If you’re a fan of TV’s “Breaking Bad”, some of this may sound familiar: a college professor, loved and respected by his students and colleagues, living a second life as the meth-dealing leader of a California outlaw biker gang.
When Stephen Kinzey, 48, was arrested at his home in San Bernardino, detectives found over a pound of methamphetamine, hand guns, rifles, a shotgun, brass knuckles, body armor, cash, leathers with Devil’s Diciples (sic) insignia and a black jacket bearing ‘Skinz’, Kinzey’s name in the biker world.
The bust was culmination of a six-month investigation called Operation Devil’s Professor’, launched in 2011 after authorities investigating another biker gang – the Mongols – came across the name “Skinz” and recognized it as belonging to the mastermind of a major methamphetamine trafficking ring.
But then “Skinz” turned out to be Professor Kinzey – who had bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees and had chaired several academic committees at Cal State. And even police found that hard to believe.
He had taught on the campus of Cal State University for more than ten years.
Stephen Kinzey lived with his girlfriend and partner-in-crime, Holly Robinson, in the Highland area, where residents were stunned to hear the truth about their mild-mannered neighbor.
“He always seemed like a nice, friendly person,” said one.
Kinzey’s father, Hank Kinzey, 69, who lived near Detroit, described the professor as a good Catholic and a good father who didn’t even drink or smoke. “I believe my son is innocent and this is all a huge mistake,” he insisted.
But the cops had all the evidence they needed. Stephen Kinzey was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
San Bernardino detectives, in conjunction with the FBI, had been monitoring Kinzey’s cellphone. After months of undercover surveillance, they concluded that he was buying crystal meth in one pound bricks and dividing it into ounce bags for mid-level dealers to distribute to street dealers.
“One side of him was a successful and productive member of society, but the other side of him is an outlaw motorcycle gang leader,” San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Sgt. Paul Wynn, a lead investigator in the case, said after the arrest. “He was the highest ranking person in the group, without a doubt.”
How does a man like Kinzey, whose previous worst encounter with the law was a traffic ticket, end up leading a notorious biker gang that protected their crystal meth-dealing operation with intimidation and violence?
He joined the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club in 1997, when he was teaching at the University of Mississippi. Later, after moving to San Bernardino, he was associated with several other groups before establishing a local chapter of the Devil’s Diciples in 2008. “Diciples” was purposely misspelled to distance the club from any religious affiliation.
Kinzey managed to keep his “Skinz” identity and his gang tattoos hidden from the faculty and students at Cal State. All they knew was that he rode a motorcycle.
Still awaiting trial, he faces five felony counts: possessing drugs while armed, participating in a criminal street gang, possession of drugs for sale, conspiracy to sell drugs and receiving a stolen gun. Kinzey has pleaded not guilty to all charges and could face twenty years in prison if convicted.
His girlfriend, Holly Robinson, entered a plea of not guilty to charges of possession of drugs for sale while armed and possession of drugs for sale and conspiracy.
Eight other people were arrested in connection to the case and took plea bargain deals.