Pagans leader jailed after Hempfield raid

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The national president of the Pagans motorcycle gang was jailed on drug distribution charges overnight after a state police raid on his home in Hempfield, Westmoreland County, that troopers said turned up cocaine and methamphetamine.

Dennis "Rooster" Katona, 45, of Ember Lane, was arraigned on charges of possession and possession with intent to deliver and held on $750,000 bond in the Westmoreland County Prison.

Troopers swarmed over the house Wednesday afternoon while a state police helicopter hovered overhead, causing a stir in the rural neighborhood. Mr. Katona, who was released from federal prison in 2006 following his conviction for a leadership role in a bloody attack on the rival Hell's Angels in New York in 2002, formerly lived in Jefferson Hills and had long been under investigation by the state police organized crime unit.

Police began building a case in the mid-2000s against the Pagans, whose national headquarters is a farmhouse in Fallowfield, Washington County. A state grand jury presentment handed up in Allegheny County in 2009 laid out the structure of the gang, including its four local chapters and the national "Mother Club," and accused members of the Greensburg chapter with distributing drugs supplied from Mexican dealers in Atlanta.

Five members were prosecuted, although the leader, Raymond Overly of Belle Vernon, head of the Greensburg chapter, got away. He remains a fugitive and is believed to be in Florida.

Mr. Katona was still in federal prison when that investigation began and was not charged as part of it, but police later began preparing a separate case against him that culminated in yesterday's raid. Troopers said they seized numerous items from the Ember Lane house, including "multi-ounce" quantities of cocaine and meth.

In the earlier New York case, Mr. Katona had been identified by a federal grand jury as the sergeant-at-arms of the Pagans' Mother Club and the owner of East Coast Cycles Inc., which had motorcycle shops in Rostraver, Florida, Germany and Austria.

According to police and the FBI in New York, Mr. Katona was one of the plotters in the attack on the Hell's Angels' "Hellraiser Ball" on Long Island that involved some 72 Pagans, many of whom live in Pennsylvania.

The Pagans is one of four major outlaw motorcycle gangs in the U.S. but have always been the most prominent in Western Pennsylvania. Two FBI investigations using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in the 1980s crippled them here, but police said they have continued to distribute marijuana, cocaine and meth in the region.

Several other prosecutions have hurt them in the last several years. Most recently, Richard "Big Rick" Speciale, a high-ranking Pagan from Ross, was charged in federal court in West Virginia with distributing cocaine from June 2007, just months after his release from federal prison on a previous cocaine conviction, to January 2010, when Pittsburgh police and the attorney general's office arrested him in Ross.

In March, he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg, W.Va.


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com .


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