Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Judge Denies Junior Gotti's Request to Delay Racketeering Trial Due to Kidney Stones

A Manhattan federal judge doesn't want to hear anymore of John A. (Junior) Gotti'sJudge Denies Junior Gotti's Request to Delay Racketeering Trial Due to Kidney Stones whining about his kidney stones.

Judge Kevin Castel on Tuesday rejected Gotti's request to delay the Sept. 14 start of the mob scion's racketeering trial for 45 days.

Castel was not moved by lawyer Charles Carnesi's claim that Gotti hasn't been allowed to speak to his attorneys by phone from a Brooklyn federal lockup.

"This reality, coupled with the fact that Mr. Gotti suffered from the agonizing pain of kidney stones for six months, which severely affected ... his ability to concentrate on trial preparation, support the necessity for a trial date extension," Carnesi wrote.

Earlier this month, Carnesi called it "cruel and unusual punishment" that Gotti was locked up without medical treatment for kidney stone infections.

"It is common knowledge that the pain associated with kidney stones is worse than childbirth," his lawyers claimed.

Carnesi claims Castel's decision to refuse Gotti taxpayer funds to pay for a defense investigator has hampered his ability to dig up background evidence to impeach the credibility of the government's witnesses.

Gotti is accused in a decades-long conspiracy that includes three gangland slayings in the 1980s.

Thanks to Thomas Zambito

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mob War Ready to Erupt in Las Vegas?

In one corner is the 74-year old daughter of legendary Chicago Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana whose turf once included Sin City.

In the other corner is the beefy mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, who was once the defense lawyer for the Chicago Mob's top emissary in Vegas.

At stake are future tourist dollars once Goodman and Antoinette "Mafia Princess" Giancana open competing crime syndicate museums.

According to "Vegas Confidential" columnist Norm Clarke, Ms. Giancana "was in Las Vegas over the weekend for meetings with backers of the museum, which is planned for a Strip location. It would compete with a $50 million downtown mob museum being pushed by Mayor Oscar Goodman. She's partnering with local investors Jay Bloom and Charlie Sandefur, who reportedly are in negotiations with Strip properties for their venue."

The quirky Giancana, who wrote a book about growing up as the daughter of a Chicago Outfit boss, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that "There would be tremendous foot traffic. I think it's going to be dynamite" she said. Her father was cut down by mob bullets in 1975 as he cooked a late-night snack in his Oak Park basement apartment.

Ms. Giancana claims to be moving to Las Vegas this summer to personally oversee the project. Clarke reports that "Giancana arrived with two beefy bodyguards for a business dinner Saturday at Capo's on West Sahara Avenue. She has asked Capo's owner Nico Santucci, a Chicago native, to design the Giancana room for the exhibit, which will include the same furniture that was in the family home the night her father was killed while frying Italian sausage and peppers."

The exhibit is "going to be a first," Giancana said. Bloom, she said, is "bringing in millions of dollars (worth of stuff) from various different (crime) families that have never, ever been seen" by the public.

Mobologists believe that Chicagoan Anthony "Ant" Spilotro whacked her father in the June twilight 34-years ago. Spilotro became the Outfit's top guy in Las Vegas. The Ant's numerous criminal cases were deftly handled by smooth-talking defense lawyer Oscar Goodman. Long after Spilotro himself was murdered and buried in an Indiana cornfield with his slain brother, Mr. Goodman was elected mayor of Las Vegas.

One of Mayor Goodman's top priorities has been a mob museum, now under construction near his city hall office. The $50 million tourist attraction could open as early as next year.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

85 Year Old Denied Release from Custody in Reputed Mob Pipe Bombing Case

A federal judge today refused to release from custody an elderly Oak Brook man charged with the Outfit-related pipe-bombing of a video gambling machine business.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier said he believes 85-year-old Samuel Volpendesto has serious health problems but found the risk of flight was too great to release him from the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown.

Volpendesto is charged in a case that links the Chicago mob and the Outlaws motorcycle gang to the pipe bombing of a Berwyn business that was in competition with the Outfit. Reputed mobster Michael "the Large Guy" Sarno also was indicted in the case.

Nathan Diamond-Falk, Volpendesto's lawyer, argued his client is suffering at the MCC from bladder cancer and an infection from a cut he sustained in the spring. It would be a life sentence for Volpendesto to remain jailed before a trial, Diamond-Falk said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk told the judge Volpendesto looked vigorous in court before the hearing started and was "acting like a clown, frankly." Volpendesto can be heard on secretly made tapes in the case linking himself to the Outfit and the 2003 bombing, Funk said.

At different points in one recording, Funk said, Volpendesto bragged about working for mobsters with ties to legendary Outfit boss Al Capone and claimed he also worked for the late mob boss Sam Giancana.

At Funk's request, a jail official informed the court about Volpendesto's ongoing medical treatment at the MCC.

Schenkier ultimately rejected Volpendesto's request, noting the crime was very serious and suggesting that despite the fact Volpendesto is confined to a wheelchair, he could still flee and not be available to have his case heard by a jury.

That could be his choice, Schenkier said, or the choice of the Outfit if the mob perceived Volpendesto could help the government. "He might have assistance in not being around at trial," the judge said.

Thanks to WGN

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Antoinette "The Mafia Princess" Giancana To Open Mob Museum in Las Vegas

The "Mafia Princess" is moving to Las Vegas to help open a mob-themed exhibit.

Antoinette Giancana, daughter of murdered Chicago mob chief Sam Giancana, was in Las Vegas over the weekend for meetings with backers of the museum, which is planned for a Strip location. It would compete with a $50 million downtown mob museum being pushed by Mayor Oscar Goodman.

She's partnering with local investors Jay Bloom and Charlie Sandefur, who reportedly are in negotiations with Strip properties for their venue.

"There would be tremendous foot traffic," she said by phone Tuesday. "I think it's going to be dynamite. Jeez," she paused, adding, "I shouldn't use that word."

Her 1984 book was titled "Mafia Princess - Growing Up In Sam Giancana's Family," as was the 1986 made-for-TV movie that starred Susan Lucci as Giancana and Tony Curtis as her father.

Las Vegas was part of her father's territory, and she's excited about "following in the shadow of his footsteps."

Giancana, 74, said she's moving here this summer to take a hands-on role in the project.

Her father, who controlled Chicago in the late 1950s and 1960s, was killed at his Chicago home June 19, 1975, four days before her birthday.

While the name of Las Vegas hit man Tony Spilotro has come up as a suspect, her No. 1 suspect, she said, remains the CIA. She's convinced the CIA wanted to silence her father. She co-wrote the 2005 book "JFK And Sam: The Connection Between the Giancana And Kennedy Assassinations," which made the case that her father ordered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Giancana arrived with two beefy bodyguards for a business dinner Saturday at Capo's on West Sahara Avenue. She has asked Capo's owner Nico Santucci, a Chicago native, to design the Giancana room for the exhibit, which will include the same furniture that was in the family home the night her father was killed while frying Italian sausage and peppers.

"Sam would love this joint," she told Santucci, who opened the Italian steakhouse at 5675 W. Sahara Ave. this year. It's patterned after a Chicago speakeasy with photographs of mob icons and members of the Rat Pack.

The exhibit is "going to be a first," Giancana said. Bloom, she said, is "bringing in millions of dollars (worth of stuff) from various different (crime) families that have never, ever been seen" by the public.

Thanks to Norm Clarke

Is ACORN Intentionally Structured As a Criminal Enterprise?

The election fraud factory known as ACORN should be stripped of its jealously guarded tax-exempt status because it illegally spends taxpayer dollars on partisan activities, commits "systemic fraud," and violates racketeering and election laws, according to a congressional report unveiled.

Republican investigators on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found that by "intentionally blurring the legal distinctions between 361 tax-exempt and non-exempt entities, ACORN diverts taxpayer and tax-exempt monies into partisan political activities."

"Operationally, ACORN is a shell game played in 120 cities, 43 states and the District of Columbia through a complex structure designed to conceal illegal activities, to use taxpayer and tax-exempt dollars for partisan political purposes, and to distract investigators," the report says. Structurally, it is "a chess game in which senior management is shielded from accountability by multiple layers of volunteers and compensated employees who serve as pawns to take the fall for every bad act."

The report examines the ACORN network's abusive interlocking directorates, and claims that the group deliberately organized itself to escape legal and public scrutiny. "ACORN hides behind a paper wall of nonprofit corporate protections to conceal a criminal conspiracy on the part of its directors, to launder federal money in order to pursue a partisan political agenda and to manipulate the American electorate."

There is "a pattern of loose financial accounting and no firewalls" within the community-based group's byzantine network of hundreds of affiliated groups, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) told TV talk show host Glenn Beck yesterday.

"It's very clear that that's for a reason," said Issa, ranking member on the committee. It is impossible to hand over government money "to ACORN and its affiliates without knowingly delivering it to partisan operatives who in fact engage in campaigning."

The report was "specifically done so that the facts speak for themselves so that very clearly we could make the case that ACORN cannot be receiving government money and should lose its tax-free status," the congressman said.

The unprecedented, damning new 88-page report --"Is ACORN Intentionally Structured As a Criminal Enterprise?" (PDF available here) -- declares that "[t]he weight of evidence against ACORN and its affiliates is astounding."

ACORN needs to be investigated criminally in order "to bring to justice the responsible parties who have heretofore been shielded from prosecution by ACORN's obscure organizational structure; to protect the American system of democratic self-government from manipulation and disruption; and to free our political climate from the choke of corruption that threatens to strangle free and fair elections."

It accuses the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now of carrying out "a nation-wide strategy of tax fraud, racketeering, money-laundering and manipulating the American electorate." Specifically, the report accuses ACORN of racketeering, evading taxes, sloppy accounting, defrauding donors, defrauding the U.S. government, filing false statements, obstructing justice, and plundering employee pension funds.

The report singles out for special criticism the group's handling of a nearly $1 million embezzlement around 2000 by Dale Rathke, then a senior ACORN employee who is the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke. The misappropriation was covered up by management, including Wade Rathke, for eight years until it was revealed to the group's national board last summer.

The report notes that failing to report the misappropriation to the IRS in itself constitutes fraud, and that ACORN apparently raided pension funds to help cover the financial shortfall. ACORN also agreed last year to accept a bailout consisting of a $1 million loan and $500,000 in donations from Forest City Ratner, a developer that wants to build an ambitious project in Brooklyn, New York, to be called Atlantic Yards that would become, among things, the new home of the New Jersey Nets. The developer indicated in a letter to ACORN that it would disburse $500,000 in grants but the money wouldn't go to ACORN directly. The grants were to be made to the ACORN Institute, one of ACORN's tax-exempt nonprofit affiliates.

There are strings attached. ACORN previously signed an agreement to support the project in exchange for a commitment that the developer would build affordable housing, but the 2008 agreement with the developer provides that the ACORN Institute was to receive $300,000 of the $500,000 grant up front, with the remaining $200,000 to be paid out in equal installments in August 2009 and August 2010. With the current economy, it's unclear if the housing will be built, and whether the money paid out will stay at the ACORN Institute, which trains aspiring community organizers, is anyone's guess because ACORN routinely shuffles cash around its network.

The report also notes that Service Employees International Union (SEIU), two of whose locals are ACORN affiliates, was involved in discussions with now impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich over whom he planned to appoint to Barack Obama's Senate vacancy in that state.

The report also points out that Wade Rathke, who was supposed to sever all ties with ACORN, hasn't. To the contrary, he remains deeply involved with at least three of ACORN's affiliated nonprofits.

He recently changed the name of ACORN's international consultancy, ACORN International, to Community Organizations International. Rathke also remains chief organizer, or CEO, of the New Orleans-based Local 100 of SEIU, another ACORN affiliate he founded. He does not appear to have stepped down as president and director of Affiliated Media Foundation Movement (AM/FM), an ACORN affiliate that produces news segments for eight alternative radio stations.

Rathke has long drawn inspiration from Saul Alinsky's legendary political strategy book, Rules for Radicals, but he only believes in rules if they benefit him. To this day he continues to defy the resolution approved on a vote of 29 to 14 by ACORN's national board on June 20, 2008. It declared that Rathke "be terminated from all employment with ACORN and its affiliated organizations or corporations" and that he "be removed from all boards & any leadership roles with ACORN or its affiliated organizations or corporations."

As detailed and damning as Congressman Issa's report may be, it faces an uphill battle in Congress. A push to hold congressional hearings on ACORN looked like it had momentum earlier this year until it abruptly stalled.

Although Democrats in Congress generally receive complaints about ACORN with a collective yawn, House Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-Michigan), a longtime ACORN ally, shocked some on the left in March when he expressed interest in investigating the group. Conyers had considered evidence based on court testimony from former ACORN employee Anita MonCrief about ACORN's alleged serial violations of tax, campaign finance, and possibly illegal coordination with President Obama's election campaign.

At the time, Conyers said the allegations were "a pretty serious matter," but later he backed off, shrugging that "the powers that be decided against it."

The Issa report came a day after the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and ACORN's Project Vote affiliate filed a federal lawsuit aimed at undermining the Keystone State's law aimed at combating election fraud.

To briefly digress, this isn't the first time that ACORN has tried to change laws instead of obeying them. In 1995 the group sued California to win an exemption from the law that required it to pay its own employees a minimum wage. ACORN lost after arguing that paying its employees more would reduce their activist zeal for the poor.

Now in Pittsburgh, former ACORN canvassers are facing convictions for voter registration fraud in Pittsburgh. ACORN cries political persecution while the ACLU claims the law has been misapplied by Allegheny County's Democratic District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., who filed charges against seven canvassers for falsifying voter registration forms. After preliminary hearings, all seven have been ordered to stand trial.

Witold Walczak of the ACLU said, "They already charged the employees, and they've hinted they might go after ACORN next."

In fact in May Nevada's Democratic attorney general and secretary of state unveiled voter registration fraud charges against ACORN and two of its senior executives. It was a historic moment because ACORN had long bragged about its ability to duck election fraud charges.

In Nevada ACORN has been accused of offering a bonus program called "Blackjack" or "21+" that paid a $5 bonus to each canvasser who brought in 21 or more completed voter registration forms each shift. Such schemes are banned in Nevada because they give canvassers an incentive to file fraudulent forms.

ACORN is also under investigation in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The Democratic local prosecutor there is probing ACORN after a man registered to vote multiple times by the group was indicted by a grand jury for fraudulent voting.

Meanwhile, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tried yet again to block ACORN from receiving taxpayer funds. On Thursday he offered an amendment to a spending bill that would have prohibited any taxpayer money in the bill from going to ACORN.

According to a King press release, "Liberals on the House Rules Committee ruled King's amendment out of order." This is the seventh amendment that lawmakers sympathetic to ACORN have blocked King from offering.

"John Conyers is right: the 'powers that be' in this Congress will do all they can to protect ACORN," King said.

And despite its mounting legal problems, the unceasingly controversial organization remains eligible for $8.5 billion in federal funds this year.

According to CNSNews, ACORN might also be eligible for government funding as a result of language in the Democrats' healthcare bill that would give federal money to groups that are members of a "national network of community based organizations." When asked, both Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said they couldn't say for sure if ACORN could receive tax dollars under the legislation.

Thanks to Matthew Vadum

Attorney General Eric Holder on Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces and Asset Forfeiture Program at the National Leadership Conference

The following remarks were issued by Attorney General Eric Holder:

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to join you today. It is a pleasure to be here among friends and colleagues, many of whom I've had the distinct pleasure of working with over the last 30 years during my time in the Department. There are too many familiar faces in the room to begin naming names, but as I have said many times in the last six months, it is great to be back.

These Leadership Conferences always present a great opportunity for us to learn from one another and for the Department to recognize your many significant accomplishments. This year's conference is even more special, as 2009 marks the 25th year of the Asset Forfeiture Program. I am very pleased to join you in this Silver Anniversary celebration, and I share your pride in the Asset Forfeiture Program's quarter-century of success.

I am also proud to be here today to honor the OCDETF Program, which is now in its 27th year. The OCDETF strategy recognizes that the most effective way to fight sophisticated criminal organizations is by leveraging the strengths, resources, and expertise of federal, state and local investigative and prosecutorial agencies. The OCDETF Program does this through the formation of prosecutor-led, multi-agency task forces that successfully target drug traffickers through cutting edge, intelligence-based analysis and investigative work.

Working together, the OCDETF and Asset Forfeiture Programs have a proven track record of destroying drug trafficking organizations by arresting and prosecuting their leadership and by seizing their financial infrastructure. I am delighted to be here today with the leaders of these great programs.

I'd like to begin by talking about OCDETF, which truly is the strategic centerpiece of the Department's counter-narcotics effort. When I served as United States Attorney, I was fortunate to lead the OCDETF effort here in Washington, DC, and experienced first-hand the field-level effectiveness of the Program. Later, as Deputy Attorney General, I saw just how powerful the OCDETF model could be on a nationwide basis. Now, as Attorney General, I am proud to support your continued success. Through your constant innovation and steadfast commitment to cooperation with our state and local partners, you have enhanced immeasurably our nation's counter-narcotics capabilities.

Two examples of OCDETF's innovative and cooperative approach demonstrate the effectiveness of the OCDETF strategy: (1) the establishment of the OCDETF Fusion Center; and (2) the creation of permanent, co-located OCDETF Strike Forces.

The OCDETF Fusion Center was established to address a pressing need for reliable, in-depth intelligence -- from both human and electronic sources -- to target and attack sophisticated international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Building on the OCDETF philosophy of cooperation and information-sharing, the Fusion Center brings together into a common database the unfiltered investigative information of each OCDETF member agency. Known as "Compass," this database allows analysts to connect investigative information from multiple agencies and to provide real-time analysis to agents and prosecutors in the field. The Fusion Center works in concert with the DEA-led Multi-Agency Special Operations Division to provide the most complete intelligence picture of criminal organizations currently available to U.S. law enforcement.

In recognition of the Fusion Center's effectiveness and the value of the Compass database, the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center -- or "IOC-2," as it is known -- recently entered into a partnership with the OCDETF Fusion Center. The IOC-2 will add important new data sources to the Compass database as well as new analysts into the OCDETF Fusion Center. Through this partnership, we will broaden our capability to attack organized crime in all its forms.

A second illustration of OCDETF's success is the creation of permanent, co-located OCDETF Strike Forces in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Tampa, San Juan, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego -- and soon in El Paso. Because they are both permanent and co-located, these strike forces foster close working relationships across agencies and facilitate multiple, wide-reaching, and highly effective multi-agency investigations. Moreover, these Strike Forces have taken innovative steps to leverage non-OCDETF resources to their great advantage. For example, working with the Asset Forfeiture Fund, OCDETF and the National Drug Intelligence Center have begun to place Document and Media Exploitation Teams in the Atlanta and Houston Strike Forces. These DOMEX teams allow Strike Force analysts and agents to capture and exploit evidence in complex, fast-paced investigations, and to develop trial exhibits for prosecutors quickly and effectively. We look forward to adding DOMEX teams to other co-located strike forces in the near future, beginning with those along the Southwest Border.

Collaborative and innovative efforts such as the OCDETF Fusion Center and the OCDETF Strike Forces are critically important if we are to succeed in our efforts to combat international drug traffickers and money launderers. The criminal organizations that OCDETF targets are as sophisticated as they are ruthless. Indeed, some of these groups have even aligned themselves with terrorist organizations. We have seen that Mexican drug cartels in particular, pose both a national security threat to Mexico and an organized crime threat to the United States. The cartels send seemingly endless supplies of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and other illicit drugs across our borders and onto our streets. They operate seamlessly across local, state, and national boundaries. To combat this threat, we must also be seamless in our operations.

I know that all of you are up to the challenge. Since the inception of the Consolidated Priority Organization Target (or "CPOT") List in 2002, your OCDETF investigations have dismantled 39 CPOT organizations and have disrupted 20 more. Further, you have dismantled or disrupted more than 1,160 CPOT-linked organizations. The success of your operations is impressive, but not surprising. We can expect to achieve these kinds of results when we work together in innovative ways.

Together with OCDETF, the Asset Forfeiture Program has made, and continues to make, a critical difference in the fight against crime. Through your work, the Asset Forfeiture Program provides vitally important funding for law enforcement as well as resources that can be invested in community-changing programs such as "Weed and Seed." And of course, by seizing criminals' assets, you reduce the incentive to commit crime by taking money out of the hands of dangerous drug dealers and terrorists -- money that now works for law enforcement.

As with the OCDETF Program, the success of the Asset Forfeiture Program is a direct result of your hard work and your unfailing commitment to cooperation and collaboration at all levels and across all organizational lines. As Deputy Attorney General, it was my privilege to testify before Congress in support of asset forfeiture legislation. In that testimony, I emphasized the critical role that asset forfeiture plays not only in the fight against illegal drugs, but in the broader fight against other types of crime. Almost ten years to the day since that testimony -- and, appropriately, on the 25th anniversary of the Asset Forfeiture Program -- I am proud to say that the Asset Forfeiture Program remains a critical part of the Department's efforts to reduce and deter criminal activity.

Since 1984, more than $13 billion in net federal forfeiture proceeds have been deposited into the Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund. During this same period, more than $4.5 billion has been equitably shared with more than 8,000 state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide, thereby supplementing their constrained resources without further taxing the public. Once left with no real opportunity to recover their losses, crime victims are now recouping greater sums than ever before. Approximately $500 million in payments have been paid to more 39,000 victims in fiscal year 2008 alone.

Yet, the impact of forfeiture is greater than just money. When we look back on the last 25 years of the program, we see a forfeiture regime that has been transformed from a collection of centuries-old laws designed to fight pirates, enforce customs laws and fight illegal contraband, into an array of modern law enforcement tools designed to combat 21st century criminals both at home and abroad. We now have the ability to deprive global criminals of their ill-gotten gains, to seize the instrumentalities of their trade, and to use the power of asset forfeiture to destroy their illegal enterprises.

Operation Honor Student, a case that will be honored here later tonight, illustrates the power of asset forfeiture and its devastating effect on organized criminal activity. In that case, a task force led by the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney's Office, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division, and the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations obtained the forfeiture of $2.7 million from the accounts of GeneScience, one of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in China that had been involved in the illegal distribution of Human Growth Hormone into the United States. To accomplish this forfeiture, the task force employed a new statutory vehicle -- 18 U.S.C. section 981(k) -- which permitted the Government to seize the funds, physically located in China, from the corresponding accounts of Chinese banks in New York. This was the first use of section 981(k), enacted as part of the USA Patriot Act, against a Chinese entity, and its success has helped pave the way for subsequent investigations using this groundbreaking authority.

But not to minimize these impressive legal results, the true impact of Operation Honor Student lies in its practical effect on the illegal hGH market in the United States. Task force agents estimate that at the time of the investigation, GeneScience manufactured approximately 90% of the hGH being illegally sold and distributed in the United States. As a direct result of this seizure, GeneScience has stopped all shipments to the United States. So, through the use of a section 981(k) seizure, we were able to eliminate a supplier that represented 90% of an illegal drug market. Ninety percent.

Asset forfeiture plays a critical role not only in drug cases, but across the law enforcement spectrum -- from national security investigations, to securities fraud cases, to healthcare scams. And, of course, we cannot forget the most important -- and sometimes least heralded -- purposes of our Asset Forfeiture Program -- which is to make a meaningful difference in the lives crime victims by recovering stolen funds and property and returning them to their rightful owners.

When we look at the successes of both the Asset Forfeiture Program and the OCDETF Program, I cannot help but think about the possibilities, and challenges, for the next 25 years of these vitally important initiatives. While we have made great strides, international drug traffickers and money launderers continue to threaten our country. Criminal enterprises and terrorist networks continue to misuse our financial system for nefarious purposes. We can and we must do more. I am confident that under the leadership of those assembled here today, we will succeed.

The analysts, agents, and prosecutors of the OCDETF and Asset Forfeiture Programs are among the most talented and dedicated professionals in all of law enforcement. You protect this country day in and day out from the scourge of drugs and violence, and you do it with professionalism, creativity, and passion. I am proud to lead the Department of Justice, and am proud of each of you. Thank you for all that you do. Keep up the great work.

U.S. Researcher Arrested in Russia for Investigating Organized Crime

A police official researching organized crime in Russia for a U.S. university was arrested after obtaining information on high-level corruption, colleagues say.

Col. Alexander Astafyev, 50, was studying the criminal takeover of businesses in Russia for Virginia's George Mason University when he was taken into custody, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Colleagues say Astafyev was arrested after obtaining evidence incriminating influential figures in both Moscow and Vladivostok. "If such a person will be imprisoned now, that means corruption has totally won in Russia," says Maria Solovienko, the editor of an independent newspaper in Vladivostok.

Astafyev visited Washington last year at the invitation of the U.S. State Department and worked closely with FBI agents investigating organized crime.

He was working on a paper about the criminal takeover of businesses with the help of corrupt officials, police or judges.

Thanks to UPI

Two Police Detectives Honored for Mafia Probe

Like all of their cases, it began with a body.

Summoned to a rural road in Somis on the night of May 12, 2006, Ventura County Sheriff’s Detectives Mike Powers and Scott Peterson found Fred Williams shot dead in his sport utility vehicle, holding a cell phone in his right hand. His foot was pressed down on the gas pedal, revving the parked vehicle’s engine.

The body was found after a passing motorist called authorities. Someone heard a shot, but nobody in the neighborhood saw the murder.

Led by Powers and Peterson, detectives spent more than 19 months investigating the killing. They ultimately determined Williams, 29, was killed in a contract hit by a friend in the Black Mafia gang, of which he was also a member. The case ended with the 2008 convictions of three people, including the man accused of ordering the hit.

The case dealt a blow to the Black Mafia, a violent street gang involved in drug dealing and prostitution, authorities said.

This year, when the Peace Officers Association of Ventura County was winnowing a field of detectives from agencies around the county for its first Investigator of the Year award, the case led the group to choose Powers and Peterson. They received the award in May.

“They are the stuff of legend,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Temple, who worked with the detectives when she prosecuted the suspects in Williams’ murder.

To solve the Black Mafia case, the detectives had to get information from witnesses who included thugs, prostitutes and pimps, Temple said. She said she was impressed by Powers’ ability to “talk gangster” while maintaining his professionalism, and the way Peterson went into “gang-infested” communities where he was an outsider and persuaded people to talk to him.

A team for almost 10 years, Powers and Peterson said they were humbled by the award. "There are other detectives who deserve the award just as much,” Peterson said.

This was no 9 to 5. Powers and Peterson were among deputies who worked a total of 5,700 hours of overtime on the case. Authorities wiretapped more than 50,000 calls.

During the first seven months of the investigation, Powers and Peterson took 12 days off between them. During one stage of the investigation, they slept about four hours a night in a five-day period.

While it was hard on their personal lives, the soft-spoken detectives have fond memories of the investigation. “What keeps me going when I’m exhausted, quite frankly, is the mere fact that I just want to know what happened,” Peterson said.

On the night authorities found Williams, much about his death was a mystery. The detectives determined he was killed just after 9 p.m. and they suspected the killer was someone close to Williams.

The first big break came from the cell phone Williams held in his hand. Williams received his last call seconds before 9:01 p.m. from a number saved in the phone as BS, Powers said.

Oxnard police later helped the detectives determine BS stood for Baby Sag, the moniker of Bakeri Pitts, one of Williams’ longtime friends.

Investigators got records for the “BS” phone and learned it was first used two days before Williams’ killing and last used less than an hour after. “Based on that, we believed that phone was purchased with the intent to murder Fred Williams,” Powers said.

Investigators received permission to wiretap all of the numbers the “BS” phone had called, most of which belonged to members of the Black Mafia, the detectives said. After three days of listening, detectives “hit the home run” on May 19, the day of Williams’ funeral, Powers said.

Marlon Thornton asked Pitts when he would get his money and then told him a woman close to Williams had put up a memorial at the funeral, which upset Thornton, Powers said.

Thornton later told Pitts: “ ‘I don’t want to do any hits anymore,’ ” said the detective. “With that phone call, we pretty much had our suspects,” Powers said.

With the help of hundreds of people from agencies including the U.S. Secret Service, Oxnard police, U.S. Marshals and the California State Parole Board, the investigators worked to collect evidence on Pitts and Black Mafia boss John Lewis.

They arrested Pitts on June 9, three days after Thornton was taken into custody.

In the months that followed, investigators learned Williams’ death was part of a series of shootings that began when Jimmy Hunter killed Williams’ cousin Davaun Washington in November 2005, according to court testimony. Hunter was an alleged associate of the Black Mafia gang.

Williams thought one of his cousin’s killers was Kufanya Gentry, an associate of Lewis’, Powers said.

Williams shot Gentry with help from two other men, according to the detectives and court testimony. Gentry was seriously wounded, but survived.

During Lewis’ trial, prosecutors alleged he ordered Williams killed in retaliation for Gentry’s shooting. Pitts testified Lewis gave him $5,000 and a pound of marijuana to kill Williams. Thornton testified he drove the getaway car for the murder.

Lewis was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Pitts pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 55 years to life. Thornton pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to six years in prison.

The case contributed to the murder convictions of Hunter in two 2005 murders, and Lewis Brown, another Black Mafia member, in a 2005 slaying, Peterson said.

Powers and Peterson continued investigating after Williams’ killers were sentenced, and their work led authorities to seize more than $8,000 from Lewis for restitution payments he owed Williams’ mother.

While monitoring Lewis’ jailhouse phone calls, Peterson heard Lewis trying to have his assets deposited in an account that couldn’t be tapped for victim restitution, the detective said. With Temple’s help, authorities got a court order and seized all but $300 of that money, Peterson said.

Several months after Williams’ killers were sentenced, his mother received a check. She thanked the detectives and hugged them both. “That’s a good feeling,” Powers said, recalling the moment.

When Pitts, Thornton and Lewis were taken to prison, Peterson went along. He was given the identification armbands the convicts wore in Ventura County Jail, which he keeps as a reminder of the killers he helped put away. “Just my little memento,” he said.

Thanks to Adam Foxman

Mobsters on MySpace is Expanding to iPhone

The number one social game on MySpace is getting an iPhone app, as Mountain View-based Playdom announces Mobsters for iPhone.

Most significantly, the company tells Gamasutra that its 13.5 million users can now play the game on either MySpace or iPhone seamlessly. This brings the company into more direct competition with social gaming rivals like Zynga, operator of rival title Mafia Wars.

Further, existing players of Mobsters on MySpace will be able to transition their progress to the iPhone version at launch. But the company also tells us that it's adjusted gameplay in the iPhone version to account for the fact that the platform's less viral, and to allow those introduced to Mobsters via iPhone to still participate on the same level.

"For the pure iPhone players discovering the game for the first time, it’s a bigger game," Playdom product director Jesse Janosov says. "It's more content and more dynamic."

As more social game companies begin migrating and extending their content to the iPhone, it's sure to add a new dimension to the social gaming phenomenon.

Thanks to Leigh Alexander

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Top 10 John Dillinger Myths

On July 22, 1934—75 years ago today—Bureau agents put an end to John Dillinger’s reign of crime when he was shot and killed near the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Dillinger’s story has been told and retold ever since—including in a recent Hollywood movie. Along the way, fact and fiction have often been blended together. Here, from the FBI's perspective, are the top ten myths surrounding Dillinger and the facts as we know them.

Myth #10: Dillinger was a “Robin Hood” type criminal, a romantic outlaw.

Dillinger certainly had charm and charisma, but he was no champion of the poor or harmless thief—he was a hardened and vicious criminal. Dillinger stormed police stations in search of weapons and bulletproof vests. He robbed banks and stole cars. He shot at police officers (and may have killed one) and regularly used innocent bystanders as human shields to escape the law. Worse yet, he stood by as his ruthless gang members shot and killed people, including law enforcement officials. And what of his ill-gotten gains? They were used to line his own pockets and those of his partners in crime, not those of impoverished Americans in the midst of the Great Depression.

Myth #9: Dillinger was not carrying a gun the night he was killed.

Dillinger did have a gun on him—a .380 Colt automatic with the serial number scratched out. He reached for that gun when Bureau agents cornered him that fateful night. Not taking any chances, agents shot him before he had the chance to open fire.

Myth #8: John Dillinger was not killed at the Biograph Theater, a stand-in was.

If this sounds like a conspiracy theory, that’s because it is. Claims that a man resembling Dillinger was actually killed have been advanced with only circumstantial evidence. On the other hand, a wealth of information supports Dillinger’s demise. Special Agents M. Chaffetz and Earle Richmond, for example, took two sets of fingerprints from the body outside the Biograph Theater, and both were a positive match. Another set taken during the autopsy were also a match.

Myth #7: The FBI beat up Evelyn Frechette after her arrest.

Not so. Evelyn “Billie” Frechette—Dillinger’s one time girlfriend—was captured on April 9, 1934 and detained in our Chicago Field Office. She was interrogated about Dillinger around the clock for two days under hot lights. She refused to cooperate and was transferred to St. Paul to stand trail for harboring Dillinger. While her interrogation wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, at no time did agents attack or strike her. Frechette and her lawyer claimed we did during the trail—most likely to win sympathy.

Myth #6: The FBI took physical specimens from Dillinger’s corpse.

There is no evidence suggesting that the Bureau kept “souvenirs” from Dillinger’s body or in any way desecrated his remains. According to media reports, however, the local coroner later admitted taking pieces of Dillinger’s brain to examine.

Myth #5: East Chicago, Indiana Police killed Dillinger, not FBI agents.

While East Chicago Police officers were instrumental in helping the Bureau track down Dillinger the night he died, they were not in a position to shoot him. According to the drawn-up plans of the takedown and individual testimony, all of these officers were too far away to have an unobstructed shot. The closest—Captain Timothy O’Neil—was stationed across the street; his line of fire would have been blocked by special agents and civilians. In the end, it was Bureau agents who shot and killed Dillinger. Claims that someone else pulled the trigger came much later.

Myth #4: J. Edgar Hoover hired a bunch of killers to go after Dillinger.

Capturing John Dillinger was certainly the Bureau’s top priority in the summer of 1934, but we did not take a “dead or alive” approach as evidenced in our records and in later agent recollections. After the failed raid at Little Bohemia, we did hire several exceptional lawmen with firearms experience and steady gun-hands during times of danger, but only one ended up firing on Dillinger. The idea was to bring in professionals to help mentor less experienced agents, not to get Dillinger at all costs.

Myth #3: Chicago Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis single-handedly brought down Dillinger.

Purvis was a key figure, but he definitely did not shoot Dillinger (as some press accounts claimed) and his role in the final days of the case has often been overstated. After the Little Bohemia incident, Director J. Edgar Hoover appointed Inspector and Special Agent Samuel Cowley to oversee what had become a multi-state search. Cowley operated independently, but largely out of our Chicago office. FBI records suggest that he and Purvis worked together on the Dillinger investigation, but Cowley was clearly in charge until the end.

Myth #2: A “lady in a red dress” betrayed Dillinger.

Actually, it was a lady in an orange skirt and white blouse named Anna (Ana) Sage. Sage—a Romanian who was friends with Dillinger’s girlfriend at the time, Polly Hamilton—came up with the idea of turning in the fugitive after she was invited to go to the movies with the couple. She contacted the East Chicago, Indiana Police Department, who passed her on to Purvis. While Sage hoped that the FBI might help her avoid deportation, she also wanted the $5,000 reward. She told Purvis she would be attending a movie with Dillinger and Hamilton at the Biograph and would wear an orange skirt to set her apart from the crowd. (The red dress was an invention of the media—red tends to be a more alluring color and apparently sounded better in a headline.) After Dillinger’s death, Sage was paid the reward, but the FBI was not able to influence her deportation proceedings, and she was sent back to Romania.

Myth #1: Dillinger died expressing his love for Billie Frechette.

Popular culture likes to play up the “eternal romance” between Dillinger and Frechette, but evidence shows that they were in love only a short time. After Frechette was captured, Dillinger looked elsewhere for romance. He found it with Polly Hamilton—the woman he took to the movies the night he was killed. When he was shot, Dillinger had on him a gold ring inscribed with the words, “With all my love, Polly,” as well as a pocket watch that contained a picture of her. Dillinger is thought by some to have whispered something about Billie Frechette as he lay on the sidewalk dying. Several eyewitnesses said they saw Dillinger’s lips moving moments before he died, but no one was close enough to hear if he was whispering or simply exhaling for the last time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dead Mob Hit Man, Larry Neumann, Declared "Prime Suspect" in Double-Murder at McHenry County Bar

The baby-sitter, it turns out, got it right.

The McHenry County sheriff's office has concluded that a now-dead mob hit man named Larry Neumann, in all likelihood, killed two people in 1981 in the small town of Lakemoor -- a long-cold case that was reopened last summer on the basis of a tip from Holly Hager, who baby-sat for the children of one of the pair back then.

Authorities now say Neumann is the "prime suspect" in the double-murder -- and that no charges will be filed because he's dead.

"I knew from the start that's what it was," Hager, now 42, said of their conclusion.

On June 2, 1981, the bodies of 37-year-old bar owner Ron Scharff and 30-year-old Patricia Freeman were found, shot to death, in the back of Scharff's bar, the PM Pub, named for his sons Paul and Michael.

Hager's father Jim had been Scharff's best friend, and she baby-sat for Scharff's boys.

Last summer, on a car trip to Arkansas, Hager was talking with her father, and he mentioned Neumann, once a feared enforcer for the Chicago Outfit.

When she got back home, Hager searched for Neumann's name on the Internet. It turned up on a serial-killer site. And Neumann, she learned, was from McHenry County. What convinced her this was no coincidence was the 2007 autobiography of Frank Cullotta, "Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness," a mob burglar and hit man-turned-government informant. In it, he wrote about Neumann killing two people in 1981 at a McHenry County bar.

Hager told authorities, and they reopened the case.

Neumann had been a part of Cullotta's Las Vegas burglary crew, working for Outfit boss Tony "The Ant" Spilotro. Cullotta said Neumann was mad that Scharf had kicked his ex-wife out of the bar, drove to McHenry County and shot Scharff. Freeman, a divorced mother of two, died because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was her first night working at the bar to supplement what she made as a school bus driver.

Hager's tip wasn't the first time Neumann was implicated in the killings. Cullotta said he told McHenry County authorities the same story in 1982, when he became one of the government's best witnesses against his old organized-crime brethren.

"I did what I had to do at the beginning," Cullotta said by phone. But the chief investigator for McHenry County at the time, according to the just-concluded sheriff's report, questioned Cullotta's credibility.

"I think the investigation should have taken care of this back in '82, '83, and nothing happened," Paul Scharff, who was 10 when his father was killed, said by phone from Texas, where he lives.

After spending nearly 1,300 hours on the renewed investigation, the investigators now have concluded: "Frank Cullotta provided information that was credible and accurate."

Neumann died in prison in 2007 at 79. He spent the last 23 years of his life locked up for killing a jeweler.

Paul Scharff said he believes charges could have been brought against others who had information at the time about the murders. Still, he's glad to know who the killer was, even if it's too late to make a case in court.

"The families and friends of Ron Scharff and Patricia Freeman didn't forget about them," Scharff said. "We find some peace in that."

Thanks to NewsRadio780

Monday, July 20, 2009

Last Reputed Member of the Black Mafia Family Captured

Investigators said Friday that the last known member of the Black Mafia Family who was still at large was captured.

On Thursday, U.S. Marshals arrested Vernon Marcus Coleman, aka Jason Stevenson Parkinson and ‘WU’, at an apartment in north Atlanta.

According to investigators, Coleman had been on the run for two years. An arrest warrant was issued for Coleman July 10, 2007 for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. Coleman was wanted in Douglas County for failure to appear for traffic offenses.

Coleman is an alleged member of the crime ring known as the Black Mafia Family or BMF. Coleman is also a rapper who goes by the name WU and is associated with The Life Records, The Illustrious (ILL) Family, and B-EZ Entertainment.

The Black Mafia Family is considered an organized crime drug trafficking organization with a history of violent crime. Many of its members have been arrested while in possession of firearms and drugs.

Thanks to Leigha Baughan

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Apple's iPod Connected to Mafia Activities?

A new lawsuit from a Beverly Hills, Calif., man alleges that Apple conspired with the Italian mafia to secretly track him, transmit threatening messages to his iPod, and insert the word "herpes" into the song "Still Tippin'" by Mike Jones.

Not just his iPod, Gregory McKenna is convinced that many things in his life were bugged, including his bedroom, living room, upstairs bathroom and Toyota Camry. McKenna alleges in his lawsuit that two iPods he owned – an iPod shuffle bought on eBay and an iPod mini purchased in an Apple Store – were affixed with receivers that allowed the Mafia to transmit threats to him.

McKenna believes that these well-coordinated "threats" from Apple and the mafia were accompanied by an uncanny sense of rhythm: Recordings of mafia members saying "I'm going to kill him" supposedly played in unison with a song on the man's iPod mini in 2008.

"The recording of death threats and other evidence," the suit reads, "prove that APPLE INC. conspired with the Mafia and other Defendants to manufacture, distribute, and sell illegally bugged iPods and other electronic equipment to Plaintiff to perpetuate the stalking, extortion, and torture."

Filed Wednesday in a U.S. District Court in Missouri, the 124-page complaint lists Apple among a host of other defendants, including the St. Louis County Police Department, a local auto mechanic, and "unknown agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Perhaps the most outlandish Apple-related tale in the lengthy suit is a supposed subliminal message heard in the song "Still Tippin'" by rapper Mike Jones. McKenna alleges the word "herpes" was implanted into the song "to humiliate, degrade, and cause emotional stress."

In the version of the song McKenna claims he heard, the modified lyrics were: "Tippin' on four fours, wrapped in four vogues, HERPES. Tippin' on four fours, wrapped in four vogues. Tippin' on four fours, wrapped in four vogues, AHH."

The suit alleges he heard the modified version of the song on his Apple iBook G4 computer, Apple PowerBook G4, Apple iPods, and in three different vehicles, including his mother's Honda Accord.

The bizarre tale begins in 2000, when McKenna claims he was threatened by the Italian mafia at a Missouri night club. The suit alleges that the mafia tried to force the accuser into becoming a New York City fashion model.

"We're going to kill you if you don't model for us in New York," the suit says McKenna was told.

"Media sources report that the modeling industry has an infamous "shadow Mafia" that forces models to work for pay after fraudulently putting them into excessive debt, coerces them into the illegal sex trade, and then disposes of them," the suit reads.

The man claims he attempted to call the St. Louis County Police numerous times, but they would not respond to his pleas. His intricate tale includes numerous unnamed FBI agents, a plethora of hidden illegal recording devices, and constant references to "stalking, extortion and torture."

A high-profile, publicly traded company, Apple is hit with many lawsuits, sometimes from accusers who likely suffer from mental disorders. In 2007, a known frivolous suit filer claimed that Steve Jobs had employed O.J. Simpson as a hitman for the last two decades.

Thanks to Neil Hughes

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cook County Commissioner, John Daley, Named in FBI File of Chicago Mob Boss

Giancana's FBI file has some rather interesting information. We'll quote to you: FBI Headquarters File Number 92-3171-2602 Samuel M. Giancana, Top Hoodlum Program - Anti Racketeering. Daily Summary, July 2, 1975.

As Bureau awareFBI Files Sam Giancana, Cook County States Attorney's Office, Chicago, has in its possession some papers and documents seized under search warrant from Giancana residence. Appearing in July 1, 1975, issue of "Chicago Daily News", column of Mike Royko in article captioned "The Giancana Wedding Gifts", was a list of names of some of the several hundred guest who made monetary contributions at wedding of Giancana's daughter, Bonnie Lou, to Anthony Tisci. In previous tel. some of these guest were made known to bureau to include Circuit Court Judge Daniel Covelli.

In addition to those individuals previously noted to Bureau. Article reflected that wedding list also contained following individuals:

Pat Petrone "deceased", 25th Ward Alderman, $200 gift; Fred Roti, Alderman from First Ward, Chicago, $200 gift, Frank Chesrow, former President of Metropolitan Sanitary District of Chicago, present member of Cook County Board of Commissioners, $200 gift; Anthony DeTolve, former Illinois State Senator, nephew to Giancana by marriage, $200 gift; John Kringas, member of Chicago zoning board of appeals, partner with Vito Marzullo, Alderman in a lucrative funeral home , $50 gift; James J. Adduci, former Illinois State Representative, $20 gift; James Rinella, former Illinois State Representative, $20 gift, Louis Briatta, father- in - law to Chicago Mayor Daley's son, John Daley, who recently married Briatta's daughter, $100 gift.

Well, there you have it: Illinois politicians willing to give gifts to Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana's daughter and it made the newspaper prominently. Mike Royko was arguably the most popular columnist of his day. You'll notice John Daley's name comes up.

Thanks to Steve Bartin

Millennium Park's Grill, AKA "Clout Cafe" Linked to Mob, Yet Pays No Property Taxes

It wasn't long after the hinky backstory to the the Park Grill in Millennium Park earned it a moniker among political insiders isn't given easily: the Clout Cafe. It continues to earn its nickname.

For example, it's connected owners still don't have to pay property taxes. "In late June the Illinois Appellate Court ruled in favor of the Park Grill in its fight against the Cook County assessor, dropping the curtain on the latest act in one of the more sensational scandals of Mayor Daley's reign," the Reader reports.

"The ruling received little coverage, but at one point the restaurant, right under the Bean in Millennium Park, was front-page news, yet another example of the connected and powerful in this town managing to catch multimillion-dollar breaks at taxpayer expense.

"That was back in 2005, when the Sun-Times revealed that the owners had managed to win the Park District's competitive bid process for the right to operate in the prime space -- even though their bid was the lowest of three. Officials said they liked the group's experience.

"The investors included Matthew O'Malley, who also owns the Chicago Firehouse, where Daley took George W. Bush in 2006 to celebrate the president's 60th birthday; relatives of Tim Degnan, the mayor's former chief of staff and political strategist; and Fred Barbara, a Daley friend, millionaire businessman, and nephew of the late alderman and mobster Fred Roti."

That's a powerful roster, but Cook County Assessor James Houlihan thought the Grill oughta pay property taxes no matter who backed it -- and no matter what kind of sweetheart deal Daley's park district gave his pals. But the state apellate court's recent ruling upheld a Cook County court's ruling that the restaurant has a concession agreement with the park district, not a lease, and therefore is immune to property taxes.

Pretty sneaky, Sis!

"Restaurants and other businesses that lease property from the government typically pay what’s called leasehold taxes, while vendors who sell hot dogs or ice cream operate under a concession license agreement and aren't required to pay real estate taxes," Crain's explains. "Even though it serves food at a restaurant - and not a pushcart - Park Grill was awarded a 20-year concession license that requires annual payments to the park district of $245,000 plus a percentage of sales."

Under Houlihan's valuation, the restaurant would have reportedly owed more than $350,000. But then, that's assuming that the Park Grill is a restaurant leasing property from the city, which clearly it is not.

Thanks to Steve Rhodes

Joseph "Joe Onions" Scanlon's Remains Are Confirmed

It's official. The remains found behind an East Providence apartment building in November 2008 are those of mob associate Joseph "Joe Onions" Scanlon.

Scanlon died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the state Medical Examiner's Office. The M.E. used forensic anthropology and DNA analysis to identify the remains and the cause of death.

“We hope that this information will bring closure for the family,” said Director of Health David R. Gifford, MD, MPH. “This death occurred 30 years ago. We hope this gives them peace."

Scanlon disappeared April 3, 1978. From that day, until his remains were discovered, authorities could only suspect Scanlon was the victim of a gangland slaying. In fact, Patriarca crime family associates Nicholas Pari and Andy Merola served time in prison in connection with Scanlon's death, even though investigators never found the body.

It wasn't until November 2008, when State Police arrested Pari during their investigation "Operation Mobbed Up," that they discovered the location of Scanlon's body.

Pari told investigators the remains could be behind the Lisboa apartment complex on Bullocks Point Ave in East Providence. After days of excavating the site, authorities uncovered the remains which have now be postively identified as Scanlon's.

Pari died of cancer at the age of 71, a month after Scanlon's remains were uncovered. Merola died in 2007 without divulging the secret.

Thanks to Nancy Krause

Sonia “El Juez” Sotomayor Connected to Mexican Mafia

Senator Lindsey Graham dropped a bombshell on the confirmation hearings of Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor during questioning today.

Judge Sotomayor's mafia ties are plainly visible.

The reportSonia Sotomayor connected to Mexican Mafia, which Graham waved around in the air, contains serious charges that Sotomayor is hiding her true convictions as well as connections to La eMe, the Mexican Mafia. In fine detail Graham read the report to the Senate Judiciary Committee members and to Sotomayor who objected that the report was obtained illegally. As Graham read the charges Sotomayor became increasingly uncomfortable and asked for a recess in the hearings. The request was denied by the Democratic majority.

The report alleges that Sotomayor ran the Bronx chapter of the Mexican mafia from her brownstone apartment building.

“We used to see Cesar [a lieutenant in the Mexican mafia currently serving life in prison for murder] coming in and out of her [Sotomayor’s] apartment,” said Jorge Chavez who was an undercover agent for the FBI. Chavez’ testimony went on to detail that Sotomayor, known as “el Juez,” the Judge, in her underworld dealings, was a key decision-maker in the organization, going so far as to use her authority as a judge to order prisoners to institutions where the Mexican mafia could assassinate rival gang leaders as well as snitches in their own organization.

“My husband’s dead because of el Juez [Sotomayor],” said Veronica Matthews. “She used her power to have him shipped to another prison where he was killed in the exercise yard.” Matthews, wife of Hell’s Angels former second-in-command Bill “the Knife” Matthews is now in a witness protection program after Sotomayor allegedly ordered a squad of her “soldiers” to make her “go silent,” which was Sotomayor’s euphemism for murdering someone.

Chavez’ detailed reports to the FBI’s Organized Crime Taskforce also contain allegations that as “el Juez” Sotomayor’s famous ruling against New Haven Connecticut firefighters was actually to allow for more Mexican mafia members to obtain high ranking positions in the department to squelch ongoing arson investigations.

“This report concludes that Sonia Sotomayor decision directly impeded the investigation and that, furthermore, the new officers in New Haven went on to hide details of other crimes committed by La eMe,” Graham said. Sotomayor remained silent during the accusations, but she did appear to consult with several young Hispanic men who accompanied her to the hearings today. They refused to comment.

Sources in the Judiciary committee say that the majority members are holding an emergency meeting to decide whether to continue with the hearings or ask Obama to withdraw his nomination.

“If this doesn’t defeat the nomination, I’m not sure what will,” said Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the Judiciary Committee ranking member, “but I’ll find it. We’re not ready to release anything quite yet, but we are working on other reports that connect her to the Octomom as well as Michael Jackson’s drug abuse.”

Satire by Ashley Phosphate

Did Alderman Edward Burke Add a Mob Associate to Payroll as a Favor for Reputed Mobster?

A look back in time. The Chicago Tribune on February 10, 1985 has a page one story by Trib reporters Robert Davis and William B. Crawford Jr.(Sorry no link on this one). The story is titled JAILED 1ST WARD 'FIXER' WORKED IN SHADOWS:

Victor Albanese is not a name well known around Chicago's City Hall.But in classic Chicago style, it is not who knows you but who you know that makes the difference.And last week, the name of Victor Albanese was being talked about in City Hall and, more important, in the Dirksen Federal Building just three blocks south. In Chicago parlance, Victor Albanese was a fixer, a bagman, an insider, a 1st Warder and, as of last week, an imprisoned felon. Albanese is a vital key in an investigation of alleged city government corruption...

You might say how does someone like this get on Chicago's payroll? The Trib explains:

Last MayRoemer: Man Against the Mob, reportedly at the repeated urgings of D'Arco, Ald. Edward Burke[14th], whose budget wranglings had left him several extra job openings for investigators for his city council Finance Committee,hired Albanese for $900 a month. Sources close to the committee said that Albanese's duties were few and that he was rarely seen around City Hall.

It didn't bother Alderman Burke that in the mid-1970's Albanese was fired from Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department because of a fraud scheme. Alderman Burke was doing a favor for John D'Arco , Democratic Committeeman of the old 1st Ward. FBI agent William Roemer identified John D'Arco Sr. as a "made member" of the Chicago Mob in his book on Tony Accardo. We will clarify that, a former FBI agent who's a loyal reader of Newsalert informs us that John D'Arco Sr. was a high ranking made member of the Chicago Mob who had capo status to run a political crew. Alderman Burke, doing favors for mobsters.

Thanks to Steve Bartin

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Will Alexi Giannoulias's Potential U.S. Senate Run Be Influenced by His Family's Bank Loans to Reputed Mobsters?

Broadway Bank is trying to recoup $12.9 million from two Chicago crime figures, rekindling a controversy as the bank's former chief loan officer, state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, gears up to run for the U.S. Senate.

In recently filed foreclosure suits, the Giannoulias family-owned North Side bank alleges loan defaults by four companies whose owners include two convicted Chicago bookmakers — one also convicted of promoting a nationwide prostitution ring. The loans are on a hodgepodge of properties, including a South Beach hotel and a South Side shopping center that has lost its grocery anchor. The defendants include 1201 South Western LLC, a Berwyn-based company whose activities include making short-term real estate loans at interest rates of 1% a week, property records show.

Questions about Mr. Giannoulias' role in the loans surfaced in 2006, when he overcame concerns about his youth and inexperience to be elected treasurer. He defended the loans as sound business decisions, a claim undermined by the foreclosures.

Now, at age 33, he could face similar questions, particularly if there are more disclosures about the relationship between the convicted felons and Broadway.

"In a closely contested race, something like this can marginalize enough votes to put you out of the race," says political consultant Thom Serafin, president of Chicago-based communications firm Serafin & Associates Inc., who also notes criticism of Mr. Giannoulias' oversight of a state-run college savings fund. "All of that lends itself to a credibility gap, and that's where an opponent gets you."

Mr. Giannoulias' chances of winning the 2010 Democratic Senate primary got a boost last week when Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she would run for re-election rather than campaign for senator or governor. A spokesman for Mr. Giannoulias declines to comment.

Mr. Giannoulias hasn't announced his Senate candidacy formally, but he has raised $1.1 million, giving him an early edge in a primary fight to succeed Roland Burris. Other potential Democratic candidates include Christopher Kennedy, a Chicago real estate executive and son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, and Cheryle Jackson, president and CEO of the non-profit Chicago Urban League. On the Republican side, possible candidates include U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk and businessman Andy McKenna Jr., chairman of the state GOP.

The foreclosure cases are among a nationwide surge in troubled assets that hurt many banks including Broadway, an aggressive lender when commercial real estate was booming. "The borrowers were worthy at the time these loans were issued," Broadway Bank says in a statement. "However, when they failed to make their loan payments, the bank took legal action . . ., just as it would do in any situation involving a customer who did not repay a loan."

Broadway alleges $2.9 million in loans are in default on the Lorraine Hotel in Miami Beach. The property is owned by a venture that includes Michael Giorango, 56, who was convicted in 1991 of federal bookmaking charges in Chicago. He also was convicted in 2004 in Miami of promoting a nationwide prostitution operation.

Broadway also alleges that a nearly $6-million loan is in default on a shuttered restaurant along the Intracoastal Waterway in Hollywood, Fla. The potential development site is owned by a venture that includes Mr. Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos, 41, who was convicted in 2004 in Chicago of running a betting operation that grossed more than $3 million in about three years.

The venture fought the foreclosure case, accusing the bank of improperly obstructing a sale of the property. Including fees and unpaid interest, the total amount due is almost $10.4 million, according to the complaint filed March 30 in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

An attorney for Mr. Stavropoulos declines to comment.

Mr. Giorango, reached at a Los Angeles apartment building that he owns in a venture with Mr. Stavropoulous, also declines to comment. Broadway has a $3.4-million loan on the 30-unit property that comes due next year.

The venture that owns the apartment building, 1201 South Western, is a defendant in four foreclosure cases filed by Broadway last month in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to collect nearly $2.5 million. In addition to its real estate holdings, the venture has been an active lender, making 43 short-term loans totaling $6.9 million, an average of $160,500 per loan, property records show. Broadway financed the company on Dec. 21, 2004, a month after 1201 South Western made the first in a series of loans that continued through July 2006, the records indicate.

Interest rates could be obtained on just eight of the loans, totaling $800,000, which are the subject of collection cases. On those loans, the company charged interest of about 1% a week, according to the promissory notes.

Thanks to Thomas A. Corfman

The Untold Stories of Alderman Don Parrillo

Former First Ward Alderman Don Parrillo, 78, is the most admittedly corrupt Chicago politician you likely never heard of. But that's likely to change.

Parrillo, who represented the city's notorious 1st Ward from 1964 to 1968, is about to self-publish a controversial book concerning organized crime and political corruption in the city Al Capone made famous.

His father, William "Billy" Parrillo, was the attorney of choice for the Chicago mob's elite, he says - Al Capone, Frank Nitti and Sam Giancana, among them.

Consequently, the alderman has a lot stories. "I started talking into my tape recorder," Parrillo explains. "I've got 16 chapters."

"I name names unless the person is still alive or a member of their family is still alive," he says, adding with a laugh, "I want to stay that way."

Parrillo also admits that getting into Chicago politics wasn't exactly his idea.

He was asked to run for alderman as a personal favor by Chicago Outfit boss Sam Giancana, who used to drive him and his brother to school as kids, Parrillo says. "This was before Giancana was anybody...I used to call him Mr. Sam."

Other Parrillo tales range from the simply curious - it was American film sex symbol of the 1930s, Jean Harlow, who infected Al Capone with the syphilis that eventually killed him - to the simply conspiratorial - the Kennedy brothers' (JFK & RFK) alleged involvement in the death of another American film sex icon, Marilyn Monroe.

For an unauthorized account of both Parrillo and his book, see reporter Anthony DeBartolo's 4,000-word Hyde Park Media web exclusive: "The Untold Stories of Alderman Don Parrillo."

Anthony DeBartolo is a Chicago-based reporter who has frequently contributed to the Chicago Tribune. His feature work has also appeared in daily newspapers across the U.S. and in Canada, including the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Sun-Times, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Sacramento Bee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Toronto Star.

DeBartolo is also the author of the special interest health book, "Lupus Underground: A Patient's Case for a Long-Ignored, Drug-Free, Non-Patentable, Counter-Intuitive Therapy That Actually Works"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LexisNexis Fears Data Was Breached by Mafia

Information broker LexisNexis has warned more than 13,000 consumers, saying that a Florida man who is facing charges in an alleged mafia racketeering conspiracy may have accessed some of the same sensitive consumer databases that were once used to track terrorists.

Lee Klein, 39, of Boynton Beach, Florida, was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice in May following an undercover sting operation that netted 11 suspects from an alleged South Florida crew of the Bonanno crime family.

On Friday, the office of the New Hampshire Attorney General posted a letter that LexisNexis sent out to consumers last month, warning that Klein may have used his access to LexisNexis' Seisint databases "in order to perpetrate certain crimes."

LexisNexis has had problems with credit card fraudsters using its database in the past, but Klein's alleged crimes are different.

In court filings, the DOJ says Klein would provide Bonanno family members with names, addresses and account numbers as part of a fake check-cashing operation. But he's also accused of using computer databases to get information on potential extortion or assault targets as well as "individuals suspected by the Enterprise members of being involved with law enforcement."

In a statement, LexisNexis said Monday that "the former Seisint customer involved in this matter should have provided notice to potentially affected individuals. However, because the customer is no longer in business we provided the notice." The company said it sent out 13,329 notification letters.

Seisint is best known as the creator of the ill-fated MATRIX (Multi-State Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange) terrorist data-mining project, which was shut down in 2005 following privacy concerns. LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier, acquired Seisint in 2004 for US$775 million. It sells two Seisint products: Accurint, which provides information on individuals and their assets, and Securint, a background screening tool.

LexisNexis has had problems preventing criminals from using its databases for identity theft. Last May, the company warned that ID thieves had accessed around 32,000 records using its services. In March 2008, LexisNexis settled charges brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which said the company wasn't doing enough to prevent its data from being abused.

In the letter posted to the New Hampshire Attorney General's Web site, Lexis Nexis also warned that another man used its databases in an unrelated incident. On May 8, Yomi Jagunna, 44, pleaded guilty to fraud charges, saying he set up a fake debt collection company called the Elam Collection Agency. Using his account, Jagunna obtained and then sold Social Security numbers, charging $30 for each one.

Jagunna, who faces a sentence of up to 15 years on a conspiracy charge, was allegedly part of an eight-man identity theft ring.

Thanks to Robert McMillan

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sandra Harmon's "Mafia Son: The Scarpa Mob Family, the FBI, and a Story of Betrayal"

Book ‘Em is an exciting new feature on Crimesider. Every week we interview a top true-crime author to get the story behind their story.

For our first week, we spoke with journalist and bestselling author Sandra Harmon, whose new book, Mafia Son: The Scarpa Mob Family, the FBI and a Story of Betrayal, tells the story of Greg Scarpa, Jr., a hardened criminal and former Mob “wiseguy,” who, according to Harmon, became a jailhouse spy who gave the FBI information that might have averted the tragedy of 9/11, if only the Feds had listened.

In her book, Harmon details how she gained inside access to both Mob and law enforcement figures and became a trusted confidante to an unrepentant mob killer turned FBI informant.

Harmon told Crimesider about the dangers of reporting on the Mob, the FBI's missed opportunities to prevent 9/11, and the intriguing sex life of one of the mob's most dangerous men.

What drew you to this story?

Harmon: Although I had never before written about crime - my biggest bestseller was “Elvis and Me,” written with Priscilla Presley - I became intrigued by the twisted and sometimes tragic tale of the Scarpa family.

Gregory Scarpa, Sr. was a mafia kingpin, so addicted to violence and murder that he was nicknamed The Grim Reaper. But Scarpa had hubris; he played both sides of the fence. For the thirty years he was leading a crew of fifty mobsters in a life of crime, he was also a top echelon informant for the FBI. For decades, his intimate relationship with his “handler,” the much publicized former FBI agent Lin DeVecchio, protected Scarpa and granted him a virtual license to kill, which he did, quite often, and always with obvious relish.

I learned about the extraordinary love affair between Greg Sr. and a woman named Linda Schiro. Although married to others, they raised a family together and remained “intimate” – demonstrating such deep and obvious love for each other and devotion to their family – that I wondered how they could have led such a heinous, amoral existence.

Then, I learned of Linda’s fondness for “threesome’s,” and Greg Sr.’s total acceptance of another man sharing their bed for fifteen years – Larry Mazza, a man who rose in the mafia to become Greg’s right hand man - at the same time sleeping with his boss’s mistress – often with all three in the same bed. Why would this psychopathic killer allow another man in his bed? Did he love Linda so much that he would do anything to make her happy? Or did he do it for himself? I admit I was intrigued. But intrigue is not enough for me to take up the long and arduous task of writing a book. What first pushed me forward was the need to uncover what I believed was the corrupt and self serving relationship between Greg Sr. and Lin DeVecchio. Ultimately, I became so involved in the story that I sent an affidavit to the Brooklyn District Attorney, which, in part, resulted in Lin DeVecchio being indicted on four counts of murder. In fact, I became so embroiled in the story that I was actually subpoenaed by both the prosecution and the defense to tell all I knew, and was forced to hire a first amendment attorney to protect my journalistic rights. It was a great eye-opener for me about all aspects of the “crime community,” the bad guys and the supposed good guys as well.

What’s the most compelling or surprising aspect of this story that you can reveal?

Harmon: The most compelling and surprising aspect of this story is that of Gregory Scarpa Jr., who was a promising young athlete until, to please his Machiavellian father, he entered the family business and became a mobster. In the late 80’s, he was betrayed by Greg Sr., who sacrificed his son to save himself from prison.

After a decade in federal prison, and awaiting a new trial, Greg Jr. was moved to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City and placed in a cell next to Ramzi Yousef, architect of the 1993 World Trade Bombing. Greg made a deal with the government to get information from Yousef in exchange for leniency. A year later he furnished the feds with detailed intelligence on what would eventually result in the September 11th attacks. But incredibly, Gregory’s desperate warnings were both ignored and buried; he was sentenced to 40 years to life at the ADMAX Prison in Florence, Colorado. There, he would supply the FBI with intelligence on Oklahoma City bomber and fellow prisoner Terry Nichols. Again his contribution was ignored, and Gregory remains at ADMAX, where he believes he will one day be murdered.

Is there a hero?

Harmon: If there is a “hero” in MAFIA SON, it would have to be Gregory Jr., who is by no means “heroic.” He was a mafia capo who has admitted to murdering 26 people. However, he did risk his life to gather incredibly accurate intelligence which might well have averted 9/11 and the death of over 3,000 people had the federal prosecutors, including Patrick Fitzgerald, and Valerie Caproni, not put their careers first and justice second, which they continue to do to this day.

Do you ever worry that your reporting puts you in any danger?

Harmon: Before the indictment against DeVecchio, I never personally felt in danger, even though I am a woman alone who was investigating the highest level of corruption in many areas of government. But after I submitted that affidavit to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in which I attested to a murder which Linda Schiro had discussed with me -- a crime allegedly involving DeVecchio, and the details of the affidavit were leaked to the press -- all hell broke loose, with stories in major newspapers naming me specifically as the instigator of the DeVecchio investigation. This led to months of my being threatened by Mafia types, intimidated by the FBI, ridiculed in local newspapers for lacking the journalistic credentials of a “real crime writer,” denigrated in cyberspace (with the greatest venom generated on a website known as the “Friends of Lin DeVecchio,” and denounced in a book by a former undercover FBI agent. I was also warned that in all likelihood my phone line had been tapped, and that certain terrorist factions – through contacts in federal custody – had gained access to my address and phone number; as a result, I was encouraged to exercise extreme caution in all correspondence. I have also been threatened with nine lawsuits from different characters I write about in the book.

Do you ever have nightmares because of this case?

Harmon: I don't have nightmares, but sometimes I have trouble falling asleep because I worry about which character from MAFIA SON, who is pissed at me because they don't like what I wrote, will next show up in my life and attempt to intimidate me.

Thanks to Barry Leibowitz

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reputed Colombo Crime Family Capo, Michael Uvino, Gets 10 Years in Prison

A reputed Colombo crime family captain convicted of running illegal card games on Long Island and assaulting two men who robbed one of his clubs was sentenced Friday in Brooklyn to 10 years in prison.

Bookmaker Michael Uvino, 42, of Little Neck, got the stiff sentence despite insisting that he was a victim of gambling addiction, and despite pleas for mercy from his ex-cop father and a nun who praised his charitable work.

U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein told Uvino that even nonviolent mob rackets like gambling had contributed to the Mafia's destructive effects on the New York City region over four decades. "He's sworn to be a man of the Mafia for his life, and I'm convinced he'll go back," Weinstein told Uvino's lawyer. "The youngsters in this city have to understand that they can't join this organization, and that when they do they destroy their lives."

Prosecutors accused Uvino of bookmaking and running illegal gambling clubs on Wellwood Avenue in Lindenhurst and out of a Sons of Italy hall on Sunrise Highway in West Babylon. He was convicted in December.

"His sin is the gambling," the defendant's father, Carmine Uvino, told Weinstein. "I think you're being overly excessive."

Two associates of Uvino received lesser sentences from Weinstein Friday. Brian Dono, 38, of Lindenhurst, was sentenced to 46 months in prison, and Philip Costanza, 46, of the Bronx, received a 24-month prison term.

According to court papers, the government has seized the William Paca Lodge in West Babylon. The proceeds of a forfeiture sale will be split 50/50 with the local affiliate, which has been severed from the statewide Sons of Italy because of the charges.

Thanks to John Riley

New Boss Running the Boston Mafia

There’s a new don in town.

Lt. Stephen Johnson of the Massachusetts State Police, special services unit, confirmed today that a new gangster has supplanted Carmen “The Cheeseman” DiNunzio as godfather as the Boston mafia.

DiNunzio, 51, pleaded guilty in Salem Superior Court to extortion and gaming charges as part of a joint state and federal sentencing agreement. He’ll serve six years in a federal prison starting in September.

Johnson declined to say who is now in charge of the mob in Boston.

Despite busting up a widespread bookmaking operation north of Boston and putting DiNunzio away, Johnson said, “it’s just a drop in the bucket,” adding that the mafia is alive and well in Boston.

DiNunzio will be sentenced in federal court Sept. 24 on charges he attempted to bribe a Big Dig official over a dirt deal. He will be sentenced Sept. 25 in Salem.

DiNunzio was facing up to 52 years behind bars. DiNunzio left court without commenting.

DiNunzio’s longtime attorney, Anthony Cardinale, said his client is “anxious to get on with the next phase of his life,” while adding that he’s concerned about his health problems, including diabetes.

Cardinale said the federal case was “particularly troubling” because his client was caught on tape. “There was not much we could do,” he said. “Viewing both of them together it was our decision to make the best deal we could.”

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said state police spent many years on the investigation.

Thanks to Laurel J. Sweet

Junior Gotti Denied Bail

Accused Mafia boss John "Junior" Gotti was denied bail by a federal judge on Wednesday in a setback two months before he faces his fourth trial in five years on federal racketeering charges.

Gotti, 45, was tried three times previously on racketeering charges including that he headed the Gambino crime family. The most recent was in 2006 when a judge declared a mistrial because jurors were deadlocked.

Two previous trials also were voided when juries failed to reach a verdict.

In Wednesday's bail arguments held in Manhattan federal court, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel sided with prosecutors who argued that a history of witness tampering meant Gotti should remain in jail pending trial.

Prosecutor Elie Honig said new evidence not presented at previous trials included a mob associate who will testify that in 2005 Gotti said they could escape criminal charges by pretending they had quit the crime family and had already received the "mob stamp of approval" to fake a withdrawal.

Gotti's lawyer Charles Carnesi said he will again argue that Gotti withdrew from the Mafia, a unique defense that has proved instrumental to Gotti winning the three mistrials. "It is absolutely not a different case. It charges the same crimes," Carnesi said, arguing the case should be dropped.

Gotti is accused of taking control of the Gambino family from his father, John J. Gotti, who was known as the "Teflon Don" for his many years evading criminal conviction.

The elder Gotti was finally convicted of murder, racketeering, conspiracy and other charges in 1992. He died in prison in 2002.

"Junior" is accused of murder, robbery, kidnapping, extortion and bribery from 1983 to 2008. His trial is scheduled to begin September 14.

"Public Enemies" vs "The Untouchables" Throw Down

Brandishing a murderers' row of cheekbones and all the muzzle money can buy, Michael Mann's Public Enemies offers us a romantic vision of the Depression-era bandit John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) as he's chased by a federal agent (Christian Bale) across the Midwest. Over two decades ago, Brian De Palma's hit The Untouchables gave us a decidedly more black-and-white take on cops and robbers, with a team of virtuous good guys working to unravel the blood-and-booze-soaked empire of the Chicago mob boss Al Capone (Robert De Niro). So, when Mann's brooding crime epic and De Palma's sensational action flick face off, which of these pictures runs away with the loot?

The Long Arm of the Law

Public Enemies: Stone-faced FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Bale) is unrelenting in his pursuit of Dillinger, despite having issues with the strong-arm tactics encouraged by a young J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup).

The Untouchables: Idealistic Treasury official Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) is such a paragon of virtue that he needs to be schooled by loyal beat cop Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery) in the ways of Chicago crime-fighting.

Winner: The Untouchables. Ness is a bit one-dimensional, but Malone and the other "untouchables" are the heart of this flick.

Mythical Actors, Mythical Outlaws

Public Enemies: Thanks to a spree of bank robberies in which he refuses to take ordinary citizens' money, Depp's John Dillinger achieves folk-hero status during the Great Depression.

The Untouchables: Although he claims to be a man of the people, De Niro's Al Capone is a brutal thug who will stoop to beating an associate with a baseball bat when the situation demands it.

Winner: Public Enemies. De Niro makes for a great movie monster, but Depp's Zen outlaw has a riveting appeal.

Violence, Violence, and More Violence

Public Enemies: Epic gun battles plague Dillinger and company. Almost always, it's because some idiot started shooting without provocation.

The Untouchables: Although most of them are new to gunplay, Ness and his men quickly become adept at shoot-outs -- most notably when they have to intercept a mob bookkeeper at a Chicago train station and a baby carriage gets in the way.

Winner: The Untouchables. Public Enemies has some beautifully intense sequences, but De Palma's film is basically one stunning set-piece after another.

Winner: A tie. It's hard to match The Untouchables for sheer entertainment value, but Public Enemies' moody, ethereal take on the Dillinger saga is lovely and haunting.

Thanks to Bilge Ebiri

City of Chicago Squeezes Widow of Man Squeezed by The Chicago Outfit

Whether the name of Richie Urso ever makes it into the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich next June is anybody's guess.

You've probably never heard of Richie Urso. But the FBI sure has heard of him.

His is a classic Chicago story, about a beefy yet charming guy born on Grand Avenue, who got in trouble with the law as a kid, only to make political friends and become extremely wealthy.

He was arrested once for jewelry theft in the '60s by the Outfit's top Chicago police detective, William Hanhardt. Urso's alleged partner in the theft was the mob enforcer Frankie Cullotta, who later became the technical adviser for the movie "Casino." The charges against Urso went away. Like I said, it's a Chicago story.

Richie went from the trucking business into real estate, dropping thousands of dollars in contributions to politicians like Mayor Richard Daley and former Gov. Dead Meat. He hung around with bankers, real estate players, insiders at the Cook County Board of (Tax) Review, at Mart Anthony's Restaurant on Randolph Street.

He was worth millions in real estate. He was also the victim of an Outfit shakedown that figured in the FBI's landmark Family Secrets case against top mob bosses.

Now the FBI is going through his business, interested in his associates, including former Mutual Bank of Harvey boss Amrish Mahajan, who has dropped off the political map. Though not charged, Uncle Amrish is under investigation as a top Blagojevich fundraiser. "My husband was excited because he was supposed to go with Amrish and Daley on a trip to India," said Richie's wife, Joanne Urso, recalling what she told federal investigators. "They were all going to go together. But then he died."

Daley and his wife, Maggie, made the trip with a Chicago business delegation.

Amrish Mahajan was a political connection for Daley, Blagojevich and other politicians to the Indian community. His wife, Anita, said, "He did not go on the trip with the mayor."

Anita -- charged with bilking the state out of millions of dollars in phony drug tests -- said her husband was in India, and unreachable.

After Richie's death in 2003, lenders called in their notes. Lawyers demanded big fees. The will that he told Joanne was stashed in a Mutual Bank safe deposit box was never found. And Daley's City Hall, which had never given Richie much trouble, suddenly slapped Joanne with a series of citations on their properties.

City Hall is also demanding she sell Richie's prized 24-acre site just west of the Cook County Jail for millions less than she says it's worth. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) is demanding the site for a park. "I'm getting ripped off by everybody. By everybody," Joanne Urso said.

She told me Richie died of a heart attack on the kitchen floor of a girlfriend's home, on April 15, 2003. "You should call her," she said.

So we did. The woman is Mary Ann Dinovo, who works in human resources for the county tax review board, which handles tax appeals for every parcel of real estate in the county.

"He said, 'What do you got to eat?' " recalled Dinovo. "I'd just made a big tuna salad. He said, 'Can I have some?' The TV was on in the kitchen. The fork dropped out of his hand. He said he felt sick and went to the bathroom."

Minutes later, Richie Urso, his mouth full of tuna salad, was dead at age 61.

"It was karma that we met," Dinovo said. "We loved to do things together, go to shows, go to Navy Pier. ... He'd always play like he was poor. 'I'm just a poor truck driver,' he'd say. Sometimes we'd drive by a piece of property and he'd ask me who owned it."

Did you help him find out who owned it? "Absolutely not," said Dinovo, who said she has not been contacted by federal authorities. "I never knew what the hell he had. I didn't ask. But how do you think I felt when after he died, his friends told me that he was worth, like, $50 million? I said, 'What?' "

In late November of last year, Blagojevich hadn't yet been arrested. But the noose was tightening.

About a week before the FBI knocked on the governor's door, they knocked on Joanne Urso's door. FBI agents and a lawyer from the U.S. attorney's office wanted to chat.

"They asked about everything that was going on with the banks, the lawyers, our properties," Joanne Urso said. "... They asked about Amrish Mahajan and the governor. Oh, and [state Sen.] Jimmy DeLeo, they asked about him."

Only Blagojevich has been charged with a crime, and it's not illegal to know a guy like Richie Urso.

The FBI didn't have to ask about Richie and the Outfit. Without Richie, there may not have been a Family Secrets case that sent three mob bosses to prison.

That's because in 1986, just three months after gangsters Tony and Michael Spilotro were murdered, Richie Urso was the victim of an Outfit shakedown.

It all came out in testimony by mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, and chronicled in the book "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" by my colleague Jeff Coen.

Nick's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and fellow mobster John Fecarotta were competing to squeeze Urso for payments on a juice loan from the 1960s. It wasn't even Urso who borrowed the money. The father of an Urso partner owed the juice.

Urso was growing wealthy by the 1980s, and the mob wanted a piece. Fecarotta demanded that Urso make Fecarotta's house payments. Frank Calabrese Sr. held a knife to Urso's crotch, also demanding cash, according to trial testimony.

By then, Fecarotta had botched the burial of the Spilotro bodies, leaving them in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, allowing them to be found. Fecarotta's shakedown of Richie Urso gave Frank Sr. another reason to lobby Outfit bosses for a Fecarotta solution. "And that sort of put the nail in the coffin," Nick Calabrese testified.

Nick and Frank helped kill Fecarotta on Belmont Avenue, but Nick lost a bloody glove at the scene. Years later, the FBI used DNA from that glove to turn Nick Calabrese into a star government witness.

The Outfit usually doesn't shake down legitimate squares, but targets people who can't run to the government.

"My husband helped all of them," Joanne Urso said. "When people borrowed money, he paid for that. He was paying and paying all his life."

At the time of his death Richie Urso controlled a string of properties, including a South Loop building housing the Pink Monkey strip club, a Cicero property housing the adult bookstore Bare Assets and a Chicago Chinatown neighborhood shopping complex. But the crown jewel was the land near the jail complex.

Now City Hall has moved to take the property. According to public records, Joanne Urso owes Mutual Bank more than $9 million on that property and another huge lot at 6501 W. 51st St.

The city has offered her $7.1 million for the Little Village parcel. Her appraisers say it's worth $13 million. It would be worth much more if Cook County expands the jail.

"They [City Hall] thought I would sell it right away," she said. "But I wasn't going to just give it away. Now it feels they've decided to try and just take it."

Joanne Urso is a woman alone. Her clout died six years ago, on another woman's kitchen floor, with tuna salad in his mouth.

Once, Richie Urso was squeezed by the Outfit. Now his widow is getting squeezed by City Hall. It's a classic Chicago story.

The central theme is that there's nothing deader than dead clout. And now Joanne Urso has to pay for it.

Thanks to John Kass

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