The former national president of the outlaw Pagans motorcycle gang took a guilty plea in federal court on Wednesday after police caught him with a gun in New Jersey while returning to his Long Island home from a party in Pennsylvania.
Keith Richter – a 62-year-old ex-con known as “Conan the Barbarian” – was returning to his Bay Shore (Suffolk County) home from a Pagan's Motorcycle Club party in Lancaster, PA when he was stopped in Mercer County on Feb. 20.
Police found him carrying a loaded .45-caliber Ruger P345 handgun, Acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Rachael A. Honig said.
Rather than risk trial, Richter took a deal from the government, pleading guilty via videoconference with a federal judge in Newark on Wednesday to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Richter -- who’d served 16 years for conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering-related aggravated assault – will remain in federal custody until he’s sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty on Dec. 3.
Identified by the FBI as one of the four major outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in the U.S. – along with the Hells Angels, Outlaws and Bandidos – the “Pagan’s Motorcycle Club” has particularly increased membership in New Jersey and Pennsylvania over the past five years, according to law enforcement authorities.
Although clashes between rival gangs are frequent, members also have randomly assaulted innocent citizens, they said.
A “newfound level of aggression” during what has been a “rapid and ongoing” expansion has included drive-by shootings, “savage beat downs of adversaries and unprovoked physical assaults on members of the public across New Jersey,” a state Commission of Investigation report issued last year said.
The Pagans began with 13 members in Prince George’s County, MD in 1959 and began spreading to neighboring states through the Sixties.
Richter was sent to prison in 1988 for racketeering-related murder conspiracy, among other convictions. He was released in 2012 and took control of the Pagans six years later.
What Richter has dubbed “The Blue Wave” has made its way in recent years into what primarily had been Hells Angels and Outlaws turf in North Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
More than a fifth of an estimated 900 Pagans across 12 states and Puerto Rico are in the Garden State alone, federal authorities said.
At last count, the Pagans had 17 chapters across New Jersey, up from 10 just five years ago, according to the SCI report.
They’ve also reportedly expanded into northeastern Pennsylvania, with new chapters in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.
Authorities say Richter has boosted membership by absorbing smaller, local gangs into the Pagans. He’s also recruited Latin Kings, although he still bans Blacks from joining.
Honig credited special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ Newark Division, special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Newark Division, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and New Jersey State Police with the investigation, arrest and plea.
Handling the case for the government are Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Frazer, R. Joseph Gribko and Samantha C. Fasanello of Honig’s Newark office.
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