The Pagan's Motorcycle Club was never the biggest outlaw motorcycle club in the nation, but members liked to think that, pound-for-pound, none was tougher.
Three Pagans, one former member said, could "do anything," and if there are more, well, that's even better, or worse for whoever is in their way.
"You give me six good Pagans and I could take over the country," said James "Jimmy D" DeGregorio, a former high-ranking member of the Pagans in the South Jersey and Philadelphia area.
"They are a hard-core gang. Period. Small but mighty."
The PMC, founded in Maryland in 1959, was back in the news last week at the Jersey Shore for the usual reasons: accusations of drug dealing, murder plots, and an old, familiar problem that's plagued the group for decades: undercover agents and confidential informants recording them.
"It's insane," DeGregorio said. "It always happens. There ain't a cop in the world that didn't bust a case without someone on the inside. The thing that makes a good detective is a good snitch."
DeGregorio spent time in prison for shooting a bodyguard for late Philadelphia mob boss Phil "Chicken Man" Testa. He has also testified against PMC members. Now he lives in Florida.
The Pagans' latest brush with the law involves an unlikely accomplice, Dr. James Kauffman, an endocrinologist accused of running a vast, prescription-drug ring out of his Egg Harbor Township office with the club's help. Authorities say Kauffman, with the Pagans' aid, arranged the murder of his wife, April, in May 2012, out of fear she would expose the enterprise.
Those same Pagans who helped Kauffman, authorities said, plotted to kill him in the Atlantic County jail after he was arrested on weapons charges this past June. The top Pagan implicated in the Kauffman case, Ferdinand "Freddy" Augello, cuts a clean appearance, at least on Facebook, where many Pagans flaunt their affiliations. There are no pictures of motorcycles, or Augello wearing the Pagans' "colors," the patches they wear on denim vests with an image of the Norse god Surtr sewn on.
Augello, 61, looks like a guitar-loving grandpop and his band, Who Dat, and graphic-artist business were well-known at the Jersey Shore. Authorities say Augello was the president of the Pagans' Cape May County chapter, however, and in one Facebook post from 2014, he thanks his "PMC Brothers" for coming to a show at the Last Chance Saloon, an infamous biker hangout in Chesilhurst, Camden County.
In 2013, a member of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club, another outlaw motorcycle gang from the area, was killed in the parking lot of that bar.
Augello made his first appearance, via video monitor, in Atlantic County Superior Court on Thursday, with what appears to be a "1 percent" tattoo visible on his forearm. Augello is charged with murder in connection with the death of April Kauffman and with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with an attempt to kill James Kauffman inside the Atlantic County jail in the last three months, according to court documents and affidavits.
Authorities said Augello, of the Petersburg section of Upper Township, tried to find a Pagan to kill April Kauffman and ultimately hired Francis Mullholland to carry out the murder, and paid him $20,000. Mullholland allegedly shot Kauffman twice on May 10, 2012, killing her.
Augello's attorney, public defender Scott Sherwood, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Mullholland, of Lower Township, died in October 2013 of a drug overdose.
An alleged accomplice in the drug enterprise, Paul Pagano, also made a first appearance Thursday. A law enforcement source in Atlantic County familiar with both the Kauffman case and the Pagans said Pagano was a high-ranking member of the club.
Though the Pagans have always been known as a Philly club, the group has maintained a strong presence at the Shore for decades
'When I first joined, I had to go there a lot," said David "RC" Winkler, a former ranking Pagan now living in Delaware County. "It's never been a gigantic thing, but that area has always been maintained."
In recent years, authorities said, the Pagans numbered in the "hundreds" across the country. DeGregorio said he recently attended the funeral for a longtime Pagan, Walter "Buckets" Jozwiak ,in Delaware and said there were hundreds there.
The law enforcement source said many Pagans moved south from Atlantic County to Cape May County, particularly Middle Township, in recent years though an Absecon bar remains a popular hangout. Middle Township police did not return requests for comment.
The annual Roar to the Shore biker rally takes place each September in Wildwood, where the Pagans traditionally take over an entire hotel and post guards on every corner. The rally usually passes without incident, though in 2010, thanks to a 21-month investigation and an undercover agent, the feds accused 17 members from New York, New Jersey, and Delaware of plotting during the Roar to the Shore to kill their biggest rivals, the Hells Angels, with grenades.
"People shouldn't talk about their crimes," Winkler, 54, said. "When you talk, you get caught."
In 2015, there was an incident between the Pagans and members of the Wheels of Soul motorcycle club at the rally. One Wheels of Soul member was arrested for possession of a handgun and brass knuckles.
DeGregorio, the former high-ranking member, said he used to live in Cape May County and recruited a lot of Pagans from there.
"There's a lot of woods down there. Lots of backwoods clammers and rednecks and pineys," he said.
Both DeGregorio and Winkler were surprised the club got involved with a doctor, though a similar scheme played out in Pennsylvania recently, and neither was surprised to hear that Augello wanted James Kauffman dead.
"He's a loose end," DeGregorio said.
Kauffman, according to the law enforcement source, did not pay the full amount for the alleged hit on his wife, further rankling the Pagans. Kauffman, the source said, had become increasingly paranoid.
James Kauffman likely first met Augello and other Pagans, the source said, through his wife, a local radio host who was a supporter of veterans' issues. Kimberly Pack, April Kauffman's daughter, said the only bikers she'd seen at her mother's events were the Legion riders, a group affiliated with the American Legion.
A spokeswoman for the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said she had no information about how James Kauffman first met the Pagans.
For one old-school biker, a dead, innocent woman seemed too far, even for a Pagan.
"It's a sad state of affairs to see people getting jammed up in these type of situations," Winkler said.