Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Friends of the Family - The Inside Story of the Mafia Cops Case

Several books, including one by Jimmy Breslin, have been written on the Mafia cops case: the story of two city detectives who in 2005 were charged with being in league with mob hit men and committing two murders themselves. If you’re still looking for even more detail, “Friends of the Family” (William Morrow) by Tommy Dades and Michael Vecchione with David Fisher promises “The Inside Story of the Mafia Cops Case,” as the subtitle puts it. (Mr. Vecchione heads the investigations division for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes; Mr. Dades is a former detective who worked on the case).

Some questions are still being pondered, though, including one posed by the authors themselves. “Even after the whole thing was done and the Mafia cops had been put in a cell to rot forever,” they write, “there was still one question that never got answered: At the beginning, were these guys killers who became cops or were they cops who became killers?”

Thanks to Sam Roberts

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

United States of Jihad - Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists

A riveting, panoramic look at “homegrown” Islamist terrorism from 9/11 to the present

Since 9/11, more than three hundred Americans—born and raised in Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, and elsewhere—have been indicted or convicted of terrorism charges. Some have taken the fight abroad: an American was among those who planned the attacks in Mumbai, and more than eighty U.S. citizens have been charged with ISIS-related crimes. Others have acted on American soil, as with the attacks at Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, and in San Bernardino. What motivates them, how are they trained, and what do we sacrifice in our efforts to track them?

Paced like a detective story, United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists, tells the entwined stories of the key actors on the American front. Among the perpetrators are Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born radical cleric who became the first American citizen killed by a CIA drone and who mentored the Charlie Hebdo shooters; Samir Khan, whose Inspire webzine has rallied terrorists around the world, including the Tsarnaev brothers; and Omar Hammami, an Alabama native and hip hop fan who became a fixture in al Shabaab’s propaganda videos until fatally displeasing his superiors.

Drawing on his extensive network of intelligence contacts, from the National Counterterrorism Center and the FBI to the NYPD, Peter Bergen also offers an inside look at the controversial tactics of the agencies tracking potential terrorists—from infiltrating mosques to massive surveillance; at the bias experienced by innocent observant Muslims at the hands of law enforcement; at the critics and defenders of U.S. policies on terrorism; and at how social media has revolutionized terrorism.

Lucid and rigorously researched, United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists, is an essential new analysis of the Americans who have embraced militant Islam both here and abroad.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Details on John Bills Conviction in City of Chicago's Red-light Camera Scam

The former assistant transportation commissioner for the city of Chicago was convicted today on federal corruption charges in connection with the awarding of lucrative red-light camera contracts.

After a two-week trial in federal court in Chicago, the jury convicted JOHN BILLS on all counts against him.  The counts include nine counts of mail fraud; three counts of wire fraud; one count of extortion under color of official right; one count of conspiracy to commit bribery; three counts of bribery; and three counts of filing false tax returns.  Bills, 54, of Chicago, faces a maximum combined sentence of 304 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 5, 2016, at 10:00 a.m.

The conviction was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Joseph M. Ferguson, Inspector General for the City of Chicago; and James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago.

“By accepting bribes in exchange for influencing city contracts, John Bills deprived the city of Chicago of money and honest services,” said Mr. Fardon.  “When public officials abuse their power and violate the public trust for personal gain, we will be there to hold them accountable.”

As an assistant transportation commissioner, Bills was a voting member of the city’s Request for Proposal evaluation committee, which sought vendors under the city’s Digital Automated Red Light Enforcement Program.  In 2003, the committee recommended awarding contracts to Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., to install cameras that automatically record and ticket drivers who run red lights.  Evidence at trial revealed that from approximately 2003 to 2011, Bills used his influence to expand Redflex’s business with the city, resulting in millions of dollars in contracts for the installation of hundreds of red-light cameras.  In exchange for his efforts, Redflex provided Bills with cash and personal benefits, including meals, golf outings, rental cars, airline tickets, hotel rooms and other entertainment.

Some of the benefits were given directly to Bills, while hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash was funneled to him through a friend, MARTIN O’MALLEY.  Redflex hired O’Malley as a contractor and paid him lavish bonuses as new cameras were added in Chicago.  O’Malley testified at trial that he often stuffed the bonus money into envelopes and gave it to Bills during meals in Chicago restaurants.

Between 2004 and 2008, Chicago paid Redflex approximately $25 million.  After KAREN FINLEY became CEO of Redflex in 2007, O’Malley’s commissions escalated and Redflex was awarded a “sole-sourced” contract for another $33 million.  The city then followed up that contract with another deal worth $66 million – for the installation of nearly 250 additional red-light cameras.

Bills retired from the city in 2011.

Finley, of Cave Creek, Ariz., pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kendall on Feb. 18, 2016.

O’Malley, of Worth, pleaded guilty in December 2014 to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. His sentencing date has not yet been set.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

5 Chicago Men Arrested in Connection with Violent Kidnapping

Five men have been arrested on kidnapping charges for allegedly abducting a Berwyn man in broad daylight and holding him for ransom in a North Side auto body shop.

The kidnapping went awry after the abductors realized they had snatched the wrong man, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  The victim was the brother of the intended target.  He was blindfolded and held at gunpoint for nearly two days in an auto body shop in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, before being released, the complaint states.

Federal authorities arrested abd charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping: ANTONIO SALGADO, 34; ARMANDO DELGADO, 36; OCTAVIO ALEJANDRE JR., 33; JAIME GUTIERREZ, 22; and MUNAF ABDULRAZAK MUSA, 22; all of Chicago.  The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

According to the complaint, the abduction occurred on the afternoon of May 30, 2015, when the victim was kidnapped at gunpoint outside of his Berwyn home.  The victim was forced into a sport-utility vehicle and taken to the auto repair shop.  While being held, one of the kidnappers pushed a gun into the victim’s body and threatened him, while another kidnapper placed a knife on the victim’s fingers and threatened to cut them off, the complaint states.

Early the next morning, the victim’s uncle received telephone calls from an unidentified man who stated he was holding the victim, according to the complaint.  The caller demanded approximately 25 kilograms of narcotics.  At one point the victim was placed on the phone and instructed to tell his uncle to cooperate, the complaint states.

Unbeknownst to the defendants, several of their phones had previously been intercepted by federal authorities who were conducting an unrelated investigation, the complaint states.  In a recorded call between Salgado and Delgado on the night of May 31, 2015, Delgado told Salgado, “There is a little situation.  It’s the wrong guy because it’s his brother of the one that we’re trying to get.”  According to the complaint, Salgado allegedly replied, “Let the guy go, but beat the [expletive] out of him.”

On the morning of June 1, 2015, the victim appeared at a bus station in Chicago, according to the complaint.  The victim told police that he had walked to the bus station after being released from captivity during the night.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire

Inside the Last Great Mafia Empire (Cosa Nostra News: The Cicale Files).

Dominick Cicale was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. From a young age he was closely associated with the Genovese crime family, considered the most powerful Mafia group in America. Fate intervened. In 1999 Cicale forged a tight alliance with Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, then an up-and-coming member of the Bronx faction of the Bonanno crime family. Under Basciano's tutelage, Dominick rode the fast track: he was inducted into the American Cosa Nostra and swiftly rose from soldier to capo, amassing great wealth and power. Cicale befriended and associated with numerous high-ranking figures within all of New York's Five Families as he plotted and schemed in a treacherous world where each day could be his last.

This installment views startling details surrounding the brutal gangland murder of Gerlando "George from Canada" Sciascia and its resulting impact on relations between the Bonanno family in New York and its Montreal -based "outpost" established by the Mafia Commission in 1931. The cast of characters further includes high-ranking Mafiosi such as Joseph Massino (The Last Don), Salvatore "Sal the Iron Worker" Montagna, Vito Rizzuto, Vinny Gorgeous (a nickname never used in his presence) and Cicale himself.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Learn from @TheSharkDaymond #PowerofBroke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage

The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage.

Daymond John has been practicing the power of broke ever since he started selling his home-sewn t-shirts on the streets of Queens. With no funding and a $40 budget, Daymond had to come up with out-of-the box ways to promote his products. Luckily, desperation breeds innovation, and so he hatched an idea for a creative campaign that eventually launched the FUBU brand into a $6 billion dollar global phenomenon.  But it might not have happened if he hadn’t started out broke - with nothing but a heart full of hope and a ferocious drive to succeed by any means possible.

Here, the FUBU founder and star of ABC’s Shark Tank shows that, far from being a liability, broke can actually be your greatest competitive advantage as an entrepreneur. Why?  Because starting a business from broke forces you to think more creatively.  It forces you to use your resources more efficiently. It forces you to connect with your customers more authentically, and market your ideas more imaginatively. It forces you to be true to yourself, stay laser focused on your goals, and come up with those innovative solutions required to make a meaningful mark.

Drawing his own experiences as an entrepreneur and branding consultant, peeks behind-the scenes from the set of Shark Tank, and stories of dozens of other entrepreneurs who have hustled their way to wealth, John shows how we can all leverage the power of broke to phenomenal success. You’ll meet:

  • Steve Aoki, the electronic dance music (EDM) deejay who managed to parlay a series of $100 gigs into becoming a global superstar who has redefined the music industry 
  • Gigi Butler, a cleaning lady from Nashville who built cupcake empire on the back of a family  recipe, her maxed out credit cards, and a heaping dose of faith 
  • 11-year old Shark Tank guest Mo Bridges who stitched together a winning clothing line with just his grandma’s sewing machine, a stash of loose fabric, and his unique sartorial flair

When your back is up against the wall, your bank account is empty, and creativity and passion are the only resources you can afford, success is your only option.  Here you’ll learn how to tap into that Power of Broke to scrape, hustle, and dream your way to the top.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How Joseph Charles Massino become Known as #TheLastDon

Born on Jan. 10, 1943 in New York City, Joseph Charles Massino is a former member of the Italian Mafia who was the boss of the Bonanno crime family from 1991 to 2004. During his 13 years running the crime syndicate, the powerful Massino was known as “The Last Don,” as he was the only New York mob leader at the time not in prison. However, he is perhaps best known as the first boss of one of the notorious five Mafia families to turn state’s evidence and cooperate with the government in prosecuting other Mafiosi. The ex-mobster entered the Witness Protection Program after his 2013 release from prison and his whereabouts are unknown.

One of three boys raised in Maspeth, Massino claimed he was a juvenile delinquent by age 12 and he was a high school dropout at age 15. He married Josephine Vitale in 1960, and soon began supporting his wife and three daughters through a life of crime, with brother-in-law Salvatore as one of his earliest associates.

By the late 1960s, the future Don was running a truck hijacking crew as an associate of the Bonanno family. He fenced his stolen goods and ran numbers from a lunch wagon which he used as a front for his illicit business. In 1975, Massino participated in a mob murder with brother-in-law Salvatore and future Gambino family head John Gotti. Two years after “making his bones” by killing for the mob, the Maspeth native became a made member of the Bonanno family. Joe Massino was on his way to the top of a criminal empire.

Following the 1979 murder of acting family boss Carmine Galante at a Brooklyn restaurant, Massino began jockeying for power with other Bonanno capos. Ever cunning and ready to use violence to serve his ends, he eliminated several key rivals in 1981. One capo who allegedly fell before The Last Don’s ambition was Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano, who allowed undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone to infiltrate his crew under the name Donnie Brasco. Upon hearing about the unprecedented breach of mob security, Massino said of the disgraced capo: “I have to give him a receipt for the Donnie Brasco situation.”

The mobster’s climb to the top would not be without pitfalls, however. In 1987, when some believe he was already the underboss, Massino and Bonanno family head Philip Rastelli were sent to federal prison on labor racketeering charges. Following Rastelli’s death in 1991, Joe Massino was named boss of the Bonanno family while still incarcerated.

Under his leadership, the Bonanno crime syndicate regained the prestige it lost following the FBI undercover operation, and by 2000, with many other Mafia leaders in prison, Massino was considered the most powerful don in the nation. His time at the top would prove short lived. In 2004, The Last Don was indicted for murder and racketeering based on the testimony of other made mobsters, including underboss and brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale. Facing the death penalty if found guilty, Massino agreed to turn against his former associates and testify as a government witness. Although initially sentenced to life in prison, in 2013 he was resentenced to time served.

A Joe Massino quote: “There are three sides to every story. Mine, yours and the truth.”

Thanks to Greater Astoria Historical Society.

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