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Gang activity dwindles in W. Pa.

Paul Peirce
| Friday, July 1, 2011

The Pagans motorcycle gang has a long history in Western Pennsylvania.

The outlaw motorcycle organization was formed in 1959 in Maryland. By the mid-1960s, it had expanded into several states, including Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Justice Department

It remains active in Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

In 2006, the Pagans had an estimated 450 members. That has dwindled to 200-250 members, according to the justice department.

In 1987, John Budesky, then 42, of Greensburg was sentenced to 23 years in prison for dealing kilos of cocaine throughout the Northeast for the Pagans. A 1989 Pennsylvania Crime Commission report said the drug sales afforded Budesky a lavish lifestyle, including an ocean-front residence in Florida, several speedboats, a 36-foot yacht and 50 to 60 automobiles he purchased with cash.

In 1988, Merle "Jackpot" King, formerly of Hempfield, North Huntingdon and Ligonier townships, served as national president for the Pagans.

In 1989, King and four local members of the Pagans were indicted by a federal grand jury for racketeering and drug trafficking. King was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Dennis "Rooster" Katona, 45, of Hempfield, the alleged leader of the Pagans who was arrested Wednesday, served 63 months in a federal prison for his role in an attack in 2002 on the Hells Angels at the "Hellraiser Ball" in Long Island, N.Y.

Katona was among 73 Pagans charged in the brawl. One Pagan was killed. Ten other men were injured.

In 2009, a statewide grand jury seated in Allegheny County reported the Pagans had chapters in Pittsburgh, McKeesport, Fayette City in Fayette County and Fallowfield in Washington County.

Six club members were subsequently charged with illegal activity, including trafficking illegal drugs and weapons.

Raymond E. "Pete" Overly, 40, a former Belle Vernon resident, was accused of running the local chapter out of the defunct PRA Racing motorcycle shop in Mt. Pleasant.

Overly fled before he was arrested. A warrant is outstanding. Authorities suspect he might be hiding somewhere in Florida.

In October 2009, the Pagans were stung by a far-reaching federal indictment out of West Virginia that charged 55 members from Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, eastern Pennsylvania and West Virginia with robbery, extortion and the slayings of rivals in competing gangs.

Among those named in the indictment were then national President David "Bart" Barbeito of Myersville, Md., and then national vice president, Floyd B. "Diamond Jesse" Moore, of St. Albans, W. Va.

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