By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - A federal jury in Missouri convicted motorcycle gang members on Friday of racketeering, murder and other crimes as part of a broad crackdown on motorcycle gang activity.
The convictions in St. Louis, following a month-long trial, come on the heels of indictments and arrests of members of other motorcycle gangs in Indiana, Michigan and California earlier this year.
An indictment unsealed in June said some members of the Wheels of Soul Outlaw Motorcycle Club murdered a rival in St. Louis in 2009, committed murders in Illinois and Ohio and were involved in drug dealing or other crimes in multiple states.
The indictment said gang members also took part in a drive-by shooting in Colorado and a stabbing during a gang fight in Chicago. Gang members used explosives, committed arson and were ordered to carry guns, hammers and knives, the indictment said.
In all, 21 Wheels of Soul members were indicted in what FBI Special Agent Dennis Baker called a "nationwide takedown" that disrupted and dismantled the group by targeting its senior leaders.
Seven of eight defendants tried in St. Louis were found guilty of conspiracy to commit racketeering, some of whom were also were convicted of murder, attempted murder and tampering with evidence. An eighth defendant was acquitted.
The other 13 members indicted had pleaded guilty before the trial, said Jan Diltz, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney.
The federal investigation targeted gang leaders considered to be particularly criminal and violent, authorities said.
The indictment alleged the gang is governed by a "Mother Chapter" in Philadelphia, with regional chapters around the country.
(Reporting By Kevin Murphy; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Cynthia Johnston and Todd Eastham)
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