Pagans motorcycle leader sentenced for illegally having gun

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A New York man characterized as a leader of the Pagans motorcycle gang was sentenced to 33 months, or more than two and a half years, in prison on Thursday for illegal gun possession.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Newark described Keith Richter, 62, as the national president of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, a group formed in the late 1950s that federal law enforcement considers to be a gang engaged in violent crime and trafficking drugs and weapons.

According to a criminal complaint, Richter traveled from his home on Long Island to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in February to attend a party. Acting on information that Richter was in possession of a firearm, law enforcement pulled over the car in East Windsor, New Jersey, as he was returning and discovered a loaded Ruger handgun in the car.

Richter pleaded guilty in July to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He had previously been convicted of racketeering-related offenses in New York in the late 1990s and was released from prison in 2012.

In addition to his prison sentence, he was sentenced to three years’ supervised release.

An attorney representing Richter declined comment Thursday.

In 2019, a state investigative commission testified before the New Jersey Legislature that the Pagans had grown from 10 chapters in New Jersey to at least 17 in recent years, and numbered about 300 members in the state and 900 nationwide.

Investigators told the lawmakers the gang was involved in illegal drug trafficking, particularly of methamphetamines, as well as extortion of local businesses. A member identified as a club vice president testifying at the same hearing said it wasn’t the club’s policy to “engage in criminal activity.”

In June, the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark charged 11 Pagans members with drug, weapons and assault charges after a joint investigation with state and federal law enforcement. Those cases are pending.

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