Federal prosecutors today charged that the Pagan Outlaw Motorcycle Club extorted thousands of dollars annually from topless dance clubs and other adult businesses throughout Long Island and planned to murder one club manager who refused to pay.
Zachary W. Carter, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced that 33 members and associates of the club had been arrested. Mr. Carter said the Pagans, while under the guise of a recreational motorcycle club, ''used threats of violence and arson'' to force club owners and their dancers to pay generally $400 a week in protection money to gang leaders.
But one man, Sean McCarthy, who worked as a manager and bouncer at the Carousel Club, on East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station, refused to pay. More than once, he beat up several Pagans sent to collect the money, police reports said. Once he was stabbed five times while fighting off seven gang members, according to police and informant reports.
The head of the Pagans, Keith Richter, 38, of Bay Shore, ordered Mr. McCarthy killed last year, prosecutors said. Before the plot could be carried out, Mr. Richter was arrested. He pleaded guilty on March 21 to murder conspiracy and racketeering charges and was sentenced to 16 years in Federal prison.
Thirteen others were charged today with conspiracy to murder Mr. McCarthy. In addition to the conspiracy and racketeering charges, other charges have been levied against gang members, including assaults against Hell's Angels and other rival gangs and violating firearms laws.
Nightclub and video store owners named by Federal authorities as victims of the Pagans would not comment on the case. Many of the clubs appear to have shut down or are operating under new owners or new names. One topless club whose dancers paid extortion money, according to law enforcement officials, was the Gaslight in Lindenhurst. When reached by telephone, the manager there, who would not give his name, said of the payoffs: ''Not any that I know of. No comment.''
The use of violence for extortion and interfering with interstate commerce made the gang's activities a Federal case, Mr. Carter said. If convicted of the most serious charges, the defendants each face up to 10 years in prison.
Officials said the Pagans extorted money from nearly all the topless bars, clubs and adult video stores on Long Island. The charges against the 33 people named today -- all but one of the entire Long Island branch of Pagans, officials said -- grew out of the Richter case, as well as more than a year of investigative work by a group of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and detectives from the Suffolk County Police Department.
The investigation included several informants posing as gang members, as well as telephone and video surveillance, officials said. The defendants were arraigned this afternoon at the Federal courthouse in Uniondale. Each pleaded not guilty.
Nationally, Mr. Carter estimated that there were 500 Pagan members in about 50 chapters. Officials said that Mr. Richter was also the sergeant-at-arms of the national group.
A second murder conspiracy detailed in the charges concerned attempts to kill members of the Hell's Angels, the authorities said. After a Pagan member was shot and wounded by an aspiring Hell's Angel last September, Federal officials said, ''open season'' was declared on the Pagans' rivals.