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2 Amish Arrested For Drug Deal

Mention the Pagans motorcycle gang, and police will talk about lawlessness. Ask about the Amish, and there is the standard image of conservative religious values, horse-drawn buggies, maybe the movie Witness.

If prosecutors are right, the two found common ground in cocaine trafficking. Two Amish men were indicted Tuesday on charges of buying drugs from the motorcycle gang and distributing them at dances in their Lancaster County communities.

"Bikes and buggies, it's a rather strange combination," State Police Maj. Robert Werts said. "Our drug investigations are taking us to places where, years ago, we didn't think we had a problem."

Abner Stoltzfus, 24, and Abner King Stoltzfus, 23, who are not related, were indicted in federal court on charges of distributing cocaine to members of Amish youth groups. An arraignment was scheduled for July 3.

If convicted, the men could face life in prison.

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."

Lancaster County is home to some 20,000 Old Order Amish, the most conservative Anabaptist sect. The Amish eschew automobiles, electricity, computers, fancy clothes, and most other modern conveniences.

At the time of their indictment, the Amish men were participating in what is known as a "timeout," a period where young Amish men and women between the ages of 16 and 24 are allowed to explore the outside world and decide whether to join the church, their attorneys said.

Both men intended to join, they said.

Eight members of the Pagans gang sold the drugs to the Amish men, who then distributed the drugs to members of youth groups known as the Crickets, the Antiques, and the Pilgrims at dances between 1993 and 1997, according to the indictment.

Three gang members were arraigned Tuesday. Emory Reed, Douglas Hersch, and Dwayne Blank were charged with distributing multiple kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamines totaling about $1 million.

Court dates have not yet been set for five other Pagan members.

At a press conference, federal 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," assistant state attorney Joseph Dominguez said.

The clash of cultures was dramatized in the 1985 film Witness, starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. Ford's character travels to an Amish community to protect a young murder witness, bringing violence with him.

The charges surpried even veteran federal agents, including Robert Conforti: "It's something in my 26 years in the FBI, I've never encountered before."

Written by Amy Worden

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