Friday, May 26, 2017

Umbrella Mike: The True Story of the Chicago Gangster Behind the #Indy500 @IMS

Editor's note: Much of the information that follows is from the book "Umbrella Mike: The True Story of the Chicago Gangster Behind the Indy 500" by Brock Yates, which was published in 2006 by A Thunder's Mouth Press

As the son of a Chicago South Sider, I learned long ago that if you want to get something done, "It takes a guy who knows a guy."

Michael J. "Umbrella Mike" Boyle was just such a guy.

One of most colorful and controversial labor leaders in the history of this country, Boyle ruled the Windy City's most-powerful electricians' union for more than a half century.

In a time when corruption and lawlessness gripped the city, Mike Boyle walked the fine line between crooked politicians and the Chicago Mob. He did it all the way to the pinnacle of the American labor movement, constantly doing it in a shroud of mystery.

When he wasn't in Chicago dominating union politics, he was racing at Indianapolis with his Boyle Racing Team, winning the Indianapolis 500 three times.

The early years

Born in rural Minnesota in June of 1879, Michael J. Boyle was one of 11 children raised on a potato farm. His early years were spent in parochial schools until he joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) at the age of 16.

By 1905 he became certified as a full-time electrician for the Chicago Tunnel Company, the firm responsible for the construction and management of some 60 miles of underground tunnels that linked Loop businesses -- 40 feet below the streets of downtown Chicago.

Boyle joined the IBEW in Chicago 1906, and by 1909 was a business manager for Local 134. By the 1920s he rose to the position of vice president within the local and ruled IBEW Local 134 with an iron fist, eventually amassing a union membership of 10,000 steadfastly loyal electricians.

Early in his career, "Umbrella Mike" Boyle reportedly earned his nickname for his ability to gather "tributes" or "donations," if you will, from contractors and other citizens who sought his much-needed support for various business projects.

Boyle would simply hang his umbrella on the edge of the bar at Johnson's Saloon, his unofficial headquarters on West Madison Street, when he entered early in the evening. Those requesting his favors or guidance would then drop cash in the unattended umbrella. At the end of the evening Boyle would then retrieve the cash-laden umbrella on his way out.

When once confronted on how he was able to amass a grand total of $350,000 on a weekly paycheck of $35, Boyle replied, "It was with great thrift."

Rising to the top in labor

The early 1900s was a period of great unrest between the corporate owners of American industry and the American worker. Long hours and low pay, coupled with abuse of the worker's rights, gave rise for the need of unions to protect the rights of working men and women.

As the country's industrial base prospered, workers across American united under the guidance of men who showed no fear in the face of overwhelming odds. Mike Boyle was such a man.

In one of the clearest examples of Boyle's power, in January of 1937 he yanked 450 of the 800 city-employed electrical workers off the job at 8 p.m., shutting off 94,558 municipal street lights, all the traffic lights in Chicago's Loop and put 38 of the 55 drawbridges that cross the Chicago River, in the up position.

Automobiles, streetcars and pedestrians were trapped, with the city's police force helpless as the power to their telephones was shut off, too. Two hours and 40 minutes later, Boyle acquiesced and turned the city back on, all with a simple phone call.

Racing at Indianapolis

Mike Boyle was a sportsman at heart who loved competition. That was what drew him to Indy-car racing. Once Boyle made up his mind that he wanted to go racing, he pursued his quest with abandon. Starting in 1926, Boyle first got his feet wet with a single-car entry in the 13th running of Indianapolis 500. In his first showing at Indianapolis, the No. 36 Boyle Valve Miller driven by Cliff Woodbury overcame a flat tire to capture third place, earning a purse of $5,000.

Over the next seven years Boyle entered a total of 15 cars in Indianapolis 500 competition with the best finish being a seventh place. He always entered top-notch equipment and hired the best drivers, such as Woodbury, Ralph Hepburn, Billy Arnold, Peter DePaolo and Lou Moore.

In 1934, all of Boyle's efforts came to fruition when "Wild Bill" Cummings in the No. 7 Boyle Products Special/Miller took the checkered flag in record time, earning a record purse of $29,725.

Having won the Indianapolis 500 only made "Umbrella Mike" thirst for more.

The next four years saw him enter 13 cars in the Memorial Day Classic, garnering three top-five finishes.

In 1939, having tired of trying to wring out more speed from the oversized Millers and Stevens-Offy he owned, Boyle reached across the Atlantic Ocean to a tiny Italian automobile company and without fanfare quietly purchased a Maserati 8CTF. The car was shipped to Boyle Racing headquarters in Indianapolis.

There Boyle turned the car over to his crew-chief, Harry "Cotton" Henning, a former riding mechanic. Henning was greatly respected by his peers and along with Boyle's money was able to outfit a pristinely kept racing operation that was second to none.

Then Boyle hired arguably the best "shoe" in the business, Indiana native Wilbur Shaw.

The marriage between Shaw and the Boyle Special Maserati was magic, dominating both the 1939 and 1940 Indianapolis 500s. Boyle's combined winnings for the two successive victories was $58,100. In addition, Boyle's other driver, the legendary Ted Horn, copped successive fourth place finishes to add another $9,325.

Following his two-year domination of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mike Boyle raced again in 1941 and 1946, with the best results being a sixth and third-place finishes, respectively. But the war years took their toll on Boyle and he left Indy-car racing for good after 1946, while in his mid-60s.

During the course of his racing career, it was never clear where the money was coming from that funded one of the most well-equipped racing operations in the business. "Umbrella Mike's" livery on the cars was seemingly changing from season to season. Boyle Products, Boyle Valve, Boyle Racing Headquarters, the IBEW -- all these names were seen on the side of Mike Boyle's cars.

After retiring from Indy-car racing, "Umbrella Mike" still dominated union politics in Chicago through his role as a vice president of Local 134 of the IBEW. He died from heart failure in 1958 while in Miami Beach, Fla.

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported on the filing of Boyle's estate in probate court. It was revealed that his entire estate -- which included a 40-acre ranch in Texas -- was valued at only $19,000.

It would appear that "Umbrella Mike" left us with one more mystery.

Thanks to William LaDow

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Richard Nixon: The Life

From a prize-winning biographer comes, Richard Nixon: The Life, the defining portrait of a man who led America in a time of turmoil and left us a darker age. We live today, John A. Farrell shows, in a world Richard Nixon made.

At the end of WWII, navy lieutenant “Nick” Nixon returned from the Pacific and set his cap at Congress, an idealistic dreamer seeking to build a better world. Yet amid the turns of that now-legendary 1946 campaign, Nixon’s finer attributes gave way to unapologetic ruthlessness. The story of that transformation is the stunning overture to John A. Farrell’s magisterial biography of the president who came to embody postwar American resentment and division.

Within four years of his first victory, Nixon was a U.S. senator; in six, the vice president of the United States of America. “Few came so far, so fast, and so alone,” Farrell writes. Nixon’s sins as a candidate were legion; and in one unlawful secret plot, as Farrell reveals here, Nixon acted to prolong the Vietnam War for his own political purposes. Finally elected president in 1969, Nixon packed his staff with bright young men who devised forward-thinking reforms addressing health care, welfare, civil rights, and protection of the environment. It was a fine legacy, but Nixon cared little for it. He aspired to make his mark on the world stage instead, and his 1972 opening to China was the first great crack in the Cold War.
Nixon had another legacy, too: an America divided and polarized. He was elected to end the war in Vietnam, but his bombing of Cambodia and Laos enraged the antiwar movement. It was Nixon who launched the McCarthy era, who played white against black with a “southern strategy,” and spurred the Silent Majority to despise and distrust the country’s elites. Ever insecure and increasingly paranoid, he persuaded Americans to gnaw, as he did, on grievances—and to look at one another as enemies. Finally, in August 1974, after two years of the mesmerizing intrigue and scandal of Watergate, Nixon became the only president to resign in disgrace.

Richard Nixon is a gripping and unsparing portrayal of our darkest president. Meticulously researched, brilliantly crafted, and offering fresh revelations, it will be hailed as a master work.

Monday, May 22, 2017

FBI Announces Reward for Fugitive "Smurf" AKA Diego Barros Pires

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Boston Division’s Southeastern Massachusetts Gang Task Force and the ATF Boston Field Division are seeking the public’s assistance in locating Diego Barros Pires, an alleged member of a violent street gang in Brockton, Massachusetts.

On March 22, 2017, Diego Pires, also known as “Smurf” or “Do It” was indicted, along with three other associates, and an arrest warrant was issued out of U.S. District Court in Boston, Massachusetts. Pires was charged with kidnapping, and aiding and abetting. He is wanted for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of one adult and two minors in Brockton and Quincy, Massachusetts. Pires is considered armed and dangerous.

Pires is a 24-year-old Cape Verdean male who is a legal U.S. citizen, with black hair and brown eyes. He is 5’8” in height and weighs approximately 160 pounds. He last resided at 5 Madrid Square, Apartment 7, Brockton, Mass.

Pires has two tattoos; one on his right forearm that says “RIP Johnny,” the other on his left forearm that says “Kyle.”

The FBI is currently offering a monetary reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to his location and arrest. Anyone with information regarding his current whereabouts should call the FBI Boston Division at 1-857-386-2000. Tips can also be electronically submitted at

“Mr. Pires is considered armed and dangerous and we believe he poses a serious danger to the public. At this point in time, we’ve exhausted all investigative leads in locating him and we’re asking anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact law enforcement,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.

The FBI’s Southeastern Massachusetts Gang Task Force is composed of the following agencies: the FBI, the Massachusetts State Police, and Brockton Police Department.

Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America

In a ranch south of Texas, the man known as The Executioner dumps five hundred body parts in metal barrels. In Brazil's biggest city, a mysterious prisoner orders hit-men to gun down forty-one police officers and prison guards in two days. In southern Mexico, a crystal meth maker is venerated as a saint while imposing Old Testament justice on his enemies. A new kind of criminal kingpin has arisen: part CEO, part terrorist, and part rock star, unleashing guerrilla attacks, strong-arming governments and taking over much of the world's trade in narcotics, guns and humans. Who are these new masters of death? What personal qualities and life experiences have made them into such bloodthirsty leaders of men? What do they represent and stand for? What has happened in the Americas to allow them to grow and flourish? Author of the critically acclaimed El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency, Ioan Grillo has covered Latin America since 2001, and gained access to every level of the cartel chain-of-command in what he calls the new battlefields of the Americas. Moving between militia-controlled ghettos and the halls of top policy-makers, Grillo provides a new and disturbing understanding of a war that has spiraled out of control - one that people across the political spectrum need to confront now. Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America, is the first definitive account of the crime wars now wracking Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tamer Moumen, Former Crescent Ridge Capital Partners Hedge Fund Manager, Pleads Guilty to $9 Million Investment Fraud

A Leesburg man pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with his misuse of clients funds, some of which were invested through a purported hedge fund called Crescent Ridge Capital Partners.

According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Tamer Moumen, 39, defrauded over 50 clients between 2012 and 2017. Moumen falsely told investors that he was a successful trader who consistently beat the S&P500 and was overseeing tens of millions of dollars through his company, Crescent Ridge Capital Partners. Moumen encouraged dozens of clients, including many who were nearing retirement age, to liquidate their other investments and retirement accounts, and invest with him. Moumen did not tell investors that he actually had no experience managing a hedge fund, had a history of losing money in the securities market, and was relying on investor money to support his lifestyle and pay personal expenses. For example, Moumen used investor money to help finance the purchase of a $1 million personal residence in Leesburg, Virginia, a new Tesla, and to repay old investors. In nearly all instances, Moumen lost or spent his clients’ money within a matter of weeks or months of their original investment, but would conceal those facts by providing statements that showed the investment as steadily growing.

According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, beginning in 2015, Moumen was involved with two fundraising efforts that solicited donations to benefit refugees, including a GoFundMe campaign and the Northern Virginia Refugee Fund. Moumen had sole control of the donated funds, some of which he transferred into accounts in his name, where the money was commingled with investor funds. Moumen used money in these accounts to pay personal expenses.

Moumen faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on July 28. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.