Friday, March 24, 2017

From Smiling Kent Schoolboy To Murdering Jihadi: Police Release Mugshot Of Westminster Terrorist

The British newspaper the Daily Mail published the mugshot of the London terrorist and a story of how he became radicalized.

This is the first picture of the Westminster ISIS-inspired jihadi Khalid Masood as an adult in a police mugshot released by Scotland Yard today.

Masood was a career criminal with a string of convictions for violent crimes and weapons offences who was jailed twice and radicalized behind bars.

The Met released his picture as part of a public appeal for information as officers try to find out if the ISIS-inspired extremist was acting alone or helped by a wider terror network in Britain.

You can read the rest of the piece and see more photos via the below link:

My Q&A With Nelson DeMille, Author Of 'The Lion's Game' And 'The Panther'

The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International published my Q&A with Nelson DeMille, the author of The Lion's Game, The Panther and other crime, espionage and terrorism thrillers.

You can read the interview via the below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

My Piece On The 'Fat Leonard' U.S. Navy Bribery And Fraud Case

The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International published my piece on the 'Fat Leonard' U.S. Navy bribery and fraud case and scandal.

You can read the piece below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Philadelphia District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams Indicted On Bribery And Extortion Charges - Also Charged With Defrauding Nursing Home, Family Friends

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey released the below information:

PHILADELPHIA – A federal grand jury today returned a 23-count indictment charging Philadelphia District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams with bribery, extortion, and honest services wire fraud in connection with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of concealed bribes that he received from two business owners in exchange for his agreement to perform official acts. The indictment also charges Williams with defrauding a nursing home and family friends of money earmarked for a family member’s care.

The charges were announced today by Acting New Jersey U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick, along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster, Philadelphia Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Floyd of IRS-Criminal Investigation, Philadelphia Office; and Special Agent in Charge Marlon V. Miller of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia.

Williams, 50, of Philadelphia, is charged with 10 counts of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery contrary to Pennsylvania law (the “Travel Act counts”), two counts of Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, five counts of honest services wire fraud, and six counts of wire fraud. He will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on a date to be determined.

“The indictment alleges that as District Attorney, Mr. Williams compromised himself and his elected office by standing ready to help those who were willing to pay him with money, trips, and cars,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said. “Mr. Williams’ alleged willingness to compromise his position of public trust in exchange for private financial gain is all the more unfortunate given that he was elected to protect the interests of the people of Philadelphia as their chief law enforcement officer.”

“The alleged misconduct, as specifically laid out in this indictment, is brazen and wide-ranging, as is the idea that a District Attorney would so cavalierly trade on elected office for financial gain,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Harpster said. “The immense authority vested to law enforcement has to be kept in check, and that requires decision-makers and leaders with a steady ethical compass. When elected or appointed officials stray from their sworn oaths, they must be held accountable. Combating public corruption remains the FBI's top criminal priority."

According to the indictment:

From July 2010 to July 2015, Williams solicited and accepted a stream of bribes from two business owners in exchange for Williams performing and agreeing to perform official acts for the business owners and their associates. In order to conceal these illegal arrangements, Williams filed false and misleading personal financial statements for the years 2012 through 2015, which intentionally omitted references to the valuable items that Williams received from the business owners during those years. After Williams learned of the federal investigation, he amended those financial disclosure statements to list many of the items listed in the indictment, excluding a pre-owned 1997 Jaguar he received in June 2013.

The Unlawful Arrangement with Business Owner #1

From July 2010 through May 2015, Williams allegedly solicited and accepted a number of valuable items from an individual identified in the indictment as “Business Owner #1,” including an all-inclusive vacation to Punta Cana worth $6,381, a custom sofa worth $3,212, a $502 dinner at a Philadelphia restaurant, a $7,000 check, approximately $2,000 in cash, a Louis Vuitton tie worth $205, an iPad worth approximately $300, a Burberry watch, and a Burberry purse for Williams’ girlfriend.

In exchange, Williams agreed to help Business Owner #1 with security screenings when Business Owner #1 returned from foreign travel. On numerous occasions, Williams contacted a Philadelphia police official in order to pressure and advise the police official to assist Business Owner #1 with those border encounters. On March 15, 2013, Williams met with the police official and Business Owner #1 and asked the police official to help Business Owner #1 avoid secondary screening. That same day, Williams accepted a $7,000 check from Business Owner #1. Williams also repeatedly offered to write an official letter, under his authority as the District Attorney, on behalf of Business Owner #1 to pressure and advise the police official to assist Business Owner #1 with the border encounters.

Williams agreed to assist with criminal charges brought by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office against Business Owner #1’s associate, an individual identified in the indictment as “Person #1.” Between Feb. 1, 2012, and Feb. 5, 2012 – while on the Punta Cana vacation paid for by Business Owner #1 – Business Owner #1 asked Williams to help with Person #1’s charges, and Williams agreed. On Feb. 8, 2012, just days after returning from Punta Cana, Williams received a text message from Business Owner #1 listing the docket number and hearing date for Person #1’s case. The text message stated that Person #1 would “take any punishment” but “just doesn’t wanna do jail!” Williams responded with a text message stating: “I will look into it.” Moments later, Williams asked about a second anticipated trip to Punta Cana paid for by Business Owner #1 and stated “I am merely a thankful beggar and don’t want to overstep my bounds in asking...but we will gladly go.”

When Business Owner #1 sent a text message in September 2012 again asking Williams to assist Person #1, Williams responded with text messages saying, among other things, “It seems like he has the possibility of having it thrown out or continued ... if it gets continued I will then ask for the file and see what can be done to make it a county sentence...”

The Unlawful Arrangement with Business Owner #2

From March 2012 through July 2015, Williams solicited and accepted from a Philadelphia bar owner identified in the indictment as “Business Owner #2” approximately 16 round-trip airline tickets to Florida, San Diego, and Las Vegas for himself, his girlfriend and members of his family. Williams also solicited and accepted from Business Owner #2 a 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible and at least $900 in cash.

In return for the benefits that he received from Business Owner #2, Williams appointed Business Owner #2 as Special Advisor to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office in November 2012, including issuing an official badge, writing an official letter of appointment, and giving certain assignments to Business Owner #2 as Special Advisor. At the time, Business Owner #2 was on federal probation resulting from a June 2010 federal tax conviction.

In May 2013, Business Owner #2 requested that Williams write an official letter, as the Philadelphia District Attorney, acknowledging Business Owner #2’s appointment as Special Advisor to his office. On May 10, 2013, Williams provided the letter to Business Owner #2. In June 2013, Williams accepted the Jaguar from Business Owner #2.

On June 2, 2014, Williams issued a second official letter to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in order to influence a then-pending hearing to revoke or suspend Business Owner #2’s California liquor license.

In July 2015, Williams obtained a police accident report at Business Owner #2’s request. During this time, Williams sent text messages to Business Owner #2 saying, among other things, “I wish I could help more,” “Can I be a greeter or celebrity bartender to work off my debt…?” and “…I was serious about just doing whatever I can to help you guys!”

The Fraud on the Nursing Home and Family Friends

From February 2012 through November 2013, Williams allegedly diverted a relative’s pension and Social Security payments to pay for his own personal expenses instead of applying them to the relative’s nursing home costs, as was his obligation under agreements with the nursing home. Williams also falsely told a nursing home employee his relative spent the pension and Social Security payments. In addition, after accepting $10,000 from friends of his relative intended to cover expenses for the relative’s nursing home care, Williams spent the money on his personal expenses instead.

“Rooting out public corruption remains one of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s highest priorities,” IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Floyd said. “Today’s indictment underscores our commitment to work in a collaborative effort to promote honest and ethical government at all levels and to prosecute those who allegedly violated the public’s trust.”

“Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice public officials who betray the trust of the community by engaging in unscrupulous behavior,” Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia, said. “The public places an enormous amount of trust in elected officers, as such, they should be held accountable to a higher standard of conduct. HSI is pleased with the results of this criminal investigation and the collaborative efforts between our agency and our counterparts at the FBI and IRS.”

Each of the Travel Act counts is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right and the wire fraud charges are punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Each count carries a potential fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of a total of $54,466, representing the sum of $34,146 worth of bribe proceeds and $20,320 worth of fraud proceeds.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Harpster; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Floyd; and special agents of the HSI Philadelphia, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Miller, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment. He also thanked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio, for its participation in the investigation.

The U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recused his office from the investigation involving the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the matter was assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. Two prosecutors from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania office were assigned to the case, subject to the supervision of prosecutors in the New Jersey office.

The government is represented by Deputy Chief Eric W. Moran of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Chief of Appeals Robert A. Zauzmer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On This Day In History Western Novelist Louis L'Amour Was Born

As notes, on this day in 1908 Louis L’Amour, author of Hondo, How the West Was Won and other classic western novels, was born.

He died at age 80 in 1988.

You can read about the late author and his work via the below link:

You can also visit the Louis L'Amour website via the below link:

‘Untalented’ Crime Writers Respond To Their No 1 Critic: 13 Thriller Writers Take William O’Rourke To Task For Dismissing Them And Their Readers

Martin Doyle at the Irish Times offers the response of 13 crime writers who take issue with a professor who claimed crime novelists had a “fatal lack of talent.”

Last Friday, William O’Rourke, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, came to The Irish Times to praise his former protégé Michael Collins and, almost as an aside, to bury the entire crime fiction genre. Cause of death? “Fatal lack of talent.”

“Michael [Collins] has too much talent to succeed as a crime writer,” wrote O’Rourke. “He doesn’t possess the fatal lack of talent required. America really doesn’t possess enough of a literary culture anymore to maintain a writer like Michael.”

Retribution by crime writers on social media was swift. Think the denouement to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Ian Rankin, bestselling author of the Rebus series, tweeted: “One needs a ‘lack of talent’ to be a crime writer. Nice...” Melanie McGrath reacted: “WTAF? Had to read this twice before I could take it in. After which I just laughed like a drain. Claire McGowan’s response was perhaps the best: “Someone needs to produce an anthology called ‘A Fatal Lack of Talent’.”

A piece I saw recently, which described crime fiction as fast food in contrast to the nourishment provided by literary fiction, was similar: an unprovoked attack.

The canard that crime fiction is inherently inferior to “serious literature” should be a dead duck by now. American literary critic Leslie Fiedler’s 1969 essay Cross the Border – Close the Gap was one of the first to challenge and fill in the perceived gap between “high art” and “popular art” or “pulp fiction”. But every now and then, an attempt like this is made to reopen the rift and sometimes 140 characters is not sufficient to tease out an issue. So I asked some of the finest Irish and international criminal minds, or crime writers at any rate, to respond in detail to O’Rourke’s dismissal of their genre, quoted here in full.

… John Banville: Lack of talent? Georges Simenon; Margery Allingham; Raymond Chandler; Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark; James M Cain; Dashiell Hammett; Ngaio Marsh; Jim Thompson; Edmund Crispin . . . and that’s only a handful of the dead ones. I rest my case.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

FBI: Craigslist Robbers - California-Based Thieves Targeted Big-Money Items And Sellers

The FBI released the below report:

For the high-end jewelry sellers on the popular online classifieds site Craigslist, it must have seemed like their ship had come in: A prospective buyer in California offered not only their asking price but would fly them into town and have a limo waiting.

“The individual would think they were going to the jewelry store to meet with the actual buyer,” said Special Agent Darin Heideman, who works out of the Oakland Resident Agency of the FBI’s San Francisco Division, “when in fact, a co-conspirator would take them to a predetermined location, assault them, and then basically rob them of all their items.”

The crew of robbers, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is estimated to have stolen more than $500,000 in jewelry from victims who traveled from more than six states between November 2012 and December 2013. Five men were charged in 2014 in connection with the violent robberies during which, among other items, a $90,000 Cartier watch, a $14,000 Rolex watch, and a $19,000 engagement ring were stolen. The last member of the crew to be sentenced, Michael Anthony Martin, 42, of Tracy, California, was handed a term last December of 30 years in prison.

The case illustrates how the FBI and police work together on cases that may at first appear to be local or isolated, but on closer investigation can span multiple jurisdictions. In this case, a Bay Area detective’s efforts to solve a “snatch-and-grab” robbery at a Fremont, California coffee shop ultimately led him to more than 20 similar robberies of victims from as far away as Wisconsin and Florida. Fremont Police Department Det. Michael Gebhardt’s legwork also uncovered the scheme’s mastermind: a prison inmate who personally called Craigslist targets—purporting to be a successful record producer—and assigned his co-conspirators to carry out the plans.

“It’s definitely a tale of something that started small and just mushroomed into this massive investigation,” said Gebhardt.

It all started in 2012 with the brazen robbery of a Bay Area man who was selling his watch. The seller and the purported buyer, both local, arranged to meet in Fremont in a public place—a coffee shop. “As they are talking, the potential buyer just grabs the Rolex and takes off running,” Gebhardt said.

“It’s definitely a tale of something that started small and just mushroomed into this massive investigation.”

Video surveillance and the so-called buyer’s cell phone number turned up an identity that police were able to link to two more robberies in Bay Area cities. In each case, the victims were selling Rolex watches and the prospective buyers grabbed the goods and ran. “The M.O. [modus operandi] is the same,” Gebhardt recalled thinking. “He’s targeting people on Craigslist for Rolexes.”

Two months later, the detective received word that police in Oakland were investigating five similar robberies, including one they witnessed firsthand during a separate investigation. Oakland police officers arrested three men, who it turned out were associates of the watch thief Gebhardt was investigating for the 2012 coffee shop heist. With some digging, Gebhardt learned his subject was taking directions from his father, an inmate at the California Men’s Colony state prison. The father was using a number of relatives, including his son and a cousin in Texas, to lure prospective Craigslist sellers with flights and limos and then have co-conspirators rob them once they were captive.

For the sellers, it might have seemed a safe bet when prospective buyers offered plane tickets and limos. “That’s exactly what they want,” said FBI Special Agent Paul Healy, who also worked the case out of Oakland. “They’re being told everything’s being taken care of.”

Heideman said it was a relatively small investment for the robbers. “You have to think—what does a plane ticket cost? Probably $400 to $500. A limo is going to cost a couple hundred bucks,” he said. “If you're traveling with a $30,000 diamond, that’s just a drop in the bucket to what they are going to steal. They were able to build these personas and build trust where there should not have been trust.”

Gebhardt learned of a Wisconsin woman who flew to St. Louis to sell the $19,000 diamond ring she had listed on Craigslist but ended up getting robbed instead. When Gebhardt saw a picture of the suspect, he recognized it was the same guy he’d been trying to run down—the son of the prison inmate. Still other cases—from Florida, Oregon, and Colorado—started to point back to the same prime suspects and associates.

“So we needed one big agency to basically be able to charge this thing,” Gebhardt said. The detective called the FBI, and agents from the Oakland Resident Agency helped set up a sting. They posted an ad on Craigslist hoping to attract the attention of the robbery crew’s leader in prison. And it worked.

“He calls me from prison and we set up a deal to sell my Rolex to him,” Gebhart said. “I would be flying in from Texas to the Oakland airport. He would have a driver pick me up.”

As that plan was coming to fruition, the FBI discovered that another Craigslist seller from Los Angeles was to arrive—with his Rolex—in Oakland on the same day.

“Obviously we couldn't let him get robbed, but we also didn’t want to tip him off because we didn't want him to call the guy that was going to rob him,” said Heideman. So the investigators posed as Craigslist buyers, contacted the seller in L.A., and outbid the robbery crew. They met him in a bank parking lot in Oakland. “We basically pulled him aside and said, ‘Here’s what you were about to walk into,’” Gebhardt said. “He was obviously relieved.”

“They were able to build these personas and build trust where there should not have been trust.”
Special Agent Darin Heideman, FBI Oakland Resident Agency

Meanwhile, on the same day of the sting in Oakland—December 16, 2013—two other simultaneous operations took down the robbery crew’s mastermind in prison and arrested his son, who was in hiding in Alabama.

The arrests led to federal indictments in 2014 against five defendants who have since received sentences ranging from 41 months to 30 years. The father, who cooperated with investigators, was given an addition seven years in prison for his role.

Looking back, the robbery crew was so prolific and violent they had no choice but to expand beyond their local area, agents said. Even limo drivers stopped working with them. “They would literally wear out a jurisdiction,” said Healy. “So they would go 40 miles away—or 400 miles away—to another town to do it.”

Tips for Staying Safe

The Craigslist website offers tips on personal safety when meeting someone for the first time. The site states, “With billions of human interactions, the incidence of violent crime related to craigslist is extremely low.”

Among the personal safety tips:

Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe, bank, or shopping center.
Do not meet in a secluded place or invite strangers into your home.
Be especially careful buying/selling high-value items.
Tell a friend or family member where you're going.
Take your cell phone along if you have one.
Consider having a friend accompany you.
Trust your instincts.

Meanwhile, some jurisdictions have moved to create “Safe Lots” for exchanging items from online classifieds. Det. Gebhardt says his department suggests on social media that if people are going to meet, they should meet in their local police department’s parking lot.

“If somebody says, ‘I don't want to meet there,’ then that’s probably a red flag about the person you’re meeting,” he said.