Friday, November 17, 2017

Salvatore "Toto" Riina, Notorious Mafia #BossofBosses Has Died

Mafia “boss of bosses” Salvatore “Toto” Riina died early Friday in a hospital while serving multiple life sentences as the mastermind of a bloody strategy to assassinate Italian prosecutors and law enforcement officers trying to bring down the Cosa NostraBoss of Bosses Salvatore Riina, Italian media reported. He was 87.

Riina died hours after Italy’s justice minister had allowed the crime boss’ his family members bedside visits Thursday, which was his birthday, after he had been placed in a medically induced coma at a hospital in Parma. Italian media said his health had deteriorated after two recent surgeries.

News of the death was carried by the ANSA news agency, RAI state TV and all major newspaper websites. The Justice Ministry was not able to confirm the news immediately, and the prison would not take calls.

Riina, one of Sicily's most notorious Mafia bosses, was serving 26 life sentences for murder convictions as a powerful Cosa Nostra boss. He was captured in Palermo, Sicily's capital, in 1993 and imprisoned under a law that requires strict security for top mobsters, including being detained in isolated sections of prisons with limited time outside their cells.

Prosecutors accused Riina, who ruthlessly directed the mob's criminal empire during 23 years in hiding, of masterminding a strategy, carried out over several years, to assassinate Italian prosecutors, police officials and others who were going after the Cosa Nostra, when he allegedly held the helm as the so-called boss of bosses.

The bloodbath campaign ultimately backfired, however, and led to his capture.

Riina was born in the mountain town of Corleone in central Sicily. The town's name was borrowed for the main character in the “Godfather” novels by Mario Puzo, written years before Riina rose in the Mafia ranks.

Investigators believe that Riina, the son of a Corleone farmer, jockeyed his way to the top of the Mafia by pitting rivals against each other, and then standing out of the way of the bloodshed that felled one boss after the other in the 1970s.

He went into hiding in 1969 after being ordered by the state to leave Sicily after he had finished serving a five-year prison sentence for Mafia association. During his decades on the lam, the only picture authorities had of the fugitive was more than 30 years old.

More than one Mafia defector had said that Riina had come and gone as he pleased during the years as Italy's top fugitive. Riina was handed his first life sentence in 1987 after being tried in absentia on murder and drug trafficking charges.

For decades, Riina seemed to mock law enforcement as he reigned from underground over the mob's drug trafficking network and ordered the deaths of top anti-Mafia fighters.

But after bombs killed Italy's two leading anti-Mafia magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two months apart in 1992, the state stepped up its crackdown on Sicily's Mafiosi.

Anti-Mafia investigators worked with turncoats to zero in on the “capo dei capi,” locating Riina and blocking his car on a Palermo thoroughfare on Jan. 15, 1993.

Riina steadfastly refused to collaborate with law enforcement after his capture.

The archbishop of Monreale, which includes Corleone, said Friday that Riina's death “ends the delusion of the Cosa Nostra boss of bosses' omnipotence.”

“But the Mafia has not been defeated, and therefore we should not let down our guards,” Archbishop Michele Pennisi said in an email to the Associated Press.

Pennisi said he had no information on whether family members intended to transfer Riina's body to Corleone, but he said that a public funeral would not be allowed since Riina was a “public sinner.”

“If the family members ask, a private prayer in the cemetery will be considered,” he added.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Born to the Mob: The True-Life Story of the Only Man to Work for All Five of New York's Mafia Families

Frankie Saggio reminisces about the era of true wise guys like his Uncle Philly -a contemporary of Al Capone. After all, it was Frankie's uncle who "taught him the value of a dollar and how to steal it from someone else." Uncle Philly was from a day when being in a mafia family meant being bound by blood and honor, not like modern day families whose only concern is money.

For Frankie, the only way to avoid the modern mob treachery is to avoid getting involved with any single mob family, working "freelance" for all five. Frankie can do this because he is one of the biggest earners in the business, pulling down millions and kicking a share upstairs to the bosses. Though he fights the decision, Frankie is tied by blood to the Bonanno family, Uncle Philly's family, and current home to Philly's murderer. Soon after joining the Bonannos, Frankie narrowly escapes an assassination attempt and is busted for a major scam. With little choice, and even less loyalty to the Bonannos, Frankie turns himself over to the Feds on the one condition that he will tell the feds everything, but will not squeal on his own relatives.

Born to the Mob: The True-Life Story of the Only Man to Work for All Five of New York's Mafia Families.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

4 Years Ago, Whitey Bulger Sentenced to 2 Life Terms + 5 Years, for 11 Murders #OnThisDay

In Boston, MA, crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger was sentenced to two life terms plus five years imprisonment for 11 murders and other racketeering charges, on this day, in 2013.

Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice.

Monday, November 13, 2017

6th Member Of “Manche Boy Mafia” Sentenced To Federal Prison

U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew sentenced Demeko Wells (22, Tampa) to four years and nine months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft. He pleaded guilty on July 19, 2017.

According to court documents and statements made in court, from at least January 2015 through November 2016, Wells and others affiliated with the “Manche Boy Mafia” or “MBM” organization conspired to commit credit card fraud and identity theft in the Tampa Bay area. Investigators learned that these individuals had purchased stolen credit and debit card account numbers online from various websites, some of which used bitcoins as their currency. The conspirators purchased or stole reloadable gift cards and used a machine to emboss the stolen account numbers and their own names onto the front of these altered gift cards, thereby generating counterfeit credit cards. The conspirators then used these counterfeit cards at various retailers around the Tampa Bay area to purchase gift cards and electronics, which they either kept or sold for cash.

Investigators determined that these individuals had engaged in hundreds of successful transactions with counterfeit credit cards, and had possessed and used thousands of stolen account numbers from individuals across the United States. In total, Wells was held responsible for more than $350,000 in intended or attempted purchases with counterfeit credit cards and stolen account information.

Wells’s co-defendant, Maurice Lewis, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced on October 17, 2017, to 61 months in prison.

In a related case, fellow MBM members, Brandon Lewis and Terrance Cobb, were each sentenced to 5 years and 1 month in federal prison; Dontae Williams was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in federal prison; and Davon Smith was sentenced to 5 years and 5 months in federal prison - all for engaging in a conspiracy to commit credit card fraud, credit card fraud, and identity theft.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Genovese La Cosa Nostra Crime Family Associates Plead Guilty to Extortion

Two associates of the Genovese La Cosa Nostra (LCN) crime family pleaded guilty in federal court to extortion-related charges.

Ralph Santaniello, 50, and Giovanni Calabrese, 54, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence; one count of interference with commerce by threats or violence – aiding and abetting; one count of conspiracy to use extortionate means to collect extensions of credit; and one count of using extortionate means to collect extensions of credit – aiding and abetting.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman scheduled sentencing for Jan. 29 for Mr. Santaniello and Jan. 30 for Mr. Calabrese.

The men were arrested and charged in August 2016 along with three other associates, Gerald Daniele, Francesco Depergola and Richard Valentini.

Mr. Santaniello and Mr. Calabrese, along with their alleged co-defendants, were associates of the New York-based Genovese LCN crime family and engaged in various criminal activities in Springfield, including loansharking and extortion from legitimate and illegitimate businesses, such as illegal gambling businesses and the collection of unlawful debts.

The defendants allegedly used violence, exploited their relationship with LCN, and implied threats of murder and physical violence to instill fear in their victims.

In 2013, Mr. Santaniello, Mr. Calabrese, Mr. Depergola and Mr. Valentini allegedly attempted to extort money from a Springfield businessman. Mr. Santaniello assaulted the businessman and threatened to cut off his head and bury his body if he did not comply. Over a period of four months, the businessman paid $20,000 to Mr. Santaniello, Mr. Calabrese, Mr. Depergola and Mr. Valentini to protect himself and his business.

In addition, during a six-month period in 2015, it is alleged that Mr. Daniele extended two extortionate and usurious loans to an individual, and then, along with Mr. Santaniello and Mr. Calabrese, threatened the individual if he did not make payments on the loans.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Felix "Lic Vicc" Beltran, #ElChapo CFO and #Chicago Fugitive, Captured in Mexico

He is the money man behind the world's richest drug dealer, according to U.S. drug investigators.

Felix "Lic Vicc" Beltran was indicted in Chicago in 2015 on allegations he was chief financial officer for the notorious Sinaloa Cartel and its feared leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Even as El Chapo was arrested and continues to await trial in New York City, Felix Beltran had been a fugitive from justice in the Chicago case.

Until now.

The I-Team has learned that Beltran was arrested last Thursday in suburban Mexico City. 30 anti-organized crime agents raided a 9th floor apartment in the tony Santa Fe district southwest of downtown Mexico City where they say the Sinaloa CFO was hiding out.

Beltran is the son of Victor Manuel Félix Félix, "El Señor," who served as Chapo's chief financial officer and consiglieri until his detainment in 2011. According to authorities, "El Vic" served as his father's successor, handling most of the cartel's finances. Police say he was also in charge of the cartel's money laundering operation, and supervised the cartel's heroin production and export into the United States. Some reports have described him as El Chapo's "consigliere," the top advisor to a crime boss-usually associated with the Mafia.

As the I-Team reported in 2015, the U.S. Treasury Department described Félix Beltrán as "a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel trafficker" and the newly installed head of the lucrative Mexico-to-Chicago trafficking operation. That same year, federal prosecutors in Chicago charged him with drug trafficking and money laundering, charges from which he remained a fugitive until his apprehension.

Authorities suspect that Beltran took over as leader of the cartel's Chicago distribution hub after the arrests of Pedro and Margarito Flores, twin brothers from Chicago who helped to bring down El Chapo himself.

Despite cutting off Sinaloa's head with the arrest of El Chapo, his cartel continues to reap major profits from exporting narcotics to Chicago investigators have said.

Federal prosecutors in Chicago declined to say whether they would seek Beltran's immediate extradition. There was a Chicago court filing in his case on Monday but it was ordered seal by Judge Ruben Castillo.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ross Weidner.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Did Al Capone use the Hammond Distillery to Super Charge His Empire During Prohibition?

When the nation went dry, the Hammond Distillery went belly up. But is there truth to the rumors that gangster Al Capone moved the distillery’s product across the state line to help fuel his organized crime empire?

Rich Barnes, former president of the Hammond Historical Society, said he heard Capone purchased the distillery’s existing inventory when Prohibition began and sneaked it across the state line.

Before Prohibition killed the Hammond Distillery, it was arguably the second largest in Indiana, cranking out 25,000 to perhaps 50,000 gallons of alcoholic beverages daily.

The distillery was such a big operation in Hammond that its owner, John E. Fitzgerald, had a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade, allowing the distillery to make large grain purchases to fuel production, Barnes said.

The early days

The Hammond Distillery was on the southeast corner of Calumet Avenue and 150th street, just north of the Grand Calumet River. It began operations in December 1901, according to Barnes.

In The Lake County Times’ first issue, on June 18, 1906, the Hammond Distillery said it had a capacity of 25,000 gallons daily, offering Hammond Bourbon, Hammond Sourmash, Hammond Rye Malt Gin, Hammond Dry Gin, Cologne Spirits and Refined Alcohol.

In 1909, Fitzgerald built a $50,000 plant that would eliminate the need to keep cattle at the distillery to consume the byproduct. Instead, the new building would have enormous evaporates that, it was said, would use 700 to 800 tons of copper. That would dry the slop so it could be shipped to farms for cattle feed.

On Dec. 16 1911, the distillery paid $40,742 in excise taxes to the federal government for a record-breaking shipment of whiskey, taxed at $1.10 per gallon. “Three revenue days like today would pay the cost of building the splendid Hammond federal building,” The Times reported that day.

Drying up

The push for Prohibition began before the Civil War, but accelerated in the progressive era, fueled by the push for women’s suffrage.

Jason Lantzer, assistant director of the University Honors Program at Butler University in Indianapolis, is considered one of the state’s top experts on the alcoholic beverage industry. “The temperance pledge card, there were several of those large national campaigns starting before the Civil War that (would) sweep the country,” Lantzer said. But a card in the wallet won't protect you from lure of saloons, the thinking at the time went, so Prohibition was needed to enforce abstinence.

“Until we remove the temptation, good people are going to (be) hurt by Demon Rum, and King Alcohol and John Barleycorn and all the other wonderful names they had for alcohol,” Lantzer said.

Finally, in 1917, the reformers succeeded in Indiana. “Indiana goes dry ahead of the nation, so we actually enact Prohibition in April 1917, giving brewers, distillers, saloons, everybody a year before they have to close down,” Lantzer said.

“We are not the only country to do that. Just about every nation has some sort of restriction on alcohol, and the rational is twofold — one is on the battleground that soldiers are not drunk, and the other is that grain can be better used for foodstuffs. So there is a definite slowing down on the national level,” Lantzer said.

Business shifts

The Hammond Distillery was hit hard by Prohibition, although World War I kept it in business. It got a government contract to produce alcohol for use in making smokeless gunpowder.

On Dec. 27, 1917, Peter W. Meyn, president of the Lake County Savings & Trust Co., bought the distillery for $65,500 “as an investment to locate a new industry,” The Lake County Times reported. Before Prohibition, the plant was worth five times that price.

Former saloons, a majority owned by breweries by the time Prohibition is passed, become ice cream parlors, selling ice cream and soft drinks, Lantzer said.

A lot of the breweries switched over to other products, whether near beer, which has such a low alcohol content that it didn’t violate Prohibition laws, or medicinal alcohol, or milk and other nonalcoholic beverages. “A lot of the breweries own their own canning and bottling infrastructure, so they switch over to canning and bottling, or at least try to,” Lantzer said.

Organized crime

Barnes said he heard that “Scarface” Al Capone moved alcohol across the state line to fuel his criminal empire. That has Lantzer intrigued.

“There’s this mythology that organized crime in the greater Chicago area, in Northwest Indiana, had to all been linked to Capone,” Lantzer said. “And there’s enough truth to that in that you do have definite Capone-owned or -operated outfits and purchases of different things, and it became very easy to mythologize that that was also by Capone. Whether or not we ever will be able figure out it was or not. But if had to do with organized crime it must have been linked to Al Capone.”

Here’s how it works: “This building was around in the 1920s, so it must have been used by Capone, or there are these stories that they were used by organized crime. Whether that actually happened, I don’t know, but that’s what I’ve been told, or that my uncle’s cousin told him that Capone came here on vacation or something,” Lantzer said of the mythology

Lantzer has heard the rumors, too.

“There’s a story that Capone owned or ran bootleg liquor out of the Paramount Theater in Hammond. Whether or not that’s true, I have no idea.”

May 8, 1929, brought the Capone empire into Hammond if it wasn't there already. That’s when the bodies of three gangsters were found in what is now Douglas Park. Two of them, Giovanni Scalise and Alberto Anselmi, had been implicated in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Right across the state line, in Calumet City, known then as West Hammond, the Capone gang or his organization owned several establishments.

Bootleggers

Could the Hammond Distillery have been in clandestine use during Prohibition? It’s feasible, Lantzer said.

Unless the distilling apparatus was scrapped, it would be easy to continue production, Lantzer said. “So if you’re Capone, you don’t have to bring all that malt in from, say, Canada, and you definitely don’t have to rely on people who were sort of figuring it out on their own, a sort of bathtub gin and moonshine and whatnot.”

What the Hammond Distillery had that other would-be producers didn’t was the know-how to make good alcoholic beverages. “The problem wasn’t the availability of things. If you’ve got corn, yeast and some sugar and can fashion a still, you can make yourself some alcohol. The problem was whether it would be good. Or whether you would kill your customers, because that doesn’t really breed a lot of confidence and repeat confidence when it gets around that Joe down the street bought from you and he’s dead now because he drank what you made,” Lantzer said.

Former alcoholic beverage sites were a target of frequent federal, state and local enforcement agencies. “They knew where those were. So it’s not uncommon for those places to get visited.”

“Maybe it’s fun to attach it to Capone, but maybe it’s a way to say that wasn’t really us, that was an outside element. I think that is something for the 1920s that we need more study on," Lantzer said.

Attacks at the distillery

The distillery saw repeated attacks.

In 1919, The Lake County Times reported, 10 barrels were stolen. In 1921, “whiskey bandits” stole 2,000 gallons after attacking the guards. In 1922, a barrel of whiskey was found in the gasoline tank of a new Auburn Six automobile at the distillery. Thirty bandits cleaned out the distillery in September 1923, and there had been other thefts earlier that year.

Prohibition agent Robert Anderson was shot to death at the Hammond Distillery on April 16, 1923. He had been stationed there less than a year. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has a page dedicated to him on its website.

On Jan. 28, 1924, The Lake County Times published a banner headline, “Rob Hammond Distillery As Guard Gets Drunk.” Twenty armed bandits stole thousands of dollars worth of whiskey before the Prohibition agents could move it to another location.

After Prohibition

In 1933, Prohibition was repealed. The distillery was incorporated in December 1933 with 100,000 shares of stock to be listed at $10 apiece on the Chicago Board of Trade. The plan was to resume distiling operations at the building then occupied by Nowak Milling Corp., with Nowak moving its feed mill to another site.

In March 1934, the distillery was delisted from the Chicago Board of Trade, and plans were made to seek private financing.

On Aug. 15, 1934, the plug was finally pulled on the plan to restart the distillery.

When the plan to restart the distillery was announced, whisky was selling at $1.25 to $1.75 a gallon. A year later, the price had dropped to 40 cents as additional capacity came on line.

Nowak operated at the site until February 1938, when owner Maxwell M. Nowak told The Times he couldn’t afford to pay high taxes and still expect to make a profit.

Thanks to Doug Ross.

Author of "John F. Kennedy Assassination: A Mafia Conspiracy" Discusses His Theory

Jim Gatewood, author of "John F. Kennedy Assassination a Mafia Conspiracy," as well as several other books, was the guest speaker for the Kilgore Rotary Club on Wednesday.

Gatewood spoke about the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, and discussed Mafia history and other facts which cement his theory that the Mafia was behind the assassination, in conjunction with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

The Dallas historian gave historical facts about Mafia activity in Dallas, including details on the life of Benny Binion, now famous for opening the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas and a noted Dallas businessman around the time of the Depression.

Gatewood wove a tale which started back around the time of the Depression, and the path involved noted mobsters from New York, Dallas, Chicago and several other eastern U.S. cities, along with Texas historical figures such as Lone Wolf Gonzales and Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger who helped gun down Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana.

He tied all of that history together with a story about Oswald and his involvement in the Mafia and his association with Cuban Freedom Fighters who were mad because JFK had supposedly issued an order to have Fidel Castro killed.

According to Gatewood, Oswald waited on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository with a look-alike, a Cuban Freedom Fighter who would take the shot if Oswald would not. There were also Cuban Freedom Fighters along the motorcade route to signal the pair when it was time to be ready to fire.

Gatewood said law enforcement in Dallas County knew about an assassination attempt and had their own shooter on the top of the County Records Building to look for snipers. That shooter fired on Oswald's gun after two shots had been fired at Kennedy, causing Oswald's third shot to hit the curb and ricochet into the guard rail.

Oswald hit the president and Texas Gov. John Connally with his first two shots and, according to Gatewood, was firing at Jackie Kennedy with the third shot to make an impact on the shooting that would earn him kudos with the mob.

Oswald missed his ride in a car to the Highland Park Airport, but his look-alike was able to get on the plane.

Jack Ruby, a noted mob figure in Dallas, told Oswald if he missed his plane he should meet him at his apartment, which was near the rooming house where Oswald lived. But, before he could get there, he met Dallas police officer J.D. Tippett and shot him. Then, Oswald was captured at the Texas Theater and Ruby was sent by mobsters to gun him down on Sunday morning, which was seen by millions on national television.

Ruby remained quiet, pleaded guilty to murder of Oswald and died of cancer in prison.

Gatewood offered to discuss his theory with anyone who wanted, and he said he has all of the documentation anyone would want to back up his theory.

Thanks to Greg Collins in 2009.