Arrest made here after new indictments returned against top Bandidos

Published: Mar. 2, 2017 at 7:09 PM CST
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Authorities arrested four top officials of the Bandidos motorcycle gang Thursday, one of them in Central Texas, after a federal jury in San Antonio returned a second superseding indictment against the highest-ranking leaders of the gang, adding four new defendants and additional murder-related charges, federal prosecutors said.

Thursday morning, authorities arrested Bandidos National Sergeant at Arms Johnny Romo, 47, (aka “Downtown Johnny”) of San Antonio; Bandidos San Antonio Centro Chapter member Robert Romo, 45, of San Antonio; Bandidos San Antonio Centro Chapter Sergeant at Arms Jesse James Benavidez, 40, (aka “Kronic”) of San Antonio, and Bandidos San Antonio Centro Chapter member Norberto Serna, Jr., 35, (aka “Hammer”) of San Antonio for their roles in the 2006 murder of Anthony Benesh.

Johnny Romo was arrested in Waco and the other three were arrested in San Antonio.

They remained in custody Thursday night pending detention hearings next week before United States Magistrate Judge John Primomo in San Antonio.

The 12-count indictment, unsealed late Thursday afternoon in San Antonio, charges all four with one count of discharging a firearm during a murder in aid of racketeering.

Johnny Romo and Robert Romo are also charged with murder in aid of racketeering, prosecutors said.

Benesh was attempting to start a Texas Chapter of the Hell’s Angels in 2006 in Austin, but was warned by members of the Bandidos to abandon the effort, the indictment says.

Benesh ignored the warning.

The indictment charges that the four murdered him on March 18, 2006, outside an Austin restaurant “to protect the power, reputation and territory of the Bandidos enterprise.”

The new indictment includes previous federal charges filed against Bandidos National President Jeffrey Fay Pike, 61, of Conroe, and National Vice President John Xavier Portillo, 57, of San Antonio.

Portillo also faces a new charge of discharging a firearm during a murder in aid of racketeering for his role in the retaliation murder of Robert Lara in January 2002 in Atascosa County for killing one of their own, prosecutors said.

Javier Negrete, a member of the same Bandidos OMO chapter as Portillo, was killed in October 2001 outside a San Antonio bar.

Pike and Portillo are charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt or RICO) statute; one count of conspiracy to commit violent crimes in aid of racketeering or VICAR, and one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion.

Portillo is also charged with: one count of VICAR (murder); two counts of aiding and abetting VICAR (assault with a deadly weapon); one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine; one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine; and, one count of felon in possession of a firearm.

The two are accused of sanctioning and directing members of the Bandidos to carry out such acts as murder, attempted murder, robbery, assault, intimidation, extortion and drug trafficking, prosecutors said.

According to court records, the Bandidos declared it was “at war” with the rival Cossacks, and the indictment specifically alleges a number of violent acts committed by Bandidos members in furtherance of this “war,” prosecutors said.

The conflict between the two gangs is believed to have been the catalyst for the deadly May 17, 2015 shootout between rival biker gangs and law enforcement officers in which nine bikers, all of whom were members of either the Bandidos or the Cossacks, died of gunshot wounds.

Another 20 bikers were injured.

Pike is free on bond pending trial.

Portillo remains in custody.

Jury selection is currently scheduled for August 7, 2017.

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