GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - FBI agents arrested 19 members of the Hells Angels after a several raids in the Carolinas including one in Gaston County, officials said.
The charges include 91 counts of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, narcotics violations, money laundering and firearm violations, agents said.
Officials said several arrest warrants were served across North and South Carolina, including at a Gaston County motorcycle club, called the Southern Gentlemen's Club.
Members of the Southern Gentlemen’s Club said they are stunned the FBI is interested in their organization.
They said they have never had any dealings with illegal guns, drugs or money.
One of the members of the group said it is not connected to the Hells Angels in any way.
He and other members said one of the men arrested Ronald, Byrum Jr., used to ride with the Southern Gentlemen, but dropped out years ago.
“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money,” said neighbor Ronnie Jenkins.
Neighbors describe the people arrested as good guys, saying the group has a reputation for collecting toys every year for needy children.
“I have been living around here for 30 years and I’ve never heard anything bad about them,” said another neighbor, Jim Occhio.
The site is one of 23 locations raided Thursday in the Carolinas as part of a federal sting. FBI officials said the two-year multi-agency investigation began with the Rock Hell City Nomad Chapter of the Hells Angels.
“Today is a special day. It is a great day for law enforcement. It is a great day for the community,” said ATF Special Agent Wayne Dixon Jr.
FBI agents seized methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, pills and about 100 firearms, including two automatic machine guns.
"The significance of the extensive and long-term investigative efforts that resulted in the arrests today represent the FBI's continuing commitment to the dismantling of organized criminal organizations,” said special agent in charge David Thomas. “By working in a joint environment with federal, state and local counterparts, we send a clear message that such pervasive criminal activities will not be tolerated."
The arrests follow a two-year investigation.
Federal agents executed a similar nationwide raid on the Outlaws club two years ago. Police in six states were involved in the coordinated raids in 2010.
Nearly 30 members, including five from the Charlotte area, were put in jail. However, a federal jury only convicted one of the bikers, who opened a chapter in Rock Hill.