Ken Croke is a retired ATF agent who worked undercover for years to bust numerous criminal organizations, and is the co-author of Riding with Evil: Taking Down the Notorious Pagan Motorcycle Gang. [This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure you’ve had a listen to part one here!]
What We Discuss with Ken Croke:
- How did Ken (and his wife, who was also a federal agent) keep their undercover lives separate from their home lives without jeopardizing either?
- Working undercover over the course of two years, what were some of Ken’s closest calls that almost compromised his cover — and possibly his life?
- How is evidence gathered in a way that will hold up in court without blowing an undercover agent’s cover?
- What signals that it’s time for an undercover operation to end?
- Does Ken worry about what his former gang associates might do if their paths should ever cross again?
- And much more…
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The Pagan’s [sic] Motorcycle Club is one of the most ruthless and secretive “one-percenter” outlaw biker gangs in the country. Active since the late ’50s, its most consistent rival for the past few decades has been The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Yet for the impressive size of their combined, constantly-at-war memberships, nobody in either group seems to understand how apostrophes work.
For this and countless other crimes, ATF agent Ken Croke risked two years of his life to infiltrate the Pagan’s(‘) inner circle, as chronicled in his book (co-written with New York Times bestselling author Dave Wedge), Riding with Evil: Taking Down the Notorious Pagan Motorcycle Gang. Here, we discuss the darker side of human nature brought out by outlaw tribalism, the hierarchy observed by this and similar criminal organizations, what real one-percenter bikers think of Sons of Anarchy, what someone has to go through to gain initiation into the trusted ranks of this particular gang, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy! [This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure you’ve had a listen to part one here!]
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Resources from This Episode:
- Riding with Evil: Taking Down the Notorious Pagan Motorcycle Gang by Ken Croke and Dave Wedge
- Dave Wedge | Twitter
- Pagan’s Motorcycle Club | Wikipedia
- How I (Barely) Survived a Near-Fatal Holiday Weekend with a Biker Gang | The Daily Beast
- Road to Revenge: Pagan’s ‘Roadblock’ Blair Kept Flames of Vengeance Lit in War Vs. Hells Angels After ’02 Hellraiser Ball Brawl | The Gangster Report
- An Inside Look at the Pagans Motorcycle Club and the Threat It Poses in NJ | NJ.com
- Sons of Anarchy | Prime Video
- What Is a One Percenter Motorcycle Club? | One Percenter Bikers
- Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs: Aspects of the One-Percenter Culture for Emergency Department Personnel to Consider | The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine
- Hate Symbols Database | ADL
- Feds Can’t Find Body Buried By Undercover Agent | Gothamist
- Joe Barone | Living in Dread Between the Mob and the Feds Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Joe Barone | Living in Dread Between the Mob and the Feds Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- My Firefighter Father John Orr Got Sexual Thrills from His Murderous Arson | A&E True Crime
- Joaquin “Jack” Garcia | Undercover in the Mafia Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Joaquin “Jack” Garcia | Undercover in the Mafia Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- Fruit of the Poisonous Tree: Illegally Obtained Evidence | Nolo
674: Ken Croke | Undercover in an Outlaw Biker Gang Part Two
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[00:00:15] Ken Croke: You don't go in there knowing it's two years. It could be two minutes. Listen, I didn't sign up for a two-year undercover deal. That's just what it turned into. And a lot of these as they're progressing, get stopped for different reasons. One, something's going to happen where you have to come out of the role and stop it. Number two, your cover does get blown. It happens regularly. Like there's so many things that could happen that would stop it. The fact that very few of these run for two years. You're always kind of just seeing how it's going to play out and that's where some of this dumb luck comes into it. And people always think I'm making light of it, but it is a fact.
[00:00:50] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists, entrepreneurs, spies, psychologists, even the occasional drug trafficker, money-laundering expert, or astronaut. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
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[00:01:44] Today, part two with Ken Croke, who went undercover in the Pagans Motorcycle Club, crazy episode, if you haven't heard part one, stop this one right now. Go get part one. You got to start from the beginning. Stories are absolutely bonkers. Here we go. Here's part two with Ken Croke.
[00:02:03] Did you work on that case where it turned out to be a firefighter the whole time? Burning buildings down for like 20 years.
[00:02:10] Ken Croke: Actually, that was me.
[00:02:10] Jordan Harbinger: That was you. Oh, okay.
[00:02:11] Ken Croke: Yeah. Oh, my degree is in accounting. So when I first started on the job, they put me in an arson group because a lot of arson work is based on money.
[00:02:18] Jordan Harbinger: Insurance fraud, right?
[00:02:19] Ken Croke: Yeah. So I was a brand new agent and kind of myself and Glen Lucero, LA Fire Department, arson investigator started that case. And we initiated that case and work that through. I was going back and forth from the academies so others were involved as well. But yeah, that guy was one sick individual.
[00:02:34] Jordan Harbinger: You think of arsonists as weird, solo, craziest because you got to love burning something down that might hurt a lot of people, does damage to people's stuff, ruins people's lives. There's almost no kind of real obvious upside for it. If you own the building, man, yeah, you do some insurance fraud. You get it. But if you're just burning down someone else's building, it's just pure crazy.
[00:02:53] Ken Croke: For most of them, it ties back to like a sexual deal.
[00:02:57] Jordan Harbinger: It's even more weird.
[00:02:59] Ken Croke: Yeah. There's a lot of studies to it, but this particular individual, he was probably the most prominent in California because he wasn't just a firefighter, he was an arson investigator and I'd worked scenes with him.
[00:03:08] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:03:09] Ken Croke: He's probably one of the top five in the country. And he was starting these fires. And of course, we grew up work scenes and work grids to look for devices. And he was always the guy that found it. So in retrospect, you're like, "Oh, I wonder why." Now, I know.
[00:03:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. "Look, it was under this chair the whole time. Man, how did you find that?" Well, definitely — yeah, if you put it there.
[00:03:27] Ken Croke: He was responsible for the deaths of more than one individual through these fires. And some—
[00:03:31] Jordan Harbinger: Horrible.
[00:03:32] Ken Croke: Horrible, yeah. Grandmother and granddaughter both were killed.
[00:03:35] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh.
[00:03:35] Ken Croke: So yeah, he's right where he needs to be.
[00:03:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's horrible. How do you manage the undercover work you were doing with kids? Because on the one hand, you almost get blown up with a huge explosion when this bomb-maker in the book, right? But how do you tell your kids, "Hey, I'm not going to be around for a while, but also I can't tell you what I'm doing—" Especially when they're teenagers, like they kind of know, but then you got to have rules, right? For explaining this sort of thing. You can't be kind of hot and cold with it, or it won't work.
[00:04:01] Ken Croke: We always tried our best to keep a low profile with our neighbors about what we did. Not to say that some didn't know. I mean, you're walking out of your house at four o'clock in the morning because you got to do warrants, people are going to figure things out.
[00:04:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:04:11] Ken Croke: But we kept a very low profile when it came to that. And we also had raised our kids, like, "Don't talk about what mom and dad do. And if any conversations you hear, keep it here because they're sensitive. And they were pretty good about it, but this was a little bit different. This was like, "Hey, dad's gone. When he comes home—" My wife was the first to tell me when you came home, you weren't really home. In retrospect, thinking back, how could I possibly have been home?
[00:04:35] Because sometimes it was more stressful being away from the gang because you didn't know what was happening. And then you had to re-engage with them. It was easier when you were just with them day in and day out. You could see how things would develop. And then they would have, unbeknownst to my wife and I, they would hear conversations that we would have as kids do. You know, you think they're asleep or there — and that came out when I was able to get home and I went to one of my youngest daughter's hockey games, and I was supposed to be the head coach of the team, but that was before I had agreed to do this case. So I was over by the bench and one of the girls had said, "Hey, Coach Ken, we haven't seen you in a while?" I'm like, "Yeah, I'm sorry. I've been working." She's like, "Oh yeah, we heard you were at a party with Roadblock."
[00:05:13] Jordan Harbinger: Oh god.
[00:05:13] Ken Croke: I was like, "Holy sh*t. This is a big deal." Like if that name gets out or somebody posts something or whatever it is, your whole identity is gone.
[00:05:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:05:22] Ken Croke: And so like simple things like that — so, you know, we talked to the kids. And my wife and I were also like, "Hey, we got to go to the garage and talk, we just cannot talk about this in the here because they're hearing us."
[00:05:33] Jordan Harbinger: You must have had to have like a baseball or a soccer meeting, like, "Hey, you can't tell your kids about this. I know, you know, some stuff and you hear some stuff. Like this will get me killed or worst." Did you have to manage that somehow?
[00:05:46] Ken Croke: The folks — I'm sure they speculated, the parents of players or whatever, but I never told them anything. Now, they could see I looked like a sh*tbag. And when I was at games, you could see parents from like the other team looking at me like, "Who's the sh*tbag over there watching the game?" And it used to infuriate my wife because my wife would be like, "I just want to scream out he's a federal agent," because—
[00:06:04] Jordan Harbinger: And he's keeping you safe.
[00:06:06] Ken Croke: And she's like, "We go in the supermarket and people look at you like you're a dirt bag." At one point I was in the bank and came out and I took a phone call staying up front. I got jacked up, thrown in the back of a Cruiser, just because — I later learned. There was a guy who did armed robbery and he was like 5'1". I'm like 6'3". Like he didn't look anything like me, but I still ended up getting jacked up and thrown in the Cruiser. Yeah, you know, stuff happens and you just kind of reflect back, you're like, "Why am I doing this again?"
[00:06:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you would second guess it. I mean, the undercover life has to spill into your home life a little bit, even in addition to that. Like I would imagine you can't be with a bunch of guys talking about violence, drugs, misogynist stuff, and disgusting activity, and then come home and be a model citizen at home. I assume the language, at least the foul language, the least of that has to spill over into your home life. And then you're just like, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. I can't do that in front of my kids."
[00:07:01] Ken Croke: Now, my wife would say to me, she's like, "Hey, we can't lose you to the dark side." We were talking one night and I was describing somebody. And so I'm like, "You know, the dude puts peanut butter on his balls and his dog licks them off." And she's like, "Do you realize what you just said?" She goes, "You say that like, you're describing someone with blonde hair. That was your description. You didn't bat an eye. Like, you didn't even think that was weird." She's like, "You cannot turn into one of them." I'm like, "I'm not. It's just that, that's the thing that pops in my head when I think of this idiot."
[00:07:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:30] Ken Croke: That concerned her and she always like was there to try to level set and be like, "Hey, remember it keep a foot in reality."
[00:07:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:07:37] Ken Croke: Obviously I did and it all worked out. But to your point, it does give you a different view, for sure.
[00:07:42] Jordan Harbinger: When you say get lost to the dark, does that just mean it degrades the way you talk and act as a person? Or are there agents that are like, "You know what, this criminal life, I'm making a lot of money — screw this police thing, this is great"? I mean, does that ever happen?
[00:07:54] Ken Croke: I don't ever think it's for the money. I think maybe the lifestyle. So we've lost people to the dark side.
[00:08:01] Jordan Harbinger: Like they quit law enforcement. Is that what that means?
[00:08:04] Ken Croke: Not so much. No, but they changed and their personality changes. Ultimately, they're not able to survive on the job anymore because of the choices that they make afterwards. And so ATF made a real concerted effort to really monitor that. So like when I was in, I had to every six months go see a shrink. So they level set before you go in and then every six months you would get evaluated. Now, it's problematic because you got to come up with an excuse to disappear, but you go and they would evaluate you. And I assume if they saw something wrong, they'd be like, "Hey, you got to pull him out."
[00:08:36] I always joked — I'm like, okay if I can fool 2000 Pagans, I'm pretty sure I can fool one shrink. But my shrink friends say, "No, they're smarter than that and they'd be able to detect it." So I don't know the real truth. I didn't go to the dark side. So I don't know, but they do put a lot of effort into making sure that those who are doing this stay healthy and stay entrenched in where they're at. And you know, when they come back out, they give you a transition period to get back into normal life again,
[00:09:02] Jordan Harbinger: I know you said that there's cover teams nearby where possible. Obviously, not when you're in the top of a 40-story building in the Projects or whatever, if you can't do that, but a lot of his biker stuff, man, you're out in the middle of what sounds like just in the middle of the desert, in a campground at best, or in the woods somewhere. I mean, you can't just have a police van with tinted windows parked on the side of the road anywhere near this thing, right?
[00:09:27] Ken Croke: No, you can't. And so other than one exception in the entire two years, I never wore a wire because there were times — so churches where they do all their secretive meetings and where they do their criminal planning and things like that. So they refer to it as church. When you go to church, and this is because they learned over the years on criminal prosecutions, that there's ways through cell phones, that you can monitor cell phone batteries, blah, blah, blah. So there were no electronics allowed in church at all. Most cases, they had RF detectors. So RF picking up or frequency of a transmitter. They would wand you to make sure that you didn't have any transmitters on. And there were times where we had to strip naked and we'd be sitting. These are some ugly people, man. And I'm just sitting in church naked, you know, having our meetings so that they knew nobody could have had a wire.
[00:10:13] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:10:14] Ken Croke: And so even if a cover team was around the corner, they'll not going to know anything happens until way — maybe they see your body getting dragged out. I don't know.
[00:10:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, exactly.
[00:10:23] Ken Croke: But in most cases, they were way too far away, this is like miles, miles away. So they always joked. It was the body recovery team, not really a cover team. But these cover teams, if they get too aggressive and they're too close, they can actually burn you much more than you could burn yourself. So you have to have trust in those folks that are out there and they know — and I'd rather work my way out of something than have somebody come gang busted through thinking they're helping me when they're not.
[00:10:48] Jordan Harbinger: Did your cover team ever get you in trouble or come close to it?
[00:10:52] Ken Croke: There was only — it's pretty amazing for a two-year investigation and I will caveat this. So when you were at certain events, like if I went to a mandatory, which a mandatory is probably the worst experience. So we can talk about that. There was a law enforcement. Everyone was there and they knew law enforcement was there. And so they'd be flipping them off, posing for photographs because they knew the cops were all watching it because it was known that these events were happening. So like anybody could be there. There's no problem. But there was a night when I was buying a couple of ounces of crack cocaine off of Hogman and his—
[00:11:23] Jordan Harbinger: As one does.
[00:11:23] Ken Croke: Yeah, you know, it's just a regular Friday night and his source came in, delivered the crack cocaine, and so we paid him, did our thing and then we're done. And a not-so-bright supervisor in a car got way too close.
[00:11:38] Jordan Harbinger: The classic police car that every kid recognizes from age 15 through the rest of your life, yeah.
[00:11:43] Ken Croke: Exactly. Like if you're in that, just go to like the little coffee shop and have a coffee, because you're not going to help anyways. But anyways, this clown got way too close and this guy calls back. So this was Hogman and the guy who was buying the crack for him. He calls back and he goes, "Hey, cops are all over me. Something's up. Your place heated this up. What's going on over there, blah, blah, blah?" And so Hogman was saying this to me and I'm like, "Fuck this guy. He's clearly got the cops on him. He brought them in here. Tell him he better not bring his ass back anywhere near here. Just tell him to keep freaking driving. If they jack him up, he better keeps his mouth shut," and so just put it back on him. And we had several transactions and we didn't need to deal with him again. But when I met the cover team, I met him at like three in the morning to give him the crack cocaine, I blurted, "Hey, who was that? Who was in that car? They should never be out here again." And unfortunately, it was the supervisor, so they kind of had to be out there.
[00:12:31] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man. It sucks because it's the classic boss. Maybe he doesn't really know what the guy on the ground is dealing with. Instead of like, "Oh, you messed up a week of work." It's like, "Oh, you got three people killed or you got me murdered in front of my colleagues and ruined—" Or, he just ruined the whole case where I was undercover for years with these guys.
[00:12:52] Ken Croke: Right. Yeah. No, that's exactly it. The amount of time, blood, sweat, tears that go into this and listen, there's things that happen — that's why people are always like, "Oh, what made you decide to do a two-year undercover?" You don't go in there knowing it's two years. It could be two minutes. Listen, I didn't sign up for a two-year undercover deal. That's just what it turned into. A lot of these as they're progressing along, get stopped for different reasons. One, something's going to happen where you have to come out of the role and stop it. Number two, your cover does get blown. It happens regularly. Like there's so many things that can happen that would stop it. The fact that very few of these run for two years. You're always kind of just seeing how it's going to play out. And that's where, you know, some of this dumb luck comes into it. And people always think I'm making light of it, but it is a fact.
[00:13:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I've heard I've had other undercovers on before. Jack Garcia who infiltrated the mob. He was with the FBI and he basically just abruptly had to stop because one of the guys he was with saw somebody he hated at the mall and picked up like a glass centerpiece and hit him in the head with it. And he's like, "Well, if he hits him again, that guy's going to die and I'm standing right here and we're at a shopping mall." And so he was like, "What are you doing?" And he like, basically — I think, I can't remember the exact details, but I want to say he stopped the guy or he arrested the guy right there and was like, "I got to pull the rip cord because this idiot is an impulsive, dumb ass. And I can't let this guy get beat to death—" another criminal actually. And you know, it's unfortunate. Like it can't let this guy get beat to death in front of me because of laws.
[00:14:20] Ken Croke: Yeah. And there were a couple of times, there was one night that I was a sergeant-at-arms and there was another sergeant-at-arms and two presidents. And we were heading over to see a president of a support club. It got heated. We were going back and the two presidents were like, "We're going to kill. We're going to stab him." And we were up on the rooftop of a motel. And they want to toss him between these two buildings. It was like a three-foot gap. And they're like, "We're going to stab him and throw him between these two buildings." So it's like 700 of their gang members in this hotel. And I'm like, "There's no way that I can let this happen, for sure." And I've got a gun with six rounds, so that's not going to do me a whole lot of good.
[00:14:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:14:56] Ken Croke: So I'm looking around and I'm on the rooftop and I see some blue flashing lights way off in the distance. I'm like, "How do I get their attention?" Anyways, long story short was I was able to use their own rules back on them. You know, to kill a president of another club, you've got to have the mother club to bless off on that. And I'm like, "Hey, we got to go back and get mother—" we were at a mandatory, so I was like, "We got to go back and get the mother club to bless off on this." One of the presents was like, "Fuck that. We're doing it anyways." The other president was like, "Yeah, he's right. Let's go. We'll go." And by the time, we went, got there, everyone kind of cooled off. We're talking to the mother club and they're like, "No, there's other ways we could handle it." So bottom line is we were able to avoid it, but like at that point, there was no choice. I was going to have to come out of the role.
[00:15:34] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man. Good thing you are such a good student and you memorized all these little bylaws that they have, right? You could have been a lawyer.
[00:15:41] Ken Croke: Yeah.
[00:15:43] Jordan Harbinger: "Sorry, subsection four says we have to get sign-off on this." "Ah, you're right. He's right."
[00:15:47] Ken Croke: Yeah.
[00:15:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, man.
[00:15:49] Ken Croke: Use their own stuff back against them.
[00:15:51] Jordan Harbinger: I know eventually they put a female agent in as your girlfriend, which seems like a good idea because then at least you're not alone, right? So maybe if they got a female agent coming in as your girlfriend. She's just like another set of eyes. What other benefit is there aside from that?
[00:16:05] Ken Croke: You know, in a lot of these cases, they would do that. We would cycle somebody in and out as a girlfriend. In this particular case, there was a couple of things. One is, you've got a lot of these women who like, not the undercover, but a lot of other women involved in the case, the old ladies are hanging around and what have you, and they're going to be hitting on you all the time. And so like at some point, if you don't have a girlfriend or a wife or something out — you're only going to be able to say no, so many times before it's going to start looking weird. It kind of goes back to like, "Here's the new guy. Oh, he's not interested in women. He's not doing drugs. He's not doing alcohol," and all of a sudden, it just doesn't look right. And so when you could have a female as part of that, that would take that burden away.
[00:16:47] The problem is on a female — and I talk about it in the book — is you could go along. You can go and have a female who's you know, there, but they can't be there for a lot of stuff. Especially when you're prospecting, they don't want girlfriends, wives, or anything around.
[00:17:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:02] Ken Croke: And even when you're a member, certain events, they can't go to, so that limits their involvement, but they are less scrutinized. Nobody's searching them. Nobody's really paying attention to what they're doing. There's also like an underground chatter between old ladies. And you may get some intel. Because even though you're not supposed to talk to your old ladies about anything, these guys do so you can get some intel. The other option is to take another male agent. And that's happened many times where you've had two, three, four people in a chapter. Certainly, some buddies of mine have done it that way. And they're like, "Hey, the upside is you at least have a normal person to talk to when you're in there." But the other side of it is like, there's so many ways your story can get crossed up when you bring other people in. Because they start asking questions like—
[00:17:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:46] Ken Croke: "What does Ken think about this? What did Ken do last?" And they start checking up on your story. It's the quickest and easiest way for them to get you crossed up. So for me, it was always, okay, I'd rather just do this on my own. And if I screw up, I screw up. It's on me and it's going to affect nobody but me.
[00:18:04] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Ken Croke. We'll be right back.
[00:18:08] This episode is sponsored in part by Mel Science. I grew up learning science through boring textbooks like many of you. I also took apart a lot of things in the house, much to my mother's horror, but science is all around us and most people learn better when it is interactive, preferably also not destructive of the electronics in your house. Mel Science kits inspire a love of science at a key age, and they take education to the next level, through monthly hands-on projects, where they include everything. You don't need to go out and get any extra parts. They don't assume you have stuff on hand. I would have loved this as a kid. I actually am having a lot of fun with them now. Plus you can choose different course options like stem projects or learn the basics of computer programming and coding. You can conduct safe chemistry experiments. No more just mixing stuff together in the toilet. Did anyone else do that? You can also learn physics. There's even medicine. This is really cool. You can practice suturing, dental cleaning. You can learn how to use a micropipette and a centrifuge. That was totally unique and interesting. The projects are good for ages four to 99. And my son, Jayden, who's not even three. He's already about all this sensory play and education. So we love that they explain what's actually happening. They use a little comic book to do it, so you're not just kind of like, "Ooh, cool. This thing works." You actually get to learn what's going on and you can pause the subscription at any time.
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[00:20:56] Now back to Ken Croke.
[00:20:57] Man, the guys are so violent. Many of them are rapists and murderers. Like you could have — I don't know. I guess old ladies are probably off-limits, but maybe they don't care or maybe they're too high on methamphetamine and they just go after her. And you're like, "Great. Now she's with the guy who eats dead things with the blood fetish alone in a room somewhere," and she doesn't have a phone or they take it out on her if they don't like you. I don't know. Does that happen?
[00:21:23] Ken Croke: You know, well, that absolutely could happen. But when you're a full patch, they also give you a property patch. And so if you're a member, you have a property patch that would say property, a slam, and that would go to my girlfriend, wife, or whatever it is. They're protected if you will. Now, I wouldn't take it to the bank, but it's better off than not, but the good part of this investigation, is you're not a patch member. So there is no property patch. There is no protection. And there was one meeting where some old ladies have been doing some stuff. And one of the mother club members gets really pissed off. And they're like, "I'm sick and tired of these old ladies and their friends causing all these problems. Remember this, rape them, beat them, kill them. We don't care, but they are not going to be—" So they're like laying this out. And so it puts you at risk.
[00:22:06] And in the book, I talk about something that happened, and it was 100 percent my fault, where I had my undercover girlfriend there and I was not a patch — I had been kicked out of the club and I got kicked out for nothing that I did. The national vice president who vouched for me had try a coup and try to become the national president the night before or actually, this goes back about a month or two before, and he gets beat out of the club severely. And then everybody that he had sponsored got kicked out of the club as well.
[00:22:34] So I was out. Nothing to do with me. And quite honestly, I was done. I just want to go home and go back to my normal life. But some folks convinced me to just kind of hang around and see what would happen. So long story short, I ended up down at this mandatory as a civilian, not anything with a club. We weren't allowed to go in the compound of where all the Pagans were because I wasn't a Pagan, but some of the presidents had a motel nearby. And so we were over there and people were hanging out. I'd left her there with some old ladies in the room. I was upfront and Pete had walked up to me with a sergeant-at-arms. He's like, "Hey, I want to talk to you." He's like, "Let's take a walk," which wasn't abnormal.
[00:23:11] And so we start walking and before long I realized like, "Where are we going?" I felt like, "Hey, these guys are leading me away." So I got this pit in my stomach and I'm like, "Oh sh*t." And we've walked like a fair distance. So I was like, "Hey, I'm just going to make a quick call." And so I called the female undercover and she didn't answer her phone. And as it turns out—
[00:23:31] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:23:31] Ken Croke: She had the phone on vibrate, which is normal. That's what we always did, but it was sitting on a bed. So, she, you know—
[00:23:37] Jordan Harbinger: She didn't hear it.
[00:23:38] Ken Croke: So I'm sitting there, I call her multiple times and I'm like, "I cannot believe I let these guys lure me away. So I very awkwardly lose it. "Okay, I've got to go back. I got to take care of something," and they're like, "Wait, wait, we're not done. Hold on." And I'm like, "No, I've got to go," and there was no stopping me. I was going, because again, this is one of those things if you have to, you come out of the role. I didn't know what the hell has happened to her back there. So I'm trying not to run, but I'm walking as fast as I can. And I got back and the doors, it was open when I left it. It was not all the way close, there was a jar, but not by much. So I went and pushed the door. I'm expecting to see the worse.
[00:24:10] There was nothing. There's a bunch of old ladies hanging in there talking, and she was one of them. I was like, you lose your kid in the mall and then you find him and the first thing you do is yell at him. Mostly because you were just scared and you just happy that they're there, but that's not how it comes across.
[00:24:22] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:24:23] Ken Croke: And so I did, I'm like, "What the hell aren't you answering your phone? You know, blah, blah." And it was totally on me. I never should have walked out of that room. I never should've left that area, which is just kind of, you know, a mistake that I made, and luckily, nobody got hurt because of it.
[00:24:35] Jordan Harbinger: Although it's in character for you to be kind of an assh*le to your girlfriend, as an outlaw biker guy, right?
[00:24:40] Ken Croke: Totally.
[00:24:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yelled at her in front of her friends.
[00:24:42] Ken Croke: Totally. And it was totally not even acting, but again, it was mostly, I was yelling at myself.
[00:24:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:24:47] Ken Croke: Because I knew better, I should never let happen.
[00:24:50] Jordan Harbinger: How do you weigh keeping your cover versus someone else's well-being? The grossest guy in the book later on, or one of the girls — it's hard to even keep them straight. They're all discussing, right? But he tells you, "Oh, there's this girl hanging out at the tattoo shop." Who's like a young student, right? And it's a biker-owned tattoo shop. And he's like, "I'm going to brutally rape and murder this woman because I want to." And you're like — that could have torn you out of your role, right? Because you have to make sure that this innocent girl doesn't have this happen to her.
[00:25:15] Ken Croke: A hundred percent and it would have — again, it comes back to you just kind of thinking real quickly, like, "Okay, what can I do?" And this one was kind of slowly developing over a period of probably, I don't know, a couple of weeks. Because it started with the very attractive art major comes by the chapter president's tattoo shop. She really gifted artist, but she didn't know how to tattoo. And there's a big difference between drawing it and then actually—
[00:25:37] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:25:38] Ken Croke: —putting it on somebody's skin. So she was there kind of as an apprentice. So he worked with her legitimately, but there was a couple of Pagans who were there and they're like trying to flirt with her. And it was comical for me at the beginning because I'm sitting back and there was like a big sofa in the tattoo shop. And I'm looking at them, I'm like, "You idiots, like go look in a mirror and then go look at this girl. Like, you really think you have a snowball's chance in hell of getting with her." But then it went from being funny to like, "Oh, wait a minute." Because Hogman started talking and he started getting more aggressive in what he was saying. Not towards her but the way he was looking at her, I'm like, "Man, this dude's like he's heading down a path." And then eventually he was like, "Hey, I'm going to rape this girl. And I'm going to—" you know, he's talking about what he was going to do to her. And so I was like, all right, well, obviously I'm not going to — like, some people may talk to that stuff, you know, but like with this guy, I would never put it past him. And so I wasn't going to wait around to find out.
[00:26:28] So I had approached her — there was one of a couple of things I could do is come out of the role to take the whole thing down, or I could try to get her to go away. So I approached her and I basically said, "Hey, listen, I could get myself in a world of trouble, but I'm even telling you this," I said, "but you need to leave. You're not safe here. Hogman is very focused on you. And this is not going to end well for you. You need to leave. And I didn't mean need to leave like in the next three minutes, but like when you leave tonight, don't come back." Because it was easy enough to just be around her and make sure enough it was going to happen. And to her credit, she did leave. Never saw her again.
[00:26:57] Jordan Harbinger: Smart.
[00:26:58] Ken Croke: She was gone and I'm sure she went to another tattoo parlor and got her training.
[00:27:03] Jordan Harbinger: These guys are obvious creeps, right? It's not like this guy was undercover to and on blood clots and all the stuff that he was doing. So she probably already had a bad vibe from them. And then you come in being like, "Yeah, this guy, isn't just a gross guy that we can sort of like wave off."
[00:27:16] Ken Croke: Right.
[00:27:16] Jordan Harbinger: And she's like, "Yeah, it was already on the fence. See you never."
[00:27:19] Ken Croke: You could see how people looking at you, you know?
[00:27:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:21] Ken Croke: There's like looking at you like hopeful and there's looking at you, like you're a piece of meat and that's what it turned into for him.
[00:27:27] Jordan Harbinger: There's a war between the Pagans and the Hells Angels among other gangs, right? And they're dealing guns, these illegal guns as felons. The whole time, you're making a huge list of crimes, right? What's the most intense or severe felony you had a front-row seat for? Was it some of these bomb threats and things like that?
[00:27:43] Ken Croke: The American Conspiracy was probably the biggest where they were talking about how they were going to kill certain people in large part with the Hells Angels. And they had very specific ways they were going about it. And there's some recordings that really laid out their intent and how they were going to do it. And some of it was with bombs. They had the bombs. We ultimately ended up getting some of them before the case was over. But it was gun trafficking, drug trafficking, vicar beatings like there's a whole string of events. And, you know, eventually, it became a RICO case, and prosecutors such—
[00:28:12] Jordan Harbinger: It's like an organized crime case.
[00:28:14] Ken Croke: Right, exactly. And so, you know, to your point, like, there'll be some days that not a lot was going on. Other days, it'd be like five different things going on. And as you get later in the case, it's like, "Okay. You have to share up these charges by getting this conversation." So like if you had a bodyguard in statutes where somebody is carrying a gun in defense of a felon who can't carry a gun, that's a federal offense, but you have to show that they knew that person was a felon. So then you basically have to have a conversation with them, somehow getting them to say, or acknowledge that they knew this person was a felon. So like some of those things to kind of tie up the loose ends of the case, the closer you get to the end, and then you have to freshen up the PC for the warrants.
[00:28:50] Jordan Harbinger: PC, probable cause, right?
[00:28:52] Ken Croke: Right, right. Yeah. I appreciate you translating for me.
[00:28:54] Jordan Harbinger: No problem, man. Someone's got to do it.
[00:28:58] Ken Croke: Like I'd be in Trucker's house who's one of the brothers of Roadblock, Hogman and Trucker. And I saw the gun there, but you know, I'd seen it months before. So now, I got to figure out a way to go back to Trucker's house, to see if that gun's still in Trucker's house as the cases get closer to coming down. So like a lot of that kind of activity as you move along and kind of putting those — because that's the whole reason you're there to build the case. Listen, there were plenty of people — actually, there's some who could have been charged who weren't charged, but there's some there that didn't do anything illegal. So it's like, okay, that's fine too. You're not going in with, oh, I'm going to get these 20 guys in this chapter.
[00:29:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:29:32] Ken Croke: No, I'm going to go in and get whoever's doing what they're doing and document and make sure I put together a solid case.
[00:29:39] Jordan Harbinger: So for people who are maybe not American or their law background is not up to snuff. Probable cause is what police have when they say, "Hey, I see something illegal or smell something illegal in your car. Now, I'm going to search your car." You need that to get a warrant. So what you're talking about is if you saw a gun in someone's house eight months ago, and it's illegal and maybe had a bunch of drugs in a safe and some cash, you can't say, "Hey, eight months ago, this guy had something in there." You have to find a reason to go back in the house. Look in there again, when he's not looking, make sure that stuff is still in there. Then, you can go back to the prosecutor, the judge, whatever, and say, "That stuff is still in there. I just saw it a couple of days ago. The warrant, if we go and we search it, you're probably going to find it." And then that makes the warrant hold up in court when they're prosecuting. Because otherwise, you could have this old thing, you could even find it. And then they'd say, "Well, this probable cause is kind of nonsense. You saw something almost a year ago on that you got a warrant, you went in there." Yeah, you found it, but that's called fruit of the poison tree and it's so that police don't overstep their bounds and it can really screw up a case as I'm sure you've seen and probably had happened before.
[00:30:37] Ken Croke: Sure. Yeah. And that's really what — so not a single one of these individuals went to trial. The evidence was overwhelming, but the majority of them filed motions much to like what you just described in hopes of being able to suppress some of the evidence.
[00:30:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:51] Ken Croke: In the end, they weren't successful. They all pleaded guilty.
[00:30:54] Jordan Harbinger: You know, I was amazed at how cheap it is to have some of these crimes done. It really is dirty deeds done dirt cheap for some of these guys. If there was one example in the book where I think you said you wanted to blow up someone's boat because they poured the sugar in your gas tank, it's just kind of a nonsense story. And this guy's like, "Yeah, no problem. I've got a grenade or a homemade bomb or something." And he's like, "Yeah, I'll blow up this guy's boat with you with an explosive," which is like, you know, decades, long felony to have an explosive use it to blow something up. And he wanted like 300 bucks to do it, right?
[00:31:23] Ken Croke: Yeah. So the whole story though is he wasn't really charging to blow up the boat, but what it was is we knew they had what they referred to as Christmas presents. We knew there were bombs that hadn't seen him yet, and I didn't know where they were. So I came up with a story, like if I was in New York and I just said, "Hey, listen, I want to go blow up Jordan." Okay, the problem is they're going to go blow up Jordan. Like I'm not going to know about it and they're just going to go do it because they think they're doing me a favor. So I had to have an environment where I could control it. So part of my cover story was that I poach lobsters and it allowed me a few times I could go and say, I have been going out poaching. They couldn't track me because I was out of the water and that would allow me to go home or to go see the truck, whatever it is that day. So part of the story was, hey, you know, these poachers, again, it's true that you get caught poaching lobsters, which out for the last minute was coming along with a sawed-off shotgun because he's going to blast you. They take that so seriously.
[00:32:10] Jordan Harbinger: Poaching lobsters is what you go up to somebody else's traps and you just empty them out and steal his catch.
[00:32:15] Ken Croke: Yeah, take their lobsters. And so what I was saying is I was out there poaching and I got into this battle with this other guy. And anyways, long story short, he poured sugar into the tanks in my boat and destroy my engine. But I wanted to blow up his boat. And so when I told that to [Izzo] he's like, "Hey, I may be able to help you with that." And so I'm like, "All right, well, hey, that'd be great." We talked about it a little bit, but we didn't iron it out. We didn't have any set plan to do this, but I knew that he wasn't going to be able to go and use it on somebody in New York or something that I couldn't control. Long story short, again, another part of my backstory is that I did collections for my boss. You know, he's running some numbers and some things, and I would help do collections and I get a piece of that action.
[00:32:53] Jordan Harbinger: So you're like collecting money from gamblers or something like that.
[00:32:55] Ken Croke: Right, exactly. And it's just the more of like the small-time criminal stuff, the more legitimate it makes you be. And so part of that was we set this up where it was agents, but I had set it up that I was doing these collections and that [Izzo] was going to come with me.
[00:33:09] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, so it's fake collections to boost your — it's like street theater stuff, right?
[00:33:13] Ken Croke: That's exactly what — it's street theater and it builds my credibility. And so he comes up to do this and it still has danger to it because if he goes and does something crazy, now an agent that I've put in that risk. So I told him, I said, "Hey, the last guy who did this with me, he got too handsy and I threw him out and he's never done it again. You do one thing that I tell you not to do, then you're out." And so he's like, "I'll do whatever you want me to do. You don't need to worry." I was just going to pay him a couple of hundred bucks for doing it.
[00:33:37] So anyways, he comes up until we meet at a 99 Restaurant. When want I say, come up. It was up to the Boston area. So we're in the 99 Restaurant, I have a beer, we're eating something. And so we're just about done inside and so I was like, "I got to go take a leak." So I go in the bathroom, he follows me in. I'm like, this is a little weird, but then he's kind of standing behind me at the urinal. I'm like, this is really fucking weird.
[00:33:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:56] Ken Croke: You know, I feel he was doing what I'm doing and I turn around — he's got one of those long trench coats, you know, the oil slick ones. And so as I turn, he like, like a flasher, whips open his jacket and he's got a bomb in the inner pocket of the jacket. I'm like, "Holy sh*t, he's got this bomb inside this restaurant." Like, that can't happen and so I'm like, "Hey, bro. Let's get out of here, man. We don't want to get caught with that thing." And hey, listen, I just want him the hell away from all these people.
[00:34:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:34:21] Ken Croke: Got him. I say, "Hey, go meet by my truck. So I'll pay the bills." So he went out — and anytime I say I'll pay the bill, they're going to run out the door anyways. So I go pay the bill real quick and we get out there and I'm like, "Hey, we got work to do, man. We can't keep you driving around on this thing." And so I had one of those big stars from Dunkin' Donuts cups. He gave me the bomb. I put it into the cup and I left it in my vehicle. I said, "We'll take your vehicle." So I was fake making some phone calls. We went out to the street theater. And I said, "Hey, listen, the boats — you know, he's out at sea." And he's like, "Oh, we'll just wait." And I'm like, "No, you don't understand, man. He could be out for days. We could be sitting on the dock for days waiting for him to come back." He's like, "Oh fuck." And I'm like, "Listen, I talked to my boss, he'll give you 300 bucks for it. And then I'll just take care of it whenever he comes back or he'll take care of himself." And he's like, "All right, cool." He gets 300 bucks, right? So, yeah, I gave him the 300 bucks. He leaves me with the bomb.
[00:35:09] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, he sold it to you.
[00:35:10] Ken Croke: Yeah, he sold it to me. Now, at least, we knew it was a high explosive wrap in steel bar. It was a legit device, but when we got back to New York and we had church, Roadblock, who's, you know, one of the more intelligent in the crew, he caught wind of what had happened. So in church, he's like, "Hey, where's the bomb?" And I'm like, "Used it to sink a boat." And he's like, "You know, who leaves or takes stuff like that? Cops. That's what cops do." Now, I'm thinking, "Sh*t. He thinks I'm a cop," but as it turned out as the story or the conversation went like for another minute, he thought my boss was a cop. And so his whole thing was like, "Hey, how do you know that he used it and sunk the boat? How do you know this? How do you know that?" I'm like, "Listen, you guys know, I dive. I'll dive and get photos. I'll tell him to tell me exactly where it was. I'll get pictures." He said, "Get the fucking pictures of the boat." And he goes, "And if I end up in a jail cell," and he's pointed me and [Izzo], he's like, "You two get to pray to God, you'll not sell anywhere near me because I'm going to kill the both of you." He was hot that the device had got left behind.
[00:36:10] Jordan Harbinger: So did you get the pictures? I mean, how did you manage that?
[00:36:13] Ken Croke: I just kind of stalling along for a little bit and eventually — so then these guys, it's like if it doesn't happen right away, it's not going to happen.
[00:36:20] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:36:20] Ken Croke: So I think it's time — and we never talked about it. So it wasn't like in 10 days they felt good about it. Nobody got arrested. But as time went by, I just stopped bringing it up. He brought up a couple of times, I'm like, "Yeah, yeah, I'm working on it, I'm going to make it happen, man. Next time I go up." But then he just kind of dropped it and I think it was more because nobody went to jail for it. So he's like, "Okay."
[00:36:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, yeah. "If they were going to arrest us, they have done it by now," right? That kind of thing.
[00:36:41] Ken Croke: A hundred percent. Yeah, a hundred percent.
[00:36:45] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests Ken Croke. We'll be right back.
[00:36:49] This episode is sponsored in part by Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is a product that Jen and I take every single day. Jen has become obsessed with it. We just mix a scoop of Athletic Greens with a cup of water in a bottle, and we like to drink it in the morning. Each scoop has 75 vitamins, minerals, whole foods, sourced superfoods, probiotics, and adaptogens that are high quality. And your body will actually absorb. No need for a million different pills and supplements to look out for your health. Athletic Greens is like an all-in-one nutritional insurance. It's cheaper and easier than getting all the different supplements yourself. My friend runs the company. He's a stickler for all things quality so I can get behind that. There's no GMOs, no nasty chemicals, no artificial anything. It's time to reclaim your health and arm your immune system with convenient daily nutrition, especially heading into the flu and cold season, which now seems to be all year long, especially if you have kids.
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[00:39:43] Now for the rest of my conversation with Ken Croke.
[00:39:47] Man, you always mentioned during your interactions with these guys that they might know you're a cop, or they might have a suspicion, and you're worried about them— obviously shooting or killing you. That's one example. There was another one where you're moving a dead body in the woods and you're like, "Oh man, are they making me dig this grave for myself?" Do you think that these guys were actually suspicious? Or was this just your mind playing tricks on you because of the pressure?
[00:40:10] Ken Croke: Well, I think it's a combination, right? You know, it's not even mind's play — you always have to have your guard up. You always have to be thinking what-if. Now, moving the body without getting too far into that story because I don't want to be spoiled, but we learned from post-arrest interviews that they had gotten suspicious and it was never really clear what it was that tripped them, that they felt was suspicious, but I just bought some drugs off Tracy. It was at the undercover house and I go back inside the house actually to put the drugs away. And when I came out, there's a group of the Pagans were in the driveway. And you know how you walk out and you know everyone's talking about you?
[00:40:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:44] Ken Croke: Because they all stopped talking. And so that happened. I was like, "What the hell is going on?" And we later learned that they had thought that something had happened. That I was a cop or an informant and I'm not sure which is worse. And, you know, on day one, if they figure you're a cop or an informant, big deal, they're just going to say, "Hey, cop, leave." Day, you know, 100 when you've got charges on three-quarters of them, that's not going to end as easily. And so, you know, as it went on, they felt more secure that I wasn't. And hence I got more and more involved in something that heavy headache things that were going on in the gang which then raises the stakes, which makes it more difficult to stay in.
[00:41:21] Jordan Harbinger: What made you finally pull the trigger on this one and have everyone arrested? What was sort of like the, "All right, here's the flag. Let's do this."
[00:41:29] Ken Croke: I mean, so the investigation goes on and you have all these different times. Some of them are like things that they did that put you in a bad spot. Like, you know, I was talking about having to kill a guy and throw him out. Other stuff was just the dumb luck like you dodge the bullet. You know, I mentioned to you, when I got kicked out of the club, I was supposed to be doing guard duty out in front of the clubhouse. I got kicked out of the clubs. So I obviously wasn't going to be doing guard duty. So sergeant-at-arms it's out there and the Hells Angels rolled up the clubhouse. They surrounded the clubhouse and they beat the sergeant-at-arms with ball-peen hammer, fists, feet. You got MedFlight out. And that should have been me. If I had gotten kicked out. Like dumb luck, I got kicked out.
[00:42:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:42:05] Ken Croke: There was another incident, not too long after that, when I was sergeant-the-arms, we've been on this big run, there was like 30 of us. The way it works is the highest-ranking rides front left, the next highest will works its way all the way back to the back of the pack. And so we've gotten back and the chapter president and said, "Hey, Hogman and Slam, I need you guys to go pick this up, something at Home Depot." So like, all right. So I pull out, I'm the sergeant-at-arms, he's the vice president. The vice president as I mentioned before doesn't have any status if the president is alive and out of prison and he was. So I pull off front left. I'm the highest-ranking, I should be riding front left. He pulls out, like around me, into the other lane of traffic to get over to my left. And so I'm like, "Whatever, man, I'm a make-believe biker. I don't give a rat's ass if I'm right in front left, front right. Whatever, man, you want to ride front left, go ahead." We don't get a quarter mile down the road and a minivan splatters on the road. And it wasn't his fault, it was the minivan's fault. Splatters him. He codes out, they bring him back to life, and he ends up coding out like two or three times on the way to the hospital and at the hospital.
[00:43:04] That should have been me. If he hadn't done what he had done, it absolutely would have been the minivan hit me. It's almost like Russian roulette, you know, at some point, but the real driver is the further you get into this, and the more trusted you are, they assigned me to this hit squad inside the gang. Most of the gang members don't even know that this group exists within. It's selected by mother club members of what they consider to be their heavy hitters. You know, the ones that can do the real down dirty work. And so Hellboy who's, you know, his pictures in the book and he had approached me. He's like, "Hey, they want you to be a part of this. We were going to be targeting Hells Angels and we were going to be killing them." So you had that and you have that lack of control. And then I had gotten arrested during the case. Legitimately got arrested with a gun by the local gang task force. And so I spent some time in jail, but that case was going through the courts and that in and of itself.
[00:43:56] So it's like the fuse is burning. Like at some point this had to come down, but at the same time, we had other elements of the crimes that we had approved. So it was like the chicken and the egg, we're like scrambling as fast as we can. They had to get all the evidence together. And like, I was originally supposed to come out at Christmas. Then it went to June and the June 1 was a real date. Like I actually thought I was going to be out at that point. And then it got continued until October. And that's somewhat demoralizing too, because—
[00:44:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:21] Ken Croke: Not only for me but my family. My family is expecting. That he's going to be home. And now since I go, I'll see you in four months.
[00:44:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Cancel all the summer plans.
[00:44:28] Ken Croke: Yeah, exactly.
[00:44:29] Jordan Harbinger: So after all these guys get busted, aren't you worried that then they're going to try and kill you? Because I would imagine it's unsettling knowing that like 1300 scumbag bikers want to kill you in the most painful way they can imagine. And also their patron support clubs too probably have your photo somewhere.
[00:44:45] Ken Croke: Yeah. There was plenty of photos that were out there, but yeah, they did put two contracts out on me after the case came down. One of them, they investigated — I won't go to a lot of details on it, but the recording of that hit did not come out, but it was an active conversation. They knew there was a lot of protection put into place. There was agents at my house for months afterwards, but there were a lot of other safeguards and also they monitor —Listen, there's informants as part of these gangs. There's a lot of information that comes out to law enforcement. It's constant to this day. They still monitor all that activity. At any time something comes out or there's a reference or anything to it, I get notified and the agency looks into it and, you know, investigates it. So it's part of what you do.
[00:45:28] And I will say for some of them, yeah, you know, obviously they were mad enough to put a hit out on me. For others, they're like, "Hey, that's the job." Like better to be a cop than an informant, I think, because at least with a cop, it's like your job. And they're like, "Hey, he's doing his job. Like we're doing our job." So it's a little bit of both, but yeah, you're very aware of your surroundings and you try to do what you can to minimize it.
[00:45:47] Jordan Harbinger: Are you worried about it at all now? I mean, it's been like 10 years, but some of those guys are still probably in the gang doing stuff and probably higher ranking now, right?
[00:45:54] Ken Croke: Yeah. And there's still some that are in jail that will get out. I don't know that you ever totally relaxed about it, but I don't live my life looking over my shoulder either. I've gotten on with my life. Like I said, a bunch of time has passed. Some of them are dead. Some are still active, but you live your life. You know, you try to be smart about it and know that your agency has got your back and that's all you can really do.
[00:46:16] Jordan Harbinger: Once you're a part of a big operation like this, I assume you can't do undercover work again, right? Because you've met like thousands of scumbags over the years. Like someone could easily recognize you at this point, after all, that time in the game, right?
[00:46:28] Ken Croke: Well, I did undercover work after this. Yeah, that's not a hundred percent. It depends on the case. So like none of these guys went to trial, they all ended up pleading guilty. So there wasn't any big dramatic trial that had a lot of media coverage. And so you can have the simplest case that generates a whole lot of, you know, whether it be media attention, if there was a shooting and that kind of coverage video, or you can kind of fly low. I mean, I did it on the cover for 20 years and was able to do that successfully.
[00:46:54] Now, writing this book, and if I still want the job—
[00:46:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, well, now, it's over.
[00:46:57] Ken Croke: —yeah, it was over anyways, but if it wasn't it would be no.
[00:47:00] Jordan Harbinger: But you're retired now, right?
[00:47:02] Ken Croke: I am.
[00:47:02] Jordan Harbinger: You must still have that ax handle and those Pagan, the cut, the leather, the jacket and the patches and stuff and the ring and all that stuff, right? You still got that stuff?
[00:47:10] Ken Croke: Yeah. It's all locked away in a bank vault.
[00:47:12] Jordan Harbinger: All right.
[00:47:13] Ken Croke: But yeah, I keep it more training purposes because, you know, a lot of that stuff means this messaging behind a lot of patches, a lot of those other things. So when I speak to law enforcement groups, I'll sometimes bring that out. I always get people like, "Hey, do you mind if I take a picture of you in your colors?" I'm like, "Never happened." So the day I came out, I swore I'd never put them on again. And I never have.
[00:47:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I don't blame you. I don't blame you at all. It's not like you're dressing up as somebody you admire.
[00:47:36] Ken Croke: No, no, I hated wearing them when I had to wear them. So why would I wear them if I don't? And then there's other people who will be like, "Hey, could I take a picture with the colors on?" I'm like, "If that ever gets out, good luck, because it's not going to end well for you because you know, they take this stuff really serious," but there is a training value behind this.
[00:47:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Not only them taking a picture with something they're not supposed to be wearing, but your cut is definitely like, "Oh, so not only are you wearing something you're not supposed to be wearing. It's the one from the undercover cop that put away like how many dozen of our brethren." Yeah. It's like the worst version you could find. Yeah.
[00:48:07] What do you miss about the biker world now that you're completely out of the gang? There's got to be something.
[00:48:12] Ken Croke: No.
[00:48:12] Jordan Harbinger: No?
[00:48:13] Ken Croke: No. Well, you know, people ask me all the time, like, "Hey, do you still ride?" People ask me, "Did you ride before?" Yeah, I absolutely did. And when I came out of this case, I sold my bike and I didn't ride for a long period of time because it took away the fun of riding. Riding at 110 miles an hour, two feet off the person in front of you, one gear down. It's not fun. It's not relaxing by any stretch of the imagination. And I got burnt out on it. I've gotten back into riding again. So that's been a good thing. I really don't — maybe a little bit of the chess match of, you know, how you're strategically putting together your case. I'm trying to stay one step ahead, but now I've moved on. I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't do it again. And I hope others do. And that's why I teach in talk to law enforcement courses because I think it's one of the few ways that you get to the hierarchy, the shock callers because without them being a part of the group, you're not going to get there.
[00:49:02] Jordan Harbinger: You don't even miss the barbecues.
[00:49:04] Ken Croke: I will say they did have some good food, man. There's a couple of them, particularly Roadblock who could cook. I mean, now, he cooked with every of the worst ingredients, so that's probably why it tastes so good, but the dude could cook. It's still to this day, the best brisket I've ever had.
[00:49:18] Jordan Harbinger: I'm just imagining like, "Hey, you think this meth is good."
[00:49:21] Ken Croke: Yeah.
[00:49:21] Jordan Harbinger: "Got to try the brisket."
[00:49:22] Ken Croke: Try his brisket, yeah. And that was the one thing I could eat as much as I wanted. So it was always a good thing. I'll tell you an embarrassing thing. Don't ever go to a Chinese food buffet with these guys because they're like animals. I mean, it's just embarrassing. There's food flying everywhere. It's just, it's ugly.
[00:49:36] Jordan Harbinger: Are they using their hands to get the chicken out?
[00:49:38] Ken Croke: Exactly.
[00:49:38] Jordan Harbinger: Oh god. Man. I've kept you for too long. Thank you so much. This is fascinating stuff, really. And thank you for what you did as well. I'm sure that we are safer not having some of these horrendous human beings out in society, even if they are detached from society.
[00:49:52] Ken Croke: I appreciate it. I appreciate you having me on, you know, being able to tell my story.
[00:49:57] Jordan Harbinger: Man, this episode was so good. A lot of rules for being undercover and staying alive are in the book. But one that I remember is, keep your first name and then you make up an easy, last name to remember. Also, you have to be able to explain quirks. Like in Ken's case, he grew up around Boston and when he gets drunk, the Boston accent comes out. So he had to be ready to explain why he says certain things in a certain way. You have to keep a lot of your life exactly the same as it actually is so that if you get wasted or something happens where something comes out in an emergency, you don't get made right away. You can explain it away.
[00:50:32] Ken was also telling me that there was actually a full background check and application to become a Pagan, which is kind of funny but it makes sense, right? It's just ironic that this outlaw biker gang, that slings meth and murders people is like, "Well, we want to make sure that you have a record." Actually, it's not a clean record. It's a dirty record, right? "We want to make sure you have been arrested, especially for violent crime. And ideally, you've been to prison before maybe multiple times, but you better have a good credit score." I'm just imagining how that process goes in practice.
[00:51:02] While in the gang, he found that he could order explosives really easily from guys in the gang who would then make bombs, which is really, really scary. And it's a miracle. We don't have more crazy explosions and wild violence in this country. And I think it's because of guys like Ken Croke.
[00:51:20] I always wondered of course, how big these gangs actually are. It turns out, they're pretty huge 1300 people are in the Pagans or were in the Pagans, including prospects. That is an enormous amount of guys. And also, I don't think that includes all their little satellite clubs and feeder clubs and things like that that help them with some of their stuff — 1300 guys in one gang. And I think there are six of these major, major motorcycle club gangs. So there's no shortage of extremely violent nomadic criminals rolling around our highways.
[00:51:52] I also just cannot imagine — I mentioned this on the show — balancing this type of undercover operation with having a family life as well. Having two kids of my own, I'm like, how do you do a meth drop and a firearm pickup to get a couple of grenades or whatever to blow up somebody's boat. And then you're on a three-day bender. And then you got to go to a PTA meeting and an under 15 soccer game the next day and looked somewhat normal and presentable. I mean, how on earth do you do that? Something's got to give.
[00:52:19] Ken also told me that the longer an undercover operation goes on, the more dangerous it becomes. I know we touched on this during the show. There's more chances to blow your cover, but also like he said during the interview, if they find out you're a cop on day one, they just get rid of you. But if they find out you're a cop after a year, they're going to kill you and it's probably not going to be fast. Also, the bureaucracy inside law enforcement agencies gets to become more and more as cases go on and people try to micromanage things and new people come in, experienced people go out and stuff like that, those changes, they can get you hurt or killed. So, man, I'm really thankful that people like Ken Croke are out there working on our side, or we would really be at the mercy of these kinds of criminals, which is a really scary thought.
[00:53:03] Links to all things Ken Croke will be on the website and in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links if you buy books from Ken or from any guest on the show, it does help support this show. Transcripts are also in the show notes. Videos are on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, discount codes, those are all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please once again, consider supporting those who make this show possible. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. I always enjoy a good conversation with a fan.
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