Friday, September 21, 2018

Man Pleads Guilty to Impersonating a Mobster and Extorting Over $4 Million in Wide-ranging Plan

Tony John Evans, 30, formerly of New York, N.Y., pled guilty extortion related to a wide-ranging scheme that caused a Maryland man to embezzle more than $4 million from his employer in Washington, D.C., announced U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Evans pled guilty before the Honorable Emmet G. Sullivan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of interference with interstate commerce by extortion and aiding and abetting and causing an act to be done. Judge Sullivan scheduled sentencing for Jan. 24, 2019. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Evans faces an estimated range of 57 to 71 months in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.

Evans and several members of his family were indicted in April 2018.

In his plea agreement, Evans admitted that from November 2016 through April 2017, he worked with several individuals to extort and defraud others out of money, precious metals, and luxury merchandise. As part of the scheme, he pretended to be a mobster in order to get a Maryland man to provide him and his fellow conspirators with money, luxury goods, and gold. Evans threatened to harm the man and his family if payments were not made.

As a result of Evans and other conspirators’ actions, the man embezzled more than $4 million from his employer in the District of Columbia over a three-month period for the purpose of providing it to Evans and the other conspirators. Towards the end of the conspiracy, the man delivered more than $1 million in gold—which he had purchased with embezzled funds—to a hotel in New York. Evans admitted that he retrieved the gold bars, delivered them to other individuals, and sold several of the bars to a gold dealer in New York in exchange for cash.

In October 2017, the FBI executed a search warrant on Evans’s safe deposit box at a bank in New York. The safe deposit box contained gold and expensive jewelry, including luxury watches and diamonds. As part of his plea agreement, Evans agreed to forfeit his rights to all of the items recovered from the safe deposit box. He also surrendered two additional one-kilogram gold bars to the FBI, along with a Rolex watch, which he purchased with criminal proceeds.

Charges against five co-defendants remain pending.

In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Liu and Assistant Director in Charge McNamara commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Lucas, who is assisting with forfeiture issues, Paralegal Specialists Brittany Phillips and Joshua Fein, former Paralegal Specialists Jessica Mundi and Kristy Penny, and Forensic Accountant Bryan Snitselaar.

Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Kent and Kondi Kleinman, who investigated and are prosecuting the case.

The Origins of the Cornbread Mafia: A Memoir of Sorts

On a September night in 1978, Muhammad Ali would attempt to reclaim his title from Leon Spinks in one of the greatest heavyweight matches of all-time. That same night, a crew of over twenty-five country boys from in and around central Kentucky, known as “The Cornbread Mafia” would pull off one of their many outrageous exploits by attempting to reclaim a huge marijuana field that had been seized by local law enforcement.

Although “The Cornbread Mafia” is legendary in Central Kentucky, most people do not know the true origins of the iconic group. Now comes the author’s first-hand account of how this term was coined and the many escapades they encountered along the way. This author was actually there, living the events, and tells his unbelievable true story of how a group of small-town country boys began a pot growing operation in the early 1970s which would become the biggest home grown marijuana operation in U.S. history.

The Origins of the Cornbread Mafia: A Memoir of Sorts.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

6 Members of Canta Ranas, Linked to Mexican Mafia, Convicted by Operation Frog Legs

Six people who authorities say are linked to the violent, Mexican Mafia-linked street gang known as the Canta Ranas Organization have been convicted of racketeering and drug trafficking charges, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

The criminal convictions were handed down in two jury trials. The Cantas Ranas primarily operate in Santa Fe Springs and Whittier, and those convicted range from ages 56 to 25.

“This dangerous organization caused misery in several communities by regularly engaging in acts of violence, drug trafficking and other criminal acts,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement from the DOJ.

Four of the defendants were convicted in a trial that ended on Aug. 27 and the other two were convicted this week. They all face maximum possible sentences of life in federal prison, with four facing minimum prison terms of 10 years and one facing a minimum of five years.

A senior member of the Canta Ranas gang known as “Boxer,” 56-year-old Enrique Holguin, is already currently serving a life sentence for murder. He was convicted in the August trial.

According to federal prosecutors, Holguin was in direct communication with the gang’s leader, David Gavaldon, who is also a member of the Mexican Mafia. Holguin played a key role in carrying out the gang’s activities by setting up a group of Mexican Mafia-affiliated inmates for controlling illegal activities — called a “mesa” — at the California Institute for Men in Chino, prosecutors said.

He was also convicted in the attempted assault of a fellow inmate at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown L.A. The inmate being targeted was believed to be an informant for law enforcement, prosecutors said. For that crime, Holguin was found guilty of committing a violent act in aid of racketeering.

The other three gang members convicted in the August trial are 31-year-old Donald Goulet, also known as “Wacky,” 33-year-old Emanuel Higuera, who’s also known as “Blanco” and 25-year-old Juan Nila.

Goulet was described by federal prosecutors as a “foot soldier” who committed violent crimes, trafficked drugs and collected extortionate “taxes” on behalf of the Canta Ranas and Gavaldon himself. He was also involved with helping Gavaldon spread the gang’s territory into the Riverside area, prosecutors said.

During one home invasion robbery committed with a co-conspirator, Goulet tied up the victims with duct tape at gun point as the pair ransacked the home, according to federal prosecutors. For all the crimes, Goulet was found guilty of conspiracy racketeering charges, along with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Meanwhile, Higuera was actually part of another gang called the Brown Brotherhood, which was also controlled by Gavaldon, according to prosecutors. But he was convicted of trafficking drugs on behalf of the Canta Ranas. Along with  racketeering charges, he was found guilty of methamphetamine-related offenses — including one that involved him attempting to assault law enforcement officers, prosecutors said.

Nila pleaded guilty to racketeering and drug trafficking conspiracy charges on the second day of the August trial. That trial ended after three weeks of testimony.

The trial that ended this week delivered convictions against 40-year-old Monica Rodriguez, also known as “Smiley,” and Alexis Jaimez, 30, who is also known as “Lex,” according to prosecutors.

Acting as the “eyes and ears on the street” for Cantas Ranas gang leader Gavaldon, Rodriguez was a so-called secretary for him, federal prosecutors said in a news release. She was seen asking Gavaldon to order the death of another gang member in video that was shown to the jury, prosecutors said. At the time, she was meeting with Gavaldon while he was housed at Pelican Bay State Prison, the only supermax prison in California.

Jaimez was described as a “foot soldier” by federal prosecutors, who said she was involved in a gang-related assault that left the victim with permanent, severe injuries. Evidence of her involvement in that assault was presented at trial. Prosecutors also said she was also part of a “failed scheme to smuggle drugs into a California state prison.”

All of the defendant are expected to be sentenced later this year by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner.

The convictions stem from a federal grand jury indictment that charged 48 defendants in June 2016. There’s still another 38 defendants, and beginning in November, they will all be scheduled to go to trial in groups.

The larger case is the result of Operation “Frog Legs,” a three-year investigation that seized dozens of firearms and pounds of narcotics including methamphetamine. The various agencies involved in assisting that investigation include U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the IRS, the Whittier Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Southern California Drug Task Force — which is led by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Monday, September 17, 2018

"You cannot believe in God and be Mafiosi" - Pope Francis @Pontifex ‏

Pope Francis has urged mafia members to stop blaspheming against God and to embrace love and service. He was paying homage to Father Giuseppe Puglisi who was shot dead by the mafia in Sicily 25 years ago.

The Pope warned the "brothers and sisters" that they could not "believe in God and be Mafiosi" - a reference to the fact that many mafia members are regular worshippers. Pope Francis has previously called for the excommunication of mobsters.

On Saturday morning, the Pope addressed the faithful at Palermo's Piazza Europa and will later visit Puglisi's parish in the working-class neighbourhood of Brancaccio.

The priest was renowned for working with young people to keep them away from drugs and the mafia.

The Pope said Sicily needed "men and women of love, not men and women 'of honour'", referring to the code mobsters use to define themselves.

"A person who is a Mafioso does not live as a Christian because with his life he blasphemes against the name of God," Pope Francis said, before pleading: "Change, brothers and sisters! Stop thinking about yourselves and your money... Convert yourselves to the real God."

Father Puglisi was shot dead on the doorstep of his home on his birthday, 15 September, in 1993. His murder came at a time when mafia violence against opponents of their influence was of particularly grave concern.

Puglisi was declared a "martyr" who was "killed by hatred of the faith" by Pope Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI in 2012. He was beatified five years ago. Beatification is the penultimate step to sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Last month, Pope Francis visited Ireland where he asked for forgiveness for members of the Catholic Church who "kept quiet" about clerical child sex abuse.

Thanks to BBC.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cadillac Frank Salemme, Former Mafia Don, Faces Life Sentence for 1993 Murder of Steven DiSarro

Twenty-five years after South Boston nightclub owner Steven DiSarro was strangled and buried in an unmarked grave, a former Mafia don and a local plumber are scheduled to be sentenced Thursday for the slaying.

Former New England Mafia boss Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, 85, and Paul M. Weadick, 63, face mandatory life sentences for killing DiSarro in 1993 to prevent him from cooperating in a federal investigation targeting the mobster and his son.

After the pair were convicted in June, DiSarro’s son, Nick, said he was grateful to the jury for giving his family justice after so many years. “This is the end of such a long road,” he said. “To close this book is just a really important step for our family.”

The convictions followed a five-week trial in US District Court in Boston that was a flashback to a bygone era, when the Italian La Cosa Nostra and James “Whitey” Bulger’s Irish mob were the region’s most feared criminal groups.

DiSarro was a businessman who bought the Channel, a now defunct rock ‘n’ roll club on Necco Street, in the early 1990s. Salemme and his son had a hidden interest in the club and were being targeted by federal and state investigators at the time.

On May 10, 1993, DiSarro, a 43-year-old father of five, disappeared after his wife saw him climb into an SUV outside their Westwood home. His whereabouts were a mystery until the FBI found his remains two years ago, buried behind an old mill in Providence.

Salemme, who became a government witness himself six years after the killing of DiSarro, was in the federal witness protection program when DiSarro’s hidden grave was discovered in 2016, leading to his arrest.

The government’s star witness during the trial was Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who is serving a life sentence for 10 murders. He testified that he dropped by Salemme’s Sharon home on May 10, 1993, and saw Salemme’s son, Frank, strangling DiSarro while Weadick held his legs and Salemme looked on.

Salemme’s son died in 1995.

Flemmi said Salemme told him that he knew DiSarro had been approached by federal agents and feared he would cooperate in a federal investigation targeting him and his son.

Two former Rhode Island mobsters, brothers Robert DeLuca and Joseph DeLuca, testified that they helped bury DiSarro’s body after Salemme personally delivered it to Providence. Last month, Robert DeLuca was sentenced to 5½ years in prison for lying to investigators about DiSarro’s murder when he initially began cooperating with authorities in 2011. He only revealed details of the crime after a drug dealer led authorities to DiSarro’s remains.

Salemme is one of Boston’s last old-school mobsters, a criminal turned federal witness whose many former associates are now dead or in prison.

He survived the gang wars of the 1960s — a decade during which he admittedly killed eight people and was convicted of maiming an Everett lawyer by blowing up his car.

He spent nearly 16 years in prison for that attempted murder and became a “made man” after his release in 1988. The following year, he was shot in the chest and leg outside a Saugus pancake house by a renegade mob faction and survived to become boss of the New England Patriarca crime family.

In 1995, Salemme was indicted in a sweeping federal racketeering case, along with Bulger, Flemmi, and others. Four years later, after learning that Bulger and Flemmi were longtime FBI informants, Salemme began cooperating with the government and helped send retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. to prison.

He was admitted to the federal witness protection program and was living in Atlanta as Richard Parker when his past came back to haunt him. The discovery of DiSarro’s hidden grave in 2016 led to Salemme’s arrest for murder.

Thanks to Shelley Murphy.

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