Saturday, December 30, 2006

Still in the Mob at Almost 100?

Friends of ours: Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Carlo Gambino, Albert "Chinky" Facchiano, Corelone Crime Family, Genovese Crime Family, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Liborio "Barney" Bellomo, John Ardito

Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Carlo Gambino are long gone. Murder Inc. is out of business. Las Vegas has been so cleaned up it resembles Disneyland. And Havana? Forget about it since Castro took over. But Albert "Chinky" Facchiano, at 96, is still standing. And like Michael Corleone in "The Godfather III," he is still very much involved in the family business, according to the FBI.

At an age when most people are long retired and happy just to be alive, the reputed mobster was indicted earlier this year in Florida and New York. He is accused of trying to intimidate and possibly kill a witness against the powerful the Genovese family of New York in 2005. He is also accused of helping to run the rackets in Florida.

It was unclear whether Facchiano intended to break legs with his own gnarled, 96-year-old hands.

There have been plenty of elderly Mafia defendants, including 86-year-old Genovese family member Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, who pleaded guilty to federal charges recently in Connecticut. But prosecutors, defense lawyers and Mafia experts say they can't remember someone Facchiano's age facing crimes of such recent vintage.

"I don't think there's anybody older than him," said Jerry Capeci, author of several books on organized crime and operator of the Internet site ganglandnews. "The rule is, you go in alive and you go out dead. You're not allowed to quit."

It appears that Facchiano, also known as "The Old Man," lived up to that Mafia credo, according to prosecutors. Facchiano, born in 1910, has been a "made member" of the nation's largest and most powerful Mafia family for decades, but was a low-level figure, rising no higher than soldier, according to the FBI. His nickname is apparently a play on his last name.

He was a boy when Arnold Rothstein supposedly fixed the 1919 World Series. He was a young man during the Depression when he took his first arrest. He was entering middle age during La Cosa Nostra's go-go years in the 1940s and '50s, when the Mafia skimmed its share of America's postwar prosperity. And he was a senior citizen in the 1980s and '90s when John Gotti and other bosses were taken down by the FBI.

In Florida, Facchiano was indicted along with the reputed Genovese chief in the Miami area and several others on charges of extortion and racketeering. Prosecutors say Facchiano from 1994 to 2006 mainly supervised associates who committed such crimes as robbery, money laundering and bank fraud.

The New York indictment accuses Facchiano and more than 30 other alleged Genovese members, including acting family boss Liborio "Barney" Bellomo, of a range of mob-related crimes. Facchiano is accused specifically of trying in 2005 to locate and intimidate a government witness known as "Victim-5" in court papers.

In one conversation picked up on an FBI listening device, Genovese associate John Ardito said he and Facchiano were "the hit men" who were looking for Victim-5, according to federal prosecutors. Ardito traveled from New York to Florida to meet with Facchiano about Victim-5, who had "gone wrong," according to an FBI transcript.

Facchiano pleaded not guilty and is free on bail, living at a condominium in swank Bal Harbor with a daughter. Facchiano's lawyer in the Florida case, Brian McComb, would not discuss the charges. He said his client is in reasonably good health, apart from a bad back and difficulty hearing. "He's got the typical ailments of an almost 97-year-old man," McComb said. "From day to day, who knows? He seems like a very nice gentleman."

Facchiano's first arrest came in 1932, on robbery and receiving stolen goods charges out of Pittsburgh, according to an FBI rap sheet. He got a sentence of two to five years, then was arrested again in 1936 in New York on grand larceny charges and yet again in 1944 on a bookmaking count. The records do not show how much prison time he did, if any.

"Chinky" stayed relatively clean until 1979, when he was arrested on federal racketeering charges and got a 25-year sentence. He served eight years, winning release at age 79. Then, nothing until his twin arrests this year.

If convicted on all charges, Facchiano could be looking at a sentence of well over 60 years in prison. Given the slow pace of federal prosecutions, he could be nearly 100 by the time he is sentenced.

U.S. Bureau of Prisons records show that as of the end of 2003 - the last year complete records are available - there were 30 inmates 80 and older. Officials could not say whether anyone as old as Facchiano is behind bars in the federal system.

As for his chances of actually being sent to prison, Ryan King, policy analyst with the nonprofit Sentencing Project, said: "A judge might look at someone in their 90s and consider the likelihood of re-offending. Are they really going to go out and commit another crime?"

Capeci, the Mafia expert, said someone Facchiano's age might have some difficulty keeping up with the younger wiseguys if he does go free. "There's no way a guy at age 96 can threaten people, break legs, do the normal routine that guys 50 and 60 years younger can do," he said. "But the guy is, according to the rules of the Mafia, still a made guy. He still has to take orders from the superiors and do what they tell him."

Thanks to Curt Anderson

Friday, December 29, 2006

Out of Shape Soprano

James Gandolfini insists all mafia characters have to be fat.

The 45-year-old actor, famous for his role as a mob boss in 'The Sopranos', insists he is too old to exercise but it doesn't matter because he needs to be overweight to play Tony Soprano.

He told Esquire magazine: "I should exercise, but I'm too old for that shit. I lost 30lbs to play my character in 'The Mexican', but people don't take to skinny mafia men, and I don't feel right when I'm thin. I was voted best-looking kid in high school but, as you can see, things changed.

"I used to say I was a 260lb Woody Allen. You can make that 295lb now."

Despite being happy with the success he has achieved in 'The Sopranos', Gandolfini admits he gets tired of playing the same part.

He said: "I can only take so much of Tony Soprano. I like the guy, but he takes up nine months of my year, every year, and that's not really me. I'm more of a soft guy."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mafia Conned by Desperate Housewife

A desperate housewife pulled a fast one on a mob of real-life Sopranos, the wiseguys' lawyers are whining in court papers. Queens homemaker Yvonne Rossetti conned three Bonanno gangsters out of a cool half-million dollars after convincing them to invest in a phony real-estate deal, court papers say.

When the thugs got wise to the Howard Beach woman and threatened to "put her in the trunk of a car" - mobspeak for murder - her husband wore a wire and turned them over to the feds, the mobsters' mouthpieces claim. "She's a con artist," said Joseph Benfante, who represents Michael "Mike the Butcher" Virtuoso. "The real danger to the community is Yvonne Rossetti."

Virtuoso and Michael Cassese, reputed made members of the Bonannos, and alleged family associate Agostino Accardo were indicted last month on loan-sharking charges in Brooklyn federal court after Rossetti's husband, Vincent, ratted them out. Vincent faces federal extortion charges in an unrelated case.

Cassese's lawyer, Steve Zissou, questioned Vincent's sudden decision to go to the feds. The feds "got it wrong," Zissou said. "They got sold a bill of goods by the Rossetti characters."

Lawyers for all three Bonannos say Yvonne is a con artist who bilked her neighbors, the wiseguys and their family members out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. "For $100,000 . . . she promised an extraordinary rate of return" from selling shares in a real-estate venture in California, Zissou said in court documents.

"As with every pyramid scheme, [her] inability to . . . attract new victims eventually caused the scheme to implode."

In 2005, Yvonne convinced Accardo and his family to invest $500,000 in her land deal, said Accardo's lawyer, James DiPietro. Accardo coughed up what he could, then turned to his friend Virtuoso and his family for the rest.

When the profits failed to appear, Accardo asked Cassese to put the screws to the wayward businesswoman.

Vincent taped Cassese and Virtuoso threatening his wife and gave the recording to the feds, authorities said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Chan insists the three indicted mobsters are in the loan-sharking business. Virtuoso, Chan said, was arrested with a ledger of debts owed to the "family" on him and a scrap of paper with Yvonne and Vincent Rossetti's name in his pocket.

Accardo is free on $1 million bail. The other two men are being held without bail.

Thanks to Stefanie Cohen

Plumber Victim of Dyslexic Mob Hit Man?

Friends of ours: Salvatore Cautadello

A new theory in last month's slaying of a suburban plumbing company owner took shape Friday. It now looks like a mob hit with a tragic twist.

The Chicago Crime Commission suspects the hit man went to the wrong house and killed an innocent man. CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker reports the likely motive was to silence a potential witness against the outfit.

Salvatore Cautadello served time in the mid 1980s for shaking down businesses for the Chicago mob. Today, he is still a suspected mobster, but just not locked up and facing trial like so many of his cohorts.

Cautadello lives in Park Ridge with his ex-wife, just a few doors from slain plumbing contractor Gerald Dhamer. Their addresses are similar. "I don't know if you have a dyslexic hit man or if you have someone who's inexperienced," said Jim Wagner, head of the Chicago Crime Commission.

Wagner noted Cautadello belongs to the ill-fated Cicero crew. One member was slain recently and a second disappeared in August. "Mr. Cautadello is probably concerned, and rightly so," Wagner said. "Several in the leadership of the outfit are currently in the metropolitan correctional facility, awaiting trial. Could they be concerned about future testimony? Could they be concerned about possible cooperation or people being subpoenaed?"

The Dhamer murder remains unsolved. He had no criminal record. No known enemies. "He may have been an innocent victim. It was so typically a mob hit tactic," Wagner said.

Wagner hopes Park Ridge police catch the killer. But thirty years spent as an FBI agent against the mob taught him that's unlikely. "The police might to be sure and check trunks especially those emitting foul odors," Wagner said.

CBS 2 spoke with Cautadello's lawyer Friday afternoon. Alex Salerno said there is no reason anyone would want to kill his client. He added that the botched hit theory is ridiculous. Salerno says he's defended people in a number of murder cases and finds it unlikely that a professional hit man would make such a dumb mistake.

Gambino Extradited from Brazil to U.S.

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, John Edward Alite

A suspected top leader of the Gambino crime family who lived in Brazil for nearly three years was extradited Friday to the United States to face charges, including kidnapping and murder.

Gambino, John Edward Alite, Extradited from Brazil to U.S.Brazilian police handed John Edward Alite, 44, over to five U.S. FBI agents who escorted him back to the United States, federal police spokesman Carlos Mello said by telephone.

U.S. authorities accuse Alite, also known as John Alletto, of controlling illegal businesses, illegal gambling, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and murder as a top lieutenant in the New York-based Gambino family.

Mello said Alite flew in January 2004 to Rio de Janeiro, where he settled in the famous Copacabana beach neighborhood and taught boxing at a local school. He was arrested 10 months later at an Internet cafe "where he would go to contact his family and accomplices in the United States," Mello said. Police said the FBI tracked Alite through the e-mails he sent from the cafe.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas Bin Laden!

Only in New York would a Mafia associate nicknamed The Irishman allegedly provide a bomb used to destroy a Pakistani immigrant's deli that was competing with a bagel store protected by the mob.

The feds yesterday charged reputed Gambino crime associate Edward Fisher with orchestrating the December 2001 arson attack on My Deli and Grocery in Staten Island.

Police had originally suspected the attack might be connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks because the firebomber had yelled, "Merry Christmas, Bin Laden."

The feds now say the attack was an old-fashioned mob attempt to eliminate competition. "Cowards threw a firebomb into an occupied grocery store and then ran away," said William McMahon of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Deli owner Hamim Syed was warned by an acquaintance that his plan to open a second convenience store would not sit well with "two strong Italian partners" with ties to a nearby bagel store.

In what may have been a staged extortion scheme, Syed was paid a visit by "Sonny" and "Vinny" - later identified as Luchese crime members - who warned him "things could get ugly," according to court papers.

The plot thickened when Syed sought help from a Pakistani businessman with ties to the Genovese crime family who arranged a sitdown with two other gangsters at the Hooters restaurant in Staten Island in the summer of 2001. Syed thought the matter was resolved and went ahead with his expansion plans.

According to court papers and sources, the owner of the bagel store - also a Pakistani immigrant and allegedly paying protection to the Gambino crime family - sought to get rid of Syed's rival store.

Fisher, a retired city Sanitation worker known as The Irishman, was allegedly tasked to give a bomb to another Gambino associate, Salvatore Palmieri. On Dec. 22, 2001, at 4:50 a.m., truck driver Anthony Maniscalco held My Deli's door open while Palmieri tossed in a bowling bag containing the device.

The deli was destroyed, but Syed, a founding member of the borough's Pak-American Civic Association, later reopened. The bombers pleaded guilty and are serving jail sentences.

Fisher, 54, facing at least 35 years in prison, was ordered held without bail. His lawyer denied the charges.

Thanks to Ernie Naspretto and John Marzulli

Lawyer Can Sue Mobster for Defamation

Double Deal: The Inside Story of Murder, Unbridled Corruption, and the Cop Who Was a MobsterAn Illinois Supreme Court ruling today allows a lawyer to claim he was defamed by a former mobster who wrote a tell-all book about crime in Chicago.

Defense attorney Patrick Tuite claims that the book "Double Deal: The Inside Story of Murder, Unbridled Corruption, and the Cop Who Was a Mobster" accuses him of taking Mafia money to fix a case in 1985.

Lower courts ruled that author Michael Corbitt's depiction of Tuite in the book could be viewed innocently -- that the Mafia hired Tuite because of his legal skills. But the Supreme Court says the passage about Tuite must be viewed in the context of the book. It's about Corbitt's career in the mob while serving as police chief of suburban Willow Springs.

The case goes back to circuit court for defamation proceedings.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ice Bar Has Mob Links

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Ernest "Rocky" Infelice, Kenneth Bratko, Marshall Caifano

An owner of Ice Bar -- the site of the slaying of Chicago Bear Tank Johnson's bodyguard -- once invested in a mob-tied casino and is the daughter of an associate of Outfit boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo.

Bar owner Anna Marie Amato also pleaded guilty to a felony drug possession case in 2005 but under the special probation she received, she did not have a felony conviction entered on her record, allowing her to keep her liquor license, according to court records and a city spokeswoman. Amato, 50, has not returned phone messages requesting comment in recent days.

Amato is the daughter of Kenneth Bratko, a longtime associate of Lombardo and a convicted felon. Bratko was convicted in February 1970 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking part in the hijacking of more than $300,000 in cameras from a truck headed to Melrose Park. Bratko was charged with Ernest "Rocky" Infelice, the late Cicero mob boss whose conviction was later thrown out.

Five years before, Bratko was acquitted along with top Chicago gangster Marshall Caifano in a $48,000 insurance fraud scheme in Chicago.

Bratko was the subject of a confidential 1975 memorandum by an investigator from an Illinois state commission looking into an organized crime takeover of the truck-hauling industry. Bratko was accused of initiating the takeover while he was still in federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., but never charged. Bratko did not return phone messages on Tuesday.

Bratko's daughter, Amato, and another Bratko family member were among the investors in the mob-tied casino, the Curacao Caribbean Hotel & Casino, according to an investor list from 1989 obtained by the Sun-Times. The casino operation, suspected of washing money for the Outfit, was the subject of an IRS criminal investigation, but no charges resulted, sources said. The hotel later declared bankruptcy.

As for Amato, she pleaded guilty last year to possession of crystal meth after police caught her paying $400 for 3.2 grams of it. Amato received a special two-year probation for first-time drug offenders that allowed her to avoid having the felony entered on her record as long as she successfully completes her probation. Without a felony on her record, the city did not have grounds to revoke her liquor license, said Rosa Escareno, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Business Affairs and Licensing.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir and Fran Spielman

Mob Boss Warns About Wire in Advance

Friends of ours: James Marcello, Michael Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr.
Friends of mine: Frank Calabrese Jr.

Two years before the information became public, the head of the Chicago mob warned that the oldest son of a Chicago mobster was wired up.

In a secretly tape-recorded conversation top Chicago mob boss James Marcello told his half-brother, Michael Marcello, in the visiting room of a federal prison not to talk around Frank Calabrese Jr.

"The oldest guy, the son, he's got one of these things on," James Marcello told his brother, pointing to his chest and mid-section during the Jan. 9, 2003, conversation. "So, if he comes around be careful," James Marcello warned.

The dialogue is quoted in a recent government filing in what's been called the most significant prosecution of the Outfit in Chicago history. Among those charged include both Marcellos and Frank Calabrese Sr., who is accused of having a role in 13 mob murders out of 18 charged in the case.

It's unclear how James Marcello found out about the closely guarded secret that Frank Calabrese Jr. was cooperating with the feds and had worn a wire on his father. The fact was reported first publicly in the Chicago Sun-Times in February 2005.

Federal authorities had no comment on the matter Tuesday.

Both Marcello brothers and reputed mob hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. are in federal prison awaiting trial in May.

Frank Calabrese Jr., who is not charged in the current case, put his life on the line by secretly recording his father while they both were in prison on another matter.

Frank Calabrese Sr. allegedly talks about mob murders on the tape-recordings, and his talkativeness has sparked great ill feelings toward him among his fellow mobsters awaiting trial with him at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

Frank Calabrese Sr.'s brother, Nick, is also cooperating, and the Marcellos are heard talking about his cooperation as well. That talk was spurred, in part, after Nick Calabrese did not return home from prison as scheduled in November 2002.

Michael Marcello was visiting his brother in prison in Milan, Mich. They want the secret tape-recordings barred from trial, but prosecutors argue that the brothers had no expectation of privacy while inside the prison and that the conversations are relevant to the case.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Sopranos Last Supper

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family

If you're tired of spending time with the "mob" at the shopping malls, then you'll likely welcome "doing some time" with the Sicilian Mob. "The Sopranos Last Supper" is now playing at the Krave nightclub next to the Aladdin hotel and the Desert Passage Mall. You will love this interactive comedic-musical spoof dinner theatre based on the popular TV series.

Mangia, mangia! While enjoying your four-course Italian buffet with cuisine ranging from antipasto and pasta to meat entrées you'll watch an on-stage roundup of trigger-happy wise guys and their girls. The star of the evening is the newly rechristened Tony Baritone (Lou Diamond) at his new place of business, the "Bada Bang Nightclub." Tony's invited you to his big going away bash. He's been indicted and is headed to the big house. You'll also meet Tony's associates, including Uncle Junior Baritone (Lou Bellomo), Christopher Moltensanti (Tom Lynch), Paulie Whacknuts (Frankie DeAngelo), Philly the Leotard (Michael Delano) and Bobby Baklava (Jim Hitzke). These guys are really funny (tip: it's safer if you laugh and play along...)

The "Bada Bang Girls" perform dance numbers especially for Tony and give the room an amazing charge of sexy energy. What really makes "Sopranos' Last Supper" a standout show is the dancing. So put on your dancing shoes, get on the floor and have fun (just don't reach into your pockets too quickly).

Audience members can dance with the cast members and each other. You'll be singing and dancing in conga lines to Italian-flavored favorites like "That's Amore" and "Che Sera, Sera." The cast of dancers look great up on the stage, and they handily execute interesting choreography, and are a pleasure to watch.

In addition to the dancing, the music is also a real crowd-pleaser. A great element to the show is sultry singer Dee Dee Diamond (Janien Valentine) who belts out danceable hit songs like "Dancing Queen." Valentine is very talented with a lot of wonderful credits behind her. With both her character and her incredible voice, she really enhances the production.

This is a really fun show. Show time is 6 p.m. Tickets are $98 plus tax, and that includes dinner and show. Make reservations by calling 702-733-8669 or (800) 944-5639.

Thanks to Len Butcher

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

NFL with Mafia Ties?

New York Giants linebacker LaVar Arrington says the NFL players union is like organized crime. Union representatives disputed the description because, after all, they regularly make NFL owners some offers they can, and do, refuse.

Thanks to Reggie Hayes

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Battaglias: From Siciliy to the Chicago Mob to the NHL

It was during a conversation about restaurants, Italian food and his Sicilian roots that Bates Battaglia mentioned his grandfather.

The Battaglias: From Siciliy to the Chicago Mob to the NHLHe said the old man's name was Sam and that no, Sam was not in the food service industry like Bates' father, Richard.

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward was speaking softly and politely -- like he always seems to -- as he explained that Sam "took a different" path in life. He said if a reporter wanted to know what that path was, he could punch Sam Battaglia's name into the Internet and find out for himself.

Sam Battaglia embodied the American Dream. He was nobody when he started out, nothing more than a poor uneducated son of Italian immigrants scratching out a living on Chicago's rough-and-tumble west side.

By the time of his death in 1973, everybody in town knew the Battaglia name. Sam had made it. He went out on top. But his American Dream was lived out in a sinister and shadowy otherworld populated with two-bit hoods, killers for hire, politicians on the take, corrupt cops, compromised union bosses and a code of honour that was written in blood.

"Sam Battaglia was the Don of the Chicago mafia," says Jack Walsh, the special agent for the Internal Revenue Service who finally caught up with Battaglia in 1967 and sent him to jail for 15 years. "Battaglia's street name was Teets, and he ran the Chicago Outfit from his farm out west of the city."

Bates Battaglia never met his grandfather. He was born two years after the authorities released the old man from prison so he could die at home, quietly, a victim of cancer.

Bates' parents divorced when he was a little kid. He and his two brothers, Anthony and Sam, would spend the school year -- and hockey season -- in the Chicago area with their mom, Sandra. Once school was out, they headed to Florida where Richard had become a successful restaurateur.

Neither parent told the Battaglia boys much about their grandpa, beyond Richard telling them that his father had been "well-respected. And that he was one of the nicest men, and that that's the way a lot of people knew him." But the kids around Chicago knew otherwise. And they talked, as kids do. It was out on the street playing road hockey where Bates learned that the man he knew as Grandpa was a notorious mobster.

"This is my family," Bates says. "This is who I am, and this is where I came from. And I wouldn't change anything about it.

"I'm proud of who I am, and who my family are."

Sam Battaglia first drew notice in Chicago in 1930 when he committed a stop-the-presses-style crime. At the time, he was a member of the 42 Gang, a wild bunch of juvenile crooks who ran amuck in Al Capone's kingdom of sin, stealing cars, robbing cigar stands and holding up nightclubs in the hopes that the big boss was paying attention.

At the age of 22, Sam Battaglia pulled a gun on the wife of the mayor of Chicago, William Hale Thompson, and asked her to hand over her jewels. He left the scene with US$15,500 worth of shiny trinkets, plus the gun and badge of the woman's police escort. The authorities were unable to positively identify Battaglia as the culprit. But Capone and his cronies were indeed paying attention. In no time, the young gangster nicknamed Teets -- because he had had his front teeth knocked out -- was on his way up the organized-crime ladder.

Bates' father is Sam Battaglia's youngest son. Richard currently resides in Raleigh, N.C., the city to which he moved in 1999 after his boy made it with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Richard understood that young athletes tend to get rich before they get wise, so he encouraged Bates to put his money in to something he could touch, such as real estate. The hockey player, who turns 31 next week, now owns two condominiums, a beach house, a house, a bar and a building in Raleigh's restaurant district that he and his dad plan to transform into an upscale Italian eatery once he stops playing. "We want it to be a place where you're not coming in dressed like a bum," Bates says.

In the meantime, Richard tends to the bar -- Lucky B's -- and shops around for other potential investment opportunities in the Raleigh area. (When Bates is home for the summer, his father cooks dinner four times a week for he and his younger brother, Anthony, a winger with the Columbia (S.C.) Inferno of the East Coast Hockey League.)

Asked how the son of the one-time Don of the Chicago Outfit can be playing chef to his boys instead of running a crew of his own in Chicago and Richard, polite like Bates though more verbose, answers: "How do you know I wasn't? You are asking me something I can't talk about."

Richard will say that whatever he did is in "the past," that he is "not real proud of it," and that he has never been in jail. He is simply Bates' dad now, and happy to be that.

He was a star high school athlete in his own day. Football and baseball were his games. Much like his boys, he only learned of Sam's line of work when the kids in the neighbourhood started talking.

Richard remembers Steve Sullivan, an Irish brat with a big mouth who later became his best friend, making some crack about his father when they were playing baseball as 10 year olds. "I ran over to the dugout and started beating the s--- out of him," Richard says. "That was my dad he was talking about. Steve didn't know that hurt me. He was just a little kid and being a smart ass.

"What really hurt me was that I would see my dad on TV for certain things, and I didn't understand it."

To Richard, Sam was the father who came home every night to have dinner with his family. And on Friday nights, he was the dad who piled through the front door of his house with all his buddies in tow to partake in one of his mother's multi-course feasts. The men would sit around the big round basement table after dinner smoking cigars and talking.

Richard, Steve Sullivan, and the rest of the Oak Park Pony League baseball team made it to the 1960 World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Richard remembers standing at home plate on a perfect sunny day, looking out to right field and seeing his father -- with a couple buddies in tow -- strolling along the fence line. "I got real excited -- and it kind of gets me now, just thinking about it," Richard says. "And don't you know it, I hit a home run right over their heads." The crime boss threw a big party for all the parents and the players after Oak Park won the championship game. There was lots of food and drinks. Sam paid for the whole thing.

Sam Battaglia had hit the big time, and was a millionaire several times over with a fortune built upon extortion, loan sharking, burglary and the Chicago Outfit's No. 1 moneymaker: gambling.

Battaglia's star in the Outfit's galaxy was approaching its zenith in the early 1960s. Sam (Momo) Giancana, Battaglia's old pal and a fellow graduate of the 42 Gang, was running the whole show. Giancana had brought La Cosa Nostra out of the back rooms of Little Italy and into the national spotlight. He was a friend of Frank Sinatra. He ran around with one of the singing McGuire sisters, and he allegedly held discussions with the CIA about putting a mob hit out on Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Giancana was jailed in 1965 for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury. In his absence, Battaglia assumed control of the Outfit. By then, the Chicago mafia was a far-reaching and influential empire. "They could produce more money and votes for politicians than any other organization in Chicago or even Illinois," Walsh, the IRS special agent, says. "They had tremendous power. They had master control in Chicago."

Battaglia's command centre was an opulent racehorse farm he owned in Kane County. Every morning his driver, Jackie (the Lackey) Cerone, would pick Sam up at his home in Oak Park and take him out to the property.

Battaglia was an untouchable, and then he made a mistake.

The Outfit, with the help of some crooked people who held influential political offices, was extorting money from building contractors in Northlake, Ill. Rocco Pranno, a.k.a. Jim Martell, was running the operation with Battaglia's blessing. Construction would be halted midstream on a major project under the pretext that an engineering firm needed to review the contractor's plans. The builder was then charged a hefty fee to continue the work, leaving Pranno and his partners to divide the spoils.

It was not long after Battaglia replaced Giancana that the new boss replaced Pranno with Joe Amabile, a.k.a. Joe Shine. Pranno was not happy with the new arrangement. Neither were his associates. One of them started talking to Walsh. The mafia turncoat wound up being the government's star witness in a sensational 11-week trial that resulted in Battaglia's conviction on extortion and conspiracy charges. (The witness is still alive, and Walsh refuses to divulge his identity).

During the court case, the special agent's wife began receiving calls at home. The voice on the phone would describe in detail the clothing Walsh's children wore to school that day. Walsh approached his superiors about it, and a meeting was arranged with the defendant so prosecutors could inform Battaglia of what was happening on the outside. "The old mafia had a code," Walsh says. "This was the only time anyone heard Battaglia speak, except for me when he said he wouldn't talk to me. "But he told them: 'Tell the kid he doesn't have to worry any more. It won't happen again.' "And I never got another call."

Sam Battaglia was arrested 25 times in his life: for burglary, larceny, assault and attempted murder. He was also the prime suspect in seven unsolved homicides.

His grandson, Bates, is a winger of modest talent on a mediocre Toronto Maple Leafs team but a budding property baron/restaurant owner in Raleigh.

Bates' younger brother, Anthony, is still waiting for his NHL dream to come true.

His older brother, Sam, runs a successful chiropractic practice on Chicago's west side -- on the same street where his grandfather got his start. He has an 18-month-old son, also named Sam.

Bates says about the closest he and his brothers have come to a life of crime was a juvenile addiction to Martin Scorsese's mafia film, Goodfellas. "We were so in to that movie," he says. "You see that and the hype and what the [mobsters] get, and it looks like a cool lifestyle at points. "But any one who has actually been in that life, or around it, like my dad, will tell you that you have those guys who you think are your best friends and they will turn on you in a second."

Richard Battaglia likes to talk about the "circle of life," and about how amazing it is that a dirt-poor family from Sicily can come to Chicago to chase the American Dream and, within a few generations, produce two sons who are professional athletes and another who is dedicated to healing. "Listen," Richard says. "I am proud of my dad, and I love him more than anything, and I wish he was alive today to see this. "The old days are gone and past, and I'm gone and past, and this is the new era where the Battaglia boys are going to do a lot of good things. "And that's the way it is."

Thanks to Joe O'Connor

Mob Still Thrives in New England Despite Lower Membership

Friends of ours: Carmen "The Big Chese" DiNunzio, Luigi "Baby Shanks" Manocchio, Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, Peter J. Limone, Robert J. DeLuca

Forget about HBO's Tony Soprano. Today's mob leaders, at least in New England, are low-profile wiseguys with unglamorous jobs, and in Boston, membership is dwindling, according to the State Police.

The number of so-called made men who have taken a formal oath and pledged their souls to the Mafia is only about half of what it was in the Boston area in the early 1980s, according to Detective Lieutenant Stephen P. Johnson of the State Police.

The Boston faction has about 20 to 25 active soldiers who report to several capos, while another 10 inactive members are behind bars, said Johnson, who oversees organized crime investigations as head of the Special Service Section.

While waning membership reflects a mob weakened by several decades of federal prosecutions, the New England Mafia continues to thrive and uses a substantial number of associates to make money, officials said. "It is the only traditional organized crime group left in town, with the exception of Asian gangs who primarily stay within their neighborhoods," Johnson said. "What they've tried to do is keep a low profile while maintaining their traditional activities, which would include extortion, drug trafficking, bookmaking, loansharking, and even pornography."

State Police in Massachusetts and Rhode Island said illegal gambling, and sports-betting in particular, remain the life blood of the organization.

Alleged underboss Carmen "The Big Cheese" DiNunzio, 49, owner of Fresh Cheese shop in Boston's North End, drew little public attention until his arrest by State Police last week on charges of extortion and running an illegal sports-betting operation. He makes fabulous sandwiches, law enforcement officials said, but he captured their attention because he allegedly oversees all of the mob's activities in the Boston area.

His lawyer, Anthony Cardinale, said they have it wrong. "They are trying to create something that really isn't there," said Cardinale, who insisted that DiNunzio is no underboss, describing him as "a low-key, well-liked neighborhood guy who happens to be Italian." Though DiNunzio occasionally helps his sister by cooking at her East Boston restaurant, Carmen's Kitchen, he has no ownership interest in the business, Cardinale said.

The New England Mafia operates in Rhode Island and Eastern Massachusetts up to Worcester, while the western part of the state is allegedly controlled by New York families.

Leadership of the New England organization has shifted between Boston and Providence since the 1930s, reverting to Rhode Island in 1995, when the reputed current godfather, Luigi "Baby Shanks" Manocchio, took over. Manocchio, 79, has been described as a low-key boss who has pulled warring factions together after the bloody reign of Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme. Manocchio, who law enforcement officials say would rather make money than spend it, works out of Addie's laundromat on Federal Hill in Providence and lives in an apartment upstairs.

Rhode Island State Police have identified the mob's consigliere, who traditionally moderates internal disputes, as 72-year-old Peter J. Limone, who was exonerated of a 1965 gangland murder after spending 33 years in prison and is now suing the government for more than $100 million. His lawyer, Juliane Balliro, denied that Limone was a consigliere and added that with his civil trial underway in federal court in Boston, "we find the timing of these revelations very suspicious." But Major Steven O'Donnell, a longtime organized crime investigator who is in charge of field operations for the Rhode Island State Police , said informants and wiretap information indicate that Limone is consigliere to Manocchio.

O'Donnell also identified Robert J. DeLuca, who was paroled in March after serving 12 years in prison, as a capo in Rhode Island. DeLuca gained notoriety in 1989 after an FBI bug indicated he was among four new soldiers inducted into the Mafia in a blood-oath ceremony in Medford. Since his release from prison, DeLuca has been working at the upscale Sidebar & Grille restaurant in Providence, owned by his lawyer, Artin Coloian, who said DeLuca had a flawless record in prison and "there's no reason for anyone to doubt that his life would go the same way."

The number of mobsters in the Providence area, where there are about a dozen active members, has remained consistent over the years, O'Donnell said. But they generally are no longer raising their children in the old Federal Hill enclave and grooming them to follow in their footsteps, O'Donnell said.

It's the same in Boston, according to Johnson, who said there is no longer a so-called mob headquarters in the North End, though mobsters fraternize there at restaurants and social clubs. "The bad guys live in suburban towns now," said Johnson. As a result, he said, the mob's activities are more spread out, with members casting a wider net when it comes to shaking down bookmakers and drug dealers. "If you're a member and you live in Framingham and are aware of somebody who is a dope dealer in your area and you can extort them, you do." But even with dwindling ranks, it would be misguided for law enforcement to let up pressure on them, Johnson said.

"The key is to not let it grow, to keep pruning away at it, so it doesn't get a chance to take off again," he said.

Thanks to Shelley Murphy

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Did the Mafia Influence Rich Rodriquez to Stay at West Virginia?

Instead of looking for gangsters in movies and television like "Goodfellas" and "The Sopranos," Morgantown residents can see a mafia right here in town. Though they may not wear $5,000 suits and kill people for a living, the people who work at the local bars and clubs of the area are structured as Morgantown's mafia.

For West Virginia University students to understand the organization of Morgantown's mafia of bouncers, doormen, bartenders and bar owners, we must look at what they do and how they do it.

The Associates
One of the most important jobs doormen have is regulating the line waiting to get inside. Unless you are on the coveted VIP list, you are bound to wait in line and freeze. Doormen are an interesting breed of enforcers. Unlike most bouncers, doormen can be swayed with a variety of tactics. Like the mob, you can pay a "tribute" to the doormen to get in. I have personally seen doormen take money from wanna-be big shots who don't think they should wait in line.
Some doormen are insulted by an offering of money, but others are quite fond of the tactic used by desperate unattractive males who can't wait in line like the rest. In the hierarchy of the mafia/bar structure, doormen are the associates. With a pretty smile and D-cups, you can get past many Morgantown associates.Since they are forced to wait out in the cold and regulate drunk people from getting into the club, we can assume they have the most unappealing job in the structure. The associates, though crucial to the structure, are more worried about making money and watching pretty women than advancing in the "family." The moral of the story is if you have a $20 bill or a pretty smile and D-cups, you can get past many Morgantown associates.

The Soldiers
Patrons who finally make it inside of the club or bar find themselves in the domain of the bouncers, or soldiers of Morgantown's mafia. Though I highly respect both doormen and bouncers for the stuff they have to put up with, sometimes their ability to wrangle drunk kids can be a bit excessive. For the most part, soldiers work their tails off to try and de-escalate situations, but some just like to fight. Soldiers are the blunt instrument used to both stop and start fighting in the club. Much like the real mafia, a bouncer's job is to intimidate people and protect the other members of the "family." If another bouncer is in a scrap, you can guarantee his fellow soldiers will be the first ones there to get the job done. Any thug who simply enjoys fighting doesn't have the ability to protect their patrons and fellow "family" members. On top of sometimes beating the crap out of people who smart-eye them, soldiers also confiscate illegal items like drugs, weapons and fake IDs. My question is: Where do all the dangerous confiscated drugs and weapons go? Are they reported to the cops? Thrown away? Or are they sold or kept for personal use? Questions like these should be answered. Due to their intimidation factor and enormous size, soldiers and associates are hardly questioned for fear of reprisal.

The Underboss

The bartenders of the nightclubs in Morgantown are the most crucial to the entire operation of Morgantown's mafia. "Knowing" a bartender can get frequent patrons hundreds of dollars of free drinks in a year. Not only are they in charge of the bar, they are also in charge of your buzz as well as the people directly under them. Underbosses have the ability to serve you quickly or not at all. Often, people who don't tip or don't tip to the satisfaction of the bartenders don't get served in a timely manner. Bartenders have at their disposal bouncers, bar-backs and doormen to regulate any patron they want. The bartenders wield a lot of power as the underbosses in the mafia. They are able to influence the rest of the members while only taking cues from the boss.

The Boss

The various club owners in Morgantown are the heads of their families. Their main responsibility is to make sure their competition isn't ganging on them, to make money and to lead their employees. The Boss doesn't have to get his hands dirty with the nightly business of the bar; they leave that up to the associates, soldiers and underbosses. Each position in the Morgantown club and bar scene is very similar to the jobs and responsibilities of the mafia. Some may disagree and say that they are just employees of a company but not in a hierarchy of beatings, intimation and bribes, but they are. Every bar or "family" has their own set of rules, and everybody knows that if those rules are broken, you can end up in the alley with hell of a beating. If that's not the mafia, what is?

Thanks to Christian Alexandersen

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Calabrese Pleads with Judge for Better Conditions

A reputed leader of Chicago's organized crime family pleaded with a federal judge Tuesday for more space in jail while he awaits trial on charges of plotting 18 murders going back three decades.

''I'm taking 15 medications and my back is killing me,'' Frank Calabrese Sr., 69, told U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel. He said overcrowding on his floor at the Metropolitan Correctional Center is so bad that he can't concentrate on court papers and study the charges against him.

A chronic back problem only makes matters worse, he said. ''All I want to do is be in a two-man room so I can study my case,'' said the portly, bearded defendant, clad in the bright orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner.

To underline Calabrese's woes, defense attorney Joseph Lopez asked permission from Zagel for his client to sit down during the hearing.

FineStationery.comCalabrese is among 14 reputed mob figures charged in a racketeering indictment that alleges at least 18 murders going as far back as 1970.

Zagel was holding a hearing on complaints by a number of the defendants charged in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets that their health and related problems are not being met in the MCC -- a skyscraper federal jail a block from the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago.

Calabrese was the only defendant to come to court. But other attorneys said their clients had urgent medical needs ranging from a new hearing aid to a fresh set of false teeth.

Calabrese said his hearing wasn't that good, either. ''I can't hear out of one ear and the other ear is partially working and partially not,'' he said. ''And anything I could get to help me I would appreciate.''

Zagel and federal prosecutors said that they would look into the matter but stopped short of promising any quick relief.

Zagel said that getting Calabrese into a different room might require putting him on a different floor, which in turn could bring him into contact with other defendants in the case -- something federal prosecutors have sought to avoid. ''I would be reluctant to interfere with the separation order,'' he said.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Mobsters, Unions, and The Feds

NYU law professor Jacobs further burnishes his reputation for advancing the study of organized crime in America with his latest work of scholarship, billed by the publisher as "the only book to investigate how the mob has distorted American labor history."

This worthy successor to Gotham Unbound and Busting the Mob is an exhaustive, albeit sometimes repetitive, survey of the grip La Cosa Nostra has exerted on the country's most powerful unions. While many will be familiar with the broad outlines of the corruption that riddled the Teamsters, which is recounted by the author, his summary of some lesser-known examples of pervasive labor corruption help illustrate his thesis that the entire American union movement has suffered from the intimidation and fear the mob used to gain and maintain control of unions.

Especially valuable is Jacobs's examination of the relatively recent use of the RICO law to bring dirty unions under the control of a federally appointed independent trustee, and the book's posing of hard questions about the mixed success those monitorships have had.

Thanks to Publishers Weekly

Monday, December 04, 2006

Loren-Maltese Attorneys Hand Over $225,000 to Feds

Friends of mine: Betty Loren-Maltese

Defense attorneys have agreed to hand over to the federal government $225,000 they received from the imprisoned former town president of suburban Cicero for the appeal of her racketeering sentence.

The attorneys will keep $400,000 that Betty Loren-Maltese paid them four years ago as she sought to overturn her conviction on charges of engineering a fraud scheme that swindled Cicero out of $12 million. The agreement between the federal government and the attorneys was outlined in court papers made public Monday.

U.S. District Judge John F. Grady in January 2003 sentenced Loren-Maltese to eight years in prison for her part in the insurance scam. Loren-Maltese was one of seven defendants convicted in the scheme to siphon money out of the town treasury in the small, blue-collar suburb west of Chicago that has been troubled by mob influence for decades. Grady also fined Loren-Maltese $100,000 and ordered those convicted at trial to forfeit $3,250,000 and pay $84 million in restitution.

In her effort to overturn the conviction, Loren-Maltese hired nationally prominent defense attorney Alan Dershowitz for the appeal. She paid Dershowitz $625,000, according to court papers. They said that Dershowitz then transferred $270,000 to his brother's New York law firm of Dershowitz, Eiger and Adelson, which also worked on the appeal.

Under the settlement, the attorneys will pay $225,000 to the federal government to help satisfy the forfeiture amount. These funds were described in a court document as "unearned fees."

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, Randall Samborn, declined to comment on the settlement, referring a reporter to the court papers. But Dershowitz's brother, Nathan Z. Dershowitz, said in a brief telephone interview that some of the $625,000 that Loren-Maltese paid was for expenses and some a retainer against future fees. Nathan Dershowitz declined to say how much of the $225,000 his firm would pay and how much would be paid by his brother.

Loren-Maltese remains in federal prison and is still asking the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn her conviction.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Chicago Mobster's Road to Perdition

A Mob assassin goes on the run after his young son witnesses him at work.

Sam Mendes creates an enjoyable (if somewhat self-conscious) flick from Max Allan Collins's grim tale of betrayal and vengeance.

Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, a contract killer for the Chicago Mob who faces a life-changing - as opposed to life-ending - decision in 1931 when his son discovers the true nature of his employment with Mr Rooney (Paul Newman).

The road to perdition is paved with good intentions as is the film. The story is hardly fresh but the skill involved in telling it is admirable. Hanks is woefully miscast but comes into his own when the story veers into sentimentality and bathos. Jude Law, as a weirdo photographer, brings some sorely needed spirit to proceedings.

Thanks to Doug Anderson

Roving Bug in Cell Phones Used By FBI to Eavesdrop on Syndicate

The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

Nextel cell phones owned by two alleged mobsters, John Ardito and his attorney Peter Peluso, were used by the FBI to listen in on nearby conversations. The FBI views Ardito as one of the most powerful men in the Genovese family, a major part of the national Mafia.

The surveillance technique came to light in an opinion published this week by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. He ruled that the "roving bug" was legal because federal wiretapping law is broad enough to permit eavesdropping even of conversations that take place near a suspect's cell phone.

Kaplan's opinion said that the eavesdropping technique "functioned whether the phone was powered on or off." Some handsets can't be fully powered down without removing the battery; for instance, some Nokia models will wake up when turned off if an alarm is set.

While the Genovese crime family prosecution appears to be the first time a remote-eavesdropping mechanism has been used in a criminal case, the technique has been discussed in security circles for years. The U.S. Commerce Department's security office warns that "a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone." An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can "remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call."

Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola RAZR are especially vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said James Atkinson, a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked closely with government agencies. "They can be remotely accessed and made to transmit room audio all the time," he said. "You can do that without having physical access to the phone."

Because modern handsets are miniature computers, downloaded software could modify the usual interface that always displays when a call is in progress. The spyware could then place a call to the FBI and activate the microphone--all without the owner knowing it happened. (The FBI declined to comment on Friday.)

"If a phone has in fact been modified to act as a bug, the only way to counteract that is to either have a bugsweeper follow you around 24-7, which is not practical, or to peel the battery off the phone," Atkinson said. Security-conscious corporate executives routinely remove the batteries from their cell phones, he added.

The FBI's Joint Organized Crime Task Force, which includes members of the New York police department, had little luck with conventional surveillance of the Genovese family. They did have a confidential source who reported the suspects met at restaurants including Brunello Trattoria in New Rochelle, N.Y., which the FBI then bugged. But in July 2003, Ardito and his crew discovered bugs in three restaurants, and the FBI quietly removed the rest. Conversations recounted in FBI affidavits show the men were also highly suspicious of being tailed by police and avoided conversations on cell phones whenever possible.

That led the FBI to resort to "roving bugs," first of Ardito's Nextel handset and then of Peluso's. U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones approved them in a series of orders in 2003 and 2004, and said she expected to "be advised of the locations" of the suspects when their conversations were recorded.

Details of how the Nextel bugs worked are sketchy. Court documents, including an affidavit (p1) and (p2) prepared by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kolodner in September 2003, refer to them as a "listening device placed in the cellular telephone." That phrase could refer to software or hardware.

One private investigator interviewed by CNET, Skipp Porteous of Sherlock Investigations in New York, said he believed the FBI planted a physical bug somewhere in the Nextel handset and did not remotely activate the microphone. "They had to have physical possession of the phone to do it," Porteous said. "There are several ways that they could have gotten physical possession. Then they monitored the bug from fairly near by." But other experts thought microphone activation is the more likely scenario, mostly because the battery in a tiny bug would not have lasted a year and because court documents say the bug works anywhere "within the United States"--in other words, outside the range of a nearby FBI agent armed with a radio receiver.

In addition, a paranoid Mafioso likely would be suspicious of any ploy to get him to hand over a cell phone so a bug could be planted. And Kolodner's affidavit seeking a court order lists Ardito's phone number, his 15-digit International Mobile Subscriber Identifier, and lists Nextel Communications as the service provider, all of which would be unnecessary if a physical bug were being planted.

A BBC article from 2004 reported that intelligence agencies routinely employ the remote-activiation method. "A mobile sitting on the desk of a politician or businessman can act as a powerful, undetectable bug," the article said, "enabling them to be activated at a later date to pick up sounds even when the receiver is down."

For its part, Nextel said through spokesman Travis Sowders: "We're not aware of this investigation, and we weren't asked to participate."

Other mobile providers were reluctant to talk about this kind of surveillance. Verizon Wireless said only that it "works closely with law enforcement and public safety officials. When presented with legally authorized orders, we assist law enforcement in every way possible."

A Motorola representative said that "your best source in this case would be the FBI itself." Cingular, T-Mobile, and the CTIA trade association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This isn't the first time the federal government has pushed at the limits of electronic surveillance when investigating reputed mobsters. In one case involving Nicodemo S. Scarfo, the alleged mastermind of a loan shark operation in New Jersey, the FBI found itself thwarted when Scarfo used Pretty Good Privacy software (PGP) to encode confidential business data. So with a judge's approval, FBI agents repeatedly snuck into Scarfo's business to plant a keystroke logger and monitor its output. Like Ardito's lawyers, Scarfo's defense attorneys argued that the then-novel technique was not legal and that the information gleaned through it could not be used. Also like Ardito, Scarfo's lawyers lost when a judge ruled in January 2002 that the evidence was admissible.

This week, Judge Kaplan in the southern district of New York concluded that the "roving bugs" were legally permitted to capture hundreds of hours of conversations because the FBI had obtained a court order and alternatives probably wouldn't work.

The FBI's "applications made a sufficient case for electronic surveillance," Kaplan wrote. "They indicated that alternative methods of investigation either had failed or were unlikely to produce results, in part because the subjects deliberately avoided government surveillance."

Bill Stollhans, president of the Private Investigators Association of Virginia, said such a technique would be legally reserved for police armed with court orders, not private investigators.

There is "no law that would allow me as a private investigator to use that type of technique," he said. "That is exclusively for law enforcement. It is not allowable or not legal in the private sector. No client of mine can ask me to overhear telephone or strictly oral conversations."

Surreptitious activation of built-in microphones by the FBI has been done before. A 2003 lawsuit revealed that the FBI was able to surreptitiously turn on the built-in microphones in automotive systems like General Motors' OnStar to snoop on passengers' conversations.

When FBI agents remotely activated the system and were listening in, passengers in the vehicle could not tell that their conversations were being monitored.

Malicious hackers have followed suit. A report last year said Spanish authorities had detained a man who write a Trojan horse that secretly activated a computer's video camera and forwarded him the recordings.

Thanks to Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache

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