Monday, June 27, 2016

Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate

Posted directly outside President Clinton's Oval Office, Former Secret Service uniformed officer Gary Byrne reveals what he observed of Hillary Clinton's character and the culture inside the White House while protecting the First Family.

Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate, is the most anticipated book of the 2016 election.

Chicago's Summer of Bloodshed 2016 Grows as Politicans Ignore Threat of Gangs

2016 is turning out to be Chicago's Summer of Bloodshed.

272-278 people were murdered during the first six months of this year. Over 1300 people were shot and wounded.

Going into summer, 16 people were killed and 87 wounded this month alone. This week, six people were shot and killed and 87 wounded. It appears the numbers will not abate as the weather heats up.

Most of these murders are directly related to the gang and drug business. Retaliations, competition, and other factors of violence that go hand in hand with organized criminal enterprises.

The gangs are fomenting a guerrilla war on our city. It is a war of violence. murder, and mayhem. The politicians are not concerned about or ignore the scope and power the gangs hold in this city. This war is costing scores of lives, many of them innocent people. It is a war that terrorizes whole neighborhoods.

For too many years, well over a decade, the politicians kept convincing the people of Chicago the gangs are fractured, their leadership either in prison or retired, and there is no real gang structure. The killings are by small "factions" or independents.

Chicago should know better. Chicago politicians are not known for honesty or integrity.

The major gangs are highly organized and structured. Why else would gang members young and old, show up at a murder trial of fellow Latin Kings wearing their colors?

"The courtroom was full of Latin Kings wearing gold jerseys, and family members and other friends, old Kings, young Kings, future Kings. They were angry. They smirked. First they murmured, then they got louder." (John Kass/Chicago Tribune)

It appears the Latin Kings are telling Chicago, the police, courts, and public, "We are here, we are here to stay, there is nothing you can do about it."

This is in your face public relations.

Need further proof? The Outlaws, one of the most notorious criminal motorcycle gangs, boldly put their South Side headquarters on the corner of 25th and Rockwell. There is what appears to be a bullet proof barrier protecting the entryway and a steel clad door behind it. Federal authorities claim the Outlaws are major meth manufacturers and distributors. They are also known for violence, mayhem, and murder.

Make no mistake. Chicago gangs are organized, structured, and are responsible for the murderous chaos in various neighborhoods. The politicians refuse to acknowledge it or let the police crack down.

The violence problem is not going to get solved by treating gangs as if they do not exist. It is not going to abate by believing the gangs are fractured and the violence is caused by independents and wannabes.

Gangs are criminal organizations. They are not social clubs or neighborhood protection organizations. They are not a social science phenomena, as academics would have us believe. Gangs are organized crime groups. Their only purpose and reason for existence is crime. Crime is their business. In some areas, crime is the only economy.

All members of gangs are criminals. Gang members have no positive social redeeming values. They are a detriment to society. They are the enemy within, a cancer on our city.

Traditional organized crime, which ruled this city for decades, is a mere shadow of its former self. Yet, they are still monitored for criminal activity. Over one thousand murders are attributed to the Outfit, from the Capone era to the present. Few, if any, were innocent victims.

We do not know if anyone is closely monitoring Chicago's street gangs. We only know what the politicians want us to know. Next to nothing.

For some inexplicable reason, the gangs are not considered to be as dangerous to society as the Chicago Outfit. They are not treated as organized criminal enterprises to be destroyed. Yet, day after day, week after week, month after month, the death toll rises.

Politics plays an important role in crime. The gang organizations have been left alone for way too long. The "reasons" are too many to list. They all boil down to the same things, cowardice and corruption.

City Hall and the County Building are dens of cowards. The politicians fear being labeled racist. Many enable the gangs and benefit by their existence. They are associates of organized crime.

If the politicians will not allow law enforcement to expose the gang leadership, structure, and membership, then it is time for some other organization to do it.

The Chicago Crime Commission is toothless. They tout the same lame excuses as the politicians. Former Mayor Daley pulled out their teeth and claws when they were about to expose organized crime's incestuous relationship with Chicago politicians. From then on, the CCC has been an unreliable and sometimes laughable source on organized criminal enterprises in Chicago. They, like the politicians, refuse to fight the good fight. They keep trying to justify deserving their grant money and other donations.

Something new and courageous is needed to get information to the people. To expose the gangs, their associates and enablers, and their structure and leadership. Make no mistake. All the illicit money generated is going to the top. There needs to be a structure for that.

A new organization is needed to investigate, expose, and report on these organized criminal enterprises, their associates, and enablers. It needs to be funded properly and privately. No government grants. Those are controlled by the very politicians whose heads are in the sand.

There are enough well meaning, civic minded, wealthy people in Chicago who could fund an intelligence, organized crime research, and reporting organization. It would need to be a hybrid group of former law enforcement, prosecutors, and journalists. A Better Government Association on steroids. A group that would be fearless, dauntless, and bold. As bold as the Outlaws, whose club is proudly festooned in one of Chicago's gang infested areas.

Chicago's millionaires, billionaires, major businesses, and financial sectors finance a host of organizations. The arts, architectural preservation, parks and recreation, programs for youth, museums, and other civic and cultural groups. It is time they focused on law and order.

All the great things about Chicago are tarnished by the daily murder, mayhem, and bloodshed on the streets. If the politicians will not do their jobs or let the police do theirs, then it is time for others to take up the mantle. With enough publicity and exposure of organized criminal enterprises, the politicians will have no choice. They will have to act. Swiftly and harshly.

Chicago is becoming the laughing stock of the nation. There is no reason for this.

It is time for good people to do something. If it means embarrassing the politicians, so be it.

The next innocent victim could be your child.

Thanks to Peter Bella.

The grandson of Meyer Lansky is a temperature control guy in Tampa

Gary Rapoport may be the grandson of deceased mobster Meyer Lansky, but in Tampa, he has another claim to fame. Rapoport, owner of 3-G's Gas Service, is the force behind outdoor heating and cooling units for more than 300 restaurants and bars in the Tampa Bay region. The business owns between 500 and 600 patio heaters, plus about 1,500 propane tanks, he said. 3-G's sells or leases those heating and cooling units to bars and restaurants throughout Tampa Bay. Then he or one of his three employees stop by once a week or so to change out the propane tank with a full one, billing the bar or restaurant the cost of fuel. Rapoport's biggest client, he said, is likely the Beach Bar and Restaurant formerly known as Hogan's Beach, which rents out 20 heaters and five or six fire pits each winter. In a recent interview with Tampa Bay Times, Rapoport recently sat down with the Tampa Bay Times' Alli Knothe to talk about business, family and a Cuban hotel and casino that he claims has his family's name on it.

How did you start this business?

I started the business about 10 years ago with a pickup truck and five or six propane tanks. It started out just as a joke really. A friend and I were sitting at a bar, and they ran out of propane (for the heater). I said I have some at home, and can run and get it. That was the birth of the 3G's: Gary's Got Gas. I tried to clean up (the name) and change it to something else but it didn't stick. Our motto is "Bustin' our a-- to bring you gas," and people just laugh when they see me driving down the road.

I've been told that this time of year your back yard looks like a graveyard for heating units.

During the summertime we tend to grow a lot of steel trees in the back yard. Now we've moved them all out to keep zoning happy.

The last couple of winters have been pretty mild in Tampa. How has that affected your business?

We've focused on evaporative cooling for bars and restaurants, like air conditioning for the outdoors (during the summer). I hate those misting fans because you feel the water hitting your neck. I'm selling a new design from a company out of Arizona. Out west they use a lot of evaporative cooling because it was such a dryer climate, and I wanted to try them out here. I bought eight or nine units and left them out for a week at some bars and restaurants. Half of my customers wouldn't give them back. That's the birth of a product line for me.

What's it like to be the grandson of Meyer Lansky?

Meyer was a tremendous influence on me. I grew up with him in Miami. He was a driver for me to learn a lot and get educated. He wanted us to have the same enthusiasm for reading and following your interest as he had. Some people look at him in the negative way. He had a lot of problems when he moved to this country. My grandfather took a beating from the Italian gangs. He kept getting back up and getting knocked back down. His tenacity, his desire to keep going in life got him ahead. Ben Siegel, Charlie Luciano, my grandfather and Frank Costello. They were like the four main guys. Two Italians, two Jews.

Charlie became the head of the Mafia and my grandfather became the accountant. He was the person who held all the money.

You spent some time as a small business loan officer before you started 3G's. Did you grandfather's career inspire you to get into that field?

It's a long story. I was in the bar and nightclub business for 20 years until I decided to make a change. I went to work for my wife's mom, and we did community mental health centers. I felt it was really rewarding work. The mental health thing ended because we lost government funding. The only other thing I really knew was the bar business. I became co-owner of Rock City, a rock-and-roll steak house. Unfortunately that ended my marriage because you've got to be there at night and my wife didn't want me to be there at night.

After the divorce, I went to work at Home Depot for eight or nine years. When the housing crunch came my best friend said come work with me at Regions Bank. I worked for them for a year. They laid me off, and I sold restaurant equipment for a while and then went to another bank where I did small business loans.

What does the future hold for you?


I developed this business and really stayed with it. Everything I made went back into it to help it grow. I went to all the trade shows, I kept adding equipment and meeting people. I'm a street warrior. It's about finding the right fit for (bar and restaurant owners). Half of their square footage is outside. We help them keep it warm in the winter and keep it cool in the summer. My hobby with my ten propane tanks has turned out to be quite a good business.

There's still money in Cuba that I'd like to get my hands on. (Lansky) is still listed as the owner of the Havana Riviera, and the Del Marina Hemingway with Frank Sinatra. We knew that Castro seized the hotel shortly after they opened and that's where the money stayed.

Thanks to Alli Knothe.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Chris Darden - In Contempt!

#1 New York Times Bestseller. For more than a year, Christopher Darden argued tirelessly for the prosecution, giving voice to the victims in the 0.J. Simpson murder trial. In Contempt, is an unflinching look at what the television cameras could not show: behind-the-scenes meetings, the deteriorating relationships between the defense and prosecution teams, the taunting, baiting, and pushing matches between Darden and Simpson, the intimate relationship between Darden and Marcia Clark, and the candid factors behind Darden's controversial decision for Simpson to try on the infamous glove, and much more. Out of the sensational frenzy of "the trial of the century" comes this haunting memoir of duty, justice, and the powerful undertow of American racism. A stunning masterpiece told with brutal honesty and courage.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

10th Street Gang Member Sentenced for His RICO Conviction Involving 2 Murders

U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced that Douglas Harville, 28, who was convicted of Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Conspiracy (RICO Conspiracy), was sentenced to 210 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Tripi, who handled the case, stated that between 2000 and 2010, the defendant was a member of the 10th Street Gang. As a part of his involvement in the gang, Harville participated in the murder of Brandon McDonald and Darinell Young on April 17, 2006 on Pennsylvania Street in Buffalo. The victims were innocent bystanders who were standing in front of a house when the defendant and six other gunmen mistook them as rival 7th Street Gang. During the ensuing shooting, in which several handguns and shotguns were used, Brandon MacDonald was shot in the chest and Darinell Young was shot in the leg.  Four additional victims were also shot and suffered injuries.

Harville, a 10th Street Gang member also possessed firearms, sold marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, and other controlled substances on the West Side of Buffalo.

The defendant is one of 44 10th Street Gang members and associates convicted in this case.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What did Roy Cohn Teach @realDonaldTrump

The future Mrs. Donald J. Trump was puzzled.

She had been summoned to a lunch meeting with her husband-to-be and his lawyer to review a prenuptial agreement. It required that, should the couple split, she return everything — cars, furs, rings — that Mr. Trump might give her during their marriage.

Sensing her sorrow, Mr. Trump apologized, Ivana Trump later testified in a divorce deposition. He said it was his lawyer’s idea.

“It is just one of those Roy Cohn numbers,” Mr. Trump told her.

The year was 1977, and Mr. Cohn’s reputation was well established. He had been Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red-baiting consigliere. He had helped send the Rosenbergs to the electric chair for spying and elect Richard M. Nixon president.

Then New York’s most feared lawyer, Mr. Cohn had a client list that ran the gamut from the disreputable to the quasi-reputable: Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, Claus von Bulow, George Steinbrenner. But there was one client who occupied a special place in Roy Cohn’s famously cold heart: Donald J. Trump.

For Mr. Cohn, who died of AIDS in 1986, weeks after being disbarred for flagrant ethical violations, Mr. Trump was something of a final project. If Fred Trump got his son’s career started, bringing him into the family business of middle-class rentals in Brooklyn and Queens, Mr. Cohn ushered him across the river and into Manhattan, introducing him to the social and political elite while ferociously defending him against a growing list of enemies.

Decades later, Mr. Cohn’s influence on Mr. Trump is unmistakable. Mr. Trump’s wrecking ball of a presidential bid — the gleeful smearing of his opponents, the embracing of bluster as brand — has been a Roy Cohn number on a grand scale. Mr. Trump’s response to the Orlando massacre, with his ominous warnings of a terrorist attack that could wipe out the country and his conspiratorial suggestions of a Muslim fifth column in the United States, seemed to have been ripped straight out of the Cohn playbook.

“I hear Roy in the things he says quite clearly,” said Peter Fraser, who as Mr. Cohn’s lover for the last two years of his life spent a great deal of time with Mr. Trump. “That bravado, and if you say it aggressively and loudly enough, it’s the truth — that’s the way Roy used to operate to a degree, and Donald was certainly his apprentice.”

For 13 years, the lawyer who had infamously whispered in McCarthy’s ear whispered in Mr. Trump’s. In the process, Mr. Cohn helped deliver some of Mr. Trump’s signature construction deals, sued the National Football League for conspiring against his client and countersued the federal government — for $100 million — for damaging the Trump name. One of Mr. Trump’s executives recalled that he kept an 8-by-10-inch photograph of Mr. Cohn in his office desk, pulling it out to intimidate recalcitrant contractors.

The two men spoke as often as five times a day, toasted each other at birthday parties and spent evenings together at Studio 54. And Mr. Cohn turned repeatedly to Mr. Trump — one of a small clutch of people who knew he was gay — in his hours of need. When a former companion was dying of AIDS, he asked Mr. Trump to find him a place to stay. When he faced disbarment, he summoned Mr. Trump to testify to his character.

Mr. Trump says the two became so close that Mr. Cohn, who had no immediate family, sometimes refused to bill him, insisting he could not charge a friend.

“Roy was an era,” Mr. Trump said in an interview, reflecting on his years with Mr. Cohn. “They either loved him or couldn’t stand him, which was fine.” Mr. Trump was asked if this reminded him of anyone. “Yeah,” he answered. “It does, come to think of it.”

The gossip columnist Cindy Adams, who knew everyone, had no idea who he was.

“This kid is going to own New York someday,” Mr. Cohn told her, gesturing at a tall 20-something bachelor at a dinner party in the early 1970s. “This is Donald Trump.”

“Yeah, so?” Ms. Adams recalled replying.

Mr. Cohn, the son of a prominent New York judge, had taken an uncommon interest in Mr. Trump.

The two had met not long before at a private disco called Le Club, and instantly hit it off while discussing a nettlesome obstacle for Mr. Trump. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department was suing him and his father, accusing them of refusing to rent to black tenants. Mr. Trump told Mr. Cohn that their lawyers were urging them to settle.

“Tell them to go to hell and fight the thing in court,’” Mr. Trump later recalled Mr. Cohn advising him. Mr. Trump did just that, with Mr. Cohn as his lawyer. Not only did Mr. Cohn countersue the government for $100 million, he filed a blistering affidavit on Mr. Trump’s behalf, mocking the case. “The Civil Rights Division did not file a lawsuit,” Mr. Cohn wrote. “It slapped together a piece of paper for use as a press release.” The Trumps ultimately settled the case by agreeing to make apartments available to minority renters, while admitting no wrongdoing.

For Mr. Trump, the benefits of his new representation were obvious. Mr. Cohn was one of the most famous and feared lawyers in America. He would later appear on the cover of Esquire beneath an ironic halo, and earn a posthumous parody on “The Simpsons.” But Mr. Cohn saw something in Mr. Trump, too. “He could sniff out a power-to-be, Roy could,” said Susan Bell, Mr. Cohn’s longtime secretary.

After helping convict the Rosenbergs as a young federal prosecutor and then working in Washington as a top aide to McCarthy, Mr. Cohn had returned to New York, starting a boutique practice in his shabby but elegant townhouse on East 68th Street.

The division of labor in the firm was clear.

“We called him the rainmaker,” said Michael Rosen, a partner who handled many of the firm’s organized-crime cases. “We did all of the grunt work, if grunt work means preparing the case and trying the case.”

Mr. Cohn lived on the third floor, often traipsing downstairs in his bathrobe well after the workday had begun and taking clients upstairs to a small sun porch. The elevator rarely worked. In the winter, the lawyers stuffed towels around the windows to keep out the cold.

Parties and business meetings tended to blur, with celebrities like Andy Warhol and Estée Lauder crowding in and spilling out. “That townhouse was a workhorse,” recalled Mr. Trump, a familiar presence there himself.

He and Mr. Cohn became social companions, lunching at “21” or spending evenings at Yankee Stadium in the owner’s box of Mr. Steinbrenner, another Cohn client.

After Mr. Fraser entered Mr. Cohn’s life, the two were frequent dinner guests at Donald and Ivana’s Trump Tower apartment, with its Michelangelo-style murals. They were also regulars at Mr. Trump’s box at the Meadowlands, the home of his sports team, the New Jersey Generals of the short-lived United States Football League.

Mr. Cohn was the master of ceremonies at a Trump birthday party at Studio 54; years later, Mr. Trump returned the favor with a birthday toast of his own at a party in the atrium of Trump Tower, joking that Mr. Cohn was more bark than bite. “We just tell the opposition Roy Cohn is representing me, and they get scared,” Mr. Trump said, according to a cousin of Mr. Cohn’s, David L. Marcus, who attended. “He never actually does anything.”

Among the many things Mr. Trump learned from Mr. Cohn during these years was the importance of keeping one’s name in the newspapers. Long before Mr. Trump posed as his own spokesman, passing self-serving tidbits to gossip columnists, Mr. Cohn was known to call in stories about himself to reporters.

It was also through Mr. Cohn that Mr. Trump met the political operative who has played a leading, if behind-the-scenes, role in his campaign: Roger Stone.

When Mr. Stone, the roguish former Nixon adviser and master of the political dark arts, came to New York in 1979 to court support for Ronald Reagan’s presidential bid, he arrived with a box of index cards filled with the names of actors and producers. And Roy Cohn.

“I made an appointment and I pitched him on Reagan, and he said, ‘You have to meet Donald and Fred Trump,’” Mr. Stone recalled in an interview.

Eventually, Mr. Cohn and Mr. Trump became so inseparable that those who could not track down Mr. Cohn knew whom to call.

Once, Mr. Cohn chartered a plane with friends, without Mr. Trump, trashing it during a midair party. He refused to pay. So the airline found Mr. Trump, asking if he could help. He called Mr. Cohn, more amused than concerned. “I said, ‘Roy, what are you going to do about this? I mean, you destroyed the plane,’” Mr. Trump recalled. “He said, ‘Eh, we’ll pay them someday.’”

By the time Mr. Trump started getting serious with a Czech model named Ivana Winklmayr, Mr. Cohn had become something of an expert on marriage.

“It’s difficult to imagine and admit that the flush of the moment may become the flush of the toilet as the relationship goes down the tubes,” he wrote about the importance of prenuptial agreements in his book “How to Stand Up for Your Rights and Win!”

According to “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention,” a book by the journalist Wayne Barrett, Mr. Cohn advised Mr. Trump against marrying Ms. Winklmayr, but insisted that if he must, there had to be a prenuptial agreement. He would handle it himself.

The agreement, completed only weeks before the wedding, did not quantify Mr. Trump’s net worth — “impossible to accurately determine due to the illiquid nature of his holdings” — and took a bearish view of Mr. Trump’s earning potential and a modest view of his tastes.

“Donald’s standard of living is basically simple,” it said, calling Mr. Trump’s preferred lifestyle “neither opulent nor extravagant.”

When the marriage dissolved a few years after Mr. Cohn’s death, Mrs. Trump’s lawyers charged that she had not had proper representation on the prenup. Her initial lawyer had worked for Mr. Cohn on at least one case, and was a frequent passenger on Mr. Cohn’s yacht, the Defiance. The divorce case eventually ended with a settlement. The prenup was just one of many Trump deals, some more conventional than others, in which Mr. Cohn was intimately involved.

He used his connections to help Mr. Trump secure zoning variances and tax abatements critical to the construction of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Trump Plaza.

After one Cohn coup, Mr. Trump rewarded him with a pair of diamond-encrusted cuff links and buttons in a Bulgari box.And if Mr. Cohn did not always feel comfortable charging a friend for his services, Mr. Trump was hardly one to put up a fight.

“Roy said, ‘I’ll leave it to Donald to give me what he thinks is fair,’” Mr. Fraser recalled of one lengthy Trump tax case in particular. “But, of course, Donald didn’t give him anything.”

Some work would have been difficult to bill. For instance, Mr. Cohn lobbied his friends in the Reagan White House to nominate Mr. Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry to the federal bench. (Questioned last year about this, Mr. Trump said his sister “got the appointment totally on her own merit.”)

“He was a very good lawyer if he wanted to be,” Mr. Trump said in the interview.Asked about Mr. Cohn in 1980, Mr. Trump was more blunt in his assessment: “He’s been vicious to others in his protection of me.”


It started with a cut that would not stop bleeding.

Mr. Cohn’s diagnosis came not long after his former companion, Russell Eldridge, had gotten his. Mr. Eldridge had spent most of his final days in a private suite overlooking Central Park in Mr. Trump’s Barbizon Plaza Hotel.

Ms. Bell, Mr. Cohn’s secretary, recalled that Mr. Trump’s secretary, Norma Foerderer, had billed Mr. Cohn for the room, and later called to say that Mr. Cohn had not paid.“I said, ‘Guess what, Norma, he’s not going to,’” Ms. Bell said. “And she kind of knew it.”

Mr. Cohn remained in his townhouse. Until the end — and even under interrogation by Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes” — he insisted that he had liver cancer, not AIDS.He received experimental AZT treatments in Washington and continued working. But his clients could not help but notice that his health was deteriorating.

Mr. Trump started gradually moving cases elsewhere, he said, never telling Mr. Cohn why. “There’s no reason to hurt somebody’s feelings,” he said.“He was so weak,” Mr. Trump added. “He was so weakened that he really couldn’t do it.”

Mr. Cohn never spoke about Mr. Trump’s decision, but was plainly crushed, according to Ms. Bell. She remembers it happening not gradually, but “overnight.”

Even as his health was failing, Mr. Cohn, whom government prosecutors had unsuccessfully pursued for decades on charges including conspiracy, bribery and fraud, faced a final indignity: He was facing the prospect of disbarment. Among other offenses, he was charged with coercing a dying multimillionaire client — during a late-night visit to the man’s hospital room — to amend his will to make Mr. Cohn an executor of his estate.

The hearings were closed to the public. But true to form, Mr. Cohn, riding to the daily proceedings in a red Cadillac convertible, insisted on a spectacle, describing his accusers as “a bunch of yo-yos just out to smear me up.”

The prominent figures whom Mr. Cohn summoned to testify on his behalf included Barbara Walters and William F. Buckley Jr.And, of course, Mr. Trump. He described his friend in simple terms.“If I summed it up in one word,” Mr. Trump told the hearing panel, “I think the primary word I’d use is his loyalty.”

Gaunt, frail and besieged, Mr. Cohn nevertheless managed to attend a dinner with Mr. Fraser at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., shortly after Mr. Trump purchased the property in late 1985. It was a last glimpse at his final, fair-haired project.

“I made Trump successful,” he would occasionally boast, according to Mr. Marcus, Mr. Cohn’s cousin, a former journalist who chronicled Mr. Cohn’s last months for Vanity Fair.

In June 1986, Mr. Cohn was disbarred for “unethical,” “unprofessional” and “particularly reprehensible” conduct.

To this day, Mr. Trump rues the outcome. “They only got him because he was so sick,” Mr. Trump said in the interview. “They wouldn’t have gotten him otherwise.”

During his final days, Mr. Cohn called Mr. Trump, ostensibly for no particular reason. “It was just a call: ‘How are things going?’” Mr. Trump recalled. “Roy was the kind of guy — I don’t think he ever thought he was dying, frankly.”

About a week later, in August 1986, Mr. Trump received another call.Mr. Trump hung up the phone, repeating the news to an associate in his office: Roy Cohn was dead.“I said, ‘Wow, that’s the end of a generation,’” Mr. Trump remembered. “‘That’s the end of an era.’”

Mr. Fraser inherited all of Mr. Cohn’s possessions: the townhouse, his weekend place in Greenwich, Conn., his Rolls-Royce, his private plane and much more. But the Internal Revenue Service, collecting on Mr. Cohn’s tax debts, confiscated nearly everything.

He did get to keep the cuff links Mr. Trump had given Mr. Cohn. Years later, Mr. Fraser had them appraised; they were knockoffs, he said.

Mr. Fraser soon returned to his native New Zealand, where he now works as a conservationist at the Auckland Zoo. He has not spoken with Mr. Trump since Mr. Cohn’s death, but he has no doubt that if his former lover were still alive, he would be an enthusiastic supporter of the Trump campaign.

“Having trained or mentored someone who became president,” he said, “that would have been quite exciting for Roy.”

Thanks to Jonathan Mahler and Matt Flegenheimer.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Gangsterismo - The United States, Cuba and the Mafia, 1933 to 1966

Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba and the Mafia, 1933 to 1966, is an extraordinary accomplishment, the most comprehensive history yet of the clash of epic forces over several decades in Cuba. It is a chronicle that touches upon deep and ongoing themes in the history of the Americas, and more specifically of the United States government, Cuba before and after the revolution, and the criminal networks known as the Mafia.

The result of 18 years’ research at national archives and presidential libraries in Kansas, Maryland, Texas, and Massachusetts, here is the story of the making and unmaking of a gangster state in Cuba. In the early 1930s, mobster Meyer Lansky sowed the seeds of gangsterismo when he won Cuban strongman Fulgencio Batista’s support for a mutually beneficial arrangement: the North American Mafia were to share the profits from a future colony of casinos, hotels, and nightclubs with Batista, his inner circle, and senior Cuban Army and police officers. In return, Cuban authorities allowed the Mafia to operate its establishments without interference. Over the next twenty-five years, a gangster state took root in Cuba as Batista, other corrupt Cuban politicians, and senior Cuban army and police officers got rich. All was going swimmingly until a handful of revolutionaries upended the neat arrangement: and the CIA, Cuban counterrevolutionaries, and the Mafia joined forces to attempt the overthrow of Castro.

Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba and the Mafia, 1933 to 1966, is unique in the literature on Cuba, and establishes for the first time the integral, extensive role of mobsters in the Cuban exile movement. The narrative unfolds against a broader historical backdrop of which it was a part: the confrontation between the United States and the Cuban revolution, which turned Cuba into one of the most perilous battlegrounds of the Cold War.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tonight Del Quintin Wilber, author of A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad, Appears on Crime Beat Radio

Del Quintin Wilber, author of A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad, appears on tonight Crime Beat Radio.

Bestselling author Del Quentin Wilber tells the inside story of how a homicide squad---a dedicated, colorful team of detectives―does its almost impossible job

Twelve homicides, three police-involved shootings and the furious hunt for an especially brutal killer--February 2013 was a good month for murder in suburban Washington, D.C.

After gaining unparalleled access to the homicide unit in Prince George's County, which borders the nation's capital, Del Quentin Wilber begins shadowing the talented, often quirky detectives who get the call when a body falls. After a quiet couple of months, all hell breaks loose: suddenly every detective in the squad is scrambling to solve one shooting and stabbing after another. Meanwhile, the entire unit is obsessed with a stone-cold "red ball," a high-profile case involving a seventeen-year-old honor student attacked by a gunman who kicked down the door to her house and shot her in her bed.

Murder is the police investigator's ultimate crucible: to solve a killing, a detective must speak for the dead. More than any recent book, A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad, shows what it takes to succeed when the stakes couldn't possibly be higher.

Crime Beat is a weekly hour-long radio program that airs every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST. Crime Beat presents fascinating topics that bring listeners closer to the dynamic underbelly of the world of crime. Guests have included ex-mobsters, undercover law enforcement agents, sports officials, informants, prisoners, drug dealers and investigative journalists, who have provided insights and fresh information about the world’s most fascinating subject: crime.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Just as with The Mob, Extortion is a Top ISIS Money-maker

Despite territorial losses last year and declining oil revenues, ISIS remains financially strong, primarily because it has borrowed a page from the Mafia and stepped up one of its money-makers: extortion.

A new report on ISIS finances from a European think tank, the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism (CAT), says extortion is now the primary revenue generator for what it calls “one of the most powerful groups in the recent history of terrorism,” with some 8 million people under its control in Syria and Iraq.

“ISIS exerts its authority over a wide range of industrial and commercial activities, natural resources and raw materials, from oil to agricultural products, including minerals,” the report says. “While the exploitation of these natural reserves constitutes one of its primary sources of financing, the majority of its funds currently comes from widespread extortion from the population under its control, mainly in the form of taxes, confiscations and fees.”

CAT says that the radical Islamic terror group uses these resources to finance its military efforts and fund its expansion, especially into Libya, while remaining self-sufficient.

Like the mob groups Camorra and ‘Ndarangheta in Italy and drug cartels in Mexico, ISIS relies on a diversified set of criminal activities, but extortion has become all-important to its survival.

What ISIS calls taxes and fees go beyond normal government levies. In addition to a tax on all economic activity and revenues and zakat, a tax on income and wealth observant Muslims must pay, ISIS raises funds with other levies. They include: a tax of from 10 percent to 50 percent on the salaries of Syrian or Iraqi government employees living in areas controlled by the Islamic State; a tax for protecting religious minorities; multiples taxes on agricultural products at various points in the value chain; custom duties on trucks crossing into ISIS-controlled territory; and fees for water, electricity and phones. Homes of dignitaries and people fleeing are confiscated and looted, the report says.

ISIS also uses its strict interpretation of sharia law to squeeze the populace it controls through fines and penalties for “transgressions,” according to CAT.

CAT estimates that ISIS oil revenue for 2015 was about $600 million, compared with more than $1 billion in 2014. It attributed the drop to air strikes by coalition and Russian forces on refining, storage and transport facilities.

To compensate for that loss, ISIS has stepped up extortion, earning about $800 million in 2015, compared to $360 million in 2014, the CAT report says.

Including money made from other criminal behavior such as kidnapping and ransoms and trafficking in antiquities and humans, CAT estimates that the total revenues of the Islamic State dropped from $2.9 billion in 2014 to $2.4 billion in 2015. Despite setbacks, it said the economic collapse of ISIS is far off and its military defeat is not “imminent.”

Thanks to Ciro Scotti.

The Italian Mafia is Funding ISIS Terrorism

The Italian Mafia and an Islamic terrorist group meet up at a hash-smuggling operation… It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but unfortunately, according to the anti-Mafia and antiterrorism prosecutor, Franco Roberti, it’s the grim reality in the country of Italy. The Italian prosecutor claims that hash is being purchased by the Italian Mafia from Libya, which is being smuggled in by the Islamic terrorist sect ISIS.

The North African hash is being used a major source of income for the Islamic State, and the Italian Mafia is apparently a loyal customer. It’s quite profitable for the Mafia as well, which earns about 32 billion euros ($36.10 billion) a year through their illegal drug trades, a sizable portion of which is made up of hash and cannabis. It’s seems reasonable for Roberti to assume that ISIS is heavily involved. According to Ahmad Moussalli, a political science professor at the American University in Beirut, territorial expansion by ISIS on the Syrian border has put them in control of a vast amount of cannabis fields.

Instead of trying to crack down even more viciously on Italy’s use of cannabis and hash, which the government already spends millions on combating, Roberti has come forth with a much more level-headed approach. Instead, the prosecutor believes that the time has come for Italy to rescind their harsh marijuana laws, citing that decriminalization would negatively affect both the Mafia and the Islamic State.

The decriminalization of marijuana in Italy could help land a potentially critical blow to the funding of ISIS, which according to a recently published IHS Conflict Monitor report, has already dropped from $80 million in monthly revenue to $56 million since the middle of 2015. According to Roberti, a major portion of the terrorist cell’s revenue comes from drug trafficking, and decriminalization of marijuana in Italy could help put a major dent in that.

To Roberti, it makes sense to persecute the Mafia and the Islamic State in a similar manner, seeing as that Italian Mafia families, particularly in the south, have been long proponents of terrorist activities. The Mafia and ISIS could be more intertwined than it would seem at first glance, as both are heavily dependent on drug trafficking as a revenue source. But does Roberti have a sound argument for decriminalization? I would have to argue that he does.

"We spend a lot of resources uselessly. We have not succeeded in reducing cannabinoid trafficking. On the contrary, it's increasing," said Roberti. "Is it worth using investigative energy to fight street sales of soft drugs?"

Not only does Roberti argue that the Mafia is a potential revenue source for ISIS, he also believes that Italy’s young Muslim community is in serious danger of becoming radicalized as well. This radicalization may be much more prevalent if the terrorist organization is receiving a vast amount of money from the Italian Mafia. According to the most recent data from the Italian government, approximately 3.5 million Italians between the ages of 15-64 used cannabis in 2014, and as long as it remains strictly illegal, the Italian Mafia network will certainly have a black market void to fill.  

Recent reports in Italy have shown that the most prominent Sicilian Mafia family, called Cosa Nostra, has quite the operation setup already. The organization has figured out a way to import and distribute hashish without getting themselves heavily involved. State prosecutors from Palermo have stated that once the hashish is imported, it is then distributed by Nigerian criminal organizations that have immigrated to Italy. These African immigrants are reportedly operating under Cosa Nostra, doing all of the street work for the mob bosses.

As these long-established crime organizations like Cosa Nostra continue to operate under the shadows, it will continue to be a costly and steep challenge for the Italian government to overcome. But, if Italy considers the decriminalization of cannabis and hashish, they could effectively defeat the crime organization within their country, as well the possible terrorist threats that creep right outside their borders.

Thanks to Tyler Koslow.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Read More About #StreetsofCompton with "Born and Raised in the Streets of Compton"

A story of ghetto youth growing up in the city of Compton, California, a place where the navigation of daily life is literally, a tightrope between life and death.

Born and Raised in the Streets of Compton, is a true story based upon many events among the urban black youth growing up amidst poverty in the notorious city of Compton, California. This story follows the path of a second generation Crip member, who weaves his journey into the context of the United States sociological history and governmental action that propagated the birth and escalation of gangs and gang violence, now careening out of control.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Here's What's Known about @realDonaldTrump's Reputed Mob Ties

In his signature book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump boasted that when he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City, he persuaded the state attorney general to limit the investigation of his background to six months. Most potential owners were scrutinized for more than a year. Trump argued that he was “clean as a whistle”—young enough that he hadn’t had time to get into any sort of trouble. He got the sped-up background check, and eventually got the casino license. But Trump was not clean as a whistle. Beginning three years earlier, he’d hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano. That story eventually came out in a federal investigation, which also concluded that in a construction industry saturated with mob influence, the Trump Plaza apartment building most likely benefited from connections to racketeering. Trump also failed to disclose that he was under investigation by a grand jury directed by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who wanted to learn how Trump obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan.

Why did Trump get his casino license anyway?
Why didn’t investigators look any harder?
And how deep did his connections to criminals really go?

These questions ate at me as I wrote about Atlantic City for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and then went more deeply into the issues in a book, Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business. In all, I’ve covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years, and in that time I’ve encountered multiple threads linking Trump to organized crime. Some of Trump’s unsavory connections have been followed by investigators and substantiated in court; some haven’t. And some of those links have continued until recent years, though when confronted with evidence of such associations, Trump has often claimed a faulty memory. In an April 27 phone call to respond to my questions for this story, Trump told me he did not recall many of the events recounted in this article and they “were a long time ago.” He also said that I had “sometimes been fair, sometimes not” in writing about him, adding “if I don’t like what you write, I’ll sue you.”
I’m not the only one who has picked up signals over the years. Wayne Barrett, author of a 1992 investigative biography of Trump’s real-estate dealings, Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention, has tied Trump to mob and mob-connected men.

No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.

This is part of the Donald Trump story that few know. As Barrett wrote in his book, Trump didn’t just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies: he also probably met personally with Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn, in a meeting recounted by a Cohn staffer who told Barrett she was present. This came at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business.

From the public record and published accounts like that one, it’s possible to assemble a clear picture of what we do know. The picture shows that Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.

Now that he’s running for president, I pulled together what’s known – piecing together the long history of federal filings, court records, biographical anecdotes, and research from my and Barrett’s files. What emerges is a pattern of business dealings with mob figures—not only local figures, but even the son of a reputed Russian mob boss whom Trump had at his side at a gala Trump hotel opening, but has since claimed under oath he barely knows.

Neither Trump’s campaign spokesperson, Hope Hicks, nor Jason Greenblatt, the executive vice president and chief legal officer at the Trump Organization, responded to several emailed requests for comment on the issues raised in this article.

Here, as close as we can get to the truth, is what really happened.

After graduating in 1968 from the University of Pennsylvania, a rich young man from the outer boroughs of New York City sought his fortune on the island of Manhattan. Within a few years Donald J. Trump had made friends with the city’s most notorious fixer, lawyer Roy Cohn, who had become famous as lead counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Among other things Cohn was now a mob consigliere, with clients including “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, the most powerful Mafia group in New York, and Paul Castellano, head of what was said to be the second largest family, the Gambinos.

This business connection proved useful when Trump began work on what would become Trump Tower, the 58-story high-rise where he still lives when he’s not at his Florida estate.

There was something a little peculiar about the construction of Trump Tower, and subsequent Trump projects in New York. Most skyscrapers are steel girder construction, and that was especially true in the 1980s, says John Cross of the American Iron & Steel Institute. Some use pre-cast concrete. Trump chose a costlier and in many ways riskier method: ready-mix concrete. Ready-mix has some advantages: it can speed up construction, and doesn’t require costly fireproofing. But it must be poured quickly or it will harden in the delivery truck drums, ruining them as well as creating costly problems with the building itself. That leaves developers vulnerable to the unions: the worksite gate is union controlled, so even a brief labor slowdown can turn into an expensive disaster.

Salerno, Castellano and other organized crime figures controlled the ready-mix business in New York, and everyone in construction at the time knew it. So did government investigators trying to break up the mob, urged on by major developers such as the LeFrak and Resnick families. Trump ended up not only using ready-mix concrete, but also paying what a federal indictment of Salerno later concluded were inflated prices for it – repeatedly – to S & A Concrete, a firm Salerno and Castellano owned through fronts, and possibly to other mob-controlled firms. As Barrett noted, by choosing to build with ready-mix concrete rather than other materials, Trump put himself “at the mercy of a legion of concrete racketeers.”

Salerno and Castellano and other mob families controlled both the concrete business and the unions involved in delivering and pouring it. The risks this created became clear from testimony later by Irving Fischer, the general contractor who built Trump Tower. Fischer said concrete union “goons” once stormed his offices, holding a knife to throat of his switchboard operator to drive home the seriousness of their demands, which included no-show jobs during construction of Trump Tower. But with Cohn as his lawyer, Trump apparently had no reason to personally fear Salerno or Castellano—at least, not once he agreed to pay inflated concrete prices. What Trump appeared to receive in return was union peace. That meant the project would never face costly construction or delivery delays.

The indictment on which Salerno was convicted in 1988 and sent to prison, where he died, listed the nearly $8 million contract for concrete at Trump Plaza, an East Side high-rise apartment building, as one of the acts establishing that S &A was part of a racketeering enterprise. (While the concrete business was central to the case, the trial also proved extortion, narcotics, rigged union elections and murders by the Genovese and Gambino crime families in what Michael Chertoff, the chief prosecutor, called “the largest and most vicious criminal business in the history of the United States.'')

FBI agents subpoenaed Trump in 1980 to ask about his dealing with John Cody, a Teamsters official described by law enforcement as a very close associate of the Gambino crime family. The FBI believed that Cody previously had obtained free apartments from other developers. FBI agents suspected that Cody, who controlled the flow of concrete trucks, might get a free Trump Tower apartment. Trump denied it. But a female friend of Cody’s, a woman with no job who attributed her lavish lifestyle to the kindness of friends, bought three Trump Tower apartments right beneath the triplex where Donald lived with his wife Ivana. Cody stayed there on occasion and invested $500,000 in the units. Trump, Barrett reported, helped the woman get a $3 million mortgage without filling out a loan application or showing financials.

In the summer of 1982 Cody, then under indictment, ordered a citywide strike—but the concrete work continued at Trump Tower. After Cody was convicted of racketeering, imprisoned and lost control of the union, Trump sued the woman for $250,000 for alteration work. She countersued for $20 million and in court papers accused Trump of taking kickbacks from contractors, asserting this could “be the basis of a criminal proceeding requiring an attorney general’s investigation” into Trump. Trump then quickly settled, paying the woman a half-million dollars. Trump said at the time and since then that he hardly knew those involved and there was nothing improper his dealings with Cody or the woman.

There were other irregularities in Trump’s first big construction project. In 1979, when Trump hired a demolition contractor to take down the Bonwit Teller department store to make way for Trump Tower, he hired as many as 200 non-union men to work alongside about 15 members of the House Wreckers Union Local 95. The non-union workers were mostly illegal Polish immigrants paid $4 to $6 per hour with no benefits, far below the union contract. At least some of them did not use power tools but sledgehammers, working 12 hours a day or more and often seven days a week. Known as the “Polish brigade,” many didn’t wear hard hats. Many slept on the construction site.

Normally the use of nonunion workers at a union job site would have guaranteed a picket line. Not at this site, however. Work proceeded because the Genovese family principally controlled the union; this was demonstrated by extensive testimony, documents and convictions in federal trials, as well as a later report by the New York State Organized Crime Task Force.

When the Polish workers and a union dissident sued for their pay and benefits, Trump denied any knowledge that illegal workers without hard hats were taking down Bonwit with sledgehammers. The trial, however, demonstrated otherwise: Testimony showed that Trump panicked when the nonunion Polish men threatened a work stoppage because they had not been paid. Trump turned to Daniel Sullivan, a labor fixer and FBI informant, who told him to fire the Polish workers.

Trump knew the Polish brigade was composed of underpaid illegal immigrants and that S&A was a mob-owned firm, according to Sullivan and others. "Donald told me that he was having his difficulties and he admitted to me that — seeking my advice — that he had some illegal Polish employees on the job. I reacted by saying to Donald that 'I think you are nuts,'" Sullivan testified at the time. "I told him to fire them promptly if he had any brains." In an interview later, Sullivan told me the same thing.

In 1991, a federal judge, Charles E. Stewart Jr., ruled that Trump had engaged in a conspiracy to violate a fiduciary duty, or duty of loyalty, to the workers and their union and that the “breach involved fraud and the Trump defendants knowingly participated in his breach.” The judge did not find Trump’s testimony to be sufficiently credible and set damages at $325,000. The case was later settled by negotiation, and the agreement was sealed.

While Trump’s buildings were going up in Manhattan, he was entering a highly regulated industry in New Jersey – one that had the responsibility, and the means, to investigate him and bring the facts to light.

From the beginning, Trump tried to have it both ways. While he leveraged Roy Cohn’s mob contacts in New York, he was telling the FBI he wanted nothing to do with organized crime in Atlantic City, and even proposed putting an undercover FBI agent in his casinos. In April of 1981, when he was considering building a New Jersey casino, he expressed concern about his reputation in a meeting with the FBI, according to an FBI document in my possession and which the site Smoking Gun also posted. “Trump advised Agents that he had read in the press media and had heard from various acquaintances that Organized Crime elements were known to operate in Atlantic City,” the FBI recorded. “Trump also expressed at this meeting the reservation that his life and those around him would be subject to microscopic examination. Trump advised that he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City but he did not wish to tarnish his family’s name.”

Part of the licensing process was supposed to be a deep investigation into his background, taking more than a year for would-be casino owners, but Trump managed to cut that short. As he told the story in Trump: The Art of the Deal, in 1981 he threatened to not build in Atlantic City unless New Jersey’s attorney general, John Degnan, limited the investigation to six months. Degnan was worried that Trump might someday get approval for a casino at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, which could have crushed Atlantic City’s lucrative gaming industry, so Degnan agreed to Trump’s terms. Trump seemingly paid Degnan back by becoming an ardent foe of gambling anywhere in the East except Atlantic City—a position that obviously protected his newfound business investment as well, of course.

Trump was required to disclose any investigations in which he might have been involved in the past, even if they never resulted in charges. Trump didn’t disclose a federal grand jury inquiry into how he obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan. The failure to disclose either that inquiry or the Cody inquiry probably should have disqualified Trump from receiving a license under the standards set by the gaming authorities.

Once Trump was licensed in 1982, critical facts that should have resulted in license denial began emerging in Trump’s own books and in reports by Barrett—an embarrassment for the licensing commission and state investigators, who were supposed to have turned these stones over. Forced after the fact to look into Trump’s connections, the two federal investigations he failed to reveal and other matters, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement investigators circled the wagons to defend their work. First they dismissed as unreliable what mobsters, corrupt union bosses and Trump’s biggest customer, among others, had said to Barrett, to me and other journalists and filmmakers about their dealings with Trump. The investigators’ reports showed that they then put Trump under oath. Trump denied any misconduct or testified that he could not remember. They took him at his word. That meant his casino license was secure even though others in the gambling industry, including low-level licensees like card dealers, had been thrown out for far less.

This lapse illustrated a fundamental truth about casino regulation at the time: Once the state licensed an owner, the Division of Gaming Enforcement had a powerful incentive not to overturn its initial judgment. State officials recited like a mantra their promise that New Jersey casinos were the most highly regulated business in American history, more tightly regulated than nuclear power plants. In Temples of Chance, I showed that this reputation often owed less to careful enforcement than to their willingness to look the other way when problems arose.

In 1986, three years after Trump Tower opened, Roy Cohn was disbarred for attempting to steal from a client, lying and other conduct that an appellate court found “particularly reprehensible.” Trump testified that Cohn, who was dying from AIDS, was a man of good character who should keep his license to practice law.

This was not the only time Trump went to bat publicly for a criminal. He has also spoken up for Shapiro and Sullivan. And then there was the case of Joseph Weichselbaum, an embezzler who ran Trump’s personal helicopter service and ferried his most valued clientele. Trump and Weichselbaum were so close, Barrett reported in his book, that Weichselbaum told his parole officer about how he knew Trump was hiding his mistress, Marla Maples, from his first wife, Ivana, and tried to persuade Trump to end their years-long affair.

Trump’s casinos retained Weichselbaum’s firm to fly high rollers to Atlantic City. Weichselbaum was indicted in Ohio on charges of trafficking in marijuana and cocaine. The head of one of Trump’s casinos was notified of the indictment in October 1985, but Trump continued using Weichselbaum—conduct that again could have cost Trump his casino license had state regulators pressed the matter, because casino owners were required to distance themselves from any hint of crime. Just two months later Trump rented an apartment he owned in the Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan to the pilot and his brother for $7,000 a month in cash and flight services. Trump also continued paying Weichselbaum’s firm even after it went bankrupt.

Weichselbaum, who in 1979 had been caught embezzling and had to repay the stolen money, pleaded guilty to two felonies. Donald Trump vouched for Weichselbaum before his sentencing, writing that the drug trafficker is “a credit to the community” who was “conscientious, forthright, and diligent.” And while Weichselbaum’s confederates got as many as 20 years, Weichselbaum himself got only three, serving 18 months before he was released from the urban prison that the Bureau of Prisons maintains in New York City. In seeking early release, Weichselbaum said Trump had a job waiting for him.

Weichselbaum then moved into Trump Tower, his girlfriend having recently bought two adjoining apartments there for $2.4 million. The cash purchase left no public record of whether any money actually changed hands or, if it did, where it came from. I asked Trump at the time for documents relating to the sale; he did not respond.

As a casino owner, Trump could have lost his license for associating with Weichselbaum. Trump has never been known to use drugs or even drink. What motivated him to risk his valuable license by standing up for a drug trafficker remains unclear to this day. Trump, in his phone call to me, said he “hardly knew” Weichselbaum.

The facts above come from court records, interviews and other documents in my own files and those generously made available by Barrett, who was the first journalist to take a serious investigative look at Trump. Our files show Trump connected in various deals to many other mobsters and wise guys.

There was, for example, Felix Sater, a senior Trump advisor and son of a reputed Russian mobster, whom Trump kept on long after he was convicted in a mob-connected stock swindle. And there was Bob Libutti, a racehorse swindler who was quite possibly Trump’s biggest customer at the casino tables at the time. Libutti told me and others about arrangements that went beyond the “comps”—free hotel rooms and services, for example—that casinos can legally give to high-rollers. Among these was a deal to sell Trump a less-than-fit horse at the inflated price of $500,000, though Trump backed out at the last minute. Libutti accused Trump of making an improper $250,000 payment to him, which would have cost Trump his license. The DGE dismissed Libutti as unreliable and took Trump at his word when he denied the allegations. (Libutti was a major figure in my 1992 book Temples of Chance.)

Some of the dealings came at a remove. In Atlantic City, Trump built on property where mobsters controlled parts of the adjoining land needed for parking. He paid $1.1 million for about a 5,000-square-foot lot that had been bought five years earlier for just $195,000. The sellers were Salvy Testa and Frank Narducci Jr., a pair of hitmen for Atlantic City mob boss Nicky Scarfo who were known as the Young Executioners. For several adjoining acres, Trump ignored the principal owner of record and instead negotiated directly in a deal that also likely ended up benefiting the Scarfo mob. Trump arranged a 98-year lease deal with Sullivan, the FBI informant and labor fixer, and Ken Shapiro, described in government reports as Scarfo’s “investment banker.” Eventually the lease was converted into a sale after the Division of Gaming Enforcement objected to Sullivan and Shapiro being Trump’s landlords.

Trump later boasted in a sworn affidavit in a civil case that he made the deals himself, his “unique contribution” making the land deals possible. In formal hearings Trump later defended Sullivan and Shapiro as “well thought of.” Casino regulators thought otherwise, and banned Sullivan and Shapiro from the casino industry. But the Casino Control Commission was never asked to look into FBI reports that Trump was involved, via Shapiro, in the payoffs at the time of the land deals that resulted in Mayor Michael Mathews going to prison.

Thanks in part to the laxity of New Jersey gaming investigators, Trump has never had to address his dealings with mobsters and swindlers head-on. For instance, Barrett reported in his book that Trump was believed to have met personally with Salerno at Roy Cohn’s townhouse; he found that there were witnesses to the meeting, one of whom kept detailed notes on all of Cohn’s contacts. But instead of looking for the witnesses (one of whom had died) and the office diary one kept, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) took an easier path. They put Trump under oath and asked if he had ever attended such a meeting. Trump denied it. The inquiry ended.

Taking Trump at his word that he never met with the mobsters in Cohn’s townhouse saved the casino investigators from having to acknowledge their earlier failure—that from the start, they had never properly investigated Trump and his connections to criminals. They certainly had the leverage to push harder if they chose. Indeed, two of the five Casino Control commissioners in 1991 declared that the DGE showed official favoritism to Trump. Commissioner David Waters complained that DGE did not go nearly far enough in seeking a $30,000 fine against Trump for taking an illegal loan from his father, which could be grounds to revoke Trump’s casino licenses. Waters called it “an outrage that the Division of Gaming Enforcement would take this position and fail to carry out what I understand to be its responsibility to enforce the provisions of the Casino Control Act.”

Even after he got his license, Trump continued to have relationships that should have prompted inquiries. For example, he made a deal to have Cadillacs dolled up with fancy interiors and exteriors beginning in 1988, marketing them as Trump Golden Series and Trump Executive Series limousines. The modifications were made at the Dillinger Coach Works, which was owned by a pair of convicted felons, convicted extortionist Jack Schwartz and convicted thief John Staluppi, who was so close to mobsters that he was invited to the wedding of a mob capo’s daughter. New York liquor regulators proved tougher than those in New Jersey, denying Staluppi, a rich car dealer, a license because of his rap sheet and his extensive dealings with mobsters, as Barrett’s former reporting partner Bill Bastone found in public records. So why did Trump repeatedly do business with mob owned businesses and mob-controlled unions? Why go down the aisle with an expensive mobbed-up concrete firm when other options were available?

“Why’d Donald do it?” Barrett said when I put the question to him. “Because he saw these mob guys as pathways to money, and Donald is all about money.” From a $400 million tax giveaway on his first big project, to getting a casino license, to collecting fees for putting his name on everything from bottled water and buildings to neckties and steaks, Trump’s life has been dedicated to the next big score. Through Cohn, Trump made choices that—gratuitously, it appears—resulted in his first known business dealings with mob-controlled companies and unions, a pattern that continued long after Cohn died.

What Trump has to say about the reasons for his long, close and wide-ranging dealings with organized crime figures, with the role of mobsters in cheating Trump Tower workers, his dealings with Felix Sater and Trump’s seeming leniency for Weichselbaum, are questions that voters deserve full answers about before casting their ballots.

Thanks to David Cay Johnston.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Mossad: Israel’s Most Secret Service

No intelligence service is surrounded by more myth and mystery than Israel’s Mossad.

Hailed by the CIA as ‘the best in the world’, it is held in awe by its friends and feared by its foes. It can boast the most devoted, patriotic agents in the world.

It was Mossad who pulled off the spectacular rescue of Israeli hostages from Entebbe and Mossad agents who pinpointed the target for Israeli bombers to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

Since the 1940s, Mossad has been a crucial weapon in Israel’s constant struggle to survive.

Now Ronald Payne has written the first full history of Mossad. It reads like a thriller, but every word is true.

Here are the heroes, the dare-devils, the masters of intelligence, and their incredible stories of kidnappings, Nazi hunts, high-tech espionage, smuggling nuclear weapons and counter-terrorist operations.

Mossad: Israel's Most Secret Service’ is a penetrating, gripping and suspense-filled account.

Ronald Payne (1926-2013) was a distinguished newspaper correspondent who focussed on espionage and international crime. He began covering the Middle East in the 1950s, reporting on the Suez crisis and the 1973 Yom Kippur War for the Telegraph. He also conducted a well-publicized interview with Colonel Gaddafi. As a writer he released several books on terrorism and warfare, including ‘The Carlos Complex’ about Carlos the Jackal, and a bestselling book about the Falklands War.

Monday, June 06, 2016

FBI's SAC in Detroit Provides Update on Jimmy Hoffa Investigation, Organized Crime & ISIS.

It has been anything but dull since David P. Gelios arrived eight months ago from FBI headquarters in Washington to head up the Detroit FBI office.

For one, his agents have been busy probing the highly-publicized Flint water crisis.  And then there's the kickback scandal in Detroit Public Schools that has resulted in charges against a dozen principals, a school administrator and a greedy vendor.  He says the investigation, which is still open, hit close to home because of his previous life as a school teacher.

A native of the Toledo area, Gelios graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. He went on to work as a high school teacher in Bakersfield, Calif., a college volley ball coach at Ball State and an outreach officer for the University of California Office of the President.

In 1995, he joined the FBI, first working in the Sacramento Division. He then went on to work in a number of offices including Juneau, Louisville, New Haven and headquarters in D.C., his last stop before Detroit where he served as chief of the Inspection Division, overseeing all FBI field inspections, national program reviews and agent-involved shootings

Of his new assignment in Detroit, he says:“I like to call it one of the better kept secrets in the FBI.”

In a wide ranging interview, Gelios recently sat down with Deadline Detroit’s Allan Lengel to talk about public corruption, the challenges of encrypted communication devices and apps, cyber crime, ISIS recruiting, the Hoffa investigation and organized crime.

The following interview has been trimmed for brevity. The questions have been edited for clarity.

DD: As a former teacher, did you look at the kickback investigation into the Detroit school principals and the administrator from more than just the perspective of an FBI agent?

Gelios: I absolutely did and in my remarks at the announcement of the charges at the press conference, I said, having been a former teacher, I found it especially disturbing to me knowing what I know about education and knowing what I know about education in the city of Detroit, that people would embezzle such limited funds from a struggling school district.

DD: Being an FBI agent, does it surprise you that people would take advantage of a situation like that?

Gelios: You know in my career, nothing really surprises me any more. School districts have been embezzled from in the past and they continue to be embezzled from.

DD: Do you expect more charges in the school scandal?

Gelios: I would only say that it’s possible. It remains a pending investigation, but that’s as far as I’ll go with that.

DD: In the Flint water system mess, the state has its own investigation and the FBI has an investigation with the U.S. Attorney and EPA. Are you working with state investigators?

Gelios: We have a separate investigation, but the door is open for collaboration between the state investigation and the FBI’s investigation. But I’d best characterize it as an independent investigation being conducted with EPA and the FBI.

 DD: Are you concentrating more on federal employees and federal charges?

Gelios: It’s a pending investigation, so I’m not going to be able to say much. But I think we’re investigating the entire situation, so ours would not just be focused on federal employees. Often times when there’s a state investigation and a federal investigation, we work through the appropriate prosecutors at the state level and the federal levels to see where we can most effectively bring charges. It’s conceivable that some charges would simply be at the state level and some charges would be at the federal level, if and when there are federal charges.

DD: What would you say your priorities are for the Detroit office?

Gelios: Our priorities have to mirror those of the FBI and the number one priority today in the FBI remains the counterterrorism mission, and then counterintelligence and then cyber types of crimes.  The cyber arena is really becoming a significant challenge for the FBI. And it could increase in priority. But then every field office has an ability to identify  localized priorities, and in this area, public corruption is certainly a priority of this office. So is violent crime, gang violence, crimes against children.

DD: This city has a pretty rich history of public corruption. Are there active public corruption cases being investigated?

Gelios: That’s amongst the most sensitive investigations we conduct.  So I’m not going to say anything specifically about our public corruption investigations.

DD: You have no need to layoff agents from the public corruption squad?

Gelios: We have no need to diminish the number of people we have working public corruption matters.

DD: We hear a lot about ISIS recruiting on the Internet, particularly in the U.S. and Europe. Is that a hard thing to monitor and do you have any indication through informants or anybody else that there is an effort to recruit here?

Gelios: ISIS or ISIL. They are very very active online. Openly active. You or I a could hop on a computer today and find ISIL or ISIS recruitment types of media, videos. In addition to what’s public, they’re increasingly using encrypted telephone applications to try and communicate, like WhatsApp.  Some of that is harder for us to follow. And the issue of encryption is increasingly becoming a challenge for the FBI.

DD: Is the threat of terrorism greater here than elsewhere?

Gelios:  I’m asked frequently whether I believe the threat is greater in Southeast Michigan than other places because we have the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States. I don’t believe the threat is higher here. What I do believe though, is obviously there’s a lot of connectivity to areas of conflict and upheaval in the Middle East.

DD: How does that connectivity play out here?

Gelios: I think there are certainly some people…but I’m just not talking about Arab Americans, because there’s a good number of people we’ve looked at in the past who are white converts. They find the message of some of these extremist groups appealing. There’s a good number of consumers of this extremist propaganda in Michigan, just like there is in lots of other states.

DD: Historically, particularly the Dearborn area has had a connection to Hezbollah. Are you asked by people in the community what’s allowable in terms of donations to groups like Hezbollah?

Gelios: If we’re trying to characterize the nature of our investigations, we’re looking to those who are fundraisers or provide financial support to these groups. We look at facilitators, people who are trying to facilitate the shipment of goods overseas. And of course, finances. And we look at those people who are actually trying to get engaged in the fight either domestically or overseas. In the United States, they estimate about 250 Americans have traveled over to Syria or other theaters of conflict in the Middle East. That is a number that pales in comparison to the numbers in Europe. In Europe and elsewhere in the world I think the number is estimated to be 40,000 or 50,000 travelers from around the world to Middle East theaters of conflict.

DD: Why do you think that’s so?

Gelios: I think it’s difficult as a result of pending investigations and it’s difficult because our border security, the various authorities that look into why people travel overseas, and the investigations that exist. I think it’s difficult to travel to some of these theaters. In Europe alone, I think they’ve had about 7,000 people travel. I think we’re doing a good job preventing that. But the paradox or the dilemma for us is that these extremists are increasingly encouraging people to attack where they’re at. So that becomes the challenge and concern for us in this area, people being exhorted to conduct attacks of soft targets in the United States.

DD: Have you had any indication in the last year or two of any threats locally?

Gelios: We have certainly a publicized one that’s a pending matter. There was an individual (Khalil Abu-Rayyan)  arrested approximately two months ago now, that’s working its way though the adjudication process. But this was a young man who was making a variety of comments that led us to believe he might have the potential to conduct an attack in this area.

DD: In that particular case there were some claims by the defense that he was entrapped. When you begin something like that, does it have to be approved by Washington?

Gelios: To conduct undercover operations requires authority to do so, a higher level of approval,  headquarter approval. It’s just one of many investigative methods we use to investigate terrorism as well as general criminal matters. The struggle for us in these sorts of cases is we have to balance the public safety threat with trying to stick with an investigation long enough to figure out exactly what an individual is trying to do.  And sometimes the public safety threat in our view becomes overriding and we have to move with whatever tools we have to charge, perhaps prematurely from my own peoples’ designs.

DD: The San Bernardino shootings in December raised the issue of encryption with a cell phone. Do you have an opinion on that?

Gelios: In that instance there was a court order, stronger than a subpoena. A court order, in our system of justice, court orders, search warrants, etc., have been incontestable, and I think we go down a dangerous path if those who are subject to court orders and search warrants are asserting a position they can resist those court orders. Encryption is absolutely an increasing problem for the FBI and the intelligence community and all law enforcement.

DD: Do you worry about all the information that you’re missing through all this encryption like the phone app, WhatsApp? I know in the Middle East, WhatsApp is very popular. I know people here are communicating there in the Middle East with that app.

Gelios: I think it’s an absolute concern of the FBI and law enforcement. But the challenges are not unusual. It’s historic. As soon as we develop means to access data and information, others develop means that assure more privacy. There’s the cycle. There’s a continuing improvement in technology to give folks more privacy, and I think that’s a huge selling point  for a lot of technology providers today. It’s certainly what the public wants, and it certainly poses problems for the FBI as we conduct our investigations.

DD: Is it hard for the FBI to keep track of peoples’ comings and going between here in Detroit and the Middle East?

Gelios: I think when you look globally at the refugee issues, there’s certainly concerns about terrorist organizations using legitimate refugee organizations to place operatives or whatever, coming in undercover of being a legitimate refugee. That certainly gives us a concern. People coming in or out of Michigan, that doesn’t allow us to predicate a case simply because they came from somewhere. We have to have appropriate predication to look at someone.  It’s got to be something that gives us a reasonable basis to believe that they constitute some sort of threat to national security, if we’re talking about the terrorism arena.

DD: In 1995, we had the Oklahoma bombing. There was a connection in the Michigan Thumb. One of the bombers, Tim McVeigh, spent time there on a farm in Decker. So did co-conspirator Terry Nichols and his brother James Nichols. Suddenly we realized that there were all these people who were very anti-government. What’s your sense of Michigan regarding domestic groups like that and the Neo Nazis, militias and KKK?

Gelios: My sense in Michigan is we need to do more work to assess the level of threat in the state. There are groups that have historically had a presence in Michigan. Militia groups. Sovereign citizen groups. That’s something we have to look at.

DD: And the KKK. Any presence here?

Gelios: The KKK is not something that has risen to my radar since coming here. I don’t view that right now as being a significant threat in the state of Michigan.  But again I think we need to do a little more work to assess some of those threats.

DD: There’s been quite a bit of violence in the city; shootings, murders, carjackings, rapes.  What’s the FBI’s role?

Gelios; We participate in a number of initiatives in the Detroit area and elsewhere in the state with gang task forces. We have a gang task force here in the Detroit area that has a variety of local and state law enforcement partner agencies that contribute. We have a violent crime squad here in Detroit.

DD: Particularly since Sept. 11, this office has tried hard to have a good relationship in the Arab American community. How has that gone for you? You still feel a pushback, a distrust between the FBI and the community?

Gelios: That reaction of the public, is always going to be event impacted. In general, what my predecessors created in this area, starting with Andy Arena, Dan Roberts, Robert Foley and certainly Paul Abbate, made it a much easier task for me.

DD: Do you feel some distrust still?

Gelios: Let me give you an example to answer that. A couple things. When the director visited, we had over a hundred law enforcement partners from around the state. I think he was surprised by the level of turnout. And then our community partners came in from all diverse populations and they numbered well over 100 as well. It speaks to the health of the partnerships.

And secondly, do we experience distrust? Yes, more than a month or so I go I did a “Know Your Rights” panel at University of Michigan Dearborn.  And there were some community activists, community groups representatives, and there was some law enforcement: Homeland Security, FBI, Immigration, etc. One of the people on the community-interest side of the house started out saying to the audience, if you’re ever have your door knocked on by the FBI, the first thing I recommend you do is never talk to the FBI without an attorney. And frankly, I don’t think that’s always a productive thing to do. It does bother me. It demonstrates an absolute level of distrust for us as an agency.  But the only reason I bring it up is within two to three weeks, we were working a missing person case here in the area. It was not something I really saw any evidence of foul play.  I could not see there was definitely federal jurisdiction here.  But sometimes we want to forward lean a little bit just to make sure.

And this was someone from the Arab American community who had gone missing. And by fate would have it, I ended up working with that representative and our response to that missing individual.  After about week of that person being  missing,  there was a dissatisfaction amongst the community from which he came, and in perhaps, the response of law enforcement. We were in  a matter of a day of two, able to locate him, determine he was safe and sound. He’s an adult. That’s as far as I’m going to go. I will tell you, that community representative  sent me an email. it was a transformative experience with the FBI and she really expressed a willingness to help us anytime in the future. It doesn’t mean she’s withdrawn the advice to have an attorney, but it means we built trust with that individual as a result of our response to that incident.

DD: Some of the sons and nephews of the older generation mobsters are still out there. Is there much of a traditional Mafia here these days? Do you still keep a full squad for organized crime?

Gelios: We have personnel who work organized crime.  But organized crime matters today for us are a much broader swath of groups throughout the country. We have Asian organized crime groups, Eastern European organized crime groups. It’s my view that the traditional Mafia, Italian organized crime, isn’t as significant in this area or many places in the United states today. But there are other organized crime groups, some Eastern European crime groups, that we have to keep our eye on.

DD: What kind of crimes are they involved in?

Gelios: I guess I’m going to decline to talk about the things they are involved in this area?

DD: Do you still get tips on the Jimmy Hoffa case?

Gelios: I think we still get tips, but I would say it’s probably unlikely you’ll see another dig in any immediate time frame. It would really have to be a very very significant piece of credible information to see something like that happen. I would not say the Jimmy Hoffa case is at the forefront of our investigative efforts or attention today.

DD: In terms of corporate espionage, the White House at times has been critical of China. With major auto companies here, do you have concerns?

Gelios: In Michigan with our auto industry and a lot of high-tech companies and major universities that do very very sensitive research, the threat of our foreign adversaries trying to take the route and become involved in those things and stealing their propriety information is a very very significant threat.

DD: Do you have a group here that monitors hacking?

Gelios: We have a cyber squad and we have a counter intelligence squad. I would tell you there’s the foreign state types of computer intrusions that go on and I’m not going to talk specifically about that, but there are adversaries out there who are trying to hack into computer systems and steal information, be it personally identifiable  information or technology information. Then there’s the criminal intrusions that result in financial losses to a variety of companies. One of the biggest threats we now face, is ransomware. Ransomware is where a criminal actor tries to introduce malware into a company’s computer system and they do it by spear phishing or whatever the case may be. The criminal actors will then come back and basically issue a ransom demand. And they often ask for the ransom to be paid in Bitcoin which is a new environment for this sort of thing. They’ll come in and say in exchange for a certain amount of money, they will then send decryption keys to allow you to regain access to your information that’s absolutely necessary to function as a business.

DD: There’s recently been reports about the FBI’s interest in the city’s demolition program. Can you comment?

Gelios: I’m not going to comment on that specifically. I would say though, wherever there are federal funds dedicated to state and local projects, where there’s allegations, perhaps the funds have been squandered or misapplied, or whatever the case may be, that could be something that predicates a public corruption investigation.

DD: You’ve been here since October. What are your impressions of the city?

Gelios: I was raised just west of Toledo, Ohio. But my father was born and raised in Detroit and I have a lot of family in the Detroit area. My impression of Detroit:  I like to call it one of the better kept secrets in the FBI.  As an FBI agent, if you love the work of the FBI, you want to go somewhere where there’s good work. In all our investigative programs here, there’s good work, and good cases being investigated.

I think this is an incredibly exciting time to be in the city of Detroit, and in Michigan.

DD: Were you looking forward to coming to  Detroit?

Gelios: I certainly asked for the job. I was absolutely looking forward to Detroit. Detroit is basically home or the Midwest is certainly home for me.  I couldn’t be happier about this being my assignment.  There’s something about the Midwest and I think only a Midwesterner who has been all over the rest of the country can describe the Midwest culture. I love being in the Midwest.

Thanks to Alan Lengel.