DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Washington

For Immediate Release

Friday, December 6, 2013
Jenny A. Durkan
, United States Attorney
Contact: Emily Langlie

Leader of 'Ghost Riders' Motorcycle Gang Sentenced to Prison for Illegal Weapons Possession

Felon had Explosives and a Dozen Firearms in Shed and Storage Locker

A leader of the Ghost Riders motorcycle gang in Pierce County was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to five years in prison for possession of an unregistered short-barreled shotgun and being a felon in possession of explosives, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  KARL TWILLEAGER, a/k/a “King Karl”, 66, of Spanaway, Washington, has been in custody since his property was searched on June 13, 2013 and the weapons were discovered.  The explosives were being stored for a retaliatory attack on a rival gang.  U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton imposed the sentence.

“The possession of illegal firearms and explosives by violent felons endangers a whole community,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “This defendant and his gang planned a violent attack on rivals that could have caused serious injuries or deaths.  Innocent bystanders could have been caught up in the carnage.  The very act of storing those explosives illegally in the storage locker posed risks to the community should they be stolen or ignite accidently.”

According to the plea agreement signed in September 2013, ATF agents searched a Spanaway storage locker belonging to TWILLEAGER and found more than two sticks of Emulsion explosives and four blasting caps.  They also recovered six firearms, including three rifles, two shotguns, and a handgun, as well as additional ammunition and empty ammunition magazines.  Two days later they searched TWILLEAGER’s home and a shed on the property that was used as the Ghost Riders clubhouse.  They seized multiple rounds of different calibers of ammunition, and six more firearms, including four handguns, a rifle, and a J.C. Higgins model 20 12-gauge short-barreled shotgun, with a barrel length of approximately 15.5 inches with no serial number.  TWILLEAGER was convicted of second degree murder in Grant County, Washington in 1994 and is therefore prohibited from possessing firearms and explosives.

In asking for a five year sentence, prosecutors noted that the ‘Ghost Riders’ motorcycle gang was preparing for a violent attack.  “The government believes that the gel explosives and at least some of the firearms were gathered for the purpose of a planned violent attack on ‘Uncle Sam’s Bar and Grill’ in Spanaway, known to be a favored hangout of a rival motorcycle gang, the Bandidos.  This attack was to be in retaliation for Defendant Twilleager and about eight of his “brother” Ghost Riders having been tricked and assaulted at that very location on June 2, 2012 (almost exactly a year earlier),” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), with assistance from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad, the Washington State Patrol SWAT Team, the South Sound Gang Task Force, and the Seattle Police Department, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gregory A. Gruber.

Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or



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