Saturday, October 25, 2014

Operation Fistful: 11 Alleged Members And Associates Of Genovese Organized Crime Family Charged With Making Millions From Loansharking, Illegal Check Cashing, Gambling And Money Lauderling


The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General released the below on October 21st:

NEWARK – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that seven alleged members and associates of the New York-based Genovese organized crime family were arrested today and one more is being sought on an arrest warrant on first-degree racketeering charges for allegedly reaping millions of dollars in criminal profits in New Jersey through loansharking, unlicensed check cashing, gambling and money laundering, including laundering of proceeds from narcotics trafficking. Three other alleged associates were charged by summons today, bringing the total number charged to 11. 
                                  
Acting Attorney General Hoffman made the announcement today in Newark with Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey Commissioner Michael Murphy and Executive Director Walter Arsenault of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, and representatives of the other law enforcement agencies that assisted in the operation.

Much of the illicit revenue allegedly was collected and laundered through licensed and unlicensed check-cashing businesses in Newark run by alleged Genovese associate Domenick Pucillo, 56, of Florham Park. Pucillo and the other associates charged today allegedly are part of a New Jersey crew operating under the supervision and control of two alleged “made” members of the Genovese crime family – Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo, 80, of Bayside, N.Y., a Genovese “capo,” and Vito Alberti, 55, of New Providence, N.J., a Genovese “soldier” – who answer to the Genovese hierarchy in New York. Tuzzo, Alberti and Pucillo were among the seven men who were arrested early this morning.

The charges stem from “Operation Fistful,” an ongoing joint investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, conducted with assistance from the New York and Queens County District Attorneys’ Offices and other law enforcement agencies. The eight men targeted for arrest face racketeering and money laundering charges that carry consecutive sentences of 10 to 20 years in prison for each charge, including lengthy periods of parole ineligibility.

The 11 defendants are charged, in varying combinations, with running the following criminal schemes, as more fully outlined below, which generated “tribute” payments up the Genovese chain of command:
  1. a massive loansharking operation that yielded about $1.3 million in illegal interest per year;
  2. an illicit multi-million dollar offshore sports gambling enterprise;
  3. an unlicensed check-cashing business that made $9 million in fees in four years, while enabling customers to launder funds and evade taxes by skirting federal reporting requirements;
  4. laundering of $666,000 in drug money via check-cashing businesses owned by Pucillo in Newark and Florida;
  5. illegal control and use of a trucking firm with a contract to transport cars from Port Newark;
  6. tax fraud and evasion.
“We charge that this crew of the Genovese crime family was up to many of the Mafia’s old tricks in New Jersey, including loansharking and illegal gambling, to the tune of millions of dollars,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “History teaches us that as long as demand exists for illegal loans, illicit gambling, drugs, and other black-market goods and services, organized crime is going to turn a profit by preying on society. Our message to the Mafia is that as long as they do, we’re going to be here to send them to prison.”

“This case illustrates that the Mafia has evolved and learned to exploit sophisticated financial systems to hide and launder the proceeds of traditional street crimes such as loansharking and illegal gambling,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Through it all, as always, the Mafia makes its money largely through the ever-present threat of violence. This case demonstrates that, as much as the Mafia may change its criminal tactics, we will work tirelessly to remain one step ahead and root out their corrosive influence.”

“This case presents yet another instance of the Waterfront Commission’s concerted efforts with its law enforcement partners to disrupt the influence of organized crime in the metropolitan area,” said New Jersey Commissioner Michael Murphy of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. “The Genovese Crime Family has historically exerted its influence on the Port of New Jersey. Disruption of its profits from gambling, loansharking and money laundering weaken that family’s grip.”

LOANSHARKING

Pucillo allegedly used his check-cashing businesses for a massive loansharking operation. He runs several businesses, but the main one is Tri-State Check Cashing, Inc., with headquarters at 17 Avenue A in Newark. He allegedly used cash and credit lines extended to his business to loan money “on the street” at usurious rates. He made loans at one to three “points.” A point equals 1% interest, due weekly, so one point equates to 52% annual interest, two points to 104% annual interest, and three points to 156% annual interest. New Jersey law defines criminal usury as loaning money to an individual at an annual interest rate exceeding 30%, and makes it a second-degree crime if the rate exceeds 50% per year.

Over a two-year period, Pucillo had approximately $3 million in usurious loans on the street and collected approximately $1.3 million in interest per year. It is alleged that Genovese associate Robert “Bobby Spags” Spagnola, 67, of Morganville, N.J., partnered with Pucillo in the loansharking business and received a commission of one point on each loan he secured for Pucillo. In addition, Pucillo allegedly shared the loansharking proceeds up the Genovese chain of command to Alberti and Tuzzo.

Victims were required to pay interest on a weekly basis. The scheme was designed so that, when the victims made loan payments by check, it appeared that they were cashing checks in the ordinary course of Pucillo’s check-cashing business. When they took out loans, victims were required to sign partially completed checks, which Pucillo and his co-defendants could complete and cash through the check-cashing business to collect weekly interest or payments of principal. Victims also could pay in cash.

Defendant Flor Miranda, 40, of Newark, worked as office manager for Pucillo’s check-cashing operation. She allegedly collected loansharking payments and helped Pucillo keep extensive records of the loansharking and money laundering operations run out of his check-cashing businesses.

SPORTS GAMBLING

Vincent P. Coppola, 37, of Union, N.J., son of imprisoned Genovese capo Michael Coppola, allegedly was part of a network of Genovese associates who ran a multi-million dollar illegal sports gambling enterprise in New Jersey that utilized an off-shore “wire room” in Costa Rica to process bets. Coppola allegedly was an “agent” who managed sub-agents or package holders, each of whom had a “package” of bettors under him. He allegedly supervised sub-agents John W. Trainor, 42, of Brick, N.J., and Jerry J. Albanese, 47, of Scotch Plains. Agents decide which bettors can open accounts and gamble using the enterprise’s website and toll-free phone number. They also dictate how much a bettor can gamble per game and per week, and monitor the action and balances of the packages they oversee. Eventually, Coppola allegedly gave Trainor and Albanese more complete control of the bettors in their packages. Coppola allegedly had four packages under him, including those of Trainor and Albanese. In a single year, in 2011, Coppola’s packages allegedly handled more than $1.7 million in bets, and Coppola, Trainor, Albanese and the Genovese crime family – through Alberti and Tuzzo – allegedly made more than $400,000 in profits.

UNLICENSED CHECK-CASHING BUSINESS

In addition to Tri-State Check Cashing and his other licensed check-cashing businesses, Pucillo allegedly financed an unlicensed, illegal check-cashing operation with partners and Genovese associates Abel J. Rodrigues, 52, of Bridgewater, N.J., and Manuel Rodriguez, 49, of Chatham, N.J. This scheme operated out of Portucale Restaurant & Bar at 129 Elm Street in Newark, also known as Viriato Corp. – which is owned by Abel Rodrigues – under the guise that Rodrigues was legally allowed to cash checks as Pucillo’s agent. In reality, this arrangement is illegal, and the defendants allegedly used it to enable clients to launder money and evade taxes. It is alleged that over a four-year period they illegally cashed over $400 million in checks through Portucale Restaurant and collected over $9 million in fees.

Many customers cashed checks at Portucale Restaurant to launder money, hide income or obtain cash for “under-the-table” payrolls because Abel Rodrigues allegedly did not ask for any identification and would not file proper “currency transaction reports,” or CTRs, for any check or combination of checks exceeding $10,000, as required by federal law.

Tri-State Check Cashing provided the cash disbursed at Portucale Restaurant, but instead of processing and reporting the individual checks that were cashed, Tri-State would receive checks from Viriato Corp. for sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which bundled together the amounts of the checks cashed at Portucale Restaurant. Tri-State would then file CTRs only for the checks from Viriato Corp.

Jennifer Mann, 30, of Bayonne, was employed by Pucillo as the compliance officer for Tri-State. At Pucillo’s direction, she allegedly issued hundreds of false CTRs to conceal tax evasion and money laundering at Portucale Restaurant.

In return for cashing checks for over $10,000 without scrutiny, customers paid fees of up to 3% percent per check, which exceeds the limit of 2.21% permitted under New Jersey law. Abel Rodrigues allegedly received 1% on each check, and the remainder went to Pucillo. It is alleged that Pucillo in turn provided one-quarter of his fees to Manuel Rodriguez, who shared a portion of his fees up the chain to Alberti, Tuzzo and the Genovese crime family.

DRUG MONEY

In January 2012, Pucillo acquired a check-cashing business in Hialeah, Florida, called I&T Financial Services. It is alleged that he subsequently entered into an agreement to launder and transfer drug money from New York and New Jersey to Florida. The drug traffickers allegedly would deliver cash to Flor Miranda at Tri-State Check Cashing in Newark. The money then was wired under the fictitious company name “Gold Shiny” to Florida, where it was laundered through I&T Financial’s business accounts and was received by the client, whose identity remained concealed. Pucillo allegedly laundered and transferred $666,000 in this manner, collecting $22,500 in fees on the transactions.

TRUCKING COMPANY

It is alleged that the Genovese crime family, through members and associates including Tuzzo, Alberti, Pucillo and Trainor, illicitly took control of a company called GTS Auto Carriers, siphoned money from it, and used it to commit other crimes including check forgery and tax evasion. Trainor owned and operated GTS, which transports cars from Port Newark to dealerships throughout New Jersey under a lucrative contract with Nissan. After Trainor obtained the contract, Alberti required GTS to lease trucks to transport the cars from Alberti for over $300,000 per year. Alberti created a company called AMJ Transport solely to lease trucks to GTS.

Alberti also allegedly required GTS to carry Coppola and another Genovese crime family associate on the GTS payroll even though neither actually worked for GTS. In addition, Trainor allegedly had checks issued from a GTS business account to fictitious persons to conceal the fact that he was siphoning money from GTS for his personal use and to pay Alberti and other Genovese crime family members and associates. In five months, Trainor allegedly cashed GTS checks totaling over $100,000 at Pucillo’s check-cashing business, including several on which Trainor forged the signature of the person authorized to sign checks for the GTS account.

TAX FRAUD AND EVASION

It is alleged that, in conducting their criminal schemes, Alberti, Trainor, Rodriguez and Rodrigues – through Pucillo’s check-cashing businesses and other means – concealed their income and either failed to file tax returns or filed fraudulent tax returns which did not account for their criminal earnings.

The detectives who conducted Operation Fistful for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau are Lt. Brian Bruton, Detective Mario Estrada, Detective Patrick Sole and Detective Matthew Tully, under the supervision of Deputy Chief of Detectives Christopher Donohue. The attorneys who conducted the investigation are Deputy Attorney General Lauren Scarpa Yfantis, who is Chief of the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, Deputy Attorney General Annmarie Taggart, who is Deputy Bureau Chief, and Deputy Attorneys General Jacqueline Weyand, Ray Mateo and Vincent Militello. Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked Director Honig, Deputy Division Director Christopher Romanyshyn and Chief of Detectives Paul Morris for their leadership in the operation.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor for partnering with the Attorney General’s Office in the investigation. The following individuals conducted the investigation for the Waterfront Commission: Capt. Margaret Baldinger, Sgt. George Falvo, Sgt. Kristen Brylinski, Sgt. Michelle Turner, Detective Joseph Longo, Detective Salvatore Arrigo, Detective Andrew Varga, Detective Matthew Moroney, Detective Frank Albanese, Detective Marc Valentin, Detective Wojciech Stobinski, Detective Vincent King, Detective Fauna Mitchell-Foster, Detective Shanti Kurschner and Detective Michael Petrillo.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman also thanked the following agencies for their valuable assistance:
  1. New York County District Attorney's Office
  2. Queens County District Attorney's Office
  3. United States Department of Homeland Security
  4. Florida Department of Financial Services
  5. New York City Police Department
  6. United States Internal Revenue Service
  7. New Jersey Department of Taxation
  8. New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance
  9. New Jersey State Police
  10. El Dorado Task Force.
These eight defendants were arrested today or are being sought on arrest warrants charging the following crimes. Those arrested were lodged in jail with bail set at $400,000 for each. (* indicates the defendant remains a fugitive)
  1. Charles “Chuckie” Tuzzo. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree).
  2. Vito Alberti. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree), Filing a Fraudulent Tax Return (3rd degree).
  3. Domenick Pucillo. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Possession of Usurious Loan Records (3rd degree), Operating an Unlicensed Check-Cashing Facility (3rd degree).
  4. Robert “Bobby Spags” Spagnola. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Possession of Usurious Loan Records (3rd degree).
  5. Manuel Rodriguez. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Operating an Unlicensed Check-Cashing Facility (3rd degree), Filing a Fraudulent Tax Return (3rd degree), Failure to File a Tax Return (3rd degree).
  6. *Vincent P. Coppola. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree).
  7. Abel J. Rodrigues. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Operating an Unlicensed Check-Cashing Facility (3rd degree), Filing a Fraudulent Tax Return (3rd degree).
  8. John W. Trainor. Racketeering (1st degree), Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree), Forgery (3rd degree), Failure to File a Tax Return (3rd degree).
These three defendants were charged today by summons with the following crimes:
  1. Jerry J. Albanese. Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Promoting Gambling (3rd degree).
  2. Flor Miranda. Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Criminal Usury (2nd degree), Possession of Usurious Loan Records (3rd degree).
  3. Jennifer Mann. Money Laundering (1st degree), Conspiracy (1st degree), Operating an Unlicensed Check-Cashing Facility (3rd degree), Issuing a False Financial Statement (3rd degree), Forgery (3rd degree).
First-degree racketeering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison – 85 percent of which must be served without parole under the No Early Release Act – and a fine of up to $200,000. First-degree money laundering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison – including a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed – with the sentence to run consecutive to the sentences for other charges. First-degree money laundering carries an enhanced fine of up to $500,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000, or an enhanced fine of up to $35,000 for the crime of promoting gambling.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Because they are indictable offenses, the charges will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.

Former U.S. Army Contracting Official Sentenced To Four Years In Prison In Bribery And Kickback Scheme


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

WASHINGTON—In Seon Lim, a former contracting official for the U.S. Department of the Army, was sentenced today to four years in prison for his role in a scheme in which he accepted over $490,000 worth of benefits, including cash payments and vacations, from favored contractors. In return, he helped these businesses obtain millions of dollars in federal contracts.

The sentencing was announced by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); Peggy E. Gustafson, Inspector General for the Small Business Administration (SBA); Robert E. Craig, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the Mid-Atlantic Field Office of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), and Frank Robey, Director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU).

Lim, 48, of Fairfax Station, Va., also known as InSeon Lim, pled guilty in July 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to three offenses: conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud; bribery; and attempting to interfere with and impede tax laws. He was sentenced by the Honorable Leonie M. Brinkema.

Upon completion of his prison term, Lim will be placed on three years of supervised release. He also must pay restitution, including $250,000 to the Department of Defense and nearly $125,000 to the IRS. In addition, he must pay a forfeiture money judgment of $490,262.

Lim is among 18 individuals and one corporation, Nova Datacom, LLC, to plead guilty to federal charges in an investigation that uncovered the largest domestic bribery and bid-rigging scheme in the history of federal contracting cases. Overall, participants in the scheme stole over $30 million in government money through inflated and fictitious invoices.

According to a statement of offense, signed by Lim as well as the government, Lim was a public official until April 2012. The charges involve his activities as an assistant project manager and product director with the Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, a part of the Army that provides infrastructure and informational management systems.

Until June 2010, Lim resided and worked in Seoul, South Korea. While in South Korea, his primary duties were to oversee and implement communications systems upgrades for the U.S. forces there, which included approximately 10 communications centers and various other special projects at military sites throughout the country. Among other things, Lim coordinated work on a major contract, which, in turn, had numerous sub-contracts.

From June 2010 until his resignation in April 2012, Lim worked as a product director at Fort Belvoir, Va.

In the statement of offense, Lim admits that he secretly used his official position to enrich himself by soliciting and accepting gifts, payments and other things of value from government contractors—totaling more than $490,000—in return for favorable official action. Among other things, the statement of offense notes, Lim received payments personally and to accounts that he controlled; payments for travel, vacation, vehicles, cellphones and cellular service for himself and family members; ownership interests in two companies, and other benefits.

In exchange, Lim now admits, he provided favorable official action on subcontracts obtained and retained by the favored government contractors as requested and as opportunities arose. He also disclosed confidential bid information to the favored government contractors.

**

“This Army official sold the public trust for a half-million dollars in bribes,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Lim is now headed to prison along with many other corrupt officials and government contractors brought down in this sweeping investigation. His fate is a warning shot for other government officials tempted to sell out the American people to line their own pockets that they should think twice. The prison sentences handed out in this case make clear that government officials and business people who corrupt the contracting process put their own freedom at risk.”

“In his role as a federal contracting officer, In Seon Lim betrayed the trust that was placed in him by fellow citizens by taking bribes in exchange for providing favorable action on government contracts,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “The FBI, with our partners, will continue to investigate and expose fraudulent kickback schemes that tarnish the good and ethical work that procurement officers carry out on behalf of the U.S. government each and every day.”

“The kickback scheme in which In Seon Lim participated disrespected the hard work and dedication of thousands of government employees who are committed to providing honest services in the federal contracting process,” said Special Agent in Charge Kelly. “IRS-Criminal Investigation stands committed to weeding out individuals, who abuse the privilege of their positions as a public official, for their personal gain.”

“Today’s sentencing is a reminder that public servants are accountable for their actions, and individuals who violate the public’s trust will be brought to justice,” said Small Business Administration Inspector General Gustafson. “The actions of In Seon Lim and his conspirators grossly undermine the honest work being done every day by Federal employees and government contractors. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its dedicated leadership and professionalism in pursuit of justice served today.”

“As a contracting official for the Department of Defense, In Seon Lim disregarded his duty, lived a lie at the expense of the American taxpayers, and completely violated the trust placed in him by his position,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig. “The Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our law enforcement partners are fully committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting this kind of illegal activity within the federal procurement process.”

“Mr. Lim admitted that he secretly used his official position to ‘enrich himself’ when committing these selfish criminal acts,” said Director Robey, of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “That attitude and the related criminal actions will not be tolerated in the Department of the Army. Let this again be a warning to all who work with and for the U.S. Army: if you commit contract fraud, we will catch you and do everything within our power to see you brought to justice, just like Mr. Lim.”

**

The court documents provide details about numerous contracts and payments. For example:

-Nova Datacom: According to the statement of offense, two former employees of the Northern Virginia company—Alex N. Cho, also known as Young N. Cho, and Nick Park—paid Lim $40,000 in cash in 2007. In addition, Park paid for Lim’s travel, lodging, meals and entertainment during a trip to the Philippines in 2007, and Cho paid for Lim’s lodging, $10,000 cash, and a $1,000 casino chip during a trip later that year to Las Vegas. Lim, meanwhile, agreed to use his official position to recommend the company for a contract valued at nearly $330,000.

-Avenciatech:According to the statement of offense, former officials of Avenciatech, Inc., a government contractor based in Annandale, Va., provided Lim with cash payments; payments for hotel stays for Lim and family members, including a trip to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas; payments to finance the purchase of a 2010 Lexus automobile, and payments for other things of value. One of the officials, Oh Sung Kwon, also known as Thomas Kwon, also assisted Lim in obtaining financing for the purchase of a home in Fairfax Station, Va., where Lim resided following his reassignment in 2010 to a position at Fort Belvoir. Lim, meanwhile, assisted the company in obtaining more than $3 million in contracts.

-UEI: Nick Park left Nova Datacom in 2007 and co-founded another government contractor, Unisource Enterprise Inc. (UEI), based in Annandale, Va. According to the statement of offense, in exchange for favorable treatment, Lim was given a secret ownership in UEI. Among other things, Lim provided Park with sensitive procurement information. He also assisted the company in obtaining a government sub-contract worth over $1.1 million.

Cho, Park, and Kwon are among those who earlier pled guilty to charges in the case.
In addition to pleading guilty to the conspiracy and bribery charges, Lim admitted that he failed to report the bribes he received on tax returns for the years 2007 through 2011. He also failed to keep records that would allow him to file accurate records for 2012 and 2013.

**

In announcing today’s sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen, U.S. Attorney Boente, Assistant Director in Charge McCabe, Special Agent in Charge Kelly, Inspector General Gustafson, Special Agent in Charge Craig, and Director Robey thanked those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office; the Washington Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Office of the Inspector General for the Small Business Administration; the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the Army Criminal Investigation Command. They also expressed thanks to the U.S. Marshals Service for its assistance on the forfeiture matter.

They also praised the efforts of those who prosecuted the case, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael K. Atkinson of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Saler of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Hanly, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Finally, they expressed thanks for assistance provided by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Seeley; former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Dana; Forensic Accountant Maria Boodoo; Paralegal Specialists Tasha Harris, Krishawn Graham, and Taryn McLaughlin; and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick, all of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Former Philadelphia Mob Boss Ordered Back To Jail For "Night On The Town"


Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia is covering the Joseph Merlino federal proceedings for Bigtrial.net.

What a federal prosecutor described as a "night on the town with his mob buddies" has resulted in a four-mouth prison sentence for former Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick imposed that sentence this afternoon after hearing more than three hours of testimony and argument in a probation violation hearing for the 52-year-old convicted Mafia leader.

Merlino, now living in Florida, will begin the sentence in 30 days, according to the order issued by Surrick. Once he completes that sentence, Merlino will no longer be on supervised release and will be free to meet and associate with whomever he chooses.

But that may be the least of his problems. According to testimony during the hearing, Merlino has been the focus on an ongoing investigation by an organized crime task force in South Florida. Authorities have apparently had the one-time South Philadelphia celebrity gangster on their radar since his arrival in the Sunshine State three years ago.


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

http://www.bigtrial.net/2014/10/merlino-ordered-back-to-jail-for-night.html#more

Member Of FARC Terrorist Organization Sentenced To 27 Years In Prison On Hostage-Taking Charges In 2003 Capture Of U.S. Citizens


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

Alexander Beltran Herrera, 38, a commander of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) terrorist organization, was sentenced today to 27 years in prison on federal hostage-taking charges stemming from the 2003 capture of three U.S. citizens in Colombia.  All told, members of the FARC held the Americans hostage for 1,967 days.

The sentence was announced by John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia  and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Division.

Beltran Herrera, aka Jhon Alexander Beltrain Herrera, aka Rodrigo Pirinolo, pled guilty on March 18, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to three counts of hostage-taking.  He was sentenced by the Honorable Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth.

 “In February 2003, the FARC – a Colombian terrorist organization – kidnapped three American citizens and held them captive for nearly 2,000 days,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  With the sentence handed down today, Alexander Beltran Herrera is being held accountable for his role in those offenses.  This case underscores our resolve to pursue and bring to justice those who target our citizens with violence anywhere in the world.  I want to thank all of the prosecutors, agents, and analysts who made this result possible.”

 “This Colombian terrorist will spend the next 27 years in an American prison for his role in holding three U.S. citizens captive overseas,” said U.S. Attorney Machen.  “Our fellow citizens were held hostage for more than five years under brutal conditions.  This extradition, prosecution, and incarceration should chasten terrorists who doubt our resolve to serve justice on those who harm American citizens on foreign soil.”

 “Alexander Beltran Herrera, a former terrorist commander for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), will now be held accountable for his role in holding three U.S. citizens hostage in Colombia for 1,967 days,” said Kelly M. Darden, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Division.  “Essential to bringing Beltran Herrera to justice was our close cooperation with the Colombian National Police.”

According to the government’s evidence, the FARC is an armed, violent organization in Colombia.  Since its inception in 1964, it has engaged in an armed conflict to overthrow the Republic of Colombia, South America’s longest-standing democracy.  The FARC has consistently used hostage taking as a primary technique in extorting demands from the Republic of Colombia, and hostage taking has been endorsed and commanded by FARC senior leadership.  The FARC has characterized American citizens as “military targets” and has engaged in violent acts against Americans in Colombia, including murders and hostage taking.

The FARC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1997 and remains so designated.

Beltran Herrera, a commander in the FARC, was involved in the hostage taking of three United States citizens: Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes, and Keith Stansell.  These three, along with Thomas Janis, a United States citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on Feb. 13, 2003, by the FARC, after their single-engine aircraft made a crash landing in the Colombian jungle.

Members of the FARC murdered Janis and Cruz near the crash site.  Gonsalves, Howes, and Stansell were held by the FARC at gunpoint and were advised by FARC leadership that they would be used as hostages to increase pressure on the government of Colombia to agree to the FARC’s demands.  At various times, the FARC marched the hostages from one site to another, placing them in the actual custody of various FARC fronts.

At the conclusion of one 40-day long march, in or about November 2004, the hostages were delivered to members of the FARC’s 27th Front, who imprisoned the hostages for nearly two years.  During part of this period, Beltran Herrera was responsible for moving the hostages and keeping them imprisoned.  Throughout the captivity of these three hostages, FARC jailors and guards used choke harnesses, chains, padlocks and wires to restrain the hostages, and used force and threats to continue their detention and prevent their escape. 

In July 2008, the Colombian military conducted a daring operation which resulted in the rescue of the hostages.

Beltran Herrera was indicted in February 2011 and was extradited to the United States from Colombia in March 2012.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Miami Division.  The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez from the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney David Cora, from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.  The case was indicted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Kohl, of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

The FBI’s Miami Division partnered in the investigation with the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Department’s Judicial Attachés in Colombia, and the FBI’s Office of the Legal Attaché in Bogota, Colombia.  The Directorate of Intelligence (DIPOL) and the Anti-Kidnapping Unit (GAULA) of the Colombian National Police also provided valuable support during the investigation.

FBI: Child Sexual Exploitation Case As Serious As It Gets


The FBI web site offers the below story:

According to the federal judge who heard the case, the defendant’s conduct was “about as serious as it gets,” and that on a scale of one to 10, she believed the case was “way past 10.” Then she sentenced the defendant—James Alfred Beckman, Jr. of Grand Rapids, Michigan—to 30 years in prison.

What crimes moved the judge in this case to hand down such a substantial prison term? Multiple counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a child, attempted coercion of a child, and receipt and distribution of child pornography. And in addition to the lengthy prison stay, the judge also imposed a lifetime term of supervised release on the defendant once he gets out, ordering that he register as a sex offender.

The success of this case, as with many investigations involving the FBI, can be attributed to the close working relationship between Bureau investigators and our partners—in this instance, troopers from the Michigan State Police (MSP) and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan. The agencies’ seamless interactions resulted in the incarceration of an individual who posed a very dangerous threat to children.

The investigation into the illicit activities of Beckman began in September 2012, when a woman came to the MSP with allegations that Beckman had sexually abused her young child. The youngster reported that during the abuse, a computer and webcam had been present. Troopers opened a case and involved the state’s Child Protective Services to conduct interviews of the young victim and another child by an expert who is specially trained to interact with children who are victims of crime.

MSP investigators interviewed Beckman and performed forensic exams on his computers. The examination of Beckman’s work laptop turned up not only photos of child pornography but also evidence of a network of individuals trafficking in child pornography. It was at that point—when the MSP determined that Beckman’s activities had spread outside the state of Michigan—that FBI assistance was solicited, and we opened a case in October 2012.

Continuing to work together, the MSP and FBI obtained evidence of online chats that Beckman had with others in his child pornography network. During many of the chats, Beckman was soliciting individuals who were conducting sexual acts with children, usually encouraging conversations about these activities and exchanging pornographic images and videos with them. Working to identify those in the network, the Bureau sent out leads to a number of our field offices around the country and several of our legal attaché offices overseas.

A unique set of circumstances surrounded the sexual exploitation charges. Evidence presented at trial showed that Beckman sexually abused and exploited two young children, and he streamed and attempted to stream live video of this abuse and exploitation to others. Because he streamed his child pornography via webcam, we had no images or videos to enter as evidence. However, we managed to track down a number of people Beckman streamed to—and two of them testified against him in court. One of those two individuals was charged, pled guilty, and was sentenced to a 12-year prison term. Charges are pending against the second.

After a two-week trial during which one of the young victims testified against Beckman from a room outside the courtroom, a jury found the defendant guilty on 15 of the 16 charges against him. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Daggers, Pistols And Blood Bonds: How The Mafia Works


Oliva Goldhill at the British newspaper the Telegraph interviews John Dickie, author of Blood Brotherhoods: A History of Italy's Three Mafias and other books on Italian organized crime, about the current state of the secret criminal society La Cosa Nostra.

A strict moral code, archaic initiation ceremonies and… Uxbridge? When a Mafia criminal known as “The Professor” was discovered living in a West London suburb, his humdrum semi-detached house seemed an odd fit for a notorious Cosa Nostra boss.
 
Domenico Rancadore, who was a member of the Sicilian Mafia Cosa Nostra from 1987 to 1995, has been convicted of Mafia association and extortion.
 
Though he fought his first extradition attempt on human rights grounds, the former fugitive is now waiting to hear whether he’ll be sent to Italy for a seven-year sentence.
 
But does the criminal group he belonged to deserve its chilling reputation? Mafiosi receive automatic status and notoriety – in part because of the many films and tv shows that depict mob life. But how does The Godfather measure up to real life as a mafia godfather?    

... The Sicilian Mafia is 150 years old and has historically seen several hundred murders per year. In 1992, all Italian Mafias were responsible for more than 300 murders, though this fell by 80 per cent between 1992 and 2012 - down to 70 reported mafia-related homicides in 2012. And in the last few years, Cosa Nostra's number of members has dropped from 5,000 to 3,500.
 
The Mafia is still linked to drug trade – though not as much as they’d like – but make their living from protection rackets. “Managing protection rackets are the day-to-day business of the Mafia boss, that’s what he gets up in the morning and does,” says Dickie.
 
Under these rackets, the Mafia insist that businesses pay them regular fees as “protection” from crimes, while also demanding that criminals give the mafia a cut of any takings. And while the number of murders are down, that doesn’t mean that extortion is a peaceful affair.
 
“That kind of arrangement is the real blight of southern Italy,” says Dickie. “You don’t have to kill people to do an extortion racket. You can kill their dog and burn their shop.”

On top of their lucrative extortion rackets, Cosa Nostra is defined by its political links. In 2011, the former President of Sicily Salvatore Cuffaro was convicted of aiding the Mafia, and the criminal group is keen to make political friendships. “The Mafia wouldn’t be the Mafia without political links,” says Dickie. “The story of the last 20 years is of them trying to re-connect with politics because their bombing campaign didn’t go down terribly well.”

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

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11178975/Daggers-pistols-and-blood-bonds-how-the-Mafia-works.html


For a look at the American side of La Cosa Nostra, you can read my interview with Philip Leonetti, the former underboss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey La Cosa Nostra crime family via the below link:

http://www.pauldavisoncrime.com/2013/01/crime-beat-column-mafia-prince-q-with.html 

Haroon Aswat Extradited From The United Kingdom To The Southern District Of New York To Face Terrorism Charges


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

Assistant Attorney General for National Security  John Carlin, United States Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Commissioner William J. Bratton of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the extradition of Haroon Aswat from the United Kingdom to face charges of conspiring to provide and providing material support to al Qaeda and terrorists for attempting to establish a terrorist training camp in the United States.

Aswat was arrested in Zambia in July 2005, and in August 2005, Aswat was deported from Zambia to the United Kingdom, where he was arrested pursuant to a provisional warrant that was issued in response to a request by the U.S. government in connection with this case.

On Sept. 4, 2014, the United Kingdom ordered Aswat extradited to the United States on the charges described below.  In coordination with British authorities, Aswat was extradited from the United Kingdom to the Southern District of New York on Oct. 21, 2014.  Aswat will make his first court appearance later today before U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment, statements made at related court proceedings, and evidence presented at prior trials:

In late 1999, Aswat, along with co-defendants Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, aka Abu Hamza (Abu Hamza), Ouassama Kassir, and Earnest James Ujaama, attempted to create a terrorist training camp in the United States to support al Qaeda, which has been designated by the United States Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization. 

Aswat conspired with Abu Hamza, Kassir and Ujaama to establish the terrorist training camp on a rural parcel of property located in Bly, Oregon.  The purpose of the Bly, Oregon, camp was for Muslims to receive various types of training – including military-style jihad training – in preparation to fight jihad in Afghanistan.  As used by the conspirators in this case, the term “jihad” meant defending Islam against purported enemies through violence and armed aggression, including, if necessary, by using murder to expel non-believers from Muslim holy lands.

In a letter faxed from Ujaama, in the United States, to Abu Hamza, in the United Kingdom, the property in Bly was described as a place that “looks just like Afghanistan,” and the letter noted that the men at Bly were “stock-piling weapons and ammunition.”  In late 1999, after transmission of the faxed letter, Abu Hamza directed Aswat and Kassir, both of whom resided in London, England, and attended Abu Hamza’s mosque there, to travel to Oregon to assist in establishing the camp.  On Nov. 26, 1999, Aswat and Kassir arrived in New York, and then traveled to Bly.

Aswat and Kassir traveled to Bly for the purpose of training men to fight jihad.  Kassir told witnesses that he supported Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, and that he had previously received jihad training in Pakistan.  Kassir also possessed a compact disc that contained instructions on how to make bombs and poisons. 

After leaving Bly, Aswat and Kassir traveled to Seattle, Washington, where they resided at a mosque for approximately two months.  While in Seattle, Kassir, in Aswat’s presence, provided men from the mosque with additional terrorist training lessons – including instructions on different types of weapons, how to construct a homemade silencer for a firearm, how to assemble and disassemble an AK-47, and how an AK-47 could be altered to be fully automatic and to launch a grenade. 

On another occasion, with Aswat sitting by his side, Kassir announced to the men in Seattle that he had come to the United States for martyrdom and to destroy, and he informed his audience that some of them could die or get hurt.

In September 2002, special agents from the FBI recovered a ledger, among other items, from an al Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan.  The ledger listed a number of individuals associated with al Qaeda, including Aswat. The al Qaeda safe house was used by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda’s chief operational planner and the alleged planner of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

*                              *                             *

The indictment charges Aswat, 40, a British citizen, with four offenses that carry the following maximum penalties:

ChargeStatutory ViolationMaximum Prison Term
Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists18 U.S.C. § 371Five years
Providing material support to terrorists18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A, 210 years
Conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (al Qaeda)18 U.S.C. §2339B10 years
Providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (al Qaeda)18 U.S.C. §§ 2339B, 210 years

The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
On May 12, 2009, after a four-week jury trial in the Southern District of New York, Kassir was found guilty of charges relating to his efforts to establish the terrorist training camp in Bly, and his operation of several terrorist websites. 

On Sept. 15, 2009, U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan sentenced Kassir to life in prison.

On May 19, 2014, after a four-week jury trial in the Southern District of New York, Abu Hamza was found guilty of charges relating to his role in the conspiracy to establish the terrorist training camp in Bly, as well as his role in a hostage-taking in Yemen in 1998 that resulted in four deaths, and his support of violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.  Abu Hamza is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 9, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.

U.S. Attorney Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s Manhattan-based Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents and detectives of the FBI and the NYPD, the United States Marshals Service, and the Metropolitan Police Department of London, England.  U.S. Attorney Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs, and the United States Department of State for their ongoing assistance.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. Cronan and Ian McGinley are in charge of the prosecution.

The allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.