The club was formed in 1966 in San Leon, Texas by Donald Eugene Chambers. Many people think Chambers named his club the Bandidos after seeing a TV commercial with the Frito Bandito raising hell to sell Fritos corn chips. This is not true, as the cartoon came out in 1968 (although he did adopt an obese machete- and pistol-wielding Mexican Bandido as the center patch for the club's colors). Don Chambers, having served in Vietnam as a Marine, modeled the clubs colors after the scarlet and gold motif of the United States Marine Corps. After Chambers' presidency ended due to his conviction for murder in El Paso, Texas, Ronnie Hodge was elevated to president.
The Bandidos has over 90 chapters in the United States, 90 chapters in Europe, and another 17 in Australia and Southeast Asia. In the United States, the club is concentrated in Texas, but extends into Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Washington State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and several other states. The Rock Machine Motorcycle club in Canada merged with the Bandidos in 2000, and there is a chapter in Toronto, Ontario. The Bandidos are also found in Australia; aside from the non-locale-specific Nomads chapter, the chapters are located in Adelaide, Ballarat, Brisbane City, Cairns, Sydney Downtown, Geelong, Gold Coast, Hunter Valley, Ipswich City, Mid North Coast, Mid State, Northside, Noosa, North Victoria, Sunshine Coast, Sydney, and Toowoomba, and were acquired with much bloodletting. In recent years the club has also expanded heavily into Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, France and the Channel Islands. Additionally, it is looking into setting up shop in Russia and Eastern Europe and also in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The Bandidos are organized by local chapters, with state and regional officers, as well as a national chapter made up of four regional vice presidents and a national president.
Like the Hell's Angels, the Bandidos also have a number of puppet, or so-called "support," clubs, who are used as proxies for both legal and illegal activities. These groups usually wear reverse colors (gold border with red background rather than the Bandidos' red-border–and–gold background). They also commonly wear a unique patch consisting of a round patch in Bandidos colors on the front upper left of the colors (vest), as worn by the member. Most of these clubs are regional.
Established: 1966 in San Leon, Texas, United States
Founder: Donald Eugene Chambers
Years active: 1966-present
Territory: Chapters in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand and the United States
Ethnicity: White and Hispanic
Membership: 2,000-2,500 full-patch members
Criminal activities: Drug dealing, arms dealing, extortion, murder, money laundering
Allies: Mongols, Outlaws and Vagos
Rivals: Comancheros, Hells Angels, and Sons of Silence
Members’ Involvement with Crime
In November, 2006, Glenn Merritt of the Bellingham, Washington chapter was sentenced to four years in prison for drug possession and trafficking in stolen property. A total of 32 members were indicted in the associated investigation, on charges including conspiracy, witness tampering, and various drug and gun violations. Eighteen of those plead guilty. In October, 2006, George Wegers, then Bandidos' international president, plead guilty and received a two-year sentence for conspiracy to engage in racketeering.
On 16 August 2004, a passer-by on Interstate 10 flagged down an officer after finding Robert Quiroga, International Boxing Federation Super flyweight champion from 1990 to 1993, lying next to his car. Quiroga had been stabbed multiple times. Richard Merla, a member of the Bandidos, was arrested in 2006 for the killing, pleaded no contest to murdering Quiroga in 2007, and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. "I don't regret it. I don't have no remorse. I don't feel sorry for him and his family. I don't and I mean that," Merla admits. In regards to the senseless murder of Robert Quiroga, the Bandidos Motorcycle Club denounced any involvement in the crime, stating that Merla's actions were his own, and not those of the Club. Merla was removed from the Club due to his actions.
In March 2006 police in Austin, Texas announced that the Bandidos were the prime suspects in the March 18, 2006 slaying of a 44-year-old local motorcyclist named Anthony Benesh. Benesh, who had been trying to start an Austin chapter of the Hells Angels, was shot in the head by an unseen sniper, as he was leaving a North Austin restaurant with his girlfriend and two children. Police said that Benesh was flanked by other people and the shooter used only one bullet, fired at a distance from a high-powered rifle. The murder occurred on the same weekend as the annual Bandidos MC "Birthday Party" in Southeast Texas, marking the 40th anniversary of the club's 1966 founding. According to police, in the days before his murder, Benesh had been receiving telephone calls from Bandidos telling him to stop wearing a vest that displayed Hells Angels patches.
A turf and drug war between the Hells Angels and the Bandidos, known as the "Great Nordic Biker War" raged from 1994 until 1997. It resulted in 11 murders, 74 attempted murders, and 96 wounded members of the involved biker clubs. In Denmark a law was passed in response to the biker war that banned biker clubs from owning or renting property for their club activities. The law was later repealed on constitutional grounds.
On January 14, 2009, the Bandidos Sweden President, Mehdi Seyyed, was sentenced to nine years in prison for two counts of attempted murder. He bombed two cars in Gothenburg, in September 2006, with hand grenades, in acts of revenge as the victims had previously testified against him. Four other Bandidos members received shorter sentences for their involvement in the attacks.
The Bandidos are known in Australia for their involvement in the Milperra Bikie Massacre, a shoot-out with the rival Comanchero Motorcycle Club that killed 7 people.
More recently, five Bandidos are accused of starting a blaze which destroyed the Rebels clubhouse at Albion, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia on March 27. All five faced Brisbane Magistrates Court again on June 4, 2007.
On 22 October 2008, Bandido member Ross Brand, 51 and an acquaintance were shot while walking outside the gang's Geelong clubhouse. Mr. Brand was struck in the head and died. Police have speculated that rival Rebels motorcycle gang may be responsible.
On March 24th, 2009 the Sgt. of Arms of the Bandidos Auburn chapter Mahmoud Dib was arrested and charged with firearms offences by police investigating a string of drive-by shootings in Sydney. Police found a.45 calibre semi-automatic pistol which was loaded with seven bullets. Previously Dib's residency was shot by rival bike-gang Notorious in what is believed to be an ongoing feud with the latter Parramatta based bike group and the Bandidos.
On April 8, 2006, four vehicles containing the bodies of eight murdered men were discovered in a farmer's field outside of the hamlet of Shedden, Ontario, Canada. Six of the men killed in what became known as the Shedden Massacre were believed to have been full members of the Bandidos, including the alleged president of the organization in Canada. Three of the suspects in the case are also believed to have been full members, and one a prospective member. Police described this incident as an internal cleansing of the Bandidos organization NSCC (No Surrender Crew Canada).
On June 11, 2008, two Bandidos members were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a Hells Angels member in Ibbenbüren, Germany. Reports say they drove to his Harley-Davidson shop and shot him there on May 23, 2007. After the first day of a related lawsuit on December 17, 2007, riots between the two gangs and the police had been reported.