PPCSO recognition

Palo Pinto County Sheriff Brett McGuire, left, and investigator Sgt. Jay Hutchens show letters received from the U.S. Department of Justice thanking them for their help in an investigation that sent two top members of the Bandidos motorcycle gang to federal prison for life.

PALO PINTO – The Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office has received recognition from the United States Department of Justice for their contributions in a Justice Department investigation that led to the arrests and convictions of two high-ranking officers of the Bandidos motorcycle gang.

In May of 2018, former Bandidos national vice-president, John Portillo, and national president, Jeffrey Pike, were found guilty on charges that included conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, drug trafficking, assault and other charges.

The Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office became involved in the federal investigation when members of the Bandido motorcycle gang assaulted a member of the Cossacks motorcycle gang in Palo Pinto County.

The assault occurred in May 2015 at a truck stop during the height of a war between the two biker gangs. The weekend before a meeting of rival clubs outside a Waco restaurant and bar ended in a shootout that left nine people dead and 18 people injured.

The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin to all law enforcement warning of potential trouble between the warring organizations. The bulletin warned specifically of Cossacks refusing to pay Bandidos dues for operating in Texas and for wearing a patch on their vest that claimed Texas as their turf without the Bandidos' approval.

The same day the bulletin was issued, a group of Bandidos confronted a Cossacks member fueling up at a truck stop in Palo Pinto County. When the Cossacks member refused to remove the Texas patch from his vest, the Bandidos hit him in the head with a hammer and stole the patch.

The Justice Department letter sent to Palo Pinto County Sheriff Brett McGuire read, in part, “We wish to express our compliments and appreciation for the valuable contributions of you and your office in the racketeering investigation and trial of the National leadership of the Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Organization. This result would not have been possible without the efforts of you and your office.”

Sheriff McGuire credits Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Office Investigator-Sergeant Jay Hutchens for the successful investigation of the Palo Pinto County case. Sergeant Hutchens was the lead investigator for the sheriff’s office and worked with federal authorities to tie the Palo Pinto County offense into the Federal investigation. Sergeant Hutchens received individual recognition from the United States Department of Justice for his efforts on the case.

“Sergeant Hutchens did an outstanding job on this case,” McGuire said. “Sergeant Hutchens is an excellent investigator and he worked diligently to gather every scrap of information that he could find to tie the assault back to the Bandidos and to work with the Federal authorities so that they could include our case in with theirs.”

Pike, 63, of Conroe, was sentenced in September by Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra in San Antonio to life in prison plus 10 years on eight rackeeting-related crimes, including directing murder and beatings.

Portillo, 59, also of San Antonio, received two consecutive life sentences plus 20 years on 13 similar charges.

Neither are eligible for parole.

The sentences followed a nearly three-month trial that ended in May.

Jurors found Pike and Portillo guilty of conspiring to conduct the affairs of a criminal organization through racketeering acts including directing, sanctioning, approving and permitting members of the Bandidos to commit murder, attempted murder, robbery, assault, intimidation, extortion and drug trafficking. Evidence during trial revealed that in 2006, Pike and Portillo the murder of Anthony Benesh, who was attempting to start a Texas chapter of the Hells Angels.