Former Assistant US Attorney Anthony M. Bruce was probably the perfect man to use to indict me.
It was almost as if, given the evidence against me, no other AUSA would indict me for allegedly defrauding the Bronfmans.
But Bruce had a history of indicting innocent men. He had that reputation. And he was friends with Clare and Sara Bronfman’s lawyer, Bill Savino.
There are many cases of Bruce going after innocent men and sometimes his lies were so egregious that even in the corrupt culture of the DOJ, even he got caught.
One of the more infamous cases was his case against 20 members of the Chosen Few motorcycle club.
In 2004, David Ignasiak, with three members of the Chosen Few, allegedly threw two firecrackers at the clubhouse of the Lonely Ones motorcycle club, located near Buffalo NY.
Lonely Ones member Theodore C. Sparks was in the clubhouse at the time. He was uninjured – they were only firecrackers – but he got the message: Don’t mess with us. Sparks evidently was fooling around with somebody’s girl.
In 2004, Tony Bruce, getting wind of this and other minor mischief, guided FBI agents to file affidavits to get court-authorized listening devices and hidden cameras installed inside the Chosen Few’s clubhouse.
Over the next few years, the feds listened as club members gathered and drank at their clubhouse, bragged about exploits, and generally had a merry time.
There was little evidence of any crime
But Ignasiak, the man who had thrown the firecrackers at the Lonely Ones clubhouse, got in trouble for another crime independent of the activities of the Chosen Few club.
To get out of being charged, he agreed to become an FBI informant in July 2006. Two years passed, but Ignasiak was unable to provide helpful information.
He was now in danger of being charged for his original crimes.
Guided by Bruce, Ignasiak doubled down and went to work.
His club was participating in the Bike and Blues event at a park in suburban Buffalo. Ignasisak went there after hours and vandalized his own club’s “Bikes and Blues” tents.
But clever Ignasiak made the destruction look like it was done by another motorcycle club, the Kingsmen, since the knife he used to “slice up” the tents was also used to put the initials of the Kingsmen motorcycle club on the vandalized tents.
The Kingsmen denied vandalizing the tents, but Ignasiak persuaded Chosen Few members that the Kingsmen were lying.
A feud between the Kingsmen and the Chosen Few soon began.
Chosen Few president Alex Koschtschuk was pissed about the tents.
As the Feds secretly recorded him at the clubhouse, Koschtschuk said, “We’re not going to play games with these guys . . . We’re taking them down . . . Baseball bats, whatever you want, however you want.”
This was tough talk, but Koschtschuk, 58, a big man, with gray beard and gray hair slicked back into a pony tail, looked like he could crush a mountain. He wasn’t a full time biker. He worked for the NY State Thruway Authority. It may have been bluff.
Time passed. Nothing happened.
Then one night, when everyone had gone home and the Chosen Few clubhouse was empty, someone fired a shotgun at their clubhouse, striking a hidden electrical wire that powered the surveillance cameras – almost as if it were a deliberate attempt to disable their security system.
Ignasiak said he was certain the Kingsmen were behind it.
Yet, the location of the wiring was known only to members of the Chosen Few. Ignasiak was such a member.
Nobody suspected he was an informant however, conjuring up crimes for Anthony Bruce. Trying to start a war between two groups of men.
A few days later, Ignasiak, wearing a wire, encouraged three Chosen Few members to take a ride with him to where a Kingsmen, Eugene Siminski, a man Ignaisak said he was certain was involved in the recent shotgun blast that disabled their security wiring , would be on his motorcycle.
Chosen Few members Bradley Beutler, Paul Roorda and Martin Whiteford went with Ignasiak. When Siminski stopped at a red light, they got out and hit him with the handle of an ax, but not very hard.
These are tough men and he was barely injured. He got back on his motorcycle and drove away.
The next day, Ignasiak went to the Feds and gave them a recording of the assault on Siminski. From the recording, it was clear Ignasiak gave the directions to Roorda to maneuver his vehicle close to Siminski so that they could get out and hit Siminski.
Ignasiak is heard on the recording saying, “Hurry up! — get behind him — pull up — ready, let’s go!”
In other words, the informant manufactured, initiated and executed the crime.
Bruce presented the “facts” of the crime – the attack and brutal beating with an ax handle – to the grand jury. He avoided telling the grand jury that Ignasiak planned and led the attack.
In the Grand Jury, on April 28, 2009, Bruce examined FBI Special Agent Jensen on the ax handle assault of Kingsmen Siminski.
Bruce: “My understanding, Mr. Ignasiak was along for the ride but did not participate in the incident?”
FBI SA: “Yes, in a manner of speaking.”
In May, Bruce indicted 20 members of the Chosen Few motorcycle club, including president Alex Koschtschuk, charging them with federal racketeering in connection to their feud with the Kingsmen and the Lonely Ones.
Koschtschuk was held without bail.
Wives, family and friends of the indicted men were mortified. They tried to reason with Bruce. These were not gang members but middle-aged guys with families and jobs, hardworking men who loved motorcycles but who never hurt anyone.
There were no dead bodies. There were no drugs. No stash of cash. It was mischief and tough talk. Occassionaly a brawl. Even Siminski was not hurt.
This should not be a federal racketeering case.
Sure, some of the men — in their 40’s and 50’s – had scruffy beards, tattoos and pony tails. They were tough, or thought they were. They presented a perfect picture of a classic biker.
But as far as committing bombings, arsons, assaults and murders, it just didn’t happen.
But Bruce laid it out: “Death threats, beatings, guns and explosives against the Kingsmen.”
What it was really was tough talk in their clubhouse tavern, and an informant who tried to provoke crimes
Indicted were: Alan Segool, 48, of West Falls; James Lathrop, 56, of Alden; Bradley Beutler, 36, of Depew; Clyde Utz, 50, of Alden; Brion Murphy, 52, of Attica; Gerald Rogacki, 47, of Alden; Matthew Watkins, 33, of Elmira Heights; Dennis Rogowski, 43, of Cheektowaga; Norman Herzog, 43, of Lackawanna; Lionel Carter, 53, of Belmont; Gary Phillians, 44, of Angola; Paul Roorda, 48, of Buffalo; Robert Treadway, 41, of Depew; Martin Whiteford, 37, of West Seneca; Charles Kuznicki, 38, of East Aurora; Robert Geiger, 42, of Medina; Donald Diana, 47, of Depew; and Robert Summerville, 46, of East Aurora.
Bruce began with a 10-page indictment. The indictment was superseded by 30 pages of accusations two weeks later. Then another indictment superseded that one – 57 pages. And that superseding indictment was superseded by yet another with 76 pages of accusations.
Bruce handed down indictments charging Koschtschuk with building “pipe bombs” in 2004 and indicted six club members with setting off the bombs to test them and three members with being at the scene when bombs were thrown at the Lonely Ones clubhouse.
He conflated the firecrackers that were hurled – he called them pipe bomhs and then later Molotov Cocktails – hurled at the Lonely Ones clubhouse, – alleging attempted murder – since Sparks was in the clubhouse, although uninjured.
Bruce however did not charge his own informant Ignaisiak, who actually threw the firecracker/pipe bomb/Molotov cocktail.
Relying on his informant, and perhaps his own imagination to some extent, Bruce alleged Chosen Few members tried to shotgun David Carine twice, both times failing. And shot a Kingsmen named William Slater in May 2005, but he didn’t die. Bruce alleged they even conspired to shoot his informant, Ignaisiak, and tried to run him over with a pickup truck, both times failing.
From beating a man named Jason Stucke with baseball bats to threatening to murder a Kingsmen named David A. Koch, it was all nonsense.
No one got killed. None of it was ever proven. None of it was true.
The Case Falls Apart
A hearing in connection with the defense’s claim of “outrageous government conduct” was held in the spring of 2011.
Oral argument was held. The motion was granted. Bruce was accused of lying in the grand jury.
Magistrate Judge Jeremiah McCarthy wrote in his decision. “While I am reluctant to conclude that …an Assistant U.S. Attorney may have knowingly elicited [false] testimony, the evidence submitted to me thus far is troubling, to say the least.”
It came out at the hearing that FBI SA Jensen admitted Ignasiak was one of the attackers of
Bruce, trying to defend misleading the grand jury, questioned Jensen in a manner that obfuscated the fact that in the grand jury, Bruce tried to pretend Ignasiak was “just along for the ride” and not an active participant in the beating of Siminski.
At oral argument, AUSA Bruce stated “Well, participated, attacked, to me it is the same thing”.
Judge McCarthy wrote, “Given that admission, I can see no innocent explanation for how [Bruce] could have suggested to the grand jury … that Ignasiak was merely ‘along for the ride’ and did not participate in the … assault on Eugene Siminski… Ignasiak clearly ‘participated’ in the incident at a level sufficient to render him ‘punishable as a principal’ as an aider and abettor of the assault.”
Bruce pushed back, arguing “the decision of what to indict and who to indict and all of those various things are decisions that are left exclusively to the executive branch of the government [i.e the DOJ] . . [The grand jury] can ask questions, they can suggest things — quite frankly, that does not usually happen but that is the way it goes.”
Judge McCarthy disagreed, “As contemplated by the Fifth Amendment, it is the grand jury — not the government — which calls the shots…. (T)he fact remains that AUSA Bruce’s question to SA Jensen mentioned his ‘understanding’ that Ignasiak was not involved…
“But for AUSA Bruce’s question and SA Jensen’s answer, the grand jury might well have decided that Ignasiak himself should be indicted for his role in the… assault… Thus, but for the government’s decision not to prosecute him, there is no apparent reason why Ignasiak was not indicted for his participation …. If he had been, this might be a much different case.”
Judge McCarthy chose to review more of the grand jury minutes.
More information came out and it soon became clear – at least to the defense – that Bruce’s informant, Ignasiak committed the vandalism on the tent that ignited the hostilities between the Chosen Few and the Kingsmen in the first place.
“We believe David Ignasiak started a war between the Chosen Few and the Kingsmen because he wanted to make himself more valuable to the FBI as an informant,” Angelo Musitano, who represented one of the defendants, told the judge. “In 20 years of practicing law, I’ve never seen this kind of misuse of an informant.”
A critical moment came when Judge McCarthy refused to revoke bail of James Lathrop, Jr., an indicted Chosen Few biker who Ignasiak accused of stalking and making threats against him.
Ignasiak made up the story. The judge caught him. He ruled that Ignasiak’s story was “not credible”.
After the hearing, Ignasiak actually told the Buffalo News that, going forward, he was not going to lie anymore to the judge.
Unraveling, like many Bruce Cases
With more allegations surfacing that Bruce provided misleading information to the judge who authorized listening devices inside the Chosen Few
Only Bruce held on, claiming he had more evidence.
But all for naught. The U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped the indictment against the Chosen Few motorcycle gang.
“In light of information that recently came to light,” U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said, Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny granted the government’s application to dismiss the case.
When asked how Bruce had blown a case that he said he was so certain was a slam dunk, Hochul declined comment.
Defense attorneys said the new information was more damaging evidence against Ignasiak.
Meanwhile, Koschtschuk and Beutler had been jailed for three years. Twenty defendants had years taken out of their lives.
He concocted a crime organization out of a club comprised of middle-aged, working, middle-class guys, that liked to hang out in their clubhouse, ride bikes and act tough. They were not criminals in reality.
An informant and Anthony Bruce almost destroyed all of their lives.