TAMPA — The day after they allegedly assassinated the leader of a rival motorcycle gang, Christopher “Durty” Cosimano and Michael “Pumpkin” Mencher turned to a buddy for help.
They called fellow 69’ers Motorcycle Club member Sean “Phelps” Leonard.
“This is not a good situation, brother,” Mencher told Leonard over the phone on Dec. 22, 2017.
It was worse than even Mencher knew. For unbeknownst to the two men, Leonard was a confidential informant secretly recording their conversations for federal agents.
Cosimano, 31, and Mencher, 52, both made several calls to Leonard less than 12 hours after the execution of Paul Anderson, the 44-year-old president of the Cross Bayou chapter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
Those audio recordings were played for a federal jury on Tuesday, as the pair’s murder trial continued into its second week.
Leonard, 34, was called to the witness stand by the state, sitting just a few feet from his former comrades.
Prosecutors accuse Cosimano and Mencher of riding their motorcycles and tracking Anderson’s pick-up truck as he drove north on the Suncoast Parkway into Pasco County on Dec. 21, 2017.
They were armed, prosecutors said, and wore masks to hide their faces.
The two were out for revenge, the state alleges. Anderson and a group of Outlaws had previously beaten up Leonard and another 69’ers member at the Local Brewing Company restaurant in Palm Harbor.
When Anderson took an exit and stopped at a red traffic light near State Road 54, the state said Cosimano walked up to the truck’s window, tapped on the glass, then shot the Outlaws president several times with a Glock 45 semiautomatic pistol.
After the shooting, photos of the two masked bikers sitting on their motorcycles in traffic saturated local news. Frightened, Cosimano called Leonard that night to ask if he had room in his garage, the state said.
“You know what I’m talking about, right?” said Mencher, in one of the recordings.
Mencher told Leonard he had to paint his motorcycle and “tear it apart,” according to a recording. Leonard told the jury he thought Mencher was trying to hide his bike.
In another call recorded Dec. 22 with Mencher, Leonard said: “Well, at least, at least you guys covered your faces and s—.”
“Yeah, thank God,” Mencher replied. He added later, “I don’t mind doing things, but not in broad daylight.”
During the conversation, Mencher implied that Anderson would not have been allowed to escape.
“If he would have drove away, I would’ve just opened up into the back of him,” Mencher said. “You know what I mean?”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlton Gammons asked Leonard what Mencher meant by that.
Leonard said he thought Mencher was implying that he was ready to kill Anderson if Cosimano failed to do so.
Neither Cosimano nor Mencher knew Leonard was working for the government at the time, according to the state. To them, Leonard was the founder of the Hillsborough County branch of the 69’ers club — what members called the “Killsborough” chapter.
But Leonard became a confidential informant working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in mid 2017. It was part of his plea deal involving a case of illegally selling guns in New York state.
He helped federal agents monitor his fellow 69’ers in Tampa before and after Anderson’s death. The Outlaws and the 69’ers are two of the nation’s most prominent and violent biker gangs, and at the time of the murder authorities say the two local branches were at war with each other.
Leonard told the jury he had no idea the Outlaws leader was being targeted.
Both Cosimano and Mencher face charges of first-degree murder and related charges such as conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering acitivty and use of a firearm in a crime of violence causing death.
If convicted, each faces up to life in prison. The trial could last for a third week.