Man held in biker gang attacks
By BILL VARIAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000
There have been six shootings in Citrus County in the past year that weren't labeled accidents or self-defense.
Kenneth Defranco, whom authorities describe as the Florida "enforcer" for the Pagan motorcycle gang, was present for two of them, law enforcement officers say.
Prosecutors maneuvered on Thursday to ensure that Defranco and two others remain in jail until they can stand trial in connection with the latest shooting. They secured steep bail for Defranco and one of the other men, expressing fear to a judge that both will disappear if released from custody.
In court and in interviews, authorities provided new details about Defranco and an organization that few Citrus County residents likely know much about. Assistant State Attorney Willard Pope in court on Thursday described Defranco as the recent past president of the Citrus County chapter of the Pagan motorcycle gang. State and local arrest records describe several aliases, including Animal Difranco, and say his body is covered with more than 200 tattoos.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Ronda Hemminger Evan said he and a handful of other club members moved into Citrus County in 1999. They established a clubhouse in a mobile home at 6354 W Homosassa Trail.
"The Pagans have put the word out (to other motorcycle gangs) that they have claimed Citrus County as their territory," Evan said.
Late this year, Pope said, Defranco began worrying authorities.
"We're primarily concerned about him because of his violent tendencies," Pope said. "He seems to be doing more than enforcing club rules and exercising his authority as president.
"He's using violence to hurt people and nobody seems to want to do anything about it because they're scared of him."
First, authorities say, Defranco shot a man at the Happi Tyme bar north of Crystal River after an argument about a women on Sept. 30. Several witnesses would not implicate him, including the man who was shot.
Prosecutors abandoned an aggravated battery charge against Defranco. Instead, they issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon in connection with the shooting.
Defranco turned himself in at the Citrus County Detention Facility on Tuesday and was assigned $100,000 bail, a large amount given the charge.
Arrest records show that is because detectives also were looking into another shooting in which they say he played a part. On Dec. 12, a man showed up at Seven Rivers Community Hospital severely battered and with a bullet wound to the leg.
He initially told detectives he was attacked at a store and couldn't identify his assailants. But no one at the store had seen an attack.
Later that day, the man, described by Pope as "an associate member" of the Pagans, changed his story. He said he was at a Pagan clubhouse in Homosassa where he was beaten by Defranco with a club and shot in the leg by another gang member.
"He told our detectives that Mr. Defranco didn't like the girl he was dating," Evan said.
County Judge Mark Yerman lowered Defranco's bail to $2,500. But before Defranco could post it, he was arrested on charges of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Authorities say he beat the man with a club and had been carrying a shotgun.
Detectives also arrested Richard Grenier, 47, of 8603 W Dunnellon Road, Crystal River on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He is accused of shooting the man in the leg.
Also arrested was Mark Lawrence Baker, 42, of 12145 W Appletree Place, Crystal River, who is accused of being an accessory after the fact for not reporting the shooting.
Arrest reports identify all three men as Pagan gang members. And this time, Yerman approved Defranco's $100,000 bail after Pope said detectives had information that all three men have been instructed by the Pagan gang to flee the area to avoid prosecution.
Defranco pleaded for a lesser sentence, saying he promised his 3-year-old daughters that he'd be home in time for Christmas.
Sheriff's Detective Ken Perez said Defranco's felony record was in New Jersey.
New Jersey Department of Corrections records show Defranco has been imprisoned at least three times since the early 1990s. He served six months in 1980 on a five-year sentence for receiving stolen property. There was another six-month stint starting in August 1981 on an 18-month sentence for a conviction on four counts of arson. Defranco received a 15-year sentence in April 1984 for aggravated assault but was paroled four years later.
Motorcycle gangs, such as the Outlaws and Hell's Angels, have been linked to organized crime rings throughout the country and generally operate in turfs. The Pagans have as many as 400 members, and countless other associates, and are considered to be concentrated in the northeast.
Pope said Florida is generally considered Outlaw territory and that the Pagans must have been operating out of Citrus County with that group's permission.
"I suspect you might be a bit shocked," Pope said. "Most people out there doing their Christmas shopping have no idea about these groups and how organized and intricate they are."
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