A federal judge in Los Angeles has rejected an attempt by the government to seize the trademarked name and logo of the Mongols motorcycle club as part of a racketeering indictment against the gang, according to court papers obtained today.
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II wrote that he "regrettably must conclude" that prosecutors have no right to the gang's trademark, which members display as part of their "colors," or patch, because the gang itself was not named as a defendant in the 2008 indictment.
Consequently, Wright wrote, "the government has no legal right to seize its property."
The racketeering indictment charged 78 members of the gang with murder, torture and drug trafficking, and asked in count 85 that the trademark and logo -- a Genghis Khan-like figure aboard a chopper -- be forfeited.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the effort marked the first time in which the government has sought a gang's trademarks.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said there was no immediate comment on the judge's decision.
The Mongols' Web site displays the logo on its home page and promises to have an online store running soon.
The Mongols were formed in the late 1960s by a group of Latinos who had been rejected by the Hells Angels. The gang now has between 500 and 600 members, the majority of them in Southern California, according to federal prosecutors.
One of the gang's main chapters is in the northeast part of the San Fernando Valley and was the focus of a major undercover operation by the ATF that led to 54 convictions in 2000. The ATF agent who infiltrated the gang, William Queen, rose to the level of vice president of the chapter and later wrote a book about the experience, Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, that was published in 2005.
The Mongols fund their organization mostly through the sale of methamphetamine, according to the indictment, which stemmed from a three-year undercover operation called "Operation Black Rain."
Many of those charged have pleaded guilty, but most of the plea agreements in the case have been sealed, apparently for fear of retaliation by other Mongols, associates of the club or members of the Mexican Mafia, which has been known to place a "green light" -- a murder contract -- on those who cooperate with the government.
Former Mongol president Ruben "Doc" Cavazos is among those who have pleaded guilty and is set to be sentenced later this year.