August 7-13, 2003
Angels in Disguise?
The Pagans are under seige from all sides.
Did the Hells Angels secretly infiltrate our area more than eight years ago to prepare for their current turf battle with the Pagans?
Some investigators think the seeds of the ongoing biker war were sown in South Jersey when a mysterious biker gang called the Iron Horsemen quietly opened a chapter there in 1995. The outlaws motto? "Ashes to ashes/ Dust to dust/ If it werent for the Iron Horsemen/ The highways would rust."
One of the Iron Horsemen websites (www.ironhorsemenmcdenver.com) features their twisted highway ditty below a line of smiling death heads with a giant skull cheerfully smoking a cigarette as he flips visitors off. The skulls bear an eerie resemblance to the Death Head logo of the Hells Angels -- the largest outlaw-biker gang in the world. There just may be a reason.
"The Hells Angels are affiliated with and directly control the Iron Horsemen," federal prosecutors stated in court documents filed in a Portland, Maine case last year involving a reputed Horseman. Now, some local organized-crime sleuths think the South Jersey chapter may actually have been formed to gather intelligence on the Pagans -- ultimately to weaken the rival group -- and lay some groundwork for the Hells Angels ongoing Delaware Valley invasion.
Although they've kept a low profile locally, the Horsemen have been at the nexus of violence and organized crime elsewhere.
In Indiana, a member was seriously wounded when a gunman for the rival Outlaw bikers blasted him with a shotgun. In Portland, Maine, the Horsemen are involved in an all-out turf battle to keep their sworn enemy, the Outlaws and its Black Pistons sub club, from encroaching on their crime territory.
What's at stake for Horsemen chapters are the large drug-trafficking networks they allegedly control. (Three summers ago in Yakima, Wash., a Horseman gunned down a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club in a dispute over a big meth deal. Closer to home, two Maryland Horsemen were convicted of assaulting a man in the parking lot of a tavern so severely that the victim died of a brain aneurysm.)
"We're looking at Hells Angels' connections to local Iron Horsemen," a law enforcement source tells Underworld. "If that's how the Hells Angels got a toehold in our area, it goes to show just how sophisticated and crafty [they] are."
Another worry for the Pagans, who have a good working relationship with the smaller, local Warlocks chapters, is that the Horsemen appear to have forged an alliance with the Warlocks too. In fact, several Horsemen websites feature their logos alongside the Warlocks'.
"If the Iron Horsemen are hooking up with the Warlocks," says one investigator, "that means the Pagans here will eventually be isolated. It really means the Hells Angels have brokered a deal with the Warlocks."
So how bad can the Horsemen be for the areas they call home? Just ask Jeff Sheldon, a famous Cincinnati chef and culinary arts professor who visited the Jersey Shore earlier this summer.
Sheldon grew up in the 1970s near Geneva on the Lake, an Ohio town on the shores of Lake Erie with cute little tourist cottages that vacationers have visited every summer for decades. But it was also, he says, a city under siege.
Sheldon remembers when the first Horsemen rode into town. "They'd come roaring off the interstate. Long lines of Iron Horsemen, and later, the Hells Angels. They took over the town. It got really bad."
There were street brawls, illegal drag races, drug deals and violent encounters with vacationers. The outlaw gang's notorious visits scared tourists away, sending the little town into an economic decline.
In 1986, a Hells Angel turned government witness testified before Congress about just how bad things had gotten there. The federally protected witness identified only as "Butch" told Congress how he and other Hells Angels were hired by a Cleveland union to bust up a concert.
"There was a nonunion job at the fairgrounds out in Geneva on the Lake and they were having a big Johnny Cash concert," Butch testified. "We were told to go there and stand near the gate up close to where all the nonunion [workers] were trying to work and scream and holler at them. And anything that arose, they would just -- the union officials would point us out and say, Hey, you just go tell the Hells Angels if you got anything to say.'"
The nonunion workers were so intimidated that they immediately joined rather than continue dealing with the picketers.
Eventually the outlaw bikers stopped coming, but the damage to the town's reputation lasted for decades. It took more than 30 years to revive Geneva on the Lake. Only recently has it regained its popularity as a family vacation destination.
Ruthann Shuts Up
A recent Underworld column about mob mistress Ruthann Seccio has caused some problems for Ralph Natale's former girlfriend. So, Ruthann wants readers to know, especially those from South Philly, that she had no say in how her story was headlined. (The June 5 column about her relationship with the mob boss turned rat was titled "Tell Ralphie I Still Love Him.") Seccio has gotten a lot of heat from current mafiosos so she wants everybody to know that she never said those exact words. And, she swears, she's not going to have anything else to say publicly about her ex.