Entire Central California Hells Angels chapter arrested in kidnapping, robbery case

Federal agents arrested six members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club on suspicion of kidnapping, first-degree robbery, making criminal threats and other charges in an early-morning raid in Kern County on Tuesday.

The arrests account for the entire Bakersfield chapter of the Hells Angels, including its president and vice president, according to authorities.

The six men arrested — all residents of Bakersfield — are also accused of false imprisonment, assault with a firearm, participating in a criminal street gang, criminal conspiracy, intimidating a witness or victim and elder abuse, according to authorities. Authorities also seized about 25 guns, ammunition, high-capacity magazines and paraphernalia for the motorcycle gang.

The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation, authorities announced in a statement, and were part of a joint operation between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Kern County Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol.

Read more: 17 Hells Angels members and associates indicted in brutal attack on Black men in San Diego

Ricardo Alvarez, 42; Armando Villasenor, 55; Joseph Soto Sr., 57; Joseph Soto Jr., 33; Joshua Zavala, 31, and John Seeger, 57, were arrested as part of the operation. A seventh suspect, 37-year-old Joshua Vaughn, was already in custody on a separate matter, authorities said.

Alvarez, Villasenor, Soto Sr., Zavala and Soto Jr. are all active members of the Bakersfield chapter of the Hells Angels, authorities said. Vaughn and Seeger are members of an affiliate, the Sons of Hell Motorcycle Club, which takes its orders from the Hells Angels, according to authorities.

The men arrested on Tuesday were booked into a Kern County jail, and the case was referred to the Kern County district attorney's office. An ATF spokesperson declined to provide any additional information because of the active investigation.

Read more: Hells Angels associates accused of racketeering, murder and intimidation, authorities say

A California judge earlier this month sentenced three Hells Angels members to life in prison for murder in aid of racketeering. Jonathan Nelson, Brian Wayne Wendt and Russell Taylor Ott were convicted in June 2022 for their roles in the murder of Hells Angels member Joel Silva in July 2014, according to court records.

Nelson, 46; and Ott, 70, were members of the Sonoma County chapter of the Hells Angels, while Wendt, 45, was president of the Fresno chapter, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Nelson, authorities say, arranged for Ott to take Silva to the Hells Angels clubhouse in Fresno. When the men arrived, Wendt shot Silva in the back of the head.

Read more: Outlaw biker clubs in Central California raided. Investigators seize 50 guns, explosive materials and drugs

Authorities in Stanislaus County also arrested four men in February and seized drugs, a stockpile of firearms and ammunition and material to make bombs as part of an investigation into outlaw motorcycle clubs in the region.

That probe began last year following acts of violence stemming from a dispute between rival Hells Angels, Salida Nomads and Mongol members, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.