Friday, October 31, 2014

Racketeering Prison Inmate Charged with Assaulting a Correctional Officer

Erick Roman, 38, an inmate at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, appeared today for arraignment in United States District Court in Benton on an indictment charging him with assaulting a correctional officer at that facility, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today. The indictment, returned by a Federal Grand Jury on October 7, 2014, alleged that the offense occurred on August 20, 2014.

An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

At the time of the assault, Roman was serving a 60 year sentence from the District of Maryland for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise. If convicted of the assault offense, Roman faces up to an additional eight years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release to follow his incarceration.

Following his arraignment, Roman was ordered held without bond and was returned to the custody of the Attorney General to await further proceedings. Roman’s next scheduled court appearance is a final pretrial conference on December 17, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. at the United States Courthouse in Benton. A trial date of December 29th at 9:00 a.m. was also set.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A major historical biography of George C. Marshall

A major historical biography of George C. Marshall—the general who ran the U.S. campaign during the Second World War, the Secretary of State who oversaw the successful rebuilding of post-war Europe, and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize—and the first to offer a complete picture of his life.

While Eisenhower Patton, Bradley, Montgomery, MacArthur, Nimitz, and Leahy waged battles in Europe and the Pacific, one military leader actually ran World War II for America, overseeing personnel and logistics: Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1939 to 1945, George C. Marshall.

This interpretive biography of George C. Marshall follows his life from his childhood in Western Pennsylvania and his military training at the Virginia Military Institute to his role during and after World War II and his death in 1959 at the age of seventy-eight. It brings to light the virtuous historical role models who inspired him, including George Washington and Robert E. Lee, and his relationships with the Washington political establishment, military brass, and foreign leaders, from Harry Truman to Chiang Kai-shek. It explores Marshall’s successes and failures during World War II, and his contributions through two critical years of the emerging Cold War—including the transformative Marshall Plan, which saved Western Europe from Soviet domination, and the failed attempt to unite China’s nationalists and communists.

Based on breathtaking research and filled with rich detail, George Marshall: A Biographyis sure to be hailed as the definitive work on one of the most influential figures in American history.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Stonewalled" Sharyl Attkisson's Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington.

Seasoned CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson reveals how she has been electronically surveilled while digging deep into the Obama Administration and its scandals, and offers an incisive critique of her industry and the shrinking role of investigative journalism in today’s media.

Americans are at the mercy of powerful figures in business and government who are virtually unaccountable. The Obama Administration in particular has broken new ground in its monitoring of journalists, intimidation and harassment of opposition groups, and surveillance of private citizens.

Sharyl Attkisson has been a journalist for more than thirty years. During that time she has exposed scandals and covered controversies under both Republican and Democratic administrations. She has also seen the opponents of transparency go to ever greater lengths to discourage and obstruct legitimate reporting.

Attkisson herself has been subjected to “opposition research” efforts and spin campaigns. These tactics increased their intensity as she relentlessly pursued stories that the Obama Administration dismissed. Stonewalled is the story of how her news reports were met with a barrage of PR warfare tactics, including online criticism, as well as emails and phone calls up the network chain of command in an effort to intimidate and discourage the next story. In Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington, Attkisson recounts her personal tale, setting it against the larger story of the decline of investigative journalism and unbiased truth telling in America today.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reuputed Genovese Crime Family Associates Have Bail Reduction by Superior Court Judge

Bail was reduced for several of the alleged Genovese crime family associates accused of running illegal financial schemes and sports gambling operations, but a Superior Court judge maintained $400,000 bail for alleged "capo" Charles "Chuckie" Tuzzo Thursday. ReuThe 80-year-old Tuzzo, however, posted $40,000 with a bail bondsman and was expected to be released later in the evening.

Tuesday, acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the arrest of 11 alleged Genovese crime family members and associates, saying their schemes were evidence the Mafia had "evolved and learned to exploit sophisticated financial systems to hide and launder the proceeds of traditional street crimes.”

Tuzzo, of Bayside, N.Y. — a Genovese "capo" — and Vito Alberti, 55, of New Providence — a "made" soldier — allegedly report directly to the crime family's hierarchy in New York, Hoffman said. Tuzzo and Alberti allegedly received tribute from Genovese family members and associates for illegal financial operations in New Jersey such as check-cashing operations and multimillion-dollar sports gambling operation.

According to Hoffman, Domenick Puccillo, 56, of Florham Park oversaw the operations of Tri-State Check Cashing Inc., located on Avenue A in Newark’s Ironbound District, and other licensed check cashing locations. Puccillo is charged with first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury, possession of usurious loan records and operating an unlicensed check-cashing facility.

Puccillo allegedly extended lines of both cash and credit to customers, and charged annual interest rates ranging between one to three “points”, or between 52 and 156 percent. Individuals who used the business were typically indigent with poor credit, and were required to pay interest weekly, or face threats of violence from Puccillo and an associate, Robert "Bobby Spags" Spagnola, Hoffman said.

Spagnola, 67, of Morganville is charged with first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy, criminal usury and possession of usurious loan records.

Meanwhile, Vincent P. Coppola, 37, of Union allegedly headed a multi-million dollar illegal sports gambling business. Coppola, who is charged with first-degree racketeering, first-degree money laundering, conspiracy and promoting gambling, is the son of jailed Genovese capo Michael Coppola.

Bail was set at $400,000 with no 10-percent option for each of the individuals arrested earlier this week, but Judge James DeMarzo in Morristown reduced bail to $300,000 Thursday for following: Spagnola; Abel J. Rodrigues, 52, Bridgewater; Manuel Rodriguez, 49, Chatham; and John W. Trainor, 42, Brick.

Alberti's bail was held at $400,000. "It could have been higher," the judge told the court. "It could have been much higher. Multiples of what it was set at." But, DeMarzo later said, it was his inclination to reduce it. "Bail is not there to punish," he said. "It's there to make sure someone shows up at court."

Rodrigues, the owner of Portucale Restaurant & Bar, allegedly participated in the check-cashing operation by using his business to launder money and evade taxes. He and his associate, Rodriguez, are accused of cashing more than $400 million in checks and collecting over $9 million in fees over a four-year period during the course of the scheme.

Trainor and Jerry Albanese, 47, of Scotch Plains served under Vincent Coppola as part the illegal gambling operations, Hoffman said. Trainor allegedly became tied up with the ring after becoming indebted to the crime family — which later took over his car business, GTS Auto Carriers, and siphoned money from it. Trainor, who wasn't represented by counsel but had an application for a public defender, told the court he was "completely broke" and likely couldn't pay bail even if it was reduced significantly. "I went bankrupt," he said. "I'm completely broke. I have five small kids at home." Trainor said his wife's a registered nurse and works full time, so he stays home with the children. His 17-year-old daughter, Trainor said, was still recovering from a liver transplant she received in April.

Tuzzo, Alberti, Spagnola, Rodriguez and Trainor each made appearances in court via a closed circuit feed from Morris County Correctional Facility. Rodrigues and Pucillo posted bail earlier in the week.

Coppola, who wasn’t arrested on Tuesday, was picked up by police Wednesday, according to the Attorney General’s Office. His bail wasn't reviewed Thursday.

Despite several successful bail reductions by other alleged associates, Tuzzo's attorney, Gerald McMahon, didn't seek bail modification. McMahon said it was because the terms had already been set with the Attorney General's Office and "having my guy and his picture at the top of (the AG's) chart is not conducive to getting bail reduction." But, he said, he may later seek modification and recoupment of the bail paid in excess. "I look forward to trashing this case when we get to court," McMahon told NJ Advance outside of DeMarzo's courtroom.

McMahon, who is licensed to practice law in New York — where Tuzzo lives — but not New Jersey, was vouched for by his son, a licensed New Jersey attorney, in the court proceedings Thursday. Regarding the case, he said, "Don't you get immunity after 80 for a glorified gambling arrest?"

Tuzzo, Alberti, Pucillo, Spagnola, Rodriguez, Coppola, Rodrigues and Trainor are all facing charges including first-degree racketeering and money laundering, each of which could land them in jail for up to 20 years.

Alberti, Trainor, Rodrigues and Rodriguez are also facing tax-related charges for their illegal activity related to the check-cashing businesses and other endeavors.

Flor Miranda of Newark and Jennifer Mann of Bayonne who were charged in connection with the alleged illegal financial operations didn't have their bail reviewed Thursday. Albanese's bail also wasn't reviewed Thursday. Miranda and Mann are each accused of helping to keep records and file false reports related to the schemes.

The Attorney General's Office was represented by Deputy Attorney Generals Jacqueline Weyand and Ray Mateo.

The matter is next scheduled to go before Superior Court Judge Robert Gilson on Nov. 19.

Thanks to Justin Zaremba.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Corrections Officer & Chicago Police Dispatcher Among 7 Charged in Alleged Plot to Smuggle Contraband into Cook County Jail

Nearly three ounces of marijuana was confiscated after it was found hidden inside two sandwiches that a Cook County corrections officer allegedly tried to smuggle into the Cook County Jail last year in exchange for a $200 bribe. As a result of that seizure and an allegedly broader conspiracy, the corrections officer, three inmates, two civilians, and a Chicago police dispatcher are facing federal charges in connection with alleged smuggling of marijuana and other contraband into the jail, sheriff’s department and federal law enforcement officials announced.

In June 2013, three jail inmates allegedly conspired with two civilian women to bribe JASON MAREK, a corrections officer for the Cook County Department of Corrections since May 2011, to bring marijuana, cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol, food and other contraband into the jail for inmates’ consumption and for further distribution within the jail, according to a three count criminal complaint.

According to the charges, an ounce of marijuana, which sells for approximately $200 outside the jail, could be sold for five times as much, or $1,000, inside the jail.

Marek, also known as “Murder” and “Murda,” 29, formerly of Orland Park, was assigned to the 3 to 11 p.m. shift at CCJ, Division 9, Tier 2H, when the alleged marijuana smuggling was thwarted on June 21, 2013. He was arrested and was released on his own recognizance after appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert in Federal Court.

Between June 15 and 24, 2013, three jail inmates—THADIEUS GOODS, PRINCE JOHNSON, and LAVANGELIST POWELL—who were housed in the same tier where Marek was assigned, allegedly conspired with two women to bribe Marek to smuggle the marijuana and other contraband into the jail. During a recorded telephone call from the jail on June 15, 2013, Goods told his wife, PEARLISA STEVENSON, that, with her help, he had the opportunity to make some money by selling marijuana inside the jail as long as he also had a corrections officer willing to help him.

“Rooting out corruption in the Cook County Jail is a top priority of mine,” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. “I’m thankful to our federal partners at the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for working closely with my staff to conduct such a thorough investigation and to charge this far-reaching case.”

The arrests and charges were announced by Sheriff Dart, together with Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation was a joint effort between the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office of Professional Responsibility, with Sheriff Dart’s full support, to improve the security and integrity within the Cook County Jail.

Goods, also known as “Big Weasy,” “Weasy,” and “Wang,” 36, of Calumet Park; Johnson, aka “Primo,” 32; and Powell, aka “JuJu” and “Juicy,” 22, both of Chicago, remain in state custody and will be transferred to face the federal charges on a date yet to be determined.

Stevenson, aka “Wang Wang,” 29, and NATOSHA McCOLLUM, aka “Tasha,” 21, who is Powell’s girlfriend, both of Chicago, were arrested and were released on their own recognizance after appearing before Magistrate Gilbert.

Those six defendants ― Marek, Goods, Johnson, Powell, Stevenson, and McCollum ― were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

The seventh defendant, STEPHANIE LEWIS, 40, of Chicago, a “supervisor police operations” in the police dispatch group in the city of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and who is Johnson’s girlfriend, was arrested last night. She was charged with one count of illegally accessing a law enforcement computer to assist the alleged extortion and drug distribution conspiracy. Lewis and three others ― Powell, Johnson, and McCollum ― were also charged with conspiracy to access a law enforcement computer to further extortion and a drug conspiracy.

Lewis was also released on her own recognizance. Marek, Stevenson, McCollum, and Lewis were each ordered to return to court at 9:30 a.m. Friday for a status hearing before Magistrate Gilbert.

According to a 48-page complaint affidavit, Goods and Powell pre-sold marijuana to inmates within the CCJ. In June 2013, inmates transferred funds to Stevenson and McCollum via the jail’s Inmate Trust Account system, allegedly to purchase marijuana and other contraband, which Goods, Powell, and Johnson expected to be brought into the jail. After collecting the money from other inmates, McCollum and Stevenson discussed with Goods and Powell their efforts to purchase marijuana from drug dealers outside the jail. Johnson and Lewis allegedly coordinated the delivery of contraband to Stevenson for delivery into the jail, and on June 21, 2013, Stevenson delivered the marijuana and other banned goods to Marek. At the same time, McCollum and Stevenson paid Marek a $200 bribe to smuggle the contraband into the jail. Marek attempted to deliver the marijuana to Goods but was intercepted by the FBI and the Sheriff’s Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility as he entered the jail.

After Marek failed to deliver the marijuana and contraband, Goods, Powell, and Johnson allegedly worked with McCollum and Lewis to obtain Marek’s home address and information about his family to threaten Marek and convince him to bring additional contraband into the jail. Johnson allegedly contacted Lewis and, after informing her that Marek had accepted a bribe but failed to deliver the goods, asked Lewis to provide Marek’s personal information, including his home address and names of family members because Johnson and Goods planned to send their associates to Marek’s house. After receiving Marek’s license plate number from McCollum, Lewis allegedly conducted an inquiry of Marek’s license plate on an OEMC computer linked to an Illinois State Police database, which queried the National Crime Information Center database, and Lewis then provided Marek’s home address to Johnson, the complaint alleges.

In June 2013, Good, Powell, and Johnson were housed in the jail’s Division 9, Tier 2H, where Marek was assigned for a 90-day rotation. Tier 2H is located on the second floor of the south tower of Division 9, which is located at 2834 West 31st St., Chicago, and is comprised of two interconnected three-story buildings that house general population male inmates with a maximum security classification.

Each count of the complaint carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

Church Director Edward J. MacKenzie Served as Enforcer for Whitey Bulger, Defrauded Church of Considerable Financial Assets

Edward J. MacKenzie, Jr., a self-professed “enforcer” for James “Whitey” Bulger, pleaded guilty to charges relating to his decade-long scheme to siphon off the considerable financial assets of the Boston Society of the New Jerusalem Church.

MacKenzie, 56, of Weymouth, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 13 counts, including Rico conspiracy, racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 23, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.

In September 2002, MacKenzie became a member of the Church, which was one of the first Swedenborgian churches in Massachusetts, and in 2003, he became the “Director of Operations,” a position that had not previously existed and paid him a starting salary of over $100,000 per year. With the purpose of draining the church of its assets, he began voting himself and his associates into positions of authority within the Church, and consolidating and fortifying his control by, among other things, changing the Church’s by-laws for his own benefit. MacKenzie was able to gain control over substantial church assets, including an 18 story apartment building in downtown Boston, because the Church had a small number of voting members, many of whom were elderly.

After obtaining control, MacKenzie began to steal Church funds through a combination of fraud, deceit, theft, and bribery. Moreover, MacKenzie intimidated and threatened individuals who were employed by and did work at the Church by, among other things, providing them with signed copies of his 2003 autobiography, Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob. In the autobiography, MacKenzie admitted to a lengthy criminal history, including burglary, robbery, armed assault, and narcotics trafficking.

As MacKenzie admitted in Court, a goal of the conspiracy was to obtain power and influence within the Church so that he and his co-conspirators could defraud the Church of its considerable financial holdings and profit from transactions involving the Church. MacKenzie’s fraud cost the Church millions of dollars.

“The defendant preyed on the elderly and unsuspecting congregation of a well-established Boston church for more than a decade,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “Posing as a director with the best interests of the church as a guise, he was in fact just the opposite: a criminal bent on personal gain who siphoned the considerable income of the charitable institution that he had an obligation to protect.”

The charging statutes provide a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of twice the gross proceeds from the racketeering offense. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Tonight, Rena Kopystenski, Author of "An Unbelievable Life", Appears on Crime Beat Radio

Rena Kopystenski, author of "An Unbelievable Life: Agent Orange and One Woman's Fight Against It" appears tonight on Crime Beat Radio.

An Unbelievable Life is a post-Vietnam War memoir that offers a unique perspective on the history and realities of the war and the long term impact of Agent OrangeAn Unbelievable Life: Agent Orange and One Woman's Fight Against It. This book is a tribute to the author's late husband, who was incredibly special and important although very few people know who he was or what he accomplished. It is also a testament to those brave men, women and children who, with nothing other than anger and personal dedication, taught America to honor the Vietnam Combat Veterans and create new laws and treatment for those whose lives and progeny were destroyed by Agent Orange. Perhaps the greatest purpose served by the book is to teach those who want to evoke change but fall short due to their own self- doubt or feelings of powerlessness.

Crime Beat is a weekly hour-long radio program that airs every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST. Crime Beat presents fascinating topics that bring listeners closer to the dynamic underbelly of the world of crime. Guests have included ex-mobsters, undercover law enforcement agents, sports officials, informants, prisoners, drug dealers and investigative journalists, who have provided insights and fresh information about the world’s most fascinating subject: crime.