Friday, February 22, 2013

Counterfeiting and Organized Crime

The report “Counterfeiting as an activity managed by transnational organized crime - The Italian case” was produced by UNICRI with the support of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development (Direzione Generale Lotta alla Contraffazione).

The Report promotes a better understanding of the involvement of transnational criminal networks in counterfeiting activities. Given the strong interest espressed by the MiSE and the important role played by Italian criminal organizations in the counterfeiting trade, the existing situation on the Italian territory has been analysed as a case study. The research efforts led to the mapping of the involvement of criminal organizations in Italy, highlighting their connections to other criminal groups and the links that exist betwee counterfeiting and other illicit traffics managed by transnational criminal networks.

The analysis was aimed at:

  • Identifying investigations, court cases, data and information that prove the involvement of organized crime in counterfeiting activities;
  • Highlighting the transnationality of counterfeiting and the functioning of related criminal networks;
  • Presenting the specific role played by counterfeiting in organized crime’s strategies as a significant source of funds and an effective money laundering mechanism;
  • Examining investigations, court cases and data proving the interconnection between counterfeiting and other illicit traffics, such as drug trafficking, arms smuggling and human trafficking;

The analysis of the investigations and court cases confirmed the actual involvement of organized crime in different phases of the management of counterfeiting crimes in Italy. As for the production phase and the retrieval of raw materials, the information collected confirmed the prominent role played by Southeast Asia as a region of origin and export, mostly because of cost efficiency reasons. Ordering counterfeit products through online catalogues is also increasingly widespread within organized crime’s strategies. Nonetheless, these sourcing methods exist alongside with a local production of counterfeit goods that is still present in Italy and is mainly concentrated in the hinterland of Naples, in Lombardy and Tuscany.

One of the most interesting aspects highlighted by the report is the increasing penetration of counterfeit goods into the regular selling channels. It appears that while in many cases the sellers are informed about the real nature of the goods and they are partners in crime, in other cases they are themselves victims of organized crime, which often imposes the selling of counterfeit products as a form of extortion.

The analysis also outlined the important involvement of the Camorra and the main clans active in counterfeiting activities in both the South and North of the country. An increasing interest by the ‘Ndrangheta was also revealed, mainly concentrated in the area of the Gioia Tauro’s seaport. For what concerns Chinese criminal networks, their presence in Italy appears to be more and more “organized”, with a significative involvement mainly in counterfeiting as well as smuggling of illegal goods, illegal migration, extortion and money laundering. The investigations and court cases analysed show that Chinese organisations often operate in agreement and in cooperation with the Camorra.

The research will serve as a basis for the design of a more comprehensive strategy of the Italian government against counterfeiting and organized crime.

View the Report. (It's in Italian.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rita Crundwell, Former Dixon Comptroller, Sentenced to Nearly 20 Years in Federal Prison for $53.7 Million Theft from City

The former comptroller of the city of Dixon, Illinois, Rita A. Crundwell, was sentenced  to 19 years and seven months, nearly the 20-year maximum, in federal prison for stealing $53.7 million from the city over two decades. Crundwell was taken into custody to immediately begin her sentence, which was imposed by U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard in Federal Court in Rockford.

Crundwell, 60, formerly of Dixon, pleaded guilty on November 14, 2012, to wire fraud, and agreed she also engaged in money laundering, in connection with stealing more than $53 million from the city since 1990 and using the proceeds to finance her quarter horse farming business and life of luxury. It is believed to be the largest theft of public funds in state history.

“This has been a massive stealing of public money—monies entrusted to you as a public guardian of Dixon, Illinois,” Judge Reinhard said in imposing sentence. Crundwell showed “greater passion for the welfare of her horses than the people of Dixon who she represented,” he added.

“While the city was suffering, the defendant was living her dreams,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pedersen told the judge during a sentencing hearing that lasted more than two hours today. Crundwell’s “conduct in continuing to take millions of dollars from the city of Dixon to support her lavish lifestyle while she knew that Dixon was in dire financial straits was especially egregious,” the government argued.

Crundwell must serve at least 85 percent of her 235-month sentence, and there is no parole in the federal prison system.

Judge Reinhard granted the government’s request for an upward variance in the federal sentencing guidelines. In addition to the financial loss, he found that Crundwell caused a significant non-monetary loss, which involved a loss of public confidence in local government and a significant disruption of government function that struck “at the very heart of Dixon’s abilities to provide essentials for its citizenry.”

The judge ordered agreed restitution to the city of Dixon totaling $53,740,394, and he imposed an agreed forfeiture judgment in the same amount. Following her arrest on April 17, 2012, Crundwell agreed to the liquidation of assets that she had acquired with proceeds from her decades-long fraud scheme. To date, the United States Marshals Service has recovered more than $12.38 million from sales, including online and live auctions, of approximately 400 quarter horses, vehicles, trailers, tack, a luxury motor home, jewelry, and personal belongings, while sales of real property in Illinois and Florida remain pending. The net proceeds from the forfeited property—nearly $9.5 million so far—are being held in escrow pending further proceedings on restitution to the city of Dixon. Under federal law, the government may continue to seek additional assets of a defendant and obtain restitution for up to 20 years after a defendant is released from prison.

Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, praised the FBI agents who conducted the investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service for its efficient management of the seized assets. “We have used criminal and civil forfeiture proceedings to ensure the recovery of as much money as possible for the city of Dixon and its taxpayers,” he said. “Unfortunately, this case serves as a painful lesson that trust, without verification, can lead to betrayal.”

Cory B. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said, “The law is clear. Those who hold positions of trust must not abuse that trust. We remain committed to holding anyone using an official position for personal gain, as Rita Crundwell did for years, fully accountable for their corrupt actions.”

Dixon, with a population of approximately 15,733, is located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago.

According to her guilty plea and sentencing documents, Crundwell began working for Dixon’s finance department in 1970 while still in high school, and she was appointed comptroller/treasurer in 1983. She began the fraud scheme on December 18, 1990, when she opened a secret bank account, which she alone controlled, in the name of the city of Dixon. The name of the account was “RSCDA-Reserve Fund,” known as the RSCDA account. The initials stood for “Reserve Sewer Capital Development Account,” although no such account actually existed for the city, and Crundwell did not disclose the existence of the secret account. At today’s hearing, the government also presented evidence that Crundwell stole at least $25,000 from a separate Dixon bank account for its Sister City program between 1988 and 1990 before the charged fraud scheme began.

Crundwell began transferring money from city accounts to the RSCDA account in January 1991. Subsequently, she used her position as comptroller to transfer funds from Dixon’s Money Market account and various other city accounts to its Capital Development Fund account. She then repeatedly transferred city funds from the Capital Development Account into the RSCDA account and used the money to pay for her personal and private business expenses, including horse farming operations, personal credit card payments, real estate, and vehicles.

In 1991, Crundwell transferred more than $181,000 to the RSCDA account. As the fraud scheme continued, the amounts she stole increased to a high of $5.8 million in 2008, and she took an average of more than $2.5 million a year over the 20-year course of the scheme.

While she was taking these large sums of money, Crundwell participated in budget meetings with city council members and various city department heads. She repeatedly stated that the city’s lack of funds was due to a downturn in the economy and because the state of Illinois was behind in its payments. At the time she made those statements, Crundwell was stealing millions of dollars, causing Dixon to cut its budget, which had a significant impact on city operations.

As part of the fraud scheme, Crundwell created 159 fictitious invoices purported to be from the state of Illinois to show the city’s auditors that the funds she was fraudulently depositing into the RSCDA account were being used for a legitimate purpose. In one instance, on September 8, 2009, Crundwell wrote checks for $150,000 and $200,000 drawn on two of the city’s multiple bank accounts. She deposited both checks into Dixon’s Capital Development Fund account and, later the same day, wrote a check for $350,000 payable to “Treasurer” and deposited that check into the secret RSCDA account. Crundwell created a fictitious invoice to support the payment of $350,000 to the state of Illinois that falsely indicated the payment was for a sewer project in Dixon that the state completed. Later on September 8, 2009, Crundwell wrote a check drawn on the RSCDA account for $225,000, which she deposited into her personal RC Quarter Horses account. She used that money to cover a $225,000 check, dated September 1, 2009, drawn on the RC Quarter Horses account to purchase a quarter horse named Pizzazzy Lady. The purchase check would not have cleared if Crundwell had not deposited $225,000, using city funds, into her horse account on September 8.

To conceal the scheme, Crundwell picked up the city’s mail, including bank statements for the RSCDA account, to prevent other employees from learning about the secret account. When she was away, she asked a relative or other city employees to pick up the mail and separate any of her mail, including the statements for the RSCDA account, from the rest of the city’s mail.

Dixon’s mayor reported Crundwell to law enforcement authorities in the fall of 2011 after another city employee assumed her duties during an extended unpaid vacation. Crundwell, whose annual salary was $80,000 annually at the time, received four weeks of paid vacation, and she took an additional 12 weeks of unpaid vacation in 2011. While Crundwell was absent, her replacement requested all the city’s bank statements. After reviewing them, the employee brought the records of the RSCDA account to the attention of the mayor, who was unaware of the account’s existence.

While serving as Dixon’s comptroller, Crundwell also owned RC Quarter Horses LLC and kept her horses at her ranch on Red Brick Road in Dixon and the Meri-J Ranch in Beloit, Wisconsin, as well as with various trainers across the country. In addition to the horses and all of their equipment, among the assets seized or restrained were Crundwell’s two residences and horse farm in Dixon; a home in Englewood, Florida; 80 acres of vacant land in Lee County; a 2009 luxury motor home; more than four dozen trucks; trailers and other motorized farm vehicles; a 2005 Ford Thunderbird convertible; a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette roadster; a pontoon boat; jewelry; and approximately $224,898 in cash from two bank accounts.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph C. Pedersen and Scott Paccagnini.

Monday, February 18, 2013

8 More Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You

*1.* Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

*2.* The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

*3.* I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

*4.* I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

*5.* I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.

*6.* Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address. Parents: caution your kids about this. You see this every day.

*7.* To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

*8.* If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Original list of Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Vicente Garcia Jr., Latin Kings’ Second-in-Command, Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for RICO Conspiracy and Related Gang Crimes

The second highest-ranking leader nationwide of the Latin Kings street gang was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison after being convicted at trial in 2011 of racketeering conspiracy (RICO) and related charges involving narcotics trafficking and violence that plagued numerous neighborhoods on the city’s north, south, and west sides. The defendant, Vicente Garcia, Jr., 35, the “Supreme Regional Inca” of the Almighty Latin King Nation, who oversaw the day-to-day illegal activities of all factions of the gang with some 10,000 members in Illinois alone, has been in federal custody since late 2008 and must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.

The sentence was imposed last week by U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle, who also ordered five years of supervised release after Garcia’s prison term ends.

Garcia, also known as “DK” or “Disciple Killer,” together with Augustin Zambrano, the leader, or “Corona,” of the Latin Kings, and two additional defendants were found guilty in April 2011 of running a criminal enterprise to enrich themselves and others through drug trafficking and preserving and protecting their power, territory, and revenue through acts of murder, attempted murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, extortion, and other acts of violence.

“This sentence holds Garcia accountable for the barbaric enterprise known as the Latin Kings and his role in murder, attempted murder, shootings, beatings, drug trafficking, and other crimes,” said Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Zambrano, 52, was sentenced to 60 years in prison in January 2012. Two other co-defendants convicted at the same trial also received substantial prison terms. Jose Guzman, a former “Nation Enforcer” in the 26th Street, or Little Village, faction, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and Alphonso Chavez, the “Inca,” or leader of the gang’s 31st and Drake faction, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Another co-defendant, Fernando “Ace” King, who preceded Garcia as Supreme Regional Inca and pleaded guilty, was sentenced in October 2011 to 40 years in prison.

Trial evidence included audio and video recordings of three beatings inflicted upon gang members for violating the rules and testimony documenting three murders and 20 shootings in the Little Village area. In addition to RICO conspiracy, Garcia was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon and using a firearm during a violent crime.

Garcia was among a total of 31 co-defendants who were indicted in September 2008 or charged in a superseding indictment in October 2009. Of those 31 defendants, 24 pleaded guilty, four were convicted at trial, and three remain fugitives. From its origin and base in the west side Little Village community, the Latin Kings spread throughout Chicago and Illinois and established branches in other states, where local leaders acted with some autonomy but adhered to the rules and hierarchy of the Chicago gang, according to the evidence in the five-week federal trial.

The sentence was announced by Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, together with Cory B. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Larry Ford, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The Chicago Police Department, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Chicago, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Police also had significant roles in the investigation, which was conducted through the federal High Intensity Drug-Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force and under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).

In late 2006, ATF agents led an investigation that resulted in federal drug trafficking and firearms charges against 38 Latin Kings members and associates. In 2008, the FBI led an investigation that resulted in state and federal charges against 40 Latin Kings members and associates, including a dozen of the Zambrano co-defendants. In total, more than 80 Latin Kings members and associates have faced state or federal charges since 2006. The convictions result from a sustained, coordinated effort by federal law enforcement agencies, working together with the Chicago Police Department and other state and local partners, to dismantle the hierarchy of the Latin Kings and other highly organized, often violent Chicago street gangs.

Garcia and Zambrano were the highest-ranking Latin Kings to be convicted and sentenced since Gustavo “Gino” Colon, who also holds the title of “Corona,” was sentenced to life in prison in 2000.

The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Porter, Nancy DePodesta, and Tinos Diamantatos.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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Monday, February 11, 2013

13 Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You

*1.* Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

*2.* Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

*3.* Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste... and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

*4.* Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..

*5.* If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house.. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

*6.* If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

*7.* A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom - and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

*8.* It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door - understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

*9.* I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

*10.* Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

*11.* Here's a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

*12.* You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

*13.* A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Armen Kazarian, Leader of Armenian Organized Crime Ring, Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 37 Months in Prison for His Role in $100 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Armen Kazarian was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 37 months in prison for his involvement with the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian Organization, an Armenian-American organized crime enterprise engaged in a wide range of criminal activity. Kazarian pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy in July 2011 and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Armen Kazarian sat at the top of a criminal organization and now he will sit in a jail cell for a long time. International mobsters who think they can export their criminal enterprises to the United States and target our government programs and our citizens are in for a rude awakening—they will face U.S. justice and be made to answer for their crimes.”

According to the indictment, other documents filed in this case, and statements made during the guilty plea proceeding:

Kazarian was a “Vor,” a term translated as “Thief-in-Law.” The term refers to a member of a select group of high-level criminals from Russia and the countries that had been part of the former Soviet Union, including Armenia. Vors offer prestige and protection to criminal organizations in return for a share of criminal earnings and use their position of authority to resolve disputes among criminals. Kazarian used his status as a Vor within the criminal community to assist the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian Organization, an Armenian-American organized crime ring that engaged in an extensive range of criminal offenses including the operation of a $100 million Medicare fraud billing ring. As part of his involvement with the group, Kazarian engaged in extortion on the organization’s and his own behalf.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Gardephe sentenced Kazarian, 47, of Glendale, California, to three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $60,000 fine.

Mr. Bharara thanked the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the New York City Police Department; the New York Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; and the New York Office of the Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services for their work in the investigation.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Burns, Arlo Devlin-Brown, and Harris Fischman are in charge of the prosecution.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Did Nora Schweihs Threaten to Kill Ex-Boy Toy of Calvin Klein?

Calvin Klein's ex-boy toy Nick Gruber says he fears for his life ... after a star of "Mob Wives: Chicago" allegedly threatened to kill him with a screwdriver ... this according to court docs obtained by TMZ.

23-year-old Nick requested a restraining order against "Mob Wife" Nora Schweihs in Los Angeles Superior Court on January 22.

In the docs, Nick says he and Nora have been living together for two months -- they share the same entertainment manager -- but things have taken a turn for the worse.

Specifically Nick claims Nora is "psychotic" ... drinks heavily ... stole his $10,000 Rolex ... threatened to sic her mob connections on him -- and threatened to kill Nick herself with a screwdriver.

In the docs, Nick says, "I am afraid for my life. She is hostile and I am afraid if she doesn't leave she might do something terrible to me."

Nick is asking that Nora be kept at least 100 yards away from him and his home at all times.

A hearing was set for Feb. 5th. A judge has ordered Nora not to harass, attack or threaten Nick until then. TMZ reached out to Nora ... so far no word back.

Ultimately, Nick failed to show up to court, so the judge dismissed his request for a restraining order.

Thanks to TMZ.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Reward Offered for Capture of Convicted Murderer Steven L. Robbins

Cory B. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Darrel K. McPherson, U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois, have announced a reward offer in connection with the search for Steven L. Robbins, the individual serving time in Indiana for murder who was mistakenly released from custody earlier this week. The FBI and Marshals Service are offering a combined reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the apprehension of Robbins.

The FBI and the Marshals Service have joined the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff’s Police in the ongoing manhunt for Robbins, who disappeared January 30 following a court appearance in Chicago on charges unrelated to those that resulted in his Indiana conviction.

The public is cautioned that Robbins should be considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call Cook County’s tip line at 847-635-1188 or local law enforcement.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Seth Ferrant's New Book "Gorilla Convict" Gives the Scoop on Prison Life and the Urban Gangster

Gorilla Convict: The Prison Writings of Seth Ferrantiis a selected compilation of Seth's work that has appeared on his long running blog at Online since 2005, the blog gives the scoop on street legends, the mafia, prison gangs, hip-hop and hustling and life in the belly of the beast.

What makes this collection so unique is that Seth writes his blog and stories from his cell block in the Federal Bureau of Prisons where he has spent nearly two decades in prison. He founded the Gorilla Convict web site from prison, and his intriguing and amazing stories have created a large and dedicated audience from prison.

From stories on Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff to Freeway Ricky Ross to 50 Cent to Miami rapper Rick Ross and everything in between, Seth has become one of the most prolific and influential prison writers of the last decade. He has written feature articles for street magazine like Don Diva and F.E.D.S., among others. Seth Ferranti is the voice of the convict, and the most potent voice for life on the streets.

Gorilla Convict gives the reader real, raw and in your face stories that have not been written from the mainstream news media point of view. They are written by a man who understands the criminal and convict codes and who lives and resides with the men he writes about in the belly of the beast. This collection of crime, prison and street lore is as inside as you can get. The men Seth writes about don't grant interviews, but they did with him because he has shared prison time with them and he has their trust.

Seth has also documented his prison journey in several other books that bring real life gangster tales to life. They include Street Legends Vol. 1 and 2 and The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-Hop, Prince's Reign of Terror, and the Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed.

Seth Ferranti is not an historian or a member of law enforcement or a reporter for a daily newspaper. He is a storyteller with access to the men who have inspired Hollywood, hip-hop and popular culture. And he weaves their stories honestly and dramatically.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Dixie Mafia to Air on Saturday, February 2nd

DIXIE MAFIA, airing Saturday, February 2 at 10PM ET/PT, is a one-hour special that tells the true story of Mississippi's battles with organized crime. Responsible for dozens of murders and countless other crimes, the Dixie Mafia rose to power in Biloxi during the 1960’s, and their reign of terror lasted decades. Now their torch has been taken up by a new gang, equally corrupt and equally dangerous. DIXIE MAFIA shows the rise and fall of real American gangsters, taking viewers into the lives of the crime bosses, organization members and law enforcement officers that still battle in America's deep south.

Mafia Library

Crime Family Index