Bandidos’ secrets spilled by ex-national ranking member

A former ranking member of the Bandidos’ national chapter testified at a racketeering trial Thurday that two ex-biker leaders led a racketeering conspiracy that included handing down orders to commit assault.

Justin Cole Forster, 33, was a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club for 10 years, from 2006 until he was arrested in January 2016 with then-national Bandidos president Jeffrey Fay Pike and vice president, John Xavier Portillo.


Six months after his arrest, Forster pleaded guilty to racketeering-related crimes and violated one of the most important rules of the group — he turned on the organization he longed to be a part of since he was 10.

Forster spent hours on the stand on the trial’s third day, explaining the inner workings of the Bandidos, its screening process, its revered vests and patches, and how the Bandidos enforces its rules and protects its territory through intimidation and violence.


He also identified members in local and national chapters who took part in the alleged conspiracy and dealt or used drugs, including Portillo. Most are not charged in the racketeering case. Forster said he rose to be a national sergeant-at-arms in March 2011, tasked with handling security at biker gatherings and meetings and enforcing discipline — even violence — on rival bikers or wayward Bandidos members.

Several marshals kept watch as Pike and Portillo watched Forster answer questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Fuchs that laid out part of the feds’ case.

Asked who is in the Bandidos, Forster said: “A bunch of guys who love to ride a motorcycle. But we’re guys who live by our way. You know, criminals.”

Forster explained it takes months or years to get into the Bandidos, which has a strict screening process requiring members who sponsor a prospect to have known that person for at least five years. Home visits are part of background checks to “make sure you are who you say you are” and to prevent police infiltration.

“We’re a criminal organization,” said Forster, who acknowledged dealing and using methamphetamine. “I mean we’re outlaws. If (police infiltrate) we’d all be in jail.”

Forster ended his day on the stand with Portillo’s lead lawyer, Mark Stevens, challenging his testimony. With his questions, Stevens tried to paint Forster as a meth addict with no credibility and with motivation to lie to get leniency for his own criminal conduct.

Stevens continues his cross-examination of Forster Friday, and Pike’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, may begin his.

Pike and Portillo are charged in a 13-count indictment with racketeering crimes that include sanctioning assaults and ordering three killings, and Forster is the first ex-member to testify in their trial, which is expected to last three months.

Forster said Pike’s orders on “club business” would filter down in a manner that made it seem like Portillo issued the directives.

“He was a buffer,” Forster said of Portillo. “He was out there to take the brunt off (Pike) and to protect him. ... In the public eye, it looked like it was (Portillo) running the club.”

Forster testified about some specific incidents in which he carried out orders for “club business.”

In 2011, Pike had decided to split the Bandidos’ Western Hemisphere chapters from the Bandidos’ international chapters in Europe and Australia. Some Bandidos in West Texas opposed the split, so Forster and Portillo were summoned to Houston, where Pike dispatched Forster and others to take care of the opponents, Forster said.

Forster said he was given money to buy “burner” cell phones, and the crew took a truck instead of motorcycles and joined with other Pike-supporting nationally ranked Bandidos in Roswell, New Mexico, where they kicked out 16 members of an El Paso chapter, and took their Bandidos vests.

“We asked them if they knew who their president was,” Forster said. “If they didn’t answer right, we took their patches, and they got beat. If they answered Jeff (Pike), they didn’t get beat.”

Later, the patch of the El Paso president was given to Pike and burned, Forster said. Shortly afterward, the Bandidos national chapter had T-shirts made that said Roswell was “One kick-ass party” to memorialize the beat-down.

In Sturgis, South Dakota, in 2012, Forster said, an Oklahoma chapter that had knocked over the motorcycle of a national chapter member and taken its seat was taught a lesson.

“We beat them up and made them ride home without seats on their bikes,” Forster said, adding that Pike and Portillo did not participate in the beatings, but witnessed them and laughed.

After his arrest in the racketeering case, Forster said other Bandidos put money in his jail commissary and the member who replaced Pike as president sent four lawyers to represent him. Forster said he turned each away, and the club stopped putting money in his commissary.

Forster also said he asked the feds to be put in the witness protection program, “because there’s no way I can live in San Antonio after this. What I did is unforgivable.”

Asked what he did, he replied, “snitching.”

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Guillermo Contreras
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