AG: verdict ends biker gang probe

Oregon's leading law enforcement official says the February conviction of a Grants Pass-based outlaw motorcycle gang member has brought a successful end to a three-year investigation and prosecution.

Richard Coelho, 52, was sentenced to 26 months in prison after being convicted on charges of coercion and unlawful use of a weapon. Coelho was convicted by a Josephine County jury in February, the final case in a multi-year prosecution of the North Valley Chapter of the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Club.

Six other members of the Vagos have been convicted by the Oregon Department of Justice as part of the case. The charges stem from two incidents in 2007, one in which the Vagos forced another member out of the gang, then attempted to rob him of his motorcycle, and another in which Coelho chased two individuals with a sawed-off shotgun.

"Outlaw motorcycle gangs pose a major threat to public safety," said Attorney General John Kroger. "This case put a major dent in outlaw motorcycle gang activity in Southern Oregon."

The other Vagos gang members who were prosecuted include Chris Jorgenson, 43, who was sentenced to 70 months in prison for robbery, coercion and burglary; Chris Church, 44, who was sentenced to 70 months in prison for kidnapping and coercion (two counts); Gary Jones, 63, who was sentenced to probation for coercion; and James Lloyd, 52, who was convicted at trial and sentenced to probation for robbery and coercion. Jack Sanders, 49, and Bob Moore, 56, who were each convicted of coercion (two counts), have not yet been sentenced.

Testimony established that the Vagos members considered themselves a 1 percent club, a reference to a 1960s claim that 99 percent of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens, but the last 1 percent are outlaws.

The Coelho case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant Attorneys General Michael Slauson and Scott Jackson of the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon Department of Justice. The Criminal Justice Division focuses on public corruption and government misconduct, complex drug cases, organized crime and gangs, mortgage fraud and Internet sex predators.

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