72ºF

Bandidos leader appears in federal court, free on bond

The leader of the notorious Bandidos motorcycle club was ordered released on $250,000 bond Monday after a daylong detention hearing.

Prosecutors attempted to have Jeffery Pike held in jail until he can be tried on federal racketeering and extortion charges.

Federal and state authorities in Texas arrested the three highest-ranking leaders of the Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Organization last week. Pike, 60, is accused of instructing other gang members to commit murder.

Pike pleaded not guilty to federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations charges. But federal prosecutors argued he would be a threat to the community and a flight risk if he were released.

FBI agent Scott Schuster testified Monday and identified Pike as the Bandidos' sixth president since 1966. He had been president nearly 10 years.

The club has about 1,100 members in 80 chapters. Schuster testified that while Pike was president, one man was killed by Bandidos in Austin and eight Canadian Bandidos were killed in Canada. Schuster said that would not have happened without approval from leaders.

During cross-examination, Pike's attorney questioned the agent. He said that Pike has no significant criminal record and has never been charged in any of the 2006 murders.

Attorney Kent Schaffer argued repeatedly that the evidence put on by the government was pure speculation and did not address the charges against him.

"The worst they have on Jeff is he may or may not have known there was going to be fighting between the Cossacks and Bandidos, and if he did know, did he find out before the fact or after the fact?" Schaffer said.

The defense put on a series of character witnesses, including Pike's son Travis, as well as family friends and his mother-in-law, Sharon Cardaine.

"My son-in-law is a wonderful man," she told reporters afterward.

Former Houston television investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino was also called to testify. Dolcefino, now a media consultant and private investigator, said he was hired by Pike and the Bandidos to look into the Waco shootout that left one Bandido and eight Cossacks dead.

"Mr. Pike believed they were ambushed in Waco. And that the presence of law enforcement there made it clear to him there was some conspiracy between the Cossacks and police," Dolcefino said.

A prosecutor heatedly asked Dolcefino on the stand, "Would you reveal the identity of an undercover police officer investigating this organization, yes or no?"

"Depends on what I find out," Dolcefino said.

Dolcefino said outside the courtroom that he found no evidence that several bikers -- arrested at the melee and then released -- who Pike suspected of being undercover police officers were in fact police.

After hearing the evidence, U.S. Magistrate Judge John R. Froeschner ordered Pike released on $250,000 bond, including a $15,000 cash deposit.

Pike, national Vice President John Xavier Portillo and national Sergeant-at-Arms Justin Cole Forster were arrested last week on RICO and drug distribution charges.

If convicted, they face up to life in federal prison.