Saturday, February 17, 2018

Defense Department Officials Highlight Work Of Special Operations Forces In House Hearing

Lisa Ferdinando at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2018 — The global successes of the U.S. Special Operations Command and the services’ special operations forces are due to their extraordinary people and the support from Congress, senior special operations officials told lawmakers yesterday on Capitol Hill.

Owen West, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told the House Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee that funding for Socom amounts to about 1.9 percent of the defense budget, enabling a presence in 90 countries.

"This capital expenditure fuels the current fight, but it must also result in long-term competitive advantage,” West told the House panel during a hearing on the fiscal year 2019 budget request for special operations forces and Socom.

‘Outsized Effects Around the Globe’

West and the Socom commander, Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, thanked Congress for its support through funding the command and approving authorities for operations.

Socom’s budget was $11.8 billion for fiscal year 2017, Thomas said. The projected budget for fiscal 2018 is $12.3 billion, he added, noting that the figure is projected to be $13.6 billion for fiscal 2019.

The support from Congress, West and Thomas said, has allowed special operations forces to make significant contributions, such as contributing to the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

"Special operations forces played an integral role as part of the joint force in the destruction of ISIS' physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq,” Thomas said. "We continue to have outsized effects around the globe, defeating our enemies, training, equipping and enabling our friends and allies, rapidly transforming the organization to be prepared for all future threats and caring for our fallen, wounded and ill and their families.”

Recruiting Members for Elite Forces

West said he and Thomas are partners in making the command a “more efficient enterprise that supports the National Defense Strategy and the secretary of defense.”

Explaining that only 30 percent of high school students are eligible for military service, West underscored the importance of exploring “unconventional techniques and new pools” to recruit the elite force of men and women.

"Today's battlefield has challenged the traditional definition of a combatant, successfully operating in the global contact layer demands that we build a diverse force,” he said. “The [special operations forces] entry standards are high, but America has always encouraged its pioneers." The most important capital investment is human, West said.

"The task is to remain unpredictable but expansive, pushing the competitive boundaries in ways our enemies do not expect," he added. "To sustain this expansion, we must be fiscally hawkish, reducing asymmetry by adopting a focus on return on investment."

‘Decisive Advantage’ in the People

Socom and the special operations forces are “relentlessly focused on winning our current fights and preparing for all future threats facing our nation," Thomas said. He told the subcommittee that members of the command and formations are better than they have ever been, thriving under pressure, executing the toughest missions and achieving success.

“Socom continues to enhance our role as part of the joint force in assuring allies and improving their capabilities in the face of aggressive regional hegemons, reinforcing host nation and law enforcement efforts in the Western Hemisphere in the defense of our national boundaries, and preparing for contingencies,” the general said.

The successes, he said, are directly attributable to “recruiting and training amazing Americans, outfitting with them with the best equipment and training in the world and empowering them with the requisite authorities to defeat our adversaries.”

Thomas said the people “continue to be the decisive advantage." He paid tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

"Success however has carried a high price,” he said. “In the past 10 months, we suffered the loss of 20 special operations personnel from our formation in combat, with 144 wounded and injured.”

Note: In the above Navy photo taken by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mat Murch East Coast-based Navy SEALs participate in a nighttime exercise during TRIDENT 17 on May 4, 2017 at the John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Department Of Justice Takes Action In Response To Broward County School Shooting

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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered his condolences and support for the people of Broward County, Florida yesterday.  He also ordered the Department of Justice to assist the victims of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as well as the state and local agencies that are leading the investigation.

The Attorney General offered the following statement:

“It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed. We see the tragic consequences of those failures.

“The FBI in conjunction with our state and local partners must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks. This is imperative, and we must do better. I have ordered the Deputy Attorney General to conduct an immediate review of our process here at the Department of Justice and FBI to ensure that we reach the highest level of prompt and effective response to indications of potential violence that come to us. This includes more than just an error review but also a review of how we respond. This will include possible consultation with family members, mental health officials, school officials, and local law enforcement.

“We will make this a top priority. It has never been more important to encourage every person in every community to spot the warning signs and alert law enforcement. Do not assume someone else will step up--all of us must be vigilant. Our children's lives depend on it.”

Following are some of the resources already deployed by the Department and available to assist with the state and local response:

The FBI has approximately 250 personnel working on this matter, including personnel in Miami and at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The FBI’s Evidence Response Team is assisting in evidence collection and analysis and providing technical assistance with phone and social media investigation.

The ATF dispatched 17 special agents from the Miami Field Division to assist at the scene, and these agents continue to support the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in follow-up investigation.

14 ATF agents from ATF’s West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce Field Offices were on stand-by to assist during the scene response, and are now supporting the follow-up investigation.

ATF completed an urgent trace of a recovered firearm through its National Tracing Center.

ATF assisted in ballistics analysis through its National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, conducted witness interviews, and canvassed area federal firearms licensees for information that may assist the investigation.

Numerous components of the Department have made their victim-witness coordinators available for victim and witness assistance as needed.

The U.S. Marshals Service has deployed eight personnel—four from the Florida/Caribbean Fugitive Task Force and four from the Southern District of Florida office.  Additional personnel were staged and remain ready to respond if needed.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg remains in contact with the state prosecutor and Broward County Sheriff’s Office leadership and has made all federal resources available as needed.

Three Assistant U.S. Attorneys are currently assisting with the investigation, and one is staffing the FBI Command Post.

Through the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program, the Office for Victims of Crime has funding available to support victim-assistance activities, such as crisis intervention and grief trauma counseling, and to reimburse victims for certain expenses related to the shooting.

The Office for Victims of Crime and the Bureau of Justice Assistance stand ready to assist the state and local authorities.

This list should not be considered exhaustive.  The Department of Justice will continue to do whatever it can to help the people of Florida at this difficult time.

Federal Judge Gives Deadlocked Jury Another Day To Decide Fate Of Reputed Philadelphia Crime Boss In New York

The New York Post is covering the federal racketeering trial of reputed Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss Joseph Merlino in New York.

Jurors at the Manhattan racketeering trial of reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino revealed they were deadlocked Thursday, but the judge said he’d keep them deliberating at least another day.

The jury foreperson sent out a note at 3:55 p.m. that read, “We the jury are unable to come to an unanimously (sic) decision on the four counts.”

“This was a two-ish-week trial. There were long days that were pretty dense. This has not been an inordinate amount of time to be deliberating,” he said.    

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

Grand Jury Indicts Thirteen Russian Individuals And Three Russian Companies For Scheme To Interfere In The United States Political System

The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the Internet,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed. The Department of Justice will continue to work cooperatively with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and with the Congress, to defend our nation against similar current and future schemes. I want to thank the federal agents and prosecutors working on this case for their exceptional service.”

According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. The other individual defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord Catering, and many subsidiaries and affiliates. The conspiracy was part of a larger operation called “Project Lakhta.” Project Lakhta included multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in multiple countries.  

Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of persons for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged in departments, including graphics, search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to focus on the U.S. population. In July 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project.

Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American political influence operations.

To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media. 

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.

After the election, the defendants allegedly staged rallies to support the President-elect while simultaneously staging rallies to protest his election. For example, the defendants organized one rally to support the President-elect and another rally to oppose him—both in New York, on the same day.

On September 13, 2017, soon after the news media reported that the Special Counsel’s Office was investigating evidence that Russian operatives had used social media to interfere in the 2016 election, one defendant allegedly wrote, “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity.... So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with my colleagues.”

The indictment includes eight criminal counts. Count One alleges a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, by all of the defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud the United States by impairing the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.

Count Two charges conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by Internet Research Agency and two individual defendants.

Counts Three through Eight charge aggravated identity theft by Internet Research Agency and four individuals.

There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.

Everyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court. At trial, prosecutors must introduce credible evidence that is sufficient to prove each defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, to the unanimous satisfaction of a jury of twelve citizens.

The Special Counsel's investigation is ongoing. There will be no comments from the Special Counsel at this time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

From The CIA With Love: Sex And Espionage, The Story of East German Spymaster Markus Wolf And Honey Traps

For Valentine’s Day the CIA released a piece on Romeo spies and honey traps in espionage history and the story of East German Stassi spymaster Markus Wolf (seen in the below photos).

You can read the piece below:

Long before the traditions of Valentine’s Day sprang forth, spymasters worldwide used the amorous arts to obtain secrets from their enemies. Known in the trade as “honey traps,” rivals ensnarled their adversaries in this game of love, lure, and lies. One of the best known seductresses was Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer convicted of spying for the Germans during WWI. She was accused of obtaining her intelligence by seducing prominent French politicians and officers. Just the mention of the word ‘temptress’ conjures up images of Cleopatra or Jezebel; rarely does it produce the image of Casanova. But men too have been used as honey traps to steal secrets.

After the end of World War II, the East German authorities constructed the Berlin Wall in 1961; dividing East Germany from West Germany. Neither side trusted the other and both were anxious to know what the other was conspiring. Because of the war, many women of marrying age had taken jobs in business, government, parliament, the military, and the intelligence services in West Germany, and they often had access to highly classified government secrets. With the shortage of eligible men—another consequence of the war—single West German women, eager for male companionship, became frequent targets for East German male spies who were only interested in them for one thing: secrets. These men from the East earned the nickname “Romeo Spies.”

The Man without a Face

Markus Wolf was the mastermind behind the East German Romeo Spies. Western officials referred to him as “the man without a face,” since they were unable to identify him for decades. Wolf was born in Germany but grew up in Moscow, where he learned the tradecraft of spying. He returned to Germany and at the age of 30 and became the chief of the foreign intelligence division of the Stasi, East Germany’s Ministry for State Security. His mission was to infiltrate West German political, military, and security institutions. His weapon of choice: men.

“Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?”

The idea of the Romeo spy developed out of practicality. Romeo spies were a cost-effective way to steal secrets. Wolf believed that one woman with the right access and motivation could provide more intelligence than 10 male diplomats. Of course, not just any man could be a Romeo spy. There was a rigorous screening process that weeded out 99 percent of the candidates. Of those chosen, most were between 25 and 35 years old, well educated, and had good old-fashioned manners, which many women found irresistible. The men selected for this program were trained in espionage and given false identities, typically of a deceased citizen or an immigrant. Then they were sent to West Germany with a specific espionage task to complete. Once there, they identified a potential “Juliet” who had access to the information they were after. They created a chance encounter, began an affair, and then propositioned the women to pass them secrets. 

Before being deployed to West Germany, however, Romeo spies were warned that they were prohibited from marrying their assets, even if they developed genuine feelings for them, which many of them did. The Romeo’s true identity and intentions would most likely be discovered: West German authorities conducted background investigations of anyone seeking marriage to an employee of the state who had access to classified material. Therefore, the Romeos had to insist that they were not the marrying type.


The women the Romeos picked were all West German citizens. Many of them had upper-middle-class backgrounds and strong personalities. The majority were employed by the government when they were approached by a Romeo. The men did their homework and knew the likes, dislikes, and vulnerabilities of a particular Juliet prior to setting up a chance encounter. Despite an advertising campaign by the West warning women of these Stasi tactics, many Juliets fell hard for the good-mannered, well-intentioned young men claiming to work for humanitarian organizations.

Initially, most of the women were naive about the true intentions of their Romeos; however, more often than not, as the relationship developed, Juliet began to suspect that her Romeo was working for the other side. Most women were not shocked when they were asked to spy for their men (although this proposition almost always took place in a neutral country, outside West Germany, just in case the Juliet wasn’t receptive and the Romeo needed a quick escape).

While there were many women who terminated the relationship when asked to spy, by this point in the relationship, some women had fallen in love and agreed to spy to keep their affairs going; some relationships lasted for decades. For those women who fell in love with their Romeos, their espionage careers ended when the affairs did. Occasionally a “replacement” Romeo would be deployed, but she would typically not accept him. These women spied for their one true Romeo, and when that relationship ended, so did the espionage.

Other women agreed to spy for love as well, but not for the love of a Romeo. These women fell in love with the excitement of espionage: their Romeos were just part of the process. In this case, these women often would accept a replacement Romeo if the first vanished for security reasons.

Bad Hair Day

From time to time, a Romeo would go missing, captured by the West. For years, the East could not figure out how the West was identifying their men. Turns out it was their haircut. The Romeos all had short and tight cuts, while the young men in the West grew their hair long. When Western counterintelligence officers spotted a man with a short “do,” they would follow the suspect and arrest the Romeo at his first wrong move.

Cupid Strikes

The Original Romeo: The very first Romeo—codenamed “Felix” by the East Germans—was an engineering student reluctant at first to abandon his studies for the pursuit of love, lies, and secrets. He was eventually persuaded and began work as a Romeo in the 1950s. He moved to West Germany, where he devised a plan to meet the ladies who worked at the chancellery. He hung around the bus stop, hoping to have a chance encounter with one of the secretaries. His plot was successful, and he struck up a relationship with a secretary the East Germans codenamed “Norma.” She fell for her Romeo and began passing him secrets from the chancellery. As fate would have it, Felix also fell for the secretary. They moved in together and began an affair that lasted for several years. Alas, their love was not to last. A mole let the East Germans know that Felix had fallen under suspicion. He was pulled East immediately. Norma came home one day after work to an empty apartment. She never learned his true identity or why he had disappeared without a trace.

The Rebound Romeo: Another unsuspecting Juliet, aged 32, met her Romeo in July 1977 on the banks of the Rhine River—it was love at first sight for the divorcee. Her Romeo was seven years her senior and played the part of a scientist employed by a research company devoted to world peace. The couple became engaged three months after meeting. This Juliet worked as a translator and interpreter at the American Embassy. She met her Romeo once a month and passed him thousands of secret documents, more than any other agent in her position. She was madly in love with him and never questioned him about what he did with the documents. Their relationship lasted for 12 years. In 1991, she and her Romeo were betrayed by a Stasi defector. Romeo later died when his car was hit by a train. In 1996, Juliet went on trial for espionage, during which she focused solely on finding out as much as she could about her true love, inquiring if he had, in fact, really loved her. She was given a two-year suspended sentence and fined. The presiding judge concluded her “blind adoration” for her Romeo had led her to spy.

The Super-Romeo: The East Germans referred to select Romeos as “Super-Romeos” for their conquests. One such man was an intelligent, attractive theater director. In 1961, he was sent to Paris, France, to approach an interpreter at NATO’s command center. Three other Romeos had tried and failed. The interpreter was a devoted Catholic who fell for Romeo number four, believing him to be a Danish military intelligence officer. She began passing him NATO secrets when he came to Paris to visit her. Eventually, though, her Catholic upbringing caught up with her, and she suffered from guilt about their affair and her espionage. She felt an overwhelming desire to confess her sins and to marry Romeo if their relationship was to continue. Romeo dodged the marriage requirement, blaming work. He did, however, arrange for an East German intelligence agent, disguised as a Danish-speaking Catholic priest, to hear her confession. Juliet confessed her sins to the “priest,” who absolved her from all wrongdoing and encouraged her to carry on spying with the blessings of the good Lord.

The Two-Timing Romeo: Some Romeos were lucky in love twice. Although not necessarily considered handsome, this Romeo was honest. He met his first Juliet in 1960 at the “secretaries’ sandpit” in Paris, so named by the East for the plethora of West German Government employees sent there to learn French. Romeo charmed his way into the heart of a 19-year-old secretary and revealed his true identity. Their relationship blossomed and continued for several years. At his suggestion, she transferred to the Bonn Foreign Office, where all telegrams from embassies abroad were deciphered. She would stuff the documents into her bag and walk out of the office to meet her Romeo.

Five years later, she was transferred to Warsaw, where the long distance wreaked havoc on their affair. She began drinking heavily and then confided in an undercover Bonn agent disguised as a West German journalist. The agent convinced her to confess her crimes. She did, but first she warned her Romeo, giving him time to flee to East Berlin. The secretary was tried for espionage and received a three-year sentence, shorter than the usual because she had cooperated, disclosing details of her work with the East.

Romeo escaped and was sent to the Black Sea in Bulgaria to recover. While there, he met a potential Juliet—codenamed Inge by the East. He invented a cover story and introduced himself and began an affair. Unfortunately for him, an article in the newspaper revealed his true identity in connection with his previous Juliet’s spying. He was forced to come clean to Inge. She also appreciated his honesty, and the relationship continued. Since Romeo was persona non grata in the West, Inge had to travel to East Berlin on weekends. The East paid for her to learn French and stenography, and she was then able to land a post in the chancellery, where for several years she passed information about the internal workings of the leadership. Inge had a reputation as a hard-working secretary among her colleagues. Little did they know, she was staying late at night to photocopy and microfilm documents.

Inge was in love with her Romeo and wanted to marry him, so the East Germans staged a marriage. The couple said their vows, exchanged rings, and signed the marital register. It wasn’t until her arrest in 1977 that she found out the wedding was a hoax. She was tried for espionage and sentenced to four years and three months in prison.

The High-Achieving Romeo: This Romeo managed to seduce the most highly placed woman in West Germany’s foreign intelligence agency. They met in East Germany where she was working on her doctoral thesis. He was disguised as a mechanic. They spent the summer together, after which Romeo revealed his true identity. Juliet was fascinated. She returned to West Germany but went east every three months to receive espionage training and to meet her Romeo. The couple became engaged. In 1973, she began working as a political analyst for the West’s foreign intelligence agency. When no one was looking, she would microfilm documents and conceal them in fake deodorant bottles. Initially, she hid these bottles in the toilet tanks of trains traveling from Munich into East Germany. This was later deemed too risky and ineffective, so she instead met a female go-between at a Munich swimming pool and passed the information between their changing rooms. Juliet was in love, but not with her Romeo. She had fallen for the excitement of espionage.

In early 1990, the East realized that unification between East and West was inevitable, so they destroyed all documentation of their assets. Unfortunately for Juliet, a senior officer betrayed her identity to secure immunity for himself. She was arrested in 1990 as she crossed the Germany-Austria border for a final meeting with her handlers.

“Stop in the Name of Love”

Forty women were prosecuted in West Germany over the course of four decades during the Cold War for committing espionage. They may have been victims of Cupid’s arrow, but they were not entirely innocent. However, many hearts were broken, including those of several Romeos who truly loved their Juliets. Several couples endured the charade, fell genuinely in love, and went on to marry and start new lives.

Markus Wolf fled to Moscow when Germany reunified. Three years later, he surrendered at a rural border crossing in Bavaria. He was sentenced to six years in prison for treason, but the conviction was overturned on the grounds that East Germany had been a sovereign state for which he had been entitled to spy. The same was true for the Romeos, who were never convicted, although several were apprehended by the West prior to unification

“The ends did not always justify the means we chose to employ,” Wolf wrote in his autobiography, “but, as long as there is espionage, there will be Romeos seducing unsuspecting Juliets with access to secrets. After all, I was running an intelligence service, not a lonely-hearts club."

Wolf died at the age of 83 on the 17th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Participate In A Violent Racketeering Enterprise

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

A Maryland gang member pleaded guilty today to his participation in a racketeering enterprise in furtherance of the activities of the gang known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including his participation in two conspiracies to commit murder.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning of the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks; Chief Douglas Holland of the Hyattsville Police Department; Chief Edward Hargis of the Frederick Police Department; Frederick County State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy made the announcement.

Selvin Raymundo Salazar, aka “Inquieto,” aka “Little,” 26, pleaded guilty before the Honorable Judge Peter J. Messitte in the District of Maryland to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise.  

“Selvin Raymundo Salazar and his MS-13 clique terrorized communities in Maryland by committing senseless acts of violence,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. “Today’s guilty plea makes plain the Department’s unwavering commitment to working with our federal, state, and local partners to use all lawful tools at our disposal to disrupt the significant threat that this violent and ruthless gang poses to our communities.”

“MS-13 is a transnational criminal organization that presents a direct public safety threat, not just to the Maryland-area communities we’ve been sworn to protect, but also to communities across the country,” said Special Agent in Charge Watson.  “Homeland Security Investigations is committed to investigating MS-13 criminal activities, collaborating with our local law-enforcement partners to crackdown on this international gang and ensuring that Maryland remains safeguarded from the violent crimes MS-13 commits.”

According to the plea agreement, MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador.  Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and Frederick County, Maryland.  MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence within the gang and against rival gangs.  One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible.

Pursuant to his plea agreement, Salazar admitted that from at least 2012 through at least 2014, he was a member and associate of the Normandie Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13.  Salazar admitted that on Feb. 28, 2013, and again on July 30, 2014, for the purpose of maintaining and increasing his position in MS-13, he and other MS-13 members conspired to murder victims that he and his co-conspirators had identified as chavalas.

Specifically, Salazar admitted that on Feb. 28, 2013, in the Lewisdale community of Prince George’s County, Maryland, he and members of the Sailors Locos Salvatrucha Westside clique of MS-13 traveled in a vehicle, searching for chavalas.  Salazar was armed with a .380 caliber handgun that belonged to the Normandie clique.  After observing an individual that he and his co-conspirators believed to be a chavala, a co-conspirator took the firearm from Salazar, and Salazar and a co-conspirator exited the car and approached the victim, who was standing with a companion.  Salazar’s co-conspirator took the handgun from Salazar and shot the victim as the victim’s companion ran away.  Salazar and his co-conspirator ran back to the vehicle and he and the occupants of the vehicle fled.  Salazar then returned the .380 caliber firearm to the Normandie clique.

Salazar further admitted that on July 30, 2014, in Hyattsville, Maryland, he and at least two other members or associates of the Normandie clique of MS-13 approached three victims.  According to Salazar, two of his co-defendants pulled out firearms and shot one of the victims  seven times, causing wounds to the victim’s upper torso, right arm and face.  The second victim sustained a gunshot wound to his right side.  Salazar further stated that, prior to the shooting, he and his co-conspirators had been informed by an associate of MS-13 that the victims were chavalas. 

Five of the shell casings recovered from the scene of the July 30, 2014 shooting were linked to fired casings recovered at other MS-13-related crime scenes, including the Feb. 28, 2013 shooting described above; a murder that took place in Hyattsville, Maryland on Nov. 11, 2012; and a shooting that took place in Laurel, Maryland on March 28, 2014.

Two of Salazar’s co-defendants remain charged in the third superseding indictment with various racketeering violations and multiple violent crimes, including murder.  The trial of one of the remaining defendants is scheduled to commence on Feb. 20.  An indictment is merely an allegation.  Those defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Salazar is scheduled to be sentenced on May 23.

HSI Baltimore, the Prince George’s County Police Department, the Frederick County Police Department, the Hyattsville City Police Department, the Montgomery County Police Department, and the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Francesca Liquori of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William D. Moomau and Lindsay Eyler Kaplan are prosecuting the case.

Not So Sweet: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Kelly Philips Erb at Forbes offers a piece on the not so romantic story of the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre.

Forget the wine and flowers, the real story of Valentine's Day is guns and blood.

In the late 1920s, the ban on booze, ushered in by the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1920, opened up opportunities for those willing to buck the establishment. The rise of bootlegging (the illegal manufacture and sale of alcohol) and speakeasies (illicit drinking establishments), as well as gambling and prostitution, proved lucrative for mobsters. And the biggest mobster of them all was Alphonse Gabriel Capone.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1899, Al Capone quickly became acquainted with street gangs. A middle school dropout, Capone worked odd jobs to make ends meet. When he turned 18, Capone's boyhood friend, Johnny Torrio, introduced Capone to Frankie Yale. Six years older than Capone, Yale gave Capone a job as a bouncer and bartender at one of the brothels he owned. While at work, Capone got into a fight with a patron (reportedly over a pretty girl) and was slashed across the face three times with a knife, earning him the nickname "Scarface."

… Witnesses saw four men enter the garage: two of the men were dressed as police officers. The "officers" ordered Moran's gang to line up against the wall where they were hit with a spray of machine-gun and shotgun bullets: 70 rounds of ammo were fired. All seven men inside died - most of them immediately. One of the victims, Frank Gusenberg, survived long enough to allegedly tell police, "No one shot me."

Moran escaped the slaughter. When he heard about it, he remarked, "Only Capone kills like that." Capone retorted, "The only man who kills like that is Bugs Moran."

No one was ever charged with the murders. After the shootings, the FBI dubbed Capone "Public Enemy Number One," a label Capone reportedly hated.

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

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