Seventeen members or associates of the Pagans motorcycle gang were charged Wednesday with a host of violent crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder, as federal agents fanned out through Suffolk County and elsewhere in a move to crush the gang's attempted resurgence on Long Island and in the New York-New Jersey area, according to officials and court documents.
National and Long Island Pagans leaders were among those arrested as a result of the 21-month investigation. In addition to the murder conspiracy, which involved the longtime Pagan rivals the Hells Angels, the alleged gang members were charged with violent assaults, as well as extortion, witness tampering, distribution of cocaine and oxycodone, and weapons charges, court papers and prosecutors say.
Agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Suffolk criminal intelligence detectives arrested some suspects early Wednesday at the alleged headquarters of the Long Island Pagans, a tattoo parlor in Rocky Point. They went to seven Suffolk locations, including Holbrook.
Two federal bureau agents, posing as boyfriend and girlfriend, had infiltrated the gang, providing key evidence, according to sources familiar with the case.
The male agent rose in the ranks of the Long Island chapter, serving as secretary, treasurer and then sergeant-at-arms, the second-highest position in the local Pagans hierarchy, federal prosecutor James Miskiewicz said in a court document.
Federal prosecutors decided to close down the investigation this week after several Pagans were heard last weekend, in several meetings, plotting to murder members of the Hells Angels using homemade hand grenades, according to sources. The investigation had been planned to continue for some time, the sources said.
Jason Blair, the president of the Long Island Pagans, told others at the meetings they had to be ready "to go to jail or die," Miskiewicz said Wednesday at Blair's arraignment at federal court in Central Islip.
John "J.R." Ebeling, the former leader of the Long Island Pagans chapter, now on the national governing body of the Pagans known as the "Mother Club," also was charged with murder conspiracy, according to court papers.
Ebeling and Blair were also charged with the beating of a couple in a Suffolk bar Nov. 28.
The female of the couple in the bar, a Pagans hangout, had somehow "disrespected" Ebeling, and he ordered Blair and other Pagans present to beat "the civilians," according to Miskiewicz's court filing.
The couple was then savagely beaten with "ax handles . . . heavy leather boots . . . and billiard balls [and] were left bleeding," Miskiewicz wrote.
Ebeling, Blair and several other Pagans pleaded not guilty at the arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Arlene Lindsay. She held them without bail, ruling they were a danger to the community. Their attorneys declined to comment.
Ronald Turk, head of the New York office of the ATFE, said few of those arrested ever held jobs. "These guys really lived the outlaw motorcycle club life, come as you go and do what you want," Turk said. Members rarely wore insignia jackets in public to avoid attention from police and rival gang members. "They're not trying to stand out like they did 20 years ago," he said.
Between 1999 and 2002, more than 100 members of the Pagans - estimated to be about a quarter of the gang's national membership - were convicted in federal prosecutions on Long Island, all but eliminating the group's presence on the Island, officials said.
The Long Islanders were among those trying to rebuild the local Pagans chapter. They had not been longtime members but were friends of members arrested in the early 2000s, said sources familiar with the case. In the largest federal case, more than 70 members of the Pagans were convicted of assault charges in 2002 after they attacked a Hells Angels gathering at the Vanderbilt catering hall in Plainview. At the time, the Hells Angels were running what they called a Hell-Raisers ball.
The Pagans were sentenced to up to 78 months in prison as a result of that incident - which left one Pagan dead and nine injured.
Murder charges were dropped against the Hells Angel accused of killing the Pagan after the Nassau County district attorney's office said it determined the suspect was acting in self-defense.
The Rocky Point tattoo parlor was the epicenter of much of the chapter's activities, and frequently hosted Pagan members from across the Northeast, ATFE officials said. Pagan chapters are primarily in the Mid-Atlantic states. The group held regular meetings overseen by Ebeling, paid dues, and discussed plans to attack or intimidate rival gang members.
On the Broadway block in Rocky Point, where the tattoo parlor sits, several ATFE cars were spotted around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, said Katrina Fougere, who works in the next-door beauty parlor Barbara and Co.
According to Fougere, the proprietor, a man named J.R., and his companion, Maureen, kept the store clean and tidy.
"They are terrific neighbors," she said.
With Sophia Chang
and Andrew Strickler