Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Most Dangerous Casino Mafia In History

Bugsy Siegel is one of America’s most notorious mobsters that was single handedly responsible for several murders, illegal gambling operations, bootlegging operations and even prostitution rings. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was born in 1906 in Brooklyn, New York and he died at the age of 47 when he was shot at the Beverly Hills residence of his then girlfriend, Virginia Hill.

Siegel was known to be a bit of a good-looking philanderer who wasn’t only easy on the eyes, but also had a charismatic personality. Siegel has his hands everywhere, not only was he a key figure in Jewish mobs, but was also had connections within the Italian – American mafia and even the Italian – Jewish National Crime Syndicate.

During the prohibition, Siegel operated mostly as a big shot bootlegger and dealt illegal booze among other things. However, Siegel stepped into illegal gambling and casinos only after the prohibition was lifted and his boot legging was no more as profitable. Even though he was a mastermind behind many operations and crime rings, Siegel was mostly a hit man who knew his way around guns and did not shy away from violence. In the year 1936, Siegel moved away from New York to California.

He frequented Las Vegas, Nevada where he then took his illegal gambling business to the next level. He invested in and managed many of the original casinos. In fact, the Las Vegas strip as we know it today, was shaped and initially sparked by Siegel and his associates.

During his early days, Siegel’s introduction to crime started off simultaneously as his friendship with Meyer Lansky, also known as Meyer Mob, started to blossom. Meyer Mob was the kingpin of a small group of mobsters who were mainly into grand theft auto, larceny and all sorts of illegal gambling operations. Meyer Mob began this gang when he identified that there was no Jewish gang in his neighborhood like how there was an Italian gang and an Irish Gang.

Siegel became one of Meyer Mob’s very first recruits and he served as the hit man and muscle of the group for the most part. It was this exposure to illegal gambling and other criminal operations which gave Siegel the experience and the knowledge which later manifested into he-himself becoming a big shot kingpin and casino owner who was known and feared all across the country.

Siegel loved the lavish life, loved to be a womanizer, loved the nightlife, flashy clothes, swanky houses and flashy cars. However, he also had a reputation for being downright fearless. In an interview with biographers, one of his fellow mobsters, Joseph “Doc” Stacher, had told biographers that Siegel was one of the most fearless men he knew and on one occasion had even saved the lives of his gang members. While everyone was wondering how to cope with an attack, Siegel supposedly would already be all guns blazing.

It was in the late 30’s that Siegel’s life was really under threat and he moved to the east coast. This is when his involvement with casinos really got some traction. His objective during his Californian years was to develop and strengthen syndicate – sanctioned gambling rackets along with Jack Dragna, a Los Angeles family boss.

In the early forties, Siegel and his bookmaking efforts were said to be pulling in a staggering amount of money in the order of nearly half a million a day, which for the forties is really a ludicrous amount. Seigel also had connections with politicians, businessmen, industrial tycoons, attorneys, accountants and lobbyists. In December 1946 Siegel opened The Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino at a cost of $6 million, which was once again, more than an absurd sum in those days.

It was on 20th June, 1947 that Siegel breathed his last breath. He was in his girlfriend’s residence in Beverley Hills and was accompanied by his associate Allen Smith when an assailant shot him multiple times with a .30 caliber. He took two bullets to the head and several more elsewhere in his body and pretty much died on the spot. To this day, nobody has been charged with his murder and the killing remains an unsolved mystery.

Frank Lawrence Rosenthal lived a life so eventful that his life was depicted in Martin Scorsese’s film Casino. Rosenthal was many things, a husband, a father, a professional gambler, an entrepreneur, and when required – a ruthless mobster.

Rosenthal spent his early years learning sports betting in the west side of Chicago. It is said that he would frequently cut class to go partake in sports betting and witness sporting events. From his younger days itself, Rosenthal had a knack for being able to seek out excellent sports bets and make good money in the process. His eye for detail and talent landed him a job with the Chicago outfit. Fast forward a few years and Rosenthal was running the biggest illegal bookmaking operation in the country and worked for the American Mafia.

Even though he was charged and tried on many occasions for illegal gambling and several other charges, it was only once that he was actually convicted. Rosenthal could not care for licenses and regulations and was discovered to have been running multiple casinos without holding a single license.

Rosenthal was the first person to bring sports betting to the US. He was also the one who created the concept of female blackjack dealers which saw the incorporating casino almost double its blackjack driven profits.

Rosenthal survived a murder attempt in 1981 when he sat in his Cadillac Eldorado and it blew up. He is said to have survived the attack because of a manufacturing defect in his car.

In 2008, Rosenthal passed away after suffering a heart attack at the age of 79.

Thanks to Legal Gambling and the Law.

4 Members of Eastside Loco Salvatrucha #MS13 Clique Convicted

A federal jury in Boston convicted four members of MS-13’s Eastside Loco Salvatrucha (ESLS) clique.

Herzzon Sandoval, a/k/a “Casper,” 36; Edwin Guzman, a/k/a “Playa,” 32; and Erick Argueta Larios, a/k/a “Lobo,” 33, a Salvadoran national illegally residing in the U.S., were found guilty of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy. Cesar Martinez, a/k/a “Cheche,” 37, a Salvadoran national illegally residing in the U.S., was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled Herzzon Sandoval’s sentencing for May 29, 2018; Guzman’s sentencing for May 30, 2018; Cesar Martinez’s sentencing for May 31, 2018; and Argueta Larios’s sentencing for June 1, 2018.  

According to 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, specifically against rival gang members, to gain membership in and be promoted within the gang.  Sandoval and Guzman were the leaders, also known as the “first word,” and “second word,” of the ESLS clique in Massachusetts.

On Sept. 20, 2015, Joel Martinez, a/k/a “Animal,” murdered a 15-year-old boy in East Boston.  On Jan. 8, 2016, Joel Martinez was promoted by the gang to “homeboy” status for the 2015 murder with a 13-second beating by other MS-13 members at an ESLS meeting which Sandoval, Guzman, Cesar Martinez and Argueta Larios also attended. Joel Martinez has pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and accepted responsibility for the murder and is awaiting sentencing.

The charge of RICO conspiracy 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 possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine provides for a minimum mandatory sentence of five years and up to 40 years in prison, four years of supervised release, and a fine of $5 million. Martinez and Argueta Larios will be subject to deportation upon the completion of their sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Former Councilman Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud After Stealing Tens of Thousands of Dollars from Campaign Fund

A former Las Vegas City Councilman pleaded guilty to orchestrating a scheme to steal tens of thousands of dollars from his reelection campaign, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson of the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse of the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office.

Ricki Barlow, 46, of Las Vegas, Nevada, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon of the District of Nevada. Sentencing is set for May 31, 2018.

“Rather than serving the community he was elected to represent, Ricki Barlow abused his position of trust and concocted a scheme to line his own pockets,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “Corruption at any level of the government harms the community by undermining the public’s confidence in their elected leaders and government. Because the effects of corruption are so corrosive, the Justice Department and our law enforcement partners are committed to vigorously investigating and prosecuting official corruption wherever it exists.”

“No one, including elected officials, is above the law,” said U.S. Attorney Elieson. “The defendant violated his oath of office and the public’s trust for his personal gain. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting the community and to the vigorous prosecution of all who seek to personally enrich themselves at the public’s expense.”

“The public trust must be something that is cherished by all who serve in positions of public office,” said Special Agent in Charge Rouse. “Sadly, Mr. Barlow abused his position for personal gain. The FBI will continue to root out public corruption where it exists.  If you are in the community and are aware of an elected or appointed official engaging in illegal conduct, I encourage you to notify the FBI or U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, Barlow was a candidate for re-election to the Las Vegas City Council in 2015, for which Barlow solicited donations from members of the Las Vegas community to his campaign, Ricki Barlow for City Council. According to Barlow’s admissions, the campaign treasurer managed the campaign finances through a bank account independent of Barlow, but Barlow maintained ultimate authority over the spending of campaign funds, including how much to pay campaign vendors. In order to secretly divert campaign funds to himself, Barlow admitted to orchestrating a kickback scheme whereby he hired friends and associates to work as campaign vendors, submit inflated invoices at his direction, and then kick back to Barlow approximately half of their campaign paychecks, typically in the form of cash. Barlow admitted to secretly diverting $49,125 in campaign funds for his own personal use and benefit through the kickback scheme.

Barlow also admitted to accepting an additional $17,000 in cash campaign contributions that he never reported to his campaign treasurer or transmitted to the campaign. Instead, Barlow admitted that he diverted the campaign contributions for his own personal use. 

To conceal the scheme to steal campaign funds, Barlow admitted to causing his campaign to submit false campaign finance reports to the Nevada Secretary of State.

Was Investigative Journalist #JanKuciak Murdered by the #Mafia?

Organized crime may have been involved in the shooting death of an investigative journalist in Slovakia, a Canadian reporter said Tuesday as the country's newspapers printed black-and-white front pages to honor the slain journalist.

The bodies of 27-year-old Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, were found Sunday evening in their house in the town of Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava.

Kuciak is the first journalist to be killed in Slovakia. The government is offering 1 million euros ($1.23 million) to anyone who helps authorities find the people responsible.

In an interview Tuesday with the Sme daily, Slovak-based Canadian journalist Tom Nicholson said Kuciak told him before his death that he was working on a story about possible Italian mafia involvement in fraud linked to EU subsidies in eastern Slovakia. Nicholson said he was ready to testify but has not been approached by police yet.

The country's police said the slayings were likely linked to Kuciak's reporting. "I'm not sure what caused Jan's death but I bet my life that this is so," Nicholson said.

Making the story more explosive, Sme said two Italian businessmen operating in Slovakia did business with a senior adviser to Prime Minister Robert Fico.

The opposition called on national police force President Tibor Gaspar and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak to resign and was planning a Wednesday protest rally in Bratislava.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Investigating the Russian Mafia

In the 1990s, the so-called Russian mafia dominated newspaper headlines, political analysis, and academic articles around the world. It was the new scourge, a threat so massive that it was believed to hold the Russian economy hostage. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh announced that the Russian mafia was a significant threat to the national security of the United States.

Before the end of the decade, Director Freeh reversed himself, saying that in reality the magnitude of the danger from the Russian mafia had been overestimated. Heading into the new millennium, the international hue and cry about gangsters from the former Soviet Union subsided dramatically, particularly after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Al-Qaeda shifted the spotlight from organized crime to terrorism and U.S. homeland security. Has the Russian mafia been eradicated or has it simply fallen below the radar?

Countless books and articles have reported on the Russian mafia in breathless terms bordering on hysteria. Casting a broad net, Serio brings a different, more analytical approach to his exploration of the subject. Investigating The Russian Mafia, Part I begins by asking a series of basic questions: What did the Soviets understand 'mafia' to mean? Was this a Russian phenomenon or more broadly-based, multi-ethnic groups? How did the media influence the perception of the Russian mafia? What does a close examination of the official statistics reveal about the nature of crime groups in the former Soviet Union?

In Part II, Serio discusses an overview of attitudes and practices of the criminal world, business, and policing, among others, in Russian history. He demonstrates that many of the forces at work in the 1990s did not originate in the Communist era or arise because of the collapse of the USSR. Part III presents a discussion of the crime groups that developed in the post-Soviet era, the challenges that faced the business world, and the law enforcement response.

This book is not simply a discussion of the Russian mafia. It is an exercise in critical thinking about one of the major developments in international crime over the past two decades. Readers will be challenged to examine information being presented by the media and government authorities, to put the current news stories in a broader historical and cultural context, and learn to ask questions and arrive at their own conclusions. Investigating the Russian Mafia is ideal for students, law enforcement, practitioners, and business people operating in the former Soviet Union, as well as the general reader.

Serio brings a unique perspective to his subject matter. He lived in the former Soviet Union for seven years, witnessing the country and culture from a variety of angles. In the Soviet era he was a tourist and student in Moscow. He also served in a unique internship in the Organized Crime Control Department of the Soviet police prior to the collapse of the USSR. In the 1990s, he worked as a media consultant to The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, BBC, the Chicago Tribune, and others. Serio became a security consultant to the global corporate investigation and business intelligence firm, Kroll Associates, and later served as director of Kroll's Moscow office overseeing investigations across the former Soviet Union.

Investigating The Russian Mafia.

NanoCore Rat & Net Seal Developer Sentenced for Aiding and Abetting CyberCriminal Computer Intrusions

An Arkansas man was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for aiding and abetting computer intrusions.

According to court documents, Taylor Huddleston, 27, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, developed, administered, marketed, and distributed two products that were extremely popular with cybercriminals around the world.

The first is the “NanoCore RAT,” which is a type of malicious software, or “malware,” that is used to steal information from victim computers, including sensitive information such as passwords, emails, and instant messages. The NanoCore RAT even allowed users to surreptitiously activate the webcams of infected computers in order to spy on the victims. Huddleston’s NanoCore RAT was used to infect and attempt to infect over 100,000 computers.

Huddleston’s other product, “Net Seal,” was a licensing software that he and his customers (co-conspirators) used to distribute malware for a fee. For instance, Huddleston used Net Seal to assist Zachary Shames in the distribution of malware to 3,000 people that was in turn used it to infect 16,000 computers.

In his guilty plea, Huddleston admitted that he intended his products to be used maliciously.

Robert Acosta and Jose "Cano" Diaz Charged with 1997 Double Murder for Hire in #TheBronx over Stolen Drug Money

Geoffrey S. Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and James P. O’Neill, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging ROBERT ACOSTA and JOSE DIAZ, a/k/a “Cano,” with the December 22, 1997, murders of Alex Ventura, 25, and Aneudis Almonte, 20.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Today’s indictment alleges that more than two decades ago, Robert Acosta orchestrated, and Jose Diaz carried out, the murders of Alex Ventura and Aneudis Almonte. Now, thanks to the outstanding work of the NYPD and FBI, the long arm of the law has reached back over two decades to charge Acosta and Diaz with those terrible crimes.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “This case proves why there is no time limit on holding someone responsible for murder; taking a human life is the worst crime a person can commit. Our agents and law enforcement partners work daily, pursuing suspects in crimes that seem unsolvable. The time and dedication make it worth the effort.”

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:  “After more than twenty years on-the-run, NYPD detectives and FBI agents have arrested two defendants for a double homicide in the Bronx. The focus and precision this case embodies is what has enabled this city to become the safest city in America. We will continue rooting out crime and violence wherever we find it, until every neighborhood and block of this city is safe.”

According to the Indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court:

In late 1997, ACOSTA agreed with DIAZ and others to pay DIAZ and others to kill persons who had stolen drug money from ACOSTA. As a result of this agreement, Alex Ventura and Aneudis Almonte were murdered by DIAZ and others on December 22, 1997, in the vicinity of 2769 University Avenue in the Bronx, New York.

ACOSTA, 46, of Yonkers, New York, and DIAZ, 52, of the Bronx, New York, were arrested by the NYPD and the FBI. The defendants were presented later before United States Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge P. Kevin Castel.

The Indictment charges each of the defendants in six counts: murder while engaged in a conspiracy to distribute five and more kilograms of cocaine and aiding and abetting the same (Counts One and Two); murder-for-hire conspiracy (Count Three); murder-for-hire and aiding and abetting the same (Counts Four and Five); and use of a firearm to commit murder in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and aiding and abetting the same (Count Six). ACOSTA and DIAZ each face a maximum sentence of life in prison or death. The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by the judge

This case is being handled by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Laurie A. Korenbaum, Michael Kim Krouse, and Nicholas Chiuchiolo are in charge of the prosecution.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Former Mob Boss of Colombo Crime Family, @MichaelFranzese, to speak at @Penn_State Berks Arts and Lecture Series

Former mob boss Michael Franzese will speak about his life in organized crime at 7 p.m. March 21, in Perkins Student Center Auditorium at Penn State Berks. This event is free and open to the public.

Franzese grew up as the son of the notorious Underboss of New York’s violent and feared Colombo crime family. He made his own mark, generating an estimated $5 to $8 million per week from legal and illegal businesses. In 1986, Vanity Fair named Franzese one of the biggest money earners the mob had seen since Al Capone. At the age of 35, Fortune Magazine listed him as No. 18 on its list of the “Fifty Most Wealthy and Powerful Mafia Bosses.”

Despite his success, he wanted to make a change and today he is the only high ranking official of a major crime family to ever walk away, without protective custodies, and survive. Determined to use the compelling experiences of his former life for the benefit of anyone seeking the inspiration to beat the odds and make positive changes in their lives, he has become a highly regarded motivational speaker and a source of invaluable information.

He speaks about how he engaged bankers, corporate executives, union officials and professional and student athletes in a wide variety of financial scams. His open and honest true stories of his personal experiences in organized crime captivate audiences.

Penn State Berks reserves the right to limit the photography and/or recording of any program. The permitted or prohibited activities during a particular program will be announced at the beginning of the event and/or included in the printed program. All media requesting interviews and/or access to photograph and/or tape any program must contact the Office of Strategic Communications at 610-396-6053.

This event is sponsored by the Penn State Berks Arts and Lecture series. For more information, contact the Office of Campus Life at 610-396-6076.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Leonardo Rizzuto and Stefano Sollecito, Alleged Mafia Leaders, Acquitted of Criminal Charges

Two men alleged to have been the leaders of the Mafia in Montreal were acquitted of criminal charges after a judge ruled the police illegally wiretapped them in the offices of their lawyer.

Leonardo Rizzuto and Stefano Sollecito were acquitted of charges of gangsterism and conspiracy to traffic cocaine by Quebec Superior Court Judge Eric Downs after the judge excluded the wiretap evidence gathered by a joint police task force in 2015 as a violation of the constitutional right to solicitor-client privilege. Most of the Crown’s evidence against the pair came from a conversation that was intercepted in a meeting room and in the reception area of the law office.

“The judge recognized that you don’t enter a law office like you do a warehouse” to conduct a wiretap operation, Daniele Roy, the lawyer representing Sollecito, said on Monday evening.

The wiretap was a first in Canada because the police installed hidden microphones around the law office, Roy said. The judge ruled in favour of Sollecito and Rizzuto’s request to have the evidence excluded because the authorities had not put in place sufficient measures to prevent the interception of conversations between lawyers and other clients at the office, she added.

Sollecito and Rizzuto were arrested in 2015.

Rizzuto, the son of Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto, who died in 2013, had been detained since his arrest. Sollecito, whose father, Rocco Sollecito, was murdered in Laval in 2016, was granted bail by a court in 2016 to so he could undergo treatment for cancer.

Rizzuto is still facing charges of possession of a firearm and drug possession. However, he was expected to be released on bail to await the outcome of the other case.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Chicago Trader, Joseph Kim, from Consolidated Trading, Facing Fraud Charge for Allegedly Misappropriating $2 Million in #Cryptocurrency

In the first criminal prosecution in Chicago involving the cryptocurrency trading industry, a Chicago trader was charged with fraud for allegedly misappropriating $2 million in Bitcoin and Litecoin.

JOSEPH KIM, 24, of Chicago, was charged in a federal criminal complaint with one count of wire fraud.

Kim worked as an assistant trader for Consolidated Trading LLC, a Chicago trading firm that recently formed a cryptocurrency group to engage in cryptocurrency trading, the complaint states. Over a two-month period in the fall of last year, Kim misappropriated at least $2 million of the firm’s Bitcoin and Litecoin cryptocurrency for his own personal benefit, and he made false statements and representations to the company’s management in order to conceal the theft, according to the complaint.

The complaint was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the complaint, from September through November 2017, Kim transferred more than $2 million of the trading firm’s Bitcoin and Litecoin to personal accounts to cover his own trading losses, which had been incurred while trading cryptocurrency futures on foreign exchanges. In order to conceal the transfers, Kim lied to the firm’s management about the location of the company’s cryptocurrency and his trading of the company’s cryptocurrency, the complaint states. Consolidated’s management team discovered the misappropriation in late November, the complaint states.

Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sunil Harjani and Sheri Mecklenburg.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Excellent Analysis of #MS13 on Tonight's Episode of @FrontlinePBS - The Gang Crackdown

Given the inflammatory coverage the violent gang MS-13 receives on Fox News, which in turn disproportionately influences President Trump’s statements about immigration policy, it’s great to have the evenhanded reporting Frontline has done for its new edition titled The Gang Crackdown, premiering Tuesday on PBS. While making terrifyingly clear the horrible violence that MS-13 has inflicted upon innocent Americans, The Gang Crackdown also confirms what you might suspect: that the Trump administration policies to combat the gang’s real menace often make things more difficult for law-abiding people and has fostered racial animosity toward legal and illegal immigrants.

The hour-long documentary traces the Central American gang violence that is being exported to the U.S. in the form of MS-13, a vicious group that bullies young people into joining on the threat of death. Producer Marcela Gaviria focuses on Long Island, N.Y., which has been a particular target of gang violence and where MS-13 gang members occupy forested areas of Suffolk County. At least 25 dead bodies were found in that county in 2016, victims of gang violence, brutally killed with machetes and other weapons. Most of the dead are from local immigrant communities.

You’d think there’d be lots of concern for the victims and their families. Instead, right-wing media forces have seized upon the gang’s activities as a justification for all sorts of broad-brush, anti-immigration advocacy, calling for the deportation of people who have nothing to do with gang culture. Once Fox News talking heads like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity started inflating the size and scope of MS-13 out of all proportion, it was only a matter of time before avid Fox News watcher Donald Trump began invoking MS-13 as being essentially synonymous with illegal immigrants.

The Gang Crackdown profiles a couple of young people who were rounded up in anti-gang efforts by local police and government ICE agents. These youths were held in high-security prisons for months with no due process, no access to their lawyers, until their cases were examined. Some were ultimately freed for lack of evidence of gang involvement. The Frontline report makes clear that the Latino population on Long Island is being doubly wronged: victimized by MS-13 but also made hesitant of going to the police for protection, out of a fear of being suspected of illegal immigration status. Thanks to Frontline for crediting us with enough intelligence to recognize the evil of MS-13 without also obliging us to become rabid anti-immigrationists. Is it any wonder that Trump’s newly released budget proposal eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting?

Thanks to Ken Tucker.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Uniformed Law Enforcement Officer, from @TNWildlife, Refused Dinner with Wife by @Outback Steakhouse, Due to Police Hating Customer

The word “Outback” used to conjure images of Australia’s tenacious frontier spirit; of hunters, ranchers, and other adventurers who carved out a harsh existence from an unforgiving land. Thanks to a decades-long campaign to distance the island nation from certain elements of its rugged heritage and the proliferation of an Australian-themed casual dining restaurant chain, today the word “Outback” is more likely to bring to mind a 3,000 calorie deep-fried onion.

Despite its namesake and decor, culinary critics have long questioned whether Outback Steakhouse offers an authentic Down Under dining experience. However, these detractors should know that in recent years the chain has gone to great lengths to replicate for their guests Australia’s culture of civilian disarmament by prohibiting diners from carrying firearms onto the premises. This commitment to reproducing Australia’s defenseless society is so profound that earlier this month a uniformed law enforcement officer was asked to leave an Outback in Cleveland, Tenn. because he was armed.

The incident occurred when Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency Officer Andrew Ward and his wife went to the restaurant for dinner. In a Facebook post, Ward explained,

I was approached by the manager and asked if I would put my gun in my truck. I let her know that I couldn’t because I was in uniform. She then went and made a call and came back and we were asked to leave because Outback is a gun free zone.

Rightfully disturbed by the encounter, Ward added,

What is this country coming to? A uniformed Law Enforcement Officer who is sworn to protect and serve the public, is refused service because they have a firearm! I am disgusted and have no other words!!!

In an update to his initial post, Ward noted that he was asked to leave after Outback management bent to the will of an unhinged customer. According to Ward, “There was another customer who was ‘scared for her life’… because ‘police are shooting people.’” Ward explained that “the customer went on to demand to be escorted to her vehicle out of fear of being shot.”

Given the decades of statistics showing the law-abiding character of Right-to-Carry permit holders, Outback’s gun free zone policy is foolish. However, that the company would cite their gun-free policy as justification to yield to the ravings of an unreasonable individual to the detriment of a uniformed law enforcement officer is radical.

There is a general consensus that uniformed and ununiformed current and former law enforcement officers should be allowed to carry a firearm for the public benefit. That is why in 2004 Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act (LEOSA). Under LEOSA, current and former law enforcement officers who meet certain basic criteria, such as carrying qualified identification, are permitted to carry a firearm throughout the country.

Showing the strong bipartisan support for this measure, the original legislation, H.R. 218, had 297 co-sponsors in the House of Representative and passed the Senate unanimously. Subsequent changes that have been made to increase the number of officers able to take advantage of this protection have been similarly popular.

Sensing a growing public outrage, Outback reached out to the Wards and offered them a $100 gift card and an apology. Outback’s parent-company, Bloomin’ Brands, Inc., issued a statement to Chattanooga’s WTVC that contended it is not company policy to prohibit law enforcement officers from carrying at their restaurants. The statement went on to blame the incident on the individual restaurant manager.

While the manager might have handled the situation better, Bloomin’ Brands shares some responsibility for creating the irrational gun free zone policy that the employee was forced to interpret. Outback Steakhouse ads have long carried the tagline “Outback: No Rules, Just Right.” In order to better reflect company values and bolster ongoing efforts at authenticity, we submit for consideration, “Outback: No Rights, Just Rules.”

Thanks to NRA.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

When Life Gives You Lemons, Give the #Mafia their Street Tax or Else...

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, in collaboration the University of Manchester and the University of Gothenburg (Sweden),
have uncovered new evidence to suggest that the Sicilian mafia arose to notoriety in the 1800s in response to the public demand for citrus fruits.

Arguably one of the most infamous institutions in the Western world, the Sicilian mafia, first appeared in Sicily in the 1870s and soon infiltrated the economic and political spheres of Italy and the United States.

Dr Arcangelo Dimico, Lecturer in Economics from Queen’s Management School, and the research team hypothesized that the Sicilian mafia rose to power due to the high public demand for oranges and lemons following physician James Lind’s discovery in the late eighteenth century that citrus fruits could prevent and cure scurvy, due to their high levels of vitamin c.

Dr Dimico said: “Although outcomes of the mafia’s actions such as murders, bombings, and embezzlement of public money have been observed during the last 140 years, the reasons behind its emergence are still obscure.

The researchers used two unique data sets from Sicilian towns and districts gathered from a parliamentary inquiry conducted between 1881–1886 (Damiani 1886) and from 1900 (Cutrera 1900). They found that mafia presence in the 1880s is strongly associated with the prevalence of citrus cultivation.

Dr Dimico added: “Given Sicily’s dominant position in the international market for citrus fruits, the increase in demand resulted in a very large inflow of revenues to citrus-producing towns during the 1800s. Citrus trees can be cultivated only in areas that meet specific requirements, such as mild and constant temperature throughout the year and abundance of water, guaranteeing substantial profits to relatively few local producers.

“The combination of high profits, a weak rule of law, a low level of interpersonal trust, and a high level of local poverty made lemon producers a suitable target for predation, as there was little means to effectively enforce private property rights. Lemon producers, therefore, resorted to hiring mafia affiliates for private protection and to act as intermediaries between the retailers and exporters in the harbours.”

Until now the Sicilian mafia’s origins have always thought to have been a consequence of the weak institutional setting related to the failure of the feudal system present in Sicily and from the political instability in Italian history. However this research is the first piece of evidence to suggest that their rise to power was actually due to the boom in the economy.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Towns Where Even the Police Fear to Tread #MexicanCartels

Jorge lives in an improvised campsite in Práxedis, a silent town in the north of Mexico where few cars or people venture out on the streets. He is a member of the state police force, sent in by the Chihuahua state governor to combat the terrifying rate of violent crime. It is the state police that now handle a substantial portion of law enforcement in the area.

The Valley of Juárez, a region of Chihuahua bordering the US, has been a war zone riddled with organized crime for the past 10 years, due to its location at the crossroads of the routes used by drug traffickers and people smugglers. “We’ve been here since 2015 – there were no local police left because they had either been killed or abducted,” says Jorge at the precinct. When he first arrived here, he felt as though he were driving through a ghost town. “People didn’t come out on the streets, but bit by bit things have gone back to normal,” he says.

Práxedis and Guadalupe belong to the Valley of Juárez, a region surrounded by desert that was previously a prosperous cotton-growing area. But since the drug traffickers moved in more than 10 years ago, the territory has been a battleground for the Sinaloa and La Línea cartels smuggling drugs and people across the inhospitable gulf dividing this part of Mexico from the US.

The violence was largely responsible for the high number of murders in the state of Chihuahua in 2010, when it racked up a historic 3,903. The murder rate dropped dramatically in 2013, and though it began to climb again after 2016, the death toll in 2017 was still less that half of that at 1,566. In the volatile years between 2007 and 2015, any local police officer who had escaped death or abduction simply fled.

Lourdes López explains how her son was “carried off” along with four other policemen in Práxedis in 2009. “That was nine years ago and there’s been no justice,” she says. Her son had never used a gun and was never trained to do so. “He wanted to be a policeman ever since he was a boy and he was a good person who didn’t deserve what he got,” says the 62-year- old mother, who left town several days after her son was seized.

Martín Hueramo, a former mayor of Guadalupe, says that the municipal police were not prepared for the situation they found themselves in. “Towns had to confront organized crime with unarmed police officers whose only experience was with minor offenses. Nine policemen were killed in Guadalupe in various shoot-outs, and three human heads were left in an icebox. It was a terrifying era,” says Hueramo, who was granted political asylum in Texas. In that period, the population of Guadalupe fell from 13,000 to 2,000, he adds, although it has since bounced back to 5,000.

The last municipal policeman to work in Guadalupe, Joaquín Hernández, was killed in July 2015 after being lured to a phony crime scene. The municipal police department there was among the most frequently attacked. Between 2007 and 2010, it often closed down completely. In December 2010, it was shut down definitively when its head, Erika Gándara was “carried off” by a criminal group who sought her out in her own home. She was the last police officer left in the precinct following the death, disappearance or resignation of her colleagues. In 2014, the police station reopened with Máximo Carrillo at the helm, but he was killed in June 2015. He was then replaced by Joaquín Hernández, who was killed only three weeks later.

The situation wasn’t much different in Práxedis. The last police officer in town was Marisol, a young 20-year-old criminology student who made international headlines as “The Bravest Woman in Mexico.” She lasted less than four months before death threats forced her to flee across the border into the US. After she’d gone, no one else offered to step up to the plate and the state police moved in on surveillance shifts.

To date, Guadalupe’s police precinct has no plans to reopen, according to the town council secretary, Fausto González Pérez. “It exposes people to danger,” he says. “If we issue a job notice, some courageous soul might come forward, but it’s a delicate matter.” The prison cells of the precinct are currently being used to store wine, and the money that once went towards the town’s security has been otherwise spent on sport and cultural activities. “These are difficult times,” says González Pérez. “Right now we are in a wilderness, but we are rebuilding the town.”

Chihuahua’s municipal police force is not equipped to deal with serious crime. A recent report in a Juárez newspaper reveals that there are towns such as Guachochi with 53 police officers but only 15  bulletproof vests. Meanwhile, in Rosales, there are 42 police officers without vests working on an average salary of $200 a month. The state government has had to intervene in as many as nine towns, either because the police are ill equipped or because the police department has become corrupt. Last year, in Ahumada, the director of Public Security, Carlos Alberto Duarte, and six of his men were arrested on criminal charges. Several months later, however, Duarte was back in his job.

Thanks to Cludad Juarez.

1,400 #OrganizedCrime #GangMembers Arrested

More than 1,400 suspects have been arrested in a crackdown on organized crime, police in northwestern Shaanxi province said, according to reports from Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China.

Shaanxi Public Security Department launched a campaign against gang crime in November 2017. Police in the province have busted 202 gangs involved in 532 cases, seizing more than 9.21 million yuan.

In Jiangxi province, police said they had busted 173 gangs, arresting 1,111 suspects.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Judge Rules Jurors' Names will be Kept Secret in #ElChapo Trial

A federal judge in Brooklyn has ruled that the identities of jurors expected to decide the fate of accused Mexican drug lord  at a trial later this year will be kept secret.

US district Judge Brian Cogan said jurors’ names, addresses and places of employment will be shielded from Guzmán, his lawyers, prosecutors and the press. He also ordered that jurors be transported to and from the courthouse by federal marshals, and sequestered from the public while there.

Prosecutors offered “strong and credible reasons” why the jury needs protections, including Guzmán’s use hitmen to carry out thousands of acts of violence over more than two decades, Cogan wrote in the order, released by the prosecutor’s office.

That history “would be sufficient to warrant an anonymous and partially sequestered jury, but that many of the allegations involve murder, assault, kidnapping or torture of potential witnesses or of those suspected of assisting law enforcement makes the government’s concerns particularly salient”, he said.

Guzmán’s attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, said that his client was disappointed by the ruling. The defense had argued that an anonymous jury would give the false impression that Guzmán is dangerous. “All he is asking for is a fair trial in front of an impartial jury,” Balazero said in a statement.

Guzmán has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive international drug trafficking operation.

Since his extradition in January 2017, he has been held in solitary confinement at a high-security federal jail in Manhattan, with US officials mindful of how he twice escaped from prison in Mexico, the second time via a mile-long tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.

In the past, Guzmán used his connections to continue to run his drug empire from behind bars, prosecutors said. They also claim that in the United States, Guzmán had the support of criminals who are not under his direct control.

In court papers, prosecutors cited media reports about a YouTube video made last year – and since removed from the internet – by a group of federal prisoners in California in which they boasted in Spanish that they were “hitmen” at his service.

Guzmán is due back in court on 15 February for a pre-trial hearing. The judge has indicated he expects the trial to begin in the fall.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Roadmap to Hell: Sex, Drugs, and Guns on the Mafia Coast

From sex slaves to drug mules, The Daily Beast's Rome Bureau Chief uncovers a terrifying and intricate web of criminal activity right on Europe's doorstep. Caught between Camorra gunrunners selling to ISIS and Nigerian drug gangs along Italy's picturesque coast, each year thousands of refugees and migrants are lured into their underworld, forced to become sex slaves, drug mules, or weapon smugglers.

In this powerful expose, investigative journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau follows the weapons trail, meets the trafficked women trapped by black magic, the brave nuns who try to save them, and the Italian police who turn a blind eye as the most urgent issues facing Europe play out in broad daylight.

Roadmap to Hell: Sex, Drugs, and Guns on the Mafia Coast.

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