Former undercover agent recalls infiltrating the Hells Angels: ‘Dangerous game to play’ (2024)

Jay Dobyns lived a double life for two years, and it nearly cost him his life.

Now retired, Dobyns worked for theBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives(ATF), which enforces the nation’s gun laws.

From 2001 to 2003, he went undercover as he infiltrated the Hells Angels in Arizona.

He is now sharing his account in a new A&E series, “Secrets of The Hells Angels,” which examines the history of the notorious biker club.

It features new interviews with former chapter presidents, as well as law enforcement officials, undercover agents and victims.

“This infiltration had never been done before by law enforcement,” Dobyns told Fox News Digital. “Cops had never gotten under the wire of the Hells Angels in the past. All the other outlaw motorcycle gangs had been infiltrated, but the Hells Angels prided themselves on being impenetrable.

“Their mantra was that a law enforcement officer would never be able to keep up with their pace,” Dobyns shared. “A cop couldn’t run as long and as hard and as fast as their world demanded before they were able to sniff out who that infiltrator might be and then get rid of them. So, the fact that we did get inside has stood the test of time.”


The organizationhas a long history in California, dating to its founding in 1948 by returning World War II veterans in the dusty town of Fontana.

It includes a notorious incident during a Rolling Stones show in Altamont in 1969 in which a spectator was stabbed by a Hells Angel working security.

A jury later acquitted the killer, finding he acted in self-defense.

In 2011,the U.S. Department of Justicesaid the Hells Angels had as many as 2,500 members in 230 chapters in 26 countries.

According to the FBI, the Hells Angels are still listed as an outlaw motorcycle gang involved in various criminal activity, including drug trafficking.

Federal, state and local police have pursued the club for decades, infiltrating it with undercover agents, prosecuting suspects with harsh charges once reserved for the Mafia and indicting members on charges ranging from drug trafficking to mortgage fraud.

Still, the club has flourished over the years. It has gone on to open chapters worldwide and aggressively enforce its trademarks in court. It has also won high-profile acquittals and other legal battles with law enforcement.

Dobyns already had 15 years of undercover street experience when he was assigned to Operation Black Biscuit. In preparation for the assignment, Dobyns shaved his head and became “fully sleeved” with tattoos from shoulder to wrist. He also bulked himself up.

The former star football player and family man had transformed into “Jaybird” Davis, a chain-smoking,Harley-riding renegade.

“I never tried to convince the Hells Angels that I was some experienced biker because I would’ve been sniffed out immediately,” Dobyns explained. “I portrayed myself as this gangster who was trying to be part of their world. It kept my story very close to the truth. I portrayed myself as a gun runner and a debt collector, not as a biker.”

Dobyns was convincing. And it didn’t take long for him to be welcomed with open arms.

“For a group that portrays themselves to be these fun-loving rascals … they had massive amounts of internal rules and laws about what the organization’s policies are,” he recalled. “They don’t want to live by society’s rules and laws, but they have more of their own internal rules and laws than we carry as common citizens.”

The Angels have always maintained they are a club of motorcycle enthusiasts who are unfairly regarded as an organized crime syndicate because of the crimes of a few members acting independently. The club participates in charity events, such as “Toys for Tots,” motorcycle runs and blood drives.

“When we do right, nobody remembers,” the club’s website states. “When we do wrong, nobody forgets.”


Dobyns was invited to join the group only after “killing” the leader of a rival gang, the Mongols. The shooting death was staged, complete with a Hollywood makeup artist and a dead cow used to splatter the victims’ clothing with blood and brain matter.

Dobyns admitted there were moments whenhe feared for his life.

“You’re pretending to be someone that you’re not,” he said. “And the Hells Angels are uniquely paranoid. They’re paranoid for a very valid reason. That paranoia keeps them out of jail. It keeps them out of prison. It keeps them from being infiltrated. Because of that paranoia, every single thing about you is being scrutinized. How you walk, how you talk, the clothes you wear, the motorcycle you ride, how you ride it, the car you drive, where you live, the condition of where you live. Is it real?


“You can’t make a mistake in that world because a mistake means life or death.”

As Dobyns moved up, his home life was deteriorating. He recalled signing a personal check using his alter ego’s name. His wife was beginning to not recognize her spouse, who was losing himself.

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“I put a massive amount of battle damage on my wife and kids,” Dobyns admitted. “My regret, my failure, the shame that I continue to carry today is that I put my job in front of my family. At the time, I tried to justify it to myself, saying anybody who does undercover work and treats it like a hobby, treats it like a gimmick, ends up hurt or dead. You have to be all in. You have to allow that world to consume you because you’re never off.

“I had lived that role for so long that it inherited my personal life,” he added. “Putting my undercover assignment in front of my wife and kids is now probably my greatest life regret. I know I should be trying to flatter myself … but if I’m not transparent, if I’m not honest, then none of this has credibility.”


Operation Black Biscuit came to an end in 2003. According to Dobyns, the case at that point had become “almost too dangerous to survive in.”It brought 16 indictments,including charges of murder and racketeering.

Dobyns said several Angels wasted no time in seeking retribution once his identity was uncovered. “Threats poured in” to gang-rape his wife, murder his family and infect him with HIV, he said.

His house was burned down in 2008 with Dobyns’ wife and children still sleeping inside. They escaped unharmed, but the arsonist was never caught.


“The Hells Angels will kill their own when they feel like they’ve been betrayed,” said Dobyns. “When you show up as a newcomer, as a new person in their world, the Hells Angels view you as two things. They view you initially as a threat because you’re an outsider. Then they view you as a victim, someone who can be manipulated or taken advantage of. I had to prove to them that I was neither. I wasn’t a threat, and I wasn’t a victim. Ultimately, that was the challenge for two years.

“I may have signed on for this assignment, but my wife and kids didn’t,” he reflected. “They were becoming the victim of these threats, but it was too late at that point. … The Hells Angels have their Ph.D. in violence and intimidation. They’re very good at it. … They don’t forgive, and they don’t forget.”

“Those threats, although not necessarily as prevalent today as they were a few years back, I’m still cautious,” he continued. “I don’t live my life in fear. I’m not trying to hide. … I’m telling the truth. I’m not going to run or hide from the truth either.”


With more than500 undercover investigationsunder his belt spanning 20 years on the job, Dobyns retired from the ATF in 2014. In 2009, he co-wrote a memoir, “No Angel.”

Looking back at his experience, Dobyns said there’s good reason why Americans continue to be fascinated by the Hells Angels.

“They’re all likable,” he chuckled. “Those guys, in my personal experience, were pleasant to be in the presence of. … They’re dangerous and violent men, but they’re also very charming.”

“Secrets of the Hells Angels” premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Former undercover agent recalls infiltrating the Hells Angels: ‘Dangerous game to play’ (2024)


Who was the undercover agent that infiltrated the Hells Angels? ›

Dobyns joined the ATF in 1987 and was involved in more than 500 undercover operations during his 27-year career as a Special Agent. Most notably, he infiltrated the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in Arizona between 2001 and 2003 as part of Operation Black Biscuit.

What is the book about the guy who infiltrated the Hells Angels? ›

Hell's Angels: Into the Abyss documents the years in the life of Hell's Angel motorcycle club member Anthony Tait when he went from being a member of the club to being an FBI informant.

Who is the undercover agent in the Hells Angels movie? ›

Based on the true story of Jay Dobyns, the first and only federal agent to infiltrate the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, adapting Dobyns' memoir; No Angel - My Harrowing Undercover Journey to...

What is the show about the undercover cop in Hells Angels? ›

Hell's Agents

ATF agent Jay Dobyns goes undercover to infiltrate the Hells Angels. He's backed up by a female agent, Jenna Maguire, who plays the role of his 'old lady', but the dream of becoming a fully patched Hells Angel pushes Jay to the point of destruction.

Do Hells Angels kiss each other? ›

The Hells Angels, interestingly, became known for greeting one another with enthusiastic kisses on the mouth, an expression of hyper-masculine heterosexuality, the idea being that they were so manly, so straight, that they could kiss each other on the lips and it wouldn't be even a little bit gay.

Does Hells Angels still exist? ›

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (Hells Angels) The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (Hells Angels) is an OMG with between 2,000 and 2,500 members who belong to over 230 chapters in the U.S. and in 26 foreign countries.

Is Hells Angels Based on a true story? ›

'Secrets of the Hells Angels' Tells Real-Life Tales of the Country's Most Notorious Motorcycle Gang.

What TV show is based on Hells Angels? ›

"Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels" takes a deep look into the untold stories of the infamous biker gang through the words of George Christie, who presided over the Ventura chapter for 35 years.

Who is the most famous Hells Angel? ›

One of the most recognizable Hells Angels is Sonny Barger, who founded the Oakland, California chapter in the 1950s. Barger has been a central figure in the club's history and has written several books about his experiences as a member.

Who was the former leader of the Hells Angels? ›

Former Hells Angels leader reveals why he left outlaw biker club after 40 years: 'I don't miss going to prison' George Christie can recall the moment he decided to exit the Hells Angels. “I walked into the outlaw motorcycle life because it was a live and let live society,” the former club leader told Fox News Digital.

What does the 81 mean in Hells Angels? ›

In biker culture, the number 81 stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet (H) and the first letter of the alphabet (A). It is commonly used as a code for “Hell's Angels” or “HA”.

What is the movie about infiltrating the Hells Angels? ›

ATF agent Jay Dobyns infiltrates the notorious Hell's Angels motorcycle club in the midst of a deadly biker war over drug profits and territory.

What clubs are friends with Hells Angels? ›

  • Devils Choice MC, in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
  • Iron Workers MC, in the United States and Canada.
  • Red Devils MC, in nearly 20 countries.

Who was the journalist who rode with Hells Angels? ›

Hunter Stockton Thompson (July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005) was an American journalist and author. He rose to prominence with the publication of Hell's Angels (1967), a book for which he spent a year living with the Hells Angels motorcycle club to write a first-hand account of their lives and experiences.

Who were real Hells Angels on SOA? ›

Kurt Sutter, the creator of the show, enlisted the help of a real Hells Angel named David Labrava, who not only served as a technical consultant but also became a series regular. Several members of the Hells Angels, including Sonny Barger and Rusty Coones, also appeared on Sons of Anarchy in various roles.

Who was president of the Hells Angels? ›

Ralph "Sonny" Barger, President of the Hell's Angels and an unidentified member from the New York chapter standing in front of a group of Hell's... Hell's Angels in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Who was the Hells Angels rivals? ›

The Outlaws' rivalry with the Hells Angels has given rise to other phrases used by Outlaws members; namely "ADIOS" (the Spanish word for "goodbye", but in this case doubling as an acronym for "Angels Die In Outlaw States"), and "All Hells Angels must die", or "AHAMD".

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