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Angels of Death: Inside the Bikers' Global Crime Empire

Overview

The award-winning authors of The Road to Hell: How the Biker Gangs Are Conquering Canada bring us a definitive, up-to-the-minute account of the Hells Angels and the international biker network.

Marsden and Sher explain how the expansion of America’s foremost motorcycle gang has allowed this once ragtag group of rebels, outcasts and felons to become one of the world’s most sophisticated criminal organizations. While the media has continued to toast the Hells Angels California ...

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Overview

The award-winning authors of The Road to Hell: How the Biker Gangs Are Conquering Canada bring us a definitive, up-to-the-minute account of the Hells Angels and the international biker network.

Marsden and Sher explain how the expansion of America’s foremost motorcycle gang has allowed this once ragtag group of rebels, outcasts and felons to become one of the world’s most sophisticated criminal organizations. While the media has continued to toast the Hells Angels California leader, Sonny Barger, as an American legend, the facts tell another story – they are America’s major crime export. With an estimated 2,500 full-patch members in 25 countries, the Hells Angels have inspired a global subculture of biker gangs that are among the most feared and violent underworld players.

Angels of Death takes readers to Arizona, inside the biggest American police undercover operation to infiltrate the bikers; to British Columbia where wealthy bikers dominate the organized crime pyramid; to Australia where the “bikies” shoot it out with police; to Curaçao where terrorist organizations funnel drugs to Dutch bikers; and to the streets of Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki where a murderous biker war saw rocket attacks and bombs turn Scandinavia into a war zone.

For the first time, police officers who have infiltrated biker gangs tell their secrets – revealing the challenges, fears and horrors they’ve discovered going undercover. Sher and Marsden take the reader behind the latest headlines to tell the story of how the Hells Angels became so powerful, and how the police – with only a few successes – have tried to stop them.

Excerpt from Angels of Death:

Three murderous evenings, three different continents, three faces of the Angels of death: the killing of innocents, the killing of fellow bikers, and the killing of cops.

Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of lives ruined, brains fried, bodies withered by the methamphetamines, cocaine and other drugs pushed by the bikers.

And yet while the body count kept mounting, Sonny Barger, the Californian patriarch and international leader of the Hells Angels, was being feted by the international media as he promoted his latest bestselling book. Even the usually thoughtful British press fell for the rebel Yankee. The Times called him, “affable, big-hearted, warm.”

The Independent labelled him an “American legend.”

And in many ways he is.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An action-packed read.… With Angels of Death you get taken on a long and interesting ride…. [The] writing is fast-paced, at times thrilling and never boring–altogether, a remarkable accomplishment…. Canadian readers will be relieved to find out that Marsden and Sher retell the history of this country’s bikers in a new, updated way, so page-skipping isn’t an option…. There’s so much fascinating information you won’t want to miss any of it.”
Toronto Star

Angels of Death is as contemporary as it gets. Its most recent case studies are scarcely weeks old; its intense analysis of this evil empire as current and finely tuned as a newly minted Harley chopper. The narrative is multilayered and global in scope.”
The Globe and Mail

“A couple of brave Canadian investigative journalists, William Marsden and Julian Sher, have tied together police campaigns against the bikers in America, Australia, Holland, Scandinavia and Britain, and come up with a devastating inventory of international violence and drug-running…. In what sometimes read like blood-soaked pages, the authors have built a devastating indictment of the gangs’ drug-running and racketeering across three continents, and the terrifying methods they use to protect what they see as their territories for drug distribution.”
London Daily Mail (UK)

“The veneer of civilization runs very thin, and the Trojan horse at our gates looks disturbingly like a Harley chopper.”
–The Globe and Mail

Praise for The Road to Hell: How the Biker Gangs Are Conquering Canada:

• # 1 National Bestseller
• Winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Non-Fiction Crime Book
• Finalist for the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

“An investigative tour de force. . . A riveting look inside the most powerful organized crime syndicate in Canada.” –Edmonton Journal

The Road to Hell is a triumph on several levels. . . . Sher and Marsden have managed to write an important book that moves with the power and style of a Harley Electra Glide.”
Toronto Star

“A true crime book that reads like a fiction thriller.”
The Canadian Press

“Brings into sharp focus why sophisticated out-law motorcycle gangs must be a concern for everyone, from the suburban soccer mom to the Bay Street broker.”
National Post

“The idea that the Angels are simply a fun motorcycle club is nonsense, as anyone who has ever seen these extreme Rightwing, swastika-bearing, racist, bullying hoodlums riding menacingly in packs will know...And now a couple of brave Canadian investigative journalists, William Marsden and Julian Sher, have tied together police campaigns against the bikers in America, Australia, Holland, Scandinavia and Britain, and come up with a devastating inventory of international violence and drug-running.”
Daily Mail (UK)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780676977318
  • Publisher: Random House of Canada, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Pages: 480

Meet the Author

William Marsden and Julian Sher are Montreal journalists and co-authors of The Road to Hell: How the Biker Gangs Are Conquering Canada, which was a #1 national bestseller won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime Book and was a finalist for The Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.
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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

“American ­Legend”

Hells Angels will continue to ride to the ends of the earth.
The sun never sets on a Hells Angel ­patch.
–Hells Angel Sonny ­Barger

They had not planned on beheading ­her.

But Cynthia Garcia needed to be taught a lesson. The ­forty-­four-­year-­old single mother of six had committed a fatal error. Nobody disrespects the Hells Angels, especially in their own clubhouse. In their minds, “the stupid bitch” deserved to ­die.

It was a cool fall Thursday night in Mesa, Arizona, in October 2001. Ten bikers had just returned to the Hells Angels clubhouse after one of their favourite drinking holes shut down at 1:30 a.m. But the boys were still hungry for some ­action.

The clubhouse was in a rundown part of town just east of Phoenix, on a small street lined with ­busted-­up pickups, faded brown palm trees and ­broken-­down white fences. The Mesa headquarters was prettier than most biker hangouts, which often look more like bunkers than clubhouses. The local Angels had taken care to keep up appearances. The Spanish shingles on the slanted roof were not cracked; the white stucco wall was immaculate, except for a striking logo – two big yellow Death Heads bracketing the name “Mesa” in blood red. A Death Head also adorned the black mailbox on the ­sidewalk.

The winged Death Head is the Hells Angels’ proud emblem: an angry-looking skull with a helmet and feathers streaming behind him. It’s frightening – as it’s meant to be: don’t fuck with the Angels. We’ll eat you ­alive.

Inside the clubhouse, the Angels sent out one of their eager recruits to hunt down some women. He came back with Cynthia Garcia, five foot five and weighing 120 pounds – tiny compared to most of the beefy boozers in biker leather. She started drinking with the boys and having a good time, but then things turned ­nasty.

According to a gang officer who investigated her murder, “They brought her back for some recreation, and she didn’t want to recreate. So they beat her down. She still got mouthy with them. So they threw her in the trunk of a car and finished her off out in the desert.” She was barely alive, beaten and bloody, when the three bikers who’d taken it on themselves to deal with her dragged her out of the car and threw her on her back in the sand. They stabbed her repeatedly, according to a later confession from one of the ­killers.

“I want to cut the bitch’s head off,” the confessed killer claimed one of his bikers said. But his knife was too dull to finish the decapitation, according to the same ­testimony.

A bad knife was the least of the bikers’ problems. They could not know that for one of the killers, the slaying of an innocent woman had pushed him over the edge: he would turn traitor, rat on his biker brothers and start working undercover for the police. In the end, he would help bring down not only his two fellow killers but more than forty Hells Angels from five states on murder and drug charges in the biggest federal sweep against the bikers in American ­history.

Half a world away, Don Hancock, the retired chief of the Criminal Investigations Branch in Western Australia, drove through a quiet suburban neighbourhood in Perth with his friend Lou Lewis. The two men had passed the day at the racetrack, won a bit of money and were now enjoying the serene pleasure of time well spent. As they pulled into Hancock’s driveway, a powerful bomb positioned under his seat blew Hancock out of the car, shredding his body like a rag doll and killing him instantly. His friend died soon afterwards. A cellphone had triggered the bomb, and the outlaw biker who had dialled the number assured his mate that they wouldn’t be charged for the ­call.

A year earlier, outlaw bikers had literally blown to bits a small town in Australia’s outback where Hancock had retired. The former police officer had fled but was relentlessly tracked ­down.

Australians call outlaw bikers “bikies,” but there’s nothing friendly about the apparent diminutive. The murder of Hancock would launch a massive police investigation and inspire tighter laws designed to bring the bikies under control. But it was too late. Aussie bikies, bold imitators of their American brethren, had already become the country’s first nationwide crime syndicate, dominating Australia’s ­underbelly.

Three years later and another continent away, three bodies were discovered in a stream near the town of Eicht, in the southern Netherlands. This time, all three victims were elite bikers, members of the Dutch Hells Angels Nomads chapter, and one was the chapter ­president. Nomads are often the most powerful among fully patched bikers, not restricted to operations in a specific geographic turf. But not even Nomads are always immune to insider treachery.

It was late in February 2004. All had been shot several times ­point-­blank, ­execution-­style, their assassination sparked by the theft of 293 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $11 million. But this was much more than your usual burned drug deal. The murders revealed a hitherto undisclosed story in the outlaw biker chronicles: their international ties to Colombian drug dealers and narco-­terrorists.

Police later arrested a member of the Hells Angels chapter in Curaçao, an island in the southern part of the Caribbean that is part of the Dutch Antilles. The biker flipped and informed on thirteen Hells Angels Nomads back in Holland, who were then arrested and charged with the murders of their ­leaders.

The cocaine was reportedly shipped to Amsterdam, via the Angels’ new chapter in Curaçao, from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an insurgency group labelled ­narco-­terrorists by the U.S. State Department. Police frequently compare the bikers to terrorist organizations because of their explosive violence and ­cell-­like structure, and the killings in the Netherlands revealed direct connections between the ­two.

For the first time, Dutch authorities, who had been notoriously reluctant to take on the country’s Hells Angels, the most powerful bikers in Europe, decided to act. Justice officials investigating the murders eventually charged almost the entire Nomads chapter, not just with murder and cocaine smuggling but also with being part of a criminal conspiracy. Their trial would send shock waves through the European biker ­underworld.

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