Friday, August 28, 2015

The Grandfather Clause

Some people think Phil Genovese, Jr. resembles his grandfather.

"Around the eyes, maybe," the world's newest novelist was saying the other day. Genovese has just had his first novel, "The Grandfather Clause," published by Author House.

It's the story of a legitimate New Jersey businessman who gets himself entwined in the underground world of his Mafia crime boss grandfatherThe Grandfather Clause.

Which is no stretch for the 50-something Jersey Shore resident, the grandson of Vito Genovese one of the most powerful mobsters in American history -- who controlled chunks of the gambling, loan-sharking and drug businesses of Staten Island.

Phil is far more a product of suburban America than of his grandfather's La Cosa Nostra, however. He was raised at the Shore by his mother and CPA father, usually seeing Don Vito only on Sundays when his grandfather would summon the family for dinner at his simple Atlantic Highlands home.

After graduating from Villanova University in the mid-1970s, the younger Genovese's first real job was at that stalwart of U.S. capitalism Johnson & Johnson. From there, he made a number of stops as an expert in moving cargo around the world.

Now he's with another Fortune 500 outfit, a corporation so huge it has offices in countries some of us have never heard of. He doesn't even like mentioning the company name while publicizing his book for fear of offending the higher ups.

"Separation of church and state," he explains. But there are flashbacks in his life that are undeniable.

He has a scene early in the very readable new book where the mob boss's young grandson stands on a chair to hand his grandfather ingredients for the tomato sauce that is being painstakingly prepared on the kitchen stove.

"That's a lot like it really was," he says of his childhood days before Vito Genovese was shipped off to federal prison, where he died in the late 1960s.


And he recalls vividly his grandfather's aging friends coming by on those Sundays for whispered conversations around cups of espresso. And of Vito's wake at the old Anderson's Funeral Home on Broad Street in Red Bank.

"The black FBI cars were parked across the street with the long camera lenses sticking out the windows," he said.

There were tales from his own father of living in Park Avenue luxury in the 1930s. "He used to see Eleanor Roosevelt on the elevator in his apartment house," said Genovese. And, maybe through some form of childhood osmosis, Phil learned something from his grandfather's business.

One lesson was that, just as in the legitimate world, in the mob, competency isn't always rewarded and messing up not always punished.

That was very much so in the case of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante.

Long before Gigante began famously roaming Greenwich Village's Carmine Street in bathrobe and slippers, he was a hit man for Don Vito. Needless to say, business was booming.

One day in May 1957, Genovese gave his underling a very important job. He was to travel uptown to the landmark Majestic Apartments on Central Park West. There, he was told he'd find one Frank Costello (real name Francesco Castiglia).

"I want him to disappear," Genovese said of his rival.

The young Gigante waited on the corner of 72nd Street until he saw Costello approaching the building's lobby door. Chin made his move, firing from close to point-blank range. He was high and wide. The bullet glanced off Costello's head, grazing him. Instead of imbedding deep into the skull of the fingered mobster, it would smack harmlessly into the marble lobby wall.

The bullet mark is still plain to see above the building entrance 50 years later.

"Botched job," Phil Genovese pointed out the other day. And one that began Don Vito's decline in organized crime.

"Chin screwed up, and what happened? He wound up eventually becoming the boss."


The Genovese crime family didn't dry up and disappear when Don Vito died.

One of the bosses to follow Genovese was Funzi Tieri, a guy with deep Island connections who was known to be among the biggest bookmakers and loan-sharks in the country.

Once Tieri became the acting boss, you could find him almost daily at a restaurant on Third Avenue in Brooklyn.

One evening, he was met there by two Staten Island lawyers.

The older attorney, I'll call him Morty, had long handled Genovese bookmaking cases in the borough.

On this night, he'd brought a young friend along in hopes Tieri would toss some business to the new guy (who was clearly interested in climbing aboard what he saw as the Mafia gravy train).

Morty and the gangster drank wine and ate pasta and steaks and talked about old times for hours, while the younger attorney sat respectfully silent.

Late into the night, the older lawyer weaved as he was led to the car.

On the ride home to Todt Hill he told his young associate that he thought a good impression had been made.

"Kid," the conversation was remembered years later, "I think if you follow me, you're going to be OK."

The younger lawyer didn't answer.

He rolled to a stop in front of his mentor's house and hustled his rumpled associate out of the car as quickly as he could. Then he turned the car around and sped back over the Verrazano to the restaurant.

Tieri was still there when he arrived, and waved the now lone lawyer back to the table.

"What happened kid?" he wanted to know. "Where's your friend?"

"With all due respect, Mr. Tieri" the younger lawyer said, "I don't think Mort is up to doing the job for you anymore. Why don't you hire me, instead?"

And so, Tieri, who always admired a man who could focus on his own best interests, did just that.

Thanks to Cormac Gordon

The Story of the Kansas City Mob, The Mafia and the Machine

Forget Las Vegas and Chicago — for most of the 20th century Kansas City was a gangster’s paradise.

The details of politics’ cozy relationship with organized crime in Kansas City stunned Frank Hayde while he was researching his book, The Mafia and the Machine: The Story of the Kansas City Mob.

“I think people in Kansas City are hungry for a story that is exciting and colorful,” said Hayde, a Prairie Village native. “My story is not sensationalistic at all — all my facts come from documented sources. Organized crime in Kansas City was a phenomenon of the 20th century and we should view it in a historical standpoint — it wasn’t all violence and tabloid talk.”

Hayde’s book looks at the link between organized crime and politics in Kansas City during a 100-year span.

He became interested in the topic when he started reading about organized crime in other cities. There was always some mention of Kansas City, which sparked his interest and his research.

He spent the next few years traveling back and forth to Kansas City from his Colorado home, looking up old newspapers, local history books, police reports, government reports and court files.

It wasn’t easy — a lot of police files from the early 20th century had simply vanished because the police department had been corrupted by the Mafia.

Making the research understandable also took time. “I didn’t want a 500-page book with footnotes,” Hayde said, with a laugh. “I really wanted something readable yet hard-hitting.”

Hayde, a U.S. park ranger, doesn’t regret the long evening hours and weekends spent working on his book. Writing had been his favorite hobby since he graduated from the University of Kansas with an English degree in 1993.

Plus, his job has allowed him to maintain his writing skills. “In the park service, you have to write a lot of incident reports, which forces you to write in a concise, descriptive way,” he said. “Most officers hate writing reports, but I don’t it because it’s helped me write a book.”

Although his co-workers were surprised at his latest literary accomplishment, his parents in Prairie Village didn’t blink an eye.

History is a big part of their lives — Hayde’s family has been residing in the Kansas City area since the 1860s.

His father, John, believes he may have helped whet his son’s appetite for organized crime in Kansas City.

Seeing the mob in the news was a big part of John Hayde’s childhood — he remembers when the Union Station Massacre was splashed across the local newspapers. “Those years — the jazz years in Kansas City — were so exciting and my parents talked about it all the time, it was all over the newspapers,” he said. “I was absolutely intrigued to read Frank’s book and think, ‘My golly, it’s all coming alive in my memory, like a movie.’”

Frank Hayde hopes his writing experience won’t end at the Kansas City Mafia — there are several local stories he would love to tell.

For now, however, he just wants to take his literary career one step at a time.

Thanks to Jennifer Bhargava

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chop Shop is Now Available on DvD & Digital HD

Chop Shop"Chop Shop" follows a group of car thieves in Los Angeles as they rise from the criminal underground to become big-time international players.

Stars: Ana Ayora, John Bregar, Luis Moncada

Monday, August 24, 2015

Frank Lucas, Hollywood´s "American Gangster," and La Cosa Nostra Connection

Special to The Chicago Syndicate by Ron Chepesiuk

Hollywood has been hard at work molding the image of former 1970s Harlem drug trafficker Frank ¨Superfly¨ Lucas into the prototype of the modern American gangster. Frank Lucas, Hollywood´s 'American Gangster,' and La Cosa Nostra Connection The image of the Lucas character, played by Denzel Washington, has some shades of Edgar G. Robinson´s Little Caesar and Al Pacino´s Scarface, but while ruthless, the character is also African American, entrepreneurial, independent and even visionary. As part of the creation, Universal, the movie´s maker, would have us believe that Lucas was so entrepreneurial and independent that he became the first black gangster to break free of La Cosa Nostra´s iron grip on the American heroin trade and develop his own independent heroin trafficking network.

In the 2000 New York magazine article upon which the ¨American Gangster¨ movie is based, author Mark Jacobson wrote that if he (Lucas) really wanted to become "white-boy rich, Donald Trump rich," Lucas thought, he'd have to ´cut out the guineas (Italian American mafia). He'd learned as much working for Bumpy (Johnson) , picking up "packages" from Fat Tony Salerno's Pleasant Avenue guys, men with names like Joey Farts and Kid Blast.¨

Jacobson quotes Lucas as saying, ¨I needed my own supply. That's when I decided to go to Southeast Asia. Because the war was on, and people were talking about GIs getting strung out over there. I knew if the shit is good enough to string out GIs, then I can make myself a killing."

In the movie, the Italian American mafia is represented by the character Dominic Cattano. Played by Amand Assante, Cattano works out a deal in which Superfly becomes the white Mob´s major supplier of potent Number 4 heroin from Southeast Asia. At the end of the ¨historic¨ meeting, Lucas dramatically tells his wife: ¨ They (the Mob) work for me now.¨

So how accurate is Hollywood´s depiction of the Lucas--La Cosa relationship? Not very. It´s one of many inaccuracies that make the movie largely a work of fiction. Frank Lucas did not have any independent source of Asian heroin, and he was never in any position to dictate business terms to the Mob. In fact, for most of his career, Lucas got his smack the old fashion way: from La Cosa Nostra.

First some historical background. From the 1950s through the 1960s, the old reliable French Connection dominated the heroin drug trade. It was an efficient network in which Corsican gangsters transported the morphine base from the poppy fields grown in Turkey to Marseille, France. The morphine base was then refined into heroin and smuggled into the U.S., the connection´s biggest market, via Sicily, Italy, and Montreal, Canada.

It was efficient network that, according to the U.S. government reports, accounted for as much as 80 percent of the heroin smuggled into the U.S. By the early 1970s, however, international law enforcement was having great success against the French Connection and taking down its key mobsters. Meanwhile, the U.S persuaded the Turkish government to tighten surveillance of the country´s poppy fields, purchase the poppy crop from its farmers and institute procedures to encourage crop substitution. By 1972, the French Connection was in shambles.

Up until law enforcement began having success against Lucas, he, like other New York city heroin dealers, was getting his heroin supply from La Cosa Nostra. My research shows that Lucas did not come to Bangkok, Thailand until about 1974. Joe Sullivan a retired DEA agent who worked drug cases in East Harlem in the 1970s, recalled: ¨The French Connection was in the process of being dismantled and the supply was tight and expensive,. All the big drug traffickers, including Lucas, was getting their heroin supply from the Italians. Lucas was getting it for about $200,000 a kilo.¨

It didn´t mean that Lucas wasn´t making a lot of money in getting his heroin from the Mob. As Sullivan revealed.¨They (La Cosa Nostra) trusted their foreign contacts and were satisfied with bringing their heroin into the country. But the Italians thought it beneath them to whack the heroin, mix it, put it in glassine envelopes and hawk in the street. They preferred to sell their heroin to the black dealers. A few black dealers, such as Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes, became successful controlling the drug business on the street while insulating themselves from the actual distributor.¨

When this author asked Lucas if he had ever worked with the Italian mob, the mere suggestion was enough to set off the old drug trafficker. ¨I was not going to have no fucking fat guy leaning back in the chair, smoking a $20 cigar and bragging how he had another nigger in Harlem working for him,¨Superfly roared. ¨I don´t play that game. The Italians were charging $50,000 to 75,000 a kilo, and I was getting it for $4,000 a kilo (from Asia). My junk traveled from the Mekong Valley to the Ho Chi Minh trail to the U.S.¨

The historical record, however, suggests that for most of Superfly´s criminal career it was otherwise. In June 1974, Lucas went to trial with 12 others for conspiracy to traffic heroin. It was just seven months before the authorities raided his home in Teaneck, New Jersey, and busted him for good. And still at that late date, no mention is made in the court records and in the press of any Asian connection in his drug trafficking plan. That didn´t happen until 1977 when Lucas was in prison and got busted again for trying to keep his heroin network operating.

One defendant in that 1974 trial was prominent Italian American mobster Ralph Tutino, aka ¨The General.¨ Lucas, Tutino and the other defendants were accused of involvement in a heroin smuggling conspiracy. The prosecutor identified Tutino as the principle heroin supplier, and Lucas, along with Robert Stepeney, another heroin drug dealer, as the major distributors.

According to the indictment, La Cosa Nostra mobster Antonio DeLutro delivered a package of about 11 pounds of heroin to Anthony Verzino in November1973 and received, as payment, $250,000 in two installments. Then in December 1973, Mario Perna, and Ernest Maliza, two other La Cosa mobsters, delivered a package containing 22 pounds of heroin to Lucas at the Van Cortlandt Motel in the Bronx. As these transactions clearly show, Lucas was getting his dope from La Cosa Nostra.

Tutino, who lived in the Bronx but had his headquarters in East Harlem, was a big-time heroin trafficker during the French Connection´s heyday. When the authorities busted the French Connection in 1972, many La Cosa Nostra godfathers who had thrived in the old days were now having trouble finding sources of heroin supply. But not Tutino. The authorities suspected him of having a direct connection to Mexican and Asian suppliers.

Lew Rice, a former DEA agent, interrogated Lucas when he decided to become an informant after facing 70 years in jail. According to Rice, after being busted for heroin trafficking, Lucas readily acknowledged to Rice that La Cosa Nostra was his major source of supply. ¨Lucas told me he was getting his heroin from Tutino, The General,¨ Rice recalled.

Lucas´ relationship with La Cosa Nostra could only be described as a rocky marriage of convenience, for Superfly, according to DEA sources, was constantly in deep financial trouble with La Cosa Nostra. He even owed two well-connected mafioso from the Gambino crime family $300,000 and only managed to avoid ending up buried in cement because the two Gambino crime family mobsters were arrested and carted off to jail in 1974.

The mobsters faced the prospect of long prison sentences, so they began singing like the proverbial canary. They revealed that one of their biggest customers for heroin was a prominent and flamboyant black drug dealer named Frank Lucas, who liked to call himself "Superfly." The informants' information allowed the authorities to obtain a search warrant, which authorized the raid on Lucas's house on Sheffield Road in Teaneck, New Jersey, in late January, 1975. This was the beginning of the end of Frank Lucas´s big-time criminal career, thanks to La Cosa Nostra.

Leslie Ike¨ Atkinson, a former U.S. army master sergeant and prominent black American drug dealer of the 1960s to mid 1970s, not Lucas, was the one who pioneered the Asian heroin connection. It is Atkinson, DEA sources confirm, who supplied Superfly with his Asian heroin, making him, not Lucas, deserving of the title, ¨American Gangster.¨

Atkinson, whom the DEA dubbed ¨Sergeant Smack,¨ got a close up look at Lucas´ dealings with La Cosa Nostra. In a recent interview, he remembered the time he was imprisoned in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in the mid 1970s and two members of the Italian American mob paid him a visit. ¨´Frank Lucas said to come see you,´ one of the gangsters told me. ´He did what?´ I said. The mobsters said: ´Frank owes us $80,000 and he said you would take care of it.¨ Atkinson laughed. ¨Frank actually thought he could send two wise guys to me and I would pay off his debt."

Atkinson recalled another occasion when he went to New Jersey to pick up some money Lucas owed him. When he arrived at his destination, Lucas had men posted outside his residence. Superfly was in deep trouble with the Mob again.

So, yes, La Cosa Nostra did come to Frank ¨Superfly¨ Lucas. But it was to collect money owed him, not to get its heroin supply.

Investigative journalist Ron Chepesiuk is a consultant to the History Channel´s ¨Gangland¨ series and the co-author and co-producer of the book and DVD titled SUPERFLY: THE TRUE-UNTOLD STORY OF FRANK LUCAS THE AMERICANGANGSTER

Karen Finley Pleads Guilty to Bribery in Chicago Red-Light Camera Scam

The former chief executive officer of Chicago’s first red-light camera vendor pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge.

As the CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., KAREN FINLEY funneled cash and other personal financial benefits to a City of Chicago official and his friend, knowing that the payments would help persuade the city to award red-light camera contracts to Redflex, according to a plea agreement. The benefits included golf trips, hotels and meals, as well as hiring the city official’s friend as a highly compensated contractor for Redflex, according to the plea agreement.

The benefits flowed over a nine-year period, from 2003 to 2011, during which time the city expanded the Digital Automated Red Light Enforcement Program by awarding millions of dollars in contracts to Phoenix-based Redflex, the plea agreement states.

Finley, 55, of Cave Creek, Ariz., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in a federal program. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall scheduled a sentencing hearing for Feb. 18, 2016. Finley faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss from the offense, and mandatory restitution.

The guilty plea was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; John A. Brown, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Joseph M. Ferguson, Inspector General for the City of Chicago; and Stephen Boyd, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago.

According to the plea agreement, Redflex first began competing for the Chicago contract in early 2003, while Finley was then Redflex’s vice president of operations. In the course of the competition, Finley learned that John Bills, who was then an assistant Chicago transportation commissioner in charge of the city’s red-light camera program, was championing Redflex by providing pointers and inside information to Redflex, the plea agreement states.

After Redflex was awarded its first Chicago contract in approximately late May 2003, Finley hired Bills’ friend Martin O’Malley as a contractor for Redflex, in an effort to ensure that Bills would continue to provide assistance to Redflex in future contract negotiations with the city. Finley admitted in the plea agreement that she knew O’Malley was a friend of Bills and that it was important to Bills that Redflex hire him. Finley personally signed O’Malley’s contract, which included provisions for lucrative increases in O’Malley’s compensation as new red-light cameras were added, according to the plea agreement.

After Finley became CEO of Redflex in 2007, O’Malley’s commissions escalated and Bills continued to assist the company, including having at least one red-light contract “sole-sourced” to Redflex, the plea agreement states. Finley states in the plea agreement that she knew Redflex was also paying personal expenses for Bills in order to buy his influence and expand Redflex’s business with the city. These expenses included meals, golf outings, rental cars, airline tickets to Phoenix, rooms at the Biltmore Hotel and other entertainment, according to the plea agreement.

Redflex’s technology uses cameras to automatically record and ticket drivers who run red lights. Between 2004 and 2008, the city paid Redflex approximately $25 million, according to the indictment against Finley, Bills and O’Malley. Bills was a voting member of the city’s Request For Proposal evaluation committee that recommended awarding the contracts to Redflex, the indictment states. In February 2008, the city awarded the “sole-sourced” contract to Redflex, paying the company approximately $33 million, according to the indictment. The city followed up that contract with another one the same month – agreeing to pay Redflex approximately $66 million for the installation of nearly 250 additional red-light cameras.

Bills, 54, of Chicago, was indicted on nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of federal program bribery, three counts of filing a false federal income tax return, and one count each of extortion and conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to proceed to trial on Jan. 11, 2016, before Judge Kendall. Bills retired from the city in 2011.

O’Malley, 74, of Worth, pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in a federal program. No sentencing date has been set.

The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorney Laurie J. Barsella.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bomb Threat Against the Statue of Liberty @StatueEllisNPS

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and William J. Bratton, the Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced that JASON PAU.S.ITH was arrested in Lubbock, Texas, for communicating a hoax threat to bomb the Statue of Liberty that precipitated the evacuation of more than 3,200 people from Liberty Island in New York Harbor. SMITH is expected to be presented later today in federal court in the Northern District of Texas.

As alleged in the criminal Complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court:

On April 24, 2015, SMITH initiated a call to the emergency 911 system (the “911 Call”) from his iPad using a service that assists hearing-impaired individuals with making and receiving telephone calls (the “Service”). In the 911 Call, SMITH identified himself as “Abdul Yasin,” described himself as an “ISI terrorist,” and threatened that “we” are preparing to “blow up” the Statue of Liberty.

Law enforcement officers responded to the threat that SMITH conveyed in the 911 Call, and conducted a sweep of the areas in and around the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island with the aid of canine units trained to detect explosives. Canine units alerted to the area of the visitor lockers at the base of the Statue of Liberty, prompting law enforcement officers and emergency responders to evacuate the more than 3,200 people who were on Liberty Island at the time. Subsequently, the threat conveyed by SMITH was determined to be unfounded.

The iPad registered in SMITH’s name has used the Service to make other 911 calls, including at least two calls in May 2015 from a user who identified himself as “Isis allah Bomb maker” and who threatened to attack Times Square and kill police officers at the Brooklyn Bridge.

SMITH, 42, of Harts, West Virginia, is charged with one count of conveying false and misleading information and hoaxes, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force—which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD. Mr. Bharara also thanked the United States Park Police for its assistance.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Zhou is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Loan Sharks are Alive and Well

Loan sharking. It’s a term that might conjure up historical images of shadowy organized crime figures handing out questionable loans at exorbitant interest rates to desperate customers, usually followed by threats of violence if the loans aren’t paid off.

Unfortunately, loan sharks are alive and well in 2015 and continue to benefit from the financial misfortunes of others. Last month, the two top leaders of an Albanian criminal organization operating in the Philadelphia area were sentenced to lengthy federal prison terms for running a violent loan sharking and illegal gambling ring. Ylli Gjeli, the boss, and Fatimir Mustafaraj, the muscle, were convicted late last year after a six-week trial. Two other defendants were convicted at the same trial.

From 2002 to 2013, Gjeli and Mustafaraj led the multi-million-dollar criminal enterprise with two primary sources of income: loan sharking and illegal gambling. The illegal gambling arm of the operation included an online sports betting website that contributed more than $2.9 million in gross profits to the group’s criminal coffers. There was often crossover between the two arms of the organization—when customers couldn’t cover their gambling losses, bookies would refer them to the loan sharking side of the house.

The illegal activity took place in various Philadelphia bars and coffee houses owned or controlled by the organization. In addition to the gambling operation, Gjeli, Mustafaraj, and company generated money by making loans to customers at interest rates that ranged from 104 percent to 395 percent and demanding weekly repayments.

These repayment demands were almost always accompanied by acts of intimidation. Customers were menaced with firearms, hatchets, and threats of physical harm to themselves or family members. In a number of instances, perhaps to create the false impression that the Albanians were part of a larger and more powerful organization, customers were told that “people from New York” were willing to cause bodily harm to anyone who didn’t pay up.

Gjeli and Mustafaraj not only directed the criminal activities of their underlings—who included debt collectors and bookies—they also got their own hands dirty by directly financing loans, intimidating and threatening violence against customers to collect loan payments, and physically assaulting subordinates and associates who stole from the organization or who didn’t collect their debts on time.

According to Philadelphia FBI Special Agent in Charge Edward Hanko, Gjeli and Mustafaraj took advantage of their victims twice. “They provided loans at outrageous interest rates to those unable to obtain loans from traditional sources,” he explained, “and then used threats and violence to collect on those illegal loans.”

The investigation revealed that the Lion Bar, an establishment owned by Gjeli, served as the main hub of the organization’s criminal activities—it was where Gheli, Mustafaraj, and their associates met with current and prospective borrowers. What they didn’t realize was that one of their borrowers was actually an FBI undercover agent, and during one particular meeting, details of a $50,000 loan were worked out with him. Gjeli informed our undercover agent that his limbs would be broken if he didn’t pay back what he owed in a timely manner.

Also during the investigation, law enforcement was able to make more than 400 audio recordings and numerous surveillance videos of the criminal activity. By August 2013, arrests were made, including those of Gjeli and Mustafaraj. And the FBI executed a series of search warrants at related businesses, homes, vehicles, and a storage locker. Law enforcement recovered guns, cash, computers, phones, video surveillance, loan applications, loan ledgers, and gambling records. Fortunately, the group kept good records of its criminal activities, and much of the evidence seized in August was presented at trial.

That evidence, plus trial testimony from many of Gjeli’s and Mustafaraj’s customers—and even members of their own criminal organization—was enough to convince a jury of the defendants’ guilt.

And as with many successful investigations, the FBI didn’t do it alone: Their Philadelphia Field Office worked closely with the Pennsylvania State Police, New Jersey State Police, Montgomery County Detective Bureau, and the Internal Revenue Service to dismantle a very dangerous and prolific criminal enterprise.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Little Black Book of Mafia Wisdom - Secrets, Lies, Tricks, and Tactics of the Organization That Was Once Bigger Than U.S. Steel

Don’t let your tongue be your worst enemy.” —John “Sonny” Franzese
You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun.” —Al Capone
I never lie to any man because I don't fear anyone. The only time you lie is when you are afraid.” —John Gotti

Despite the fact that secrecy is vital to the MobThe Little Black Book of Mafia Wisdom - Secrets, Lies, Tricks, and Tactics of the Organization That Was Once Bigger Than U.S. Steel, mobsters have revealed themselves to be notorious gossips, prone to bragging, and even outrageous loudmouths. Delve into the inner workings of the Mob and the mindset of those who run it through these mesmerizing quotes from some of the smoothest and most dangerous criminals, real and fictional, who ever made headlines. Whether they’re spilling to their lawyers or making blood-chilling threats, mobsters reveal startling insights on leadership, guilt, and loyalty. While at times shocking, crude, and even unintentionally funny, these quotes also help us to see the humanity behind these dark bosses of the underworld . . . and give us a little insight into the dark side of our own natures, as well. The Little Black Book of Mafia Wisdom: Secrets, Lies, Tricks, and Tactics of the Organization That Was Once Bigger Than U.S. Steel

Once Upon a Secret - My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath

In the summer of 1962, nineteen-year-old Mimi Beardsley arrived in Washington, D.C., to begin an internship in the White House press office. After just three days on the job, the privileged but sheltered young woman was presented to the President himself. Almost immediately, the two began an affair that would continue for the next eighteen months. Emotionally unprepared to counter the President’s charisma and power, Mimi was also ill-equipped to handle the feelings of isolation that would follow as she fell into the double life of a college student who was also the secret lover of the most powerful man in the world. After the President’s assassination in Dallas, she grieved alone, locked her secret away, and tried to start a new life, only to be blindsided by her past.

Now, no longer defined by silence or shame, Mimi Alford finally unburdens herself with this unflinchingly honest account of her life and her extremely private moments with a very public man. This paperback edition includes a special Q&A, in which the author reflects on the intense media attention surrounding the book’s initial release. Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath is a moving story of a woman emerging from the shadows to reclaim the truth.

“With the benefit of hindsight and good old-fashioned maturity, [Mimi Alford] writes not just about the secret, but the corrosive effect of keeping that secret. . . . You can’t help liking her, or her elegant and thoroughly good-natured book.”—The Spectator

“What [Alford] sacrificed in lucre she has more than recovered in credibility and dignity.”—The Washington Times

“Compelling . . . a polished voice telling a credible story you can take to the bank.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Explosive . . . searingly candid.”—New York Post

Gangster Redemption: Showing Teens That A Life of Crime Is No Life At All

Gangster Redemption (LL Research & Consulting) is the life story of Larry Lawton, one of America’s most notorious jewel robbers. Growing up in the Bronx and Brooklyn, New York, Larry was an altar boy until the day he was sexually molested by a priest. As a teen needing to prove his manhood, he began a criminal career that included ‘enforcer’ for the Gambino crime family and six years up and down the East Coast pulling off jewelry heists worth over 15 million dollars – to the frustration of both the police and the FBI!

Co-written by 8-time New York Times bestselling author Peter Golenbock, Gangster Redemption truly is the life story of a ‘Goodfella’ turned ‘good guy’ who gets his life back on track to help and inspire others. His riveting story has it all; the millions he made from robberies, prison torture, the New York mafia, and much more. A blockbuster movie waiting to happen, Gangster Redemption takes readers on a white-knuckle, roller-coaster ride to hell and back!

Lawton understands first-hand the fine line between making good and bad choices; he spent six years in the Coast Guard before making bad choices that led to associations with organized crime. In prison he saw inmates stabbed and friends die. He saw young men raped and pimped out as prostitutes for other inmates. He studied to become a paralegal while in prison and acted as a gang mediator. Larry fought prison abuses and for doing so, spent three years in the “hole” being tortured by guards - and somehow kept his sanity by helping other inmates.

After his release in 2007, Larry developed the Reality Check Program as a way to instill hope and inspire kids to stay out of prison – a program so successful it’s being used by the courts, law enforcement, the federal government, and parents all over the country. A leader in the field, Larry’s program reinforces that when people make good choices their life can change. An independent quantitative analysis was done showing the Reality Check Program to have one of the highest success rates in the nation. 90% of the teens did not get re-arrested, 70% had better attitudes, 43% had better school grades and 31% had better school attendance.

Currently working on a new TV show called Lawton’s Law to advance this program, Larry is realizing major triumphs in turning kids’ lives around. They recognize that Larry ‘walks the talk’ and when he shares how prison cost him lost time, family, friends and his freedom - they listen and they learn that a life of crime is no life at all.

Larry Lawton has appeared on TV and radio, and been featured in numerous newspaper articles. His recent TV appearances include The Trisha Show on NBC, The Daily Buzz, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Huckabee on FOX, and many others. Larry’s inimitable style connects easily with people and he unquestionably brings the most entertaining, motivating and inspirational stories to audiences around the country.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Abdella Ahmad Tounisi of Aurora Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Join Jihadist Militant Group in Syria

An Aurora man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to charges he attempted to travel overseas to join a jihadist militant group in Syria.

ABDELLA AHMAD TOUNISI, 21, was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in April 2013 as he attempted to board a flight bound for Istanbul, Turkey. Tounisi had spent four months conducting online research related to overseas travel and violent jihad, focusing specifically on Syria and the Jabhat al-Nusrah terrorist group.

Tounisi had made online contact with an individual he believed to be a recruiter for Jabhat al-Nusrah. Tounisi and the purported recruiter exchanged a series of e-mails in which Tounisi shared his plan to get to Syria by way of Turkey, as well as his willingness to fight for the jihadist cause, according to a written plea agreement.

Tounisi pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan scheduled a sentencing hearing for Dec. 9, 2015, at 10:30 a.m.

The guilty plea was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation was conducted by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of Special Agents of the FBI, officers of the Chicago Police Department, and representatives from an additional 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The Justice Department’s National Security Division assisted in the investigation.

“Foreign terrorist groups threaten the safety of the United States,” Mr. Fardon said. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force should be commended for uncovering this plan and preventing a terrorist organization from enlisting a new member.”

Jabhat al-Nusrah is listed by the U.S. Department of State as an alias for al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), a designated foreign terrorist organization. During online exchanges with the purported recruiter, Tounisi said he planned to travel from Istanbul to the Turkish city of Gaziantep, which lies near the border of Turkey and Syria, and then in to Syria, according to the plea agreement.

Tounisi, who is a U.S. citizen, requested an expedited passport and purchased an airline ticket for the flight from Chicago to Istanbul. He arrived at O’Hare on the evening of April 19, 2013, and was arrested after passing through security in the international terminal.

The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorneys William Ridgway and Barry Jonas.

Italian-Americans' Love/Hate Affair with the Mafia Mystique

Years ago, writing about the legacy of Mario Puzo, I said, "If there is a God and he is indeed Catholic, then Puzo is burning in hell." Before The Godfather was published in 1969, historians of organized crime in the 20th century told us that some major stars of the modern mob had names like Arnold Rothstein, Owney Madden, and Logan and Fred Billingsley.

After The Godfather, the only major crime figures who got any attention were the ones whose names ended in vowels.

Thanks to this myth-mongering hack, Frank Sinatra will forever be remembered as the man who, through his fictional counterpart, Johnny Fontaine, crooned "I Have But One Heart" at his godfather's daughter's wedding. It is now taken for fact that Sinatra owed his comeback and hence his success not to his talent but to the Mafia; apparently they held guns to the heads of people, forcing them to buy all those Sinatra albums.

The provocative and lively An Offer We Can't Refuse: The Mafia in the Mind of America by George De Stefano, a journalist and cultural critic whose work can be most often read in The Nation, has convinced me that I've been too tough on Puzo. The Godfather, the book and the movie, did, after all, succeed in reviving interest in Italian-American culture at a time when it appeared to be fading into the suburban landscape. I can only speak for members of my father's family, who rather enjoyed the attention and even reveled in the idea that they might actually be a bit feared because of their name.

For De Stefano, as for many of our generation, Francis Ford Coppola's film was an epiphany. The gay baby boomer son of a Neapolitan auto mechanic and a Sicilian housewife, De Stefano, by the time he was in college, had drifted far from his parents' world: "The Stones' Sticky Fingers was on my stereo and a Black Panther poster adorned my dorm room wall. My identity was radical hippie freak. ... My ethnic background was just that, background."

An Offer We Can't Refuse invites Italian-Americans of all backgrounds to the family table to discuss the issues of how mob-related movies and television shows have affected the notion of what their heritage still means in the 21st century.

It's a big table. At the head is Richard Gambino, whose 1974 book Blood of My Blood - The Dilemma of Italian-Americans was the first serious work of nonfiction written on the subject; sitting in the middle are Gay Talese, Nicholas Gage, and nearly every other prominent, second-generation Italian-American journalist; and fighting for attention down at the end of the table are third-generation would-be personas importante such as Maria Laurino, Maria Russo, Bill Tonelli and, in the interests of full disclosure, me (I am quoted twice by De Stefano). As you can imagine, it's one heck of a noisy table.

The principal topic of discussion is not so much the Mafia, whose power most experts seem to feel is dwindling, as the Mafia's mystique. But as journalist Anthony Mancini puts it, "It's just too good a myth to abandon."

The best movies and shows about mobsters and their families - Coppola's The Godfather DVD Collection movies, Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (Special Edition), The Sopranos, the late, lamented cult TV series Wiseguy - were never really about the mob anyway; they were always about the vicissitudes of Italian-American family life and the perils of maintaining tradition in the face of assimilation, a metaphor for the American immigrant experience.

As a Russian neighbor of mine put it, "I never really thought The Godfather was about crime. I thought it was about the part where Don Corleone tells Michael he wanted something better for him than he had had."

These shows provide an answer to why the people who gave the world Dante, da Vinci, Boccaccio, Verdi and Rossini have produced so few literary artists in this country. Their grandparents might have come here without being able to write in their own language, much less English, but Coppola, Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino and several others have used their experiences to give the world the poetry that their ancestors couldn't. Don Corleone gave Michael something better after all. But, says De Stefano, "Consider another possibility. Italian Americans owe their high visibility in American popular culture in large measure to the very gangster image so many deplore. If the mafioso as cultural archetype were to become extinct, might Italian Americans themselves drop off the radar screen?"

In other words, if the Mafia myth peters out, does that mean the end of the Italian-American as a protagonist in our popular culture?

It's a dicey question, but after careful consideration De Stefano answers with a resounding "no." The Mafia myth, he steadfastly maintains, cannot be the last word: "Ethnicity remains a riveting, complicated drama of American life, and popular art that illuminates its workings still is needed ... Italian America still has many more stories to tell."

Thanks to Allen Barra

Monday, August 10, 2015

Top 10 Strictest & Most Lenient States on Speeding and Reckless Driving

Speed kills. We have all been told that since driver’s education class, and yet American drivers routinely exceed the speed limit. To find out which states take the hardest line on dangerous driving behavior, the leading personal finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2015's Strictest and Most Lenient States on Speeding and Reckless Driving.

They analyzed penalties for speeding and reckless driving in each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia across 12 key metrics. Their data set ranges from what speeds are automatically considered reckless driving to how many speeding tickets it takes to earn an automatic license suspension.

Strictest States on Speeding and Reckless Driving  

  • 1 Colorado
  • T-2 Arizona
  • T-2 Delaware
  • T-2 Illinois
  • 5 New Mexico
  • 6 Virginia
  • T-7 Iowa
  • T-7 Massachusetts
  • 9 Alabama
  • 10 District Of Columbia

Most Lenient States on Speeding and Reckless Driving

  • T-40 Kentucky
  • T-40 Montana
  • T-40 Nebraska
  • T-40 New Jersey
  • T-40 Ohio
  • T-40 South Carolina
  • 46 New Hampshire
  • T-47 Mississippi
  • T-47 Pennsylvania
  • T-47 South Dakota
  • T-47 Utah
  • 51 Texas

The average maximum cost of a ticket for reckless driving is $742, with the lowest being $100 (in Kentucky, Mississippi and New Mexico) and the highest at approximately $5,000 (Washington).

Twenty-nine percent of states use speed cameras to automatically catch and fine violators.

None of the states has a mandatory jail time for speeding. However, reckless drivers should expect, on average, to spend at least one day in jail for their first offense and four days for their second offense.

For the full report and to see where your state ranks, please visit:

Former New Jersey Resident, Nader Saadeh, Charged with Conspiracy and Attempt to Provide Material Support to #ISIL

A former resident of Bergen County, New Jersey, was arrested for allegedly conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey and Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel of the FBI’s Newark, New Jersey, Division.

Nader Saadeh, 20, a former resident of Rutherford, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with conspiring with other individuals in New Jersey and New York to provide material support to ISIL and with attempting to provide material support to ISIL.  He is scheduled to appear at 1:30 p.m. EDT before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor of the District of New Jersey.  

According to documents filed in this case:

The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) have been investigating a group of individuals from New York and New Jersey who have allegedly conspired to provide material support to ISIL.  Nader Saadeh lived in Rutherford until leaving the country on May 5, 2015, allegedly to join ISIL.  Nader Saadeh’s brother, Alaa Saadeh, was a resident of West New York, New Jersey, until he was arrested on June 29, 2015, and charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIL, aiding and abetting an attempt to provide material support to ISIL and witness tampering.  Samuel Rahamin Topaz was a resident of Fort Lee, New Jersey, until he was arrested on June 17, 2015, and charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIL.  Conspirator 1 (CC-1) was a Queens, New York, resident until he was arrested in New York on June 13, 2015, on terrorism charges.

Between 2012 and 2013, Nader Saadeh sent CC-1 electronic messages expressing his hatred for the United States and desire to form a small army that would include their friends.  On July 1, 2014, the day ISIL’s leader declared an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq, Nader Saadeh posted images of ISIL’s flag and the flag of the Islamic caliphate on his Facebook page.

According to an informant who was close to him for years, by April 2015, Nader Saadeh had become a radicalized supporter of ISIL who was preparing to travel overseas with other individuals.  In addition, Nader Saadeh said that ISIL’s execution of a captured Jordanian Air Force pilot by burning him alive and the murders of several staff members of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this year were justified.

During the investigation, the FBI obtained computer files showing that Nader Saadeh viewed ISIL propaganda videos and researched the availability of flights to Turkey, which borders Syria, where ISIL claims to control territory.  The FBI also obtained electronic messages sent to Nader Saadeh on April 21, 2015, by family members living overseas, including his mother, who pleaded for him not to join ISIL.

On May 5, 2015, Nader Saadeh traveled overseas via John F. Kennedy International Airport, allegedly in order to join ISIL.  On his way to the airport, while accompanied by Alaa Saadeh and CC-1, he said that he, Alaa Saadeh, CC-1 and Topaz had plans to reunite overseas within a few weeks.

On the day of his arrest, Topaz told the FBI that he agreed with Nader Saadeh, CC-1 and Alaa Saadeh to travel to join ISIL.  In addition, Alaa Saadeh told the FBI in a post-arrest interview that he, Nader Saadeh and Topaz all watched ISIL propaganda videos together and discussed going overseas to join ISIL.  Alaa Saadeh also stated that the night before Nader Saadeh left for Jordan, CC-1 provided Nader Saadeh with the name and number of an ISIL contact near the Turkey/Syria border who would facilitate his travel to ISIL-controlled territory.

Each count in the complaint carries a maximum of potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and JTTF.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys L. Judson Welle, Dennis C. Carletta and Francisco J. Navarro of the District of New Jersey, with the assistance of Trial Attorney Robert Sander of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Return of The Untouchables

Chicago, 1930, time of the prohibition. And it is the great time for the organized crime, the so called Mafia. One of the big bosses is Al Capone. He is the best know but at least, he was only one in a dirty game of sex, crime and corruption. People are willing to pay any price to drink alcohol, and sometimes it is their life they have to pay with. Special agent Eliot Ness and his team are trying to defeat the alcohol Mafia, but in this job, you don't have any friends.

That is the plot summary for the classic TV hit, "Untouchables: The Complete Series". The show, which starred Robert Stack, out on DVD.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Bringing Down the Mob: The War Against the American Mafia

Thomas Reppetto is a former Chicago commander of detectives and has been president of New York City's Citizens Crime Commission for more than 20 years. Few people know as much about the American Mafia as Reppetto.

"Bringing Down the Mob: The War Against the American Mafia" is the sequel to his critically acclaimed "American Mafia," and once again he provides a rare inside look into one of this country's most notorious organizations. Drawing from a lifetime of experience as a member of the Chicago Police Department, Reppetto recounts the stories of the Mafia's 20th-century leadership, detailing how men such as Sam Giancana and John Gotti became household names.

According to Reppetto, during the 1980s, government crusaders and scores of ordinary cops and U.S. marshals began to gain the upper hand. As anti-racketeering laws took hold, the battles between the feds and the Mafia moved from the streets to the nation's courtrooms, where celebrity criminals such as Gotti began to receive stiff sentences.

In vivid, fast-paced prose, Reppetto writes that organized crime is far from dead. In fact, he claims that, given the right formula of both connections and shrewd business decisions, a new generation of multinational criminals could assume the role of the old Mafia and redefine itself. Unless stopped, this new criminal group could erase all of the gains made by the government during the past two decades. It's a grim prospect.

Thanks to Larry Cox

Motor City Mafia: A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit

If you wanted to grab a book for an in-depth look at mob activity in Michigan, you might not find much. Most Mafia books focus on activity in New York City or Chicago, or solely on the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. But there’s some material. West Bloomfield native Scott Burnstein, 29, has published his first book, “Motor City Mafia: A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit (Images of America).”

“When I wrote this book, I was thinking, ‘What would I want to read?’” Burnstein said last week, amid a busy schedule chock-full of book signings at Borders stores in Troy, Rochester Hills, Grosse Pointe, Utica, Detroit, Flint and East Lansing.

The graduate of Roeper School, Indiana University and John Marshall Law School in Chicago dove into the research, spending hours engrossed in the pages of historical archives at Wayne State University and local newspapers. He tracked down retired FBI agents who worked the cases, interviewing them and gathering never-before-seen photographs that are among the 200 in the book.

Of all Burnstein’s research, the most interesting to him, like the general public, is the information he gleaned regarding Jimmy Hoffa. “I was able to talk to federal law enforcement who were on the case when it happened,” he said, adding that he was in the midst of his research last summer when the FBI spent weeks digging at a farm in Milford on a tip that the mobster’s body was buried there.

“Motor City Mafia” reveals new information and pictures related to the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance and murder; includes crime scene photos taken from various local murders; and captures never-before-seen mug shots of many notorious Detroit-area criminals of the past and present. It also unveils FBI surveillance photographs of numerous local wise guys, mobsters and crime syndicate leaders; and even contains photographs and stories involving alleged affairs between the Mafia and Detroit sports legends Isiah Thomas, Alex Karras, Tommy Hearns and Denny McClain. But it’s not just the sensationalist stories that interest Burnstein.

“People are interested in gangsters because of the blood and guts, but the part that interests me is the nuts and bolts [of the organization], how the power flows vertically and horizontally up the ladder, and the politics about how something like this is run,” he said. “These guys are really the crème de la crème of gangsters in the city of Detroit. They’re college educated, all incessantly trying to avoid the spotlight, where in other cities they like being portrayed as wise guys. These guys are business-like, with a corporate-like structure in terms of the underworld savvy. There’s not a lot of people who can top these guys.”

The response to “Motor City Mafia” has so far been positive, he said, although with relatives of those mentioned in the book living nearby, he might get a little bit of flak. “I want to make it clear that I’m not passing judgment; I’m not trying to get people in trouble with law enforcement, nor am I trying to pump these guys up,” Burnstein explained. “This city has a rich tradition of underworld activity, and people are fascinated by that. It’s such a unique part of our society, but until now, there’s been nothing to read about it. This is for history’s sake.”

Thanks to Jennie Miller

The Chicago Outfit - Images of America

No businessThe Chicago Outfit, legitimate or otherwise, has had a more raucous influence on the history of a city than that of the Outfit in Chicago. From the roots of organized crime in the late 19th century to the present day, The Chicago Outfit (IL) (Images of America) examines the evolution of the city's underworld, focusing on their business activities and leadership along with the violence and political protection they employed to become the most successful of the Cosa Nostra crime families. Through a vivid and visually stunning collection of images, many of which are published here for the first time, author John Binder tells the story of the people and places of the world of organized crime from a fresh and informed point of view.

The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone

Thanks to Art Bilek for sharing with us a deep account for the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. It will make a nice addition to any Chicago Mobologist's library: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone.

During Prohibition, Chicago’s Beer Wars turned the city into a battleground, secured its reputation as gangster capital of the world, and laid the foundation for nationally organized crime. Bootlegger bloodshed was greater there than anywhere else.

The machine-gun murders of seven men on the morning of February 14, 1929, by killers dressed as cops became the gangland "crime of the century." Since then it has been featured in countless histories, biographies, movies, and television specials. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, however, is the first book-length treatment of the subject. Unlike other accounts, it challenges the commonly held assumption that Al Capone decreed the slayings to gain supremacy in the Chicago underworld. The authors assert the deed was a case of bad timing and poor judgment by a secret crew from St. Louis known to Capone’s mostly Italian mob as the "American boys."

The target of the murder squad was indeed Bugs Moran, but the "American boys," who were dressed as policemen and arrived in two bogus police cars, arrived early at the garage where the massacre took place. When no one in the garage would admit he was Bugs Moran, the bogus cops stupidly killed them all. Much of the evidence to this effect emerged shortly after the massacre but was deftly ignored by law enforcement officials. It began to resurface again in 1935 with a manuscript written by the widow of one of the gunmen and a lookout’s long-suppressed confession. Indeed, law enforcement tried very hard not to solve the crime, for under any rock the cops turned over there might be a politician, and under the St. Valentine’s Day rock they would have found several. In the end, the machine gun bullets heard ’round the world marked the beginning of the end for Al Capone.

Bugsy - The Original Gangster

I was catching up on some old issues of the Wall Street Journal that I had not read yet, when I saw a full page ad for what they called The Original Gangster, Bugsy. For the 15th anniversary, Tri-Star released an all-new unrated, extended cut, completely remastered and loaded with new special features. If that sounds like an ad, it is because I pulled it right from the paper. I had forgotten that Bugsy won a Golden Globe for Best Drama and had been nominated of Best Picture at the Oscar's along with 9 other nominations. Hence, I have an updated preview on the DVD.

This is the 1991 movie in which notorious ladies man Warren Beatty finally met his match in his feisty co-star Annette Bening. The pair sparred on set and off -- and have been happily married ever since.

Beatty needed a strong foil for his ferocious performance as Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel, the real-life, brutal New York gangster who aimed for the big time after moving to Los Angeles in the 1930s.

After pursuing and conquering sexy Hollywood starlet Virginia Hill (Bening), a one-time prostitute who had also worked for the Chicago mob, Siegel dreamed of making millions from gambling in a then-small desert town called Las Vegas. He built the original Flamingo Hotel, but enraged his eastern crime bosses when the project ran millions over budget. He was killed by mob hitmen in 1947, just a few years before Vegas started generating billions.

Beatty and Bening make a terrific pair, but Bugsy also features a notable performance from Ben Kingsley as Siegel's childhood friend and later crime associate Meyer Lansky.

A powerful and evocative film, Bugsy gets the two-disc treatment here to include some great documentaries and extra features.

Thanks to Andy Cooper

Monday, August 03, 2015

Frank Calabrese Jr. Wrote Tell-all Chicago Mobster Book

"I had a choice of two titles, right? Rat, or cold-blooded murderer. And I chose rat," said Frank Calabrese Jr., former heir to the Chicago Outfit's Chinatown Crew and the author of a tell-all mob book. "Neither is a title good to have. But I had to make a decision."

Calabrese Jr. was dressed in dark clothes, sitting at a table with his back against a restaurant wall. He is not in the federal witness protection program, and he talked about that choice in a flat, quiet voice.

It was a voice that weighs things out, an unemotional voice, and if a meat scale could talk, it would have a voice just like that. Calabrese Jr. says he's changed his life, and made amends, but I could picture him years ago, using that voice on some bust-out gambler who owed his father Outfit juice, the son collecting, asking, "You're late this week. Where's my $5,000?" as he neutrally sized up the meat in front of him.

"I don't feel like a rat," he told me. "And afterward, I didn't go run and hide. But I'm not going to stand on the corner and flex my muscles.

"My father had these multiple personalities. There was the good dad and the evil dad. One minute, you're dealing with the caring, loving father who hugs and kisses you, and looks out for you. Then it changes. You see it in his eyes. I think he lost his soul," said Frank Jr. "I would have followed this guy anywhere. I didn't buy into the Outfit. I bought into my father. All I cared about was my father being proud of me. And he didn't watch out for me or my brothers."

Thus Frank Jr.'s book, "Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster's Son and the FBI Brought Down Chicago's Murderous Crime Family". I get the feeling it is a must-read among Outfit types and their political puppets. And it is a story of fathers and sons.

Frank Jr. kicked off the famous Operation Family Secrets investigation of the Chicago Outfit. While in federal prison in 1998, he wrote a letter to the FBI volunteering to help them against a fellow inmate: his own father, Chinatown Crew boss Frank Calabrese Sr.

He wore a wire and recorded his father, and that led to the cooperation of hit-man uncle Nick Calabrese. By the time the Family Secrets trial was done, more than a dozen Outfit hits were solved, and his father, other hit men and bosses like Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo and Jimmy Marcello were given what amount to life sentences.

I remember Frank Sr. as stumpy old man in court, the one credited with strangling his victims before stabbing them in the head with a knife, a brutal loan shark and the hammer for the real boss of Bridgeport and Chinatown, the late Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra.

"Here's what he taught his son," said Frank Jr. "To manipulate. To find a guy with a business, with money, and he'd say, 'Make him feel close to you. Make him feel secure. And then somebody's going to come and scare the guy and he'll run to me. And then we'll get a piece of his business. And once we get a piece, there will be a little more, and a little more. If it's a bad week, I don't care, where's my money? And we'll slowly drain the business.'

"What happens is that you start getting numb to having feelings. And it becomes normal to threaten. These are the things my father taught me."

Calabrese's publicity tour this week began with Monday's story about Borders canceling his book-signing events after receiving anonymous threats. He's scheduled to be at the Union League Club for lunch Friday, discussing the case with former federal prosecutor T. Markus Funk, a member of the prosecution team whose own life was allegedly threatened by Calabrese Sr.

In the book there is talk of murders and beatings, extortion and treachery. But that is standard fare. What makes this book different is the dysfunctional family. The sons are in mortal fear of the patriarch. That's what will sell it as a movie.

Frank Sr. isn't receiving many visitors these days in federal prison. So I called Calabrese Sr.'s lawyer, criminal attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, who isn't impressed by the son.

"I think there are some people who would blame the father for the sins of the son," Lopez said. "Some might say the father was out of order by talking to the kid. But the father was angry. He beat up his son because the son admitted to using and selling drugs. And the son stole a lot of money from his father."

In the book, the son admits to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling proceeds from hiding places. During the trial, the father claimed the son stole millions more, a charge the son denies.

"The son has always wanted to be in the movies," said Lopez. "Now he's written this book, he's done the publicity stunt about the threats although he's not in danger from anyone, and now his book will probably become a movie."

I can see it as a movie that begins in sentimental fashion, a father and his sons spending quality time together. But they're not tossing a ball and having some boring game of catch. Instead, they spend time together, collecting.

Collecting politicians, collecting gambling debts, collecting victims.

Thanks to John Kass

To Kill A President: Finally---An Ex-FBI Agent Rips Aside the Veil of Secrecy that Killed JFK

To Kill A President: Finally---An Ex-FBI Agent rips aside the veil of secrecy that killed JFK. The book by M. Wesley Swearingen uncovers new information about the murder of President John F. Kennedy and identifies groups who conspired to kill him, offering evidence and arguments documenting a conspiracy.

According to Swearingen, Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in assassinating Kennedy as was claimed by the FBI and the Warren Commission. Instead, he argues that rogue CIA agents acting in concert with the mafia, certain Cuban exiles and FBI informants killed Kennedy. Swearingen contends that the conspiracy was covered up by the FBI, an effort that continues to this day through the bureau's unwillingness to disclose key details about the events surrounding Kennedy's death. Since Swearingen's book was released a second FBI agent has come forward now claiming Oswald did not kill Kennedy.

A 25-year veteran of FBI field work, Swearingen was told in 1962 by a Cuban exile that the CIA and the mafia were planning to kill JFK, but the FBI did nothing to stop them. He argues that the statements and actions of FBI and CIA personnel prove a cover-up, one that he knows included CIA-trained Cuban exiles and American mobsters.

"Names are named, associations are made, reasonable conjectures are served and Swearingen comes across as the real deal," explains a Kirkus Discoveries review. "He virtually dares readers to prove him wrong."

M. Wesley Swearingen is a former FBI agent and the author of FBI Secrets: An Agents Expose. A U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, Swearingen later graduated from Ohio State University and joined the FBI while it was directed by J. Edgar Hoover. Following his retirement from the FBI in 1977, Swearingen was involved in several successful lawsuits against the FBI related to wrongful imprisonment and civil rights violations. A California licensed private investigator, Swearingen has appeared in several documentary films about the FBI. He earned the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ) President's Award in 1997.

Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories

It took the two assassins just six minutes to enter one of the finest hotels in Moscow, move past armed guards, shoot their victim in the head with silencer-equipped pistols, and make their escape. The boss of the Russian mafia's outpost in Rome was called immediately. "What, did they kill him?" he asked. "I am not surprised; he has stolen money from half of Russia."

So begins Frederico Varese's "Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories." The murdered man was a Russian who had immigrated to Italy and who was conducting what appeared to be a legitimate business—but he was actually a member of the Solntsevskaya Brotherhood, Russia's most notorious mafia.

The assassination alerted authorities that the Solntsevskaya was setting up an Italian outpost, an alarming development considering the brutality of the Russian mafia. But could an organized crime group, like a transnational business, simply open a foreign branch? This high-stakes question prompted Mr. Varese to write his book about how mafias transplant themselves to new territories.

Mr. Varese's quest leads him from Prohibition-era Manhattan to mid-century Italy to modern-day China. His presentation is academic and heavy on numbers, but it tells a compelling story that is as much about politics as crime.

Mr. Varese's definition of a mafia challenges conventional wisdom: "providers of extralegal governance . . . groups that aspire to govern others by offering criminal protection to both the underworld and the 'upper world.'"

To transplant, a mafia must "operate . . . over a sustained period outside its region of origin or routine operation." A transplantation has not necessarily occurred even if a mafia engages in transnational dealings like drug smuggling, human trafficking or money laundering.

Given these definitions, it's hardly surprising that mafias have a better chance of transplanting when economic liberalization outpaces political reform. A Hungarian authority explains that where a legal and judicial system are lacking, "it is not surprising that businessmen, some law-abiding and others not, try to defend themselves and find other non-legal or semi-legal ways to defend their interests, without legal support from the state. The defects of state law enforcement have opened the field to organized crime, and their 'violence' organizations have simply taken control of this area."

In other words, mafias thrive when there is a demand for their services. They adjudicate disputes between employers and employees, enforce agreements and punish those who do not honor their commitments. All this helps the market, whether legal or illegal, run smoothly. But demand is only half of the equation. There must also be a supply of violent people adept in offering and enforcing protection. It's no coincidence that recruits often come from organizations like the KGB, where violence is culturally ingrained.

The study is at its most relevant examining the triads in Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and their failure to transplant into the mainland. Given the shortcomings of the Chinese legal system, why haven't they permeated the People's Republic? The answer is simple: Corrupt government officials are performing mafia-like services so competently that the real mafias can't compete. Bribe-taking Communist Party cadres act as a "protective umbrella" for all kinds of businesses.

"Since any economic activity in China is subject to intrusive inspections and requires several permits, and independent courts are not effective in protecting the victims of officials' harassment, even entrepreneurs producing legal commodities, such as light bulbs, can benefit from entering into such arrangements," Mr. Varese writes. "The umbrella system ensures continued control over the economy by officials, albeit one that distorts incentives and produces significant waste."

That's not to say Chinese officials are shy about skimming from illegal activity too. Prostitution, illegal in China, is a prime example. Prostitutes are caught, judged and punished by the police under administrative law—they can be sentenced to severe fines or imprisoned without ever facing a judge. Practically, this means police protecting brothels can coerce prostitutes and brothel owners.

When any one group holds the power to establish law, judge offenders and punish them, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to uproot. It matters little whether this group is a mafia or a corrupt ruling party. Even giving citizens the vote is not sufficient to shift the balance of terror, Mr. Varese says—mafias have traded in votes, too, and politicians can gain by using thugs against their opponents.

The real key is protecting the rights and property of citizens. Where states fail in this responsibility, criminals always move in to fill the void.

Thanks to Jillian Kay Melchior

The FBI's Behavioral Interview Program - Attempting to Understand Violent Offenders

The inmate’s wrist and leg shackles were removed and he was led into a small conference room to meet two special agents from the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU). The agents were there to conduct an interview into every aspect of the inmate’s life—from his earliest childhood experiences to the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of a preteen girl that sent him to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

Such interviews are part of an ongoing BAU program to understand the minds of violent offenders. The offender interview program is in keeping with BAU’s overall mission to provide behavioral-based support to federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies investigating time-sensitive crimes such as kidnappings and other violent offenses.

“We are never going to get the full and complete truth from offenders,” said one of the agents who conducted the interview. “But we gather all the information, the truth and the lies, and we learn from both.”

The insights from these consensual interviews are used for research and training, and they also have the potential to help investigators in the field. “The next time BAU responds to a child kidnapping case and a young person’s life is at stake,” the agent explained, “we can say, ‘we sat across from a guy who did something similar, and here’s what he told us.’ ”

Behavioral analysts have been popularized in television and movies as expert “profilers,” capable of comprehending and even anticipating the thoughts and actions of the worst criminal minds. In real life, the expertise acquired by BAU personnel takes years of training and investigative experience. Offender interviews are an invaluable part of that process.

“These are not investigative interviews to collect evidence or to determine guilt or innocence,” said one of the agents. “We already know the ‘how’ of the crime. Now we want to know ‘why.’ ”

Sitting in the small conference room across from the 31-year-old offender, the agents explained the ground rules. “There will be no tricks and no games,” they said. “We are going to talk about your life, including the murder. We want to know how you think about things and how you see things.”

There is nothing confrontational about the videotaped interview, which lasted for six hours. The offender—who consented to the meeting as part of a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty—talked openly, but perhaps not always truthfully.

“What they choose to share and disclose and what they choose not to disclose can be very revealing,” one of the agents said. “Sometimes it is difficult for them to face what they have done and to speak about it out loud.”

“From a behavioral standpoint,” the other agent said later, “we got a lot out of the interview.” Videotaped segments will be used by BAU staff when they train researchers, social workers, medical staff, and law enforcement personnel around the country about offenders who commit violent crimes against children.

“When you can illustrate a point by showing a video clip of the offender in his own words,” the agent said, “it is a very compelling teaching tool.”

Mafia Sheep Code Cracked, Leads to 11 Arrests

Italian police on Monday arrested 11 suspects linked to the fugitive head of the Sicilian Mafia, including a former boss who ran a secret message system for the mobster using a sheep-based code.

Matteo Messina Denaro, 53, who has been on the run since 1993, used a farm in Mazara del Vallo to communicate with his henchmen via the aged-old method of "pizzini", bits of paper containing messages often written in cipher, police said.

Among those arrested was former boss Vito Gondola, 77, whose job it was to call the clan members to alert them to each new message, which was placed under a rock in a field at the farm and often destroyed on the spot after reading.

"I've put the ricotta cheese aside for you, will you come by later?" he would say on the telephone -- a phrase investigators said had nothing to do with dairy products.

"The sheep need shearing... the shears need sharpening" and "the hay is ready", were among other code phrases used to alert the gang to a new message, written on tightly folded bits of paper wrapped in Sellotape and then hidden in the dirt.

The police investigation, which followed the passing of messages between 2011 and 2014, used hidden cameras and microphones around the farm near Trapani in western Sicily to follow the movements of the clan -- and discover Denaro's fading glory.

Gondola is caught in one conversation telling another mobster that Denaro -- once a trigger man who reportedly boasted he could "fill a cemetery" with his victims -- was losing control over the latest generation of criminals, who "disappear without saying anything".

Three of those arrested were over 70 years old.

The only known photos of Denaro date back to the early 1990s. He is believed to be the successor of the godfathers Toto Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, who are both serving life sentences, but less is known about him. At the height of his power he had a reputation as a flashy, ruthless womaniser who ruled over at least 900 men with an iron fist.

The 11 suspects arrested "were the men who were closest to Denaro right now," said police official Renato Cortese, adding that it was "too early to say" whether the sting would help investigators close in on the fugitive.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi thanked the investigators in a message on his Facebook page, saying "onwards all, to finally capture the super-fugitive boss," insisting "Italy is united against organised crime" despite a recent slew of corruption scandals in the country.

"The state wins, the Mafia loses," Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Twitter.

Gondola, who despite his age rose every morning at 4 am to tend to his flock, is believed to have once been a right-hand man to Riina. In the 1970s he belonged to a gang used by the Mafia to carry out kidnappings, according to Italian media reports.

The Sicilian Mafia, known as "Cosa Nostra" or "Our Thing", was the country's most powerful organised crime syndicate in the 1980s and 1990s, but has seen its power diminish following years of investigations and mass arrests.

It also faces fierce underworld competition from the increasingly powerful Naples-based Camorra and Calabria's 'Ndrangheta.

Thanks to Ella Ide.

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