Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Home of Mayor Raided by @FBI Special Agents

The mayor of Atlantic City made headlines last month when he was involved in a fight outside a casino that was captured on video. The mayor, Frank Gilliam, was not charged. But Mr. Gilliam may be facing more serious trouble. Yesterday, federal officials raided his home, removing computer equipment and boxes in an operation that represents another setback for this struggling seaside city.

“The F.B.I. was at the mayor’s home in Atlantic City in an official capacity executing a search warrant,” said Doreen Holder, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I.’s office in Newark. Ms. Holder said the I.R.S. was also involved in the search, but she declined to offer any other details.

Video posted on social media showed about a dozen agents going in and out of the home on Ohio Avenue.

The mayor’s office declined to comment about what prompted the raid. “We can tell you that the mayor’s office is open, and we are here to provide services to Atlantic City residents and to serve the administration in any way that we can,” said Christina Bevilacqua, the deputy chief of staff in the mayor’s office.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m. Monday, Mr. Gilliam emerged from his house and left in a Mercedes-Benz S.U.V. He did not respond to shouted questions from reporters gathered at the end of his driveway.

The F.B.I. operation is the latest chapter in what has been a tumultuous couple of months for Mr. Gilliam, a Democrat. The late-night brawl he was involved in took place outside the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City; surveillance video obtained from the casino showed the mayor swinging wildly at an unknown man. Casino security intervened to break up the fight.

The cause of the melee has never been made clear. Prosecutors said they would not pursue criminal charges against Mr. Gilliam.

Mr. Gilliam has also faced complaints about his campaign finances. The mayor and the Atlantic City Democratic Committee quarreled over a $10,000 check that had been made out to the committee, but that Mr. Gilliam deposited into his campaign account. The committee filed a criminal complaint in March, but a judge later dismissed the case.

Mr. Gilliam was elected in 2017, defeating the incumbent mayor Don Guardian, a Republican who had clashed frequently with the administration of former Gov. Chris Christie over the state’s decision to take over Atlantic City’s finances. The city was on the brink of bankruptcy as its casino industry struggled.

Mr. Gilliam, a native of Atlantic City who had served as a city councilman since 2009, campaigned on a “new era” message, saying that Atlantic City’s struggles were the result of poor management of city government and the casinos. He faulted Mr. Guardian for allowing the state takeover and said the largely Democratic city needed to return to its Democratic roots.

He promised to court developers and bring in businesses. Since taking office, two casinos have opened where old ones had shuttered. But he also promised to broaden Atlantic City’s appeal, seeking to establish the resort city as a family-friendly destination. “We’ve lost our identity because of gaming,” Mr. Gilliam said during the campaign. “If everyone got to the table, Atlantic City would find its way.”

The F.B.I. raid on Mr. Gilliam’s home, however, is a reminder of the long history of criminal behavior among some of Atlantic City’s top public officials.

Robert W. Levy, who was elected mayor in 2006, disappeared in 2007 amid rumors of a pending federal investigation into his military record and benefits. He was found to have checked into an addiction and rehabilitation facility in central New Jersey, and later admitted in court to falsifying his military records to receive veterans benefits.

In 1991, James L. Usry, who had been mayor for six years and was Atlantic City’s first elected African-American mayor, pleaded guilty to campaign contribution violations after prosecutors accused of him accepting $6,000 in cash and a $500 check in exchange for supporting an ordinance that would have benefited a business owned by the donor. Mr. Usry and four city councilmen were indicted.

And in 1984, Michael J. Matthews, who had been elected mayor in 1982, was charged with extortion, bribery and conspiracy as part of a wide-ranging sting operation against organized crime. Federal authorities said he maintained a close relationship with Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, an infamous organized crime leader, that predated Mr. Matthews’s election as mayor. Mr. Matthews pleaded guilty to a single count of extortion.

Atlantic City also played a central role in the Abscam scandal, which resulted in the convictions of several members of Congress on charges of bribery and political corruption, including Senator Harrison A. Williams of New Jersey.

At the center of the scandal were promises for casino partnerships and revenue in Atlantic City.

“I’ll give you Atlantic City — without me, you do nothing,” Angelo J. Errichetti, who was then mayor of Camden, N.J., boasted to an undercover agent about arranging a casino license for a $50,000 kickback.

Thanks to Nick Corasaniti.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Whitey Bulger's Last Warden at "Misery Mountain" Denies Reports He is to be Fired

A “crazy month” at the maximum prison in Hazelton, W.Va., where South Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger was murdered ended with reports the warden may be fired. But Warden Joe Coakley denied a New York Times report saying he’s being replaced, sending an email to staffers calling the report a rumor.

Justin Tarovisky, executive vice president of the guard union at U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton, told the Herald he was informed of the email and has not been told of the warden’s future. But, Tarovisky added, the prison just ended a lockdown that began just after Bulger’s murder Oct. 30, hours after he arrived at the prison.

“I was not alerted to any firing. But it has been a crazy month up there, and we’re trying to push on,” the union rep said. “Officers have got to go in there every day, and we have to stay safe.”

The warden sent out an email that stated: “I spoke personally with Acting Director Hugh Hurwitz this afternoon. He confirmed there have been no discussions regarding replacing me as Complex Warden. Additionally Bryan Antonelli, FCI Williamsburg Warden, has not be selected as Complex Warden at Hazelton. As I have stated many times, I am honored to be your Warden! I hope this addresses any rumors or concerns.”

Tarovisky said the warden has said he’s trying to hire more guards. He told the Herald last month the prison has 77 vacancies — more than half for guard positions.

“Morale is low at Hazelton,” he added. “We were locked down for a month, and we just came back.

“Inside the prison the inmates are taking it all with a grain of salt,” he added. “We take that kind of violence seriously and we have got to stay on our toes.”

The 89-year-old Bulger was beaten to death with a padlock inside a sock, reportedly by two inmates tied to organized crime in Massachusetts who may have also attempted to gouge out his eyes inside “Misery Mountain,” as inmates call Hazelton.

Bulger, serving life for 11 murders but suspected of many more, was reportedly killed by a Mafia hitman from Springfield named Fotios “Freddy” Geas and a member of a North Shore drug gang.

The second suspect, Paul J. DeCologero, is connected to a notorious Burlington-based crime family that robbed rival drug dealers and once dismembered a teenage girl, according to published reports.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Offices Raided by FBI of Ed Burke, the Powerful Chicago Alderman & Real Estate Tax Attorney for Donald Trump

Federal agents raided the City Hall office of powerful Chicago Alderman Ed Burke on Thursday morning, sources familiar with the development confirmed. A law firm headed by Burke helped Donald Trump and investors in Trump's luxury downtown Chicago hotel cut their property taxes by an incredible 39 percent over seven years, saving them $11.7 million, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found.

Agents arrived at the office early Thursday morning, told employees to leave and papered over the glass windows at the office’s entrance to conceal the investigation going on inside, a source confirmed. A woman who left the office and did not identify herself said FBI agents were inside.

Burke’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Burke’s ward office on the Southwest Side also had the same brown paper taped over its front door with three signs that read, “Office closed.” An officer sitting in a squad car parked behind Burke's ward office said a search warrant was being executed inside but offered no further details.

Burke is the longtime chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, where he controls much of the legislative purse strings at City Hall. He has held office since 1969 and is running for re-election to a record 14th term.

A law enforcement source told the Chicago Tribune that FBI agents raided Burke’s City Hall office and that the search was ongoing. No arrests were made or are imminent, said the source, who had no details on the nature of the investigation.

Republican State Rep Fears Mob Rule After Democrat Threatens Death to His Family

The Illinois House on Wednesday erased A Democratic lawmaker’s wish to mix a “broth of Legionella” bacteria to infect the “loved one” of her Republican colleague, who said the she would be “in custody” for the comment had she made it anywhere else.

Rep. Stephanie Kifowit caused uproar over her remark towards Republican Rep. Peter Breen during a floor debate on Tuesday concerning the deadly Legionnaire’s disease crisis at a veterans’ home, prompting calls for resignation.

“To the representative from Lombard, I would like to make him a broth of Legionella and pump it into the water system of his loved one so that they can be infected, they can be mistreated, they can sit and suffer by getting aspirin instead of being properly treated and ultimately die,” she said.

The Illinois Republican Party called on Kifowit to resign, claiming “she literally wished death upon Rep. Peter Breen and his family.”

The Democrat initially defended herself, saying her remark was mischaracterized, but she later backtracked and apologized for “the comments that were personally directed to Rep. Breen.”

The state House took a rare step to expunge the remark from the record, with the measure passing without any objections from other members of the House.

The last time the Illinois House removed someone’s comments from the record was in 2001 when a former Democratic used the hypothetical example of a phalloplasty, or penis enlargement procedure, that was used by a Republican state House leader.

Breen accepted Kifowit’s apology, but said “she’d be in custody” had she made the remark elsewhere. Instead, he said, her declaration was “met with applause instead of handcuffs.”

“We can continue down our current path of worsening threats and even violence, or we can make the difficult decision to take the path upward to civility and decency,” Breen said. “On our current downward course, we are headed toward mob rule.”

Republican state Rep. Grant Wehrli said he hopes the incident will be encourage better discourse in the chamber. “I hope that this is a first step for all of us to move toward, even in vehement disagreement, a higher and more professional discourse,” he said.

Thanks to Lukas Mikelionis.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Only in Chicago: How the Rod Blagojevich Scandal Engulfed Illinois and Enthralled the Nation

The city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and the nation at large were captivated by the arrest, trial, and general public embarrassment of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Shortly after Blagojevich's arrest in December 2008, award-winning Chicago Sun-Times federal courts reporter Natasha Korecki began writing "The Blago Blog" to capture the seemingly endless stream of surreal moments, shady political maneuvers, and salty sound bites emanating from the embattled governor, who was accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat, among many other acts in what prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called Blagojevich's "political corruption crime spree."

Only in Chicago: How the Rod Blagojevich Scandal Engulfed Illinois and Enthralled the Nation, is derived from the best of Korecki's work on the Blagojevich scandal, weaving together years of reporting as well as never-before published details into one straightforward, fast-paced narrative. From the infamous audio tapes released of Blagojevich to the strange public relations campaign he and his wife, Patti, waged throughout the trial, this is one of the most bizarre true political tales ever told. In many people's minds, there was an unprecedented degree of obliviousness to the part played by the eventually impeached Illinois governor, especially given the explicit and seemingly damning audio evidence released to the public.

Korecki's reporting reveals inside information from the arrest, trial, and sentencing. Interviews with Blagojevich, his wife, and countless other sources offer lucid insight to this often baffling, frequently humorous, and occasionally tragic epic. Also embroiled in this scandal were some of the most infamous players in Chicago and Illinois's sordid political scene. But beyond the slew of backroom deal-makers who were sucked into the Blagojevich imbroglio, many Illinois Democratic leaders felt the scandal's toxic fallout seep dangerously near. President Barack Obama himself, while never accused of any wrongdoing, was interviewed by federal prosecutors, and union leader Tom Balanoff claimed Obama called him the day before he was to be elected president, giving him the green light to talk to Blagojevich about Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett's potential appointment to his Senate seat. Only in Chicago includes details about now-mayor Rahm Emanuel's discussions with Blagojevich as well. But the other powerful political figure who became most entangled with the scandal was since-resigned Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who is accused of offering Blagojevich $6 million for the Senate seat through an intermediary. The investigation was colored by the revelation that Jackson's mysterious months-long medical leave was due to his reported in-patient treatment at the Mayo Clinic for bipolar disorder.

Only in Chicago: How the Rod Blagojevich Scandal Engulfed Illinois and Enthralled the Nation, is filled with incredible details from inside and outside the courtroom. Korecki is the authoritative voice on all things Blagojevich, having followed and reported on the story from its very beginning. Her story is focused and engrossing, and this book will prove to be one of the most important—and entertaining—accounts of this indelible scandal ever written.

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