The alleged beating and kidnapping of a teenager in Belle Chasse last week has drawn authorities’ attention to a group of Plaquemines Parish bikers who allegedly belong to a support club for the Bandidos, a notorious worldwide outlaw motorcycle gang.
One member of the support club, the Plaquemines Parish chapter of the LA Riders, was jailed this month on unrelated drug charges, authorities said Thursday, while the group’s president and sergeant-at-arms have been accused of punching and kicking an 18-year-old last week after tying him to a chair inside a barn.
While investigators have identified only five members of the chapter, the alleged beating — during which the victim reportedly lost consciousness due to strangling — was a reminder of the violent tendencies that have kept outlaw motorcycle gangs on the radar of law enforcement for years.
Detectives in Plaquemines said they also searched the home of the chapter’s president, Gregory Blanchard, 37, and found materials commonly used to manufacture methamphetamine.
“We’ve kept our eyes on them, but they never did anything criminal until this event,” said Cmdr. Eric Becnel, a spokesman for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office. “We’re keeping tabs on them.”
Kevin Moran, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who has investigated outlaw motorcycle gangs in Louisiana, likened the LA Riders to a minor league team for the Bandidos, a group he said has retained a foothold in the state.
“They use the support clubs to do a lot of their dirty work,” Moran said of the Bandidos, adding that the groups often socialize together. “The (Bandidos) will have the support clubs carry their dope and guns for them when they ride.”
The Belle Chasse beating happened Sept. 17 in the 400 block of Walker Road, authorities said, when Blanchard joined Michael Hahn, 30, and David Bruce, 38, to confront Blanchard’s nephew about allegedly using illegal drugs.
Blanchard is accused of punching the 18-year-old in the face three times while Hahn, the local sergeant-at-arms for the LA Riders, allegedly kicked him in the stomach. Becnel said the men forced the teen into a barn and tied him to a chair, where Bruce allegedly strangled him unconscious.
Authorities said the teen, fearing for his safety, had called the Sheriff’s Office shortly before the beating, but his assailants got to him first. Bruce, a volunteer firefighter in Gretna, allegedly sought to mislead investigators by telling a deputy he was at the wrong place.
Becnel said deputies eventually found the teen in the barn, at which point the assailants claimed he had suffered a drug-induced seizure. The 18-year-old was taken to the hospital but, fearing retribution, did not report the beating to investigators until the following day.
On Sept. 19, detectives received a warrant to search Blanchard’s home and seized four firearms, including a sawed-off rifle, and a cache of materials they believe could be used to build a methamphetamine lab. Three residents of the home — Lyndsey Fannin, 33, Brandon Franklin, 19, and Amanda Blanchard, 33 — were booked on drug charges.
Gregory Blanchard and Hahn were booked with simple kidnapping, false imprisonment, second-degree battery, operating a clandestine methamphetamine lab and possession of a firearm with a controlled dangerous substance. Hahn also was booked with possession of a sawed-off rifle. Bruce was booked with second-degree battery.
Becnel said a third known member of the local LA Riders, Chance Chelette, 29, of Belle Chasse, was arrested earlier this month in an undercover drug investigation. He faces three counts of distributing marijuana and one count of distributing oxycodone.
The LA Riders were investigated by state and federal law enforcement officials a few years ago amid a broader inquiry into alleged gun and drug trafficking by members of the Bandidos. That investigation led to the prosecution of William “Benny” Creel, a former Louisiana National Guard member and a member of the Arawyns Motorcycle Club, who was convicted of lying to an ATF agent about his attendance at a meeting of LA Riders and Bandidos about who among their groups might be feeding information to law enforcement. Creel was sentenced to a year in federal prison in 2011.
The probe also led to the arrest on drug distribution charges of Johnny Dean Daigle, the former Baton Rouge chapter president of the Bandidos.
“There’s an (outlaw) biker problem in southeast Louisiana,” Moran said, “and they usually deal in a lot of drugs.”
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian .