Busts, raid deflate ‘Wheels of Soul’ bike gang

During a motorcycle gang meeting in 2009, James “Animal” Smith told fellow outlaw members of West Philly-based Wheels of Soul that if “there is someone out there without the Wheel and Wing, you can consider them your enemy until proven differently.”

The ruthless tone to the speech by Smith, a Philadelphia resident, was included in an indictment that ended in federal agents’ raid on the nationally notorious biker club’s headquarters yesterday at 61st and Market streets and coincided with 18 members’ arrests.

Smith was the sole member from Philadelphia indicted in connection with various racketeering and murder charges stemming mostly from violence in St. Louis and Chicago.

Wheels of Soul is not obscure in biker circles, but rather a large structured enterprise of members, with both regional and national hierarchy. Calling themselves “one percenters” — a reference to the claim that 99 percent of motorcyclists are law abiding citizens — Wheels is one of the rare multiethnic clubs, according to a documentarian who filmed them a decade ago.

The investigation into alleged violence, racketeering and drug dealing took two years.

“The significance of today’s arrests is not just the fact that these members are considered the most violent of the group,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Dennis L. Baker said. “Today’s nationwide takedown has disrupted and dismantled the Wheels of Soul Motorcycle Outlaw Gang by targeting the senior leaders.”

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