Undercover cop who infiltrated notorious Hells Angels for TWO YEARS lifts the lid on his wild ride inside the underbelly of the murderous biker gang

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  • Jay Dobyns, now 62, was embedded within the group between 2001 and 2003
  • He described the undercover operation as a ‘life and death experience’ 
  • The retired cop said he saw ‘that the Hells Angels were willing to kill their own’ 



A former undercover cop who infiltrated the notorious Hells Angels gang for two years has revealed what it was really like to go inside the dark underbelly of the infamous biker gang. 

Jay Dobyns, now 62, was embedded within the ‘outlaw’ biker group in Arizona between 2001 and 2003.

He described the operation as a ‘life and death experience’ during which time he saw that ‘the Hells Angels were willing to kill their own’ and ‘just how violent they can be.’

Jay, who is set to appear in A&E’s upcoming Secrets of the Hells Angels, has now spoken to FEMAIL to candidly lay bare how he caused his family an ‘immense amount of battle damage’ and was left facing death threats after his cover was finally exposed.

Jay Dobyns, now 62, was embedded within the ‘outlaw’ biker group in Arizona between 2001 and 2003
He described the operation as a ‘life and death experience’ during which time he saw that ‘the Hells Angels were willing to kill their own’ and ‘just how violent they can be.’ Pictured: Jay at the Bureau
He described the operation as a ‘life and death experience’ during which time he saw that ‘the Hells Angels were willing to kill their own’ and ‘just how violent they can be.’ Pictured: Jay undercover
Jay has now spoken to FEMAIL to candidly lay bare how he caused his family an ‘immense amount of battle damage’ and was left facing death threats after his cover was finally exposed

Jay began by explaining that he had never set out to be an undercover cop and instead had his sights set on becoming a football player.

‘I had a pretty successful college football career and I never had a Plan B. I always believed and assumed that I was going to play professional football and then when the time came for that, reality hit and the truth is I wasn’t good enough.’

But it was popular culture that ultimately set him on a new path.

‘I didn’t know what I was going to do next. At that time – this was like the mid 1980s – the television show Miami Vice was super popular and as an audience we hadn’t seen that side of law enforcement through the media.

‘All the television shows to that point had been procedurals – uniformed cops and detectives reacting to crime scenes, conducting interviews and conducting investigations.

‘Then Miami Vice comes out and its this undercover world and this plain clothes world and I wanted to be Sonny Crockett.’

Jay explained that he had ended up joining the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) because it had the ‘premier undercover program in federal law enforcement.’

‘I wanted to be a part of the best of the best in undercover and you start off taking baby steps – you don’t just jump in to a long-term deep-cover infiltration,’ he said.

Jay (pictured undercover) explained how the ATF’s investigation into the Hells Angels had started to ramp up after two ‘key events that were the cornerstones of the investigation’
Jay explained that the Hells Angels in Arizona were ‘violent’ and had been ‘operating with impunity’

‘You start off small gaining experience and knowledge to develop that tradecraft.

‘Every time you go out you get a little bit better even when you fail. Even when you make mistakes you’re getting better.

‘By the time the opportunity was presented to me for the Hells Angels infiltration I already had 15 years undercover experience under my belt.

‘I had bought guns big and small, narcotics big and small, explosives big and small. I had been the lead undercover on home invasion investigations and murder for hire cases so that lifestyle prepared me as best as you can be prepared for an opportunity like that.’

Jay explained how the ATF’s investigation into the Hells Angels had started to ramp up after two ‘key events that were the cornerstones of the investigation.’

The first was the murder of Cynthia Garcia who Jay said was ‘beaten to near death in the Hells Angels clubhouse in Massa, Arizona.’

He continued: ‘And, when she wasn’t dead yet, they stuffed her in the trunk of a car and they drove her to the desert near Apache Leap in Arizona and they cut her throat. They tried to cut her head off.’

The former cop said that the other flashpoint had been the public riot at a casino in Laughlin, Nevada, which saw the Hells Angels in a bloody clash with rival group the Mongols.

Jay explained that those two events were the ‘backbone’ for launching the investigation against the Hells Angels in Arizona who were ‘violent’ and ‘operating with impunity.’ 

One flashpoint had been the public riot at a casino in Laughlin, Nevada, which saw the Hells Angels in a bloody clash with rival group the Mongols
The notorious clash was described by news outlets at the time as a ‘bloodbath’ (aftermath pictured)

He was approached by a case agent inside the ATF who approach him about infiltrating the group.

My first reaction was, “I’m not the right guy”… but what I had going for me was that I had a criminal reputation established in our area of operations so that gave me a head start.’

Eventually, he decided to take the risk, adding: ‘I was figuring out a biker gang and the world of outlaw motorcycle groups on the fly.’

Jay explained: ‘One of the keys to success in undercover work is that you keep your cover story close to the truth so that you can present it with comfort and with confidence.

‘So I never tried to portray myself as this long-term biker. I presented myself to the Hells Angels as a gunrunner and a debt collector who was interested in being a part of their world.

‘And I let them train me as I progressed through the infiltration.’

Elaborating further, he dished: ‘It’s a very slow process in the Hells Angels world.

‘They are very paranoid and they are paranoid for legitimate, good reasons. Their paranoia keeps them out of jail, their paranoia keeps them out of prison, their paranoia keeps them from being infiltrated because when you arrive on scene, they view you as one of two things.

‘They view you first as a threat – as someone who is looking to hurt them. Then they also look at you as a victim – as someone who could eventually be taken advantage of. 

‘My job was to convince them that I was neither – I wasn’t a threat and I definitely wasn’t going to be a victim for them.’

Jay (pictured undercover) also conceded: ‘Undercover work truly is a life and death experience’
‘I presented myself to the Hells Angels as a gunrunner and a debt collector who was interested in being a part of their world,’ Jay (pictured undercover) said

Jay, who threw himself into the process, said: ‘You slowly start climbing the ladder and as you spend time around the suspects you begin to build trust and then that trust leads towards loyalty and then the loyalty in some cases leads to love.

‘But it’s a very slow, tedious process – it’s like any relationship. Those things don’t happen instantly they happen over time.’

Elsewhere, Jay said: ‘I always considered it an honor and a privilege to carry a badge and carry a gun on behalf of defending good and innocent people against predators and the Hells Angels in Arizona were predators at that time.

‘My job was to get next to bad people doing bad things to good people – and I took that very seriously.’

But it did not come without its risks.

He shared: ‘There was a point in time where my cover story had come under question by the Hells Angels and so I am in the Mesa Hells Angels clubhouse – which is the same clubhouse where Cynthia Garcia had been murdered. 

‘I knew that the Hells Angels were willing to kill their own. They murdered their own. I knew that they had a history of murdering their own members if they felt that they were being deceived or betrayed.

‘I’m in this situation where my cover story is being challenged and it is being challenged at gunpoint.

‘The doors and the windows are barricaded. I wasn’t getting out without their permission and no one was coming in to save me.

‘I fell back on all those previous events and experiences that I had had with the Hells Angels that I had had at that time to convince them that their suspicions were wrong.’

Jay (pictured undercover) shared: ‘My job was to get next to bad people doing bad things to good people – and I took that very seriously’
Jay (pictured undercover) shared: ‘My job was to get next to bad people doing bad things to good people – and I took that very seriously’
‘I carry a lot of guilt and shame for the fact that I put my career and I put my undercover assignments ahead of my wife and kids,’ Jay (pictured undercover) candidly dished

Jay conceded: ‘Undercover work truly is a life and death experience. If you make a mistake, the Hells Angels aren’t the kind of people who are… going to tell you not to come around here anymore.

‘The Hells Angels are going to drag a straight razor across your throat or hit you on the back of the head with a baseball bat.’

The operation eventually wrapped up and 36 members of the Hells Angels were arrested.

But it was at this time that Jay was revealed to be an undercover federal agent. 

‘The Hells Angels have their PHDs in violence and intimidation – and they are very very good at it,’ he stated.

‘The death and the violence threats against me and my family started to emerge. My house was burned to the ground.

‘These dudes are no nonsense. They don’t forgive and they don’t forget.’

Even now, more than 20 years later, Jay is still cautious in his day-to-day life.

‘I don’t try to hide because I am telling the truth. I’m not going to hide from the truth. But I conduct my life with concern.

‘I know what they’re capable of – I’ve seen with my own eyes how violent they can be. I’m not looking for a problem. I don’t want a problem. 

‘I didn’t set out to ruin anybody’s life. I set out to investigate a case that was my job. That is what I paid to do on behalf of the American people.’

Jay continued to work as on undercover assignments after that operation ended, adding: ‘I used all those experiences and all those things that I learned from the Hells Angels and tried to continue to put those in play in other investigations.

‘I definitely believe that I was infiltrating the Hells Angels, they were infiltrating me. It is impossible to be immersed in that lifestyle for two years and not be partially impacted by it.

‘I think that doing this job and the way I did it for as long as I did it and having this long-term deep-cover experience with the Hells Angels, I don’t know how it doesn’t change your DNA. 

‘How it doesn’t alter how you view yourself and how you view others.’

Jay, who retired in 2004, reflected: ‘I miss the people. I miss joining together with other agents and officers with a mission to try to accomplish. 

‘Do I miss having a gun held to my head? Do I miss carrying homemade bombs around? Do I miss the tension of making narcotic transactions? I don’t miss that. I miss the people.’

He also criticized the portrayals of biker gangs in modern media compared to the realities.

I think that television and movies tend to glamorize gang life and they make it appear sexy.

‘The reality of it is that it is not glamorous, it is not sexy, it is a nasty, dirty, bloody, vomit-covered scab of a life and the thing is it that when I was living that, I loved it.

‘Every day when my alarm clock went off I loved going to work and trying to figure out what’s the problem going to be today, what’s the solution going to be to the problem and how can I get better.’

The entire time that Jay was undercover he was married and had two young kids living at his real home.

Asked about how the operation impacted his family life, he admitted: ‘That’s a difficult answer but I’m going to answer honestly and transparently.

‘I carry a lot of guilt and regret and shame for the fact that I put my career and I put my undercover assignments ahead of my wife and kids.

‘Now, being removed from that, I am ashamed that I treated my family that way. I put my family through an immense amount of battle damage in order to pursue the career of undercover that I did.

‘But at least at that time I justified it to myself that people who dabble in undercover work and people who treat it as a hobby or as a gimmick end up dead.

‘You have to be on all the time. There are no breaks.’

He candidly continued: ‘As I’m investigating cases as an undercover agent, I convinced myself that I was impacting the world and making the world a safe place and at the same time I was damaging my own family.

‘I was damaging my wife and kids in the pursuit of that and that’s very hard to reconcile with.’

He continued: ‘I intentionally kept my family away from the details and the mechanics of what we were doing because there was no upside.

‘My family knew that I worked undercover and they knew that I worked this and other long-term cases but to get down in the weeds with them on the details of what is being done. All that was going to do was going to add to their anxiety and there is no upside to that.’

Jay, who is still married after 35 years and praised his wife as ‘the toughest person in the family,’ concluded: ‘My wife and my kids are way better than I ever deserved. 

‘The fact that they have put up with me and put up with the lifestyle that I forced on them and that they are still a part of my life are probably my biggest blessing.’

A&E’s Secrets of the Hells Angels which premiers on April 14 at 10pm

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