In one 2018 incident, Newark police claim that upon catching a Hell’s Angels member at a gas station in Newark, Pagan’s members attacked him with an axe handle and other weapons, breaking his bones and collapsing his lung. One man involved in the attack pleaded guilty to aggravated assault charges, but another member, national Pagan leader Luis Arocho, was not prosecuted due to a “problem with identifying him at the time,” according to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
When confronted with video of the assault at the hearing Wednesday and asked if an individual caught on camera looked familiar to Arocho, the Pagan leader opted to “plead the fifth.”
Torres said the Pagans know they’re on law enforcement’s radar: at their Roar to the Shore in Wildwood, they wave to a surveillance camera. To communicate, they rely on face-to-face conversations, and as one gang member said, club members encourage texting on what law enforcers said they can’t access — What’s App.
“This is a well-run organization. It is a criminal enterprise,” said Torres.
Investigators said 90% of Pagans use methamphetamines and at least one member in every chapter has been arrested for dealing drugs that are hauled in cars and by public transportation and that the gang has gotten away from making methamphetamine to getting crystal meth from a supplier. The supplier, according to multiple sources, is the Mexican cartel, says SCI special agent Glenn Pender.
Other illicit activities include gun trafficking, extorting protection pay from business and recruiting “prospects” by having them break the law. In one case, investigators said a prospect was asked to take out another biker.
Traditionally, the 60-year-old motorcycle club has leaned toward white supremacy, but the gang has begun to embrace diversity — to a limit. Their rules state no gays, no blacks, but almost inexplicably to investigators, it accepts former members of the Latin Kings, Crips and Bloods. The Pagans have chapters in 12 states and one in Puerto Rico and accepts Puerto Ricans as well.
“It is really troubling to see, and whether that is going to create internal conflict down the road is something that we’d have to await to see but that we expect,” said Marian Galietta, SCI counsel.
In one recording, a “prospect” told investigators the following: “There was a lot of questioning of, he says he’s Puerto Rican, but he won’t let me give him a shot of the sickle cell I have in here to prove he’s black. Not that we would. It was a joke. But there was a lot of dissent of the darker Puerto Ricans, they were black. They may have come from Puerto Rico, but they were black. And a lot of the white members hated it, you know, people quit over it.”
Investigators said the Pagans affiliate with women and use them to deliver messages, run guns and drugs and more, but women cannot join the Pagans.
“According to the Pagan Motorcycle Club, women are below dogs. Women are treated like their property … shared sexually among the group. They are typically given as many drugs or drinks as they want. It’s the lowest class of Pagan woman, in fact, it’s a Pagan rule that they’re never allowed to marry a Pag,” said Nicole McCann, investigative analyst for SCI.
The commission subpoenaed two top-ranking members of the national gang and the top New Jersey gang member; all three invoked the right against self-incrimination, even about their membership, when shown in Pagan garb.
The alleged national vice president surprised the panel at the end.
“All I will say is that it is not the policy of this club for anybody to engage in any criminal activity,” said Hugo “Zorro” Nieves.
The State Commission of Investigation does not prosecute cases. The commission’s job is to collect evidence of crimes that will be turned over to other government entities for them to prosecute these kinds of cases.