WILDWOOD — Members of the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Club are responsible for the recent beatings of two city business owners as club membership and violence continue to grow, according to a report released by state investigators Wednesday.
Club members beat a landlord in the city after he tried to evict a woman connected to the group and beat a bar owner with a pool stick after he didn’t pay for protection the group offered, according to the report by the State Commission of Investigation.
The Pagans are a fixture at the city’s Roar to the Shore, an annual motorcycle event, as it’s a “mandatory run” for club members in the state. However, the event has been canceled this year after the city denied organizers necessary permits, according to the event’s website.
Mayor Pete Byron did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon. A call to the phone number listed on the Roar to the Shore website was not returned.
The report, “Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs: The Rise of the Pagans in New Jersey,” is part of an investigative effort called Organized Crime Spotlight, which has been ongoing since late 2018.
The motorcycle club is undergoing a resurgence, going from 10 chapters in the state in 2013 to 17 as of last year.
There are roughly 900 Pagans nationwide, including anywhere from 150 to 350 in New Jersey. Officials have been tracking the club’s growth, its spread to the northern part of the state and its increased criminality and visibility.
The report, which includes information from a public hearing last year on the club, found members “have become increasingly combative with not only rivals but against anyone the gang believes is a threat or has shown it disrespect.”
There were several incidents during which Pagans intimidated or physically assaulted people with no gang affiliation, instead “directing hostilities at random patrons in bars and drivers on the road,” according to the report.
The city paid about $40,000 for police overtime at last year’s Roar to the Shore, during which the SCI’s surveillance saw Pagans with white supremacist tattoos and patches, according to the report. City police also found three weapons and several rounds of hollow-point bullets during a traffic stop of an out-of-state Pagan, and other stops yielded guns, brass knuckles and knives.
A statement on the Roar to the Shore website says, “It is with great regrets, that after 23 years we are forced to cancel Roar to the Shore Motorcycle rally, due to circumstances beyond our control. The City of Wildwood has determined that the Rally no longer fits the image of the city and has chosen to deny all permits necessary to host (the) event.”
When Cape Classics Motorcycle Club took over the event from a group of Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners in 2000, it was an activity to bring people into town during what was a dead weekend, co-founder and President Ronald Roy said.
It started off as a structured event operated by mom-and-pop type businesses, but it grew into a big-money weekend, Roy said.
“It’s the best weekend to ride. It’s not too hot,” said Roy, who added all the restaurants were still open and lodging was abundant.
Cape Classics was responsible for Roar to the Shore from 2000 through at least 2013. For the last handful of years, the event was run by event promoter Joe Murray.
Roy said his organization is not aligned with the Pagans.
“They (the Pagans) maintained a presence all their own,” he said.
The report details a bit of intergenerational strife among the members of the motorcycle club.
“Law enforcement authorities told the commission that inside the Pagan organization there has been some internal strife from older members who disagree with this more relaxed approach and believe the gang should adhere to traditional protocols, particularly those related to barring minorities from membership,” the report states. “Some Pagans have white supremacist leanings and, in the past, the gang has affiliations with organizations whose members hold those beliefs.”
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Club members also are displaying a “propensity for violence against the public,” according to the report.
“Recent assaults in which a member of the public was the intended target included a Pagan beating of a landlord in Wildwood who attempted to evict a tenant — a woman connected to the biker gang — after she failed to pay the rent, and the stabbing of an individual who was apparently unwelcome at a private Pagan party,” according to the report.
A city bar owner fell victim to a club extortion scheme, officials said.
“In the latest version of the scheme, Pagans visit establishments prior to the start of the summer season and demand the owner make weekly protection payments, according to local law enforcement,” the report states. “Police believe the refusal to make such payments was part of what led to the assault of a Wildwood bar owner who was beaten with a pool stick in 2017 soon after he objected to the Pagan’s protection fee demand.”
The agency recommended that the Attorney General’s Office “create and oversee a statewide working group comprised of law enforcement professionals from local, county, state and federal agencies devoted to identifying, investigating and prosecuting criminal activity perpetrated by outlaw motorcycle gangs,” as well as mandatory training for law enforcement.