Monday, July 28, 2014

Iraq Extradites Fugitive Defense Contractor to U.S. to Face Fraud Charges

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

A Las Vegas-based former Department of Defense contractor has been extradited from Iraq to the United States to face fraud and conspiracy charges for attempting to bribe U.S. officials in order to secure government contracts for his companies.   Metin Atilan, 54, is the first person extradited from Iraq to the United States pursuant to the U.S.-Iraq extradition treaty signed on June 7, 1934 and entered into force in 1936.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart of the Southern District of Ohio, Special Agent in Charge Kevin Cornelius of the FBI’s Cincinnati Office and Resident Agent in Charge Bret Flinn of the Defense Criminal Investigation Service (DCIS) made the announcement.

 “This historic extradition from Iraq to the United States is an example of our cooperation with law enforcement worldwide to bring fugitives to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. 

“Atilan’s return to the United States, after more than six years on the run, sends a clear message to fugitives: no matter where in the world you try to hide, we will find you, and we will prosecute you.”

“ This case is a tremendous example of a successfully organized and cooperative law enforcement effort put forth by the FBI, DCIS, Interpol and the Iraqi government,” said Special Agent in Charge Cornelius. “I commend the work of the FBI’s Legal Attaché  Office and the U.S. Embassy Country Team in Iraq. They have garnered a superior level of law enforcement cooperation between the FBI and Iraqi officials. Without their support, this extradition would not have been possible.”

Atilan, a dual U.S. and Turkish citizen, is scheduled to appear today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz of the Southern District of Ohio.

Atilan was charged by indictment on June 10, 2008, with conspiracy to engage in contract fraud, conspiracy to engage in wire fraud, and wire fraud.   According to court documents, Atilan is  president and chief executive officer of PMA Services Ltd. of Las Vegas and Kayteks Ltd. of Adna, Turkey.    

In 2006 through 2008, Atilan offered bribes and kickbacks in order to secure contracts for businesses he owned in connection with services and construction associated with U.S. military operations in Iraq.   Some of the Defense Department contracting officials who Atilan is accused of trying to bribe were stationed in Dayton at the time.

Atilan was first arrested in Las Vegas on May 23, 2008.  Atilan was placed on electronic monitoring pending his formal hearing before a federal judge in Dayton, Ohio.   On June 15, 2008, Atilan allegedly violated the terms of his pretrial release by cutting off his electronic bracelet and fleeing the country.   The government sought his extradition, and Atilan arrived in Dayton, Ohio on July 27, 2014.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the FBI and DCIS.   The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwight Keller of the Southern District of Ohio with assistance from Trial Attorney Dan E. Stigall of the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Department of Justice Attaché Ellen Endrizzi.   The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Member and Associate of Lucchese Organized Crime Family Convicted of Racketeering and Other Crimes

While I was in the hospital the U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

A member and an associate of the Lucchese organized crime family and two Texas brothers were convicted today of racketeering and other charges after a six-month trial.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman for the District of New Jersey made the announcement.

Nicodemo S. Scarfo, 49, of Galloway, N.J., a member of the Lucchese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (LCN) and Salvatore Pelullo, 47, of Philadelphia, an associate of the Lucchese and Philadelphia LCN families, were convicted of all the counts against them, including racketeering conspiracy and related offenses, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, extortion, money laundering and obstruction of justice.  Two other defendants, William and John Maxwell, were also convicted. Co-defendants David Adler, Gary McCarthy and Donald Manno were acquitted on all counts.

“Nicodemo Scarfo, Salvatore Pellulo and their cohorts used threats of physical and economic harm to take over a publicly-traded financial firm, then callously and systematically looted the company out of millions of dollars to buy luxury items for themselves,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.   “As a result of today’s guilty verdict, this mafia member and his conspirators now face substantial prison sentences.”

“Today, four people stand convicted  for giving new meaning to ‘corporate takeover’ – looting a publicly traded company to benefit their criminal enterprise,” U.S. Attorney
Fishman said.  “The defendants stole more than $12 million from shareholders through rampant self-dealing, fraudulent SEC filings and intimidation. The public should not have to worry that the interests of shareholders are being subverted to benefit organized crime or for other corrupt ends.”

The jury deliberated two weeks before delivering its verdicts following a six-month trial before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court.   The defendants were charged in an indictment returned in 2011 by a federal grand jury in Camden.  It named Nicodemo D. Scarfo (Scarfo Sr.) – Nicodemo S. Scarfo’s father and the imprisoned former boss of the Philadelphia LCN family – and Vittorio Amuso, the imprisoned boss of the Lucchese family, as conspirators.

Five other defendants – Cory Leshner, Howard Drossner, John Parisi, Todd Stark, and Scarfo’s wife, Lisa Murray-Scarfo – have previously pleaded guilty to various charges related to their roles in the criminal scheme.

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:

Scarfo is a made member of the Lucchese family, having become a member after an attempt on his life in 1989 following an internal struggle for control of the Philadelphia family.    In the mid-1990s, while Scarfo Sr. and Amuso were in federal prison in Atlanta, Ga., Amuso arranged for Scarfo to become a member of the Lucchese family as a favor to Scarfo Sr.  As a member of the Lucchese family, Scarfo was required to earn money and participate in the affairs of the Lucchese family.

In April 2007, Scarfo, Pelullo and others devised a scheme to take over FirstPlus Financial Group Inc. (FPFG), a publicly-held company in Texas.  Scarfo and Pelullo used threats of economic harm to intimidate and remove the prior management and board of directors of replaced those officers with individuals beholden to Scarfo and Pelullo, including William Maxwell, an attorney from Houston, Texas, and his brother, John Maxwell, of Irving, Texas, who acted as the company’s CEO.

Once the takeover was completed, the figurehead board named William Maxwell as “special counsel” to FPFG, a position that he used to funnel approximately $12 million to himself, Scarfo and Pelullo through fraudulent legal services and consulting agreements.  The agreements, as well as FPFG’s fraudulent acquisitions of companies controlled by Scarfo and Pelullo, were designed to mask the true identity and nature of the control exerted over FPFG and to conceal the source of the money fraudulently conveyed to Scarfo and Pelullo.

In a telephone call intercepted by law enforcement, Pelullo called Scarfo to tell him about the sudden death of a former FPFG executive.  This former executive had provided information to Pelullo and Maxwell that they used to extort control of FPFG.  At the time of his death, he was employed by FPFG as a member of its “compliance team.” During the conversation, Scarfo and Pelullo expressed relief regarding his death. After laughing about how he was “crushed” that “the rat is dead,” Pelullo acknowledged that the executive was “the only connection, the only tie to anything.”  Scarfo replied: “Oh boy.  Yeah, Sal, you wanna know something though?  That’s one that I know you can’t take credit for . . . [laughter] . . . and that’s the natural best thing.  You know what I mean?  That is so like Enron-ish.  You know what I mean?   Kenneth Lay, he bailed out and took a heart attack."

Scarfo and Pelullo used their illicit gains to fund extravagant purchases, including an $850,000 yacht for both defendants, a luxury home for Scarfo, a Bentley automobile for Pelullo, and thousands of dollars in jewelry for Scarfo’s wife.  As a direct result of the enterprise’s criminal activity, FPFG and its shareholders suffered a loss of at least $12 million.

Sentencing for Scarfo is scheduled for Oct. 22, 2014; for Pelullo, Oct. 21, 2014, and for both Maxwell brothers, Oct. 23, 2014.

This case was investigated by the FBI, Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.   The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Adam L. Small of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven D’Aguanno and Howard Wiener of the District of New Jersey’s Organized Crime/Gangs Unit.

General Dempsey Explains Danger Posed By Extremist Groups

Claudette Roulo at DoD News offers the below piece:

ASPEN, Colo., July 24, 2014 - It's important to recognize that the various religious extremist groups that threaten the United States do not share the same ideologies, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

"Some of them are opportunistic, some of them seek to establish a sense of political Islam and theocracy under sharia law, and some of them are apocalyptic, actually, meaning they have such a world view that it becomes of a magnitude that makes them, I think, especially dangerous," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum.

The group known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seeks a sense of religious legitimacy, he said. Its leaders believe they are the heirs to the Islamic caliphate that Muslims believe began with the prophet Muhammad. "They can only sustain that religious legitimacy if they continue to succeed," Dempsey said. "So this is not a group that can go halfway. It has to keep moving toward its ultimate end-of-days, apocalyptic narrative or it will lose support, because it loses religious legitimacy."

ISIS must be contained, then disrupted and, ultimately, defeated, the chairman said. "What makes it very hard is that ultimate defeat has to come from within the Sunni population," he said. Their defeat can be enabled and assisted by the United States, Dempsey said, but their end will come about only when moderate Sunnis of the region, and the world, reject them. The group is very dangerous, he said. "They will employ whatever tactics they have to employ," the chairman added, noting that they have succeeded through infiltration and misinformation and by preying upon a "youth bulge" and disenfranchised populations in parts of the world that aren't led by inclusive governments. "And then they just pop up one day, and you have to deal with them," Dempsey said. "

And you deal with them by either allowing them their way or suffering the consequences." The nation must take a long view in dealing with ISIL in particular, but also in dealing with many similar organizations that are filling voids where governments are absent or failing, the chairman said. "This isn't about us. ... This very much has to have the support of the government in Baghdad," he explained, adding that it remains to be seen whether the nation has a credible partner in the re-formed Iraqi government.

ISIL isn't a unified force in Iraq, Dempsey said, but rather is a syndicate of several disenfranchised Sunni groups willing to work with ISIL "because they're winning." "When you are disenfranchised and believing that the government in Baghdad will never be inclusive and never allow you to be part of the government, you'll back a winner until that winner is contained," the chairman said.

The collapse of the Iraqi military is representative of this disenfranchisement, he said. They were overcome because their soldiers concluded that their future did not lie with the government in Baghdad, Dempsey said. "Look, why do any of us in uniform stand and fight?" he asked. "You know, it's not just because were wear the uniform. We stand and fight because we believe in what we stand and fight for. ... If we were ever placed in a position where you didn't believe what you were fighting for, you know, you wouldn't see the kind of military you have in the United States today."

The problem of ISIL isn't isolated to Iraq, he said. The border between Iraq and Syria has ceased to exist, Dempsey explained. In addition, Turkey and the Kurds in northern Iraq are uniquely positioned to pressure ISIL, he noted. "It has to be a partnership, a coalition, and we have to build partners who can reject it from inside out," the chairman said. "

The immediate task is to determine whether Iraq has a political future, because if Iraq has a political future, then we will work through Iraq, among others, to deal with the ISIL threat," Dempsey said. "If Iraq does not have a political future as an inclusive unity government, then we're going to have to find other partners."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Famed Detective Randy Jurgensen Coming Back To The Big Screen

Ian Mohr at the New York Post offers a piece on former NYPD detective and filmmaker Randy Jurgensen returning to the big screen.

Legendary New York detective Randy Jurgensen — who was a consultant on “The French Connection” and “Donnie Brasco,” as well as the inspiration for Al Pacino’s character in the 1980 film “Cruising” — is coming back to the big screen, Page Six has learned.

Jurgensen’s 2006 book, “Circle of Six: The True Story of New York’s Most Notorious Cop Killer and the Cop Who Risked Everything to Catch Him,” about his investigation of the infamous Harlem mosque incident in 1972, has been adapted as a feature by veteran “Law & Order: SVU” writer Jonathan Greene.

Tod “Kip” Williams, whose credits include “Paranormal Activity 2,” will direct.

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

Note: I read Circle of Six and interviewed Randy Jurgensen a while back, but to my regret I put the Q & A on the back burner. I hope to post the interesting interview here in the near future.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Unpublished Elmore Leonard Stories Coming In 2015

Jennifer Schuessler at the New York Times offers a piece on an upcoming book of short stories by the late great crime writer Elmore Leonard.

Elmore Leonard may have died last August, but readers now have a book of new stories by the wisecracking, adverb-murdering grand old man of crime fiction to look forward to.
The British publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson has acquired 15 unpublished early stories, most written while Leonard was working as a copywriter at a Detroit advertising agency in the 1950s. The volume will be released in the fall of 2015, with HarperCollins publishing in the United States.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read my Crime Beat column on Elmore Leonard via the below link: 

James Garner RIP

I was hospitalized when the actor James Garner died, so I was unable to post anything about his life and death.

I've been a Garner fan since I was a kid watching Garner as Bret Maverick on television. I also loved Garner as Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files. 

Garner also starred in a number of good films, including The Americanization of Emily, The Great Escape, Support Your Local Sheriff, Up Periscope, Darby's Rangers and The Hour of the Gun. 

My favorite Garner film is the one where he portrayed one of my favorite characters, Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe.

Garner portrayed the wise-cracking, tough private detective in 1969's Marlowe.

I've written here before that I believe Garner is the actor who comes closest to Chandler's Philip Marlowe character.

Had the film been set in the proper period, the 1940s, instead of a contemporary setting, the film would have been near-perfect.

I read James Garner's interesting memoir The Garner Files a while back and I recomend the book to his many fans. 

Beyond The Screen: A Look Back At The James Bond Thriller "Licence To Kill"

MI6, the website devoted to Ian Fleming's iconic character James Bond, offers a look back at Cinemax's video on Licence To Kill.

American premium cable channel Cinemax focused on the new 007 adventure Licence To Kill in one of their 1989 episodes of 'Beyond The Screen' and aired the segment before broadcasts of The Living Daylights.
Director John Glen, who is mistakenly captioned in the video, boasts of Timothy Dalton's action prowess: "Most actors say they do their own stunts, but this guy really does his own stunts. He's a very thorough actor, and I think he's always a little uneasy when someone has to step in and impersonate him." Dalton himself is a little more coy: "If you believe it's me it's me. If you can see it's me it's me. The audience should quite simply believe that the man - the character - they're watching, James Bond, does them."  
You can watch the video via the below link:
Note: I think Timothy Dalton was the second best James Bond, behind the great Sean Connery, and I think License To Kill was a very good thriller. I also like Robert Davi as the bad guy in the film.  
You can read an earlier post on Dalton and License To Kill Kill via the below link: