Monday, March 27, 2017

Long-Time Bonanno Crime Family Member Indicted For Arson; Six Others Indicted For Violent Crimes

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

BROOKLYN, NY – Two indictments were unsealed this morning in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging seven defendants variously with arson, bank robbery, Hobbs Act robberies and firearms offenses based, in part, on their participation in the criminal affairs of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the Bonanno family).[1]  The defendants – Vincent Asaro, John J. Gotti, Michael Guidici, Matthew Rullan, also known as “Fat Matt,” Christopher Boothby, also known as “Bald Chris,” Matthew Hattley, also known as “Mack,” and Darren Elliott – were arrested earlier today. 

The seven defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann, at the United States Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.  The cases have been assigned to United States District Judge Allyne R. Ross.

The charges and arrests were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).

“The defendants are charged with committing an assortment of violent crimes – arson to exact punishment for a perceived slight and robberies to unjustly enrich themselves.  This Office and its partners will continue to vigilantly pursue such organized violence and stop it in its tracks,” said Acting United States Attorney Rohde.  Ms. Rohde thanked the Queens District Attorney’s Office, the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and the Nassau County Police Department’s Major Case Bureau and Robbery Squad for their assistance in the investigations.

“A man well-known in organized crime circles allegedly got cut off in traffic, and exacted his revenge by sending his associates to allegedly torch the victim’s car.  The FBI refuses to allow acts like arson, bank robbery and home invasions to be conducted as business as usual, as if it is just another day in the office.  The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively go after those who refuse to follow the laws and prey upon the law-abiding public,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.


As alleged in the government’s court filings, Asaro was inducted into the Bonanno family more than 30 years ago and has previously held the position of captain.  In early April 2012, Asaro was traveling in a car in Howard Beach when he became enraged at another motorist who had switched lanes in front of Asaro at a traffic light.  Asaro chased the other vehicle at a high rate of speed.  Later, after obtaining the home address of the owner of the other vehicle, Asaro directed an associate of the Bonanno family (“Associate-1”) to set fire to that vehicle.  Associate-1 then recruited Gotti and Rullan to help him carry out the arson.

As further alleged, Associate-1, Gotti and Rullan drove in Gotti’s Jaguar sedan to a service station in the pre-dawn hours of April 4, 2012 where they filled a container with gasoline and proceeded to the residence of the owner of the other vehicle.  Associate-1 doused the vehicle with gasoline, and Rullan ignited it.  An NYPD police officer in an unmarked car observed the crime in progress and pursued the Jaguar on a high-speed chase through the streets of Queens until he terminated the pursuit for safety reasons due to Gotti’s reckless driving.

The following day, Associate-1 told Asaro about the arson, and Asaro drove to the auto body shop where the burned vehicle had been towed to confirm that his order had been carried out.

Bank Robbery

Two weeks after the vehicle arson, Gotti, Rullan, and Guidici allegedly robbed the Maspeth Federal Savings and Loan Association.  On April 18, 2012 at approximately 5:45 p.m., Guidici entered the bank and handed the teller a note demanding money and stating, among other things, “I HAVE A BOMB[.]”  The teller placed $5,491 on the counter, which Guidici took.  Guidici then joined Gotti and Rullan who were waiting outside the bank in a car.  The three defendants then fled the scene together.

Home Invasion Robbery

Boothby, an associate of the Bonanno family, and Hattley are charged with robbing a residence in Queens on March 12, 2014.  Boothby remained outside the home as a lookout while Hattley and another Bonanno associate (“Associate-2”) tied up the homeowner’s girlfriend (“Jane Doe”).  The defendants then stole more than $50,000 in cash and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry, including high-end designer watches and a Cartier ring from Jane Doe’s finger, among other items.

Jewelry Store Robbery and Attempts

Hattley and Elliott are charged with the gunpoint robbery of a jewelry store in Franklin Square, Long Island, making off with approximately $250,000 in merchandise, and the attempted robberies of two other jewelry stores, also in Franklin Square, between August 17, 2011 and May 5, 2012.  The jewelry store owners were menaced with guns and tied up.

All of the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on the robbery, attempted robbery, arson and arson conspiracy charges.  In addition, Asaro, Gotti and Rullan each face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment if convicted of the arson-related charges and Hattley and Elliot face a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment if convicted of the firearms charges.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime & Gangs Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole M. Argentieri, Lindsay K. Gerdes, Keith D. Edelman, and Alicyn L. Cooley are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendants:

Age: 82
Queens, NY

Age: 23
Queens, NY

Age: 22
Queens, NY

MATTHEW RULLAN, a.k.a. “Fat Matt”
Age: 26
Queens, NY

CHRISTOPHER BOOTHBY, a.k.a. “Bald Chris”
Age: 37
Queens, NY

Age: 30
Queens, NY

MATTHEW HATTLEY, a.k.a. “Mack”
Age: 26
Queens, NY

E.D.N.Y. Docket Nos. 17-CR-00127 (RRM) and 17-CR-00128 (ARR)

[1] The charges contained in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Look Back At South Philly Southpaw Boxer Lew Tendler's Restaurant: Now This Was A Philly Sports Bar

Frank Fitzpatrick’s column in the Philadelphia Inquirer offers a look back at Lew Tendler’s Restaurant, where sports figures, newspapermen and mobsters used to hang out together.

When the sirloins were thick and rare, the whiskey cheap and plentiful, the wise guys brash and colorful, Lew Tendler's Restaurant was, as the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign over its bar proclaimed, "The Quaker City's Sporting Hub."

"Sports bar" is now a tired marketing concept, one connoting a place where young males gather to ogle big-screen TVs, memorabilia, and waitresses dressed as scantily as the house salad.

Tendler's was so much more.

"It was the kind of place you can't find in Philadelphia any more," Gabe Oppenheim wrote in a 2015 Pennsylvania Gazette piece, "a pub where mobsters, athletes and writers gathered."

Between its 1933 opening - 71 days before Prohibition's repeal - and its closing 37 years later, the ornate establishment at Broad and Locust was home base for Philly's leading sports figures as well as the Runyonesque barflies who buzzed around them.

In fact, Damon Runyon himself, the newspaperman who immortalized New York's touts and hustlers, drank at Tendler's whenever he was in town. Most of Philadelphia's sportswriters, including Red Smith when he worked at the Record, haunted the place, as did visiting scribes such as Jimmy Cannon and Dan Parker. On any given day, you might find journalists; baseball and basketball players; boxers; jockeys; NFL owners; mobsters; and an assortment of quirky gamblers with names like Mugsy, Cappy, Frisco Legs, Oysters, Blinky, and Sassy Doc.

… But the real action was boxing. In the late 1940s, two large TVs were installed and the bar was packed on fight nights. When, in September 1952, Rocky Marciano challenged heavyweight champ Joe Wolcott at Municipal Stadium, hundreds of sportswriters and bookies made Tendler's their pre-fight headquarters.

And, according to a Marciano biography, one of the Brockton Bomber's uncles, Pete Piccento, was able to place $40,000 in bets that week at Tendler's.

Organized crime ran boxing then. According to Oppenheim, mobster Blinky Palermo once asked Sugar Ray Robinson - at Tendler's - to throw a fight. Though Robinson had no choice but to agree, he instead knocked out his opponent.

"It was an accident," Robinson later told Palermo at the bar. "I just happened to catch him with a hook."

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

U.S. Strike Kills High-Profile Terrorist Leader

The Defense Department released the below information:

The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed that a U.S. counter-terrorism airstrike conducted March 19 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, resulted in the death of Qari Yasin, a well-known al Qaida terrorist leader responsible for the deaths of dozens of innocent victims, including two American service members.

Yasin, a senior terrorist figure from Balochistan, Pakistan, had ties to Tehrik-e Taliban and had plotted multiple al Qaida terror attacks, including the Sept. 20, 2008, bombing on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens of innocent people, among them U.S. Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez and Navy Cryptologic Technician Third Class Petty Officer Matthew J. O’Bryant.

Yasin was also responsible for the 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed and six members of the team injured.

"The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice," said Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

CEO, CFO, And Company Convicted Of A $180 Million Scheme To Defraud, Launder Money, And Obstruct Justice

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Eastern Pennsylvania released the below information regarding the conviction of a former Defense contractor:

PHILADELPHIA – Dean Volkes, 53, and Donna Fallon, 52, of Long Island, NY, and Devos Ltd., doing business as Guaranteed Returns, located in Long Island, were convicted Wednesday on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and false statements, announced Acting United States Attorney Louis Lappen. Volkes and Fallon face substantial sentences of incarceration, as well as a three-year period of supervised release. All three defendants face a possible fine and mandatory payment of full restitution. For Volkes and Guaranteed Returns, restitution is anticipated to be approximately $180 million. Additionally, the jury today ordered defendant Dean Volkes to forfeit bank accounts totaling $127 million.

Volkes was the President, Chief Executive Officer, and sole owner of Guaranteed Returns, a reverse pharmaceutical distributor located in Holbrook, New York. Fallon, who is Volkes’ sister, was the company’s Chief Financial Officer. As a reverse distributor, Guaranteed Returns managed the returns of pharmaceutical products for healthcare providers, including numerous hospitals, pharmacies, and long-term care facilities, as well as Department of Defense facilities. Pharmaceutical manufacturers often allow expired drugs to be returned for a refund. Guaranteed Returns handled this process for healthcare provider clients in exchange for a fee based on a percentage of the return value.

The evidence at trial proved that from approximately 1999 through 2014, Guaranteed Returns promised its clients that it would hold their “indate” (not yet expired) drug products until they expired, and then return them on the clients’ behalf, in exchange for a fee. Instead, Guaranteed Returns, at CEO Volkes’ direction, stole indated drug products that it received from its clients, returned the drugs to manufacturers, and kept the refund money. Volkes created a system in which he classified clients as either “managed” or “unmanaged.” The company returned the indated product that it received from all of its clients. For customers that Volkes designated “unmanaged,” however, Guaranteed Returns kept the full value of the returned product for itself. The evidence demonstrated that through this fraud, Volkes and Guaranteed Returns stole more than $180 million from over 13,000 clients, including more than $20 million from numerous medical treatment facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.

The evidence also showed that Volkes, Fallon, and Guaranteed Returns stole clients’ refund money by diverting a percentage of the refunds into internal company accounts. In fall 2010, Volkes caused the company’s IT staff to write a computer program that allowed Guaranteed Returns to skim a portion of clients’ refund money from both expired and indated products through a computerized accounting adjustment. The CFO, Donna Fallon, then implemented this program over a dozen times, resulting in the theft of approximately $500,000 in just five months.

The jury also found that Volkes, Fallon, and Guaranteed Returns had conspired to launder the proceeds of the fraud. Specifically, the evidence showed that when the defendants returned drugs to the respective manufacturers for refunds, they intentionally combined drugs that had been stolen with drugs that had not been stolen. Consequently, as the defendants knew and intended, the payments that the manufacturers made to the wholesalers would comprise commingled funds – i.e., refunds for drugs that the defendants had stolen from clients, which refunds the defendants intended to keep and did keep for themselves, were commingled with refunds for drugs that were not stolen and that would be forwarded to clients as the defendants were required to do. Afterward, the defendants transferred millions of dollars in commingled funds through the company’s accounts to accounts controlled by Volkes.

Finally, the evidence at trial showed that the defendants obstructed justice in connection with a grand jury investigation. As part of an unrelated investigation, a grand jury subpoena had been served on Guaranteed Returns, requiring the production of various records. In March 2010, Volkes met with his IT department and instructed them to delete data called for by the subpoena and then to obtain a wiping program to ensure that deleted data could not be forensically recovered, which they did. Volkes then directed the head of the company’s IT department to falsely inform federal investigators that this deletion was part of a routine data purge, which he also did. In the same timeframe, March 2010, Fallon concealed from the investigators that in January 2010 she had received the computer hard drives of two former employees whose emails and documents were covered by the subpoena. The investigators discovered Fallon’s concealment and false statements when the hard drives were found locked in a cabinet in Fallon’s office during a judicially-authorized search of the company’s office in April 2011, during which the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Defense Criminal Investigative Service seized almost 30 servers, over 20 computers, and hundreds of boxes of documents.

“The defendants and their company betrayed the trust of their numerous clients through a complex fraud scheme that cheated these victims of $180 million,” said Lappen. “The verdict in this case, which is the culmination of years of work, makes clear that this office and its many law enforcement partners will continue to devote substantial resource to prosecute large scale health care fraud and hold these dishonest businesses and their officers accountable.”

“This long-running scheme appears fueled by sheer greed,” said Michael Harpster, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “The defendants’ boldness is really something to behold: doing business under the company name ‘Guaranteed Returns,’ while merrily pocketing refunds due to clients – among them, the U.S. government.”

The case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Philadelphia office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nancy Rue and Patrick J. Murray.

DEA: Top Hizballah Terror Financier Arrested - Kassim Tajideen Is A Specially Designated Terrorist Charged With Evading U.S. Sanctions

The DEA released the below information:

WASHINGTON – DEA and other federal officials today announced the arrest of Kassim Tajideen, a prominent financial supporter of the Hizballah terror organization. Tajideen is charged with evading U.S. sanctions imposed on him because of his financial support of Hizballah.

Tajideen, 62, of Beirut, Lebanon, was arrested overseas on March 12, 2017, based on an 11-count indictment unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia following his arrival to the United States. Tajideen made his initial court appearance today before Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather. Tajideen pleaded not guilty and was ordered held pending a detention hearing set for March 29.

The arrest and indictment are the result of a two-year investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and assisted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The effort is part of DEA’s Project Cassandra, which targets Hizballah’s global criminal support network – dubbed by the DEA as the Business Affairs Component (BAC) that operates as a logistics, procurement and financing arm for Hizaballah.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan of the Special Operations Division, and CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan made the announcement.

“Kassim Tajideen posed a direct threat to safety and stability around the world,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Donovan. “A prominent money man for Hizballah, Tajideen acted as a key source of funds for their global terror network. DEA and our partners are unrelenting in our pursuit of the world’s most dangerous terror and criminal networks and their many facilitators who threaten the rule of law and innocent lives.”

“Because of his support for Hizballah, a major international terrorist group, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Kassim Tajideen in 2009 that barred him from doing business with U.S. individuals and companies,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco.  “Those sanctions are a powerful tool in our efforts to combat terrorists and those who would support them.  Indeed, the sanctions posed such a significant threat to Tajideen’s extensive business interests that he allegedly went to great lengths to evade them by hiding his identity from the U.S. entities he did business with, and from the government agencies responsible for enforcing the sanctions.  Thanks to the diligent work of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, we broke through the web of intermediaries Tajideen allegedly used to conceal his involvement, and he has been brought to the United States to face justice.”

“Kassim Tajideen is alleged to have willfully flouted U.S. sanctions that were based on his prior support for Hizballah, a designated foreign terrorist organization,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security McCord. “Those sanctions are designed to protect our national security and public safety by limiting terrorists’ access to resources, and this extradition sends a clear message that we are resolved to find and hold accountable those who violate these laws.”

“The investigation of this case and the arrest and extradition of this defendant demonstrates our commitment to enforcing vitally important sanctions laws that are in place to protect our national security and foreign policy interests,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “Because of the hard work of law enforcement here and abroad, Kassim Tajideen will now face charges in an American courtroom.”

The indictment charges Tajideen with one count of willfully conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, seven counts of unlawful transactions with a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. The indictment also indicates that the government will seek a forfeiture money judgment against the defendants equal to the value of any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to these offenses.

According to the indictment, Tajideen allegedly presided over a multi-billion-dollar commodity distribution business that operates primarily in the Middle East and Africa through a web of vertically integrated companies, partnerships, and trade names.  The indictment further alleges that Tajideen and others engaged in an elaborate scheme to engage in business with U.S. companies while concealing Tajideen’s involvement in those transactions.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control named Tajideen a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on May 27, 2009.  This designation prohibits U.S. companies from transacting unlicensed business with Tajideen or any companies which are operated for his benefit – in essence stripping Tajideen’s global business empire of its ability to legally acquire goods from, or wire money into, the United States.  However, the indictment alleges that Tajideen restructured his business empire after the designation in order to evade the sanctions and continue conducting transactions with U.S. entities.  Tajideen and others are alleged to have created new trade names and to have misrepresented his ownership in certain entities in order to conceal Tajideen’s association.  The scheme allowed Tajideen’s companies to continue to illegally transact business directly with unwitting U.S. vendors, as well as to continue utilizing the U.S. financial and freight transportation systems to conduct wire transfers and move shipping containers despite the sanctions against Tajideen.

According to the indictment, between approximately July of 2013 until the present day, the conspirators illegally completed at least 47 individual wire transfers, totaling over approximately $27 million, to parties in the United States.  During the same time period, the conspirators caused dozens of illegal shipments of goods to leave U.S. ports for the benefit of Tajideen, without obtaining the proper licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This investigation was carried out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the DEA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center Counter-Network Division, with assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas A. Gillice and Deborah Curtis and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline L. Barkett of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Joseph Palazzo from the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.

Participating investigative agencies in DEA’s Project Cassandra include the DEA’s New Jersey Field Division and Special Operations Division and various DEA country offices, as well as the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. 

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.