Feds warn of outlaw biker club increase

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The FBI warned local law enforcement last month that outlaw motorcycle clubs are increasing their presence in South Florida, especially in the Keys.

And their presence has been particularly noticed at popular motorcycle events like the Peterson Poker Run, held annually throughout the island chain in September.

“We’ve seen in the last couple of years, during events like the Peterson Poker Run, an increase in biker gang participation,” said Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “We saw them riding colors with their jackets on. Historically, you haven’t seen that.”

“Colors” for motorcycle clubs generally are a three-part arrangement of patches depicting the club name and its location.

The FBI in November sent a memo to Keys law enforcement agencies stating that various motorcycle gangs are trying to gain territory in South Florida. The Outlaws, regarded as the dominant motorcycle club in the region, likely would respond by making efforts to increase its presence and influence, according to the memo.

Ramsay said the document warned of an increased incidence of motorcycle gang activity in the Keys, and that there could be “conflicts between gang members.”

“The information put out was an FYI and to be aware and mindful,” Ramsay said.

Nora Scheland, an FBI spokeswoman, declined to comment on the warning.

City of Key West Police Department Chief Donald J. Lee said that his department also received information about biker clubs would take part in the Poker Run, but he would not elaborate on which agency shared the intelligence.

“We are constantly sharing intelligence information with other law enforcement agencies, but, in the interest of public safety, do not disclose active intelligence information,” Lee said.

He also said motorcycle gang members participating in the Poker Run is not new to this year.

“As far as shared information regarding biker activity, we were made aware both before and during the Poker Run, that there was a chance biker gangs would be in attendance,” Lee said. “This is not the first year they’ve come to the Keys for Poker Run, by any means.”

Ramsay said life for motorcycle gang members has changed over the years. No longer are the organizations’ membership made up solely of men whose only job is in the club.

“It used to be that groups like the Outlaws and the Pagans were made up of guys whose sole job was being involved in criminal enterprises,” Ramsay said. “They didn’t have day jobs.”

Now, he said members have “dual rolls, dual lives. They’re trying to blend into two different societies.”

Indeed, a member of the Outlaws involved in a barroom brawl in Key West during the Poker Run in September also is a Hillsborough County firefighter.

“A lot of them are just bad guys,” Ramsay said. “But others are also firefighters or something else, riding with their friends.”

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David Goodhue
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