Share This Page

Inner workings of Pagans motorcycle gang slowly being revealed

It began three summers ago, when armed sentries stood watch over a two-day orgy of drugs and alcohol at a picnic ground, just off Interstate 70 in Westmoreland County.

The party, so secretive that no one knew its location until a few days earlier, roared on night and day, as the guards — all members of the notorious Pagans motorcycle gang — stood watch, protecting their stoned, drunken brethren.

But someone else was watching. Surveillance cameras and microphones planted at the Yukon picnic area by undercover state police officers recorded the Pagans' revelry.

The first glimpses of the covert, three-year probe of the outlaw gang's inner workings in Southwestern Pennsylvania will begin to emerge Wednesday as two men arrested in the case head to court.

Seven members of the outlaw gang are named in a sealed presentment handed down earlier this year by a state grand jury seated in Allegheny County.

The Tribune-Review obtained a copy of the document, which details the activities of the gang's four active chapters in Southwestern Pennsylvania and its Washington County headquarters.

Although the ongoing investigation centers on Westmoreland County, the grand jury alleges the Pagans operate chapters in Fayette City, Pittsburgh and McKeesport, and recently built a national clubhouse on Duvall Road in Fallowfield in Washington County, according to the presentment.

So far, six of the men face charges ranging from racketeering and firearms violations to motorcycle theft and allegations they ran a wide-scale drug ring dealing in marijuana, cocaine and crystallized methamphetamine, commonly known as "crank." Police have arrested:

• Shane M. Pierce, 26, of West Newton, charged with racketeering, possessing and selling illegal drugs between 2006 and 2008, and making false statements under oath.

• Ernest W. Frantz III, 44, of Herminie, charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance in 2006.

• Scott R. Smith, 38, of Scottdale, charged with stealing three Harley-Davidson motorcycles in 2006.

• William Snyder, 57, of Ruffsdale, charged with illegally possessing an offensive weapon,altering a firearm and illegally selling four machine guns in 2007.

• Homero M. Villegas, 27, of Georgia, charged with conspiring to distribute illegal controlled substances. Villegas cannot be found, according to court documents filed with Mt. Pleasant District Justice Roger Eckels.

Eckels will hold preliminary hearings Wednesday for Pierce and Frantz. Smith and Snyder waived their rights to hearings.

Police believe alleged Westmoreland leader Raymond E. "Pete" Overly, 38, a former Belle Vernon resident who ran the chapter from his PRA Racing motorcycle shop in downtown Mt. Pleasant before moving it to Elizabeth Township in 2007, fled to Florida.

Overly disappeared in November, just before a revocation hearing for allegedly snorting cocaine while he was on parole for repeatedly shocking a Rostraver couple with a stun gun, smashing the woman's foot with his boot and beating the man with a metal baton, court records show.

He was sentenced to four to nine years in prison for the assault, which stemmed from a dispute about motorcycle parts.

A warrant for his arrest has been issued.

In the early days of the investigation, undercover state police investigators used informants to set up surveillance at the party in a rented picnic pavilion for several hundred Pagans in Yukon.

That was June 2006, and the Pagans — who reportedly have as many as 450 members nationally — were very much a part of the local crime scene, according to court documents.

Prosecutors showed surveillance tapes of the revelers to the grand jury, which heard from 18 witnesses who offered sometimes-gruesome stories of violence and drug operations, sometimes run from behind prison walls, according to the presentment.

The witnesses told jurors about rites of passage to full membership in the gang, according to the presentment. They told of attending monthly chapter meetings, referred to as "going to church."

And they told of raising money by selling drugs, stealing and rebuilding motorcycles. They said Overly often rewarded members who stole bikes with custom-built motorcycles.

Those who were being groomed to be potential members were known as "prospects," they said.

A Pagan-in-training was given a denim or leather jacket with the sleeves cut off and bearing a patch reading "prospect."

"After an undefined period of prospecting, or after the completion of a certain particularly challenging (and often criminal) task such as an assault, the prospect would receive his 'colors,' which entails the addition of the Pagan symbol and other patches to an individual's cut-off and is therefore considered a full-fledged member of the Pagans OMG (Outlaw Motorcycle Gang)," the presentment said.

The presentment alleges bikers often traveled to Atlanta to pick up illegal drugs during buys Overly set up.

Overly did not know some of the "prospects" hauling the drugs back to Pennsylvania were informants who would contact police to photograph and test the contraband, the grand jury said.

Some prospects told authorities Overly beat them if they refused to participate in drug deals or other assignments, ranging from assaulting enemies with baseball bats to performing household chores.

When investigators discovered in late 2006 that Overly wanted to buy four, specially built 9 mm machine guns, undercover officers moved in and bought the guns from Snyder so they wouldn't fall into Overly's hands, the grand jury reported.

The Pagans, long associated with drugs and violence, were founded in 1959 in Maryland. They expanded into Pennsylvania during the 1960s.

State police Trooper Matthew Baumgard fielded the undercover investigation with former Trooper Lyle Graber, who works as an investigator for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office. Baumgard said police would not comment on the case.

Additional Information:

Pagan symbolism

The primary Pagans symbol, which looks like a devil, is known as a ?fire god,• according to a state grand jury.

Pagans patches frequently include the expression: ?GFPD: God Forgives, Pagans Don?t.?

Tattoos are similarly used by Pagans to signify club membership and as tools of intimidation.

'The wearing of ?colors• is used as both a symbol of club membership, and as a means of intimidating rival gang members and the general public,• a grand jury said in a presentment issued against seven men who allegedly belong to the Westmoreland County chapter.

Bikers• leather jackets often are attached to their clothes with pins so the colors are not left behind during fights.

Anyone who leaves the Pagans must turn in their colors, remove their tattoos, pay an exit fee of up to $2,000, forfeit ownership of their motorcycles and ?sometimes is expected to leave town,• according to the presentment.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.