Richard “Smilin’ Rick” Fabel, who presided over the Spokane, Wash., chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, has been sentenced to 71/2 years in prison after being convicted of racketeering, and ordered to pay $55,000 in restitution, mostly to Progressive Corp., for fraudulent insurance claims.
U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik issued the sentence, which exceeded the guideline range, which Lasnik determined to be between five years, three months and 61/2 years.
In June, following a 10-week trial, a jury convicted Fabel of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering — specifically, mail fraud, extortion and trafficking in stolen motorcycles.
The judge noted that while Fabel kept his distance from the most serious crimes committed by the Hells Angels’ Washington Nomads chapter — including murder — he also stocked the Spokane clubhouse with people willing to do violence. And, Lasnik found, he rewarded them for criminal behavior that enriched the organization.
Fabel was tried alongside three other current and former Hells Angels, one of whom — Rodney Rollness — was convicted of killing a Snohomish County man, Michael “Santa” Walsh. The motive was to punish Walsh for pretending to be a Hells Angel, prosecutors said, and Fabel honored Rollness and another defendant, Joshua Binder, with coveted “Filthy Few” patches signifying they had killed for the club.
The U.S. attorney’s office had recommended a 10-year sentence, $50,000 fine, $55,000 in restitution and an order that Fabel be barred from associating with Hells Angels following his release.
“For two decades, Rick Fabel’s life has been dedicated to glorifying violence and a criminal subculture,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Fabel brought together a toxic blend of sociopaths and anti-social personalities, giving their violent tendencies a place to flourish. Fabel himself extorted, robbed, and victimized numerous people.”
Lasnik did not impose a fine but ordered that Fabel stay away from other Hells Angels for at least a year.
Fabel continued to maintain his innocence and told the court he appreciated all of the support he had received.
His lawyers, who had recommended a sentence of less than three years and two years of supervised release, maintained throughout the trial that he had been unfairly targeted in an investigation based on unreliable testimony from crooks and liars.
They also argued that ordering Fabel to stay away even from club members who were not known felons would be exceptionally difficult because the club had been his life for more than 20 years. They said he came to Spokane from Anchorage, Alaska, in the mid-1990s with hopes of cleaning up the chapter and should not be held responsible for crimes committed by others.
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