The main target of a federal racketeering case involving bikers, debts and allegations of law enforcement corruption pleaded guilty to a single charge Tuesday.
Robert Holloway, 62, entered the plea during a hearing that was set to consider whether evidence gathered in a wiretap of his phones would be admissible at trial. The Turlock man will be sentenced in September.
Two other men, including Holloway's son, entered guilty pleas Tuesday. Brent F. Holloway, 36, also of Turlock, pleaded guilty to trafficking in stolen motorcycle parts. Anthony D. Fantacone, 68, of Boiling Springs, S.C., pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of blackmail.
Robert Holloway, a former Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy and the owner of Road Dog Cycle in Denair, admitted that he extended lines of credit to members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, and then used extortion to make them repay what they borrowed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Cullers said the remaining nine counts will be dropped as part of the plea deal. "We are pleased with the resolution," Cullers said.
Defense attorney Roger Vehrs said Tuesday's plea concludes "a very unusual kind of racketeering case." He said Holloway was charged with "damage to a reputation by extortionate means."
"How to you damage the reputation of a Hells Angel?" Vehrs said.
But Holloway admitted what he did was illegal.
"Bob said, 'Yeah, that shouldn't have happened. Now I want to get this behind me and move on with my life,' " Vehrs said.
Sentencing for all three men is set for Sept. 13 in front of U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger.
Vehrs said he and Holloway are hoping for a sentence of 51 months, or a little more than four years. With credit for time served, Holloway would be facing an additional three years in prison.
Brent Holloway faces a maximum of 10 years in prison; Fantacone's plea comes with a maximum of one year behind bars.
While Bob Holloway was the main target of the federal racketeering case, Cullers said prosecutors will prepare for trial July 21 against remaining defendants Gary Ermoian, Dave Swanson and Steven Johnson. The three men face charges of conspiracy, making false statements and perjury.
Prosectors said Bob Holloway used violence to collect debts and operated a chop shop out of Road Dog Cycle. He was arrested in July 2008 after a grand jury indicted him and 11 other men on federal racketeering charges.
As part of the plea agreement, Bob Holloway agreed to forfeit $115,000, representing his interest in Road Dog Cycle, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Brent Holloway admitted that he possessed, or helped deliver, motorcycle parts to Road Dog Cycle, "knowing that an identification number for such motor vehicle or motor vehicle part had been removed, obliterated, tampered with, or altered," the U.S. attorney's office said.
Fantacone admitted that "in exchange for the promise of future employment with Robert Holloway, he failed to report the extortionate collection of a debt against victim Richard Baptista."
Stanislaus County law enforcement, the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated Holloway for several years, tracking his movements and listening to his conversations.
Holloway opened Road Dog Cycle with son Brent after leaving the Sheriff's Department, where he served in the 1980s.
In 2001, Holloway was acquitted of murder charges. He stood trial after he confronted and killed a career criminal who tried to rob his Denair shop in 1997.
Defense attorneys said Holloway was targeted by former law enforcement colleagues who didn't like his social circle after he retired from the Sheriff's Department.
"It'd be like your mom coming over and seeing you hanging out with girls from the whorehouse," Vehrs said. "Bob is sort of a lightning rod kind of guy."
Federal investigators claimed that some of those colleagues looked the other way when Holloway was suspected in crimes.
Last year, a federal jury acquitted Raul DeLeon, an ex-Stanislaus County sheriff's captain accused of conspiring with Holloway.
Another Holloway attorney, William Osterhoudt, said in a court filing that an FBI affidavit for wiretaps in the case contained "material misstatements and omissions of crucial importance."
The affidavit claimed that sheriff's detectives didn't do a thorough job investigating an alleged 2004 carjacking involving Holloway because of the former deputy's ties to the department. Retired Assistant Sheriff Myron Larson, for whom Holloway's wife served as longtime secretary, denied it in a statement he filed with the court.
The case also involved infighting among ATF agents.
Vince Cefalu, who once supervised the case, said the investigation was driven by local law enforcement's obsession with snagging Holloway. Prosecutors and other agents said Cefalu is a disgruntled employee who was unprofessional and difficult to work with.
"It was a really unusual case, in that so many legal issues came up involving the conduct of several law enforcement officers," Vehrs said.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.