hells-angels

Biker Gangs

The Hell’s Angels

After WWII, thousands of disaffected US ex-servicemen banded together in gangs and roamed the countryside on motorcycles looking for “kicks”. On July 4, 1947, bikers converged upon the town of Hollister (pop. 4,000) and let rip for four days straight. State troopers were called out, 50 were injured and Hollywood made The Wild One based on events. The next year, The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club formed in Berdoo, California, as an offshoot of The Pissed Off Bastards club based in Fontana. Under the auspices of Sonny Barger, the Angels Oakland chapter boss, the gang has spread worldwide, its name now synonymous with lawlessness and hard living.

The Pagans

The Pagans rank among the fiercest outlaw bikers in the US with around 44 chapters spread from New York down to Florida. The Pagans are rumoured to make and distribute most of the methamphetamine and PCP in the north-eastern US – about $15m worth annually. They are also said to deal in cocaine, marijuana and “killer weed” (parsley sprinkled with PCP). Pagans act as couriers, enforcers, bodyguards and hitmen for the Genovese and Gambino families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Pagan enforcers are 13 gang members called the Black T-shirt Gang. A typical Pagan hit will involve stomping on the victim followed by two shots to the back of the head from a .38 calibre Colt automatic.

The Outlaws Motorcycle Club

In 1935, McCook Outlaws Motorcycle Club was formed in Matilda’s Bar on Route 66. McCook, Illinois. Following the end of WWII, the membership grew, attracting bikers from all over the state. In 1963, the club became a member of the official “One Per Center Brotherhood of Clubs”. Since then the club has been at war with main rivals The Hell’s Angels. The feud culminated with the imprisonment of Angels’ head honcho Sonny Barger in 1988 after he attempted to blow up Outlaws members using gelignite. The gangs’ turf war continues today.

The Road Knights

Biker gangs such as this hold a high position in the New Zealand organised crime hierarchy. Based in the South Island and believed to have an affiliation with the Angels, in 1995 the gang set out to become the country’s top biker fraternity and attempted to seize control of the nation’s lucrative trade in illegal arms, prostitution and of course, drugs. Since then a war has been raging between themselves and The Epitaph Riders of Christchurch. Drive-by shootings and assassinations are now common between rival Australasian biker gangs, whose growing numbers also include The Gypsy Jokers, Highway 61, The Nomads, Satan’s Slaves, Odin’s Warriors and The Coffin Cheaters.

The Bandidos

As with many original American biker gangs, the Bandidos have spread internationally to Europe and beyond. As The Hell’s Angels have tried to control drugs and vice in Scandinavia, Estonia, Latvia and Russia, satellites of original US outfits such as The Bandidos have fought back. In October 1996, the Bandidos attacked the annual Angels’ Viking Party at their clubhouse in Copenhagen with an anti-tank missile nicked from the Swedish Army. Attacks on Bandidos and Angels have taken place in airports, clubhouses, bars and prisons. Bandido leader Uffe Larsen was ambushed and killed at Copenhagen Airport and the subsequent retaliations and counter-shootings have left dozens killed and wounded on both sides.

 

UK Street Gangs

The Aldenham Glamour Boys

They attended Aldenham Boys Club in north London and fought turf wars with the likes of the rival Highbury and Somerstown mobs. They wore imported Levi’s and silver spray-painted Doc Martens, loved Jamaican ska and became a top skinhead firm of the early Seventies. At least four members of Madness were AGB.

The Brick Lane Massif

Formed in 1979 by local Bengali and Bangladeshi youth to oppose the National Front, they are now London’s top Asian gang and have a starring role in the ever-escalating British Asian gang wars.

When Glasgow Rangers fans had the affront to invade their beloved Docks, they set upon the interlopers setting fire to anything and everything they had travelled down in.

The Bushwhackers

The famed Millwall football firm began as the youthful Half Way Liners. They then became Treatment, who wore surgical headwear on the terraces, and then evolved into F Troop. Finally, they became the extremely lethal and racially-mixed Bushwhackers, scourge of football matches countrywide.

The Cumbie

Formed in Glasgow’s Gorbals in the late Fifties by Jimmy Boyle, Willie Smith and John McCue, the gang fought with other firms such as The Skull and The Clatty Dozen to become the city’s top dogs through their liberal use of razors, hammers and the occasional bullet.

The Docks Boys

This multi-racial crew make up the vast majority of the formidable Cardiff City Soul Crew. When Glasgow Rangers fans had the affront to invade their beloved Docks, they set upon the interlopers setting fire to anything and everything they had travelled down in.

The Elephant Boys

In the Fifties, The Elephant Boys comprised some of London’s hardest families such as the Reyburns, Brindles, MacDonalds and last, but not least, the Richardsons. Former member Brian MacDonald says they supplied “the heavy mob which kept the West End gang lords in power”. The gang grew out of the squalor of the south London slums of Elephant And Castle and Berdmondsey in the early 1900s. For decades they fought long and vicious battles with Darby Sabini’s gang from Little Italy in Clerkenwell over the profitable racecourse protection rackets. Their most famous altercation occurred at the Lewes racecourse in 1936. Some 60 combatants were involved and the battle hit the headlines inspiring Graham Greene to replicate the event in Brighton Rock. Today, the descendants of many of the same families control certain aspects of life in the area.

The Vendetta Mob

The Vendetta tangled with The Coons, an East End Jewish firm led by Isaac “Darky The Coon” Bogard on September 10, 1911. Mr Justice Avery, when passing sentence on their leader Arthur Harding, stated: “The Vendetta Mob simply besieged Old Street.” He added the incident was “a riot in which some of the accused were armed with revolvers and it took place within the precincts of a court of justice.” Harding went on to later win the Military Medal for gallantry in World War 1.

 

French Gangs

The Apaches

The Apaches

Ruling Paris’ criminal underworld at the turn of the 20th Century, they began as a Bellville street gang and then grew into a major force. Members sported striped shirts and inspired the famous Apache dance sequence in the film Singing In The Rain.

The Grags

Mainly North African from the Val Fourre housing estate in Mantes-la-Jolie, Paris, the Grags fought a pitched battle with their sworn enemies from the La Cite de La Noye estate in Chanteloup in the biggest shopping complex in Paris. The encounter took place on a Saturday afternoon in February 2001 and lasted for over two hours. It involved 200 police, a battalion of the CRS riot squad and over 400 gang members.

Zazous

During the occupation of France (1940-44), a gang of pacifist youths adopted a style akin to the zoot suit to defy German clothing restrictions. Collaborationist groups like Jeunesse Populaire decided to “scalp the Zazous” and went about with clippers to cut their clothes and hair.

 

Pre 20th Century Gangs

The Bowery Boys

One of New York’s fiercest pre-Civil War gangs, The Bowery Boys were usually bouncers, butchers or mechanics, and most definitely volunteer firemen, Irish, huge and prone to stamping adversaries to death

Beginning their bank-robbing spree in 1866 at the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, MO, near Kansas City, the gang terrorised the Midwest for eight years, stealing whatever they wanted and killing those in their way

The Charlton Street Gang

Led by the excellent “Sadie the Goat”, this crew sailed the Hudson River between Manhattan and Poughkeepsie from 1869, robbing and kidnapping as they went. Sadie loved employing the headbutt, flew the Jolly Roger and was said to have made more than one victim walk the plank.

The Dead Rabbits

This lot went into battle with a dead rabbit skewered atop a pike for a standard and wore an identifying blue stripe down their trousers. One of their number, “Hell Cat Maggie”, reputedly filed her front teeth to points and wore false fingernails of sharpened brass. One brawl between The Dead Rabbits and The Bowery Boys began on July 4, 1857, and raged over ten New York City blocks for two days involving 1,000 thugs armed with guns, swords, knives and even the odd cannon or two.

Canal Street Gang

To challenge The Hip Sing – the established Tongs who have ruled New York’s Chinatown since the 1900s – these young Vietnamese immigrants allied themselves with another Vietnamese clique, the immensely powerful Born To Kill. Many of the gang members have parents who emigrated to America after the fall of Saigon. Traditionally, CSG like to use axes for killings – and usually employ them in public places for maximum effect.

The Whyos

Active until the 1890s in New York, The Whyos hung out at a Bowery boozer called “The Morgue”, where the owner bragged that his booze “was equally efficient as a beverage or embalming fluid” Whyo member “Dandy” Johnny Noland, the Beau Brummell of gangland, would not appear in public unless his hair had been properly oiled and his forelock tastefully curled. He was also known for the invention of a copper eye gouger that when attached to the thumb “performed this important office with neatness and dispatch.”

The Molasses Gang

Contemporaries of The Whyos, the Molasses Gang were led by Jimmy Dunnigan and Blind Maloney – in reality as blind as his name implies – and were in the main sneak thieves and cutpurses who distinguished themselves via a rather innovative if messy scam. They would enter a store and ask the shopkeeper to fill one of their hats with sorgh um molasses. Once the hat was full, they’d jam it over the grocer’s head. Blinded, the storekeeper would struggle to free himself while the gang emptied his till.

The James/Younger Gang

As a teenager during the American Civil War, Jesse James rode with Quantrill’s Raiders, pro-South guerrillas sabotaging Union trains and depots. At war’s end he turned to crime, enlisting brother Frank and cousin Cole Younger to form the Wild West’s most notorious outlaw gang. Beginning their bank-robbing spree in 1866 at the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, MO, near Kansas City, the gang terrorised the Midwest for eight years, stealing whatever they wanted and killing those in their way. By 1873, the gang had moved on to holding up trains with their rich pickings of company payrolls, gold shipments and wealthy passengers. Jesse quit the outlaw life in 1881 and moved to St Joseph, MO, under an assumed name but one year later was discovered and shot dead for the bounty sill on his head.

The graves of murdered members of the Uralmash Gang, one of the cty's most notorious mafia groups, in their private plot at the Northern Cemetery. A woman looking at the recent grave of gang member Alexander Kruk, surrounded by tombs of his slain comrades.

The graves of murdered members of the Uralmash Gang, one of the cty’s most notorious mafia groups, in their private plot at the Northern Cemetery.

Russian Gangs

The Uralmash Gang

They controlled the Russian province of Yekaterinburg. In 1992, war broke out with the Centrally family aided by gangs of Caucasians, and all was lost. When two of the gang’s hierarchy were killed, each had a memorial statue erected at $75,000 apiece.

The Lyubertsky Gang

A south-eastern Moscow outfit that started off as a street gang in the Seventies, but now specialises in extortion, contract killings and prostitution. In their spare time, their chosen hobby is dishing out severe beatings to hippies and punks.

The Malina

In the early Seventies, the Malina were the first wave of so-called Russian “mafia” to settle in America, led by Vyachaslev Ivankov, aka Yaponchik or “Little Japanese”. Setting up operations in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, they initially busied themselves with fuel-tax evasion and insurance fraud. The Russian mafia cells now fully operative in the US are involved in the standard drug trafficking, arms dealing and prostitution, but have also become adept at increasingly sophisticated ventures such as “internet protection racketeering”.

The Old Boys

Edward "Eddie The Butcher" Cummiskey (died August 20, 1976) was a New York mobster who served as a mentor to Jimmy Coonan, leader of the Westies.

Edward “Eddie The Butcher” Cummiskey (died August 20, 1976) was a New York mobster who served as a mentor to Jimmy Coonan, leader of the Westies.

The Westies

Undisputed lords of Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, from 1900 to the Eighties. Their most famous leader was Jimmy Coonan, inspiration for the film State of Grace, who took over in 1974. The gang killed and dismembered enemies, one victim’s head was placed on a shelf in bar and toasted by the drunken gang all night. After they were busted, Coonan and co helped bring down John Gotti.

The Oakland Sugar House Gang

Formed in Detroit shortly after WW1, their leaders were Harry Fleischer and Irving Milberg who were said to be “so tough they made Capone’s gang look like a kindergarten”. They teamed up with Sammy Cohen, aka Sammy Purple, to become the renowned and feared Purple Gang.

The Five Pointers

Along with rivals The Eastmans, they were the most formidable of the 1900s NYC gangs. Led by Paul Kelly (born Paolo Vacarelli), the gang averaged just 5ft 3ins in height, pomaded their hair, were clean-shaven, manicured and wore cologne and suits. A training ground for the Mafia, Johnny Turrio – a future boss of Chicago – Al Capone and “Lucky” Luciano all passed through.

The 28s are distinguished from internal prison rivals such as The 27s and The 26s in that they are all, to the last, raging sodomites.

The Car Barn Gang

Formed in 1911 by NYC’s most fearsome brawlers and hoodlums, they ruled 90th to 100th Streets, from Third Avenue to the East River. They erected placards saying “NOTICE – COPS KEEP OUT. No policeman will hereafter be allowed in this block. By order of THE CAR BARN GANG.” The cops took note.

South African Gangs

the-pagad

The Pagad

Responsible for the shooting and bombing on August 4, 1996 of notorious drug dealer and gang leader Rashaad Staggie in Cape Town, this clique is unique in that it is a quasi-political vigilante gang formed out of usually law-abiding Muslim South Africans.

The Numbers

“I am powerful, I am partly God,” says Mogamat Benjamin, leader of South Africa’s oldest and largest Numbers prison gang, The 28s. Benjamin is said to have killed more people than he can remember in 34 years behind bars, beheading one victim with a knife made from razor blades and cutting out the heart of another and then eating it. In doing so he apparently ingests their life force. Many gang members faces are covered in tattoos and to join one has to first commit murder. Formed in 1906 in a revolt by 28 black inmates, The 28s are distinguished from internal prison rivals such as The 27s and The 26s in that they are all, to the last, raging sodomites. New recruits become the sexual chattels of The 28s’ hierarchy and are known as ‘birds’. In South Africa’s maximum security prisons Numbers gangs control the lives of all prisoners – inmates with no gang affiliations get the hardest time, picked on by all and often denied basics like food. In the cells, the men of 26 and 27 sleep on the west side where the sun comes up and the 28s sleep on the east, because they are the “men of the night”, indulging in orgies with each other and their sex slaves.

The Ugly Cats

Formed in Cape Town in the Nineties, this Afrikaans-speaking gang struggle for lucrative protection, prostitution and drug rackets with other crews such as the 10,000 strong Hard Livings Gang and The Genuine TV Kids.

Caribbean Gangs

Yardies/Posses

In the turbulent Seventies, gangs of local Jamaican hard men were employed as muscle for many of the country’s political factions. In the 1980 election campaign, some 500 murders were blamed on such posses working for Michael Manley’s People’s National Party. Once organised, many a gang had little else to do after the elections, but continue as fully-fledged organised criminals. In the mid-Eighties they discovered an internationally desirable commodity sitting right on their doorstep – crack cocaine – and Jamaican posses soon moved abroad. The Shower Posse went into New Jersey, the Tel Aviv Posse acquainted themselves with Boston and the Dog Posse hit Philadelphia. Today, they are also firmly ensconced in the UK.

The former Indian religious sect strangled and robbed wealthy travellers, sacrificing their victims in the name of the goddess Kali. Founded in the 13th Century, the gang was eventually suppressed by the British in the late 1840s.

The SAD Posse

SAD (Search and Destroy) were a five piece Yardie firm operating in London who on May 30, 1993 ’steamed’ a blues party in search of two brothers. Unable to find them, the gang decided to rob the 100 guests, relieving them of their possessions as they fired numerous shots into the ceiling. Unfortunately, one member, Eaton Green, shot himself in the foot and was arrested. Even more disastrous was that the man in question had also been an undercover police informant for two years, his role to lure a massive Yardie gang to London as part of an ingenious police operation.

The Shower Posse

Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, this bunch earned their sobriquet via their penchant for showering their adversaries with bullets. In 1995, the posse made their presence felt in Oakland, New York, shooting it out with the rival Dog and Tel Aviv Posses at a picnic attended by some 2,000 civilians. Three were left dead; nine were wounded and later 33 guns were found abandoned on the ground.

Asian Gangs

yakuza-japanese-mafia

Quang Binh

The Vietnamese QB have operated in Berlin since the fall of The Wall in the lucrative tobacco smuggling industry. Now allied with the Chechen fraternity (favoured crime kidnapping), who provide extra clout for the Vietnamese.

The Thugs

The former Indian religious sect strangled and robbed wealthy travellers, sacrificing their victims in the name of the goddess Kali. Founded in the 13th Century, the gang was eventually suppressed by the British in the late 1840s.

The Tongs

These famed accomplices of the fictional Fu Manchu were no ancient Chinese order but a group formed in the California goldfields in 1847 to protect Chinese gambling and opium interests. They gained notoriety in New York’s Chinatown in the 1900s under Mock Duck, leader of the Hip Sing Tong. Moon-faced and overweight, Duck would stride into battle, chain mail beneath his Chinese silks, eyes closed, firing in all directions, and rarely hitting a thing.

The Wah Ching

A Chinese outfit from San Francisco that gained notoriety in 1976 by tangling with the Jo’Boys over the protection of local fireworks salesmen. Three Jo’Boys sprayed the Wah Ching HQ at The Golden Dragon restaurant with machine guns for a whole minute. Five died and 11 wounded, none of whom were gang members.

The Yakuza

Recognised as the Japanese mafia, these tough gangsters can trace their origins back to 1612 when swordsmen known as the kabuki-mono (“the crazy ones”) began plundering Japan. Nowadays they may wear suits but their game is the same.