"As this case suggests, violent and criminal motorcycle gangs are not quaint vestiges of the past," said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. "Some of the defendants allegedly plied their criminal trade not in the inner city but in quiet communities like the Catskills."
Authorities said 19 Pagans and associates from New York, New Jersey, Delaware and two other states were arrested yesterday during early-morning raids by the ATF. They face a horde of charges, including murder conspiracy, assault, racketeering, drug distribution, extortion and multiple weapons offenses.
At least four locations in New Jersey were searched, along with multiple locations on Long Island and in upstate New York. Although the exact locations of the New Jersey raids were unavailable, a law-enforcement source said the home of a high-ranking Pagan was searched in Gloucester City, although the man was not charged.
Officers seized 34 weapons during the raids and one homemade grenade.
Last week, the Daily News detailed law enforcement's growing concern that the Pagans were actively recruiting in South Jersey, including Gloucester City, in light of a Hells Angels presence in the state. Officials said that undercover local, state, and federal law-enforcement officers would be in Wildwood for the Roar to the Shore last weekend, keeping an eye on the hotel the Pagans rented in town.
When the Daily News spoke with officials and bar owners in Wildwood last week, they said the Pagans usually behaved themselves there. According to the indictment, however, the leader of the Pagans' Long Island chapter, Jason "Roadblock" Blair, allegedly told fellow Pagan's in Wildwood on Sunday that it was "time to take care of business" and start killing Hells Angels.
Blair also told his men to prepare "to go to jail or be killed in the next several days or weeks," the indictment stated.
Members of the Hells Angels allegedly assaulted Blair last summer and, shortly afterward, he began to plot revenge, the indictment stated. ATF officials said that two undercover agents had infiltrated Blair's Long Island chapter and that one was so trusted, he was "patched in" and given the title of sergeant-at-arms.
Other defendants belonged to chapters in Sullivan County, N.Y., as well as Trenton, Elizabeth and Ocean County, N.J., the indictment stated. Several of the men are charged in violent beatings, including an alleged November 2009 incident in a New York bar where two men were beaten with ax handles, billiard balls and the suspects' boots.
In January, four of the defendants allegedly broke a former Pagan's ribs with a wrench in New York.
Those arrested from New Jersey include Robert "Boobie" Leonardis, 41, and Robert "Hellboy" Deronde, 46, who were both members of the Elizabeth, N.J., Pagans chapter and were charged with distribution of various drugs, including cocaine, crack, oxycodone, and methamphetamine.
Harold "Wiz" Legg, 55, of Edison, N.J., was charged with drug and weapons charges. The oldest suspect, Sergio "Cano" Cuevas, 70, of Rahway, N.J., is accused of illegally possessing firearms.
Other raids took place in Maryland and Massachusetts. Officials say more arrests are possible.