Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Former Honduran Congressman Tony Hernández Convicted Of Conspiring To Import Cocaine Into The United States And Related Firearms And False-Statements Offenses

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released the below information:
NEW YORK - On October 18, DEA Special Operations Division Special Agent in Charge Wendy C. Woolcock and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman announced that a jury returned a guilty verdict against Juan Antonio Hernández Alvarado, aka “Tony Hernández,” on all four counts in the superseding indictment, which included cocaine importation, weapons and false-statements offenses. Hernández is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020.
“This conviction serves as a warning to all those who traffic illegal drugs into our country with complete disregard for human life,” said Special Agent in Charge Woolcock. “The United States will not tolerate any individual or organization that seeks to gain profit through violence and corruption. The DEA will continue to stand with its partners to pursue justice regardless of social status. No one is exempt from being held accountable for predatory criminal activity.”
“Former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez was involved in all stages of the trafficking through Honduras of multi-ton loads of cocaine that were destined for the U.S.,” said U.S. Attorney Berman. “Hernandez bribed law enforcement officials to protect drug shipments, solicited large bribes from major drug traffickers and arranged machinegun-toting security for cocaine shipments. Today, Hernandez stands convicted of his crimes and faces the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.”
Hernández is a former member of the National Congress of Honduras, the brother of the current President of Honduras and a large-scale drug trafficker who worked with other drug traffickers in, among other places, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico, to import cocaine into the United States. From at least in or about 2004, up to and including in or about 2018, Hernández helped process, receive, transport and distribute multi-ton loads of cocaine that arrived in Honduras via planes, helicopters and go-fast vessels. Hernández controlled cocaine laboratories in Honduras and Colombia, at which some of his cocaine was stamped with the symbol “TH” for “Tony Hernández.”
Hernández also coordinated and, at times, participated in providing heavily armed security for cocaine shipments transported within Honduras, including by members of the Honduran National Police and drug traffickers armed with machineguns and other weapons.  Hernández also used members of the Honduran National Police to coordinate the drug-related murder of Franklin Arita in 2011, and he used drug-trafficking associates to murder a drug worker known as “Chino” in 2013. In connection with these activities, Hernández participated in the importation of almost 200,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. 
Hernández made millions of dollars through his cocaine trafficking, and he funneled millions of dollars of drug proceeds to National Party campaigns to impact Honduran presidential elections in 2009, 2013 and 2017. Between 2010 and at least 2013, one of Hernández’s principal co-conspirators was former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, aka “Chapo.” During that period, Hernández helped Guzmán Loera with numerous large cocaine shipments and delivered a $1 million bribe from Guzmán Loera to Hernández’s brother in connection with the 2013 national elections in Honduras.    
Hernández, 42, was convicted on four counts:  (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum prison term of life; (2) using and carrying machine guns during, and possessing machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a mandatory consecutive prison term of 30 years; (3) conspiring to use and carry machine guns during, and to possess machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a maximum prison term of life; and (4) making false statements to federal agents, which carries a maximum prison term of five years.
This case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda L. Houle, Jason A. Richman, Matthew J. Laroche and Emil J. Bove III are in charge of the prosecution.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Fight Over Literature: My Washington Times Review Of 'Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged The Literary Cold War'

The Washington Times published my review of Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged the Literary Cold War.

When one thinks of the Cold War — the era when the two world superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were adversaries from the end of World War II in 1945 to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 — perhaps one thinks of Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall, spy vs. spy dramas, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the arms race or Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev stating, “We will bury you.”

But in addition to the conflict between spies, soldiers and statesmen, there was another conflict that took place during the Cold War: The fight over literature.

“Between February and May 1955, a group secretly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency launched a secret weapon into Communist territory. Gathering at launch sites in West Germany, operatives inflated 10-foot balloons, armed them their payload, waited for favorable winds and launched them into Poland.

“They then watched as the balloons were carried deep behind the Iron Curtain, where they would eventually disgorge their contents. These, though, were not explosives or incendiary weapons: they were books,” Duncan White writes in the opening of his book, “Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged the Literary Cold War.”

“At the height of the Cold War, the CIA made copies of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” rain down from the Communist sky.”

“Cold Warriors is the story of the writers who dealt with the consequences of having literature become a Cold War battleground. 

… Authors around the world were involved in the Cold War conflict, Mr. White explains. “They led double lives as spies, volunteered in foreign wars, engaged in guerrilla insurgencies, churned out propaganda, exposed official hypocrisy, and risked their lives to write books that defied the Cold War consensus.”

Mr. White calls his book a group biography that traces the interconnected lives and works of writers on both sides of the Iron Curtain. And the cast of characters is impressive: Graham Greene, John le Carre, Stephen Spender, Ernest Hemingway and others. Some of the writers were leftists whom the Soviets called “useful idiots,” while others, like George Orwell, condemned the Soviet Union’s evil empire.

Mr. White also covers the courageous Russian writers, like Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who defied the all-powerful Soviet regime to write great literature that did not conform with Soviet ideas. The book also covers British spy and traitor Kim Philby, who didn’t write fiction, Mr. White says, he lived it.

I was surprised that the book did not cover thriller writer Ian Fleming more. As a young reporter for Reuters in 1933, he covered the Metro-Vickers espionage trial of British engineers in the Soviet Union. Later, after serving as a naval intelligence officer in World War II, he became the London Sunday Times’ foreign manager and several of his foreign correspondents also reported to British intelligence. And in addition to taking on international criminals, Ian Fleming’s James Bond character battled Soviet spies and assassins. For many readers, James Bond was the ultimate fictional Cold Warrior.

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


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Chinese National Sentenced To 40 Months In Prison For Conspiring To Illegally Export Military And Space-Grade Technology From The United States To China

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
On October 16, 2019, United States District Judge Diane J. Humetewa sentenced Tao Li, a 39-year-old Chinese national, to 40 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.  Li had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to export military- and space-grade technology to the People’s Republic of China without a license in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. 
“This case is one of many involving illegal attempts to take U.S. technology to China.  Li attempted to procure highly sensitive U.S. military technology in violation of our export control laws.  Such laws are in place to protect our national security, and the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce them,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers. “We don’t take these crimes lightly and we will continue to pursue them.”
“If you steal our military and space technology, you should expect to go to prison,” said Michael Bailey, United States Attorney for the District of Arizona. “But for the diligent work of HSI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, our nation’s security would’ve been damaged by Mr. Li.”
“Li’s sentencing was the result of a highly successful joint investigative effort with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that prevented U.S. military technology from falling into the wrong hands,” said Bryan D. Denny, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Western Field Office.  “It also reaffirms our commitment to protecting America from this type of activity and, equally so, serves as a warning to those intent on illegally exporting our technologies that the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and its partners will pursue these crimes relentlessly.”
“This sentence is well deserved and further demonstrates the lengths of criminal activity by those who seek to engage in illegally obtaining sophisticated materials,” said Scott Brown, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Phoenix. “One of HSI’s top priorities is preventing U.S. military products and sensitive technology from falling into the hands of those who might seek to harm America or its interests. We will continue to aggressively pursue violators wherever they may be.” 
Between December 2016 and January 2018, Li worked with other individuals in China to purchase radiation-hardened power amplifiers and supervisory circuits and illegally export them from the United States to China.  The electronic components sought by Li are capable of withstanding significant levels of radiation and extreme heat, and as a result, are primarily used for military and space applications.  Due to the technological capabilities of the electronic components sought by Li and the significant contribution that the components could make to a foreign country’s military and space programs, both parts required an export license from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, prior to being sent out of the United States. Notwithstanding the licensing requirement, the Department of Commerce has a policy of denial to export these types of electronic components to the People’s Republic of China.
Between December 2016 and January 2018, Li, who resided in China, used multiple aliases to contact individuals in the United States, including representatives of United States-based private companies, to try to obtain the electronic components. Additionally, Li and his coconspirators agreed to pay a “risk fee” to illegally export the electronic components to China.  In furtherance of his request, Li wired money from a bank account in China to a bank account in Arizona.  Li was arrested in September 2018 at Los Angeles International Airport, as Li attempted to travel from China to Arizona to meet with one of the undercover agents. 
The investigation in this case was conducted by HSI and DCIS.  The prosecution was handled by Todd M. Allison and David Pimsner, Assistant United States Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix, with assistance from Scott Claffee, Trial Attorney, Department of Justice National Security Division.

Did 'Hill Street Blues' Rip Off Ed McBain's 87th Precinct Series? A Tragicomic Tale Of Stolen Set-Ups, Threatened Lawsuits, Bruised Egos, Stalled Adaptations, And Besieged Productions

I began to read and enjoy Ed McBain's 87th Precinct crime novels when I was a teenager in the 1960s. I also read and enjoyed his other crime novels, such as A Matter of Conviction. Ed McBain's  novel about New York street gangs was made into one of my favorite films from the 1960s, The Young Savages, which starred Burt Lancaster and Telly Salvalas. 

(Ed McBain is seen in the above photo).

I also read his literary novels, such as The Blackboard Jungle, written under his name Evan Hunter, which he legally changed from his name at birth, Salvatore Lombino. He died in 2005.

Paul Abbott at CrimeReads.com offers a piece on Ed McBain’s belief that the TV series Hill Street Blues ripped off his 87th Precinct series.    

Nothing, as they say, comes from nothing; largely authors and creators are quick to acknowledge, if not the direct influences on their work, then at least the traditions from which their output has emerged. Evan Hunter was proud of his work, boastful about it on occasion, but as Ed McBain he was happy to acknowledge the debt the 87th Precinct series paid to such things as the radio version of Dragnet, for example. 

The 87th Precinct books, and in particular the stories from the first two decades of the near fifty-year lifespan of the series, helped to shape the notion of what a police procedural series could be. What McBain did most successfully was demonstrate that much of policing was based on luck as well as and that all the tedious day-to-day matters that the job entailed couldn’t be avoided. In fact, he reveled in them, reproducing forms, reports, autopsy findings and laws as photostats in the books. Had this detailed quasi-fictional procedural nature been the only unique feature of the books, then they may not have become as successful as they did, but McBain’s coup de grace was to portray his cops as interesting and unique individuals struggling with not only their lives and relationships at work, but often at home as well. It is ironic that even with this winning formula, the 87th Precinct series was never effectively adapted for the screen, or at least not to McBain’s liking. Even worse, when police procedural shows really hit big in the early eighties, it was with a television show set in an unnamed city, starring an Italian-American cop as lead character, and focused on day-to-day procedure balanced against the relationships and lives of the cops in the squadroom. This was Hill Street Blues, still one of the best thought-of and most loved of all police television shows. Evan Hunter was livid.

“No of course they didn’t consult me,” the author told The Guardian newspaper in 1990, “if you come in to steal my jewels, you don’t say ‘May I come in tonight through the window please?’” Hunter’s first response to the appearance of this new show was to put a call in to his lawyer. He was told he had a case, but it would probably cost at least $500,000 dollars to fight it. He couldn’t afford to take the legal risk and instead took the opportunity to make his feelings known in interviews, and even out of the mouths of his characters in the 87th Precinct stories themselves. 

In his contemporaneous novel from 1984, Lightning, McBain dedicates three pages to venting his spleen. Everyone’s favorite bigot, Fat Ollie Weeks, is livid that an episode of Hill Street Blues has featured a character called Charlie Weeks, himself an out-an-out racist. Ollie goes on to outline all the similarities between the 87th Squad and Hill Street Blues and explains that he considered suing the TV company but that it’d, “prolly cost me a fortune.” It’s a fascinating insight into the author’s mindset as characters in a book, based in a fictional city, discuss fictional portrayals of cops in a fictional city. The layers of reality become quite blurry.

Hunter’s first response to the appearance of this new show was to put a call in to his lawyer. He was told he had a case, but it would probably cost at least $500,000 dollars to fight it.

Evan Hunter’s fury at Furillo and his Hill Street Friends might have been more tempered had he not himself been engaged in writing a new 87th Precinct television pilot himself at the time. “I knew we were dead in the water,” he told Bill Slocum in the New York Times. Furthermore, had any of the other attempts to bring the 87th Precinct to screens, large or small, been successful, then maybe Hunter would have looked the other way. As it was, even by 1981 there had been a string of attempts at rendering the 87th Precinct tales on screen but none of them had satisfied their creator.

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


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ship Of Fear: The American Aircraft Carrier

The Navy Times offers a piece on aircraft carriers by Geoffrey Norman.

The sight of an aircraft carrier up close, even at dockside, linked to land by umbilicals, is overwhelming — more than 1,000 feet long, displacing 100,000 tons, 30 stories tall from waterline to the ship’s island. 

The sense of power is undeniable. Each of the 90 planes operating from its deck carries a heavier bomb load than the largest bomber of World War II (not counting nuclear bombs).

It takes no imagination to appreciate the sense of impotence a carrier can instill in a hostile power. Nobody wants a piece of this monster.

The carrier is the ultimate refinement of a weapon evolving from oar-powered galleys to wooden vessels that carried acres of sail and three decks of iron cannons to steel-hulled dreadnoughts that fired guns at ranges requiring corrections for the curvature of the earth.

No other warship can launch supersonic aircraft against targets hundreds of miles away, recover them and launch them again, over and over. Capable of making 800 miles a day, it can quickly project power across the globe.

And the carrier is a particularly American man-of-war. 

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


Note: The top photo is of the USS Ronald Reagan. The above photo is of my old ship, the USS Kitty Hawk, circa 1971. 

On This Day In History Notorious Chicago Gangster Al Capone Went To Prison

As History.com notes, on this day in 1931 Chicago gangster Al Capone went to prison.

On October 17, 1931, gangster Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000, signaling the downfall of one of the most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s.

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


You can also read my Crime Beat column on Get Capone via the below link:  


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Take No Prisoners: My Washington Times Piece On Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez Wanting To Abolish Prisons

The Washington Times published my piece on Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to abolish prisons.

The FBI recently confirmed that Samuel Little, 79, is the most prolific serial killer in American history. Little has confessed thus far to strangling 93 women between 1970 and 2005.

Crime analysts at the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) confirmed that Little has been matched to 50 cases, with many more cases pending final confirmation.

I thought of Samuel Little as I was reading about the tweets on prison abolition put out by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who previously called for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Mass incarceration is our American reality. It is a system whose logic evolved from the same lineage as Jim Crow, American apartheid, & slavery,” the congresswoman tweeted to her many followers “To end it, we have to change. That means we need to have a real conversation about decarceration & prison abolition in this country.”

Decarceration? Prison abolition? Really?

“People tend to say, “what do you do with all the violent people?” as a defense for incarcerating millions,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted later. “A cage is a cage. And humans don’t belong in them.”

Well, yes, Congresswoman. What would we do with Samuel Little and the other violent prisoners, as well as the many thieves and cheats who are thankfully locked up where they can’t victimize more innocent people, if we were to abolish prisons? 

… So Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s comments on prison abolition made me think of Mark Twain. 

“Suppose you were an idiot,” Mark Twain said famously in 1891. “And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

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