What Is the Bandidos Biker Gang? 'Mafia'-Like President Sentenced to Life in Prison

The Bandidos club was first formed in the 1960s in San Leon, Texas, and now has a worldwide membership. Its former president was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years after he was convicted of a wide range of crimes involving murder and drug-trafficking. Ina Fassbender/REUTERS

The former president of one of America's largest and most dangerous biker gangs has been sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years after being convicted of a wide array of crimes involving murder and drug-trafficking.

Jeffrey Faye Pike, 63, was the leader of Texas's Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Organization for more than a decade. His sentencing—alongside Vice President John Xavier Portillo—concluded a lengthy trial that initially sprung from the 2006 killing of Anthony Benesh, who was shot dead outside an Austin restaurant after attempting to start a Texas Chapter of the Hell's Angels.

Against Pike's claims to be a quiet family man, the prosecutors said he was leading "the mafia on two wheels." He was eventually found guilty of ordering extortions, beatings and killings of rival bikers of even members of his own gang, all conducted to "to protect the power, reputation and territory of the Bandidos enterprise."

Ex-members described how the gang would regularly go on long motorcycle runs across Texas, partly to plan and discuss its criminal activities. Pike had tried to claim that these were just "about getting your friends and your family together and just having a good time."

During the trial, it was revealed that Vice President Portillo, with Pike's approval, had declared that the Bandidos were at "war" with a rival motorcycle gang, the Cossacks. This conflict led to a number of violent encounters, including a deadly shooting at a restaurant in 2015, in Waco, Texas, which killed nine people and injured 20 more. Police reacted with an unprecedented roundup, charging 177 bikers.

Portillo was found guilty on an additional four counts and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus 20 years.

The Bandidos club was formed in the 1960s by a 36-year-old dockworker, Donald Eugene Chambers, in San Leon, Texas. They now have a worldwide membership, spanning at least 13 countries and boasting thousands of members. The Texas authorities consider them a "Tier 2" threat, placing them alongside the the Crips, the Bloods and the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. The Bandidos' motto is: "We are the people our parents warned us about."

It's not clear what the future of the gang will be following this high-profile case.

"This effort demonstrates our ongoing commitment to prevent gang violence and criminal activity from poisoning our communities. It also sends a clear message that we will relentlessly pursue and prosecute the leaders and members of these violent criminal enterprises," FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said in a statement after the original guilty verdict in May.