January 11, 2009
Bad Economy May Fuel Hate Groups, Experts Warn
For 20 years, Bart McIntyre has tracked white supremacist movements, even spending two years undercover in Alabama to penetrate a violent young band of criminals who called themselves the Confederate Hammerskins.
Away from his wife and young daughter, McIntyre took the alias "Mark," attended Ku Klux Klan rallies and educated himself in racist propaganda. He and a law enforcement partner ultimately helped build criminal cases that sent more than 10 men to prison for their involvement in the murder and vicious beatings of black men in the Birmingham area in the early 1990s.
Now, as McIntyre prepares to retire from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he and other analysts are warning that the threat from hate groups and splinter organizations connected to the Klan should not be underestimated, especially at a time of economic unrest.
"In society, you have a very small number of people who are going to push the envelope and take it to the next step," said McIntyre, the resident ATF agent in charge in Roanoke.
Veteran investigators say they have advocated for increased attention to the problem since late September, when the nation's economic troubles widened, giving white supremacists a potent new source of discontent to exploit among potential recruits.
The number of U.S. hate groups has increased by 48 percent, to 888, since 2000, according to experts at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an independent organization that monitors racist movements. [Mark Godsey]
September 18, 2008
Circuit Court Reinstates Convictions of Mob Cops
The racketeering convictions of two retired New York City detectives who helped to kill at least eight men in their role as mob assassins were ordered reinstated on Wednesday by a federal appeals court. It ruled that a trial judge wrongly overturned the jury’s guilty verdicts two years ago.
The decision means that the two highly decorated detectives — Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa — will now face sentencing for their convictions in one of the most spectacular cases of police corruption in city history.
The two men seem certain to spend the rest of their lives in prison. In 2006, after they were convicted of racketeering conspiracy, the trial judge, Jack B. Weinstein of United States District Court in Brooklyn, issued but did not officially impose life prison sentences for each man.
Then, saying the five-year statute of limitations for racketeering had run out, the judge overturned the convictions despite what he called “overwhelming evidence” that the two men were “heinous criminals” who were guilty of the “most despicable crimes of violence and treachery.”
But in a 70-page opinion released on Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, concluded that Judge Weinstein’s view of the conspiracy was too narrow, and that it had continued to exist within five years of when the men were charged.
Although murders and other serious crimes that the men were accused of occurred in Brooklyn in the 1980s and 1990s, prosecutors used more recent and less serious charges — money laundering and narcotics distribution in Las Vegas in 2004 and 2005 — to bring the earlier acts under the umbrella of an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Judge Weinstein, in throwing out the men’s convictions, had found that the recent crimes were “singular, sporadic acts of criminality,” and could not be considered part of the earlier conspiracy, which included kidnapping, bribery and obstruction of justice. Because the older crimes dated back more than five years, the men, thus, could not be prosecuted for them.
“The government’s case against these defendants stretches federal racketeering and conspiracy law to the breaking point,” Judge Weinstein wrote.
Judge Weinstein had also decided that the earlier conspiracy ended when the two detectives retired and left the New York area and other co-conspirators were arrested.
But Judge Amalya L. Kearse, writing for the appellate panel, said Judge Weinstein’s views of the criminal enterprise were too restrictive, given the evidence presented at the trial.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
August 05, 2008
Feds Charge 11 in Massive Identity Theft Scheme
The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it had charged 11 people in the theft of tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers of customers shopping at major retailers, including TJX Companies, in one of the largest reported identity-theft incidents on record.
The United States Attorney in Boston said those charged were involved in the theft of more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers.
TJX, of Framingham, Mass., which owns the Marshall’s and TJ Maxx chains, was the hardest hit by the ring, acknowledging in March 2007 that information from 45.7 million credit cards was stolen from its computers.
The charges focus on three people from the United States, three from the Ukraine, two from China, one from Estonia and one from Belarus.
The authorities said that the scheme was spearheaded by a Miami man named Albert Gonzalez, who hacked into the computer systems of retailers including TJX, BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21 and DSW Inc. The numbers were then stored on computer servers in the United States and Eastern Europe.
They then sold the information to people in the United States and Europe, who used it to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars at a time from automated teller machines, the authorities said.
“This case clearly shows how strokes on a keyboard with a criminal purpose can have costly results,” Michael Sullivan, the United States attorney in Boston, said in a statement. “Consumers, companies and governments from around the world must further develop ways to protect our sensitive personal and business information.”
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
Gotti Back in Court
John A. Gotti has been charged with conspiracy for his role in a sprawling cocaine trafficking operation and in three mob-related killings in 1980s and ’90s, the United States attorney’s office in Tampa, Fla., announced on Tuesday.
Mr. Gotti, 44, who headed the Gambino crime family for a time, was arrested at his home in Oyster Bay, N.Y., early Tuesday morning on the federal racketeering and murder conspiracy charges, and was expected to be arraigned in Manhattan federal court.
Five others suspects were also charged in the wide-ranging racketeering indictments, Assistant United States Attorney Robert O’Neill said at a news conference in Tampa. He said all five — identified as John A. Burke, James V. Cadicamo, David D’Arpino, Michael D. Finnerty, and Guy T. Peden — were members of the Gambino organization.
Mr. O’Neill said the alleged criminal acts involved “the Gambino crime family reaching out to the Tampa Bay area,” and that the investigation had ranged widely, including work by federal investigators in New York, New Jersey, Miami and Philadelphia as well as Tampa.
If convicted, Mr. Gotti and the five others could be sentenced to life in prison.
Mr. Gotti has been prosecuted four times before on charges related to organized crime; he pleaded guilty in the first case but contested the later charges, resulting in three mistrials.
In New York, a lawyer for Mr. Gotti, Seth Ginsberg, said of the latest charges, “We’re confident that there is no strength to the allegations and that he will prevail once again.”
But Randy M. Mastro, a former deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani, said: “They’re old crimes, but the defense he used the last time — that he resigned from the mob — doesn’t work in this case. There’s no statute of limitations on murder.”
Mr. Ginsberg said that his client would probably be transported to Tampa quickly for arraignment.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
November 05, 2007
Police Arrest top Mafia Dons in Sicily Raid
From latimes.com: Police raided a summit of Mafia dons in Sicily on Monday, arresting a longtime fugitive authorities say was revitalizing Cosa Nostra's ties with U.S. mobsters and vying to become the crime syndicate's next "boss of bosses."
The capture of Salvatore Lo Piccolo after more than a decade on the run dealt another blow to the Sicilian Mafia, already weakened by several recent arrests, outmuscled by other underworld groups and facing an unprecedented challenge to the extortion racket that has been one of its main sources of income.
"It's a tough blow ... because they (the Lo Piccolo family) were in charge of restructuring the Mafia," said Francesco Forgione, head of Italy's anti-Mafia parliamentary commission.
Lo Piccolo, sentenced to life in prison for murder and on the run since 1993, was captured in a morning raid on a house in the countryside outside Sicily's capital, Palermo, police said.
Also arrested were Lo Piccolo's 32-year-old son Sandro -- another top Mafia figure sentenced to life in prison and wanted since 1998 -- as well as two men accused of being local bosses, both on Italy's list of 30 most-wanted fugitives, officials in Palermo said.
Investigators believe Lo Piccolo, 65, could have eventually emerged from a power struggle to be the Mafia's new "capo di tutti i capi" following the capture of top boss Bernardo Provenzano, the reputed No. 1 of the Cosa Nostra crime syndicate. Provenzano, who was on the run for more than 40 years, was arrested on a farm near Corleone, Sicily, in April 2006. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 11, 2007
Chicago Jury Finds All 5 Mobsters Guilty of Murder
From NPR.com: Jurors cap the 10-week trial of five reputed Chicago mobsters with five guilty verdicts. The numerous charges in the case were related to nearly 20 murders that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
February 12, 2007
LA Creates Gang List
From NPR.com: In Los Angeles, a new strategy of listing the city's worst gangs has created a stir among some of the gang-bangers who've been identified. But it remains to be seen whether the list will make a difference as Los Angeles authorities launch a major crackdown on gang violence.
Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]
October 24, 2006
FBI and Local Police Work Together to Stop Jewel Thieves
From USATODAY.com: FBI and local police are teaming up to combat a little noted but highly lucrative crime: robberies by gangs that target traveling jewelry and precious gem sales representatives.
Jewelry and gem salespersons reported 117 such robberies nationwide in the first nine months of this year, putting the industry on track for its lowest number of annual attacks since about 1990, according to a report by the industry group Jewelers' Security Alliance (JSA).
However, ripping off sales reps, who typically travel by car and carry hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods in small pieces of rolling luggage, remains a highly lucrative crime. The average theft this year has netted about $224,000. By contrast, the average bank robbery netted about $4,220 in 2004, the FBI estimated.
"It's a crime that's below the radar, and doesn't get nearly the attention of say, bank robbery," says John Kennedy, president of the JSA. "But in the past 10 years or so, it's become a fact of life for an industry where it had pretty much been unknown."
After 1999, when sales reps endured a record 323 robberies and more than $76 million in losses, the FBI began to partner with local police task forces in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami and other jewel theft hot spots. Using stakeouts, stings and other methods, they've helped boost arrests and lower dollar losses each year since 2000. Figures kept by the Jewelers' Security Alliance show local, state and federal arrests increased 25%, from 456 in 2003 to 570 in 2004. Those included crimes against retailers as well as sales reps. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
September 14, 2006
The "Crossed Legs" Strike: No Love for the Guns in Colombia
Guns or lovin'? That's the choice Colombian gang members are having thrust upon them in a united effort by their signficant others. It's the 'crossed legs' strike: drop all the guns or forget all the sex. From MSNBC.com: "After meeting with the mayor’s office in the Colombian city of Pereira to discuss a disarmament program, a group of women decided to deny their partners their conjugal rights and recorded a song for local radio to urge others to follow their example." More on the sex strike. . . [Michele Berry]
September 07, 2006
FBI to Crack 'Da Bernardo Code'
FBI code-breaking experts are helping Italian investigators to determine whether a Bible found on the Mafia’s "boss of bosses" Bernardo Provenzano, hides a secret code. Bernardo, who spent 43 years on the run, had underlined passages in his personal copy of the Bible that he was found with during his April arrest. Investigators believe that deciphering any encoded messages in these passages could hold the key to other encoded messages found at his rural hideout in Corleone, the Italian city made famous by the Godfather movies. Full story... [Michele Berry]
April 27, 2006
Organized Crime Via the Internet
Now OC gangs are targeting people in the comfort of their own homes--via the internet. [Mark Godsey]
April 11, 2006
Will Alleged Israeli Drug Kingpin Make $10 Million Bail?
U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, set a $10 million bail Tuesday for an alleged Israeli organized crime figure, Zeev Rosenstein, thought to be one of the world's biggest distributors of Ecstasy. Judge Torres set the bail amount over the objections of federal prosecutors, who said they were concerned that Rosenstein could easily make bail and flee the U.S. But Torres was concerned about allowing Rosenstein to be held without bail or even a detention hearing for such a lengthy time since his extradition from Israel in early March. More. . . [Mark Godsey]
Italy's Mafia "Boss of Bosses" Caught after 40 Years on the Lam
Bernardo "The Tractor" Provenzano, the undisputed chief of the Sicilian Mafia who had been on the run for more than four decades, was arrested on Tuesday while hiding in a farmhouse near Corleone in Sicily, (the city that inspired the family name in "The Godfather.") In the end, Provenzano was done in not by an informer or a rival gangster, but by a delivery of clean laundry. Police tracked the package to his hideout and closed in when they saw his hand peek out of the door to take it. Provenzano had escaped capture so often since going into hiding in 1963 that he earned a place in the Italian imagination as ''The Phantom of Corleone.'' Story here and here from NYTimes. [Mark Godsey]
April 02, 2006
Online Sale of Financial Information About Others
This post from BoingBoing is pretty scary: bulletin boards and other websites abound where private financial data, such as account numbers, is for sale.
March 19, 2006
Dan Ackman: Dispatches from a Mob Trial
Reporter Dan Ackman has a very interesting feature on Slate regarding the trial of two cops for acting as mob enforcers. [Jack Chin]
February 23, 2006
Genovese Indictments in New York
Story here. [Jack Chin]
January 19, 2006
Ch*ld P*rn Big Business
International organized crime is interested. Wall Street Journal story here. There are also international efforts to stamp it out. Meanwhile, a scandal is brewing in the UK about whether sex offenders should be allowed to teach school; it centers on a teacher who accepted a "police caution" for viewing child porn.
December 19, 2005
December 03, 2005
Mob Boss Acquitted in Racketeering Trial Found in Car Trunk
Story here. [Jack Chin]
November 02, 2005
Mafia Constitutes 3.4% of Italy's GDP
From People'sDailyOnline.com: "The Calabria-based mafia organisation made 36 billion euros (43.6 US dollars) last year, Italian media reported on Sunday. The report by Italian social research institute Eurispes said the criminal revenue in 2004 equalled 3.4 percent of Italian GDP. Drug trafficking was the organisation's most profitable business, generating 22.3 billion euros (26.7 billion dollars), Eurispes said.
Skimming off money from public works contracts and general business corruption were the next most lucrative activities, netting the group more than 4.7 billion euros (5.7 billion dollars). Prostitution and arms trafficking made the 'Ndrangheta an estimated 4.6 billion (5.6 billion dollars) while extortion and loan-sharking brought in 4.1 billion (4.9 billion dollars), the report said.
It stressed that the 'Ndrangheta's grip on the southern region was having a devastating social impact. The 'Ndrangheta is believed to have been responsible for the murder of an important local politician earlier this month. Franco Fortugno, deputy chairman of the regional "parliament", was gunned down on October 16 as he voted in centre-left primary elections in the town of Locri. The slaying shocked the country and fuelled fears that the ' Ndrangheta had become even more powerful and dangerous than the Sicilian Mafia, Italian media said. " [Mark Godsey]