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Amish Arrested in Gang Drug Bust

June 24, 1998 GMT

PHILADELPHIA (AP)_ Two Amish men have been accused of buying cocaine from a motorcycle gang called the Pagans and then distributing it to young members of the conservative religious sect.

``Bikes and buggies, it’s a rather strange combination,″ Pennsylvania State Police Maj. Robert Werts said of Tuesday’s indictment of Abner Stoltzfus, 24, and Abner King Stoltzfus, 23. The men are not related.

Both men are members of the Old Order Amish, the most conservative Amish sect. The Amish eschew automobiles, electricity, computers, fancy clothes and most other modern conveniences. They use horse-driven buggies for transportation. There are about 20,000 Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, where the pair are from.

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The indictment accuses the men of buying drugs from eight members of the Pagans between 1993 and 1997. The two would then distribute the cocaine to youth groups known as the Crickets, the Antiques and the Pilgrims at dances.

At a press conference Tuesday, authorities painted a picture of the motorcycle gang world, characterized by drugs and reckless behavior, colliding with the serene, traditional lifestyle of the Pennsylvania Amish.

``As far as I know we have never charged any (Amish) with drug crimes,″ said assistant states attorney Joseph Dominguez.

John Pyfer, who is representing Abner Stoltzfus, said the Amish are not immune to the pressures of modern society.

``People think the Amish are sheltered from the outside world, but the temptations are there,″ he said. ``My client’s parents are extremely conservative _ horse and buggy the whole bit. They’re having a hard time understanding this.″

At the time of their indictment, the two men were participating in a ``timeout″ period in which young Amish men and women explore the outside world and decide whether to join the church. Both men intended to join, their lawyers said.

If convicted of the charges, the pair face a maximum sentence of life in prison.