Saturday, June 15, 2019

Is Shaft The Black James Bond?

In my Crime Beat column back in 2015 I noted that a remake of the film Shaft was in the works. 

The black private detective character was originally portrayed in the 1971 film by a black actor, Richard Roundtree, and by another black actor, Samuel L. Jackson, in a 2000 remake.

Should a white actor, I asked in my column, now be cast as John Shaft in the newest remake?


No more ridiculous that a black actor portraying James Bond. 

Well, the new Shaft film has finally been made and released and a black actor, Samuel L. Jackson (seen in the above photo), is back as John Shaft. 

And in the film a character calls Shaft “the Black James Bond.”

I rest my case. 

You can read my Crime Beat column on a black James Bond via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times piece on a female James Bond via the below link: 

Pennsylvania Woman Charged With Fraud For Perpetrating “Grandparents Scheme”

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

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that Yahaira Diaz, 33, of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, was charged by Information with aggravated identity theft, mail fraud, and access device fraud.  The charges against the defendant stem from her participation in what has been popularly dubbed the “Grandparents Scheme”, a type of elder financial abuse.  The charges come one day in advance of “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day” on June 15, 2019.
As alleged in the Information, the scheme operated as follows: an individual called an elderly victim posing as the grandchild of the victim, or posing as an attorney representing the grandchild. The caller claimed that the grandchild was in a vehicular accident and was arrested for driving under the influence (or some type of legal trouble). The caller then said that the grandchild needed money for bail or legal representation, and persuaded the victim to send thousands of dollars in cash via overnight delivery service to an address where the schemers retrieved the package. The schemers then continued to call the victim and demand more money until the victim realized that he or she had been defrauded and stopped sending money.
In those telephone calls, to further convince the grandparents to send cash, the co-schemers described the grandchild’s situation as increasingly serious: claiming that the grandchild had been arrested for driving under the influence; that a pregnant woman was involved in the accident; that the pregnant woman and her unborn child were injured or killed; that the grandchild would not be released from prison without additional funds; and that legal and other fees were mounting.
Diaz allegedly played a leadership role in this scheme, which she and her co-schemers perpetrated in Allentown and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. For example, she identified and arranged for access to residential locations where her co-schemers instructed victims to send the fraud proceeds. Diaz recruited and controlled additional participants in the scheme who allowed her to use their residences for the receipt of proceeds, and who helped retrieve the packages and shared the proceeds with other co-schemers.
Diaz engaged in numerous incidents of the Grandparents Scheme as well as credit card fraud, which is also charged in the Information. In the Grandparents Scheme, Diaz and her co-schemers defrauded at least 10 elderly victims of at least $158,800 and attempted to defraud those victims of at least an additional $69,000. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 72 years in prison, including a mandatory minimum term of two years in prison.
“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and schemes like the ‘Grandparent Scheme’ are particularly heinous because they prey on a senior’s love for their family,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting our seniors from fraud, and my Office will continue to prioritize prosecuting criminals who prey on our elderly residents.”
“Trying to scam strangers out of money is criminal,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Specifically targeting elderly victims because you figure they're easy marks is cruel. The FBI will never stop working to shut down elder fraud schemes like this to protect older folks and help them hang on to their hard-earned money.” 
“Crimes like these against our elderly citizens are taken very seriously by law enforcement. The Bethlehem Police Department, working with its Federal partners, will investigate, arrest and prosecute individuals involved in criminal scams like these ‘Grandparent Scams,” said Mark DiLuzio, Chief of Police, Bethlehem Police Department. “As Chief, I would like to personally thank U.S. Attorney McSwain and his Office, the FBI, U.S. Postal inspectors, the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office and Bethlehem Police Detectives who all worked collectively and brought this person and her partners to justice. On behalf of all elderly citizens in the City of Bethlehem, thank you!”  
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Service, the Bethlehem Police Department, and the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office, and is being prosecuted by Deputy United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The Department of Justice is committed to combating elder fraud. The Department’s historic 2018 and 2019 Elder Fraud Sweeps collectively brought criminal and civil actions against more than 500 defendants responsible for defrauding more than $1.5 billion from at least 3 million victims.
The Department of Justice also provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office of Victims of Crime (OVC), which has announced a new competitive solicitation addressing enhanced multidisciplinary teams for older victims of abuse and financial exploitation (up to $375,000 each) and funding for a National Multidisciplinary Team Technical Assistance Center (for up to $3 million), which will help facilitate the expansion of elder abuse case review across the nation. The deadline is July 7, 2019.
More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at or at 877-FTC-HELP.

Friday, June 14, 2019

A Little Humor: Wife Dies in Jerusalem

A man and his nagging wife went on vacation to Jerusalem. 

While they were there, the wife died.

The undertaker told the husband, “You can have her shipped home for $5000, or you can bury her here, in the Holy Land, for only $150.”

The man thought about it and decided he would just have her shipped home for $5000.

The undertaker asked, “Why would you spend $5000 to ship your wife home, when it would be wonderful to be buried here and you would spend only $150?”

The man replied, “Long ago a man called Jesus Christ died here, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance.”

Flag Day 2019: Honor And Defend The American Flag

Today is Flag Day.

All Americans should honor and defend the flag and the ideals and principals it stands for.

Following in the patriotic tradition of the Davis family, my daughter Brittany was born on Flag Day.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Gone Phishing: FBI Reports On Prison Sentence of Website Creator Who Stole ATM Card Numbers

The FBI released the below information:
Nearly half a million Alabama cell phone numbers received identical text messages in 2015 telling them to click a link to “verify” their bank account information. The link took recipients to a realistic-looking bank website where they typed in their personal financial information.
But the link was not the actual bank’s website—it was part of a phishing scam. Just like phishing messages sent over email, the text message-based scam was easy to fall for. The web address was only one character off from the bank’s actual web address.
While most recipients appeared to ignore the message, around 50 people clicked on the link and provided their personal information. The website asked for account numbers, names, and ZIP codes, along with their associated debit card numbers, security codes, and PINs. Within an hour, the fraudster had made himself debit cards with the victims’ account information. He then began to withdraw money from various ATMs, stealing whatever the daily ATM maximum was from each account.
“It was a fairly legitimate-looking website, other than the information it was asking for,” said Special Agent Jake Frith of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, who worked the case along with investigators from the FBI’s Mobile Field Office.
The fraudster, Iosif Florea, stole about $18,000 (including ATM fees), with losses from each individual account ranging from $20 to $800. (Banks typically reimburse customers who are victims of fraud.)
Investigators believe Florea bought a large list of cell phone numbers from a marketing company, and he only needed a few victims out of thousands of phone numbers for the scheme to be successful.
The damage was minimized, however, because of the bank’s quick response. As soon as customers reported the fraud, the bank reached out to federal authorities as well as the local media to alert the community to the fraudulent messages.
“The loss amount could have been huge,” said FBI Special Agent Dennis Reed, II. “The bank was very proactive in contacting law enforcement so we could immediately start tracking it.”
And while this was a technology-enabled crime, the Internet also helped investigators find the perpetrator. Florea had been captured withdrawing victims’ money by several ATM security cameras. Investigators posted the surveillance photos to a national law enforcement message group, and an officer in California recognized Florea.
Florea lived in Arizona but his victims were primarily in Alabama. He also withdrew money in several other states over the course of about two months in 2015. Reed and Frith worked with other FBI offices and local law enforcement across the country to investigate and arrest Florea.
Florea was indicted and pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and bank fraud charges in 2018, and in February 2019, he was sentenced to 32 months in prison.
While the FBI and law enforcement partners investigate these cases and work to bring criminals to justice, it’s also crucial for consumers to protect themselves and to come forward quickly if they are victimized.
In addition to never giving out your PIN, Reed and Frith emphasized that if you receive a request from your bank through email or text message, always look into it before providing any information. Banks don’t ask you for your PIN over the phone or in emails or text messages.
Frausters are also becoming more sophisticated and including “customer service” numbers in their phishing messages that route callers back to the fraudsters themselves, not the bank. That’s what happened in Florea’s case. So not only do consumers need to verify the authenticity of messages, they also need to ensure they’re calling the right number to do so.
“Don’t use the phone number provided in the message; always look up the bank’s actual phone number on your own or visit the local branch,” Reed said. “Go to an independent source to verify that text message or email request.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Little Humor: The Woman In The Kitchen

Two gas company servicemen, a senior training supervisor and a young trainee, were out checking meters in a suburban neighborhood. 

They parked their truck the end of the alley and worked their way to the other end. At the last house, a woman looking out her kitchen window watched the two men as they checked her gas meter.

Finishing the meter check, the senior supervisor challenged his younger coworker to a foot race down the alley back to the truck to prove that an older guy could outrun a younger one.

As they came running up to the truck, they realized the lady from that last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped and asked her what was wrong.

Gasping for breath, she replied, “When I see two men from the gas company running, I figure I’d better run too!” 

Note: The above photo is of Lucy - comedian Lucille Ball. 

Mob Talk 31: Organized Crime Reporters Discuss Current Crime Stories

Veteran organized crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser discuss the gatering of the Pagans in Philadelphia and other crime stories in Mob Talk 31.

You can watch the video via the below link: