In late 2018, federal prosecutors secured a decadeslong goal of convicting the Mongols—a motorcycle club whose members had a long history of murder, assault, and other crimes—of racketeering and conspiracy.
Now, nearly four years later, the collective, which was once the most powerful biker organization on the West coast other than its archrivals, the Hells Angels, is returning to court next week to request a new trial in the wake of a recent allegation that their former president, David Santillan, was working with the government as a confidential informant, according to The New York Times.
The shocking accusation arrives after a secretly recorded video of Santillan talking to his wife about a special agent from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. In the video, Santillan mentioned that the lead agent in the RICO case, John Ciccone, had protected him over the years.
Santillan’s wife, Annie Santillan, told ABC7 that she recorded their conversation because the couple had become estranged due to his infidelity. She added that David’s mistress had been harassing her.
“I assumed it was going to be her, so we videotaped,” Annie told the station. “Because I needed evidence to show the military that they had someone having an affair with a married man.”
During the call, David, who was drunk and despondent at the time, begged for her forgiveness and said that he planned to get treatment for his drug and alcohol addictions. Then he began speaking about the A.T.F. agent.
“John told me that I have one year, one year,” David said during the call. “He’s retiring, he’s retiring. After one year he’s done and he can’t protect me, so we have to have an exit strategy.”
Annie told ABC7 that her husband was “spinning out of control” and continued to cheat on her after the phone call. So she sent the recording along with a text message to two members of the Mongols, explaining that her husband “has been working with the government.” She explained, “In other words, he is a rat.”
But in court on Monday, Annie testified that her husband has never been a confidential informant, rather she was just trying to “destroy him” by sending the text message to the Mongols. She added that she didn’t understand what David was talking about in relation to Ciccone.
“All I wanted to do was to tarnish his image,” she said. “I wanted him to feel kind of what I was feeling, the shame and embarrassment and betrayal.”
She also told the New York Times that she now feels “horrible” about disclosing their conversation. “The only thing he is guilty of is talking to John a lot and having some kind of rapport with him,” she told the newspaper.
David told the news station that he was in a “really bad place” when the video was recorded in June 2021 and that he’s never betrayed the Mongols.
“Absolutely not, unequivocally no,” he said. “I’ve never cooperated in any way, shape or form.”
When asked about what he meant by Ciccone protecting him, David said that he and the agent had a “rapport” after 25 years of dealing with one another. David claimed that he ran into Ciccone when he went to pick up some of the Mongols’ property that had been released after the trial. That’s when, he said, Ciccone told him he was retiring.
“He goes, I know you’ve been doing a bang-up job at the club, can’t protect you from this point forward,” David recounted of their conversation, according to ABC7. “I know we’ve had a rapport and I always looked out for you and you were always respectful.”
He added, “So, he gave me a heads up and that was it. That was all it was about. There was nothing nefarious about it.”
David said he was kicked out of the Mongols, which he led for nearly 13 years, after a “closed door” meeting in which he was unable to refute the accusations against him.
In court on Monday, prosecutors told Judge David O. Carter that Ciccone will testify that David was never an informant.
Joe Yanny, who is representing the Mongols, said his clients want their 2018 racketeering conviction thrown out or a new trial at the very least, due to David and Ciccone’s improper relationship during the 2018 trial.
“I think they got David in compromising situations,” Yanny told ABC7. “He was afraid, and I think he turned on his loyalty to the club to protect himself.”
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