Saturday, December 13, 2008
Yasmin Acree's Disappearance Stumps Chicago Police, So They Join with "America's Most Wanted" to Find Her with Your Help
Joey Offutt: When Pennsylvania State Police arrived at the scene of a house fire in Sykesville in the early morning hours of July 12, 2007, they weren't prepared for everything they were about to find. Once the fire was extinguished, some shocking details were revealed, and authorities are still struggling to answer all the questions left over from that day.
Liza Gonzales: Liza Monica Gonzales, also known as Liza Campos, is wanted for drug trafficking, as well as murder. She may be in Oklahoma or California, and police consider her extremely dangerous. Call 1-800-Crime-TV if you have seen her.
Joseph Allen Garcia: Joseph Allen Garcia, a man wanted on charges of murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon and failure to appear has been named to the U.S. Marshals' 15 Most Wanted list.
Tempe Bank Robbers: For two nights in October 2007, two Arizona families fell prey to a trio of bank-robbing bandits. Both times, the suspects had one thing on their minds: using the victims to gain entry to the banks in which they worked. In the Tempe incident, the plan paid off, and the cash-rich culprits got away with nearly $400,000 -- the biggest robbery payday in Arizona history.
Ahmet Gashi: Kemal Kolenovic was a New York welterweight champion who took one hit from which he'd never recover on New Year's Eve 2006. Cops say a vicious foe, Ahmet Gashi, came at Kemal with some heavy armor, and he's been on the run ever since.
Jean Seraphin: Police say the search for accused killer Jean Seraphin has brought in tips from Miami and Jacksonville, Fla. Now, police want to turn up the heat on Seraphin for what he is accused of doing to two brothers back in April 2002. In fact, detectives want people in New York and Florida to be on high alert for this fugitive.
Unknown Jose Gurley Killer: 17-year-old Jose Gurley was a high school superstar in West Bridgewater, Mass., but when he returned home to Brockton, he was just another kid on the street, fighting for his life. At a party late last month, he lost that battle to a group of gang members shooting blindly into the night. Police locked up a man they say drove the getaway car, but even with almost 75 eyewitnesses to the crime, cops are still searching for the gunman.
Frank Brown: College freshmen are always making new friends, but when a student at Georgia State University started hanging out with fellow freshman Frank Brown, cops say it nearly cost him his life.
Sherry Halligan: In late January 2003, Sherry Halligan allegedly murdered her former boyfriend. After driving around in her car all night, cops say she drove straight to the police station, where they say she confessed all the details of her crime. Unfortunately, after being let out on bail, Halligan apparently changed her mind about coming clean.
David Mancha: David Simon Mancha is wanted for two counts of Aggravated Sexual Assault; police believe he is still in Texas.
Tina Loesch: After years on the run, the saga of Tina Loesch and her lover, Sky Hanson, ended hours after AMW aired their story on Nov. 15, 2008. While the couple took their own lives in what cops are calling a suicide pact, the investigation is far from over as authorities in three states search for Kristopher Loesch.
Skye Hanson: After years of running from the law, the murder saga of Tina Loesch and her lover, Skye Hanson, came a close hours after AMW aired their story. On Nov. 15, 2008, the pair were found dead in an SUV outside Tucson, Ariz. and cops are calling the deaths a suicide pact.
This Week in the AMW Safety Center:
For more than twenty years, it's been AMW Host John Walsh's mission to take down the creeps that prey on our children. So when he received a question at the AMW Safety Center from a viewer in Arizona about how to find the man who was harming a child in a video, he knew exactly where to send her. This week's Ask John Walsh video will show you the important steps to take and how to connect to the Cyber tip line to report the lowlifes that harm our kids.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Mr. Lindberg is coming out with a biography on the life of Michael Cassius 'Big Mike' McDonald the author of Chicago and Illinois political corruption. Recently Richard Lindberg authored the chilling study of the 1955 murders of two Chicago boys-The Schuessler-Peterson Murders by the monster Kenneth Hansen.
You can read the rest of Pat's account of his evening along with a capsule on Big Mike McDonald at:
There's a Sucker Born Every Minute: Michael C. McDonald and Illinois Corruption
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
FULL CHARGES AGAINST ILLINOIS GOVERNOR ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH AND HIS CHIEF OF STAFF JOHN HARRIS ARRESTED ON FEDERAL CORRUPTION AT A STAGGERING LEVEL
Blagojevich, 51, and Harris, 46, both of Chicago, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. They were charged in a two-count criminal complaint that was sworn out on Sunday and unsealed today following their arrests, which occurred without incident, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both men were expected to appear later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:
- A substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
- Placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
- Promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and
- A cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.
Just last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might “get some (money) up front, maybe” from Senate Candidate 5, if he named Senate Candidate 5 to the Senate seat, to insure that Senate Candidate 5 kept a promise about raising money for Blagojevich if he ran for re-election. In a recorded conversation on October 31, Blagojevich described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.”
On November 7, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and that he is “financially” hurting while talking on the phone about the Senate seat with Harris and an advisor, the affidavit states. Harris allegedly said that they were considering what would help the “financial security” of the Blagojevich family and what will keep Blagojevich “politically viable.” Blagojevich stated, “I want to make money,” adding later that he is interested in making $250,000 to $300,000 a year, the complaint alleges.
On November 10, in a lengthy telephone call with numerous advisors that included discussion about Blagojevich obtaining a lucrative job with a union-affiliated organization in exchange for appointing a particular Senate Candidate whom he believed was favored by the President-elect and which is described in more detail below, Blagojevich and others discussed various ways Blagojevich could “monetize” the relationships he has made as governor to make money after leaving that office.
“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism. The citizens of Illinois deserve public officials who act solely in the public’s interest, without putting a price tag on government appointments, contracts and decisions,” he added.
Mr. Grant said: “Many, including myself, thought that the recent conviction of former governor would usher in a new era of honesty and reform in Illinois politics. Clearly, the charges announced today reveal that the office of the Governor has become nothing more than a vehicle for self-enrichment, unrestricted by party affiliation and taking Illinois politics to a new low.”
Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Grant thanked the Chicago offices of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General for assisting in the ongoing investigation. The probe is part of Operation Board Games, a five-year-old public corruption investigation of pay-to-play schemes, including insider-dealing, influence-peddling and kickbacks involving private interests and public duties.
Federal agents today also executed search warrants at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich located at 4147 North Ravenswood, Suite 300, and at the Thompson Center office of Deputy Governor A.
The charges include historical allegations that Blagojevich and Harris schemed with others – including previously convicted defendants Antoin Rezko, Stuart Levine, Ali Ata and others – since becoming governor in 2002 to obtain and attempt to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and third parties, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich, in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state employment, state contracts and access to state funds. A portion of the affidavit recounts the testimony of various witnesses at Rezko’s trial earlier this year.
The charges focus, however, on events since October when the Government obtained information that Blagojevich and Fundraiser A, who is chairman of Friends of Blagojevich, were accelerating Blagojevich’s allegedly corrupt fund-raising activities to accumulate as much money as possible this year before a new state ethics law would severely curtail Blagojevich’s ability to raise money from individuals and entities that have existing contracts worth more than $50,000 with the State of Illinois. Agents learned that Blagojevich was seeking approximately $2.5 million in campaign contributions by the end of the year, principally from or through individuals or entities – many of which have received state contacts or appointments – identified on a list maintained by Friends of Blagojevich, which the FBI has obtained.
The affidavit details multiple incidents involving efforts by Blagojevich to obtain campaign contributions in connection with official actions as governor, including these three in early October:
- After an October 6 meeting with Harris and Individuals A and B, during which Individual B sought state help with a business venture, Blagojevich told Individual A to approach Individual B about raising $100,000 for Friends of Blagojevich this year. Individual A said he later learned that Blagojevich reached out directly to Individual B to ask about holding a fund-raiser;
- Also on October 6, Blagojevich told Individual A that he expected Highway Contractor 1 to raise $500,000 in contributions and that he was willing to commit additional state money to a Tollway project – beyond $1.8 billion that Blagojevich announced on October15 – but was waiting to see how much money the contractor raised for Friends of Blagojevich; and
- On October 8, Blagojevich told Individual A that he wanted to obtain a $50,000 contribution from Hospital Executive 1, the chief executive officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which had recently received a commitment of $8 million in state funds. When the contribution was not forthcoming, Blagojevich discussed with Deputy Governor A the feasibility of rescinding the funding.
On October 21, the Government obtained a court order authorizing the interception of conversations in both a personal office and a conference room used by Blagojevich at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich. The FBI began intercepting conversations in those rooms on the morning of October 22. A second court order was obtained last month allowing those interceptions to continue. On October 29, a court order was signed authorizing the interception of conversations on a hardline telephone used by Blagojevich at his home. That wiretap was extended for 30 days on November 26, according to the affidavit.
Another alleged example of a pay-to-play scheme was captured in separate telephone conversations that Blagojevich had with Fundraiser A on November 13 and Lobbyist 1 on December 3. Lobbyist 1 was reporting to Blagojevich about his efforts to collect a contribution from Contributor 1 and related that he “got in his face” to make it clear to Contributor 1 that a commitment to make a campaign contribution had to be done now, before there could be some skittishness over the timing of the contribution and Blagojevich signing a bill that would benefit Contributor 1. Blagojevich commented to Lobbyist 1 “good” and “good job.” The bill in question, which is awaiting Blagojevich ’s signature, is believed to be legislation that directs a percentage of casino revenue to the horse racing industry.
Sale of U.S. Senate Appointment
Regarding the Senate seat, the charges allege that Blagojevich, Harris and others have engaged and are engaging in efforts to obtain personal gain, including financial gain, to benefit Blagojevich and his family through corruptly using Blagojevich’s sole authority to appoint a successor to the unexpired term of the President-elect’s former Senate seat, which he resigned effective November 16. The affidavit details numerous conversations about the Senate seat between November 3 and December 5. In these conversations, Blagojevich repeatedly discussed the attributes of potential candidates, including their abilities to benefit the people of Illinois, and the financial and political benefits he and his wife could receive if he appointed various of the possible candidates.
Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being “stuck” as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office.
In the earliest intercepted conversation about the Senate seat described in the affidavit, Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on November 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: “if . . . they’re not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it.” Later that day, speaking to Advisor A, Blagojevich said: “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” He added later that the seat “is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”
Over the next couple of days – Election Day and the day after – Blagojevich was captured discussing with Deputy Governor A whether he could obtain a cabinet position, such as Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Department of Energy or various ambassadorships. In a conversation with Harris on November 4, Blagojevich analogized his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to the highest bidder. The day after the election, Harris allegedly suggested to Blagojevich that the President-elect could make him the head of a private foundation.
Later on November 5, Blagojevich said to Advisor A, “I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there,” the affidavit states.
Two days later, in a three-way call with Harris and Advisor B, a consultant in Washington, Blagojevich and the others allegedly discussed the prospect of a three-way deal for the Senate appointment involving an organization called “Change to Win,” which is affiliated with various unions including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
On November 10, Blagojevich, his wife, Harris, Governor General Counsel, Advisor B and other Washington-based advisors participated at different times in a two-hour phone call in which they allegedly discussed, among other things, a deal involving the SEIU. Harris said they could work out a deal with the union and the President-elect where SEIU could help the President-elect with Blagojevich’s appointment of Senate Candidate 1, while Blagojevich would obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future. Also during that call, Blagojevich agreed it was unlikely that the President-elect would name him Secretary of Health and Human Services or give him an ambassadorship because of all of the negative publicity surrounding him.
In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.” Earlier in that conversation, Blagojevich suggested starting a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, which he could head and engage in political activity and lobbying. In that conversation with Harris and other discussions with him and others over the next couple of days, Blagojevich suggested by name several well-known, wealthy individuals who could be prevailed upon to seed such an organization with $10-$15 million, and suggesting that he could take the organization’s reins when he is no longer governor, according to the affidavit.
On November 12, Blagojevich spoke with SEIU Official who was in Washington. This conversation occurred about a week after Blagojevich had met with SEIU Official to discuss the Senate seat, with the understanding that the union official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1's interest in the Senate seat. During the November 12 conversation, Blagojevich allegedly explained the non-profit organization idea to SEIU Official and said that it could help Senate Candidate 1. The union official agreed to “put that flag up and see where it goes,” although the official also had said he wasn’t certain if Senate Candidate 1 wanted the official to keep pushing her candidacy. Senate Candidate 1 eventually removed herself from consideration for the open seat.
Also on November 12, in a conversation with Harris, the complaint affidavit states, Blagojevich said his decision about the open Senate seat will be based on three criteria in the following order of importance: “our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation. This decision, like every other one, needs to be based upon that. Legal. Personal. Political.” Harris said: “legal is the hardest one to satisfy.” Blagojevich said that his legal problems could be solved by naming himself to the Senate seat.
As recently as December 4, in separate conversations with Advisor B and Fundraiser A, Blagojevich said that he was “elevating” Senate Candidate 5 on the list of candidates because, among other reasons, if Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would “raise  money” for him. Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided Blagojevich with something “tangible up front.” Noting that he was going to meet with Senate Candidate 5 in the next few days, Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to reach out to an intermediary (Individual D), from whom Blagojevich is attempting to obtain campaign contributions and who Blagojevich believes is close to Senate Candidate 5. Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that Senate Candidate 5 was a very realistic candidate but Blagojevich was getting a lot of pressure not to appoint Senate Candidate 5, according to the affidavit.
Blagojevich allegedly told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that if Senate Candidate 5 is going to be chosen, “some of this stuff’s gotta start happening now . . . right now . . . and we gotta see it.” Blagojevich continued, “You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody’s listening, the whole world is listening. You hear me?” Blagojevich further directed Fundraiser A to talk to Individual D in person, not by phone, and to communicate the “urgency” of the situation.
Blagojevich spoke to Fundraiser A again the next day, December 5, and discussed that day’s Chicago Tribune front page article stating that Blagojevich had recently been surreptitiously recorded as part of the ongoing criminal investigation. Blagojevich instructed Fundraiser A to “undo your [Individual D] thing,” and Fundraiser A confirmed it would be undone, the complaint alleges.
Also on December 5, Blagojevich and three others allegedly discussed whether to move money out of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund to avoid having the money frozen by federal authorities and also considered the possibility of prepaying the money to Blagojevich’s criminal defense attorney with an understanding that the attorney would donate the money back at a later time if it was not needed. They also discussed opening a new fund raising account named Citizens for Blagojevich with new contributions.
Misuse of State Funding To Induce Firing of Chicago Tribune Editorial Writers
According to the affidavit, intercepted phone calls revealed that the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Cubs, has explored the possibility of obtaining assistance from the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) relating to the Tribune Company’s efforts to sell the Cubs and the financing or sale of Wrigley Field. In a November 6 phone call, Harris explained to Blagojevich that the deal the Tribune Company was trying to get through the IFA was basically a tax mitigation scheme in which the IFA would own title to Wrigley Field and the Tribune would not have to pay capital gains tax, which Harris estimated would save the company approximately $100 million.
Intercepted calls allegedly show that Blagojevich directed Harris to inform Tribune Owner and an associate, identified as Tribune Financial Advisor, that state financial assistance would be withheld unless members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board were fired, primarily because Blagojevich viewed them as driving discussion of his possible impeachment. In a November 4 phone call, Blagojevich allegedly told Harris that he should say to Tribune Financial Advisor, Cubs Chairman and Tribune Owner, “our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get ‘em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support.”
On November 6, the day of a Tribune editorial critical of Blagojevich, Harris told Blagojevich that he told Tribune Financial Advisor the previous day that things “look like they could move ahead fine but, you know, there is a risk that all of this is going to get derailed by your own editorial page.” Harris also told Blagojevich that he was meeting with Tribune Financial Advisor on November 10.
In a November 11 intercepted call, Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner “got the message and is very sensitive to the issue.” Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be “certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he’s going after that section.” Blagojevich allegedly responded. “Oh. That’s fantastic.” After further discussion, Blagojevich said, “Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You’re the man. Good job, John.”
In a further conversation on November 21, Harris told Blagojevich that he had singled out to Tribune Financial Advisor the Tribune’s deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick, “as somebody who was the most biased and unfair.” After hearing that Tribune Financial Advisor had assured Harris that the Tribune would be making changes affecting the editorial board, Blagojevich allegedly had a series of conversations with Chicago Cubs representatives regarding efforts to provide state financing for Wrigley Field. On November 30, Blagojevich spoke with the president of a Chicago-area sports consulting firm, who indicated that he was working with the Cubs on matters involving Wrigley Field. Blagojevich and Sports Consultant discussed the importance of getting the IFA transaction approved at the agency’s December or January meeting because Blagojevich was contemplating leaving office in early January and his IFA appointees would still be in place to approve the deal, the charges allege.
The Government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Reid Schar, Carrie Hamilton, and Christopher Niewoehner.
If convicted, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while solicitation of bribery carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, and each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000. The Court, however, would determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Organized Crime Ring that Specialized in Counterfeiting, Credit Card Fraud, and Identity Theft is Busted
No one from law enforcement will comment on the record about the operation just yet, but the I-Team first learned back in July that a taskforce was focusing in on the suspected mobsters.
Today the hammer came down. A steady stream of handcuffed suspects were led into jail facilities around the valley.
An unassuming home on Peppermill Drive in Las Vegas was one of the first locations to be searched. The house owned by a local realtor named Gary Ambart-Sumyan. A man fitting his description was led out of the home and was transported to a Metro Police location.
Sources say that inside the home, agents found an unusual assortment of computers that might have been used in identity thefts and the creation of stolen or phony credit cards and debit cards.
At least three suspects were already in custody when the warrants began being served, including two in southern California.
Law enforcement sources say the suspects are Albanians, Bulgarians, Armenians and Russians, many of whom live in California but carry out their dirty work in Las Vegas, sometimes stealing as much as a million dollars a week, according to one well-placed source, ripping off local casinos and businesses with bogus and/or stolen cards and identities.
A law enforcement source close to the investigation said the influx of Eurasian gangsters, especially eastern Europeans, into Las Vegas has been dramatic in recent years and that their financial impact is "overwhelming."
The official also said these new organized crime groups are different from the traditional mafia, loyal only to money, not to any family.
A total of 23 suspects are named in a criminal complaint that will be unveiled Tuesday. Nearly all of them were in custody by 4:00 p.m. Monday afternoon.
He is Anthony Doyle who was convicted of aiding and abetting the outfit in Operation Family Secrets.
One-time cop Anthony Doyle hasn't even been sentenced yet, but according to a motion filed late on Monday by his lawyers, he's been punished enough by waiting 15 months at the federal lockup for his court date.
When the Family Secrets mob trial started, Anthony "Twan" Doyle was portrayed as a poor city sanitation laborer who worked his way up to the Chicago Police Department.
In a motion filed Monday, Doyle's lawyers described him as a police hero who should be immediately freed from prison despite last year's conviction as a mob associate.
He was born Anthony Passafume but reputedly changed his name to "Doyle" to fit in with a historically Irish Chicago police force. After Doyle retired, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 2001 and volunteered as a county sheriff's deputy.
Among the acts of heroism Doyle's lawyers cite in Monday's get-out-of-jail request is this: Doyle claims that he rescued a Japanese bicyclist who was stranded in the desert under a cactus and survived by drinking his own urine.
Doyle also asks for the court's mercy so he can tend to his wife who lives condo about 60 miles from Phoenix. When the I-Team recently paid a visit to Catherine "Cassie" Doyle, she declined to speak with ABC 7.
In Monday's motion, Doyle contends that his wife had two strokes and has heart trouble and that he stands to lose his $30,000 a year city pension which supports her.
Doyle was originally scheduled to be sentenced on Monday and the other four major 'Family Secrets' defendants were set to be sentenced before Christmas. But in a ruling late Monday afternoon, Judge James Zagel has postponed all the outfit sentencings. Defense attorneys said they were entitled to more time because the government made last minute changes in pre-sentence reports.
That means Doyle will stay in jail along with lead defendant Frank Calabrese who we learned Monday recently had heart surgery.
A hearing is scheduled for today.
Thanks to Chuck Goudie
As the murder was playing out, it is alleged Connolly, a leading FBI agent, communicated by walkie-talkie with the torturer, James "Whitey" Bulger, as he first pulled out the victim's tongue and teeth and then tried to strangle the gun-runner, John McIntyre, with a ship's rope.
The FBI man's complicity in this particular murder has never been proved but his betrayal of his badge – proved in two other cases – is one of the most shameful episodes in the agency's history. The macabre incident, worthy of a scene fromThe Sopranos, has nonetheless drawn attention to an extraordinary double standard in which the FBI allowed a notorious Irish-American gang to commit murder and mayhem in Boston for more than a decade, in return for information that would eventually break the back of the Mafia.
Connolly's career would eventually inspire Martin Scorsese's 2006 movie, The Departed (Two-Disc Special Edition), in which the loyalties of an undercover agent become hopelessly compromised. The movie, like his career, is set in south Boston where the federal law enforcement agency is waging war on Irish-American organised crime. Connolly's character is played by Matt Damon.
The long arm of the law has finally caught up with Connolly, now aged 68. He was convicted last month of a 1982 murder and has been called to court for sentencing. A decision is likely within weeks. In dramatic courtroom scenes this week, he angrily shouted out his innocence. His many supporters maintain that the FBI is at fault for encouraging him to turn a blind eye to crimes throughout the 1980s.
Nobody knows quite when Connolly decided on his betrayal but it is assumed to have been in the 1970s and bribes had a lot to do with it. As a decorated FBI man, Connolly certainly had access to the most classified information. He learned that the IRA gun runner John McIntyre intended to testify against his fellow gun runners. So, it is alleged, Connolly passed the information on to "Whitey" Bulger, the infamous head of Boston's Winter Hill Gang who was behind the IRA arms shipment.
McIntyre and a friend were lured to a safe house where the gruesome torture began. At one point, Bulger asked his victim if he wanted a bullet to the head, to which McIntyre replied, "Yes, please". He was then shot multiple times and his body later dumped on waste ground.
The gang has now scattered, Bulger himself is still on the run and is America's second most wanted fugitive (after Osama Bin Laden) but some of its members have escaped prosecution by giving evidence. They have also made small fortunes turning their exploits as mobsters into books and screenplays. But if Bulger and his deputy Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi were the feared enforcers on the streets of south Boston (Bulger was a "leg breaker, drug dealer, scumbag," in the words of Eddie Mackenzie, one of his ex-accomplices) Connolly acted as a big brother figure.
Back in the 1980s, Special Agent Connolly was a towering giant in the FBI's anti-Mafia unit. He had already spent two decades cultivating informants among New England's mob bosses. As a young undercover agent he walked the streets of New York with the FBI agent Joseph Pistone, who documented his own undercover life in the book Donnie Brasco later made into a film with Johnny Depp.
Pistone however, is not there for Connolly in his current hour of need. As the sentencing hearing of the former FBI hero got under way, Pistone refused to take the stand because the judge refused his request to testify anonymously.
The US courts recently concluded that, in the name of catching ever-bigger Mafia fish, FBI agents were encouraged to let Irish-American gangsters rivals of the mafia, run amok. The policy led to serious breakthroughs against the Mafia but also countless murders and the ill-fated shipment of guns to the IRA. But former FBI agents have also testified on Connolly's behalf and there is even a sophisticated website proclaiming his innocence. When he showed up to be sentenced for his role in facilitating yet another gruesome murder by James "Whitey" Bulger this week, he wept tears for the family of the victim John Callahan. The bullet-ridden body of Callahan was found in the boot of a Cadillac parked at Miami International Airport in 1982. "It's heart-breaking to hear what happened to your father and your husband," Connolly told the family.
In an emotional prison interview with The Boston Globe this week, Connolly still proclaimed his innocence. "I never sold my badge. I never took anybody's money. I never caused anybody to be hurt, at least not knowingly, and I never would."
As a member of the elite anti-Mafia squad for more than 20 years, Connolly's speciality was cultivating informants against New England's mobsters. His accomplishments led to the FBI's Boston office being lionised. Connolly himself became a near legendary figure for his role in a secretly recorded Mafia initiation ceremony complete with blood oaths and prayers and the incineration of an image of the Virgin Mary in the palms of newly made members. He was the first outsider to penetrate the Mob's holy of holies and his coup led to numerous prosecutions of leading members. But somewhere along the way he began taking shortcuts. With the full knowledge and approval of his FBI bosses he started offering protection to members of the Winter Hill Gang in return for leads.
The FBI adamantly denies turning a deliberate blind eye to years of bloody mayhem, murder and gunrunning and maintains that Connolly was merely a rogue agent. But, two months ago, a federal judge slapped the Bureau down and ordered it to pay £1.8m compensation to the 80-year old mother of the murdered John McIntyre.
A damning verdict stated: "The (FBI's) attitude at least reflects a judgement that Connolly's at-the-edge conduct could be tolerated for the greater good of bringing down La Cosa Nostra."
The FBI's successes against the Mafia were matched by its failures against Whitey Bulger's gang. When the Feds finally got around to arresting him in 1995, he was tipped off by a phone call from Connolly. Bulger now has a price of more than $1m on his head, his face on posters in every airport in America, but the likelihood seems that the 71-year-old is lying low in a west of Ireland village.
It now seems that Connolly actually became a member of Bulger's gang, a well-paid partner in crime, very early in their relationship in the late 1970s. He was full-time member of the Irish Goodfellas. It all started back in south Boston (or Southie) a landing pad for generations of working class Irish immigrants. It is a tightly knit place of hard working construction workers and armchair Irish republicans where at the height of Northern Ireland's troubles every bar seemed to have a collection box for IRA "prisoners of war."
Connolly and Bulger grew up in the same block of public housing in the 1940s where the few career options included becoming a cop on the beat, a fireman or a mobster. In his 25-year reign as head of the Winter Hill Gang, Bulger committed as many as 90 murders.
He had other high-powered connections, however. Billy Bulger, his younger brother was for years the head of the Massachusetts state Senate before becoming president of the University of Massachusetts from which he was recently forced to retire. Billy was also a childhood friend and a mentor to Connolly, creating a tangled knot of alliances that went all the way from the Massachusetts state house to the FBI and an untold number of back street torture and murder scenes to which Connolly routinely turned a blind eye.
Connolly was well rewarded of course. "We're taking real good care of that guy," Bulger once said of Connolly. For protecting extortion rackets the agent was reportedly lavished with thousands of dollars and diamond rings in bribes.
When the FBI's internal affairs unit finally turned Connolly over after Bulger's disappearance, they found dozens of uncashed salary cheques and proof that he owned a fancy suburban house. There was also a holiday home among the jet setters of Cape Cod and a £30,000 fishing boat.
Connolly is now facing up to33 years in jail for the 1982 Callahan murder. But his FBI career is one the agency would prefer was forgotten by the public. It promises to haunt the US law enforcement agency for many years, however, as more victims come forward seeking compensation for murders that took place while Connolly and other FBI agents deliberately looked the other way.
Thanks to Leonard Doyle
Reputed Gambino crime family soldier Joseph Chirico won't serve a single day in prison: He was sentenced to six months' house arrest - and can spend 10 hours a day at his Marco Polo restaurant in Carroll Gardens - without even wearing an ankle bracelet.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Brownell said Chirico passed $1,500 in tribute money from a mob associate to another Gambino soldier. "Organized crime has been a curse, especially in counties like Brooklyn and Queens," Brownell argued.
Federal Judge Jack Weinstein gave Chirico a tongue-lashing for swearing an oath to the Mafia - but let him off after Chirico's lawyer read glowing letters from Markowitz and former Brooklyn beep Howard Golden.
Weinstein, who has sentenced scores of Gambinos in the past year, said he always slammed inducted members with more severe sentences.
He said he was swayed because of Chirico's character and defense lawyer Joseph Benfante's argument that jailing him would mean closing the restaurant and putting 25 people out of work. "Being connected with this gang has been useful in his business, he's looked up to, unfortunately, with respect," Weinstein said.
A spokesman for Markowitz declined to comment on Chirico's mob ties.
Chirico, who declined to speak at his sentencing, had faced six to 12 months in prison under federal guidelines.
Meanwhile, Weinstein also sentenced the late Gambino boss John Gotti's brother Vincent and nephew Richard to 97 months in prison for conspiring to murder a Howard Beach bagel store owner suspected of having an affair with Vincent's wife.
Thanks to John Marzulli
Pointing out that internet security issues are as a rising concern all over the world, Goggans said that the Russian mafia account for the "most organized" cyber crimes. "The most serious cyber crimes are from Russia and China. While most of the cyber crimes from Russia are financial in nature (stealing credit card number, bank account details), crimes emanating from China are related to theft of intellectual property, government information and military data," Goggans said.
"The cyber criminals in South America, Brazil, Korea, Europe are not involved in very sinister crimes. They are mainly into hacking for proving themselves," he added.
Goggans has the unique distinction of having broken into the system of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) within six hours to uncover potential security threats for the US government. "Often, making leeways in the norms set by the parent company for small comforts creates major hurdles in the security system," Goggans said.
Claiming that he hasn't "seen much cyber crimes" from India, Goggans said that it may be because of the low proportion of cyber crimes, or simply that it may have skipped his eye.
Explaining the nature of cyber crimes in the US, he said that it is motivated mostly by revenge and malicious intent. "Holding network administrators hostage by stealing passwords, crashing database
by a sacked worker, sending hate email... those are the crime Americans indulge in. While it is certainly annoying to clean up after such a crime, it is not threatening," he said.
Goggans put forth a simple two-point agenda to ensure cyber security of the average person connecting to the world wide web. "Keep your software and computer updated every day. As soon as Microsoft, Apple or whatever system you use issues an update, install it. And do not open suspicious or random emails. If you receive an email from someone you know but it doesn't seem to be normal,' check with the alleged sender of the email before opening it. These small things will keep you safe and increase your cyber-security multifold," he said.
Thanks to The Times
"Gomorra" took the awards for best film, best director, best actor (Toni Servillo), best screenplay (Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni de Gregorio, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso and Roberto Saviano) and the Carlo di Palma award for best photography (Marco Onorato).
Kristin Scott Thomas won the European award as best actress in the French film "Il y a longtemps que je t'aime" ("I've Loved You So Long") by Philippe Claudel.
The Berlin-based European Film Academy's board chairman Yves Marnion said "Gomorra" had "a very special aura that goes beyond its country" of origin.
"This is the year of Italy which has shown us with 'Il Divo' that European cinema is of very good quality, very close to the realities in this world," he told AFP.
Director Garrone said: "I share the price with the Neapolitan people who live in danger, and I want to thank everyone who has participated in this dangerous movie".
Academy chief Wim Wenders, the German film director, said he was "not at all surprised by the number of statuettes won by 'Gomorra', an excellent film, which is a sign of the vitality of the European cinema, which can travel and be successful elsewhere".
He told AFP: "It was a great selection this year. A lot of films are travelling in many European countries. I think it's a great year."
Thanks to AFP
Monday, December 08, 2008
The former Commissioner of Consumer Sales and favored cabinet member of her mentor, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, Byrne wore a long, tattered overcoat and wig.
She spoke of “reform” and making Chicago schools “more accountable” to parents in addressing the all-white coalition of women who fought busing and were often castigated, unfairly, as being racist.
No one wanted to cover Byrne at the small community newspaper where I worked. I was the newspaper’s City Hall reporter — also a job no other reporter wanted because the mayor, at the time, Michael Bilandic, was considered “boring.”
I wasn’t bored. I wanted the assignment. I chased Byrne around the city from stop-to-stop.
No one believed Byrne could win. Ald. Ed Burke, accused of being a member of a “Cabal of Evil Men,” predicted before the Feb. 27, 1979 Democratic Primary that Byrne would lose because “no one wanted their aunt” to be the mayor.
Other members of the Cabal included Ed Vrdolyak, whose slippery days ended recently with his felony corruption confession. Vrdolyak is headed towards jail, where he will be forgotten. Another was Fred Roti, the kind and gentle alderman of the notorious 1st Ward, then under the grips of the Chicago Outfit.
I remember Byrne coming to City Hall and the reporters yawning. But I ran downstairs and wrote down her quotes and turned in a story.
I still have my reporter’s notebooks with notes and a collection of audio cassette tapes of her press conferences covering the first three years that she eventually served as mayor. Byrne shocked the world and defeated Bilandic and the Chicago Democratic Machine.
Although Bilandic should have won, Mother Nature had other plans, delivering a crippling snowstorm just before the primary that exposed how poorly the city was being run. I attended a precinct captains meeting at the Bismarck Hotel, where Bilandic compared himself to Jesus Christ and the precinct captains to the Disciples. He said he was being persecuted by the anti-Christ who was, back then, columnist Mike Royko.
I remember chasing County Board President and Party Chairman George Dunne through the Bismarck with a herd of 45 reporters and camera crews knocking down coat racks and tables, and bruising knees and ankles trying to get a quote from him.
Everyone expected Byrne to change the city. She started to change, but with a vindictive flare that was truly vindictive and not simply thrown her way because she was a woman.
Byrne was mad at Morgan Finley, who had planned to hire her former reporter and current husband, Jay McMullen, but was forced to renege on the deal under pressure from Bilandic and his chief aide, Tom Donovan. I wrote that story, and McMullen threatened to punch me in the nose. I see Donovan driving around these days in a big car with his wife shopping in Orland Park, where I now live.
By late 1979, Byrne abandoned reform for power, fearing her rival Richie Daley, the late mayor’s son. She joined the Cabal, which led her on the road to defeat four years later, opening the door to the city’s first African-American mayor, Harold Washington.
Byrne should be remembered. Despite much controversy, she did some good. (Visit RadioChicagoland.com to read online the 20-year profile I wrote about Byrne for the Chicago Reader.)
Thanks to Ray Hanania
Sunday, December 07, 2008
The company, D&P Construction, gave $400 in November 2007 to the Regular Republican Voters League of Leyden Township, which is headed by Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens. In 2001, the Illinois Gaming Board said the company was tied to "individuals who have been identified as known members of organized crime."
Stephens said the Leyden Republican group's treasurer mistakenly deposited D&P's check, which was among hundreds of checks to come in after a fundraiser. "She was almost in tears when I questioned her, 'How did this get through the cracks?' " Stephens said.
The contribution - along with others examined as part of a Sun-Times/BGA analysis - is prompting new questions about an old subject - whether Rosemont is a suitable home for the state's last-available casino license.
In 2004, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan documented ties between Bradley Stephens' father, then-Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens, and persons connected to reputed mobsters.
D&P's owner, Josephine DiFronzo, did not respond to requests for comment. The company was a focus of a gaming board disciplinary case that stopped Emerald Casino from building a floating gambling barge in Rosemont in 2001. The board eventually revoked Emerald's gaming license, setting the stage for it to be re-bid this year.
Last week, the Chicago Crime Commission encouraged the state board to remove Rosemont from the casino race. "In our view, the inability of the Illinois Gaming Board to address the concerns about alleged mob ties is enough to disqualify their application," said J.R. Davis, the commission's president.
The gaming board's five members plan to award the license to one of three bidders by year's end. Trilliant Gaming, which wants to build in Rosemont, is widely seen as the leading contender. Its $435 million bid is more than double what others are offering to put the casino in Waukegan or Des Plaines.
Jim Wagner, formerly a top FBI mob investigator and gaming board investigations chief, said the $400 from D&P to the Stephens-run political group raises new concerns about Rosemont. "D&P is, to me, a company that has been so often in the news that there should be every attempt to disassociate themselves from that company," said Wagner, who recently stepped down as head of the Chicago Crime Commission. "The problems that are in Rosemont should be enough to disqualify putting the casino in that environment."
Stephens, who became mayor after his father's death last year, said any mob taint to his community is a thing of the past. And he scoffed at the idea he'd risk a lucrative casino project for a $400 political contribution.
He also said he has adopted his father's policy of rejecting campaign contributions from anyone whose integrity has been questioned by the gaming board.
"To keep throwing this stuff up is ridiculous," Stephens said.
The Sun-Times and the BGA examined campaign contributions from people and companies involved in the state board's disciplinary complaint against Emerald. In that March 2001 document, the gaming board said: "The owner of D&P, Josephine DiFronzo, is married to Peter DiFronzo and is the sister-in-law of John DiFronzo, individuals who have been identified as known members of organized crime. Emerald's failure to exercise appropriate supervision resulted in work being performed at the site by D&P."
D&P also had done waste-hauling work in Rosemont, but Donald Stephens severed ties with the company after the gaming board's case was made public. The late mayor also donated to charity thousands of dollars in campaign cash he'd received from the company.
Besides its 2007 contribution to to the Regular Republican Voters League of Leyden Township, D&P gave $1,350 to the Rosemont Voters League on Jan. 17, 2000 and another $1,150 on Jan. 19, 2001.
The Voters League has supported the campaigns of several Rosemont village trustees, including Bradley Stephens before he became mayor, park district commissioners and school board members. Rosemont officials said they believe the organization gave the D&P contributions to charity but don't have records to show that.
D&P's contribution troubles Jay Stewart, the BGA's executive director. "Maybe Mayor Stephens' pledge to not take money from D&P is as sincere as the day is long," Stewart said. "But if this got through the cracks, what else might?"
Thanks to Chris Fusco
Reputed Gambino soldier Vincent Gotti, 56, previously 'fessed up to putting a contract out on bagel store owner Angelo Mugnolo in May 2003 after telling mob cohorts about the supposed affair.
"I am extremely remorseful for my actions," Vincent told Brooklyn federal Judge Jack Weinstein as his wife sat beside him. "I am very sorry to my wife and my children for the pain I have caused them."
His nephew, Richard Gotti, 41, also was sentenced to eight years behind bars yesterday for orchestrating the botched rubout.
A hit team shot Mugnolo three times outside his house in Howard Beach, but he survived.
Thanks to Kati Cornell