Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Organized Crime, Led by Hells Angels, the Mafia, and Street Gangs, Dominates Towing Industry via Violence

It often starts with a vaguely menacing phone call, meant to deter newcomers from doing business in a certain area of the city. Then come the violent threats, trucks set alight, garages vandalized and even people beaten up, in some cases.

Those are the kinds of stories Montreal Inspector General Denis Gallant heard while conducting an investigation into the city's towing industry, which he likened to the wild west.

The best way to deter organized crime from infiltrating the industry, he said, is to implement a controlled system across the 19 boroughs. "We'll have more regulations, and organized crime will say, 'I don't want to go in that business anymore because there's no value for us,'" he said.

Gallant got more than 100 tow-truck operators to confide in him about the violence and intimidation they encounter daily from the Hells Angels, the Mafia and street gangs. He said he heard about tow-truck business owners compelled to pay protection money to organized crime or threatened when they tried to tow cars in areas run by other companies. "Honest people don't want to continue business in Montreal because they're scared," he said.

Gallant blames the situation on the fact that the towing business is a "lucrative" one, and boroughs no longer designate a specific company for police and firefighters to call when there's an accident or a driver's car is seized.

Under the old contracts, tow-truck operators would get a fixed price of around $100 for a towing job, but in the absence of those contracts, the cost of towing has skyrocketed.

Gallant said he spoke to someone who paid $400 to have his car towed four kilometres.

"Organized crime [is] there for only one thing — make money, and good money," he said.

Gallant wants the city to return to that controlled system, which would include mandatory background checks and impose a set price on towing jobs.

Mayor Denis Coderre says before the city can harmonize the regulations, it needs the province to pass a decree, something he doesn't expect to take long.​

Thanks to CBC.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Heriberto “Herb” Huerta, Reputed Founder of the Texas Mafia, Sues Warden of #Supermax

The reputed founder and president of the Texas Mexican Mafia has sued the warden of Supermax in Florence and the U.S. prison system claiming he has been held for 22 years in solitary confinement on false pretenses.

The civil lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court in Denver on behalf of Heriberto “Herb” Huerta by Texas attorney Jerold Friedman. It claims that Huerta has been held on false claims of drug abuse and for his own protection.

The lawsuit names as defendants the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons; FBI agent Martin Martinez; John Oliver, warden of the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary (known as Supermax) in Florence; and other Supermax employees.

Huerta is seeking a total of $4.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. He also is requesting a judge order that he be placed in general population.

Huerta has been held in isolation since 1994 without due process, his civil lawsuit says. Authorities have fabricated evidence against him and retaliated against him, the lawsuit says.

Huerta, serving a life prison sentence for racketeering, is the president of Mexikanemi (Texas Mexican Mafia), which was founded in San Antonio in 1984, according to Texas media reports.

Huerta was at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan. in May of 1994 when he was transferred from a general population cell block to the Special Housing Unit. Huerta was sent to the unit, where offenders are punished for prison violations, after a confidential informant said reported a threat on Huerta’s life.

Prison Lt. E. Pierce allegedly told Huerta at the time that he knew the threat was false and that “top government officials” in Washington,  D.C., wanted him locked down, the lawsuit says.

Six months later Huerta was transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Ill., after he allegedly used illegal drugs. That lawsuit says that was a false claim. On March 15, 1995, Huerta was transferred to Florence.

Authorities kept Huerta mostly in isolation without a placement hearing “to punish and torture him” ever since then even though Huerta has passed monthly urine tests for drugs. Huerta also claims that he was falsely accused of money laundering through his commissary account, the lawsuit says.

Huerta, a “model prisoner,” has participated in all programs available to him, but has never been placed in a step-down program that would lead to his placement in general population, the lawsuit says.

Thanks to Kirk Mitchell.

Funeral Home Owned by the Rizzuto Reputed Mafia Family, Hit by Arson Again

A funeral home with ties to the Mafia in Montreal's north end was the target of an arson attack early Tuesday.

No one was injured in a fire that broke out at the Loreto Funeral Complex, located on Grandes-Prairies Boulevard in the borough of Saint-Leonard.

Damage was minimal, but a can of gasoline was found behind the building, police said.

The funeral complex is owned by members of the Rizzuto family and has been the site of several high-profile services, including for Nicolo Rizzuto, the family patriarch, and his son Vito Rizzuto, the reputed former head of the Montreal Mafia.

The funeral home was also targeted by arsonists in 2011.

Top 10: Gangsters

If you browse around your local video store, you'll notice dozens of films about the Mafia. Witness the popularity of Goodfellas, The Godfather, Casino, and Bugsy. Why have so many films been made about these tough-guy hooligans? Because men have a fascination with gangster culture and organized crime. But who are some of the most notorious gangsters of all time?

To make the list, gangsters must have had a significant impact on the Mob thanks to the way they did business. They must have done most of their business in America, their legacy must have stood the test of time, and they must have had a significant impact on pop culture.

Honorable Mention
Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (1906 - 1947)

Benjamin Siegel was born in Brooklyn in 1906 and soon associated himself with fellow Jew Meyer Lansky. After running contract killings for Murder, Inc., Siegel -- who was nicknamed "Bugsy" because of his unpredictable nature -- went in cahoots with Lucky Luciano and his newly organized Syndicate. But killing for Luciano earned him enemies, and in the late '30s, he was forced to escape to Los Angeles, where he had lived glamorously with movie stars.

He then discovered the gambling laws of Nevada. "Borrowing" millions from the Syndicate, he established one of the first casino hotels in Las Vegas, the Flamingo. But the resort was losing money, and when it was discovered in 1947 that he had stolen money from his friends, he was killed.

Featured in: The best portrayals of Siegel are in Warren Beatty's Bugsy  (1991) and The Marrying Man (1991) with Armand Assante.

Number 10
Vincent "The Chin" Gigante (1928 - 2005)
Born in New York in 1928, Vincent Gigante was quite a character. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and started boxing, winning 21 of 25 light-heavyweight bouts. By the time he was 17, he had turned to crime to support himself, which resulted in seven arrests before he was 25.

Gigante's first significant act as a gangster and member of the Genovese family was an attempt to kill the powerful Frank Costello, but Gigante's bullet missed the target. Nevertheless, he continued to climb the ranks within New York's Genovese organization, eventually becoming a capo and consigliere in the early '80s.

Then, when Mob boss Tony Salerno was convicted, Gigante became the main man. What makes Gigante so memorable is his 30-year ploy of acting insane. After he successfully averted prison in the late '60s by employing psychiatrists to testify to his insanity, he took it upon himself to continue the act; throughout his career, he was often seen walking around the streets of New York wearing a bathrobe. For this reason, he was nicknamed the "Oddfather" and the "Pajama King." Imprisoned for racketeering, he finally admitted in 2003 that he was not crazy.

Gigante died in prison on December 19, 2005 due to heart complications. The Gigante family and his lawyer, Flora Edwards, filed a federal lawsuit regarding the lack of health care that Vincent received while in prison. Vincent was scheduled for release in 2010.

Featured in: Gigante was a character in the made-for-TV film Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999) and served as inspiration for an episode of Law & Order.

Number 9
Albert Anastasia (1903 - 1957)
Born in Tropea, Italy in 1903, Albert Anastasia was still a teenager when he came to America. Involved in the docks operations in Brooklyn, Anastasia was sent to Sing Sing Prison for 18 months for the murder of a longshoreman; the mysterious deaths of witnesses led to his early release. Albert Anastasia (aka "Lord High Executioner" and "Mad Hatter") was known as a killer, a reputation that led Joe Masseria's gang to recruit him. Anastasia was also extremely loyal to Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who had plans to rule America's crime world. Anastasia had no problem betraying Masseria -- by being one of four people sent to kill him in 1931 -- when approached by Lucky Luciano.

At this time, Anastasia started taking on hits for the Murder, Incorporated outfit in New York, and in 1944, he became the leader of the murder squad. Although Anastasia was never prosecuted for any killings, Murder, Inc. was responsible for between 400 and 700 murders. In the '50s, he became the leader of the Luciano family, but Carlo Gambino wanted the job. Though the murder is officially unsolved, many believe that Gambino had Anastasia killed in a barbershop in 1957.

Featured in: Albert Anastasia was a prominent character in Murder, Inc. (1960), a gangster film starring Peter Falk and Howard Smith (as Anastasia), as well as in The Valachi Papers (1972) and Lepke (1975).

Number 8
Joseph Bonanno (1905 - 2002)
Born in 1905, Joe Bonanno grew up in his native Sicily and became an orphan at the age of 15. He left Italy due to the fascist power of the Mussolini regime and made a brief stopover in Cuba before moving to the United States when he was 19. Joe joined the Mafia as a way to prevent Mussolini from taking over Sicily. Nicknamed "Joey Bananas," he joined forces with Salvatore Maranzano. Before Luciano killed him, Maranzano created The Commission, the ruling body over Mafia families in the entire country.

Bonanno stepped up and took over one of these families. He became powerful in New York with cheese factories, clothing businesses and funeral homes, which were a terrific way to dispose of bodies. But plans to eliminate all the rival families turned against him and Bonanno was kidnapped for 19 days until he agreed to retire. In 1965, he initiated the Banana War to settle scores, but he retired for good soon thereafter due to bad health. Never in his life was he convicted of a serious offense.

Featured in: Two cable movies have been made about the crime legend: Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage (1993) with Ben Gazzara and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999) with Martin Landau.

Number 7
Dutch Schultz (1902 - 1935)
Arthur Flegenheimer, later known as Dutch Schultz, was born in the Bronx in 1902. As a teenager, he held up crap games to impress his boss and mentor, Marcel Poffo. At the age of 17, he did some time at Blackwell's Island (now known as Roosevelt Island) for theft. With prohibition in full swing in the 1920s, he realized that money was in bootlegging. A ruthless man, he would kill whenever his temper flared, which helped keep his competition in line.

He had a part in the founding of the Syndicate, but soon Luciano and Capone became his enemies. In 1933, the law wanted to shut down Schultz, so he went into hiding in New Jersey, which left his New York territory free for a takeover; Luciano seized the opportunity. Schultz made a comeback in 1935, but members of Albert Anastasia's crew killed him in a restaurant men's room before he could do any damage.

Featured in: Dustin Hoffman was memorable as Dutch Schultz in Billy Bathgate (1991), but Tim Roth was even better in Hoodlum (1997). Other movies featuring Schultz include Gangster Wars (1981), The Cotton Club (1984) and The Natural (1984).

Number 6
John Gotti (1940 - 2002)
In the wake of the great gangsters who ruled New York, John Gotti had his work cut out for him. Born in Brooklyn in 1940, he was always quick with his fists and it was his life's dream to become a wiseguy. By the age of 16, he had joined a local street gang known as the Fulton-Rockaway Boys. He quickly became their leader, stealing cars and fencing stolen goods. In the '60s, he began associating with Mafia hoods and hijacking trucks. In the early '70s, he became a capo for the Bergin crew, a part of the Gambino family. Extremely ambitious, Gotti started to deal drugs, which was forbidden by family rules.

As a result, Paul Castellano, the Boss, wished to expel Gotti from the organization. In 1985, Gotti and his guys killed Castellano outside a steakhouse and Gotti took over the Gambino family. No matter how many times the authorities tried to indict him for being the most powerful criminal in New York, the charges were always dropped. Because of this -- and the fact that he dressed well and loved media attention -- he was nicknamed "The Dapper Don" and "The Teflon Don." He was finally convicted for murder in 1992 and died of cancer in prison in 2002.

Featured in: He was played by Anthony John Denison in the made-for-TV movie Getting Gotti (1994) and by Armand Assante in the HBO event Gotti (1996). Other TV movies featuring him include Witness to the Mob (1998) with Tom Sizemore and The Big Heist (2001).

Number 5
Meyer Lansky (1902 - 1983)

Born Maier Suchowljansky in Russia to Jewish parents in 1902, Lansky moved to New York when he was 9. He met Charles Luciano when they were just schoolboys. Luciano demanded protection money from Lansky, and when he refused to pay, the two boys fought. Impressed by Lansky's toughness, Luciano befriended the younger boy and the two remained lifelong friends. Lansky also met Bugsy Siegel when he was a teenager, and the three formed a powerful partnership. Lansky and Siegel formed the Bug and Meyer Mob, which became Murder, Inc.

Lansky's primary order of business was money and gambling, and he had operations in Florida, Cuba and New Orleans. He was an investor in Siegel's Las Vegas casino, and he even bought an offshore bank in Switzerland that was used for money laundering. A financial genius, he codeveloped the National Crime Syndicate and the Commission. But business is never personal, and he approved the murder of his best friend Bugsy Siegel when Siegel was unable to produce profits for the Syndicate. Even with a gambling racket in operation across the planet, Lansky never spent a day in jail.

Featured in: Not only did Richard Dreyfuss give a powerful performance in HBO's Lansky (1999), but the character of Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part II (1974) was loosely based on him as well. The role was also played by Mark Rydell in Havana (1990), Patrick Dempsey in Mobsters (1991) and Ben Kingsley in Bugsy (1991).

Number 4
Frank Costello (1891 - 1973)
Francesco Castiglia was born in 1891 in Italy and moved to the United States with his family when he was 4. He changed his name to Frank Costello when he joined a street gang at age 13. After numerous petty crimes landed him in prison, he became best friends with Charlie Luciano; together, they dealt in bootlegging and gambling. Costello's strength was his position as a link between the Mob and politicians, especially the Democratic Party's Tammany Hall in New York, which enabled him and his associates to pay off certain officials.

Following Luciano's arrest, Costello became the man in charge, and he solidified and expanded the operation during this time. A power struggle between him and Vito Genovese (who served as Underboss) erupted in the '50s, and Vincent Gigante tried to kill Costello. Eventually, Costello grew tired of the gangster life and retired, but not before framing Genovese and Gigante for a drug bust. He died peacefully in 1973.

Featured in: The man was best portrayed by James Andronica in the 1981 miniseries The Gangster Chronicles, by Costas Mandylor in Mobsters (1991), by Carmine Caridi in Bugsy (1991), and by Jack Nicholson in The Departed (2006). (The author is actually incorrect about Jack Nicholson playing the real Frank Costello in The Departed. Only the character name was in common with the real Frank Costello. Nicholson's character was mostly based upon another gangster, Whitey Bulger.)

Number 3
Carlo Gambino (1902 - 1976)
Carlo Gambino came from a family that had been part of the Mafia for centuries in Italy. He started carrying out murders when he was a teenager and became a made guy in 1921 at the age of 19. With Mussolini gaining power, he immigrated to America, where his cousin Paul Castellano lived. He became a thug for different New York families until he joined Lucky Luciano's crew.

After Luciano was extradited in the '40s, Albert Anastasia took over. But Gambino thought it was his time to shine and had Anastasia killed in 1957. He appointed himself Boss of the family and reigned with an iron fist over New York until his natural death in 1976.

Featured in: Al Ruscio played him beautifully in the TNT movie Boss of Bosses(2001). Other "Gambino" appearances include the made-for-TV movies Between Love & Honor (1995), Gotti (1996) and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999).

Number 2
Charlie "Lucky" Luciano (1897 - 1962)

Salvatore Lucania was born in Sicily in 1897, but his family moved to New York nine years later. At a young age, he became a member of the Five Points gang, in which Al Capone also received his education. Five years after establishing an empire based mostly on prostitution, Luciano controlled the racket all over Manhattan. After a failed but brutal attack on his life in 1929, Luciano started planning the National Crime Syndicate, an extension of Salvatore Maranzano's Commission, with Meyer Lansky.

They eliminated the competition, and by 1935, Lucky Luciano was known as the Boss of Bosses -- not just of New York City, but of the whole country. He was arrested and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in 1936, but was let out on parole in 1946 on the condition that he be deported to Italy. He had so much power that U.S. Navy intelligence sought his help when the Allies were set to invade Italy during World War II. He died of a heart attack in 1962.

Featured in: Christian Slater played him in Mobsters (1991), as did Bill Graham in Bugsy (1991) and Anthony LaPaglia in the TV film Lansky (1999).

Number 1
Al Capone (1899 - 1947)
If there ever was a gangster who earned the No. 1 spot, it is Al Capone. Alphonse Capone was born in 1899 to Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, where he got his start in street gangs. He then joined the Five Points gang and became a bouncer. It was during these days that a series of facial wounds earned him the "Scarface" nickname. Capone moved to Chicago in 1919 and quickly moved up the Mafia hierarchy while working for Johnny Torrio (Capone became Torrio's protege).

It was the time of the Prohibition, and Capone ran prostitution, gambling and bootlegging rings. In 1925, at the age of 26, Capone took over after Torrio was wounded in a gang war. Known for his intelligence, flamboyance and love of public attention, Capone was also known to be very violent; his role in the orchestration of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, in which key rival gangsters were murdered, proves this. In 1931, Federal Treasury agent Eliot Ness arrested him for tax evasion.

Featured in: Many movies have been made about Capone, but the most famous are probably The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) with Jason Robards, Capone (1975) with Ben Gazzara and The Untouchables (1987) with Robert De Niro.

Thanks to Matthew Simpson

Monday, April 24, 2017

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the @FBI

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history
     
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.

Is @RealDonaldTrump's Claim that @BarackObama is Responsible for Growth of MS-13 Gang True? Facts Say No

President Donald Trump blamed former President Barack Obama on Twitter for the formation of one of the most notorious gangs.

"The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!" Trump tweeted April 18.

Trump’s tweet came days after four young men were found brutally murdered in Central Islip in Long Island. The Suffolk County police commissioner said he suspects the MS-13 involvement. But the president’s post about the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 gang, is misleading.

The gang was established in Los Angeles and spread across the country decades before Obama took office.

Trump’s administration has conducted target operations to arrest criminals, but data is not yet available on how many MS-13 gang members have been arrested or removed.

Ioan Grillo, author of the 2016 book Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America, disputed Trump’s conclusion. "I have seen no evidence that the Obama administration can can be blamed in any way for the existence or activities of the gang in the U.S.," Grillo told PolitiFact.

We asked a Trump spokesman for more information but did not hear back by deadline.

MS-13 history and growth predates Obama policy

Violent gangs, including MS-13, were forming in U.S. cities long before Obama’s presidency.

MS-13 grew out of poor Los Angeles neighborhoods where many refugees from civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua lived in the 1980s. (The name Mara Salvatrucha comes from the word "mara" which is a term for gang, "salva" for El Salvador and "trucha," which is slang for clever.) It later spread to other parts of the United States and in Central American nations.

By the end of the 1990s, the United States government recognized that MS-13 posed a significant criminal threat. Amid an immigration crackdown toward the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the government launched an effort to deport foreign-born residents convicted of crimes, including gang members.

In the mid 2000s, U.S. agencies including the FBI and ICE launched initiatives to combat the growth of gangs. There were several news reports about MS-13’s proliferation in the United States during the 2000s, with interest growing after a 2006 National Geographic documentary on the "World’s Most Dangerous Gang." The documentary showed that by the end of the 1990s, the gang had groups in almost every state.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed MS-13 on the same day as Trump’s tweet, blaming "an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement" for MS-13 recruitment.

Multiple experts said there is no evidence that Obama policies caused the growth of Latino gangs in the United States. "The big surge was during Bush-Cheney when the drivers of illegal migration in Central America grew, when various crackdowns on crime-filled prisons to bursting point, and when funding for rehabilitation programs declined," said Fulton T. Armstrong, a research fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University. Armstrong formerly worked as a national intelligence officer for Latin America, chief of staff of the CIA’s crime and narcotics center, and was a career CIA officer.

The growth of MS-13 in the United States is related to draconian domestic policies in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) that have pushed many gang members out of Central America, said Florida International University professor Jose Miguel Cruz.

Héctor Silva Ávalos, a research fellow at American University, said that there has been a new peak in gang activities on the East Coast since 2014 -- especially in Long Island and Montgomery County, Md. "But this has to do with gang dynamics that have been brewing back in Central America since the Mauricio Funes administration in El Salvador (2009-14) brokered a truce with both MS-13 and Barrio 18," he said. "It is not related to U.S. internal policy."

Elana Zilberg, a University of California San Diego communications professor, said Obama specifically targeted "criminal" aliens (including MS-13 members) in his aggressive deportation program.

"However, Trump’s tweet might be a blunt allusion to Obama’s position on unaccompanied minors from Central America," she said. "That, however, was a policy inherited from the Bush administration."

The number of Central American children coming alone began to increase in fiscal year 2012 and rose significantly in 2014.

The Obama administration in 2014 announced a series of new programs and partnerships with Central American countries to address the issues driving their migration. The Central American Minors program allowed certain parents with lawful presence in the United States to petition for their children in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to come in as refugees. Children ineligible for admission as refugees but at risk of harm could be admitted under parole. The program was expanded in 2016 to allow additional family members to apply.

No data on MS-13 removals under Trump

Trump lauded his administration’s enforcement efforts in a Fox News interview that aired shortly after his tweet. "We’ve gotten tremendous criminals out of this country," Trump said on Fox & Friends. "I'm talking about illegal immigrants that were here that caused tremendous crime that have murdered people, raped people, horrible things have happened. They are getting the hell out, or they are going to prison."

Trump claimed nothing had been done to remove criminals until he came along. (Here is an overview of some targeted enforcement operations during the Obama administration that led to the arrests of criminals and gang members.)

"It is a serious problem and we never did anything about it, and now we're doing something about it," Trump said. But ICE data available so far do not prove that Trump is removing MS-13 members "fast" as he tweeted.

In February, the Trump administration said it had conducted targeted operations resulting in the arrest of more than 680 people, including gang members. At least one of them was a self-admitted MS-13 gang member from El Salvador.

A unit within ICE tracks MS-13 arrests, but monthly data on gang and MS-13 arrests during Trump’s time in office is not available.

From fiscal years 2005 through 2016, immigration officials made 7,051 MS-13 arrests, ICE said.

ICE removal data shows how many individuals were suspected or confirmed gang members. But it does not say to which gang they were affiliated. In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 individuals and 2,057 were suspected or confirmed gang members, the agency reported.

During the full two months that Trump has been in office (February and March), a total of 36,467 individuals have been removed, according to an ICE official. ICE said it did not have information on how many of them were gang members.An executive order signed by Trump expanded removal priorities to include immigrants in the country illegally who have been convicted of crimes as well as those who have been charged with a criminal offense but not yet convicted.

Our ruling

Trump tweeted, "The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!"

MS-13 gangs in the United States were established decades before Obama took office and had been spreading across the U.S. long before his tenure. Experts told us there is no evidence Obama policies spurred their growth. Finally, Obama prioritized the deportation of criminal immigrants.

Immigration officials told us data on how many MS-13 gang members have been arrested and removed under Trump’s administration is not available.

We rate Trump’s claim False.

Thanks to PolitiFact.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reputed Mafia Leader Denied Bail

The alleged leader of a clan within the Montreal Mafia was denied bail in a cocaine trafficking case along with one of his co-accused.

Andrea (Andrew) Scoppa, 53, a resident of Île Bizard, registered little reaction as Quebec Court Judge Serge Boisvert listed off the reasons Scoppa was being denied a release in Project Estacade, an investigation into drug trafficking in Montreal and Laval conducted by the Regional Integrated Squad. On Feb. 1, eight people, including Scoppa, were charged in Project Estacade at the Montreal courthouse, and another small group of men were charged in Laval.

Fazio Malatesta, 48, was also denied bail as part of the same hearing where Boisvert heard evidence over the course of three days in April. A publication ban has been placed on the evidence. Because of the seriousness of the charges the men face, they were required to prove they merited a release, as opposed to the normal standard where the Crown is required to prove they should be detained. One reason Boisvert cited in his decision was that a well informed member of the public, aware of the evidence gathered in the case, would lose faith in the justice system if the men were released at this point in their case.

Scoppa and Malatesta are both charged with conspiring to traffic in drugs, drug trafficking and possession of cocaine with the intent to traffic in cocaine.

Pizzeria Owner Gets 18 Years Prison in Mafia-Linked Drug Case

A New York pizzeria owner was sentenced to 18 years in prison for trafficking more than 50 kg (110 lb) of cocaine into the United States from Costa Rica, in a case born out of a probe into an Italian organized crime group.

Gregorio Gigliotti, 61, and his son Angelo were convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn in July of crimes including conspiracy to import cocaine. The elder Gigliotti was also found guilty of two firearms offenses.

The pair were arrested in March 2015, two months before U.S. and Italian authorities said they arrested 13 people on related charges for taking part in a drug trafficking ring in Italy's southern Calabria region.

Calabria is home to 'Ndrangheta, Italy's richest and most powerful criminal organization, which U.S. authorities say has conducted drug smuggling and trafficking in New York with members in Calabria and Toronto, Canada.

Federal prosecutors said Gigliotti and his son used their family-run Italian restaurant Cucino Amodo Mio in Corona, Queens, as well as a produce importation company, Fresh Farm Export Corp, to provide cover for drug trafficking for 'Ndrangheta.

Gigliotti's son is awaiting sentencing and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. Gigliotti's wife Eleonora, who has admitted conspiring to import cocaine, faces a minimum of five years behind bars, prosecutors said.

A lawyer for the elder Gigliotti did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Joe McMahon, an attorney for Gigliotti's son, said he was working with U.S. authorities to try to reduce his client's mandatory minimum sentence.

Between October and December of 2014, police seized approximately 55 kg (121 lbs) of cocaine that had been hidden in cardboard boxes containing cassava and sent to the family by co-conspirators in Costa Rica.

Some of the drugs imported to the United States were destined to be exported for distribution in Italy, according to prosecutors.

When Gigliotti and his son were arrested, police who searched their restaurant seized items including seven firearms, ammunition, brass knuckles, and a handwritten ledger listing transactions of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Reported by Gina Cherelus.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Expo on @Border_Security Discussed Priorities in Security, Enforcement, and Organized Crime #BSE17

Industry leaders and government officials came together last week for the annual Border Security Expo, where they discussed new priorities and opportunities in border security and immigration enforcement.

This was the second time the three-day expo has been held in San Antonio, and the second time the Border Patrol Foundation has hosted a demo day where everyone gets to test some of the latest equipment and weapons.

“This year’s expo is especially relevant since there is a new administration in place and a new approach to managing our borders,” said Thomas Winkowski, advisory board chairman for the Border Security Expo.

Days after President Donald Trump took office, he issued two executive orders targeting border security and illegal immigration. These orders redefined border security and elevated the standards and expectations from those tasked with securing the border to levels higher than they’ve ever been.

Trump not only wants the Department of Homeland Security to build a border wall but wants to end all illegal immigration, something many here see as a new business opportunity. The expo this year attracted some 200 attendees from 37 states and 14 countries, most with hopes of networking with local, state, federal and international government decision-makers.

More than 100 vendors selling anything from armored vehicles to drones showcased their products at the convention center’s exhibit hall, while panelists discussed biometrics, cyber security and ways to counter transnational organized crime.

Keynote speakers including Deputy Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Daniel Ragsdale and Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Ronald Vitiello spoke about the importance of border experts coming together every year for the expo to share ideas from both the public and private sectors.

“People don’t realize the necessary relationships, the work that we do together,” Vitiello said to a crowd mostly comprised of entrepreneurs and law enforcement officials. “The innovation, the technology, the logistics, the information that you help us with, it’s important because your products help us meet the mission.”

Monday, April 17, 2017

Since Yesterday: The 1930's in America

Heralded by the New York Times as “a shrewd, concise, wonderfully written account of America in the ’30s . . . a reminder of why history matters,” the bestselling sequel to Only Yesterday illuminates the events that brought America back from the brink

Published in 1940, Since Yesterday: The 1930's in America, September 3, 1929 to September 3, 1939, takes up where Lewis’s classic leaves off. Opening on September 3, 1929, in the days before the stock market crash, this information-packed volume takes us through one of America’s darkest times all the way to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Following Black Tuesday, America plunged into the Great Depression. Panic and fear gripped the nation. Banks were closing everywhere. In some cities, 84 percent of the population was unemployed and starving. When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, public confidence in the nation slowly began to grow, and by 1936, the industrial average, which had plummeted in 1929 from 125 to fifty-eight, had risen again to almost one hundred. But America still had a long road ahead. Popular historian Frederick Lewis Allen brings to life these ten critical years. With wit and empathy, he draws a devastating economic picture of small businesses swallowed up by large corporations--a ruthless bottom line not so different from what we see today. Allen also chronicles the decade’s lighter side: the fashions, morals, sports, and candid cameras that were revolutionizing Americans’ lives.

From the Lindbergh kidnapping to the New Deal, from the devastating dust storms that raged through our farmlands to the rise of Benny Goodman, the public adoration of Shirley Temple, and our mass escape to the movies, this book is a hopeful and powerful reminder of why history matters.

MS-13 Gangster Pleads Guilty to Attempted Murder of Rival Gang Member

A member of MS-13’s East Boston Loco Salvatrucha (EBLS) clique pleaded guilty in connection with the assault of a rival gang member in East Boston.

Christian Alvarado, a/k/a “Catracho,” 28, of East Boston, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as racketeering or RICO conspiracy, and conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for July 6, 2017.

After a three-year investigation, Alvarado was one of 61 persons named in a January 2016 superseding indictment targeting the criminal activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in Massachusetts. As alleged in court documents, MS-13 was identified as a violent transnational criminal organization whose branches or “cliques” operate throughout the United States, including in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the group. Specifically, MS-13 members are required to attack and murder gang rivals whenever possible.

On May 11, 2008, Alvarado and other MS-13 members, including fellow EBLS member Edgar Pleitez, also known as “Cadejo,” attempted to murder a gang rival by beating him near a soccer stadium in East Boston. Alvarado also allegedly conspired with Santos Portillo-Andrade, also known as “Flaco,” the leader of the EBLS clique, and Pleitez to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. On several occasions in August 2015, Alvarado and Pleitez were recorded selling heroin to a cooperating witness. In addition, using a court-authorized wiretap, federal agents intercepted telephone calls between Alvarado and Portillo-Andrade in which the two men allegedly discussed selling a half-kilogram of heroin for $26,000. On Oct. 26, 2015, agents followed Alvarado and Portillo-Andrade to the sale, after which, the agents stopped Alvarado and Portillo-Andrade’s car and seized $26,000 in cash as well as a loaded firearm and a machete.

The RICO conspiracy charge provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and no greater than 40 years in prison, a minimum of four years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $8 million.

Alvarado is the thirteenth defendant to plead guilty in this case. Other defendants have pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy, drug trafficking, document fraud, and immigration offenses.

Friday, April 14, 2017

2 Zion Men Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to the ISIS

Two men from a north suburb of Chicago were arrested on a federal complaint charging them with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State.

JOSEPH D. JONES, also known as “Yusuf Abdulhaqq,” 35, of Zion, and EDWARD SCHIMENTI, also known as “Abdul Wali,” 35, of Zion, are charged with conspiring to knowingly provide and attempt to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Jones and Schimenti were arrested. Also, authorities executed a search warrant at Jones’ residence in Zion.

The complaint and arrests were announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Mary B. McCord, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was investigated by the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of FBI personnel and representatives from numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The Zion Police Department provided valuable assistance.

According to a complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Jones and Schimenti pledged their allegiance to ISIS and advocated on social media for violent extremism in support of the terrorist group. In the fall of 2015 the pair befriended three individuals whom Jones and Schimenti believed were fellow ISIS devotees. Unbeknownst to Jones and Schimenti, two of the individuals were undercover FBI employees and the third individual was cooperating with law enforcement and was not an ISIS supporter, the complaint states.

Over the next several months Jones and Schimenti met the undercover FBI employees and the cooperating source on numerous occasions, during which Jones and Schimenti discussed their devotion to ISIS and their commitment to Islamic State principles, the complaint states. Some of the meetings took place in Waukegan, Zion, Bridgeview, North Chicago, Highland Park and Chicago.

At one point, Jones and Schimenti shared photographs of themselves holding the Islamic State flag at the Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, according to the complaint. In a recorded conversation with the cooperating source, Schimenti commented that Schimenti would like to see the ISIS flag “on top of the White House,” the complaint states.

Earlier this year Schimenti engaged in physical training exercises with the cooperating source at a gym in Zion, the complaint states. Schimenti believed the cooperating source intended to travel overseas to fight for ISIS, and Schimenti commented that the exercises would “make you good, you know, in the battlefield,” according to the complaint.

Last month the pair furnished several cellular phones to the cooperating source, believing they would be used to detonate explosive devices in ISIS attacks, the complaint states. On April 7, 2017, Jones and Schimenti drove the cooperating source to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with the understanding that the source would be traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS, the complaint states. Schimenti told the source to “drench that land with they, they blood,” according to the complaint.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

FBI Hosts Hate Crimes Symposium, Broadens Collaborative Efforts with Local and State Officials

Last week, the FBI’s New York Field Office hosted its inaugural Hate Crimes Symposium at 290 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. The symposium, coordinated by FBI Supervisory Special Agent Anthony Bivona, aimed to extend the FBI’s reach into the communities they serve by providing them with valuable information as it relates to federal hate crime violations. In addition to speakers from the FBI, representatives from the Department of Justice, the New York City Police Department, and the non-profit Life After Hate provided the backdrop for this event.

“Investigating hate crimes is the highest priority of the FBI’s Civil Rights program. Today’s symposium is a reminder of our commitment to continue working with our partners to make sure justice is served for communities that have been victimized by crimes or threats of this nature,” said FBI New York Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr.

"Investigating acts of hate is one of the highest priorities for the New York City Police Department," said Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill. "Over the last year, we have seen hate crimes in this city on the rise. Fortunately, the NYPD has dozens of our best detectives assigned to fully investigate every incident. I am thankful to the help from the FBI—and many others—who have worked jointly on many cases, including the recent series of threats made against Jewish institutions in New York City."

Groups that preach hatred and intolerance have a devastating impact on families and communities, and they can plant the seed of terrorism here in our country. The FBI investigates hundreds of these cases every year and works to detect and deter further incidents through law enforcement training, public outreach, and partnerships with a myriad of community groups.

Traditionally, FBI investigations of hate crimes were limited to crimes in which the perpetrators acted based on a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin. In addition, investigations were restricted to those wherein the victim was engaged in a federally protected activity. With the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the Bureau became authorized to investigate these crimes without this prohibition. This landmark legislation also expanded the role of the FBI to allow for the investigation of hate crimes committed against those based on biases of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.

Also last week, in an effort to pool together all available resources in confronting this threat, the FBI has embedded a representative from the New York State Police within their Civil Rights Program. As with all of their partners who assist them in so many of their law enforcement efforts, including the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices from the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, they’re looking forward to broadening this relationship for the benefit of FBI and the public alike.

New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach, II said, "This new level of partnership between the state police and the FBI is unprecedented and only strengthens our ability to respond to the threat posed by hate crimes. I want to thank the FBI New York and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. for sharing our commitment to protect all New Yorkers."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cook County Judge Myles Assassinated

A judge involved in several high-profile cases in Chicago was shot and killed outside his home Monday morning, police said.

Cook County Judge Raymond Myles, 66, and a 52-year-old woman were both shot outside the home on Chicago's South Side, police said. The woman, described as "a close associate of the judge," is expected to survive, Chicago police Chief of Detectives Melissa Staples said.

Myles was involved in the case against William Balfour, who was convicted of killing singer and actress Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew, WGN reported. The judge was also involved in the case of the 1993 massacre at a Brown's Chicken fast food restaurant in Palatine, Illinois, WGN reported.

Staples said it was not clear whether Myles was targeted due to his work as a judge. "We're investigating a multitude of possible leads," she said.

Police said the woman was walking out of a home around 5 a.m. when she encountered the gunman.

"Upon hearing the commotion and the gunshot, Judge Myles exited his residence to investigate," Staples said. Myles and the shooter exchanged words, and the gunman shot Myles multiple times.

Staples said the two victims were known to regularly leave the home around 5 a.m. "They would tend to go work out every morning together," Staples said.

Police said they are investigating whether robbery may have been a motive, but so far, it does not appear any property was stolen.

Authorities have not released a detailed description of the gunman, who remains at large. The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for anyone with information leading to the arrest of the killer.

Your Witness: Lessons on Cross-Examination and Life from Great Chicago Trial Lawyers

In Your Witness: Lessons on Cross-Examination, fifty of the nation’s top trial lawyers share the secrets of the most engaging, difficult, and dramatic aspect of their work – cross-examination.

These secrets are revealed through richly told courtroom “war stories” with a point. While the stories contain some interesting bits of Chicago “color” – mobsters, corrupt politicians and businessmen, street gangs, mass murderers, sports figures, Nobel Laureates, and Colonel McCormick of the Tribune – many of the stories occur across the nation, and the book has broad appeal to lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

Chapter Authors

Thomas Anthony Durkin, William Kunkle, Don H. Reuben, Edward L. Foote, Robert F. Coleman, Michael T. Hannafan. R. Eugene Pincham, Michael J. Morrissey, Sam F. Adams, C. Barry Montgomery, Robert W. Tarun, Jo-Anne F. Wolfson, Charles B. Sklarsky, Matthias A. Lydon, Gordon B. Nash, Steven P. Handler, Michael W. Coffield, Richard A. Halprin, George N. Leighton, Thomas M. Chrisham, James S. Montana, Jr., Michael D. Monico, Marc W. Martin, Steven F. Molo, Peter C. John, Donald Hubert, Patrick A. Tuite, Raymond J. Smith, Walter Jones, Jr., Jeffrey E. Stone, Chris C. Gair, Robert L. Byman, James R. Figliulo, Philip S. Beck, Donald G. Kempf, Jr., Anton R. Valukas, Dan K. Webb, Patricia C. Bobb, Lorna E. Propes, Allan A. Ackerman, Terrence F. MacCarthy, Thomas Breen, Thomas M. Durkin, Vincent J. Connelly, Charles W. Douglas Manuael Sanchez, James D. Montgomery, William J. Martin, Robert A. Clifford, Thomas A. Demetrio

Thursday, April 06, 2017

How Did Chicago became a Cultural Capital of Crime?

The thing outsiders know about Chicago is crime. The mobsters, the street drug gangs, the corrupt operators—these are the most sensationalized aspects of the city. But they are also key factors in its ongoing narrative, the one true Great American Novel that is Chicago. The city with a fiery creation myth grew into a blue-collar metropolis with the help of oily, feudal political machines and assorted local species of crook, leaving a deep, ugly legacy. It is written in our street grid, our transit lines, and our segregated accents, in which one can still hear both the old white ethnic strongholds and the Great Migration. It can be a very beautiful city, especially at night. In those icy parts of winter that have become more rare since I first moved here, the unique nighttime color of Chicago reflects in every direction. The flatness of the landscape and the straightness of the streets bring its divisions into deep focus. I’m proud to show it off. It is a city on the prairie, and therefore a city of the plain, like Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis.

For a time in the 1850s, there were so many problems with drainage that it became a swamp and had to raise itself up on jackscrews. So really, a Chicagoan has their pick of origin stories. The curse of the so-called Second City is that it lends itself effortlessly to symbolism and especially to metaphor, to the point that you start to believe that it just might be one. I’ve lived here longer now than I have anywhere else, and I have come to love this aspect of the city. When Chicagoans speak—whether they are true locals or transplants like myself, who have come to its ways through prolonged exposure—they speak its complicated history. This is the diverse Southern-inflected sound of black Chicago, the “Chi-cah-go” and “Chi-caw-go” pronunciations that classify white accents, and that perfect formulation of terse Midwesternese, the stranded “with,” as in the classic “You wanna come with?” They say “jagoff” is a Pittsburgh word, but Chicago owns it.

Really, there are many Chicagos, bound almost psychically. It is better maybe to try to grasp it in terms of its architecture—which is really one of the most beautiful things about it—and planning. For instance, Chicago is the alley capital of the world. There are about 1,900 miles of alleyways running through almost every block of the city, regulated to a minimum width of 16 feet, some much wider. The alley is part of day-to-day life in Chicago: It’s where we take our shortcuts and bring our trash. It’s why Chicago doesn’t smell as bad as other big cities. It lacks that note of garbage that gives New York streets their character. The kind of buildings we call two- or three-flats, whether brick, frame, or Indiana limestone (called “greystone” locally), will often have a gangway, a passage that lets you cut from the sidewalk to the alley. My favorites are the ones that dip under a protruding oriel. And most of the apartments in those two- and three-flats will have two doors, one in the front and one in the rear. It’s a city of backstreets and backdoors.

Chicago crime is a unique phenomenon. In broad statistics, it is not that dangerous a place; the rates of burglary and theft are low for an American city, and many of its neighborhoods experience negligible violent crime. This is a common defense tactic for Chicagoans, especially white Chicagoans—the “well, not my Chicago” plea. But this is as much a fantasy as the Trumpian burning of the quote-unquote “inner city.” Chicago crime inspires fascination because it is entrenched and so specific, so troublingly connected to a diverse city that otherwise eludes broad social generalizations. One fact about Chicago is that it has more nicknames in common circulation than any other place in this country, all of them kind of tacky: the Windy City, the Second City, Chi-Town and its pun variations, the City Of Big Shoulders. There are many others, too. Defining the spirit of Chicago is a bad parlor game. The nice parts of it are very nice, but for more than 90 years, it has been world-famous as a place where people get gunned down in the street. Throughout its history runs a succession of criminal boom industries: gambling, policy, liquor, crack, heroin.

The criminal conglomerates of Prohibition and the small sets of the West Side’s Heroin Highway are part of one uninterrupted story, though unwittingly. The story is the city. It goes back to the 1870s and the reign of “Big Mike” McDonald as the king of Chicago’s gambling underworld. It goes through generations of increasingly more effective political machines and increasingly larger criminal syndicates, colluding in political and commercial networks that made the street gangs seem like the inevitable result of a complicated equation. Let us assume a few things here as starting points: that the city and its underworlds have existed for a long time in a relationship that is more complex than host and parasite; that political and criminal groups in the city, however big or small, play variations on a similar game involving the flow and direction of movement; and that the city is itself a crossroads, its entire story defined by lines of interstate transit, be it the Illinois Central Railroad that transported half a million black job-seekers from the South during the Great Migration, or the Sinaloa Cartel network from which most of the cocaine and heroin of its current drug economy is believed to originate.

For Chicago, there is no artistic or cultural history without its social history, no social history without its political history, and no political history without crime. The mob is a staple of our tourist kitsch industry: the Al Capone T-shirt and the Untouchables bus tour, right up there with Mike Ditka’s hairspray, the goddamn Blues Brothers, and that casserole we call a deep-dish pizza. But the mob was always corny, even at its scariest. For decades, it was almost everywhere. I’ll give you an example: The Russian bathhouse immortalized by Saul Bellow in Humboldt’s Gift was actually a mob hangout. It was still owned by an Outfit family in the years that I lived across from it on Division Street, one of the more darkly perfect street names in Chicago.

Michael Mann’s 1981 debut feature, Thief (Special Director's Edition), is to my mind the best Chicago crime film set after Prohibition and one of the great artistic interpretations of the city’s nocturnal character. It was made in the last years that Chicago nights glowed bluish-green, before the city had completed the changeover from mercury vapor lighting to the sodium vapor lamps that produce its present honey-bronze haze. Much as alleyways have both a practical and a mystical relationship to the city’s networks of crime, so it is possible to chart eras of criminality through the history of its public lighting. Crime is a largely nocturnal activity, after all, as are most of the vices on which the city’s criminal syndicates were built. In the Prohibition and Great Depression golden age of Chicago crime, most of the streets were still gas-lit and very dim. This was the fabled era of the Tommy Gun mobsters, but also of the bank-robbing outlaw, embodied by the Chicago-based Dillinger Gang, the subject of Mann’s underappreciated crime epic Public Enemies. Mercury vapor arrived in the mid-1950s, along with Richard J. Daley’s Democratic political machine and the solidification of the Chicago Outfit, the white mob, which in those years finally murdered and intimidated its way into the territory of the city’s forgotten black crime syndicates. The most recognizable type of streetlight in Chicago was introduced in this era. It’s a bucket-shaped design unique to the city, called the General Electric Crimefighter.

Thief is not a film about the Outfit, but it features an Outfit operative as a character, played by the avuncular stage veteran Robert Prosky. You have probably seen a picture of Al Capone. Chances are it’s the glamour shot with his head turned and the cigar stuffed in his cheek and the size 6 7/8 cream-white Borsalino on his little head. This is the most flattering picture of Capone. As a young man, he had the pudgy face and baggy eyes of a fortysomething bank manager. He was 26 when he inherited Johnny Torrio’s criminal empire and was out of power by the age of 33. But in movies and TV, he is always played by older actors, trimmer or more barrel-chested, always tougher-looking than the real man: Rod Steiger in Al Capone; Neville Brand, Robert De Niro, and William Forsythe in successive versions of The Untouchables; Jason Robards in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre; Stephen Graham on Boardwalk Empire. But there were never any handsome gangsters. They were all funny-looking, and with the exception of the flashy Capone years, they dressed like shit.

The Outfit was the successor to Capone’s organization, and in that era of mercury vapor lighting, when the tint of the night suggested an extended twilight, their look was Sansabelt, grandpa glasses, and starched short sleeves. Mann grew up in the long-gone Jewish quarter of the Humboldt Park neighborhood, as did Saul Bellow a generation earlier, and he is one of the few to try to capture this banal, used-car-salesman aspect of the Chicago mob. To me, he is one of the geniuses of the genre; in all of his crime films, there is a complex dialogue between authenticity and archetype. His favorite type of verisimilitude is the kind that directly contradicts expectations. In Thief, for instance, the safe-cracker played by James Caan—the first of the single-minded professionals that would become Mann’s contribution to the mythology of the crime genre—doesn’t press the resonator of a stethoscope against a door and listen to the tumblers; he uses an industrial oxygen lance, lent to Mann by an actual Chicago-area burglar. And while Prosky’s role might seem like a case of casting against type, if you look at pictures of Outfit bosses from the time, that’s what they all looked like.But here’s the thing: The imagery Mann subverts with this more realistic portrayal—and uses to formulate his own mythology—is also Chicagoan in origin. It was Chicago that birthed both the gangster picture and the notion of street criminal chic, and it really took until The Godfather for there to be a major American film that took its cues from the clannish organized crime culture of the East Coast. Even the great New York gangster movies that came before The Godfather, like Raoul Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties and Budd Boetticher’s The Rise And Fall Of Legs Diamond, are based on an archetype born of the Second City. Most film historians will tell you that there are two definitive early gangster films: Underworld, directed in 1927 by Josef Von Sternberg, and Howard Hawks’ insurmountable 1932 Scarface. Both are set in Chicago, as were almost all early American gangster movies—Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, the whole lot. The gritty city stuck in the imagination of ’30s Hollywood much in the same way as Paris and Vienna did, less a real-world setting than a genre in and of itself. Films about criminal gangs go back to the early 1900s, but they depict their bad guys mostly as ragged, unshaven goons in flat caps. The seductive criminals of the silent era are swindlers and masterminds. The idea that coarse, murderous thugs could be flamboyant, magnetic, and sexy—that comes from the Chicago of Al Capone and John Dillinger.

Both Underworld and Scarface were based on stories by Ben Hecht, though the latter was nominally adapted from a forgotten pulp novel of the time. Before he became one of the greatest screenwriters in the history of Hollywood, Hecht was a Chicago Daily News crime reporter, an experience he would draw on many times—most famously in The Front Page, one of several collaborations with his crime-desk colleague Charles MacArthur, subsequently reworked as His Girl Friday. Hecht was one of a number of literary men who worked in the Chicago dailies of the 1920s (the poet Carl Sandburg was also at the Chicago Daily News at the time), and the best of a tradition of newspapermen who treated the job of columnist as though it made them prose-poet laureate of Chicago. A reader of modernist and symbolist literature, he was also involved in the Little Review, the Chicago literary magazine famous as the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which was originally serialized over several years in its pages. In Underworld, released at a time when Joyce’s landmark novel was still banned as obscene in the United States, there is a villainous Irish gangster named Buck Mulligan, after the central character of the first chapter of Ulysses—a fact that I’ve always found amusing.

The classic, Hecht-ian gangster drew on the public’s morbid fascination with Chicago crime to create something almost modernist—this wanton criminal as an epic figure in an expressively metaphorical cityscape. This is true of Scarface, a masterpiece that was the work of a number of remarkable talents, not just Hawks and Hecht. One of the many memorable things about Scarface is the use of signage as commentary and ironic counterpoint: the famous “The World Is Yours” travel ad (carried over in Brian De Palma’s loose 1983 remake); the body lying under the crossed shadow of a signboard that reads “Undertakers”; the lit-up marquee of the club called “Paradise No. 2.” The Godfather would refashion the gangster as a creature of family and loyalty, but in his original conception, he was a creature of the city. Scarface’s Capone-inspired title character doesn’t rise to power in the middle of nowhere, but in a darkly comic metropolis that seems to empower and mock him in equal measure. In other words, he rises to power in Chicago.

It should be pointed out that almost all Chicago-set Hollywood films produced from the late 1920s to the 1970s are about mobsters, crime, or corruption. We’re talking Nicholas Ray’s Party Girl, assorted half-remembered noirs, various versions of the Roxie Hart story (including one written by Ben Hecht), the premise of Some Like It Hot. Of these, only Arthur Penn’s Mickey One, the film that first attempted to apply a French New Wave sensibility to home-grown pulp, did any substantial filming here, capturing both its decrepit alleys and its modernist architecture in stark black-and-white. It was only in the 1980s that the city became a popular filming location. Perhaps Thief seems definitive because it represents a point of merger—between the mythology of the city and its reality, which already seems fairly stylized.


The great musical legacy of Chicago is the modernization and urbanization of the blues, a rural sound that was electrified by the city and laid the groundwork for most popular music that has come since. One important but underappreciated figure in its development was Kokomo Arnold, who played a rapid bottleneck-slide-guitar blues in a style that still sounds rock ’n’ roll. It is said that he came to Chicago as a bootlegger in the 1920s, but was forced to rely on his musical talents for a living after the end of Prohibition, trading one business of handling bottles for another. However, when it comes to stories about bluesmen, one can never be sure. Arnold’s recording of “Old Original Kokomo Blues” was reworked by the Delta bluesman Robert Johnson into “Sweet Home Chicago,” now the de facto anthem of the city. “Sweet Home Chicago” isn’t actually about Chicago. It uses the name of the city figuratively. It has to be the most singable place name in American English: Chi-ca-go, those three syllables, each ending in a different vowel sound. It lends itself to varied interpretation.

More so than any place in America and perhaps even the world, Chicago was founded on the idea of a city; before it had developed a cultural life of its own, it was a word, a notion, and a destination, ballooning over the second half of the 19th century from a smallish midland settlement into what was then the fifth largest city in the world. It is a place that inspires ideals—from the Wobblies to the aesthetic of Afrofuturism, the Hull House to the tradition of philosophizing architects embodied by Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Frank Lloyd Wright. But how much of Chicago’s idealistic streak is a reaction to its cynical pragmatism? For as long as it has deserved to be called a city, Chicago has had problems with disenfranchisement, corruption, and crime—problems that seem like they were almost designed into the city. I’ll point out here that in his Whitman-esque poem “Chicago,” which is the source of the nickname “the City Of Big Shoulders,” Carl Sandburg also writes: “Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.” And this is the definitive celebration of the city.

It was Nelson Algren who mastered the art of making Chicago’s seediness sound like an exotic quality. He is best known for his novel The Man With The Golden Arm, which is set on that same mythologized stretch of Division Street that was home to Saul Bellow’s Russian bathhouse. Here, I’ll point out that Otto Preminger’s well-known 1955 film adaptation, starring Frank Sinatra as a heroin-addicted jazz drummer, was co-written by an uncredited Hecht, because everything somehow intersects in the novel of Chicago. It opens with a prowling long take down an evocative soundstage street that bears only a faint resemblance to the real city. It’s a Chicago of the imagination, but so are most. In his essay “Chicago: City On The Make,” published two years after The Man With The Golden Arm, Algren gave the city one of its most famous panegyrics: “Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.” Like so many Chicago transplants who came here in the mid-2000s to lead a quasi-bohemian existence, I have this passage memorized. But it did not occur to me until many years later to ask who broke the woman’s nose.
Iceberg Slim on the cover of his 1976 spoken-word album, Reflections.

The fact is that, while the crime and corruption provide links between Chicago’s countless neighborhoods, their effects have always been graded by skin color. I know of no black writer of the same periods who wrote of Chicago crime as a sign of its resilient spirit, as Sandburg did, or as an Algren-esque existential quality, the proof of its hustle—not even Iceberg Slim, who was second only to Ben Hecht in developing and popularizing the mythology of the street criminal. Slim—who was born Robert Maupin, but took Robert Beck as his legal name in middle age—had been a dapper pimp in the black underworld of Chicago and the upper Midwest in the 1940s and 1950s, until a breakdown in the Cook County Jail led him to retire. He had been known as Cavanaugh Slim. It was while working as an exterminator in Los Angeles that he wrote his autobiographical novel Pimp: The Story Of My Life, a bestseller that would come to define the voice of gritty urban pulp. Along with his subsequent crime novels and the follow-up memoir The Naked Soul Of Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck’s Real Story, it would exert a profound aesthetic and thematic influence on gangsta rap, blaxploitation films and black variations on noir (Bill Duke’s Deep Cover, for example), and the prose of a vast array of fiction writers, most notably Donald Goines and Irvine Welsh.

Slim was a complicated figure. Like Chester Himes, the godfather of black noir, and Ed Jones, the most powerful black kingpin of Slim’s early years in Chicago, he had a go at a respectable college education before lapsing into crime—though, admittedly, he already had a lengthy rap sheet by the time he arrived at Tuskegee, where he was a student around the same time as Ralph Ellison. As a prose writer, he was ecstatic and contradictory, the king of mixed metaphors, capable of lucidly deconstructing the misogyny and self-loathing of his criminal past one moment and juicing readers with lurid sexual exploits the next. Like Hecht, he sculpted the seductive aspect of Chicago crime—but in place of the classic gangster film’s anti-social pizzazz, what he presented was a cool, toughened nihilism. Perhaps Slim came to believe his own legend. After he found recognition as a writer, he adopted the public image of a wocka-wocka mid-1970s pimp, though his own heyday had been in the days of boogie-woogie and parted hair.

Indulge me now and take a moment to listen to “County Jail Blues,” a 1941 B-side by the Chicago blues pianist Big Maceo Merriweather. It’s an ageless song, and, in my opinion, one of the great overlooked blues recordings of the 1940s. The guitarist is Tampa Red, who played a gold-plated steel-body guitar that sounds remarkably like an electric. In its ideal form, blues is not glamorous music.

The cultural legacy of Chicago crime is really two stories, but they are intertwined. The first is a story of myths, plucked from the streets and alleys of the city and fermented in the popular imagination. The second is a complex narrative of devil’s bargains between art, business, political machinery, and crime. It stretches from the brothels of the early 20th century to the super-sized media conglomerates of the present day. Let me relate one small part of it.

The first black millionaires in America were probably policy kings, most likely in that densely populated area of the South Side that was then known as the Black Belt. Policy was an illegal lottery in which winning numbers were drawn from policy wheels (often rigged), which in Chicago bore such names as the Airplane, the Kentucky Derby, and the Prince Albert. It was a huge enterprise, with each wheel having its own drops, runners, and policy writers—not to mention a whole sub-industry of numerologists and hucksters who called themselves “policy professors” and hawked dream-based winning formulae in the ad pages of the Chicago Defender. If you want to try to get a sense of the spirit of the time, take a listen to “Four Eleven Forty-Four,” by Papa Charlie Jackson, the sardonic, banjo-playing chronicler of life in Chicago’s black neighborhoods in the 1920s and the first commercially successful self-accompanied blues musician; the title is the prototypical number combination, or gig, and a byword for policy itself.

The great policy kings are mostly forgotten now: Policy Sam, Mushmouth Johnson, Teenan Jones, Ed Jones (no relation) and his brothers, Dan Jackson, Teddy Roe. But their influence on the economic and political life of the city can’t be overstated. For the first half of the 20th century, the white powers that be considered them essential to the black vote in Chicago. When it comes to this city’s history, one should probably always think cynically and feudally: a community where the largest local employer, voter registration effort, charity, and source of capital is a single criminal racket is a corrupt administrator’s dream. Political machines gave policy kings leeway to keep them in power. During their reign, the center of black nightlife in Chicago was a section of the Bronzeville neighborhood known as “The Stroll.” How perfect is that, in a city where control is synonymous with directing movement?

The 1920s and ’30s were Chicago’s heyday as a center of jazz talent and innovation. One of the most important clubs of this era was the Grand Terrace, known in its early years as the Sunset Cafe. The building—originally a garage, and until recently a hardware store—still stands on 35th Street. This was where Louis Armstrong became a star with a teenage Cab Calloway as his master of ceremonies, where Nat King Cole got his first break, and where the trailblazing pianist and bandleader Earl “Fatha” Hines had his 12-year residency, playing a piano bought for him by Al Capone. In the ’30s, the Grand Terrace had its own national radio show, broadcast live every night. Policy kings owned many popular clubs on The Stroll, including Palm Tavern (owned by Genial Jim Knight) and the Elite No. 2 (owned by Teenan Jones), which I’m almost certain inspired the similarly comical name of Scarface’s Paradise No. 2. But the most lucrative and glamorous spots were integrated black-and-tan clubs like the Grand Terrace and the Plantation, which was located across the street. Both were controlled by the Capone organization through Jewish associates.


Unlike the Outfit that succeeded him, Capone made a point of leaving the black syndicates alone. There were many reasons for this, including the fact that the mob and the policy kings were both colluding with the Republican political machine headed by Mayor William H. Thompson, a flagrantly corrupt figure who believed that the one true enemy of America was the British crown. But the one that matters here is the mob’s intended audience. The Grand Terrace attracted many wealthy black customers, from bona fide celebrities to local crime lords (Icerberg Slim’s mentor, “Baby” Bell, spent there lavishly), but it was designed to draw in white money. Anyone who wanted to make a career in Chicago had to play the mob’s segregated circuit. The white jazzmen (including such talents-in-training as Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman) mostly played whites-only venues, while the black jazzmen played black-and-tan clubs, where white musicians could sit and play if they wanted. The privilege did not go the other way around.

Thus, the mob invisibly controlled the direction of musical influence, as it did so many other things that may seem intangible. Its monopoly on early Chicago jazz had many consequences, one of which was an eventual exodus of talent, beginning with the great cornetist King Oliver, who led the band at the Plantation Café. Oliver was a true tragic figure; he gradually lost his teeth and the ability to play to severe gum disease, ended up working as a janitor in a pool hall, and died broke in a rooming house. In the mythology of jazz, his downfall into obscurity and fatal poverty is all the result of his refusal to take a lowball offer for a regular gig at the Cotton Club, which instead catapulted Duke Ellington to stardom. This is the thing to remember: Much of the formative 1930s period of jazz, a music with deep black roots, happened on terms set by white criminals. After the black-and-tan clubs went out of fashion toward the end of the 1930s, the Chicago mob got into coin-operated jukeboxes. Thankfully, they never developed an interest in blues.

Regardless of age or gender, Chicago will turn you into an old man giving directions. Every story reminds of another story, and a story of something that used to be there—because it’s really all one story. After the Outfit took control of policy and bolita, a similar numbers game popular in the city’s Latino neighborhoods, they became absorbed into the gambling and vice empire of the Rush Street crew, whose day-to-day manager went daily to Saul Bellow’s beloved Russian bathhouse on Division Street. The Grand Terrace, having finally gone out of business, became the headquarters of the Democratic congressman William L. Dawson. He was the black sub-boss of Chicago’s political machine, and, in theory, the most powerful black politician of the 1950s. He didn’t redecorate the Grand Terrace. It still had its big neon sign (with a smaller sign with his name added) and its Jazz Age murals and private upstairs clubrooms. The last regular bandleader at the Grand Terrace had been the jazz iconoclast Sun Ra, who was then just developing his sci-fi aesthetic in Chicago.

Dawson’s position within the political machine was a feudal lordship; it was dependent on his ability to bring out black voters en masse. The political machine, in turn, depended on segregation and on interchanges with the underworld. The link between the Outfit’s earlier inroads on The Stroll and the Democratic political machine’s command of the post-war black voting block was made literal and blatant by the continued use of the Grand Terrace. There, Dawson’s landlord was Joe Glaser, the manager of Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday and a longtime Outfit man. Glaser, who had an early history of walking away from sexual-assault charges, had been a boxing promoter who specialized in fixing fights for the mob and then a manager of black-and-tan clubs. After the repeal of Prohibition destroyed the Outfit’s stranglehold over Chicago liquor, he would rob delivery trucks to stock the bar of the Grand Terrace.

The management company Glaser created—and willed to the Outfit lawyer and power broker Sidney Korshak, unbeknownst to Armstrong—was funded by a loan from Jules Stein, an ophthalmologist, former bar mitzvah musician, and jazz booker for the Chicago mob circuit. Stein’s booking company was MCA, which started with speakeasies and black-and-tan clubs and became the largest talent agency in the world by the end of 1930s, all while being effectively controlled by the Capone organization. It acquired Universal Pictures, and expanded beyond talent management into film, television, music, and publishing. It kept its ties to the Outfit and carried over the city’s culture of patronage to Hollywood, where it encouraged the political ambitions of its client Ronald Reagan. At the start of this century, it merged with Vivendi to create NBCUniversal and Universal Music Group. This is the story of the Outfit controlling who worked in one building in Chicago. It’s a big city. There are many buildings.


If you are ever in Chicago, consider taking a drive through the city at night. Let the car rattle on the badly pockmarked streets. Your eyes will adjust to the amber sear of the General Electric Crimefighters and to that other feature of Chicago nighttimes, the blue flash of a police camera box. There are thousands mounted around the city. Turn down an alley and think of the fact that even in the earliest plat of Chicago, dating to the 1830s, there were plans for alleyways. Park the car, get out, and study how the dimensions and alignment of the streets and sidewalks affect your movements. Don’t think of crime as troglofauna, pale and eyeless, evolving in the dank corners of the city. In Chicago, crime moves, often along currents defined by earlier forms of crime. It’s structural.

Given that they have brought Chicago its most sensationalized coverage since the days of Al Capone, it seems interesting that there have been no real fiction films about the street gangs. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq doesn’t count. Its portrayal of Chicago’s gangland is pure fantasy, influenced by the mythology of gangsta rap—which is to say, indirectly indebted to Iceberg Slim. Even in fiction, the city can’t escape the myths it inspires. You could say that about drill, our distinctive midtempo flavor of nihilistic trap rap. Drill tends to be oversimplified as the authentic sound of modern Chicago crime, which is how it sells itself, existing as it does in a complicated relationship with the histories and ongoing conflicts of Chicago’s drug gangs, grouped in the increasingly meaningless six-pointed-star Folk and five-pointed-star People alliances.

Really, drill is internet music. It owes its local significance, popularity, and very existence to limitless digital space and social media. Drill is the dizzying, exhaustive braggadocio of Montana Of 300’s “Holy Ghost”; the squishy nausea of Lil Durk’s “Glock Up”; and the hammering of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like”; but it is also a thousand guys who can’t rap boasting about the same shit over $50 beats while hustling for Instagram followers and YouTube views. Quality drill albums are nonexistent, and consistent drill mixtapes are rare as hen’s teeth; the ratio of filler to killer is notoriously poor. The mise-en-scène is remarkably consistent from video to video: guns; unimpressive cars; alleys, gangways, and iron gates; ugly weather; those hideous kitchen cabinets that seem to have been installed in every Chicago apartment, regardless of neighborhood. But cheapness and a lack of inspiration are part of the authenticity factor, because drill is immediate. It’s also on the outs, having never crossed over the way that the Savemoney scene made famous by Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa has.

Nowadays, Chicago crime is defined by the street sets, mostly black or Latino, related by business and varying adherence to the mythology of the gang, prone to violent infighting and splintering. What makes this underworld special is that most of its artistic record is self-produced. These are the patch-sewn cardigans and calling cards of the old-school 1970s street gangs; the outsider literature of the Gangster Disciples’ manuals, more cultish than criminal; the hieroglyphic symbolism of the gang tags that cover Chicago’s alley-facing garage doors; meandering amateur movies in which people pretend to shoot each other with real guns; drill. Despite the early ambitions of the Vice Lords and the Latin Kings organizations, the street gangs have only ever been politically useful as bogeymen. By most estimates, there are around 100,000 street gang members in Chicago, divided into about 60 organizations that are in turn split into about 700 groups. Not every Chicago gang is a violent criminal enterprise, but the majority of murders in Chicago are gang-related, and most of them go unsolved.

There is nothing transgressive about our gangs. Chicago is a place where one can always map the relationship between the criminal and the city. It taught the world that the street criminal could be a charismatic figure and inspired a mythic bestiary of genre archetypes: the terse Mann-ian professional facing obsolescence; the mobster gunning for the throne of the city; the nihilist pimp who knows it’s all part of the game; the folk-hero bank-robber shot by lawmen in the back; the corrupt and colorful wheeler-dealer. But the street gangs can’t be understood on those terms. To an outsider, their public beefs can sound like the sectarian conflicts of a post-apocalyptic religion; witness the bloody feud between the Bang Bang Gang Terror Dome subset of the Black P. Stones and the New Money Killaward subset of the Gangster Disciples, which in 2015 caught the attention of a city otherwise desensitized to the idea of gangland murders.
Screenshot: Candyman

The ongoing social tragedy of murder in Chicago isn’t that there are so many (there are a lot, but it’s never ranked among the top American cities in that respect), but that they are so similar, the same m.o. repeated over and over again. It can reach the point where you almost trick yourself into thinking of the urban gangland as an organism or serial-killer hive mind. But it isn’t. The foibles of the street gangs are very human. And, though we don’t like do admit it, they are relatable.

The French novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette liked to call crime fiction “the great moral literature of our time,” a statement I sometimes find myself agreeing with. There is no more efficient way of putting a character in a moral and existential crisis than a crime, and it is a dark truth of every developed society that, regardless of circumstances, we are all capable of committing a heinous crime. The question of why some do while most don’t directly addresses an important piece of the human puzzle. But in this chapter of the ongoing story of sin in Chicago—the story as told in film, in music, in the media—crime has become a setting, a fact of the neighborhoods, not a question of personalities. No documentary about the day-to-day lives of street gangs (and there are a lot of them, made mostly for TV) has had the wider appeal of Steve James’ Hoop Dreams or The Interrupters—though, of course, none of them are as well made. This is a net positive.But let me posit something that may seem counterintuitive. It isn’t a plea for a return to romanticized crime, though I do think that the forbidden lure of the illegal and immoral can be subverted in powerful ways; it’s something many of the great crime narratives do. But I do think that the art that most cogently addresses crime—whether as a real-world social issue or as an existential state—is art about criminals, because it puts its audience in a compromised spot. There is something of a moral duty to resist the othering of crime. When we begin to think of gangs exclusively as a social phenomenon, instead of as people in groups, we dehumanize not just the gangs, but the people they exploit and victimize, a category that includes the gangs themselves.

One of the more often cited example of this is the 1992 horror film Candyman, which places a supernatural threat within the crime-infested projects. (If you have the time, I recommend watching our short video documentary on the film.) It’s set in Cabrini-Green, which was then the most notorious housing project in Chicago; it was also the home of one of the subjects of Hoop Dreams, the setting of the ’70s sitcom Good Times, and the subject of several documentaries of its own. Candyman is a film that raises some interesting ideas early on, but waffles on them. In the end, it falls back on that all-too-popular image of the urban gangland as a monster, a variant of what one might call the second curse of Chicago—the idea of the city itself as an abstract threat. But it’s always people. Cabrini-Green is gone now, long demolished. In Chicago, it was symbolic of controlled disenfranchisement: a 15,000-person enclave of poverty in an affluent area. The street that ran directly down the middle of the complex—well, you can probably already guess this one. It was Division.

Thanks to Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.