The Outlaws are the real deal, and their day may be, like the cowboys of the old west before them, coming to a bitter end.
The club was founded by a small group of riders just outside Chicago back in 1935 and they were once immortalized for their part as the subjects of the great documentary photographer, Danny Lyon, in his book The Bikeriders. Since the club was originally established within the once-friendly confines of Matilda’s Bar on old Route 66 in McCook, Illinois, a lot of time has passed and a lot has changed in the world and inside the club.
Today, The Outlaws Indianapolis headquarters is tucked inside forbidding-looking corner building with a surveillance camera on the roof aimed at the front door.
Back then, The Outlaws were a group of working-class outsiders who liked to ride fast, drink beer and wrench on their bikes. But these days, the Feds are aiming to take down The Outlaws as hundreds of federal, state, and local coppers raided Outlaws clubhouses throughout Indiana this week.
“There is no question at all that the Outlaws will be found partying at a lower rung of Dante’s seventh level of hell. It’s simply what’s destined to happen.”
Some 41 people accused of offenses ranging from drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, witness tampering, to illegal gambling we pulled in and arrested during the sweep. Those arrested included every single member of The Outlaws Indianapolis chapter
The raids came about as a result of a year-long investigation during which federal agents managed to infiltrate the club to gather evidence. Officials say the club ran a “criminal operation that was as well-layered and sophisticated as most businesses.”
US Attorney Joe Hogsett says he’s unsure why it took authorities this long to focus on the club’s activities.
An attorney who worked for members of the club during the 1970s and 1980s was sanguine – and even a touch poetic – when he talked about his former clientele.
“Let’s assume there is something of an afterlife,” the barrister told the Indianapolis Star newspaper. “There is no question at all that the Outlaws will be found partying at a lower rung of Dante’s seventh level of hell. It’s simply what’s destined to happen.”
The Outlaws Motorcycle Club, one of the Big Five motorcycle gangs, along with the Hells Angels, the Pagans and the Bandidos, boast a total of some 2,000 to 10,000 members in chapters located in 17 US states, Germany, Canada, Belgium and Australia.
Authorities say the Outlaws currently vie with The Sons of Silence and the Cossacks for supremacy in the Indianapolis area, and they’re quick to assert that those groups are hardly the “social clubs” they portray themselves to be. The Man says all three clubs are involved in narcotics dealing, violence, racketeering and all manner of associated mayhem.
The Outlaws found themselves under the Justice Department microscope in the 1990’s when one Outlaws honcho was ventilated in Chicago while riding his bike. That shooting touched off a war between the Outlaws and the Hell’s Angels that continues, with varying degrees of intensity, to this day. The violence between the clubs includes bombings, shootings and various bar fights in taverns throughout the Midwest. The struggle led to the indictment of 17 Outlaws in Milwaukee, but eight of them took plea agreements while nine faced trial and had convictions handed down in their cases.
No less a light than U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno once called the Outlaws “one of the 15 most dangerous gangs” in America.
With their usual flair for the dramatic, the Justice Department says membership in the Outlaws is restricted to white males who ride American-manufactured motorcycles and that prospective members, after being sponsored, spend a five-year apprenticeship before then can become full-patch Outlaws. If you want to know whether or not a biker is a full-patch member, consider this; all of the gang are required to wear vest patches which state they are “Property of the Outlaws.”