Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Heriberto “Herb” Huerta, Reputed Founder of the Texas Mafia, Sues Warden of #Supermax

The reputed founder and president of the Texas Mexican Mafia has sued the warden of Supermax in Florence and the U.S. prison system claiming he has been held for 22 years in solitary confinement on false pretenses.

The civil lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Denver on behalf of Heriberto “Herb” Huerta by Texas attorney Jerold Friedman. It claims that Huerta has been held on false claims of drug abuse and for his own protection.

The lawsuit names as defendants the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons; FBI agent Martin Martinez; John Oliver, warden of the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary (known as Supermax) in Florence; and other Supermax employees.

Huerta is seeking a total of $4.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. He also is requesting a judge order that he be placed in general population.

Huerta has been held in isolation since 1994 without due process, his civil lawsuit says. Authorities have fabricated evidence against him and retaliated against him, the lawsuit says.

Huerta, serving a life prison sentence for racketeering, is the president of Mexikanemi (Texas Mexican Mafia), which was founded in San Antonio in 1984, according to Texas media reports.

Huerta was at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan. in May of 1994 when he was transferred from a general population cell block to the Special Housing Unit. Huerta was sent to the unit, where offenders are punished for prison violations, after a confidential informant said reported a threat on Huerta’s life.

Prison Lt. E. Pierce allegedly told Huerta at the time that he knew the threat was false and that “top government officials” in Washington,  D.C., wanted him locked down, the lawsuit says.

Six months later Huerta was transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Ill., after he allegedly used illegal drugs. That lawsuit says that was a false claim. On March 15, 1995, Huerta was transferred to Florence.

Authorities kept Huerta mostly in isolation without a placement hearing “to punish and torture him” ever since then even though Huerta has passed monthly urine tests for drugs. Huerta also claims that he was falsely accused of money laundering through his commissary account, the lawsuit says.

Huerta, a “model prisoner,” has participated in all programs available to him, but has never been placed in a step-down program that would lead to his placement in general population, the lawsuit says.

Thanks to Kirk Mitchell.

Funeral Home Owned by the Rizzuto Reputed Mafia Family, Hit by Arson Again

A funeral home with ties to the Mafia in Montreal's north end was the target of an arson attack early Tuesday.

No one was injured in a fire that broke out at the Loreto Funeral Complex, located on Grandes-Prairies Boulevard in the borough of Saint-Leonard.

Damage was minimal, but a can of gasoline was found behind the building, police said.

The funeral complex is owned by members of the Rizzuto family and has been the site of several high-profile services, including for Nicolo Rizzuto, the family patriarch, and his son Vito Rizzuto, the reputed former head of the Montreal Mafia.

The funeral home was also targeted by arsonists in 2011.

Top 10: Gangsters

If you browse around your local video store, you'll notice dozens of films about the Mafia. Witness the popularity of Goodfellas, The Godfather, Casino, and Bugsy. Why have so many films been made about these tough-guy hooligans? Because men have a fascination with gangster culture and organized crime. But who are some of the most notorious gangsters of all time?

To make the list, gangsters must have had a significant impact on the Mob thanks to the way they did business. They must have done most of their business in America, their legacy must have stood the test of time, and they must have had a significant impact on pop culture.

Honorable Mention
Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (1906 - 1947)

Benjamin Siegel was born in Brooklyn in 1906 and soon associated himself with fellow Jew Meyer Lansky. After running contract killings for Murder, Inc., Siegel -- who was nicknamed "Bugsy" because of his unpredictable nature -- went in cahoots with Lucky Luciano and his newly organized Syndicate. But killing for Luciano earned him enemies, and in the late '30s, he was forced to escape to Los Angeles, where he had lived glamorously with movie stars.

He then discovered the gambling laws of Nevada. "Borrowing" millions from the Syndicate, he established one of the first casino hotels in Las Vegas, the Flamingo. But the resort was losing money, and when it was discovered in 1947 that he had stolen money from his friends, he was killed.

Featured in: The best portrayals of Siegel are in Warren Beatty's Bugsy  (1991) and The Marrying Man (1991) with Armand Assante.

Number 10
Vincent "The Chin" Gigante (1928 - 2005)
Born in New York in 1928, Vincent Gigante was quite a character. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and started boxing, winning 21 of 25 light-heavyweight bouts. By the time he was 17, he had turned to crime to support himself, which resulted in seven arrests before he was 25.

Gigante's first significant act as a gangster and member of the Genovese family was an attempt to kill the powerful Frank Costello, but Gigante's bullet missed the target. Nevertheless, he continued to climb the ranks within New York's Genovese organization, eventually becoming a capo and consigliere in the early '80s.

Then, when Mob boss Tony Salerno was convicted, Gigante became the main man. What makes Gigante so memorable is his 30-year ploy of acting insane. After he successfully averted prison in the late '60s by employing psychiatrists to testify to his insanity, he took it upon himself to continue the act; throughout his career, he was often seen walking around the streets of New York wearing a bathrobe. For this reason, he was nicknamed the "Oddfather" and the "Pajama King." Imprisoned for racketeering, he finally admitted in 2003 that he was not crazy.

Gigante died in prison on December 19, 2005 due to heart complications. The Gigante family and his lawyer, Flora Edwards, filed a federal lawsuit regarding the lack of health care that Vincent received while in prison. Vincent was scheduled for release in 2010.

Featured in: Gigante was a character in the made-for-TV film Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999) and served as inspiration for an episode of Law & Order.

Number 9
Albert Anastasia (1903 - 1957)
Born in Tropea, Italy in 1903, Albert Anastasia was still a teenager when he came to America. Involved in the docks operations in Brooklyn, Anastasia was sent to Sing Sing Prison for 18 months for the murder of a longshoreman; the mysterious deaths of witnesses led to his early release. Albert Anastasia (aka "Lord High Executioner" and "Mad Hatter") was known as a killer, a reputation that led Joe Masseria's gang to recruit him. Anastasia was also extremely loyal to Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who had plans to rule America's crime world. Anastasia had no problem betraying Masseria -- by being one of four people sent to kill him in 1931 -- when approached by Lucky Luciano.

At this time, Anastasia started taking on hits for the Murder, Incorporated outfit in New York, and in 1944, he became the leader of the murder squad. Although Anastasia was never prosecuted for any killings, Murder, Inc. was responsible for between 400 and 700 murders. In the '50s, he became the leader of the Luciano family, but Carlo Gambino wanted the job. Though the murder is officially unsolved, many believe that Gambino had Anastasia killed in a barbershop in 1957.

Featured in: Albert Anastasia was a prominent character in Murder, Inc. (1960), a gangster film starring Peter Falk and Howard Smith (as Anastasia), as well as in The Valachi Papers (1972) and Lepke (1975).

Number 8
Joseph Bonanno (1905 - 2002)
Born in 1905, Joe Bonanno grew up in his native Sicily and became an orphan at the age of 15. He left Italy due to the fascist power of the Mussolini regime and made a brief stopover in Cuba before moving to the United States when he was 19. Joe joined the Mafia as a way to prevent Mussolini from taking over Sicily. Nicknamed "Joey Bananas," he joined forces with Salvatore Maranzano. Before Luciano killed him, Maranzano created The Commission, the ruling body over Mafia families in the entire country.

Bonanno stepped up and took over one of these families. He became powerful in New York with cheese factories, clothing businesses and funeral homes, which were a terrific way to dispose of bodies. But plans to eliminate all the rival families turned against him and Bonanno was kidnapped for 19 days until he agreed to retire. In 1965, he initiated the Banana War to settle scores, but he retired for good soon thereafter due to bad health. Never in his life was he convicted of a serious offense.

Featured in: Two cable movies have been made about the crime legend: Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage (1993) with Ben Gazzara and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999) with Martin Landau.

Number 7
Dutch Schultz (1902 - 1935)
Arthur Flegenheimer, later known as Dutch Schultz, was born in the Bronx in 1902. As a teenager, he held up crap games to impress his boss and mentor, Marcel Poffo. At the age of 17, he did some time at Blackwell's Island (now known as Roosevelt Island) for theft. With prohibition in full swing in the 1920s, he realized that money was in bootlegging. A ruthless man, he would kill whenever his temper flared, which helped keep his competition in line.

He had a part in the founding of the Syndicate, but soon Luciano and Capone became his enemies. In 1933, the law wanted to shut down Schultz, so he went into hiding in New Jersey, which left his New York territory free for a takeover; Luciano seized the opportunity. Schultz made a comeback in 1935, but members of Albert Anastasia's crew killed him in a restaurant men's room before he could do any damage.

Featured in: Dustin Hoffman was memorable as Dutch Schultz in Billy Bathgate (1991), but Tim Roth was even better in Hoodlum (1997). Other movies featuring Schultz include Gangster Wars (1981), The Cotton Club (1984) and The Natural (1984).

Number 6
John Gotti (1940 - 2002)
In the wake of the great gangsters who ruled New York, John Gotti had his work cut out for him. Born in Brooklyn in 1940, he was always quick with his fists and it was his life's dream to become a wiseguy. By the age of 16, he had joined a local street gang known as the Fulton-Rockaway Boys. He quickly became their leader, stealing cars and fencing stolen goods. In the '60s, he began associating with Mafia hoods and hijacking trucks. In the early '70s, he became a capo for the Bergin crew, a part of the Gambino family. Extremely ambitious, Gotti started to deal drugs, which was forbidden by family rules.

As a result, Paul Castellano, the Boss, wished to expel Gotti from the organization. In 1985, Gotti and his guys killed Castellano outside a steakhouse and Gotti took over the Gambino family. No matter how many times the authorities tried to indict him for being the most powerful criminal in New York, the charges were always dropped. Because of this -- and the fact that he dressed well and loved media attention -- he was nicknamed "The Dapper Don" and "The Teflon Don." He was finally convicted for murder in 1992 and died of cancer in prison in 2002.

Featured in: He was played by Anthony John Denison in the made-for-TV movie Getting Gotti (1994) and by Armand Assante in the HBO event Gotti (1996). Other TV movies featuring him include Witness to the Mob (1998) with Tom Sizemore and The Big Heist (2001).

Number 5
Meyer Lansky (1902 - 1983)

Born Maier Suchowljansky in Russia to Jewish parents in 1902, Lansky moved to New York when he was 9. He met Charles Luciano when they were just schoolboys. Luciano demanded protection money from Lansky, and when he refused to pay, the two boys fought. Impressed by Lansky's toughness, Luciano befriended the younger boy and the two remained lifelong friends. Lansky also met Bugsy Siegel when he was a teenager, and the three formed a powerful partnership. Lansky and Siegel formed the Bug and Meyer Mob, which became Murder, Inc.

Lansky's primary order of business was money and gambling, and he had operations in Florida, Cuba and New Orleans. He was an investor in Siegel's Las Vegas casino, and he even bought an offshore bank in Switzerland that was used for money laundering. A financial genius, he codeveloped the National Crime Syndicate and the Commission. But business is never personal, and he approved the murder of his best friend Bugsy Siegel when Siegel was unable to produce profits for the Syndicate. Even with a gambling racket in operation across the planet, Lansky never spent a day in jail.

Featured in: Not only did Richard Dreyfuss give a powerful performance in HBO's Lansky (1999), but the character of Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part II (1974) was loosely based on him as well. The role was also played by Mark Rydell in Havana (1990), Patrick Dempsey in Mobsters (1991) and Ben Kingsley in Bugsy (1991).

Number 4
Frank Costello (1891 - 1973)
Francesco Castiglia was born in 1891 in Italy and moved to the United States with his family when he was 4. He changed his name to Frank Costello when he joined a street gang at age 13. After numerous petty crimes landed him in prison, he became best friends with Charlie Luciano; together, they dealt in bootlegging and gambling. Costello's strength was his position as a link between the Mob and politicians, especially the Democratic Party's Tammany Hall in New York, which enabled him and his associates to pay off certain officials.

Following Luciano's arrest, Costello became the man in charge, and he solidified and expanded the operation during this time. A power struggle between him and Vito Genovese (who served as Underboss) erupted in the '50s, and Vincent Gigante tried to kill Costello. Eventually, Costello grew tired of the gangster life and retired, but not before framing Genovese and Gigante for a drug bust. He died peacefully in 1973.

Featured in: The man was best portrayed by James Andronica in the 1981 miniseries The Gangster Chronicles, by Costas Mandylor in Mobsters (1991), by Carmine Caridi in Bugsy (1991), and by Jack Nicholson in The Departed (2006). (The author is actually incorrect about Jack Nicholson playing the real Frank Costello in The Departed. Only the character name was in common with the real Frank Costello. Nicholson's character was mostly based upon another gangster, Whitey Bulger.)

Number 3
Carlo Gambino (1902 - 1976)
Carlo Gambino came from a family that had been part of the Mafia for centuries in Italy. He started carrying out murders when he was a teenager and became a made guy in 1921 at the age of 19. With Mussolini gaining power, he immigrated to America, where his cousin Paul Castellano lived. He became a thug for different New York families until he joined Lucky Luciano's crew.

After Luciano was extradited in the '40s, Albert Anastasia took over. But Gambino thought it was his time to shine and had Anastasia killed in 1957. He appointed himself Boss of the family and reigned with an iron fist over New York until his natural death in 1976.

Featured in: Al Ruscio played him beautifully in the TNT movie Boss of Bosses(2001). Other "Gambino" appearances include the made-for-TV movies Between Love & Honor (1995), Gotti (1996) and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999).

Number 2
Charlie "Lucky" Luciano (1897 - 1962)

Salvatore Lucania was born in Sicily in 1897, but his family moved to New York nine years later. At a young age, he became a member of the Five Points gang, in which Al Capone also received his education. Five years after establishing an empire based mostly on prostitution, Luciano controlled the racket all over Manhattan. After a failed but brutal attack on his life in 1929, Luciano started planning the National Crime Syndicate, an extension of Salvatore Maranzano's Commission, with Meyer Lansky.

They eliminated the competition, and by 1935, Lucky Luciano was known as the Boss of Bosses -- not just of New York City, but of the whole country. He was arrested and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in 1936, but was let out on parole in 1946 on the condition that he be deported to Italy. He had so much power that U.S. Navy intelligence sought his help when the Allies were set to invade Italy during World War II. He died of a heart attack in 1962.

Featured in: Christian Slater played him in Mobsters (1991), as did Bill Graham in Bugsy (1991) and Anthony LaPaglia in the TV film Lansky (1999).

Number 1
Al Capone (1899 - 1947)
If there ever was a gangster who earned the No. 1 spot, it is Al Capone. Alphonse Capone was born in 1899 to Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, where he got his start in street gangs. He then joined the Five Points gang and became a bouncer. It was during these days that a series of facial wounds earned him the "Scarface" nickname. Capone moved to Chicago in 1919 and quickly moved up the Mafia hierarchy while working for Johnny Torrio (Capone became Torrio's protege).

It was the time of the Prohibition, and Capone ran prostitution, gambling and bootlegging rings. In 1925, at the age of 26, Capone took over after Torrio was wounded in a gang war. Known for his intelligence, flamboyance and love of public attention, Capone was also known to be very violent; his role in the orchestration of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, in which key rival gangsters were murdered, proves this. In 1931, Federal Treasury agent Eliot Ness arrested him for tax evasion.

Featured in: Many movies have been made about Capone, but the most famous are probably The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) with Jason Robards, Capone (1975) with Ben Gazzara and The Untouchables (1987) with Robert De Niro.

Thanks to Matthew Simpson

Monday, April 24, 2017

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the @FBI

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history
     
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.

Is @RealDonaldTrump's Claim that @BarackObama is Responsible for Growth of MS-13 Gang True? Facts Say No

President Donald Trump blamed former President Barack Obama on Twitter for the formation of one of the most notorious gangs.

"The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!" Trump tweeted April 18.

Trump’s tweet came days after four young men were found brutally murdered in Central Islip in Long Island. The Suffolk County police commissioner said he suspects the MS-13 involvement. But the president’s post about the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 gang, is misleading.

The gang was established in Los Angeles and spread across the country decades before Obama took office.

Trump’s administration has conducted target operations to arrest criminals, but data is not yet available on how many MS-13 gang members have been arrested or removed.

Ioan Grillo, author of the 2016 book Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America, disputed Trump’s conclusion. "I have seen no evidence that the Obama administration can can be blamed in any way for the existence or activities of the gang in the U.S.," Grillo told PolitiFact.

We asked a Trump spokesman for more information but did not hear back by deadline.

MS-13 history and growth predates Obama policy

Violent gangs, including MS-13, were forming in U.S. cities long before Obama’s presidency.

MS-13 grew out of poor Los Angeles neighborhoods where many refugees from civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua lived in the 1980s. (The name Mara Salvatrucha comes from the word "mara" which is a term for gang, "salva" for El Salvador and "trucha," which is slang for clever.) It later spread to other parts of the United States and in Central American nations.

By the end of the 1990s, the United States government recognized that MS-13 posed a significant criminal threat. Amid an immigration crackdown toward the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the government launched an effort to deport foreign-born residents convicted of crimes, including gang members.

In the mid 2000s, U.S. agencies including the FBI and ICE launched initiatives to combat the growth of gangs. There were several news reports about MS-13’s proliferation in the United States during the 2000s, with interest growing after a 2006 National Geographic documentary on the "World’s Most Dangerous Gang." The documentary showed that by the end of the 1990s, the gang had groups in almost every state.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed MS-13 on the same day as Trump’s tweet, blaming "an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement" for MS-13 recruitment.

Multiple experts said there is no evidence that Obama policies caused the growth of Latino gangs in the United States. "The big surge was during Bush-Cheney when the drivers of illegal migration in Central America grew, when various crackdowns on crime-filled prisons to bursting point, and when funding for rehabilitation programs declined," said Fulton T. Armstrong, a research fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University. Armstrong formerly worked as a national intelligence officer for Latin America, chief of staff of the CIA’s crime and narcotics center, and was a career CIA officer.

The growth of MS-13 in the United States is related to draconian domestic policies in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) that have pushed many gang members out of Central America, said Florida International University professor Jose Miguel Cruz.

Héctor Silva Ávalos, a research fellow at American University, said that there has been a new peak in gang activities on the East Coast since 2014 -- especially in Long Island and Montgomery County, Md. "But this has to do with gang dynamics that have been brewing back in Central America since the Mauricio Funes administration in El Salvador (2009-14) brokered a truce with both MS-13 and Barrio 18," he said. "It is not related to U.S. internal policy."

Elana Zilberg, a University of California San Diego communications professor, said Obama specifically targeted "criminal" aliens (including MS-13 members) in his aggressive deportation program.

"However, Trump’s tweet might be a blunt allusion to Obama’s position on unaccompanied minors from Central America," she said. "That, however, was a policy inherited from the Bush administration."

The number of Central American children coming alone began to increase in fiscal year 2012 and rose significantly in 2014.

The Obama administration in 2014 announced a series of new programs and partnerships with Central American countries to address the issues driving their migration. The Central American Minors program allowed certain parents with lawful presence in the United States to petition for their children in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to come in as refugees. Children ineligible for admission as refugees but at risk of harm could be admitted under parole. The program was expanded in 2016 to allow additional family members to apply.

No data on MS-13 removals under Trump

Trump lauded his administration’s enforcement efforts in a Fox News interview that aired shortly after his tweet. "We’ve gotten tremendous criminals out of this country," Trump said on Fox & Friends. "I'm talking about illegal immigrants that were here that caused tremendous crime that have murdered people, raped people, horrible things have happened. They are getting the hell out, or they are going to prison."

Trump claimed nothing had been done to remove criminals until he came along. (Here is an overview of some targeted enforcement operations during the Obama administration that led to the arrests of criminals and gang members.)

"It is a serious problem and we never did anything about it, and now we're doing something about it," Trump said. But ICE data available so far do not prove that Trump is removing MS-13 members "fast" as he tweeted.

In February, the Trump administration said it had conducted targeted operations resulting in the arrest of more than 680 people, including gang members. At least one of them was a self-admitted MS-13 gang member from El Salvador.

A unit within ICE tracks MS-13 arrests, but monthly data on gang and MS-13 arrests during Trump’s time in office is not available.

From fiscal years 2005 through 2016, immigration officials made 7,051 MS-13 arrests, ICE said.

ICE removal data shows how many individuals were suspected or confirmed gang members. But it does not say to which gang they were affiliated. In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 individuals and 2,057 were suspected or confirmed gang members, the agency reported.

During the full two months that Trump has been in office (February and March), a total of 36,467 individuals have been removed, according to an ICE official. ICE said it did not have information on how many of them were gang members.An executive order signed by Trump expanded removal priorities to include immigrants in the country illegally who have been convicted of crimes as well as those who have been charged with a criminal offense but not yet convicted.

Our ruling

Trump tweeted, "The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!"

MS-13 gangs in the United States were established decades before Obama took office and had been spreading across the U.S. long before his tenure. Experts told us there is no evidence Obama policies spurred their growth. Finally, Obama prioritized the deportation of criminal immigrants.

Immigration officials told us data on how many MS-13 gang members have been arrested and removed under Trump’s administration is not available.

We rate Trump’s claim False.

Thanks to PolitiFact.