Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
|Outlaw motorcycle gangs have been in existence since the late 1940's. Their criminal activities include but are not limited to the distribution of illegal drugs, possession and illegal sale of firearms, motor vehicle theft, especially of motorcycles, and assorted crimes of violence. There are at least five gangs active in
America; the Pagans, the Breed, the Warlocks, the Wheels of Soul and the Ghetto Riders. The origin of these gangs is rooted in their philosophy of always having a good time, with little or no regard for the law. The groups are bound together through the principle of loyalty toward the organization and fellow members. An example of this camaraderie is apparent in the following excerpt taken from the credo of one of the gangs, a philosophy shared by all of them:
Look at your brother standing next to you and ask yourself if you would give him half of what you have in your pocket or half of what you have to eat. If a citizen hits your brother, will you be on him without asking why? There is no why. Your brother isn't always right but he is always your brother. It's one in all and all in one. If you don't think this way, then walk away. Because you are a citizen and you don't belong to us.
Structurally, outlaw motorcycle gangs are comprised of local chapters and a "Mother Club," which supervises the local chapters. Each local chapter has a Mother Club advisor who, in effect, exercises direct supervision over the membership. The Mother Club advisor is largely responsible for appointing members to the various positions of responsibility in the gang. As the overseer, the Mother Club establishes and enforces policy for the organization, schedules, mandatory trips or "runs," and has final authority over club matters.
During the late 1960's, the widespread societal use of illegal drugs, as well as a general disdain for authority and established institutions, provided a climate in which outlaw motorcycle gangs thrived. Initially, they were perceived by law enforcement only as participants in the growing drug subculture. When demand for amphetamine was high, law enforcement initially did not recognize its potential threat and outlaw motorcycle gangs took advantage of the situation. They had, in fact, achieved a position of relative prominence in the distribution of amphetamine. Today, the outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in New Jersey continue to engage in drug trafficking, especially of amphetamine. However, this illegal market is not as lucrative as it once was. As law enforcement directed some of its resources toward the amphetamine market, gangs soon became targets and numerous prosecutions were brought against key members. In New Jersey and other states, several successful racketeering prosecutions have caused a noticeable decline in gang membership and in overt activity. As a result, members are less ostentatious in exhibiting their gang affiliation and are maintaining a lower profile to avoid identification by law enforcement authorities. The primary way in which members demonstrate their allegiance to a particular gang is by displaying their "colours" while travelling by motorcycle on major roadways. Colours are the official uniform of all outlaw motorcycle gangs. Typically, colours consist of a sleeveless denim or leather jacket which bears an "official" patch or insignia on the back and an assortment of patches and pins attached to other areas of the vest. Considered by members as sacred, the colours are worn exclusively by male members and, in fact, are gang property. In the past, a set of colours would contain the member's rank, his nickname and other designations which may identify his involvement in drugs, sexual exploits, or simply bear the initials of an anti-social statement.
Violence by outlaw motorcycle gangs is usually limited to turf wars and intergang rivalries. A recent example involved the December, 1988, kidnapping and vicious assault by three Warlocks on the president of the Trenton/Bucks County chapter of the Breed. Reportedly, this was in retaliation for an earlier assault by several Breed members on a Warlock member in Pennsylvania.
One characteristic of outlaw motorcycle gangs is their use of wives and girlfriends in gang activities, such as transporting illegal weapons or other contraband. They also use these women to gather information that may be useful to the gang. For example, there have been numerous incidents in which such persons held jobs in municipal, county, state or federal agencies from which they could access documents such as driver licenses, registrations, birth certificates and court records. Females affiliated with an outlaw motorcycle gang are also expected to engage in illegal activities, such as welfare fraud, to support club members. Many also work in cash generating professions such as go-go dancing or topless dancing.
Gang members have little regard for their women as human beings. Often referred to as "Old Lady, Mama, or Sheep," females are considered subservient and are expected to cater to the whims of the membership. While a women known as an "Old Lady" is the wife or girlfriend of a member (and is spoken for), "Mamas" or "Sheep" are available to all members, usually for sexual exploitation.
Aside from recognized involvement in tattoo parlours, auto body shops and related motor vehicle businesses, the outlaw bikers' interest in other legitimate areas seems limited. Perhaps this is because of their overall antisocial philosophy, which does not lend itself to conventional enterprise.
Due to the recent successful interdiction efforts by law enforcement, coupled with the diminished demand for amphetamine, outlaw motorcycle gangs are generally considered an organized crime force in decline. However, if these groups are able to adapt to the new conditions facing them, they may once again become a force within the narcotics marketplace. It has been suggested that one way they could accomplish this would be through the production and distribution of the new amphetamine derivative, "ice." This drug, which is extremely addictive, has become popular in fast-paced environments on the West Coast and is expected to make its way east. Unfortunately, the Atlantic City casino environment represents an already established market for "ice." And since the outlaw motorcycle gangs have established themselves as a dominant force in the manufacture and distribution of amphetamine, the transition to producing and distributing "ice" would be feasible.
The most prolific and fastest growing outlaw motorcycle gang in New Jersey, the Breed's origins go back to the mid-1960's. Significant recruitment activity occurred in 1983 when attempts were made to absorb members of the Aces and Eights Motorcycle Club based in Riverside, New Jersey. Almost simultaneous with this effort was the assimilation of members of the Branded Motorcycle Club into the Breed. More recently, during 1986-1987, the Breed reportedly was negotiating to merge with the Bandana Motorcycle Club, with the Breed retaining organizational control. The Breed, with a membership of about 60, has three chapters in New Jersey – the Jersey Chapter, which is the founding or "Mother" chapter, operating out of Middlesex County, the South Jersey Chapter operating out of Riverside in Burlington County, and the Trenton-Bucks Chapter operating in the state capital and in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
There is a growing concern that Breed members in the Trenton-Bucks Chapter are exerting considerable influence in the drug market. Authorities estimate a local presence of 30 members or significant associates and indicate that this group has a substantial distribution network in place. The location and range of activities of this chapter suggests that state boundaries mean little in defining this organization's jurisdiction. All indications are that this chapter operates freely between the two states.
Similar to other outlaw motorcycle gangs, the Breed is adopting a lower public profile. Observations in the Mercer County area support their presence there, but more conventional behaviour, dress and mode of transportation make them less noticeable.
The Breed uses violence to settle disputes and enforce policy. Instances of intergang rivalry have been well documented, particularly with the Pagans. In 1987 and more recently in 1989, gang members were involved in incidents of assault and kidnapping to settle disputes or to retaliate for acts of violence against fellow members. A case in point involved a Breed member wearing his colours in the Philadelphia area, which is considered Pagan turf. After repeated warnings, the Pagans viciously assaulted the Breed member and confiscated his colours. Arrangements were made to negotiate a settlement to this dispute. However, two Breed members were arrested and charged with weapons offences during the prearranged meeting. Reportedly, the two were present and armed to protect the chapter president, who was handling negotiations.
Operating in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, the Pagans' overall membership has been estimated at between 300 and 400. Within New Jersey, estimates range from 40 to 60 active members in chapters in Atlantic County, Elizabeth and Plainfield.
As a group, the Pagans' illegal activities usually involve narcotics (amphetamines) and chop shops. Individually, members and associates often engage in a variety of other illegal conduct such as assault, weapon possession, sex crimes and fraud. The latter activities are done for the individual's benefit and not the group. Generally, profits from illegal activities sanctioned by the Mother Club require a 10% "contribution" from the local chapter.
The Pagans have a following of associates who, for various reasons, elect not to seek membership. Often, the relationship between the member and associate has its basis in a mutually beneficial venture, usually of an illicit nature. A case in point was the association between Roland Kownacki of Atlantic City and the Pagans. Kownacki, a convicted drug dealer, served the Pagans' purposes as a "chemist" or "cooker" in the production of amphetamine. Other examples of symbiotic relationships can readily be found in the activities typically associated with outlaw biker groups, including chop shops, bars, tattoo parlours, narcotics distribution and firearms trafficking.
There is also evidence that the Pagans have maintained a working relationship with the LCN. Prior to the decline of the Scarfo organization, there were instances of both cooperation and conflict between the two groups, most notably in the area of narcotics. Cooperation existed as a result of the Scarfo group's access to P2P, a necessary chemical precursor in the production of amphetamine. However, conflict surfaced when members of Scarfo's crew robbed Kownacki, who was part owner of a jewellery store, of gold and cash. In retaliation, the Pagans apparently aligned themselves with an outcast faction of the then-warring Scarfo mob. Such alliances and conflicts appear to be a thing of the past. With changes occurring in both groups and the absence of a mutually beneficial illegal activity, there does not appear to be a need or desire for this association to continue.
During the latter part of the past decade, the Pagans experienced a decline in demand for amphetamine, as cocaine became society's drug of choice. There has also been an increase in successful prosecutions against key group members. In January, 1989, 29 members and associates were indicted under the federal racketeering statute. Among those charged in the indictment were national president Daniel (Dirty Dan) Delp of Ohio, national vice-president Kenneth Blain (Bad Hand) McMillion of West Virginia, Mother Club member Thomas (T.C.) Cusak of Philadelphia, and numerous high level members from various chapters. This extensive indictment came in the wake of the 1988 conviction of former national president Merle (Jackpot) King, national secretary Gary (Bizzy) Keith, and Mother Club member Kenneth David (Iceman) Murray. Twenty-eight defendants were either convicted or pleaded guilty.
The Warlocks have maintained a presence in New Jersey since the early 1960's. Estimates of membership in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey area range from a low of 60 to a high of 136, and within New Jersey alone from 10 to 31. The Warlocks mother club is in Philadelphia and the group has chapters in southern New Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Characteristic of most outlaw motorcycle gangs, the Warlocks are involved in narcotics distribution. They employ both the threat and the actual use of violence in maintaining their image and enforcing policy. Members of the Warlocks have been implicated in a number of unsolved homicides.
The Warlocks have been known to have ties to the LCN- influenced Roofers Union Local 30 in Atlantic City. However, considering the leadership changes which occurred following the murder of union boss John McCullough and the recent incarceration of his successor Steven Traitz, that organization exerts less influence in the area and, consequently, this association is less significant.
Unlike the other outlaw cycle gangs, the Wheels of Soul and the Ghetto Riders are comprised predominately of African-Americans, although the Wheels of Soul is considered a bi-racial group. This membership is somewhat uncharacteristic in that most other outlaw motorcycle gangs espouse a philosophy akin to neo-nazism and exclude non-whites from their ranks.
In the early 1970's, the Wheels of Soul was considered to be a social organization but it deteriorated to its current status of an outlaw club. At one time this group was active and maintained a clubhouse in the Atlantic City area. However, following raids by local authorities, the club dispersed and relocated in outlying areas of the county.
During its more active years in the late 1970's and 1980's, the Wheels of Soul had a combined membership of approximately 50, with chapters in Atlantic City, Atco, Freehold and a motor club in Philadelphia. However, in more recent years, the chapters have been reduced in this state to only one in South Jersey having about 10 members. Philadelphia continues to host the Mother Club, last reported to have approximately 50 members.
An offshoot of the Wheels of Soul, the Ghetto Riders was formed in the late 1970's and is headquartered in the City of Camden, where it maintains a clubhouse. Numbering approximately 30 members and 20 associates, the club operates primarily in the Camden County area.
Of the two organizations, it would appear that the Ghetto Riders are maintaining an active membership, whereas the Wheels of Soul seem to be in decline. Both continue, however, to be involved in traditional outlaw motorcycle gang criminal activities such as narcotics distribution and acts of violence.
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