Thursday, April 16, 2015

Watch The History of DEA's Specials Ops Division via the @DEAEdFoundation Museum Lecture Series

DEA Museum Lecture Series

Please join the DEA Museum for the first lecture of the Spring 2015 Lecture Series.

“A Look Behind the Curtain”

The History of DEA’s Special Operations Division

Wednesday, April 22, 11:00 AM Eastern
DEA Museum HQ Auditorium

with LIVE webcast on www.deamuseum.org

Operations Adam Bomb, Crystal Light, One-Eyed Mule & Angry Pirate - these are just a few of the many drug interdictions overseen by DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD). Please join us for a spirited discussion on the history of this division as we take a look behind the curtain. This program will feature panelists Michael Horn, former DEA Chief of International Operations; Joseph Keefe, former DEA Chief of Operations; Robert Nieves, former DEA Chief of International Operations; and John Wallace, former DEA Chief Counsel for International Law & Intelligence.

Sign language interpretation will be provided.

(Note:: Mark your calendar for the 2nd lecture on June 25, on Operation Tiger Trap.)

For more information, please contact the DEA Museum Education Department at 202-307-3463.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Black Souls" Italian Mafia Film Sizzles

It opens on a gray shot, with a cement shore forming the horizon between dark skies and cold water. Two men, shot from behind, stand far apart, looking like bookends in the frame. A boat approaches, and the men get in, beginning a journey across the channel and into the world of real-life southern Italian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta.

From the opening shot, Francesco Munzi’s “Black Souls” (“Anime Nere”) is the type of film that, through intimate details and transportative landscapes, makes you feel as if you’ve been somewhere. The Italian-language mafia drama, based on Gioacchino Criaco’s novel by the same name, tells the tragic story of the Carbone brothers. Luigi (Marco Leonardi) is a muscled-up drug dealer with a penchant for goat stealing and folk songs. His brother, Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta) is a smartly dressed businessman with a northern wife and a lavish home. Meanwhile, Fabrizio Ferracane convincingly emotes steel-eyed trepidation as the eldest, Luciano, a shepherd in the mountain town of Africo who is desperate to keep his hands clean and steer his foolish son, Leo (newcomer Giuseppe Fumo) away from a life of crime.

Despite his father’s stern efforts, Leo is drawn to the allure of the family business. He shoots up a bar after the owner — with whom the Carbones have a deep-seated blood feud — insults his family’s honor. Leo then flees to Milan in the hopes of becoming his uncles’ young protege, but he succeeds only in bringing the whole family back to the Calabrian mountain to settle the rivalry once and for all.

And so what begins as a transnational crime thriller develops into a family drama driven by grief. Violence darkens rather than enlivens the film, adding weight to the grudge under which the Carbone brothers seem destined to buckle. While the story tends to wander away from its focus from time to time, the familiar, lived-in quality of the set remains a constant throughout. The walls and drawers of the family home, with their old photos and yellowing obituaries, are the ghosts of generations of other black souls whose presences silently propel the film’s action.

There’s a calmness throughout “Black Souls” that separates it from glamorously violent mafia films like “The Godfather” and puts it more in line with Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah” (2008), a neorealist triumph set in a Neapolitan wasteland. While Garrone masterfully details the connection of small-time Camorra gangsters to an international crime network, Munzi does not make nearly as strong a statement on the modern global mafia, choosing instead to focus on Italy.

“I made this film in a town that legal professionals and journalists stigmatize as one of the most mafia‐ridden places in Italy, one of the nerve centres of the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta: Africo,” Munzi wrote in his director’s statement. “Africo has a very tough history of criminality, but it can help us understand many things about our country. From Africo, we have a better view of Italy.”

Munzi’s view of Italy offers a critique on the traditionalism that keeps the ‘Ndrangheta in place. While the director’s previous work in “Saimir” (2004) and “The Rest of the Night” (2008) dealt with issues of immigration, “Black Souls” explores the experience of rooted Italians clinging to old customs while grasping at opportunities to grow. He presents an Italy where omerta,  a code of silence about criminal activity, is still the law of the land, where women keep quiet unless they’re in their own sphere and where generations of men perpetuate a system of vengeance and violence. It’s an Italy with a stark urban-rural divide and seemingly few options for young people like Leo to escape their ancestrally dictated peasant lifestyles.

It’s no sexy shoot ‘em up film, but Munzi’s mafia drama is an elegant contribution to the genre. Though it takes its sweet time to develop, “Black Souls” rewards its viewers in the end with a  spectacular payoff that sizzles long after the credits run.

Thanks to Grace Lovio.

Reputed Bonanno Mobster Vinny Vertuccio Indicted for Conspiracy Connected to One World Trade Center @OneWTC

A ten-count indictment was unsealed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging the defendant Vincent Vertuccio, also known as “Vinny,” with conspiracy to defraud the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in connection with the One World Trade Center project located in lower Manhattan, and related money laundering and tax crimes. The defendant Praful Pandya, an accountant, was charged with aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns for Vertuccio. The defendant John Servider, a lawyer, was charged with Vertuccio with conspiracy to alter, and alteration of, records for use in a grand jury proceeding. The indictment was returned under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Brooklyn, New York, on April 8, 2015.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Shantelle P. Kitchen, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS), Cheryl Garcia, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations (DOL-OIG), Diego G. Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Michael Nestor, Inspector General, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Office of Inspector General (PA-OIG).

As alleged in the indictment, Vincent Vertuccio controlled and directed the activities of Crimson Construction Corporation (Crimson), a company that was awarded a contract for work at the One World Trade Center (1WTC) project in lower Manhattan worth approximately $11.4 million. In seeking the contract, Vertuccio directed an employee of Crimson not to disclose Vertuccio’s role in Crimson because of his ties to organized crime. After being awarded the contract, Crimson received more than $1.5 million in connection with the 1WTC project, of which significant sums were diverted into a bank account held by Vertuccio’s mother and used to pay for renovations to Vertuccio’s daughter’s house. As a result, Crimson was unable to meet its obligations at 1WTC and was terminated from the project. Vertuccio, with the assistance of his accountant Praful Pandya, also submitted false and fraudulent individual tax returns for tax years 2008 and 2011.

After Vertuccio became aware of an ongoing grand jury investigation into his conduct, he and his lawyer, John Servider, allegedly conspired to alter invoices and sales receipts issued by a Manhattan jewelry store so as to remove Vertuccio’s name from the records before they were returned to the grand jury.

“As alleged, Vertuccio and his team of criminal consultants, including his accountant and his lawyer, cheated the taxpayers and the criminal justice system for their own corrupt purposes. We will not tolerate self-serving exploitations of Port Authority projects. We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute such criminal activity,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.

“As the federal agency responsible for investigating tax crimes, IRS-Criminal Investigation works with our law enforcement partners on a variety of complex financial fraud investigations toward the mutual goals of protecting the American taxpayer and seeing that everyone pays their fair share. When individuals divert money intended for public projects into their own pockets, they risk committing tax and money laundering crimes in the process, inviting additional criminal sanctions. These consequences are magnified by the steps they take to conceal their actions and cover their tracks,” stated IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Kitchen.

“As alleged, the defendants defrauded the Port Authority and the construction of One World Trade Center. When they learned of our investigation, they altered invoices, changed names, and doctored receipts in a vain attempt to avoid detection. We have no tolerance for the shakedown of projects,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.

“Today serves as an unfortunate reminder that as alleged in the indictment, organized crime continues to plague the region’s construction industry. Accordingly, we remain vigilant in protecting Port Authority projects and programs from fraudsters who line their pockets at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” stated PA-OIG Inspector General Nestor. Mr. Nestor expressed thanks to his law enforcement partners for their dedication and skill in the investigation of this case and commended the One World Trade Center integrity monitor whose efforts were integral in detecting some of the alleged schemes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drug Kingpin Saul Rodriguez Seeks Deal Like That Given to Other Gangsters for Cooperating

A drug kingpin whose testimony brought down a former Chicago cop and a murderous kidnapping crew is asking for a big break in his upcoming sentencing because of his extensive work as a rat for the government, but prosecutors are balking at the request.

Saul Rodriguez — who killed at least three people, including his best friend, kidnapped dozens of people and put millions of dollars of cocaine and heroin on Chicago’s streets — is seeking a sentence like the ones given to the key witnesses who helped the government break the Chicago mob and the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

Nick Calabrese, the top witness in the Family Secrets case against the Chicago Outfit, got a 12 year sentence. And twin brothers Margarito and Pedro Flores each were recently sentenced to 14 years in prison for their cooperation in the investigation of Sinaloa boss Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera, the FBI’s most-sought fugitive until his arrest last year. But federal prosecutors said Rodriguez, whose sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 17, should receive a 40 year prison term because of the particularly evil nature of his crimes.

“Rodriguez had his best friend, Juan Luevano, murdered and then showed up at the funeral acting like a mourner,” according to a filing in federal court in Chicago.

“Rodriguez had 29 individuals kidnapped so that he could steal drugs or money. Six of his victims were children. One was an elderly grandmother.”

In their filing, prosecutors acknowledged that Rodriguez’s help was valuable — among those sent to prison due to his testimony was former Chicago Police Officer Glenn Lewellen — but the case pales in comparison with taking down Chicago’s top mob leaders or the top drug dealer in the world.

“Though Rodriguez’s cooperation was significant, it is inapt to compare it to the Flores brothers who secretly recorded meetings with cartel leaders while in Mexico,” the government said.

“The Flores brothers helped bring down an entire Mexican drug cartel,” the government said, adding that Calabrese “cooperated for seven years, wore a wire against notorious mob killers, testified against his own family and helped solve 13 murders.”

Thanks to a plea agreement, Rodriguez avoided a life sentence, but a “40-year sentence is necessary to ensure that Rodriguez will never again terrorize others for his own benefit,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block wrote.

Rodriguez has received permission from the court to file his sentencing arguments under seal.

Thanks to Frank Main.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower

In North Africa, on the beaches at Normandy, and in the Battle of the Bulge, Dwight David Eisenhower proved himself as one of the world's greatest military leaders. Faced with conciliating or disagreeing with such stormy figures as Churchill, Roosevelt, and DeGaulle, and generals like Montgomery and Patton, General Eisenhower showed himself to be as skillful a diplomat as he was a strategist.

Stephen E. Ambrose, associate editor of the General's official papers, analyzes his subject's decisions in The Supreme Commander: The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower, which Doubleday first published in 1970. Throughout the book Ambrose traces the steady development of Eisenhower's generalcy--from its dramatic beginnings through his time at the top post of Allied command.

The New York Times Book Review said of The Supreme Commander: The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower, "It is Mr. Ambrose's special triumph that he has been able to fight through the memoranda, the directives, plans, reports, and official self-serving pieties of the World War II establishment to uncover the idiosyncratic people at its center. ... General Dwight Eisenhower comes remarkably alive. ...[Ambrose's] angle of sight is so fresh and lively that one reads as if one did not know what was coming next. It is better than that: One does know what's coming next--not only the winning of a war but the making of a general--but the interest is in seeing how."

This study of Eisenhower's role in the world's biggest war is absorbing as reading and invaluable as a reference.

Stephen E. Ambrose was Director Emeritus of the Eisenhower Center, Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans, and president of the National D- Day Museum. He was the author of many books, most recently "Mississippi and the Making of a Nation From the Louisana Purchase to Today.." His compilation of 1,400 oral histories from American veterans and authorship of over 20 books established him as one of the foremost historians of the Second World War in Europe.

Is @Scientology a Religion? A Cult? or An Organized Crime Operation?

After watching "Going Clear," an HBO documentary on Scientology, I am now convinced that their "religion" is not a cult, as I had thought for many years, but actually it is an organized crime operation.

It is a "religion" founded by a huckster (L. Ron Hubbard) and is currently run by a despot (David Miscavige). Their methodology for keeping people brainwashed is simple, but there is a complex system at work to build on a brand and keep cash flowing in.

Scientology does have its cult-like qualities such as its own special lingo for simple terms such as "suppressive persons" for those who doubt them and "auditor" for a person who basically acts as a psychiatrist. But you do not amass a billion-dollar empire without instilling fear, cravenly keeping secrecy at a high level and having an effective way of getting other people's money into your pockets.

To make your way along "the bridge to total freedom" toward some sort of enlightenment, those who join Scientology have to pay to learn about your own "religion."

To talk with an "auditor" and achieve the next level in the Escher-like set of steps it takes to learn about Xenu, it will cost you. One former "auditor" said some sessions can cost as much as $1,000 an hour and people have been drained of their life savings along the way.

Just like any good crime syndicate, you want to keep your business model under wraps lest someone rat you out for being the criminal you really are while you soft-peddle yourself as some kind of saint.

Scientology has perfected the practice.

Do you see advertisements for their "religion"? Are they on street corners handing out flyers? Are their announcements in the papers or online encouraging you to come on in and see for yourself if their brand of spirituality is right for you?

Of course not.

Yet they are somehow self-sufficient enough and bring in enough business that they can remain out of the public eye while they bankrupt their own members.

Bafflingly, the Scientology movement continues to grow.

Their own website does not list how many members there are in the organization, but that "10,000 Scientology churches, missions, related organizations and affiliated groups minister to millions."

That is a pretty good-sized base in which to financially and psychologically destroy your own membership while filling your own coffers.

How do you keep from letting anyone in your syndicate change their mind and go running to the cops? You do that by blackmailing them.

The "if you rat us out we have something 10 times worse to tell them about you" gambit has been around for centuries and it is a well-documented tactic used against those who have tried to get out of Scientology. Those divisive nuggets are picked up and stored by your auditor on your journey across the bridge.

If someone on the outside tries to tell you that what you are doing is mind-bogglingly stupid, the organization is right there to tell you that they will take care of you, and that those pesky "suppressive persons" don't pay your rent and put food on the table, the organization does. They tell you that without them you would be nothing and it is the outsiders who do not understand what you are searching for.

Like any good crime syndicate, they will go after their enemies for even the smallest slight against them and look to make an example of them.

That retaliatory and vengeful stance is what got them the key piece of their empire.

During the '80s and early '90s, the group as a whole and thousands of its members sued the Internal Revenue Service with the end goal of gaining the tax-exempt status every other religious organization receives. Not declaring millions to the IRS means you get to turn those millions into billions.

Dovetail those litigation tactics with a smear campaign and the promise to drown the IRS in paper for a decade, and Scientology got what it wanted.

In 1993 the government gave it the tax-exempt status that has turned it into the biggest crime syndicate in the history of mankind. Miscavige stood in front of thousands of followers in Los Angeles in his nice crisp tuxedo and declared that "we won the war." It promptly withdrew all its litigation.

The biggest difference between an actual crime syndicate who terrorizes a city or a neighborhood is that it is stealing from and brow beating others to fill its own coffers. Scientology robs, brow beats, brainwashes and isolates its own followers while depositing their checks.

This is a "religion" that is not even a half century old and based on the ramblings of a man who wrote pulp fiction books and converted it into a theology, but in that short amount of time it has accumulated BILLIONS that is now all in the hands of Miscavige. It is all done under the guise of being a religion, when it is really a criminal operation.

Scientology is not benevolent with its money. It is not out doing good deeds in the community or giving back to those who helped build it up. It builds idyllic centers for itself and keeps every dime it brings in.

Even a criminal family tries to keep up appearances by building an addition to a church or giving back to the community on bingo night, but not Miscavige.

Hubbard went broke creating his hokum "religion" in the 1950s, but rebranded it, added some new mumbo-jumbo to it and again set forth to make money. Money was his only intent then and remains so to this day, which is at the heart of every criminal organization around the world.

Thanks to Matthew Fahr.

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