Friday, December 30, 2016

Entertaining with The Sopranos

Fans of a certain multi-award-winning HBO dramatic series and lovers of fine eating everywhere made The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco a runaway #1 bestseller, thanks to its intimate vignettes and delectable Old Country recipes. But that just got the party started.

Now comes the ultimate guide to making every event the perfect occasion, served up by the Garden State's most gracious hostess, Carmela Soprano.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Godfather and Game Theory

An example of commitment using third party contracts is found in Mario Puzo's classic novel The Godfather. Those who may have only seen the film and not read the book might remember a few references to "the hostages" prior to any meetings between the heads of the families. In the book, this is described in much greater detail.

"The Bocchicchio Family was unique in thatThe Godfather, once a particularly ferocious branch of the Mafia in Sicily, it had become an instrument of peace in America." The Bocchicchio Family is described as most ruthless and completely unamenable to logic and reason. Their simple code of vengeance did not make exception - if you harmed a member of their family, revenge would always follow. This irrationality become a limitation in America and the Bocchicchio family "knew they could not compete with their Mafia families in the struggle to organize and control more sophisticated business structures like prostitution, gambling, dope and public fraud." However, searching for an occupation in the new land of America, "the Bocchicchio Family became negotiators and hostages in the peace efforts of warring Mafia families."

Here is the basic idea. Say that Michael Corleone, the head of one Mafia family wishes to meet with Don Tessio, the head of another in order to discuss a deal for mutual advantage. The invited guest has no way of knowing if he will be safe during the visit, and Michael's promises that he will not hurt the guest cannot be believed. There is a problem of commitment here, and without some commitment, the two will not meet.

Enter the Bocchicchio Family. When Michael invites Don Tessio, he not only promises not to harm him, but also hires a member of the Bocchicchio Family to go to Tessio's house. There, the "hostage" will be guarded by Tessio's men. If Don Tessio does not return safely, Tessio's men will kill the hostage. The Bocchicchio Family, seeking revenge, will blame Michael Corleone for the death, since he made the promise that Don Tessio will not be harmed.

Now here is where the Bocchicchio Family's ruthlessness and irrationality is important. They have a reputation for revenge. They can't be bargained with. They can't be bribed. This way, Michael Corleone recognizes that breaking his promise to keep Tessio safe will result, eventually, in his own death. So, he commits to Tessio not through "cheap talk" or empty promises, but through a contract with a third party which is both credible and a strong enough commitment to guarantee that the meeting will take place.

Thanks to Mike Shor

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Archbishop calls mafia mass plans a 'great scandal, cancels celebration

An archbishop and a local police chief in southern Italy have forced the scrapping of a public mass for the soul of a reputed Canadian crime clan boss, slain near Montreal.

Rocco Sollecito, 67, was gunned down in May while driving his car in Laval. Police said Sollecito had high-level ties to the former reputed head of the Montreal Mafia.

A priest in Grumo Appula, the Italian town of Sollecito's roots, posted notices inviting parishioners to mass Tuesday evening. But the police chief ordered the mass held at dawn instead to avoid drawing a big crowd.

Bari-Bitonto Archbishop Francesco Cacucci also opposed the evening public mass, calling it a "great scandal.'' He called it inappropriate for someone who didn't live a Christian life.

In the end, no mass at all was celebrated.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Reputed Chicago Outfit Solider, Chuckie Russell, Caught on Tape Planning Robbery

A reputed Chicago Outfit soldier was arrested on gun charges this week after he was caught on undercover recordings bragging about plans to break into the home of an elderly suburban lawyer and force him to open a safe filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars, federal prosecutors say.

"Nothing gets my juices flowing like putting a gun to someone's head, taking their stuff, and making it mine," Charles "Chuckie" Russell was quoted in a court filing telling a government informant. "It will be a great Christmas, I'm telling you."

Russell, 67, was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly went to a South Loop deli to purchase eight guns from a person who turned out to be an undercover federal agent, according to a 26-page criminal complaint unsealed Thursday. He was charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ordered held until a bond hearing in early January.

An alleged member of the Chicago mob's Grand Avenue crew, Russell was sentenced in 1992 to 35 years in prison for an aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction. He was acquitted of attempted murder in that case, records show. He was released on parole in March 2011.

Last month, a confidential informant told agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that Russell had been bragging about being "a top ranking member of the mob," according to the complaint.

At a meeting at a coffeehouse on Taylor Street, Russell allegedly told the informant he was the head of a prolific gang of burglars called the "Bishop" boys that was responsible for hundreds of burglaries and home invasions over the past several years.

On Dec. 16, Russell met the informant along with an undercover agent at the Boundary Tavern and Grille in Wicker Park, according to the complaint. During the conversation, which was secretly recorded, Russell talked about plans for an upcoming robbery of a man in his 70s who was believed to have as much as $750,000 in cash in a safe in his home, the complaint said. Russell said he'd been casing the home for years and had an "ex-girl" who was on the inside and knew the location of the safe and other valuables.

"If he doesn't open it, we're gonna make him open it," Russell said, according to the complaint. "They always open for me, believe me. I bring my butane torch, put it on the bottom of their feet, they open it."

According to the complaint, Russell wanted help on the robbery. He told the informant and the undercover agent that his crew would be equipped with all the proper tools to avoid detection, including police scanners, masks and a change of clothes. He also said their biggest worry would be if the victim had a heart attack, because if "he (expletive) drops dead, we got a (expletive) murder," according to the complaint.

"The fun for me is the score," Russell allegedly said on the recording. "That's how I get my adrenaline. ... You know how long it takes to come to down for me? I counted money one night for so long my hands were filthy."

Later in the conversation, Russell talked about buying firearms from the undercover agent. On Monday, the three men met again at the Gale Street Inn in Jefferson Park, where Russell gave the agent a list of guns he was looking for, including an Uzi submachine gun and an AK-47, according to the complaint.

During the meeting, Russell handed the undercover agent a driver's license depicting an African-American man and then showed him a cellphone photo of a car that was riddled with bullet holes. Russell said he was showing him "some decent work" of his, and that the man was "no longer with us."

"All (expletive) blood and brain all over the (expletive) seat," Russell was quoted in the charges as saying. "Went right through his head and out that side. Take (the car) and drop it off in the black community, another black bastard gets caught with it."

Chicago police confirmed that the man depicted in the driver's license photo was killed in November, according to the complaint.

Russell's arrest marked the latest blow for the once-feared Grand Avenue crew made famous by colorful and violent leaders such as Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and currently believed to be headed by Albert "Little Guy" Vena, who is Russell's brother-in-law

In 2014, alleged crew members Robert Panozzo, Paul Koroluk, and others were arrested on sweeping racketeering charges alleging an array of crimes going back to at least 2007, from home invasions and armed robberies to burglaries, arson, insurance fraud and prostitution.

Thanks to Jason Meisner.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Teamster Sentenced for Attempted Extortion of #TopChef Reality Television Production Company

A member of Teamsters Local 25 was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Boston in connection with his attempted extortion of a Top Chef reality television production company in June of 2014.

Mark Harrington, 62, of Andover, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to two years of probation with six months of home confinement, and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 and restitution of $24,023. In November 2016, Harrington pleaded guilty to one count of attempted extortion.

In October 2015, Harrington was indicted along with John Fidler, Daniel Redmond, Robert Cafarelli, and Michael Ross for conspiring to extort and attempted extortion of money to be paid as wages for imposed, unwanted, and unnecessary and superfluous services from a reality television production company.

Beginning in spring 2014, a non-union production company began scouting locations to film a reality television show in Boston. A stage location was set up in Woburn, and a number of filming locations were chosen in and around the Boston area. In order to film in the City of Boston, permits must be approved by the City of Boston with the assistance of the Boston Film Bureau. In May 2014, with the necessary permits from the City of Boston, the company commenced filming at various locations in Boston. The company was scheduled to conduct further filming in the City of Boston, including at a hotel, a restaurant, and a college, in June 2014.

The company was not a signatory to any collective bargaining agreement with Local 25, and hired its own employees, including drivers, to produce and participate in the filming of the show.    

On or about June 5, 2014, Redmond allegedly approached the production crew as they were filming at a Boston hotel and demanded that members of Local 25 be hired as drivers. Redmond insisted that one of the producers on set speak with Harrington, the secretary-treasurer of Local 25. Harrington advised the producer that he did not care about the company and that all he cared about was that some of his guys get hired on the show. The producer explained that all of the drivers had been hired and there was no work for Local 25 to perform. Redmond allegedly demanded to know where else the crew would be filming and threatened to shut the production down that night. During several subsequent telephone calls that same day, Harrington and another union official warned the producer that if the company did not make a deal with Local 25, they would start to follow them and picket.

On or about June 9, 2014, a representative from the City of Boston allegedly called a second Boston hotel to inform them that Local 25 was planning to picket the company’s filming at the hotel the following day. In turn, the hotel notified the company that, despite their prior agreement, it would no longer permit the filming because it did not want to be associated with a Local 25 picket. As a result, the company found a new location for filming outside the City of Boston. The City of Boston representative made similar calls to other locations the company planned to film at in June 2014.

In the early morning hours on June 10, 2014, a Local 25 official told a producer that Local 25 was aware that the company was preparing to film at a Milton restaurant, and Local 25 would be sending 50 men to picket. As a result of that conversation, the company hired a police detail for the filming.  At 9:00 a.m. on June 10, 2014, defendants Harrington, Redmond, Fidler, Cafarelli and Ross showed up at the Milton restaurant. Two or three of the Local 25 defendants entered the production area and began walking in lockstep toward the doors of the restaurant where they chest-bumped and allegedly stomach-bumped production crew members in an attempt to forcibly enter the restaurant.

Throughout the morning, the Local 25 defendants allegedly continued to use and threaten to use physical violence against members of the crew and others; yelled profanities and racial and homophobic slurs at the crew and others; blocked vehicles from the entryway to the set and used actual physical violence and threats of physical violence to try and prevent people from entering the set. On one occasion, the Local 25 defendants prevented a food delivery truck from delivering food.  The Local 25 defendants were also observed by the crew standing in close proximity to cars belonging to the crew, nine of which were later found to have had their tires slashed.

The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Former Boss of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club forsees Hells Angels Takeover of Chicago

“God Forgives, Outlaws Don’t.”

That’s the menacing motto of the Outlaws motorcycle club, formed in the Chicago area in 1935, now with chapters and thousands of members around the world. But in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, a former Outlaws leader says the group isn’t nearly as fearsome or dominant as it used to be in Illinois. “The times have changed,” says Peter “Big Pete” James, 62, who lives in the west suburbs. “Somehow, there’s no testosterone out there.”

James hung up his Outlaws vest — black leather with a skull and crossed pistons patch — last year amid an internal dispute with other local leaders and his own ongoing fight with cancer.

Contrary to the biker rumor mill, James isn’t returning to the fray, he told the Sun-Times. His wide-ranging interview was unusual because so-called “1-percenter” bikers generally are loath to talk publicly about their business.

Watching from the sidelines, James says that maybe the biggest indication his old club is slipping involves the rise of the rival Hells Angels motorcycle club, which he believes is poised to overtake the Outlaws as the big-dog biker group in the Chicago area — an unthinkable development not long ago.

He predicts — but insists he isn’t advocating — renewed conflict between the two groups resulting from the shifting dynamic.

An attorney for the Outlaws responds only, “There wouldn’t be any comment at this time.” The Hells Angels didn’t respond to inquiries.

Back in the 1990s, the Outlaws and Hells Angels — both which have weathered intense federal prosecutions and allegations they’re nothing more than gangs on wheels involved in drug dealing and mayhem — were locked in “war” in Chicago, as the Hells Angels made a foray into the region, the Outlaws’ long-established turf.

After a series of bombings, shootings and stabbings, the rival clubs formed a fragile truce. The Hells Angels, formed in 1948 in California, gave up their attempt to put a clubhouse within the Chicago city limits and, instead, planted a flag in Harvey, remaining there today.

Since then, the Outlaws have maintained a stronghold in Chicago, with a South Side clubhouse at 25th and Rockwell and a North Side clubhouse on Division Street. It also has several other chapters in northern Illinois.

As regional vice president, James had domain over all of them and also was president of the North Siders. In all, he says there were maybe 100 hard-core members in northern Illinois. But James says smart moves by the Hells Angels — plus waves of prosecutions, poor leadership by some current Outlaws and changing times and attitudes — have changed things.

For one, James says local Outlaws are less willing to take orders from the top. “It used to be the boss’ word was law,” he says. “He says, ‘Ride off the cliff,’ and guys would ride off a cliff. The quality of the members has gone down.”

Fear of prison has also had an impact on some local club leaders, according to James, who’s critical of his old group for not being “entrepreneurial.”

Unlike the Outlaws, Hells Angels members are Internet-savvy, with the group’s local Facebook page accumulating more than 29,000 “likes” and the club selling T-shirts and other merchandise on its website. The Hells Angels also have made money by holding parties at its Harvey clubhouse and at bars in the Chicago area, according to James, who says the club welcomes “civilians” and members of smaller biker clubs to their parties.

“The Outlaws are losing out on the party money,” he says, along with the chance to market themselves and gain supporters.

Chicago-area law enforcement officials periodically have cracked down on both clubs. They say they’ve been preoccupied with other groups in recent years — especially the African-American gang factions behind Chicago’s staggering 50 percent rise in murders this year.

It was more than a decade ago when federal authorities charged Melvin Chancey, the former president of the Chicago-area Hells Angels, with racketeering and drug trafficking.

The last major Chicago law-enforcement crackdown of the Outlaws was more than five years ago. Chicago Outlaws member Mark Polchan was convicted of orchestrating a 2003 bombing outside C & S Coin Operated Amusements, a video-poker business in Berwyn that reputed mob boss Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno wanted to destroy to protect his own gambling interests. The pipe bomb blew out windows and damaged the building.

Polchan, who also was accused of fencing stolen jewelry for the mob at his Cicero pawnshop, was sentenced in 2011 to 60 years in federal prison.

James describes Polchan as his one-time “confidant” and says, “I love him.”

He says he has continued to receive occasional visits from federal agents looking for information on the biker world that he says he’s unwilling to give. “I try to be polite, to a point,” he says.

He figures his former club isn’t engaged in criminal activity at the same level as in the old days. Drug dealing, he says, worries graying members who don’t want to face a prison stretch lasting decades.

Even if things seem more low-key, though, “It doesn’t mean there’s not violence,” James says. “It’s just not as flagrant.” But there have been reports of Outlaws roughing up members of weaker Hispanic biker clubs in the Chicago area since James left. The apparent aim: to force them to ally more closely with the Outlaws, which has long enjoyed a “support system” from other clubs.

James says there’s nothing wrong with building alliances, but it’s stupid to enlist “Neanderthal” methods, adding, “They’re not thinking it through.”

James says that when he was in charge, he created a confederation of dozens of biker clubs, part of an effort “to change the stereotype.”

He says the TV show “Sons of Anarchy,” which aired on FX from 2008 to 2014, popularized but also caused headaches for “1-percenter” biker clubs — so-called for representing the 1 percent of bikers supposedly involved in crime.

“I watched the show,” he says, laughing. “It was like an Outfit guy watching ‘The Sopranos.’ Kind of a joke.”

Fans of the show about a criminal biker group in California formed their own clubs and made pilgrimages to the Outlaws clubhouse on Division Street to ask James to “sanction” them. James says he refused to avoid giving the feds a reason to charge him with racketeering.

He says those newbies might dress the part and ride around on Harleys but don’t share 1-percenters’ “toughness.”

Jay Dobyns got a firsthand look at the 1-percenter lifestyle when he infiltrated the Hells Angels in Arizona as an undercover ATF agent in the early 2000s. No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels.

“These guys are not book smart but have their Ph.Ds in violence and intimidation,” says Dobyns, now retired and living in Arizona. “I think the term ‘brotherhood’ is very easily thrown around in today’s society. We hear it and use it a lot. They take it to a life-and-death level. When I was with the club, there were guys who would have stepped in front of a bullet for me. Now, they want to put a bullet in me.”

Dobyns says he crossed paths with Chancey — “one of the true believers that the elimination of the enemy was a critical part of the mission, the survival of their own club. In that area, the enemy was the Outlaws.”

The continued animosity between the Hells Angels and Outlaws makes James’ recent friendship with George Christie an unlikely one. Christie is a former high-ranking Hells Angels leader who left the group in 2011 and was “excommunicated.”

Christie and James both have appeared on CNN to offer their expertise on biker life and both wrote books on the subject — James’ memoir is expected to be released next year.

James says the main reason he wrote the book was to show how far things have slipped in what he regards as a once-noble brotherhood and to spur change in leadership and attitudes among the Outlaws in Illinois.

“It used to be guys banded together who believed in something, and they had fun,” James says. “There’s no brotherhood left in the Outlaws any more.”

He says the Outlaws in Chicago have a choice to make as their rival grows and encroaches. “The choice is fight or flight,” he says. “They know the Angels will push them out of town. Who’s going to light the match?”

James says he won’t be on the front lines if that happens. Last year, he had his “God Forgives, Outlaws Don’t” tattoo covered up with a new design. “I’m borderline ashamed already to say I was once one,” he says.

Thanks to Robert Herguth and Frank Main.

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