Monday, December 31, 2018

Outlaws MC President was killed over club colors

Odessa, Florida  (December 31, 2018) BTN — The 69'ers Motorcycle Club is a nationwide organization whose members pride themselves on being part of the one percent — that is, the small fraction of bikers who shirk society’s rules.

In the Tampa area, they called themselves the “Killsborough” chapter. Inductees adopted names like “Pumpkin” and “Durty” and “Big Beefy.” They nurtured what prosecutors say was a criminal enterprise focused on narcotics distribution. Last year, according to a federal indictment, they graduated to murder.

A lone Harley-Davidson Motorcycle belonging to Club member 

Their target was Paul Anderson.

Anderson was president of the Cross Bayou chapter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, the predominant one-percenter club in the eastern United States. Anderson’s brazen slaying in December 2017 during rush hour on the Suncoast Parkway rattled local law enforcement. Sheriff's officials warned of more violence.

What authorities didn’t reveal, though, was the story of a deliberate campaign of violent retribution. That tale has since been spelled out in court documents and transcripts related to the federal racketeering case against five members of the 69'ers.

It all started when someone stole a couple of vests.

Allan Burt Guinto was a 69'er. They called him “Big Beefy,” all 250 pounds of him. In a photograph obtained by law enforcement, the Brandon man stands in a sleeveless black vest with a miniature Confederate flag behind him and a long white, semi-circular patch on his side reading, “Killsborough.”

The patch, known as a “rocker” is how one-percenters identify themselves and their clubs. The vests feature the 69’ers logo — a red-tongued wolf, and often, an interlocked 6 and 9.

Guinto, 27, and another Killsborough member were wearing their vests the night of April 18, 2017, when they attended a “bike night” at the Local Brewing Company restaurant in Palm Harbor. 

The Outlaws were there, too. And they didn’t take kindly to the two 69'ers. The pair suffered a beating from a dozen sets of fists and boots. Then the Outlaws took their cherished vests, according to court documents.

Word got back to the other Killsborough members. Christopher “Durty” Cosimano — their president, according to prosecutors — vowed they would take the lives of two Outlaws in retaliation for the thefts.

Within a few months, prosecutors said, they made their first try.

It all happened to James "Jimbo" Costa in the span of 18 minutes one warm, breezy summer evening as he drove his Harley Davidson motorcycle south across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge then north on U.S 41 into Hillsborough County. Costa was a captain and a career firefighter with Hillsborough County. He was also president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, according to law enforcement. He retired from firefighting in 2016 after news reports about his involvement with the club.

On July 25, 2017, he donned his black leather vest with the Outlaws' logo — a skull and crossed pistons — and left a meeting in Pinellas County.

A photograph shows Costa entering the Skyway at 11:14 p.m. Fourteen seconds later, a white Chevrolet van appeared behind him. The van, investigators learned, was registered to Cosimano, according to court records. Costa crossed the Hillsborough County line just before 11:32 p.m. and the van sped past. Someone inside fired a gun.

The van made a U-turn, Costa later told sheriff’s deputies, then more gunshots. Costa ran, bleeding, to a nearby trailer park and called 911. Sheriff’s deputies used the bridge toll records to identify Cosimano’s van. Deputies took DNA swabs and fingerprints from inside, but made no arrests. Six days later, Pasco County Sheriff's Office investigators wrote in a search warrant affidavit that Cosimano planned to assassinate Paul Anderson.

Sheriff's deputies visited Anderson at home. They told him they had heard about a hit placed on him. Anderson didn't seem surprised. "Paul advised there were a lot of people that wanted to kill an Outlaw," according to the affidavit. He repeatedly denied knowing Cosimano, but still had a message for him. "Tell him good luck," Anderson said, according to the affidavit.

Deputies also interviewed Cosimano, but he denied knowing Anderson or plotting against him, the affidavit said. Almost four weeks later, the Outlaws clubhouse in St. Petersburg went up in flames. Footage played on TV news shows a fireball engulfing the two-story stucco building on 18th Avenue S. In federal court documents, prosecutors say Cosimano and Guinto set the blaze. On Dec. 21, 2017, Paul Anderson rode north in his pickup truck along the Suncoast Parkway.

Department of Transportation toll cameras captured him at 4:53 p.m. as he cruised down the exit ramp to State Road 54. Seconds later, the same cameras spotted two men on motorcycles, both with their license tags covered. The riders wore black, their faces covered in bandanas and sunglasses. One man wore a glossy German military-style helmet. They pulled up on either side of Anderson's truck as he stopped at a traffic light, waiting to turn left.

The helmeted man stepped off the bike, walked to the driver's window and tapped on the glass. Then, before a handful of rush-hour drivers, he pulled a gun. Bullets shattered the truck's windows. Anderson was shot five times.

Images of the bikers saturated local news and prompted a confidential informer to call law enforcement.

The informer told investigators Guinto contacted him after the murder and asked for help getting rid of the gun. Investigators later equipped the informer with a hidden camera, which he used to secretly record a conversation with Guinto. Guinto admitted he had been in a car behind Anderson's truck before the shooting, according to an arrest affidavit. He said he'd watched Cosimano shoot Anderson, and that a second man, Michael "Pumpkin" Mencher, 52, was standing by in case anything went wrong. He said he was proud of the killers, according to the affidavit. Federal agents already had reason to suspect the 69'ers.

Hours after the assassination, they set up surveillance on a Riverview home rented to Erick "Big E" Robinson, 46. They reported hearing mechanical sounds, which they suspected to be gang members taking motorcycles apart. Mencher was later seen leaving the home on one of the two motorcycles in the Suncoast Parkway surveillance images, investigators said. They later searched the home and found the second bike, ridden by Cosimano, they said.

Both bikes had been modified to make them less identifiable, prosecutors said.

Within days, Cosimano, Mencher and Guinto were arrested. Months later came a federal indictment alleging murder in the aid of a racketeering and narcotics conspiracy, among other charges. The indictment roped in Robinson, whom prosecutors said was in the car with Guinto and helped dispose of evidence, and a fifth man, Cody "Little Savage" Wesling, said to be directly behind Anderson's truck. Wesling, 28, was a "prospect," who was seeking to become a full member of the 69'ers. Before his arrest, he was also a Polk County firefighter.

Prosecutors discussed seeking the death penalty for the group but ultimately ruled it out.

All five men remain jailed. If found guilty, each faces up to life in prison.

 Story: Dan Sullivan