The Chicago Syndicate

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Court Upholds Convictions of Nicky Scarfo Jr, Reputed Lucchese Crime Family Member, and Associate Salvatore Pelullo #Racketeering #Conspiracy #Fraud #MoneyLaundering

A member and associate of the Lucchese organized crime family, along with two Texas brothers, have had their convictions upheld for a criminal takeover that drained over $14 million from a Dallas mortgage firm in less than a year. The four claimed what they did was just "normal, run-of-the-mill" business practices, but it was more like typical Mafia practices.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced Nicodemo S. Scarfo, 57,
Nicky Scarfo Jr.
of Galloway, N.J., a member of the Lucchese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (LCN), and Salvatore Pelullo, 55, of Philadelphia, an associate of the Lucchese and Philadelphia LCN families, were convicted on July 13, 2014, of all counts against them. Two other defendants, William Maxwell, 63, of Houston, Texas, and his brother, John Maxwell, 70, of Irving, Texas, were also convicted.

The four defendants were convicted for their respective roles in the takeover and subsequent looting of FirstPlus Financial Group, a publicly held mortgage company based in Dallas. The defendants used extortionate threats to take control of the company, causing a loss of more than $14 million and leaving more than 1,000 shareholders with investments that had been rendered worthless. Scarfo and Pelullo were each sentenced to 30 years in prison; William Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison; and John Maxwell was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Originally, the four men, according to court filings, sought to legitimately invest in the company. There was just one problem. They didn’t have the money to do so.

Enter Jack Draper, a high-ranking employee at FirstPlus who had been fired. Draper had griped about his firing to Jack Roubinek — the two having become acquainted while employed at FirstPlus — and to William Maxwell. Roubinek was trying to put a group together to purchase FirstPlus.

Those three were joined by David Roberts, a mortgage broker from Staten Island, and Pelullo for a meeting in Dallas, where Draper, “bearing a grudge,” told the group he was willing to “divulge all” and falsely accuse the FirstPlus board and CEO Daniel Phillips of financial and personal improprieties (including a purported sexual assault and impregnation of a personal assistant who was paid off with company funds).

The threats had their intended effect. The appeals court decision said Phillips met with William Maxwell and Pelullo, who indicated the allegations would be dropped if Phillips and the FirstPlus board handed the business over to them.

“Evidently, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse,” the decision author quipped. “Phillips swiftly persuaded the entire board to give up their positions rather than try to engage in what would be a messy and expensive fight with Pelullo’s group.”

The four partners in crime then set about installing associates into key positions as executives and board members. FirstPlus was then used to buy companies tied to Pelullo and hire other companies as consultants for exorbitant fees. The appeals said the four viewed FirstPlus as their own personal retirement fund, but quickly blew through over $14 million.

The quartet’s greed came to light when Scarfo attempted to take over the Philadelphia branch of the Lucchese crime family. The FBI stumbled upon the FirstPlus scheme and seized the four men’s assets (including a yacht, Bentley, and private plane) in May 2008. They would be indicted in October 2011 and convicted in July 2014.

Scarfo’s, Pelullo’s, and William Maxwell’s defenses hinged on the proposition that they had simply been engaged in standard, run-of-the-mill business practices. John Maxwell, for his part, claimed he had been in the dark as to the others’ malfeasance, the appeals court decision said.

The government rebutted those narratives, telling jurors: “Is this how legitimate businessmen conduct themselves? The answer to that is overwhelmingly no. Legitimate businessmen don’t lie, they don’t cheat, they don’t steal.”

In a consolidated appeal, the defendants challenged almost every aspect of their prosecutions, including the investigation, the charges and evidence against them, the pretrial process, the government’s compliance with its disclosure obligations, the trial, the forfeiture proceedings, and their sentences.

The appellate court decision, written by Circuit Judge Kent A. Jordan and joined by Circuit Judges Thomas L. Ambro and Stephanos Bibas, affirmed the jury’s guilty verdicts on all of the underlying crimes, including participating in a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and firearms offenses. It also affirmed the prison sentences.

Thanks to Keith Griffin.


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Tremayne Thompson of the Four Corner Hustlers Chicago Street Gang Sentenced to 35 Years in Federal Prison for Racketeering Conspiracy #WestSide #Chicago

A member of a violent Chicago street gang has been sentenced to more than 35 years in federal prison for engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity that included multiple murders, armed robberies, drug trafficking, and extortion.

Tremayne Thompson, 38, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge. Thompson admitted in a plea agreement that he conspired with leadership of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity that included using violence and intimidation to protect the gang’s drug dealing activities, primarily on the West Side of Chicago. Thompson admitted participating in the April 2003 murders of George King and Willie Woods. Thompson stated in his plea agreement that he shot the victims after receiving instructions to do so from a leader of the Four Corner Hustlers. In addition to the murders, Thompson sold heroin and crack cocaine and committed multiple armed robberies to further the gang’s interests.

U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin imposed the 427-month prison sentence after a hearing on July 6, 2022, in federal court in Chicago.

The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI; Kristen de Tineo, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and David Brown, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.

The investigation was led by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles drug traffickers, money launderers, and other criminal offenders that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Substantial assistance was provided by the Chicago FBI’s Safe Street Task Force, the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), ATF’s Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force, and the Chicago Police Gang Investigations Division. Additional assistance was provided by the Illinois Secretary of State Police Department, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Illinois Department of Corrections, and Illinois State Police.

“For nearly two decades, Tremayne Thompson terrorized the West Wide of Chicago as a member and enforcer for the Four Corner Hustlers street gang,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kavitha J. Babu and William Dunne argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “The defendant, along with other members of the gang, peddled heroin and crack cocaine, robbed people at gunpoint, extorted others, and murdered men as they stood on city sidewalks. Every year the defendant is incapacitated is a year that the people who live on the West Side of Chicago are safer.”

Thompson was indicted on the racketeering charge in 2017 along with eight other alleged members of the Four Corner Hustlers and two additional defendants. Seven co-defendants pleaded guilty and one went to trial and was convicted. Thompson is the fourth defendant to be sentenced.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Organized Crime: A Cultural Introduction by Antonio Nicaso @AntonioNicaso and Marcel Danesi #OrganizedCrime

This book aims to describe and demystify what makes criminal gangs so culturally powerful. It examines their codes of conduct, initiation rites, secret communications methods, origin myths, symbols, and the like that imbue the gangsters with the pride and nonchalance that goes hand in hand with their criminal activities. Mobsters are everywhere in the movies, on television, and on websites. Contemporary societies are clearly fascinated by them. Why is this so? What feature and constituents of organized criminal gangs make them so emotionally powerful―to themselves and others? These are the questions that have guided the writing of this textbook, which is intended as an introduction to organized crime from the angle of cultural analysis. Key topics include:

  • An historic overview of organized crime, including the social, economic, and cultural conditions that favour its development;
  • A review of the type of people who make up organized gangs and the activities in which they engage;
  • The symbols, rituals, codes and languages that characterize criminal institutions;
  • The relationship between organized crime and cybercrime;
  • The role of women in organized crime;
  • Drugs and narco-terrorism;
  • Media portrayals of organized crime.
Organized Crime: A Cultural Introduction, includes case studies and offers an accessible, interdisciplinary approach to the subject of organized crime. It is essential reading for students engaged with organized crime across criminology, sociology, anthropology and psychology.


Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Florida Man is Among 3 Men Charged in $100 Million Cryptocurrency Fraud #Conspiracy #MoneyLaundering #Ponzi #Stuart

A federal grand jury indicted Emerson Pires, 33, and Flavio Goncalves, 33, both of Brazil, and Joshua David Nicholas, 28, of Stuart, Florida, in connection with a global cryptocurrency-based fraud that generated around $100 million in revenues from investors. The indictment charges all three defendants with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. The indictment also charges Pires and Goncalves with conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
EmpiresX cryptocurrency charged as a reputed Ponzi Scheme


According to the indictment, Pires and Goncalves founded EmpiresX, a cryptocurrency investment platform and unregistered securities offering. Pires and Goncalves, along with Nicholas, the company’s so-called “Head Trader,” fraudulently promoted EmpiresX. They misled investors about, among other things, a purported proprietary trading “bot” that they claimed could generate guaranteed returns to investors in EmpiresX.

As alleged in the indictment, Pires and Goncalves then laundered investors’ funds through a foreign-based cryptocurrency exchange, and paid out early EmpiresX investors with money obtained from later investors in a Ponzi-style scheme.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami Field Office, and Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

“Our office is committed to protecting investors from sophisticated scammers seeking to capitalize on the relative novelty of digital currency,” said United States Attorney Gonzalez. “As with any emerging technology, those who invest in cryptocurrency must beware of profit-making opportunities that appear too good to be true.”

“The technology has changed, but the crime remains the same,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Miami. “Unscrupulous fraudsters are nothing new to the investment world - what’s changing is they are now pushing their criminal activity into the cryptocurrency realm. Investors beware. Conduct your due diligence before investing. The FBI would like to commend Homeland Security Investigations for their close cooperation on this case.”

“This case should serve as a warning to any individuals who look to illegally capitalize on the perceived ambiguity of the crypto market to take advantage of innocent investors” said HSI Miami Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury. “HSI will continue to work with our partners to pursue anyone who utilizes these types of schemes to victimize would be customers.”

FBI and HSI are investigating the case.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Mexican Citizen Sentenced to Federal Prison for Acting as Russian Agent within the United States

Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes, 36, a Mexican citizen who had resided in Singapore and spent significant time in Russia, was sentenced in the Southern District of Florida to four years and one day in prison for acting within the United States on behalf of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General.

According to court documents, since 2019, Fuentes acted under the direction and control of someone he believed to be a Russian government official. Instructed by this Russian official, Fuentes arranged for an intermediary to lease a unit in a residential building in Miami-Dade County where a U.S. person, who had previously provided information about the Russian government to the U.S. government, resided.

Furthermore, at the direction of the same Russian official, Fuentes traveled to Miami in February 2020 to obtain the license plate number and parking location of the U.S. person’s car to provide to the Russian official upon his next trip to Russia.

Fuentes’s travel companion, at his request, took a photo of the U.S. person’s car. A WhatsApp message from Fuentes’s travel companion to Fuentes contained a close-up photograph of the specified U.S. person’s car. The manner in which Fuentes communicated with the Russian government official and his undertakings in this case are consistent with the tactics of the Russian intelligence services for spotting, assessing, recruiting and handling intelligence assets and sources.

Fuentes had not notified the U.S. Attorney General, as required by law, that he was acting in the United States as an agent of the Russian government.

Fuentes pleaded guilty in February 2022. U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks for the Southern District of Florida imposed the sentence, which included an order that the defendant be removed from the United States to Mexico promptly upon his release from confinement.

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