I knew something was wrong the second I heard Willie Beard’s voice. For one thing, he was calling the landline; he’d never done that. For another, I’d gotten to know him over the past several months, and the dude was almost 100 percent night owl, but now he was reaching out on a Sunday afternoon.
This was December 2004 in Northeast Ohio, up near Cleveland. Beard was a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, the country’s most notorious outlaw biker gang. I was a founding member of the Order of Blood Motorcycle Club, the first biker gang ever sanctioned by the Aryan Brotherhood, the country’s most notorious prison gang. As far as Beard knew, we were associates and friends. He was right only about the first part. The guy had no idea that I was also an undercover agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), let alone that I was running an investigation involving 18 undercovers from four law enforcement agencies in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Or did he know?
That’s the question that rattled around my skull.
“Hey, Junkyard,” Beard said. “We need to talk.”
“There’s something I need to show you.”
“What is it?”
“Not on the phone,” he said. “I had my car swept for bugs. It’s clean.”
Beard told me to meet him at the McDonald’s on Interstate 90 and Route 534 and asked if I could be there in 30 minutes — except he wasn’t asking.
I said, “Yeah, sure,” hung up, and looked over at my fellow undercover agents, Shorty, Brian, and Bailey. “This. Cannot. Be good.”
We slapped together a quick plan: They’d change out of their Nazi-themed biker gear — nothing’s more conspicuous than guys wearing SS lightning bolts and swastikas — and watch us from the lot across from McDonald’s, where they’d act as my cover team. I’d carry a gun, but I wouldn’t wear a wire; for all I knew, Beard would start our little meeting by patting me down. We all agreed that if I got in the car and Beard drove off, then I was getting out whether he stopped the car or not.
I found Beard standing inside the main door, sipping coffee. He was a big guy, fit from kickboxing, though you couldn’t see it beneath the winter jacket. I don’t even think we shook hands. He just said, “Let’s go to my car,” so I followed him to the parking lot, and we got into his small SUV.
When the doors were closed, Beard reached into his coat pocket. I thought to myself, Is this guy about to off me in a Mickey D’s parking lot? My pistol was tucked into the right-side waistband of my jeans and covered by my old Carhartt work coat. I watched Beard’s hands and leaned toward him a bit in case I needed to draw my gun.
But I didn’t. Beard pulled out a small envelope that I noticed was addressed to the Lake East chapter of the Hells Angels — Beard’s chapter. He handed it to me and said, “Take a look.”
It had photocopies of two pictures. Next to one picture, someone had written, “Nazi Jim — ATF Agent.” Next to the other one: “Bailey — ATF Agent.”
I did my best to play it cool. Beard looked at me and said, “Are these dudes in your club? Is that Nazi Jim? Is that Bailey?”
I studied the picture like I meant it. That was Nazi Jim alright, and yeah, he was an ATF agent and a member of the Order of Blood Motorcycle Club. The guy labeled as Bailey was actually a different ATF agent with a similar look and build; the picture was so grainy that he’d been misidentified.