Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mafia II Trailer - The Art of Persuasion

Mexican Drug Cartels Now Established as Full-Fledged Mafia Organizations

Shopkeepers in this pine-covered mountain region easily recite the list of "protection" fees they pay to La Familia drug cartel to stay in business: 100 pesos a month for a stall in a street market, 30,000 pesos for an auto dealership or construction-supply firm.

First offense for nonpayment: a severe beating. Those who keep ignoring the fees — or try to charge their own — may pay with their lives.

"Every day you can see the people they have beaten up being taken to the IMSS," said auto mechanic Jesus Hernandez, motioning to the government-run hospital a few doors from his repair shop.

Mexican drug cartels have morphed into full-scale mafias, running extortion and protection rackets and trafficking everything from people to pirated DVDs. As once-lucrative cocaine profits have fallen and U.S. and Mexican authorities crack down on all drug trafficking to the U.S., gangs are branching into new ventures — some easier and more profitable than drugs.

The expansion has major implications as President Felipe Calderon continues his 2½-year-old drug war, which has killed more than 11,000 people and turned formerly tranquil rural towns such as Ciudad Hidalgo into major battlefronts.

Organized crime is seeping into Mexican society in ways not seen before, making it ever more difficult to combat. Besides controlling businesses, cartels provide jobs and social services where government has failed.

"Today, the traffickers have big companies, education, careers," said Congresswoman Yudit del Rincon of Sinaloa state, which has long been controlled by the cartel of the same name. "They're businessman of the year, they even head up social causes and charitable foundations."

Local officials say they do not have the manpower to investigate cartel rackets and refer such cases to the state, which hands them over to overloaded federal agents because organized crime is a federal offense. A federal police report released in April notes that often no one confronts the cartels, "not the police, because in many cases there is probably corruption, and not the public, because they live in terror."

After media reports questioned whether Mexico was becoming a failed state, Calderon insisted to The Associated Press in February that his country is in the hands of Mexican authorities.

"Even me, as president, I can visit any single point of the territory," he said. He has since sent 5,500 extra military and police officers to fight drug lords in Michoacan — his home state. But in Ciudad Hidalgo and neighboring Zitacuaro, mayors have been jailed and charged with working for La Familia cartel, which controls swaths of central and western Mexico. Cadillac Escalades and Lincoln Navigators with low tires and chrome rims patrol the streets of Zitacuaro, even as trucks of army troops roll past.

In the Michoacan mountain town of Arteaga, La Familia boss Servando Gomez Martinez is revered for giving townspeople money for food, clothing and even medical care.

"He is a country man just like us, who wears huaraches," a farmer said of one of Mexico's most-wanted drug lords, pointing to his own open-toed leather sandals. He asked that his name not be used for fear of retaliation.

"It's almost like Chicago, when Al Capone ruled everything," said a senior U.S. law enforcement official who was not authorized to be quoted by name. "They control everything from the shoeshine boy to the taxi driver."

Mexican cartels gained their dominance in drug trafficking in the mid-1980s, when U.S. drug agents and the Colombian government cracked down on Colombian cartels and drug routes through the Caribbean. The vast majority of cocaine headed to the U.S. started going through Mexico.

In the meantime, trade in pirated and other smuggled goods in Mexico traditionally was carried out by small gangs centered around extended families or neighborhood rings.

In the last five to 10 years, Mexican cartels created domestic drug markets and carved out local territories, using a quasi-corporate structure, firepower and gangs of hit men to control other illicit trades as well. Federal prosecutors now call them "organized crime syndicates" and say their tactics — such as charging a "turf tax" to do business in their territory — mirror the Italian mafia.

"They adopt a business model as if they were franchises, except they are characterized by violence," according to a federal police briefing report.

In June, soldiers in the northern city of Monterrey caught members of the Zetas cartel producing and distributing pirated DVDs and controlling street vendors with protection fees. Also in Monterrey, top Gulf cartel lieutenant Sigifrido Najera Talamantes ran kidnapping and extortion rings while trafficking migrants and crude oil stolen from the pipelines of Mexico's state-owned oil company, Pemex, according to the army.

Najera Talamantes, who was arrested in March, allegedly charged migrant smugglers to pass through his territory, took a cut from street vendors and oversaw trafficking in stolen goods, said Army Gen. Luis Arturo Oliver.

In Durango state, residents of Cuencame dug ditches around their town earlier this year to keep out roving bands of drug hit men kidnapping people at will.

"Even with the ditches, they still came in and kidnapped five people," said a Cuencame official who asked his name not be used for fear of retaliation.

In late 2008, almost all the betting parlors in the border state of Tamaulipas closed because of demands for protection money, according to Alfonso Perez, the head of the Mexican association of betting parlors.

In northern states such as Chihuahua and Tamaulipas, cartels also are blamed for businesses closing or burning if they don't pay protection fees.

Last year, mayors of more than a dozen towns throughout the state of Mexico received threatening phone calls demanding that $10,000 to $50,000 be deposited in bank accounts. State investigators say many of the threats mentioned links to the Gulf cartel.

Salvador Vergara, mayor of the resort town of Ixtapan de la Sal, received threats and was shot to death in October. State authorities believe that he didn't pay and refused to allow gangs to operate in his township.

Families in parts of the central state of Zacatecas went without cooking gas for several days in January, after gangs demanded protection fees of the gas-delivery trucks, and drivers refused to make their rounds. Deliveries resumed only after the state government increased security patrols on the local roads.

Extortion threats reported to federal police skyrocketed from about 50 in 2002 to about 50,000 in 2008, according to Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna. Because of the spike, the Mexican government this year launched a nationwide anti-extortion program, creating a national database to track protection rackets and promising to protect even business owners too scared to file formal complaint.

While the results of the new complaint system are still meager, the government recently moved to go after cartel finances. In April, Congress approved a law allowing the government to seize properties and money from suspected drug traffickers and other criminals before they are convicted. In the past, suspects had to be convicted before their property could be seized, and trials often last years in Mexico.

Still, the gangs have created elaborate systems to avoid property seizures and to move money quickly through store-front check-cashing and wire-transfer services, according to federal police. And they have become so omnipresent that they take a cut of almost every transaction in some areas.

Javier, the owner of a small video store in Ciudad Hidalgo, got so fed up with La Familia controlling his town, he decided to sell his house and sent his two daughters to live in another state. His business had withered from the competition of street vendors selling pirated DVDs for La Familia. But when he put his two-story, 1930s-era home up for sale, he got a phone call from the cartel.

"Putting up a 'for sale' sign is like sending them an invitation," said Javier, who asked that his last name not be used for fear of retaliation. "They call and say, 'How much are you selling for? Give me 20 percent.'"

Thanks to Mark Stevenson

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Las Vegas Mayor, Oscar Goodman, Calls Chicago TV Reporter, Chuck Goudie, A Moron Over Mob Museum Report

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman lambasted a Chicago television reporter as a "moron" today for casting aspersions on the city's planned Mob Museum and an artifact held up as a main attraction — part of the bullet-ridden wall from the St. Valentine's Day massacre.

The report on WLS-TV claimed that Las Vegas was overstating how much of the wall it had, and — because of a miscommunication between the city's public relations staff and the reporter — mixed up a photograph of the wall section the city is getting and a fake wall that Goodman and former Nevada Sen. Richard Bryan pretended to knock down at an event marking the beginning of the museum's interior remodeling and construction.

"We never said we're buying it all!" Goodman shouted at his Thursday morning press conference. "That's what's wrong with members of the media who aren't honest. They put out a very untrue message.

"First of all, he called Sen. Bryan the senator from Arizona, this moron. And then he said ... what we busted into was not the St. Valentine's Day wall. We never pretended that it was."

Actually, the story said Bryan is the former governor of Arizona. He is not. He was once the governor of Nevada.

A nonprofit group that's administering the museum project paid about $300,000 for the section of the wall from a Chicago warehouse that was the scene of a brutal gang murder on Feb. 14, 1929. Coverage of the murders cemented the event as a symbol of the violence of organized crime of that era. The collection once belonged to Canadian business George Patey, who originally had about 400 bricks but sold many off to collectors over the years. The museum has 331 of those bricks, said city spokesman David Riggleman.

Any story about the Mob Museum, formally known as the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, generates widespread interest, and this one is no different, Goodman crowed.

"Morons get punished," he said. "And this guy's getting punished now. You know why? Because the phone is ringing off the hook now by people who heard the moron's story, or read the moron's story, who want to give us things for the Mob Museum."

Thanks to Alan Choate

How Much of the Infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre Brick Wall Will End Up in the Las Vegas Mob Museum?

Chicago's most infamous wall stood up to the St. Valentine's massacre. But now, Las Vegas officials say they will be relocating the massacre wall for a new mob museum.

Las Vegas, never known for its understated approach, is spending $50 million to build a mob museum. So it seemed credible when sin city officials announced that they bought the actual bullet-riddled brick wall from Chicago's St. Valentines Day massacre. But as the I-Team found out, Las Vegas doesn't have all of the St. Valentines Day massacre bricks because what happens in Vegas isn't always as billed.

Wide-brimmed mobsters ready to whack a rival bootlegger. Or not. Actually, it was the mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, and former Nevada governor Richard Bryan dressed in their outfit best for the big unveiling of the mob museum.

"What makes Las Vegas distinctive? What makes us distinctive from any other place? What gives us our mystique? It's the mob," said Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas mayor. And nothing in all of mobdom has more mystique than the St. Valentine's Day massacre.

SMC Cartage on Clark Street in Lincoln Park. February 14, 1929, 80 years ago this year. On that snowy morning, several hoodlums believed to be sent by Al Capone, enter the warehouse dressed as Chicago policemen. They line up seven henchmen from the rival Bugs Moran North Side gang, faces to the brick wall.

"Carnage. Some of the guys took about fifteen machine gun bullets which at that range could cut you in half," said John Binder, mob historian.

The building was used until 1967, when it was one of many gangland landmarks ordered demolished by Mayor Richard J. Daley.

"During the time it was being torn down that's when people came and liberated parts of the wall for their own collections," said Richard Crowe, mob collector.

Richard Crowe and a business partner have more than 100 bricks from the St. Valentines Day execution wall. Another Chicago collector obtained 200 bricks in 1967. And Canadian promoter George Patey secured the largest number, 414 bricks. According to an agreement with the demolition company, Patey's bricks had supposedly been in the line of fire. It is those bricks that Las Vegas officials say they bought for their mob museum.

"I can't think of an event they were involved in that was more bloody and more gory which represented how they did business," said Goodman. But not so fast. Before promoter Patey died five years ago, he sold more than 150 of the bricks, most of them through a now-defunct Web site. So the Chicago massacre wall that Las Vegas unveiled last week is, at best, only a partial relic.

"Mayor Goodman does not have all of the bricks that Patey bought," said Binder.

"How many are going to wind up in Vegas is a mystery," said Crowe.

When Vegas officials announced that the massacre wall would soon be on display, they showed a large picture to reporters. A city spokeswoman now tells the I-Team that it really wasn't a photo of the Chicago bricks, just a look-a-like illustration.

For two days Las Vegas officials would not tell us how much of the wall they actually have or what they paid.

A city spokeswoman sent the I-Team a statement on Wednesday night that they are "fully aware some bricks have been sold off" over the years. But she contends that they purchased the "vast majority" of the massacre wall.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gennaro "Jerry" Angiulo Underboss in New England Has Died

Gennaro "Jerry" Angiulo, the former underboss of the New England Mafia who ruled the Boston rackets from the 1960s until his headline-generating arrest and conviction in the 1980s, died today. He was 90.

Angiulo and his three brothers, Donato, Francesco, and Michele were all convicted in February 1986 in the region's first sweeping federal racketeering case against the mob. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison in the case.

The son of Italian immigrants who ran a North End grocery store, Gennaro Angiulo rose through the Mafia ranks under Raymond L.S. Patriarca of Providence because of his keen skill at making money. The Angiulo brothers were disciplined hands-on operators, who had a virtual monopoly on the region's illegal gambling and loansharking, according to law enforcement officials. But the Angiulo empire was toppled when the FBI planted bugs in their Prince Street headquarters and at a social club on North Margin Street for three months in 1981, as Angiulo ordered murders and beatings and boasted of his misdeeds.

When he was hauled by FBI agents out of Francesco's Restaurant in the North End in 1983, he yelled, "I'll be back before my pork chops get cold."

But he was wrong. He wasn't released on parole until 2007. In recent years, he has been living quietly at his home in Nahant.

Thanks to Shelley Murphy

Friday, August 28, 2009

$100+ Million Verdict for Men Framed by the FBI in Mafia Slaying is Upheld

A federal appeals court upheld yesterday a landmark verdict for four men framed by the FBI in a gangland slaying, although the appellate judges said the $101.7 million damage judgment awarded by a lower court was “at the outer edge of the universe of permissible awards.’’

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit said the 2007 damage judgment to the families of Peter J. Limone, Joseph Salvati, Louis Greco, and Henry Tameleo, believed to be the largest of its kind nationally, was considerably higher than any of the three appellate judges would have ordered. “But when we take into account the severe emotional trauma inflicted upon the scapegoats,’’ the appeals court wrote of the wrongly imprisoned men, “we cannot say with any firm conviction that those awards are grossly disproportionate to the injuries sustained.’’

Limone, now 75, of Medford, spent more than 33 years in prison as a result of his wrongful conviction in the 1965 murder. Salvati, now 76, of the North End, was in prison for more than 29 years. The other two men, Greco and Tameleo, died in prison after decades of imprisonment.

Juliane Balliro, a Boston lawyer for the Limones and Tameleos, said she had expected the appeals court to uphold the ruling by US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner. “We hope the government will pay this award and allow these folks to move on with their lives and enjoy what little time they have left with their families,’’ she said.

She said the Justice Department can seek to appeal to the full Court of Appeals for the First Circuit or to the Supreme Court, but predicted those challenges would fail. “It really is time for the government to put the sordid past of the FBI behind them and just move on,’’ she said.

Beverley Lumpkin, a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington, said the government is reviewing the ruling, but she declined to comment further.

In a dramatic ruling on July 26, 2007, Gertner found the FBI “responsible for the framing of four innocent men’’ in the murder of a small-time criminal, Edward “Teddy’’ Deegan, in a Chelsea alley.

She concluded after a 22-day bench trial that the FBI deliberately withheld evidence of the four men’s innocence and helped hide the injustice for decades.

The discovery of secret FBI files that were not handed over during the men’s 1968 state murder trial prompted a state judge in 2001 to overturn the murder convictions of Limone and Salvati. Limone was immediately freed from prison. Salvati had been paroled in 1997. The convictions of Tameleo and Greco were later set aside posthumously.

Documents in the Deegan slaying showed that the FBI knew that the key witness in the case, notorious hitman-turned-government witness Joseph “The Animal’’ Barboza, may have falsely implicated the four men while protecting one of Deegan’s real killers, Vincent “Jimmy’’ Flemmi, an FBI informant.

Gertner found that the FBI protected Barboza and Flemmi because both provided valuable information against the Mafia, which was the bureau’s top priority at the time.

During oral arguments before the appeals judges in May, lawyers for the Justice Department contended the FBI could not be held liable for malicious prosecution because the four men were prosecuted in state court by state authorities. The appellate court agreed yesterday, saying FBI agents helped the state make its case but did not initiate it.

Nevertheless, the appeals court said Gertner was right to hold the government liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress by covering up evidence that the four men were innocent.

Writing for the court, Judge Bruce M. Selya wrote that the FBI “stooped too low’’ to try to stamp out organized crime and that “the large damage awards mark the last word of a sad chapter in the annals of federal law enforcement.’’

Thanks to Jonathan Saltzmen

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia

Author Mike Dash makes lavish claims at the beginning of "The First Family," noting that "hundreds of books have been written about the Mafia, but this one is different from the rest. focus is the birth of the American branch of the fraternity during the years between 1892 and 1930 — a period that has, to my astonishment, been almost entirely neglected." That neglect means readers of Mafia books are usually uncertain why the United States of America ended up as the stronghold of a violent Sicilian brotherhood that terrorized entire urban areas.

For many years, I reported about organized crime, especially the activities of Sicilian Americans. That meant reading lots of books as background for my reporting. The glamorization of murder, the treatment of Mafia bosses as twisted heroes with catchy nicknames, the failure to explain how Sicilian-American crime syndicates operated in ways similar to Fortune 500 corporations, used to enrage me.

It's a shame Dash's book was unavailable to me back then. Like so many researchers, I have learned that the past is prologue. Dash has conducted painstaking research about the past of the Mafia, in Sicily and, beginning during the 1890s, across the United States. Dash's book does venture into matters previously unknown to me.

Before Dash's research, the "knowledge" spreading throughout American society — often due to popular-culture iterations such as "The Godfather" — came from sources so vague that many media consumers believed the mobsters were Italian American, rather than Sicilian American. The distinction is deeply important to those of Italian descent, and meaningful to an accurate history of organized crime.

Dash, a British academic historian/popular journalist, seems to have learned about every immigrant Sicilian mobster, every murder committed by them, every scheme to extort money from law-abiding Americans. His book is impressive, but so unrelenting in its description of gore that I often felt queasy.

When Dash occasionally gives the gore a rest, he relates little-known stories, not only about the criminals, but also about law-enforcement officers determined to alleviate the violence while resisting tempting bribes from Mafia leaders.

Among the memorable protagonists are Giuseppe Morello, founder of the first Mafia family to rule the New York City crime scene. Born in Corleone, Sicily, during 1867, he arrived in the United States during 1892. Although already an experienced, ruthless criminal, Morello mostly avoided prison time because he insulated himself well from the dirty deeds. Police and prosecutors finally made criminal charges stick, leading to Morello's imprisonment from 1910 to 1920. But even while imprisoned, Morello managed to direct criminal activity. He could not be halted by government authorities. It took a rival Mafia organization to silence Morello — via a 1930 murder.

On the law-enforcement side, Dash provides an especially rich word portrait of William Flynn, a New York City native who directed that city's branch of the U.S. Secret Service. Flynn pursued members of the Morello family relentlessly, even managing to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable Mafia inner circle.

The rest of the cast is huge. But because Dash provides a detailed, well-organized cast of characters at the front of the book, readers can erase lingering confusion quickly.

"The First Family" provides well-researched history for readers fascinated, and even repulsed, by organized crime.

Thanks to Steve Weinberg - the author of eight nonfiction books, most recently "Taking on the Trust: The Epic Battle of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller," just published in paperback.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Life in Prison for Genovese Crime Family Capo Angelo Prisco

ANGELO PRISCO, a captain in the Genovese Organized Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra, was sentenced today to life in prison by United States District Judge NAOMI REICE BUCHWALD in Manhattan federal court. PRISCO was convicted on April 27, 2009, after a two-week jury trial, of murder, racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, robbery, extortion, firearms offenses, arson, stolen property offenses, loansharking, and operating an illegal gambling business. According to documents filed in this case, the evidence at trial, and statements made at today's sentencing proceeding:

PRISCO was "made," or inducted, as a member of the Genovese Organized Crime Family in the late 1970s, and was later promoted to the supervisory position of captain. In his capacity as a captain, PRISCO supervised, oversaw, and profited from the criminal activities of his own crew of Genovese Family Soldiers and associates, which operated in the New York City area and in New Jersey.

On June 2, 1992, PRISCO arranged the murder of his first cousin, ANGELO SANGIUOLO. PRISCO received the order to kill SANGIUOLO from VINCENT GIGANTE, a/k/a "The Chin," who was then the boss of the Genovese Organized Crime Family. GIGANTE ordered the murder because SANGIUOLO had been stealing from another Genovese Organized Crime Family soldier, ANTHONY PALUMBO. PRISCO assigned two of his own crew members, JOHN LETO, a/k/a "Johnny Balls," and PAUL GACCIONE, a/k/a "Doc," to carry out the murder. PRISCO then devised a plan to lure SANGIUOLO to PRISCO's Bronx, New York, social club. After SANGIUOLO arrived, PRISCO told him to get into a van with LETO and GACCIONE, on the pretense that LETO and GACCIONE would help SANGIUOLO with a problem SANGIUOLO was having with another person. Inside the van, LETO shot SANGIUOLO numerous times, killing him, then left his body in the back of the van in the parking lot of a Bronx McDonald's. PRISCO then picked up LETO at the McDonald's, and went with him to dispose of the murder weapon.

PRISCO also was convicted of conspiring to commit robberies with members of his crew. In 1991 and 1992 robberies, PRISCO oversaw various crew members who carjacked and robbed at gunpoint jewelry dealers transporting large quantities of gold and other jewelry they had purchased in the Dominican Republic. PRISCO received $20,000 in cash from one robbery and a bag of gold worth about $50,000 from another robbery. PRISCO then bragged at his Bronx social club about the armed robberies, passing around a relevant newspaper article.

From 2003 to 2005, PRISCO ordered, approved, and supervised multiple violent home invasion robberies targeting individuals believed to keep cash in their homes, during which numerous victims were tied up and beaten. PRISCO had to "green light" the robberies before they could occur, and received a portion of any money stolen. PRISCO also instructed his crew members to "play dumb" if they discovered they had robbed another person tied to organized crime.

PRISCO also was convicted of committing extortion and conspiracy to commit the extortion of a Manhattan construction company owner. PRISCO and his crew first extorted the victim's company in 1997, when PETER RIZZO, an associate under PRISCO at the time, assaulted and broke a glass coffee pot over the head of the victim's business partner. Members of PRISCO's crew then pressured the victim and his business partner to drop the charges against RIZZO stemming from this 1997 assault. Seven years later, various other members of PRISCO's crew -- acting on his orders and following his advice about how to collect the money -- returned to the same construction company and threatened to cut off the victim's finger and harm the victim's family. The victim paid PRISCO and his crew a total of $50,000. Since the 1990s, PRISCO has extorted various other individuals and businesses, including the owner of a diner in the Bronx; the owner of a night club in Manhattan; and an electrical contractor in Brooklyn.

United States Attorney PREET BHARARA stated, "This conviction and the life sentence imposed today on Angelo Prisco puts an end to his decades-long career as a leader of the Genovese Organized Crime Family -- one marked by violence and intimidation. Today's sentence, and the dismantling of the defendant's mafia crew, serves as a reminder that those who pledge themselves to a life of crime will pay a high price in the end."

Mr. BHARARA praised the work of the FBI; the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation; the Orange County, New York District Attorney's Office; the Westchester County, New York District Attorney's Office; the New York State Police; the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; the New York Police Department; the United States Bureau of Prisons; the Morris County, New Jersey Prosecutor's Office; and the Rockaway Township, New Jersey Police Department for their contributions.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office's Organized Crime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys ELIE HONIG and LISA ZORNBERG are in charge of the prosecution.

Thanks to ATN

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ban on Video Gambling Supported by The Chicago Crime Commission

The Chicago Crime Commission encouraged the DuPage County Board to ban video gambling machines in DuPage County. They warned that the long-term cost to society would far outweigh any short-term revenue gains if video gambling machines are installed. Law enforcement and other regulators would be left with a virtually uncontrollable situation.

"The decentralized nature of video gambling may soon turn Illinois into the 'Wild West' of gambling," said J.R. Davis, Chairman of the Chicago Crime Commission. "I would encourage DuPage County as well as municipalities and counties throughout the state to ban the video gambling machines before they are ever installed," he added.

"Video gambling has been called the crack cocaine of gaming for good reason. With the proliferation of video gambling, communities can expect to experience an increase in crime and a rise in other social ills connected with gambling expansion," he continued.

According to legislative analysis, about 66,000 video gambling machines may soon be scattered throughout communities in Illinois. While a law enforcement needs analysis is currently non-existent, Davis estimates Illinois will soon have to hire hundreds of new police and regulatory personnel to begin addressing the law enforcement requirement of this gambling expansion. "Unfortunately, I haven't heard anyone address this reality or speak to how these needs will be met," said Davis.

Davis also expressed concern that it would be difficult if not impossible to curb the influence of organized crime in this new, tough to regulate enterprise. "It is a fact that organized crime is known to gravitate towards gambling and other ancillary businesses," he continued.

Additionally, Davis said that the state's self exclusion program, which prohibits problem gamblers from entering casinos, would be left hobbled if video gambling proliferates in Illinois. "I have significant concern that entire families will be left penniless because Mom or Dad will be feeding their entire paycheck into the video poker machines," he concluded.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Russian Organized Crime Gangs Linked to Cyber Attacks on Georgia

The cyberattacks against Georgia a year ago were conducted in close connection with Russian criminal gangs, and the attackers likely were tipped off about Russia's intent to invade the country, according to a new technical analysis, much of which remains secret.

The stunning conclusions come from the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, an independent nonprofit research institute that assesses the impact of cyber attacks. A 100-page technical analysis is only being made available to the U.S. government and some cybersecurity professionals, but the organization did release a nine-page summary early Monday.

The report in part confirms some of the suspicions of observers, who theorized that the distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDOS), which crippled many Georgian Web sites, had its roots in Russia.

The report was chiefly produced through investigations by the CTO of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, John Bumgarner. It involved analyzing a raft of data collected as the attacks were going on and afterwards. The data included server logs from a variety of stakeholders, some of whom would not share information with each other, said Scott Borg, director and chief economist of the institute.

Russia launched a five-day military campaign in August 2008 that corresponded with Georgia's attempts to assert greater control over the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions, which have strong ties to Russia. Bombers struck targets throughout the country, and at the same time Georgian media and government sites fell under DDOS attack.

That timing doesn't appear to be a coincidence. The attacks were executed with an efficiency that indicated pre-planning, and the cyberattacks also preceded the first news stories of Russia's military intervention, according to the report.

"Many of the cyber attacks were so close in time to the corresponding military operations that there had to be close cooperation between people in the Russian military and the civilian cyber attackers," the report said. "Many of the actions the attackers carried out, such as registering new domain names and putting up new Web sites, were accomplished so quickly that all of the steps had to be prepared earlier."

Borg said that the institute is confident that the Russian government didn't directly carry out the attacks. But it is clear that Russia appeared to be leveraging civilian nationalists who were ready to take cyber action, perhaps with some low-level encouragement.

"It appears that the military invasion was taking into account the help they were about to receive ... by the cyberattack," Borg said.

It is not clear, however, at what level the interaction between Russian government officials and those who executed the attacks occurred. But it does appear that the loose coordination will likely become part of Russia's standard operating procedure from now on, Borg said.

A total of 54 Web sites were attacked, most of which would have benefited the Russian military campaign by not functioning, Borg said. By shutting down media and government sites, it was harder for Georgia to communicate to the public what was going on. Financial transactions were disrupted, and the National Bank of Georgia had to cut off its Internet connection for 10 days, according to the report.

Social networking sites helped recruit volunteers who traded tips on online forums in Russian, with one English-language forum hosted in San Francisco, the report said. Computers servers that had been used in the past to host malicious software by Russian criminal gangs were also used in the attacks.

"It appears that Russian criminal organizations made no effort to conceal their involvement in the cyber campaign against Georgia because they wanted to claim credit for it," the report said.

DDOS attacks work by bombarding a Web site with too many page requests, which causes it to become unavailable due to bandwidth problems unless security measures are taken. The attack is executed by a botnet, or a network of PCs that become infected with malicious code controlled by a hacker.

The code used to command those machines to attack the Web sites appeared to be customized specifically for the Georgia campaign, the report said. Three of the software programs used were designed to test Web sites to see how much traffic they can handle.

A fourth program was originally designed to add functions to Web sites but was altered by the hackers to request nonexistent Web pages. That tool, which is HTTP-based, proved more efficient than the ICMP-based (Internet Control Message Protocol) attacks used against Estonia in 2007, the report said.

Further evidence showed that Georgia could have been hit much harder. Some of Georgia's critical infrastructure was accessible over the Internet. While the civilian cyber attackers had signs of considerable expertise, "if the Russian military had chosen to get directly involved, such attacks would have been well within their capabilities," the report said.

"The fact that physically destructive cyberattacks were not carried out against Georgian critical infrastructure industries suggests that someone on the Russian side was exercising considerable constraint," it said.

Thanks to Jeremy Kirk

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sopranos Movie in the Works?

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producer David Chase remains coy about the possibility of a big-screen followup to the hit HBO show,but loose-lipped cast members are suggesting a script is already on the page.

It's been speculated that a major holdup to the big-screen version is a strong reluctance on the part of James Gandolfini to sign on to the project. But, according to a chatty Lorraine Bracco, that rumor is way off the mark.

"I don't think it's that at all," says Bracco about Gandolfini's supposed cold feet. "I think it's really trying to get the right script. Without the right script, it's really not worth doing."

Bracco isn't shy about making her concerns heard. "We've all talked to David to give him a kick in the booty to get it right," she says pointedly.

While HBO mouthpieces yesterday shot down any talk about the existence of a script, claiming it is "just rumor," Steve Van Zandt recently added to the buzz.

The "Sopranos" alum and Bruce Springsteen bandmate let slip to a Belfast newspaper that his character, Sil - who was struggling for his life in the show's abrupt ending - "is still alive."

Go figure. And Bracco doesn't sound like she's planning to stop at just one movie.

"I want us to be like 'Sex and the City' or 'The Bourne Identity,'" she gushed. "I want to make a million of them."

Thanks to Gatecrasher

Thursday, August 13, 2009

FBI Agent Who Served on Joint FBI-Chicago Police Department Organized Crime Task Force Named SAC of Buffalo

James H. Robertson has been named special agent in charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Buffalo Division. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III appointed him to this position to replace SAC Laurie J. Bennett, who now serves as deputy assistant director of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate at FBI Headquarters Most recently, Mr. Robertson served as chief of the International Terrorism Operations Section II, FBI Counterterrorism Division.

Mr. Robertson entered on duty as an FBI special agent in May 1989. Upon completion of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he was assigned to the Chicago Division. While there, he served on a joint FBI-Chicago Police Department Organized Crime Task Force targeting the Chicago Outfit. He also served as a primary sniper for the regional SWAT team. In January 1998, he was promoted to supervisory special agent in the Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters, responsible for evaluating the FBI’s Confidential Informant Program.

In January 2000, Mr. Robertson was assigned to the Detroit Division as the supervisory senior resident agent of the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and St. Joseph Resident Agencies. He served in that role until October 2004, when he was promoted to assistant special agent in charge (ASAC) of the Cincinnati Division’s National Security Branch. As ASAC, he had program management responsibilities for the Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, Field Intelligence, and Cyber Crimes Programs.

From October 2005 to April 2006, Mr. Robertson served as the Counterterrorism Division’s on-scene commander for the Iraqi Theater of Operations (ITO). He commanded all FBI operations in Iraq, and was responsible for liaison with Department of Defense elements and military commanders within the ITO.

Mr. Robertson was promoted to section chief of the Counterterrorism Division’s International Terrorism Operations Section II in November 2007. In that role, he formulated and implemented the Counterterrorism Division’s overseas strategy and was responsible for the day-to-day management and oversight of international terrorism investigations and operations abroad.

Mr. Robertson is married and has two daughters.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Al Capone and Frank Sinatra Classic Cars Head to Auction

During the annual Collectors’ Automobilia and Motorcars sale at the Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club in Carmel, California, 14 classic cars that were once owned by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Clark Gable, Al Capone and `Hopalong Cassidy' will be sold by Bonhams.

The cars that will be put up for auction on August 14 are a part of the collection of Sidney and Jenny Craig, owners of a famous American weight loss, weight management, and nutrition company.

Frank Sinatra’s 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham is estimated to be valued between $275,000 - $325,000.

From the highlights of the auction, Sinatra’s 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham and Martin's 1962 Ghia L6.4 coupe are expected to fetch the most. Sinatra’s Brougham is estimated between $275,000 - $325,000, while Martin’s Ghia estimated at $185,000 - $225,000.

In fact, Martin was the second owner of the vehicle, as the Ghia was first owned by Gary Morton (Lucille Ball’s second husband). The car was later modified for Martin by the King of the Kustomizers, George Barris.

Other highlights of the show include:
  • a 1933 Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Victoria Convertible, first owned by Hopalong Cassidy
  • a 1931 Ford Model A Roadster featured in one of the Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland
  • a 1930 Cadillac 452 V-16 Sedan outfitted with 1/4-inch steel armor plating and five-ply bullet-resistant glass attributed to Al Capone’s Chicago mob
  • a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe formerly owned by Clark Gable
  • the Flajole Forerunner concept car
  • a Cadillac V-12 Dual Cowl Phaeton
  • a Bentley 3.5-liter Park Ward Drophead Coupe

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Reputed Genovese Crime Family Mobster Among Those Indicted for Running Sports Gambling Ring

Eleven people, including a retired NYPD officer and a reputed Genovese wiseguy, were indicted Wednesday for running a $13 million sports gambling ring.

The group processed bets through a "wire room" in Costa Rica reachable through a Web site or a toll-free number.

One of the defendants, Carmen Cicalese, 77, is a fugitive in Costa Rica.

"These are not victimless crimes," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. "When it comes to illegal gambling in Queens County, all bets are off."

The ring took action on baseball, basketball, hockey, and professional and college football. Bets ranged from $200 to $4,000.

Joseph Sofia, 63, who was an NYPD detective hunting career criminals until retiring on disability in 1989, allegedly collected the cash and gave gamblers access codes.

He and the other defendants face up to 25 years in prison if convicted on enterprise corruption and other charges.

The group's bookmakers were identified by prosecutors as James Rossi, 49, an alleged Genovese associate, and Michael Mildenberger, 71.

Cops seized nearly $400,000 in cash in Long Island and North Carolina, four vehicles and thousands of pages of gambling records from the group.

"We haven't had a chance to examine any of the evidence," said lawyer Joseph Sorrentino, who represented Rossi and Mildenberger at their arraignment. "They can make any allegation they want, but the question is can they prove it?"

Thanks to Brendan Brosh

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fatal Wall from St. Valentine's Day Massacre Acquired by Las Vegas Mob Museum

Las Vegas' Mob Museum exhibits will include the St. Valentine's Day Massacre wall where seven people were gunned down by rival Chicago gangsters on Feb. 14, 1929.

Mayor Oscar Goodman announced the acquisition this morning at an event marking the beginning of renovations to the historic federal courthouse building in downtown, which will house the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.

On that day 80 years ago, four men dressed as police officers entered a warehouse where members of a gang headed by George "Bugs" Moran were gathered. Moran's gang was fighting with a gang led by Al Capone. The fake police officers lined up the rival gang members and killed them. A coroner's report documented 70 machine gun bullets and two shotgun blasts.

The warehouse stood until 1967, when it was demolished. A Canadian businessman bought the wall and used it as an attraction at a restaurant. After he died in 2004, his heirs settled on the Mob Museum as a home for the wall.

The museum is expected to open in early 2011.

"It's going to be a fun place, and it's going to bring a lot of people downtown," Goodman said.

Thanks to Alan Choate

Monday, August 03, 2009

Is the Food at Mob Eateries Overrated?

SO, Fat Tony misses Ba monte's mussels, Rao's chicken, and "great pasta" at Parkside and Don Peppe! It just shows you how out to lunch the mob is these days.

A joke among Italian-Americans secure enough to laugh off stupid stereotypes is to ask not whether a good Italian restaurant is northern or southern, but rather: "Gambino or Genovese?" (Sorry, Bonannos, Colombos and Lucheses.)

The myth that eateries owned or frequented by the Mafia have great food goes back many generations. Maybe "the Luna Azure up in The Bronx" really did have "the finest" veal in town, as Mario Puzo wrote in "The Godfather." But the Corleones never existed. And today's made men are mostly too drugged or stunad to be able to taste the difference between veal and Velveeta.

If Fat Tony wants real Italian food, he doesn't have to go back to the old country. It's kicking butt all over town as never before.

If Marea's brawny fusili with baby octopus, bone marrow and tomatoes doesn't give Tony a new perspective, neither will a set of brass knuckles.

The cooking at supposedly mobbed-up, old-time red-sauce restaurants was always overrated. Il Mulino costs a bundle, but it whips the meatballs off Tony's faves. On a good night, chicken scarpariello at cheap, mass-market Carmine's on upper Broadway could give Rao's lemon chicken a run for its money in a blind tasting.

Tony doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to go for prissy pasta primavera -- which is to his credit. But he'd flip for awesomely rich dishes coming out of the kitchens of Marea, Babbo, Il Gattopardo, Esca, Del Posto, Convivio, San Pietro, A Voce, Locanda Verde, Mia Dona, Cellini -- even all-American Union Square Café, where chef Carmen Quagliata's pasta shames most of what they eat in Rome.

The probation poobahs aren't keeping Tony away from New York's exploding (bad word!) super-pizza scene, either -- from the killer (!) $5 slice, hand-made by owner Domenico DeMarco, at Di Fara on Avenue J in Midwood to the luxuriously crusted 12-inchers at Keste on Bleecker Street, where Neapolitan "artisans" preside over the dough.

Thanks to Steve Cuozzo

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Chicago's Mayor Daley Campaigns with Reputed Mobster - Flashback

Flashback March 28, 1989. Richard M. Daley is leaving his stint at Cook County States Attorney to run for Mayor of Chicago. Chicago Sun-Times reporters Alf Siewers and Leon Pitt report in their article DALEY WARNS BACKERS AGAINST COMPLACENCY on March 28, 1989 (sorry no link):

While mayoral hopeful Timothy C. Evans called out "the movement," front-runner Richard M. Daley raked in the bucks, warning against complacency at what was billed as the last major fund-raiser of Daley's campaign.

"Regardless of what the polls say, regardless of what the editorials say, I need your help for the next seven days. . . . This election cannot be taken for granted," Daley told a crowd jamming the Hyatt Regency's Grand Ballroom.

Campaign staff estimated that more than 2,500 showed up for the $100-or-more-a-head buffet reception.

Across town at the University of Illinois Pavilion, thousands of Evans supporters joined in a rally reminiscent of the days when former Mayor Harold Washington exhorted members of his movement.

While the rally was in progress, Daley was being ushered around Chinatown by Ald. Fred Roti (1st) and a dancing dragon. He dismissed as "a lot of political statements" renewed charges by Evans that Daley is tied to special interests.

Could Richard Daley possibly not know that Alderman Roti was a Chicago Mob figure? U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas warned Daley that the FBI had a major Chicago Mob investigation going on in the late 1980's with Alderman Roti as a key subject, see page 220 of the book When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down. That fact that Richard Daley would be seen campaigning in public with a " high ranking made member" of the Chicago Mob says volumes. Is the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission concerned that people like Richard Daley associate with Chicago Mob members? As far back as 1983, Alderman Roti's name came up in a U.S. Senate hearing on organized crime. Here's a quote from a July 15, 1989 Washington Post column written by Bill Peterson entitled SURVEILLANCE AT LUNCH LEAVES ALDERMAN UNFAZED (sorry no link):

In 1983, William Roemer, a former FBI agent, told the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations that "informants continue to advise through the years {that} D'Arco and Roti were the front men for Marcy and for the mob."

Richard Daley knew all about that hearing.Here's a quote from FBI agent William Roemer in his book, Accardo: The Genuine Godfather, on page 323:

Jeffrey Kent, chief of the Cook County State's Attorney's office( headed then by Richard M. Daley, who became Mayor of Chicago) was the prime witness before the committee in its investigation of mobbed-up unions.

Mayor Richard M. Daley and Alderman Fred Roti : Chicago Democrats working together. Mayor Richard M. Daley is also "friends" with Alderman Roti's nephew Fred Bruno Barbara, who's name came up at the infamous Family Secrets trial.

Thanks to Steve Bartin

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