When the leadership of the Kingsmen Motorcyle Club was indicted and eventually jailed, Brian Witkowski found himself leading the club's New York State chapter.
The promotion, according to prosecutors, was a reward for Witkowski's loyalty to former Kingsmen President David Pirk and Witkowski's lies to federal agents about Pirk's role in the execution-style killings of fellow club members Daniel “DJ” Szymanski and Paul Maue.
Prosecutors also claim Witkowski's rise through the ranks can be traced to a Kingsmen directive that he stay close to Szymanski's family in order to monitor the federal investigation.
"I would argue that is organized crime at its best," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Tripi.
On Tuesday, Witkowski, former head of the club's South Buffalo chapter, appeared in Buffalo federal court, one of four additional Kingsmen arrested in connection with the 2014 double murder.
A new grand jury indictment charges Witkowski; Joseph M. Long, former chapter president in Florida and Tennessee; Jimmy Ray Fritts, former chapter vice president in Tennessee; and Timothy Haley Sr., former president of the club's National Nomads, with conspiracy, weapons possession and making false statements to the FBI.
"He rose steadily through the ranks," Tripi said of Witkowski on Tuesday.
Syzmanski and Maue, rumored to be leaving the Kingsmen for a rival club, were murdered in 2014 outside the organization's Oliver Street headquarters in North Tonawanda.
Fellow club member Andre Jenkins was convicted of the killings and is serving life without parole. Prosecutors say Jenkins' orders to execute the two men came from Pirk, the national Kingsmen president.
In arguing for Witkowski's release Tuesday, defense lawyer Paul G. Dell noted that there are no allegations of violence against his client. He also suggested that Witkowski's leadership climb had more to do with the federal investigation than any loyalty to Pirk.
"He was promoted because Tripi's office took so many of them off the street," Dell said Tuesday.
The new indictment expands the federal prosecution of the Kingsmen and came more than two years after a previous indictment charged 16 other club members with operating a racketeering conspiracy that relied on drug, weapons and untaxed cigarette sales, as well as prostitution and gambling, for its income.
To protect the club and its money-making ventures, it used violence and intimidation against rivals, according to the FBI.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer ordered Witkowski released Tuesday but on the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device. The other three newly-indicted Kingsmen were not in court Tuesday.