Monday, July 28, 2014

Anti-Gun Talking Point Refuted by Background Check Expansion

Last month, while addressing a group of Colorado sheriffs, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper spoke on the topic of the state's 2013 measure outlawing almost all private transfers of firearms. According to the Denver Post, Hickenlooper told the sheriffs, "I think we screwed that up completely... we were forming legislation without basic facts."  A new Associated Press report examining Colorado background check data in the first year of the new law proves the accuracy of Hickenlooper's statement, and should (although likely won't) end the repetition of an already discredited anti-gun background check factoid.

The report states that the Colorado Legislative Council, an offshoot of the state legislature that is tasked with analyzing legislation, estimated that 420,000 additional background checks would be conducted in the two years following the new private sale restrictions. This led the Colorado legislature to allocate $3 million to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to handle the anticipated increase.

However, the AP notes, "officials have performed only about 13,600 reviews considered a result of the new law -- about 7 percent of the estimated first year total." The article goes on to state, "In total, there were about 311,000 background checks done during the first year of the expansion in Colorado, meaning the 13,600 checks between private sellers made up about 4 percent of the state total."

How did the Colorado Legislative Council get their estimate so wildly wrong? They relied on same bogus statistic (that 40 percent of gun transfers occur between private parties) which gun control advocates and the White House have been using to advocate for expanded background checks all over the country.

The 40 percent statistic is from a Police Foundation survey, the results of which were published in a 1997 National Institute of Justice report titled, Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms. The figure has been debunked repeatedly by the NRA and others, and even earned the President "Three Pinocchios" from the Washington Post's fact-checker for his repeated use of the misleading stat.

Unfortunately, these public admonishments haven't deterred gun control supporters from using this absurdly inflated figure. In November, Sen. Dianne Feinstein repeated the factoid in an opinion piece for the San Jose Mercury News. As recently as early July, the Brady campaign asserted in a press release, "Approximately 40 percent of all guns sales go unchecked." A May press release from Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety reiterated estimates "that 40 percent of gun sales occur without a background check in the U.S." Even President Obama's official website, whitehouse.gov, has a page for his "Now is the Time" gun control campaign that continues to claim, "Right now, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to run background checks on those buying guns, but studies estimate that nearly 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from this requirement."

The data from Colorado's first year of restricted private transfers makes continued use the 40 percent figure untenable. Still, some gun control advocates might seek to blame Colorado's low increase in background checks on scofflaws, and those unaware of changes in the law, circumventing the new restrictions. Even if these factors did have a role to play in the underwhelming check numbers, they could hardly be expected to raise the percentage of undocumented private transfers by a factor of 10. Even if they could, it would merely weaken the case of the efficacy of private transfer restrictions. Evidence of background check avoidance would simply underscore NRA's position that background check laws cannot affect the behavior of those who intentionally or unknowingly violate them.

Colorado's expensive foray into background check expansion should serve as a warning to state and federal legislators as to the limited effect these laws can have, and the importance of collecting the "basic facts" before crafting legislation that inhibits the rights of their constituents.

Yet the tactics of gun control supporters are nothing if not shameless, so don't expect them to relinquish the 40 percent myth any time soon. President Obama has openly embraced the confiscatory gun bans of Australia and Great Britain, and he and other gun control radicals realize they can't achieve that goal without registration. "Universal" background checks are the next step in that direction, so for their proponents, the ends justify their dishonest means.

For everyone else, however, Colorado's example is a resounding reminder that the war the proponents of "universal" background checks are waging is one of ideology, not one of facts, and it is certainly not in the service of "gun safety."

Thanks to NRA.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chris Cippolini, author of #LuckyLuciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangster Legend, appears on Crime Beat Radio Tonight

Chris Cippolini, author of Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangster Legend (Gangland Mysteries), appears on Crime Beat Radio Tonight.

Lucky  Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangster LegendCharles Lucky Luciano is one of the most researched, discussed and dissected American mobsters of all time. His name has become synonymous with NY City's high drama gangland days of prohibition bootlegging, the information of the infamous five families, and controversy over his alleged Last Testament. However, there exists many fascinating and lurid tales and theories regarding Lucky's rise and fall from the mobs top spot. Some of these stories are known, but still incited debate, such as the origins of his nickname and menacing facial scars. Other legends are not so well known to the general public

With information culled from rare news articles, government documents and numerous books written on the subject, this book will give readers a chance to discover Luciano in a way that engages the mystery of his pop culture status, while encouraging further debate over the facts that fallacies that exist about his true role in the history of the American mafia structure.

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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Was Gianni Versace Killed in a Mob Hit?

There is new information from the ABC7 I-Team in a case that stunned the nation and the fashion world 17 years ago. It was then that designer Gianni Versace was gunned down on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion. The case of the street-side assassination of the fashion mogul is still yielding new information.

The I-Team has learned that local authorities first thought Versace might have been cut down by a mob hitman and called in the FBI because of a possible organized crime connection. There are now new details in the old case about the moments and days immediately after Versace was shot and killed in front of his South Beach mansion.

When Versace was murdered 17 years ago, Was Gianni Versace Killed in a Mob Hit?a friend of the designer's actually saw the fatal shot. According to FBI records the gunman "was followed by a friend of Versace's who observed the subject walk north to 12th Street, then head west into an alley, at which time the subject turned and pointed a gun at the witness who fled the area and lost contact with the subject."

The voluminous FBI file on the case reveals that "Miami Beach homicide detectives requested FBI agents respond to the crime scene, initially thinking that Versace may have been killed a result of a murder for hire or some organized crime connection."

Of course it wasn't a gangland hit. It was Andrew Cunanan, who took down Versace at the end of a country murder spree, a criminal odyssey that left Chicago business tycoon Lee Miglin dead along the way. FBI investigative notes on Cunanan state that: "Gianna Versace was shot and killed, subject is believed to be the killer and may, or may not be, targeting former lovers or clients who may have given him AIDS."

In an email to a New York news outlet that Cunanan sent after the Versace murder, he wrote "I love all the news. Any gay rich man who have been with will get there's very good."

Cunanan also had created an elaborate misdirection scheme in an attempt to get away with murder. While he was the target of a nationwide manhunt, he tried to evade authorities by sending out emails stating that he was in New York City (when he wasn't) and that his next victim would be in New York (which it wasn't.)

Those emails were actually sent from the killer's houseboat hideaway on the Miami Beach Intracoastal, a few miles from Versace mansion murder scene, where he would eventually kill himself.

Cunanan died at his own hand ten days after the Versace murder, one of at least five murders attributed to him. Cunanan's remains are in a crypt at a Catholic cemetery in San Diego, the city where he was living prior to the start of the killing spree.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mafia Ties Investigated with Discovered Assassin Van

The two dining room chairs, sawed off at the legs and mounted inside the cargo area of the van, might have passed for mere oddity at first glance. But a far more sinister picture emerged as Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies scoured the 1998 Ford after a traffic stop one night in early May in Old Metairie.

Inside the vehicle, authorities found a loaded .22-caliber rifle with a scope stashed under a carpet. An unregistered silencer had been stowed in a side compartment, and deputies discovered an 8-inch cannon fuse — a wire capable of detonating an explosive device — tucked under a sandbag behind the driver’s seat.

The van, which bore a stolen license plate, had even been retrofitted with custom sliding windows in the rear and side panels, offering concealed vantage points for a possible gunman.

Authorities were left with an inescapable conclusion: This vehicle had been outfitted to kill. “It’s a concern for us that there was a target just because of the nature and the setup of the vehicle,” said Kevin Moran, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said Jefferson Parish officials “definitely stopped something potentially horrific from occurring.”

Federal authorities are investigating whether the van and the rifle found in it can be linked to any shootings. But their probe also has raised troubling questions about the two men seated in the front of the vehicle when officials pulled it over: Dominick Gullo, 72, and Joseph F. Gagliano, 55, who were both indicted last month on federal weapons charges.

The two suspects, who are being held without bail, have disavowed knowledge of the van’s contents. But at least one has ties to the Marcello organized crime family that was active in the city for decades before ostensibly fizzling out in the mid-1990s. Gagliano, who served time in federal prison for racketeering, is the son of Frank Gagliano Sr., who was the reputed “underboss” of the organization before his 2006 death.

Gullo is not a convicted felon, however, and in fact this was his first known run-in with law enforcement.

It’s not clear whether the sniper van bears the fingerprints of old-fashioned organized crime or was simply the freelance creation of men with unknown motives. And while law enforcement officials say there are still vestiges of the Mafia, they say its influence in New Orleans has been reduced through attrition and tectonic shifts in the criminal landscape.

“To say that Italian organized crime is making a comeback here in New Orleans is a quantum leap,” said Jim Bernazzani, a former FBI agent who was head of the bureau’s New Orleans field office for three years, until 2008. “I think we have a couple of guys who may have been affiliated — associates, not ‘made members.’ ”

“The whole van thing, if in fact it was organized crime and not individual retaliation, is an anomaly,” Bernazzani added. “It’s something we haven’t seen in a long, long time.”

New Orleans has a colorful history of reputed mob activity, dating back to 1890 and the assassination of the city’s police chief, David C. Hennessy. But those enterprises have diminished greatly in recent decades, giving way to drug-peddling street gangs and the likes of Central City crime lord Telly Hankton, perhaps the most notorious criminal of his generation.

“It’s no longer the overriding, omnipresent, powerful, tightly organized criminal operation that it was 50 years ago,” Rafael Goyeneche, president of the watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission, said of local crime families. “But there are some remnants of it, and this (van) may be a manifestation of the remnants.”

John Selleck, a local FBI agent, said the bureau still receives “allegations about La Cosa Nostra here in the Greater New Orleans area” from time to time, referring to the American Mafia organization. “We don’t dismiss that information,” he said, “and we look at it thoroughly against what our other threat priorities are.”

Moran said he believes the Mafia still has a local presence. “It may have gone underground a little bit,” he said, “and I think, in today’s culture, there are a lot more different criminal elements out there.”

Joseph Gagliano’s ties to organized crime are well documented. In 1995, Joseph Gagliano, his father, who was known as “Fat Frank,” and several others — including Anthony Carollo, considered the boss of the organization at the time — pleaded guilty to racketeering in a conspiracy that defrauded Bally Gaming, a supplier of video poker machines, using companies federal prosecutors said were Mafia fronts.

Joseph Gagliano, who was 36 at the time, was sentenced to 3½ years in federal prison for his role in the scheme, which involved a partnership among the Gambino and Genovese crime families of New York and the Marcello family of New Orleans to infiltrate Louisiana’s then-nascent video poker industry.

That sentence ran concurrently with a 2½-year prison term Joseph Gagliano received for his role in a card-marking scandal that swindled more than half a million dollars from a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Joseph Gagliano and his associates had been on the radar of federal prosecutors even before they were charged in the video poker case, having been the targets of an federal inquiry into illegal gambling in 1989. In the sprawling video poker prosecution, more than two dozen people were convicted in a scheme to distribute poker machines and skim profits from Bally Gaming, the supplier.

In building their case, federal agents bugged Frank’s Restaurant in the French Quarter — a deli owned at the time by Joseph Gagliano’s father and now run by his brother, Frank Gagliano Jr. — in a probe that came to be known as Operation Hardcrust after investigators complained about the staleness of the French bread at the eatery. Through hidden cameras and tapped phones, authorities enjoyed what then-federal prosecutor Jim Letten described as a “window into the internal resurgence of a previously dormant organized-crime family.”

The video poker racket marked a renaissance of sorts for the Marcello family, whose influence had increasingly come into question in the years after Carlos Marcello, the reputed New Orleans mob boss, went to prison in an earlier racketeering case. Marcello, who was eventually released after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out his conviction, died in 1993 at the age of 83.

Bernazzani, who said much of the New Orleans Mafia had been eliminated before his tenure, noted the lasting impact of sweeping racketeering cases, which he said served to decimate the ranks of Italian crime families around the country. “Through attrition, we kept picking off the upper echelon, and everybody who came in to take their place had lesser and lesser sophistication and made more and more mistakes,” he said. “A lot of these offspring saw their uncles and fathers and grandfathers die in prison, and they decided to open restaurants.”

Even as its power has faded, the legacy of the Marcello crime family has endured. As recently as 2012, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board denied an application for a video gaming license for Frank’s Restaurant, calling the business “the site of illegal gaming activity” and referring to co-owner Frank Gagliano Jr.’s 1997 conviction in an illegal bookmaking scheme. “Mr. Gagliano’s brother and father, Frank Gagliano Sr., were reportedly members of New Orleans organized crime,” the board’s order said.

When Joseph Gagliano left federal prison in 1999, he did so with substantial debt. As part of his plea agreement, he had been ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution to Bally Gaming, the company he and his co-conspirators defrauded. It’s unclear what type of work he’s been engaged in since his release. Neither his wife, Hetty Gagliano, nor his brother, Frank Gagliano Jr., responded to requests for comment.

Public records list Joseph Gagliano as the director or registered agent of several companies, most of which appear to be related to grocery distribution and gaming. He has paid back $4,000 of his debt, and in 2013, prosecutors attempted to garnish the wages of his wife from her job as an instructor at Delgado Community College.

According to court records, Hetty Gagliano was being paid slightly less than $1,300 on a biweekly basis, after the deduction of taxes. Hetty Gagliano owns the house where the couple live in the 1000 block of Sena Drive in Metairie, according to the Jefferson Parish Assessor’s Office. The imposing, multistory brick residence has a neatly trimmed yard, a two-car garage and an assessed value of $495,000.

A neighbor described the couple as quiet but said news of Joseph Gagliano’s recent arrest, first reported this month by WVUE-TV, had rippled through the block. “They pretty much stuck to themselves,” said the neighbor, who declined to give his name. “I guess maybe they had a reason.”

About 1½ miles away, in the 200 block of East William David Parkway, a man who lived near Gullo said he’d seen him only a handful of times. “He always seemed like a nice guy,” said the man, who also would not give his name. “At least until we heard that he was trying to kill people.”

It’s unclear exactly how long Gullo, who previously lived in Las Vegas and Chicago, had lived at the home, though the neighbor estimated about two years. Patricia Guggenheimer, who owns the house but apparently lives in St. Tammany Parish, declined to answer questions about how she knew Gullo. “I’m not going to talk about that,” she said before hanging up.

Authorities were alerted to the retrofitted van’s stolen license plate on May 7 by an automatic license-plate reader. A Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy followed the vehicle down East William David Parkway and turned on his flashing lights about 11 p.m. Gullo, who was driving the vehicle, pulled into his driveway.

After running a search of the van’s vehicle identification number, Deputy Lamar Hooks learned it was registered to South Coast Gas Co., a business based in Raceland. Michael St. Romain, the company’s vice president, said the van had been traded in to Terrebonne Ford about two years ago, adding that the company previously used the van as a service vehicle.

The license plate affixed to the van had been swiped Feb. 4 from a woman’s car in the parking lot of an unidentified hospital, according to a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office report.

It wasn’t until the deputy prepared the vehicle to be towed from Gullo’s home, however, that he discovered its startling contents, including the rifle, silencer and cannon fuse.

Gullo claimed he had purchased the van earlier in the day at CC’s Coffee Shop in the 800 block of Metairie Road, according to the report. He said a woman had entered the business inquiring whether anyone wanted to buy the vehicle for $300. Gullo told Hooks he took the woman up on the deal, adding that the woman promised to meet him the next day to provide more documents.

Gullo and Gagliano denied having any knowledge of the van’s contents, according to the report, but investigators remain skeptical. “The sophistication and the preparation that goes into preparing a vehicle like this would lead a logical person to the conclusion that there’s maybe more to this than they just happened to be driving around in a van,” said Selleck, the FBI agent, alluding to the custom windows and mounted dining room chairs.

Deputies arrested Gullo on one count of possession of stolen property and booked him into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility, where he later posted bail. Gagliano was not detained at that time.

A month later, a federal grand jury indicted both men. Gagliano was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and also with possession of the unregistered silencer. Under federal firearm regulations, silencers are “treated the same as a fully automatic machine gun, a sawed-off shotgun, a short-barreled rifle and other destructive devices,” said Moran, the ATF spokesman.

Gullo was charged only with possession of the silencer, though law enforcement officials said their investigation continues.

“This isn’t just a trip back from buying some ammunition or running to the grocery store,” said Goyeneche, of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “This is something very, very ominous and sinister.”

Thanks to Jim Lawton and Dan Mustian.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Details on State's Attorney Alvarez #OperationCrewCut Announcement of Charges in Rackeetering Operation including Drug Trafficking, Home Invasions and Kidnapping

Five people have been charged with Super Class X felonies in connection with a proactive state racketeering investigation targeting members of an organized crime street crew that engaged in a wide array of criminal activity including drug trafficking, home invasions and kidnapping, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced.

Cook County prosecutors announced RICO and other related charges against the defendants who are associated with a sophisticated and high tech criminal enterprise that operated in the Chicago area for years. The criminal complaints against the defendants were filed in Cook County Criminal Court today.  The case marks the second state RICO prosecution by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office since the Illinois Street Gang RICO law was passed in 2012.

Three men have been charged with the Super Class X felony offenses of Racketeering Conspiracy and Criminal Drug Conspiracy, including Robert Panozzo, age 54, and Paul Koroluk, age 55, as well as Maher Abuhabsah, age 33.  Panozzo’s son, Robert Jr, age 22, was charged with Criminal Drug Conspiracy, and Koroluk’s wife, Maria Koroluk, age 53, was charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver a Super Class X amount of cocaine as a result of this investigation.

After the bond hearing, State’s Attorney Alvarez noted that, like the prior RICO case brought by her office against the violent Black Souls Street Gang, her investigation was triggered when a criminal enterprise plotted to kill a witness, saying that “in both matters, organized crime sought to attack the criminal justice system itself, and now, armed with a proper state RICO statute, my office can fight back effectively and hold the right offenders accountable for their crimes.”

 “The completion of this second proactive investigation is yet another example of the vital importance that our Illinois RICO law now plays in our ability to combat violent organized crime in the state of Illinois, and I am pleased to work in collaboration with our law enforcement partners at the local and federal level once again, and use this critical tool to send a strong and lasting message to criminals who plague our communities with violence and crime,” Alvarez said.

“Operation Crew Cut” was a 10-month long-term covert investigation, which targeted members of the Panozzo-Koroluk street crew (P-K street crew), who at times posed as police officers to rob drug cartel stash houses for illegal contraband including drugs and cash proceeds.  The ongoing pattern of criminal activity included home invasions, robberies, kidnapping and insurance fraud among other offenses.  The joint state-federal investigation included the use of advanced law enforcement tools such as court-ordered electronic surveillance, consensual overhears, tracking orders, and search warrants of cell phones and email accounts.

According to prosecutors, the investigation began in October 2013 after law enforcement authorities developed evidence that a member of the P-K street crew attempted to solicit the murder of a state witness who was set to testify against members of the P-K street crew in a pending home invasion and kidnapping case.  Specifically, investigators discovered that Robert Panozzo Sr., along with other individuals, solicited another individual to kill the victim on that case to prevent them from testifying at the trial.

Based on that information, prosecutors, along with other law enforcement agencies began the proactive racketeering investigation into the illegal activities of the close-knit P-K street crew.  The investigation revealed evidence that the crew engaged in a wide array of crimes including drug trafficking, murder, home invasion, armed violence, burglary and weapons offenses.  As the investigation progressed, it became clear that the scope of the crimes committed by members of the P-K crew were quite substantial and violent.

The investigation also revealed that the members of the P-K street crew routinely obtained information from Chicago street gang members to determine the location and contents of drug cartel stash houses.  The P-K street crew members would then utilize high tech equipment, such as video surveillance and GPS trackers placed on the cars of drug dealers, to determine the location of the stash house.  Once the location was obtained, P-K street crew members would then enter the houses, posing as police officers and steal large quantities of contraband including drugs and other items.  

According to court documents, during the course of one home invasion and kidnapping in 2013, Panozzo sliced off the ear of a victim at the location after Panozzo heard the man speaking English after claiming he only spoke Spanish.  During this particular incident, the P-K street crew stole over 25 kilograms of cocaine and two cars.

The defendants in this case were arrested on July 16, 2014 after Panozzo, Koroluk, Abuhabsah and Panozzo Jr, attempted to steal approximately 44 kilograms of cocaine stored at what they believed was a drug dealer’s stash house.  Unbeknownst to the defendants, however, law enforcement authorities had obtained court authorization to rig the house with audio and surveillance equipment as part of a covert sting operation.  The defendants entered the home and took possession of cocaine, and shortly after emerging from the location, the men were arrested by police who were monitoring the operation.

The  “Street Gang Rico” bill written by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and passed by the state legislature in 2012, allows  prosecutors at the state level to target gang and organized crime enterprises who engage in a pattern of crimes involving violence such as illegal weapons, sex-offenses, drug trafficking and other offenses.

The investigation was conducted by the State’s Attorney’s Office in cooperation with the Chicago Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Attorney’s Office.

Reputed Chicago Mob Outfit Crew Charged with Posing as Police to Rob Drug Houses

Members of a street crew with ties to Chicago’s Outfit that operated a sophisticated drug ring that posed as police officers to rob cartel stash houses of large amounts of drugs were arrested this week, prosecutors said Saturday.

Four men who were part of the Panozzo-Koroluk Street Crew were arrested Thursday after investigators set up a sting operation in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, prosecutors said in Cook County Bond Court Saturday. The men tried to steal 44 kilograms of “a substance containing cocaine,” from what they thought was a drug dealer’s stash house in the 13000 block of South Brandon Avenue, prosecutors said.

Police had installed surveillance equipment in the house, however, and the crew was arrested as they brought the cocaine outside.

Robert Panozzo, 54, Paul Koroluk, 55, and Maher Abuhabsah, 33, and Panozzo’s 22-year-old son, Robert Panozzo, Jr., were held without bail in Cook County bond court Saturday.

Panozzo and Koroluk are part of a Grand Avenue Outfit crew run by Albert “Little Guy” Vena, according to sources and court testimony in the federal murder plot trial of Steve Mandell, a former Chicago police officer, earlier this year. The crew came to investigators’ attention in October 2013, when law enforcement found evidence that Panozzo Sr. tried to have a witness in a home invasion and kidnapping case murdered to prevent the witness from testifying at trial, prosecutors said.

Koroluk’s wife, Maria Koroluk, 53, was arrested Friday at the home she shared with her husband in West Town, where police found 200 grams of cocaine on her clothes and shoes, Morley said. She was charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver and held on $100,000 bail.

The men’s crimes included home invasions, armed robberies, burglaries, insurance fraud and prostitution, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said at a news conference after the crew’s bond hearings.

The crew conducted five  to six major drug-house “rips” per year, during which they posed as police officers to rob stash houses, Alvarez said. The crew used sophisticated methods, including attaching GPS trackers to dealers’ cars to find where they stashed their drugs.

 “I think this is a very organized crew and a dangerous crew,” Alvarez said. “They have a  history of burglarizing and being in and out of jail. Clearly it didn’t help. We are hoping under these charges they will be held accountable.”

This is the second case charged under the State of Illinois’ Rico law that allows prosecutors to target the structure of a criminal organization itself so that a judge can see a complete picture of a gang’s criminal activity, Alvarez said. “This is the perfect example of the type of cases we were looking to be able to handle under this new law,” Alvarez said.

During numerous search warrants into the mens’ homes executed as late as last night, Alvarez said, officers found police scanners, police vests, and real police badges that had been stolen from police officers’ homes. “They have a long history, a history of burglaries and home invasions,” Alvarez said. “We are happy that this operation turned out the way it (did).”

During a home invasion in 2013, Panozzo Sr. sliced off the ear of a victim after he heard the man speaking English after he had claimed that he only spoke Spanish. “Needless to say their methods involved extreme violence,” Alvarez said.

Panozzo and Koroluk have several burglary convictions and operated one of the most sophisticated burglary rings police have ever seen. Panozzo and Koroluk operated in the area of Grand and Western, Alvarez said. They are from the old Italian neighborhood known as the Patch on the near West side, where Joey the Clown Lombardo and many other mobsters are from.

The two are also part of the same crew as Louis Capuzi and Frank Obrochta, who are in jail facing burglary charges in both DuPage and Cook Counties.

The male defendants face 15 to 60 years in prison for racketeering as well as 15 to 60 years for drug conspiracy charges. Maria Koroluk faces up to 40 years in prison, Alvarez said.

Thanks to Meredith Rodriguez.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jack W. Tocco, Reputed Detroit Mob Boss Dies at 87

Reputed Detroit mob boss Jack W. Tocco, who was convicted of racketeering in 1998 in a federal crackdown on organized crime, has died. He was 87.

Tocco, who said he fought his entire life to clear his name, died Monday at home in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe Park, according to Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements. A cause of death wasn't released.

Tocco, whose family had a linen business, grew up in suburban Detroit and repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. He was convicted of racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion in 1998. He served nearly three years behind bars in the case and paid $950,000 to the government.

Attorney James Bellanca Jr., whose firm represents Tocco, said he learned of Tocco's death from his family. In an email, he said Tocco lived his life "under the scrutiny of the government and the subject of public accusation." He said Tocco tried to clear his name. "Individuals familiar with his conviction in 1998 believe it was based more on the reputation that had been created for him than any evidence of wrongdoing presented against him at trial," Bellanca said. "He served his sentence quietly and with the same dignity he lived his life."

A federal jury in 1998 convicted Tocco of taking part in a 30-year racketeering conspiracy that included loan-sharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice and attempts to gain hidden interests in Nevada casinos. The FBI labeled him the Detroit crime family's boss in an organizational chart released in 1990.

Tocco was included in a 1996 indictment targeting alleged organized crime figures in Detroit. At a news conference about the case at the time, FBI Special Agent Joseph Martinolich Jr., who headed the Detroit office, said: "Here in Detroit, we believe we've driven a stake through the heart of La Cosa Nostra."

Tocco initially was sentenced to one year and a day, but that sentence was later invalidated by the appeals court after the government argued the penalty was too lenient. In 2000, a federal judge in Detroit imposed a new sentence of 34 months.

Tocco, who completed his 34-month sentence, that year thanked relatives and friends for their support and criticized former associates who testified against him.

"All my adult life, I've been fighting to clear my name," he said at a court hearing. "And I will continue that fight to clear my name until the time I die."

ATF to Increase Total Agents in Chicago to 52 with Focus on Reducing Illegal Gun Trafficking and Gun Crime

Following his recent visit to Chicago where he participated in a roundtable discussion with Mayor Emanuel on recent reductions in youth violence, Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to send seven additional Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), agents to the field division office in Chicago.

The new ATF agents will coordinate efforts with U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon, as well as federal, state and local law enforcement and community partnerships to advance proven strategies to reduce illegal gun trafficking and gun crime. There are currently 45 ATF agents assigned to Chicago.

"The Department of Justice will continue to do everything in its power to help the city of Chicago combat gun violence,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. "These new agents are a sign of the federal government's ongoing commitment to helping local leaders ensure Chicago's streets are safe.”

The deployment of new ATF agents represents the latest step in strengthening the partnerships with the Chicago Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies. In early June, ATF opened the Chicago Crime Gun Intelligence Center. The Center combines the gun enforcement efforts of the Chicago Police Department, Illinois State Police and ATF to provide additional leads that otherwise might go unnoticed and further addresses the illegal sales and possession of firearms in the State of Illinois.

In addition, U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon announced a restructuring of the Criminal Division in his office and in doing so named a team of prosecutors who will work specifically to reduce violent crime in the city. The FBI currently has over 100 agents in Chicago assigned to curb gang and violent crimes. During the summer months, the city temporarily assigned an additional 20 agents to supplement crime reduction efforts. Under the 12 current grants administered by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention alone, the City of Chicago and Cook County has access to more than $6.6 million to further these efforts to address youth violence.

Gun crime is the primary driver of homicide in Chicago, and sixty percent of the guns recovered in violent crimes in Chicago were originally sold in other states and trafficked into the city. Given the interstate nature of these crimes, it is critical that federal and local law enforcement work together to identify traffickers and enforce federal gun laws. ATF will continue to concentrate its criminal enforcement on firearms trafficking throughout the region while curbing the supply of illegal guns that end up in the hands of gang members and other violent criminals.
 
“ATF’s commitment to targeting traffickers and trigger pullers in Chicago is bolstered by these additional resources,” said ATF Director B. Todd Jones.  “These resources, combined with ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center, will strengthen and build on our outstanding partnership with the Chicago Police Department and other local, state and regional law enforcement to bring safety and justice back to the community."

“We have enjoyed an ever-improving and increasingly productive relationship with our federal partners,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. “We look forward to continuing that relationship and welcoming additional personnel in our ongoing efforts to ensure everyone in Chicago enjoys the same sense of safety.”

The Justice Department will continue to build on this work in the months ahead through initiatives like Project Safe Neighborhoods; the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention; and innovative community oriented policing tools in the neighborhoods across Chicago.