Pagan’s, Alongside Cosa Nostra, Are Booming, State Crime Commission Says

The current relationship between the American Mafia and the Pagan's is not the only thing about the 1%ers that has evolved since the 1980s, when the outlaw motorcycle club balked at paying the street tax imposed by then Philadelphia boss Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo.

Philadelphia boss Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo
The Pagan's balked at the street tax imposed by Little Nicky.

As of September 2020, the Pagan's, one of the "big four" largest outlaw motorcycle clubs in the US, are undergoing a violent "resurgence," according to a recently published report by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation (SCI)

The MC, which uses drones and encrypted communications to avoid detection, has seen an unprecedented surge in membership, nearly doubling in size over the past few years. The Pagan's also are significantly more violent, with experts noting that there have been more violent incidents committed by the Pagan's during a recent 18-month period than during the prior 10 years combined. (Because many incidents go unreported, the tally of brutality is likely much higher.)

In recent years, the Pagan's, which have upwards of 500 members in 11 states, have been tied to traditional organized crime, including Cosa Nostra, in cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York. As per the SCI, club  members remain ready to partner with organized crime, primarily as muscle to collect gambling and loansharking debts.

Behind the renaissance of the violent motorcycle club, according to the SCI, is a new president who put an aggressive recruitment drive in place to swell the MC's ranks with experienced street veterans. (The Mongols followed a similar strategy on the West Coast.)

Long Island Pagan's chapter president Keith (Conan) Richter—who served 16 years in federal prison for ordering the killing of a Long Island strip club manager who refused to pay extortion fees in 1998—took control of the MC in a hostile takeover after getting out of prison, installing himself as the Pagan's national president.

Richter then deliberately eased the Pagan's strict membership rules to bring in “certain ethnic minorities and former criminal street gang members,” the SCI said, including former Bloods, Crips, and Latin King members who "brought experience with street violence to the Pagan's, a valuable asset in the club’s quest to dominate rivals,” the report said.

The practice Richter allowed—derisively called "cash for colors"— enables bikers of certain ethnicity to pay $1,000 to join the Pagan's. This “complete reversal of prior practice” annoyed the group's white supremacist members, although black bikers are still prevented from joining the ranks. The MC also bans ex-cops.

The MC apparently learned that there is more money to be made partnering with LCN than fighting with it like they did in the 1980s when Pagan's in Philadelphia refused to pay Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo's street tax, which the Cosa Nostra boss had levied on drug dealers not affiliated with his crime family. 

In February 1981, former Pagan meth “cooker” James (Jimmy D) DeGregorio kidnapped two mobsters during the street tax dispute and, in a show of force, drove  down the streets of Philadelphia with them. When one of the wiseguys tried to run for it, DeGregorio shot him— in the middle of a crowded downtown Philadelphia street in full view of several police officers, who then arrested the Pagan's member. 

DeGregorio, who became a cooperating witness back in the 1980s, discussed the incident in the Devil's Fire episode of the History Channel television series Gangland. The show is available in 10-minute increments on this website. 

Below, we posted a clip from the Devil's Fire episode that features Jimmy D discussing how he reacted to the Scarfo street tax.

"Nicky Scarfo was the boss of the Philadelphia mob," Jimmy D says. 

"At some point he decided that we were going to pay a street tax to the mob to be allowed to deal drugs in Philadelphia. He lost his fcking mind when he thought that he could shake down the Pagan motorcycle club for street tax."

After members of the Scarfo Philadelphia crime family, in a move to pressure the club to pay up, kidnapped a Pagan's-affiliated drug supplier, Jimmy D responded. "I then got my crew together from my chapter, went down and started kidnapping their fcking people."

Somehow, a heavily armed Jimmy D got into the backseat and forced two wiseguys to drive him through the streets of downtown Philly in their car. (The two Philadelphia mobsters aren’t identified.)

"We get to Broad and Walnut," Jimmy D says. He's holding a .45 to the back of the driver's head when they all notice several cops near them on the street drinking coffee and talking.

"(The wiseguy driving the car) says to me, 'if you're gonna shoot me, you're gonna shoot me now,' and he pulls up on the sidewalk with the cops, thinking they were gonna protect them.” He gets out of the car and starts running. “I got out of the fcking car and shot him in front of the cops."

The mobster survived, and Jimmy D was arrested, but got out in no time.

"Philadelphia was very corrupt, we had a lot of people on the payroll," he says. "I wind out getting out of jail on  $750 bail for a shooting in Center City downtown."

Jimmy D claims the Pagan's never paid the mob tax while he was in the club.

"We're the toughest fcking giant in the valley, and you gotta back that up," he explains. (Jimmy D should definitely contact us if he reads or hears about this. <--This has worked occasionally.)

We confirmed the basics of Jimmy D's story. He flipped prior to 1985, which was the year he testified at the trial of a Pagan's enforcer

As per the 1985 published report, DeGregorio, the Pagan's "chemist" in 1981-82, decided to cooperate with authorities after he was convicted of assault in the shooting of a member of the organized crime family in Philadelphia, a DEA agent said. DeGregorio wore a "wire" during conversations with fellow Pagans and offered to sell look-alike drugs during taped telephone calls.

The report focuses on the 1985 racketeering trial of eight members of the outlaw motorcycle club, including the most feared Pagan of the day: Richard (Cheyenne) Richter, the sergeant-at-arms of the mother club. (Notice the matching surnames? We don’t know if they’re related.) Richter was a former paratrooper who stood 6-foot-6. As the sergeant-at-arms, according to prosecutors, Richter was the chief enforcer for the Pagan's mother club. (The mother club is the Pagan's "board of directors.”)

The indictment that led to the trial was the result of a nearly three-year investigation of the Pagan's leadership. The probe was conducted by state police, the FBI, the DEA, and 15 other state and federal agencies on the East Coast.

The prosecution's chief witnesses included DeGregorio. 

Following a six-week trial, each of the eight Pagan's was convicted.

Back in January, George Anastasia wrote about Jimmy D, the Pagan's, and the mob for Jersey Man Magazine. The story is called  The Hell’s Angels and the Pagans....