted power and money from the weapons and drug trades. My guys and I were onboard because it’d get us more access to more violent felons who were buying, selling, carrying, and maybe even using firearms and explosives. The plan was to split the club in two. Snow and Paulie would start a new chapter over in Akron; JB would be president, and they’d recruit more Aryan Brotherhood guys. I’d stay at our home chapter near Geneva-on-the-Lake with my guys. We’d also recruit new members — meaning other undercovers.

* * *

And I’d be president.

Nothing attracts criminals and lowlifes more than other criminals and lowlifes. One of the people who was most drawn to us was Willie Beard, the Lake East Hells Angels member who told me about the stunt that got AJ kicked out of the Order of Blood. Beard’s big thing was poisonous snakes. I’m talking hundreds of snakes. The first time I saw them was when he’d invited Shorty, Nazi Jim, and me to shoot guns on his property. Beard said, “Come to the basement. I wanna show you something.” That’s not what an undercover agent ever wants to hear. We got down there, and no kidding, the floor was covered in plastic. Shorty and I looked at each other like, “I guess this is it.” I never thought I’d be so relieved to see a cobra.

Beard seemed as committed to us as he was to his own club. It got to the point where he didn’t just want to befriend us, he wanted us to be to the “charter” of the Hells Angels — basically a chapter in Erie, Pennsylvania. I said, “Why would we wanna be Hells Angels when there’s nothing better than being an AB?” He just looked at me and smiled.

As we built our reputation, we were growing, recruiting new Aryan Brotherhood members, and bringing in even more undercovers from our task force. We were doing criminal business with more and more biker-underworld guys each week. Our main target was the Hells Angels, but over the course of the case, we bought more than 60 firearms, including 13 machine guns, 35 handguns, four shotguns, and eight rifles from various motorcycle gangs and members. We had a female associate of the Aryan Brotherhood make straw purchases for us from a federally licensed firearms dealer who knowingly broke federal law.

My guys even bought a gun from David Snow. JB provided me a firearm when I told him I needed to “do some dirt” and didn’t bat an eye when I told him I may have to get rid of it “because it may have body on it.” Besides the weapons, we also bought significant amounts of meth, cocaine, crack, and prescription drugs from a range of outlaw biker gang members.

* * *

Our network grew. Word spread among Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania chapters of the Pagans, a major East Coast outlaw club, that we knew how to handle ourselves. Soon enough, Ivan, one of our original undercovers, bought cocaine from a high-ranking member of the their Youngstown chapter. As their relationship solidified, I was befriending the Youngstown chapter president, a dude named Snake. Over in western Pennsylvania, two more ATF agents and two Pennsylvania state troopers had officially started the third chapter of the Order of Blood, in the town of Sharon. We were less than a year into the case, but we now had 18 undercovers in two states.

Every now and then, a non-biker would show up on the scene, usually by way of the Aryan Brotherhood. One was a buddy of David Snow’s named William “Wild Bill” Millsaps Jr., a violent guy, late thirties or early forties, who’d recently gotten out of the joint. He was a heavy drug user, always armed. The first time I met him was at a strip club in Alliance, Ohio. We were all sitting around, talking about the wonderful world of crime, and Wild Bill asked us the question every undercover wants to hear: “What are you guys lookin’ for?”

Two hours later, I was riding shotgun in Wild Bill’s truck, while Shorty, another undercover named Roach, and Ivan were following us in an old Cadillac. We pulled up to a nice house in suburban Akron. I was thinking, There ain’t no motherfucking way Wild Bill lives here. But we walked in, and Wild Bill looked at an older guy on the couch and said, “Hey, Dad. These are my brothers.”

Bill told us to come upstairs. As we left the living room, his dad said, “You better hurry up — your mother’s gonna be home soon.” He seemed to know exactly what his son was up to.

Up in his bedroom, Wild Bill showed us a big pile of guns — pistols, rifles. He said, “How many do you want?”

I said, “Shit, we’ll take it all.”

“I’ll put them in this duffel bag so you guys can take them out, right?”

In the meantime, we heard the door open downstairs. His mom was home.

We bumped into her at the bottom of the steps, and she was like June Cleaver. “Hey, boys. Can we get you anything to eat or drink?”

I didn’t know Wild Bill’s last name, so the only thing I could think of to say was, “No thank you … Mrs. Wild Bill.” I felt like I was 10 years old. Except that I had a duffel bag full of weapons. It was one of the weirdest experiences of my life.

The next stop was Wild Bill’s house, where he lived, a shithole filled with motorcycle parts. He told us to hang out while he went and scored us some meth. He left his gun on a table; Wild Bill knew if he got caught with it, he’d get serious time. When he pulled away from the house, we took down the serial numbers on the gun, scoured his whole place, then sat back down and hung out till he came back with the dope.

A few minutes after he got home and sold us the meth, he said, “Hey. Let me show you something in the basement.”

I don’t know what it is with these guys about wanting to show us their basements. But Ivan, Shorty, Roach, and I followed him down there. There was this crusty old refrigerator with about 400 pounds of freezer ice on it. He went over and wrestled with the handle. I was thinking, “Is there gonna be a body in there or what?”

Wild Bill finally got the door open, but none of us could see inside from where we were standing. Then he looked at Shorty and, no shit, he said, “Hey, Shorty, ya like chicken wings?”

Shorty said, “Uh, yeah, man, I like chicken wings.”

Wild Bill pulled out a big bag of frozen wings that was covered in old ice, handed the bag to Shorty, and said, “Here you go, brother. I like you. I want you to have this.”

Later, Shorty tossed the bag out the window of the Caddy.

I said, “Shorty, what are you thinking, man?”

“What am I supposed to do with a bag of old frozen chicken wings?”

“Hell if I know, but you can’t toss them on the road he drives down every day. What if he sees them?”

So I pulled over and backed up. Shorty went searching in the dark for the wings.

* * *

I still have no idea how much time passed while I waited for Willie Beard to say something in his SUV that fateful day. When people say “it felt like a lifetime,” they’re not exaggerating. I was still sitting there, holding the photos of my fellow undercover ATF agents in my left hand. A blizzard of thoughts swirled in my head. If he reaches for his gun, can I get to mine in time? Does my cover team have a clear view of us? Am I gonna see my wife and kids again? I was aware of everything — the gray November sky, the oblivious people walking in and out of McDonald’s — and at the same time my own response to the pictures echoed through my brain: “I’ve never seen these dudes before.”

Willie Beard finally spoke. “That’s what we thought. We’ve had this picture for a couple weeks, and we had a meeting about it.”

Beard told me that one set of copies of the pictures had been sent to the Hells Angels’ Cleveland chapter, and another was sent to the Lake East Hells Angels. I ran some quick logic: If they had the pictures for two weeks and hadn’t killed us yet, and Beard didn’t kill me just now, then the investigation probably wasn’t compromised. He told me to be careful about informants and undercovers. Looking back, I don’t think he suspected me at all. I think he was looking out for me.

Thing is, I knew about the photos. After an ATF infiltration a few years earlier — a massive case with dozens of arrests and convictions — the pictures got circulated to all the outlaw motorcycle clubs around the country. We’d recovered a lot of them from biker clubhouses over time, but some were still circulating. Maybe that’s why I was able to keep my cool.

My supervisors decided to shut it down. One of them had been on edge through the whole investigation, so he was able to use the confrontation with Beard to justify ending it. But we couldn’t just stop in our tracks. We needed time to get warrants and affidavits in order, so we kept at it for a couple more months.

Bailey and Nazi Jim were instructed to lay low. I used my fictional kids and baby mama down in Florida to get away for a bit. While I was out of town, the other guys started spreading the word about my fictional death: “Junkyard had a brain aneurysm and died on the trip.” When people said they wanted to come to the funeral, my guys told them that it was too late. They said my kids’ mom hadn’t called anyone until after the funeral.

* * *

RIP, Junkyard.

On June 23, 2005, 16 months after I’d assumed my most ridiculous undercover handle, 150 federal and local law enforcement officers in Ohio and Pennsylvania did their first round of raids and searches. All told, charges were brought against 59 individuals, many of them violent felons, on federal and state weapons and drug trafficking charges, identity theft, money laundering, burglary, and felony assault. The case, expertly managed by ATF Special Agents Brian Kolar and Chad Foreman, even led to a murder conviction.

My undercover team and I weren’t there for the actual raids or arrests. It would have been way too risky; those guys might have opened fire rather than get arrested by the undercover cops who’d duped them. But we were there to help our two case agents with interviews and evidence. We didn’t see Snow after the arrests; he went to prison and wound up getting killed inside by a fellow member of the Aryan Brotherhood who nearly sawed off his head. JB died of heart failure in county jail. Wild Bill went back to prison. Somehow we missed a gun at Paulie’s place; so he only got probation on a drug charge.

The only person we made a point to see after the fact was Aryan Jim, who was about to get a nine-year sentence, during which time he’d probably be kicked out of the Brotherhood for letting so many undercovers into the organization. When we saw him, he was being questioned in a room at Eastlake Police Department shortly after the raids. One of the officers opened the door to let us in. Nazi Jim was with me. So were Ivan and Shorty, three of the guys I’d brought to the bar on St. Paddy’s Day more than a year earlier when we’d first agreed to start the club.

When we walked in, AJ was sitting at the end of a big table. He looked at us, gathered his thoughts, shook his head, and said just three words:

“All of you?”
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