Tuesday, December 31, 2013

'The Assets' Explores Real-Life Aldrich Ames Spy Case

My Q & A with former CIA officer Sandra V. Grimes, one of a team of "mole hunters" who brought down CIA officer, tratior and Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, will appear in the upcoming issue of Counterterrorism magaine.

So it was with some interest that I read Andrea Morabito's piece in the New York Post on the upcoming ABC series on the Aldrich Ames spy case.

ABC is offering an antidote for “Scandal” fans missing their weekly rush during the drama’s midseason hiatus — with another story of feisty female DC operatives pursuing the truth and taking names.

The eight-part miniseries “The Assets,” premiering Thursday at 10 p.m., tells the true story of CIA officers Sandy Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille as they track down notorious mole Aldrich Ames at the end of the Cold War — an apt subject to capitalize on the popularity of spy dramas playing out on the small screen and in the headlines.

... “This is a true story. What we hope and we thought is if people are interested in ‘Homeland’ and they’re interested in ‘The Americans’ . . . to find out that there’s two real women that were breaking the glass ceiling and doing this stuff for real, that will help drive people to us.”

The bulk of “Assets” takes place in 1985 when Grimes, played by British actress Jodie Whittaker (“Broadchurch”) and Vertefeuille (Harriet Walter) are racing to save Soviet intelligence officers (“the assets”) from being caught and killed based on intel leaked by Ames (Paul Rhys).

It’s adapted from the 2012 book “Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed” by Grimes and Vertefeuille, who started at the CIA as typists and quickly rose through the ranks at a time when the agency was an Ivy League boys club.

“Their persistence is what caught Ames. They went to their bosses and said there is a problem here, there is something going on, you have to believe us,” Hertzan says.

“Even Ames himself said he was ‘glad these two broads are running the back room because they’ll never figure it out,’ ” adds executive producer Rudy Bednar.

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


You can also read my previous post on the Ames spy case via the below link:


Heir To The Empire City: New York And The Making Of Theodore Roosevelt

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of Edward P. Kohn's Heir To The Empire City: New York and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt has come down in history as the “cowboy president,” a man whose persona was shaped by the period he spent in the Dakota badlands as a young man, riding, hunting, even owning two sizable ranches. As he was fond of saying, were it not for the time he spent “out West,” he likely never would have been elected to the White House

This claim — created in large part by Roosevelt himself — draws a healthy snort of disagreement from historian Edward Kohn, an American who teaches in a Turkish university and who has spent much of his academic life studying Roosevelt. The truth is, Mr. Kohn writes, Roosevelt is far more a product of New York City than the West, “as comfortable in a silk top hat and tails in his box at the opera as he was sitting atop a horse on his ranch.” His grandfather was one of the wealthiest men in the city, and his father was a leading philanthropist. The family home was a stately brownstone near Gramercy Park.

Yet Mr. Kohn takes care not to diminish the sincerity of Roosevelt as a man who took an interest in the welfare of the poor and disadvantaged — causes he pursued in various New York City offices and then as governor of New York state.

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


Monday, December 30, 2013

A Look Back At The CIA Traitor And Soviet Spy Aldrich Ames

ABCNews offers a look back at Aldrich Ames, the CIA officer who became a traitor and Soviet spy. (He is seen in the above photo with his wife Rosario). Ames gave up the names of several "assets" in Russia who subsequently executed.

You can watch the broadcast via the below link:


I recently interviewed former CIA officer Sandra V. Grimes for Counterterrorism magazine. Sandra Grimes was one of the CIA officers who uncovered Aldrich Ames (she is seen in the above team photo on the left).

Grimes and  Jeanne Vertefuille (seen in the center of the above photo) wrote an account of their "mole hunt" in the CIA, which lead to their uncovering Ames as a spy called Circle of Treason (Naval Institute Press).

I'll post the Sandra Grimes interview here when it is published.

Note: The above photos were provided by the Naval Institute Press.

Happy Birthday To Rudyard Kipling

As Biography.com notes, Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India.

He was educated in England but returned to India in 1882. In 1892, Kipling married Caroline Balestier and settled in Brattleboro, Vermont where he wrote The Jungle Book (1894) and "Gunga Din." Eventually becoming the highest paid writer in the world, Kipling was recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. He died in 1936.

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a video of Kipling's life via the below link:


Note: Rudyard Kipling is one of my favorite writers and Kim and The Man Who Would Be King are two of my favorite stories. To learn more about Kipling, you can read Andrew Lycett's Rudyard Kipling.  

FBI: Suspect In Tupelo, Mississippi and Atlanta, Georgia Bank Robberies And In The Shooting And Murder Of Tupelo Police Officers Has Been Shot And Killed In Phoenix

Daniel McMullen, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Jackson, Mississippi; Ricky Maxwell, acting special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Atlanta, Georgia; and Douglas G. Price, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Phoenix, Arizona, announce the below yesterday:

An individual who robbed a bank yesterday morning in Phoenix and who later was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with a Phoenix police detective has been identified as the same individual responsible for the attempted bank robbery in Atlanta, the robbery of the BancorpSouth in Tupelo, the shooting of Tupelo Police Officer Joseph Edward Maher, and the murder of Tupelo Police Officer Kevin "Gale" Stauffer. This identification has been made based upon similarities between these bank robberies, including the clothing worn by the bank robber, statements made by the bank robber during the robberies, and the robber’s overall modus operandi, supported by other evidence and information collected during the course of this investigation. Additionally, cell phone records obtained via court order indicated that this individual’s phone was in Atlanta, Tupelo, and Phoenix when the bank robberies were committed.

Special Agent in Charge Maxwell stated: "While we are thankful that this dangerous individual is no longer a threat to the public, our thoughts and prayers remain with those officers and their families in Tupelo. The law enforcement community worked hard to ensure that this individual wouldn't harm others again, and we can now focus our attention and thoughts on those whom he did harm."

Special Agent in Charge McMullen stated: “Since the beginning of this investigation, the FBI, in collaboration with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners across the United States, conducted dozens of interviews, collected and reviewed surveillance video from numerous cooperative businesses, and examined evidence from the crime scenes in Atlanta, Tupelo, and Phoenix.

This team of investigators, analysts, and law enforcement personnel has been tireless in its efforts thus far and remains committed to bringing this case to its final conclusion and to bringing a measure of peace to the family of Officer Kevin “Gale” Stauffer, Officer Joseph Edward Maher, the Tupelo Police Department, and the Tupelo community.”

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Neglected Anniversary: H. L. Mencken's Tub & Hot Water

Steve King at todayinliterature.com notes that on this day in 1917, H. L. Mencken's "A Neglected Anniversary," his hoax article on the American invention of the bathtub, was published in the New York Evening Mail.

Mencken's lifelong campaign to deride and derail Main Street America -- the "booboisie" -- had a number of easy victories, but this joke succeeded beyond his wildest dreams and in Swiftian proportions.

In the omniscient tone of newspaper editorials, Mencken lamented and reprimanded that such an august cultural moment as the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bathtub should arrive and "Not a plumber fired a salute or hung out a flag. Not a governor proclaimed a day of prayer. Not a newspaper called attention to the day." This was worse than unhygienic; it was unpatriotic. A thankless, forgetful nation had forgotten that the first bathtubs -- these, of course, appeared in Cincinnati -- had been met with contempt by the social watchdogs, who thought them "an epicurean and obnoxious toy from England, designed to corrupt the democratic simplicity of the Republic," and by the medical profession, who thought them likely to induce "phthisic, rheumatic fevers, inflammation of the lungs and the whole category of zymotic diseases."

... To Mencken's amazement and delight, this history of the triumphant American tub was swallowed and spread by newspapers and radio stations across the country. The "facts" were duly incorporated into reference books; the health and hygiene industry, not to mention the plumbers, touted the happy day; the White House calendar-makers, noting Mencken's claim that Millard Fillmore (chosen surely for his name) was the first President to install one, paid tribute to his tub.

Eight years after the original article Mencken attempted to pull the plug by publishing various confessions, but many regarded the confession as the hoax, and his bogus bathtub anniversary continued to be commemorated in many quarters. All of which more or less proved Mencken's point, one more political and personal than whimsical.

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


FBI Seeking Suspect In Murder Of Mississippi Police Officer

The FBI announced that law enforcement authorities are seeking public assistance with locating an unidentified male suspect who is wanted in connection with the shootings of two Tupelo (Mississippi) Police Department officers on December 23, 2013. The shootings resulted in the death of one officer and the critical wounding of the other officer.

The suspect is also wanted for the December 23 attempted robbery of a bank in Atlanta, Georgia, and the robbery of a Tupelo bank. 

The suspect is described as approximately 5'8" to 6'0" tall with a slender build. The suspect was wearing a facemask, a shirt or jacket with an "Aztec" pattern, khaki pants, and tennis shoes similar to the Converse brand.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100, 000 for information leading to the identification and arrest of the indiviudal responsible for these violent crimes. 

Southern California man Pleads Guilty To Attempting To Assist Al Qaeda By Providing Weapons Training To Fighters In Pakistan

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

WASHINGTON—An Orange County, California man pleaded guilty this morning to a federal terrorism offense, admitting that he intended to assist al Qaeda by traveling to Pakistan, where he would provide weapons training to members of the terrorist group.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 24, of Garden Grove, California, pleaded guilty this morning to one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Nguyen, who also used the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, pleaded guilty this morning before United States District Judge John F. Walter of the Central District of California. Judge Walter is scheduled to sentence the defendant on March 21, 2014. At the time of sentencing, Nguyen faces a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

In a plea agreement filed last Friday in United States District Court, Nguyen admitted that approximately one year ago, he travelled to Syria, where he joined opposition forces. Using a social network site during a four-month period he was in Syria, Nguyen told people that he was fighting against the Assad regime and that he had had a “confirmed kill.” After he returned to the United States, Nguyen told associates that he had offered to train al Qarda forces in Syria, but his offer had been turned down.

Between August 3, 2013 and October 11, 2013, Nguyen met with a man he thought was an al Qaeda recruiter, but who in fact was working with the FBI. Within the first few minutes of their first meetings, Nguyen began questioning the man to determine if he was a fellow jihadist, according to the plea agreement. Nguyen told the man about his exploits in Syria and said he wanted to return to jihad because “this was what he was born to do.”

During their meetings, Nguyen and the man he thought was an al Qaeda recruiter discussed how Nguyen could travel to Pakistan under a fraudulently obtained United States passport. After Nguyen gave the purported recruiter a photo of himself and a passport application with bogus information, Nguyen agreed to travel to Pakistan, where he would train 30 al Qaeda fighters for five or six weeks to prepare them “for a guerilla warfare ambush attack on coalition forces” that would take place this month, according to the plea agreement.

With the intention to travel to Pakistan to train al Qaeda forces for the ambush, Nguyen on October 1, 2013, purchased a plane ticket to travel from Mexico to Peshawar, Pakistan, he admitted in the plea agreement. On October 11, 2013, Nguyen went to a bus station in Santa Ana, where he purchased a ticket to Mexico. On this date, he was arrested by FBI agents. When he was taken into custody, Nguyen had in his possession the false passport and a computer hard drive that contained “over 180 training videos on shooting firearms.”

Nguyen has been in federal custody since his arrest.

The case against Nguyen is the product of an investigation by the FBI.

In South Philly, Community Policing Helps Cut Shootings In Half

Vinny Vella at the Philadelphia Daily News offers a piece on the police in South Philadelphia.

When Capt. Lou Campione drives down the streets of South Philly, people stop. They jump at that chance to say hi to "Lou," to ask him how's everything is going, to swap information.

...The emphasis on community policing amd building relationships as intuitive as it may seem, has worked wonders for Campione and South Philadelphia's 1st District: The number of shootings in the district has been cut in half this year  - from 31 shootings to 15 through Dec. 17 - the highest decrease among the city's 21 police districts in the same time frame.

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


Friday, December 27, 2013

Team Effort Makes Santa-Tracking Program Work

Air Force Master Sgt Chuck Marsh from the North American Aerospace Defense Command offers the below piece:

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Dec. 27, 2013 - The North American Aerospace Defense Command annually tracks Santa Claus around the world from his home at the North Pole. The event is enjoyed by millions of children worldwide every Dec. 24 and 25.

In order to bring smiles and hope to those children, young and old, it takes a vast crew of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, international military partner, and civilian volunteers to make it happen.

The process of organizing the behind-the-scenes activities of the NORAD Santa Tracks Santa program formally begins in the spring.

"I started prepping for this day in May," said Stacey Knott, from NORAD and U.S. Northern Command public affairs and NORAD Tracks Santa project manager. "We begin early, focusing on the main program areas to include the website, map, social media and logistics for the phone center, and are always trying to improve from the year prior. This year we completely revamped the website, technically and graphically."

According to Knott, the website and overall tracking of Santa would not be what it is without the help and support of the program's many contributors and partners, who donate items like laptops and snacks for the event's more than 1,200 volunteers.

"We have more than 50 contributors from corporations, the military, and government agencies helping," said Knott who likened the event to a full-scale military operation or exercise.

"It is immense and takes a lot of planning and organizing to pull this off," she said.

Knott said coordinating for the event is initially a part-time job as she works other public affairs issues at the base. She ramps up to a full-time position managing NORAD Tracks Santa issues around August, when work days go longer -- into the 10- to 12-hour range -- and it doesn't stop until the afternoon of Dec. 24.

"We at NORAD are very protective of this program and try hard to make sure it's pure family fun," Knott said. "Working with our partners, it's easy to see that they have as much at stake with this and feel as much ownership of the program as we do, so we all put our hearts into it."

Other staff members spend many hours preparing for the event as well, to include the media operations staff, led by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis.

"Media seem to understand what we're doing here, but we still need their help to get the word out to the world, letting kids know that we are listening to them and [we're] as excited as they are for the season," Lewis said. "Honestly, just being part of this renews our old souls and hearts into the spirit of the season."

Lewis said he lost track of how many worldwide media agencies he and the Santa staff spoke with on Christmas Eve, but said it was in the hundreds. The calls ranged anywhere from quick, "Where is Santa?" questions up to long, in-depth interviews, he said.

"It's amazing to see how this is an event with such a global reach," Lewis said, noting that he spoke to media agencies in Canada and England.

After months of planning, the work doesn't stop for Knott and Lewis when the clock hits 4 a.m. on Dec. 24.

"Once we start tracking Santa, there is still a lot of work to do. We have to monitor a ton of small problems, to include any phone issues that arise, but we also have to track the more than 1,200 volunteers, manage media interviews and be able to troubleshoot any problem you could think of," said Knott, who's been a part of the program since 2009.

The key for the success of NORAD Tracks Santa is the buy-in from senior leadership, according to Knott.

The support of Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., NORAD and U.S. Northcom commander, and other senior leadership is critical, she said. "It's wonderful to see them get almost as excited as some of the children calling in," Knott added. "This just wouldn't be possible without their support and the support of our contributors and volunteers."

After the event and an after-action report, Knott and the team are able to take a deep breath before starting back over again next May.

"It's truly a large concept to grasp on the amount of work going into this, leading up to it, the communications needs, then to see it all come to fruition on the day is amazing," Lewis said. "It's an awesome responsibility on us, passed down from generation to generation of trackers. It's a lot of work, but at the end of the day, you feel good about what you've done and that's apparent by the number of volunteers who return year after year."   

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cyber Stalker: FBI Tells A Cautionary Tale About Online Romance And Revenge

The FBI released the below cautionary tale:

A 29-year-old Michigan man was sentenced to five years in federal prison last week—the maximum allowed by law—for interstate stalking in a bizarre case of online romance gone bad.

Brian Curtis Hile traveled to San Diego from Michigan in 2011 intending to kill a woman and her boyfriend after the pair had unwittingly gotten caught up in Hile’s virtual love affair.

Hile had been ensnared in a “catfishing” scheme—in which a person uses social media to pretend to be someone they're not, typically to engage in misleading online romances. During the course of an Internet-only relationship that lasted two years, Hile exchanged explicit photos and romantic communications with someone he believed to be a woman. When he learned that “she” was actually a man living in South Africa, Hile became enraged and vowed to find the man who deceived him—and the woman whose images played a role in the deception.

"The woman in this case was a victim twice,” said Special Agent Steve Kim in our San Diego Division. Kim, a member of the Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team—a multi-agency task force that apprehends and prosecutes criminals who use technology to prey on victims—explained that when the woman was 18 years old, she took revealing pictures of herself for personal use, never intending for them to be seen publicly. Those photos were later stolen from her online account, which she was aware of. “But she had no idea what was being done with them,” Kim said.

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


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New York Guard To Help Track Santa

The New York Guard offers the below piece:

ROME, N.Y., Dec. 23, 2013 - New York Air National Guardsmen from the Eastern Air Defense Sector here will play a key role tomorrow night as the North American Aerospace Defense Command tracks Santa Claus and his reindeer on their annual global Christmas Eve journey.

"NORAD has supported Santa Claus' Christmas Eve operations for more than 50 years and we are always delighted to help," said Air Force Col. Dawne Deskins, EADS commander. "I can assure everyone that EADS will do everything in its power to assist Santa with his critical mission."

EADS' Sector Operations Control Center here will monitor Santa constantly as he travels across the eastern U.S. delivering toys and gifts. These activities are in support of the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., which leads the Santa monitoring effort.

NORAD starts its Santa tracking operation at 7 a.m. EST on Dec. 24. Children and parents can call the NORAD operations floor at 1-877-446-6723http://www.defense.gov/news/# for live updates on Santa or track Santa on the Web at www.noradsanta.org. The operations floor can also be contacted via email at noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

Santa Tracking information is also available on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/NORADTracksSanta?feature=watch; on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/noradsanta and on Twitter https://twitter.com/NORAD_SantaC.

The Santa tracking tradition started in 1955 when a Colorado Springs, Colorado-based Sears Roebuck & Company advertisement encouraging local children to call Santa listed an incorrect phone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number went into to the Continental Air Defense Command's operations hotline. Col. Harry Shoup, the operations director, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given location updates and a tradition was born.

In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created the bi-national air defense command, North American Aerospace Defense Command, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.

The Eastern Air Defense Sector is headquartered at Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome. Staffed by active-duty New York Air National Guardsmen and a Canadian Forces detachment, the unit supports NORAD's integrated warning and attack assessment missions and U.S. Northern Command's homeland defense mission.

EADS is responsible for air sovereignty and counter-air operations over the eastern United States and directs a variety of assets to defend 1 million square miles of land and sea.

Note: The above photo was released by the New York Guard.

Monday, December 23, 2013

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Trident: The Forging And Reforging Of A Navy SEAL Leader

My review of Jason Redman's The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader was published in the Washington Times.

The sign on the wounded Navy SEAL’s hospital door at the Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda was written on poster paper with a black Sharpie. The sign begins with the word “Attention.”

And the sign went on to receive national attention.

Lt. Jason Redman's sign read: “ATTENTION TO ALL WHO ENTER HERE. If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery. What is full? That is the absolute utmost physically my body has the ability to recover. Then I will push that about 20% further through sheer mental tenacity. This room you are about to enter is a room of fun, optimism and intense rapid re-growth. If you are not prepared for that, go elsewhere. From: The Management.”

Jason Redman, author of “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” is a highly decorated former Navy SEAL lieutenant who served as an enlisted SEAL for 11 years and nearly 10 years as a SEAL officer. He commanded mobility and assault forces in Colombia, Peru, Afghanistan and Iraq. Lt. Redman conducted more than 40 capture-kill missions with his men in Iraq, locating more than 120 al Qaeda insurgents.

... “The Trident” is a not only a tale of a Navy SEAL in action and his grueling medical recovery after being wounded. The book is also a touching story of Lt. Redman's love for his wife and children and their vital support during his recuperation. The book also offers a candid and blunt appraisal of his failures as a SEAL officer. Although he states he was a good enlisted SEAL operator, Lt. Redman recounts his many shortcomings as an officer, admitting freely that he drank too much and that he had been arrogant.

... “The Trident” is a frank, compelling and inspiring chronicle of an American warrior’s journey.

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


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Confidential: The Actor, The Comic And LAPD Vice

Joseph Wambaugh, former LAPD sergeant and best-selling author of classic police novels like The Choir Boys and Hollywood Station, and nonfiction classics like The Onion Field and Echoes in the Darkness, offers a good piece in the Los Angeles Times. 

A prominent obituary in The Times last Sunday took me back to a night in 1962 when I was working the vice detail out of Wilshire Division. We were trying to bust after-hours drinking spots engaging in illegal alcohol sales, prostitution and drug activity. I had been the undercover operator on a recent takedown, and on this particular night our sergeant and one vice team were trying the same tactic on a second persistent offender, this time in a residential area. My partner and I, along with another vice team, were providing backup, out of sight but on the tactical radio frequency.

... Even then I was having thoughts about a writing career sometime in the future, and I constantly scribbled notes and saved them. As best I can recall from those old notes, here is how it was related to me from the moment both men produced identification.

Vice Cop No. 1 said: "Hey, this guy is Lenny Bruce! Lenny freaking Bruce!"

Indeed it was. Lenny Bruce, the notorious stand-up comic who specialized in obscene attacks on establishment figures (including cops), was standing on the curb and shaking his head when asked if the bag of dope belonged to him.

The other passenger, a tall, fair-haired young man with an upmarket Brit accent, was volubly denying any knowledge of how the bag could have gotten onto the taxi seat. They were told that since neither claimed ownership, they would both be booked for felony possession. The taxi was about to be sent on its way when the tall guy said, "Wait!"

He went straight to the sergeant and asked his name. When he heard an Irish surname, he informed the sergeant that he too was Irish and that he had labored long in British theater with limited success, but that he was in Los Angles to promote a soon-to-be-released movie, "a role of a lifetime," that would make him and the film known throughout the world. He mentioned the name of the movie, but it was no more familiar to the cops than was the actor's name.

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


Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Key Question For The Jury As The Feds Wrap Up The Ligambi Organized Crime Trial

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime in Philadelphia for Bigtrial.net.
The question went to the heart of the case against mob boss Joe Ligambi.

After verbally sparring with an FBI undercover agent over a $25,000 cash payment by Anthony Staino that was either a loanshark transaction or an investment in an illegal (and ficticious) money-laundering scheme set up by the FBI, Edwin Jacobs Jr. asked, "What does Joe Ligambi have to do with that?"

That's the question, applied on several different levels, that Jacobs hopes the jury in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi takes with it when deliberations begin sometime next month.

Absent a smoking gun (literally and figuratively), the prosecution has built the racketeering conspiracy charge against Ligambi around the criminal activities of other mobsters. Some examples  -- a sports betting operation run by Gary Battaglini for mob leader Steven Mazzone; the loansharking/extortion gambit for which Staino was convicted in the first trial earlier this year, and the operation of a video poker machine company (JMA) by Staino.

The prosecution says they support the conspiracy charge; that Ligambi as mob boss approved of and benefitted from the crimes committed by his underlings. The defense says the evidence, weak and circumstantial, does not tie Ligambi, 74, to the allegations.

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


Friday, December 20, 2013

Navy Secretary Tightens Navy's Counter-Fraud Measures

Jim Garamone at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2013 - While the Navy already has one of the strongest counter-fraud efforts in the government, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus today announced new measures to assure contracting integrity and to prevent fraud.

Mabus, who briefed the Pentagon press corps this morning, spoke amid a criminal investigation focused on Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

The U.S. Department of Justice is prosecuting the case, which alleges the company overcharged the U.S. Navy for husbanding services throughout Asia. Husbanding is the services ships receive in port and covers everything from removing sewage to providing transportation to resupply.

Some Naval officers have been arrested for their involvement in the scheme and Mabus expects more announcements as a result of the case.

Mabus is proud of the work Navy personnel did in uncovering the plot.

"The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, NCIS, along with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency did and is doing incredibly impressive work to ferret out the alleged fraud and corruption carried out by GDMA and, yes, allegations against naval personnel, as well," Mabus said.

The investigation has been under way since May 2010.

"Information gathered during this investigation was eventually turned over to government prosecutors and led to the recent charges filed in federal court," Mabus said. This included charges filed against an NCIS agent.

Throughtout the investigation, Mabus repeatedly instructed NCIS agents to take the investigation wherever it led.

"This is a very serious case, and it is a serious issue," he said.

The secretary has spoken with all three- and four-star admirals about the investigation and the changes he is making.

"The conduct and the behavior alleged to have occurred in connection with this case is absolutely incompatible with the standards we require from our Navy officers and civilians," Mabus said. "If, as a result of this investigation, criminal prosecutors decide not to pursue criminal charges, but instead refer cases to the Navy for disposition, I'm announcing that those cases will be reviewed and resolved through a consolidated disposition authority."

This authority will be a four-star admiral who will ensure that if allegations are substantiated, individuals will be held appropriately accountable, Mabus said.

Since 2009, Navy has suspended 252 contractors and debarred 400, the secretary said. Still, he said, the service must do more.

Mabus is taking steps following receipt of a report reviewing acquisition strategies for husbanding and similar contracts worldwide.

Experts are examining the husbanding contractor process from end-to-end and will recommend changes to correct deficiencies in those procedures and to provide maximum effective oversight of the process. When that task is finished, the Navy will issue a revised acquisition strategy that will be used on all husbanding contracts globally.

The Navy will "further standardize requirements, further standardize contract vehicles, further standardize administration and increase oversight of husbanding contracts and contractors," Mabus said. The Navy will increase the use of firm fixed-price line items and minimize the use and improve the oversight of unpriced line items.

The service also "will remove pay functions to husbanding service providers from ships and provide better guidance on requirements and more contracting support ship COs going overseas," he said.

The Navy will also incorporate standardized requisition processes fleetwide, and the service auditor general will conduct a special audit of husbanding and port services contracts. That report is due in June 2014.  

Six Chinese Nationals Indicted For Conspiring To Steal Trade Secrets From U,S. Seed Companies

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

DES MOINES, IA—United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt announced the indictment on December 17, 2013, against six Chinese nationals for conspiracy to steal trade secrets from U.S. seed companies. The indictment alleges that from on or about April 2011 to on or about December 2012, Mo Hailong, Li Shaoming, Wang Lei, Wang Hongwei, Ye Jian, and Lin Yong conspired to steal the trade secrets of several U.S.-based seed manufacturing companies and transport those trade secrets to China for the benefit of their China-based seed company. Mo Hailong was previously charged by criminal complaint on Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

Mo Hailong is employed as the director of International Business of the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Company, which is part of DBN Group. DBN Group is believed to be a Chinese conglomerate with a corn seed subsidiary company, Kings Nower Seed.

Li Shaoming is chief executive pfficer of Beijing Kings Nower Seed S & T Co., Ltd. Beijing Kings Nower Seed S&T Co. (BKN) is the wholly owned seed subsidiary of DBN. Beijing Kings Nower Seed is headquartered in Beijing, China.

Wang Lei is a citizen and resident of China and the vice chairman of Beijing Kings Nower Seed S&T Co. Ltd.

Wang Hongwei is believed to be a resident of Quebec, Canada. Wang Hongwei is believed to be a citizen of both Canada and China.

Ye Jian is a citizen and resident of China and a research manager for Beijing Kings Nower Seed S&T Co. Ltd.

Lin Yong is a citizen and resident of China and an employee for Beijing Kings Nower Seed S&T Co. Ltd.

The defendants are alleged to have conspired to steal inbred corn seed from Dupont Pioneer, Monsanto, and LG Seeds. This “inbred” or “parent” line of seed constitutes valuable intellectual property of a seed producer. After stealing the inbred corn seed, the conspirators attempted to covertly transfer the inbred corn seed to China. The estimated loss on an inbred line of seed is approximately five to eight years of research and a minimum of 30 to 40 million dollars.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

NORAD To Track Santa's Journey


Terri Moon Cronk at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2013 - On Christmas Eve, tens of thousands of children around the globe will gather around their family telephones and computers to track the path of Santa Claus as he makes his rounds delivering gifts on his sleigh led by tiny reindeer.

On the receiving end of the emails, phone calls, mobile "NORAD Santa" applications, website trackers, Facebook followers, Tweets and other social media inquiries into Santa's journey will stand a cadre of 1,250 volunteers to field children's questions at the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. NORAD has conducted the Santa tracking program for 58 years, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis, a NORAD spokesman.

"The program has its own life," Lewis said of the "NORAD Tracks Santa" mass appeal that's often handed down in families from generation to generation. The program's website offers games and other activities for children until Dec. 24 when the tracking Santa tracking map goes live, he said.

When the website goes live, other tracking methods via satellite, ground-based radar and "fighter jets" also spring to life, Lewis said. Sirius radio will also give a live-feed rundown of Santa's journey, he added.

Children ranging in age from 4 years old to early teens contact the "NORAD Tracks Santa" call center at 877-446-6723, Lewis said. Typically, the younger ones want to know when Santa will arrive at their houses, where he is at that moment, and what kinds of gifts he has in his sleigh.

Sometimes children want to know how Santa can deliver presents around the world so quickly.

"Santa travels at the speed of starlight," Lewis said. "And he's got the ability to circumnavigate the globe and do his mission with the speed and accuracy that nobody's ever seen."

NORAD routinely performs aerospace warning and aerospace control missions 365 days a year, and that's where the "fighter jets" come into play when Santa approaches his first stops in the Northeastern Canadian provinces, Lewis explained. From there, he goes around North America, then north to south and back and forth along the poles, making deliveries as he goes across each of the time zones, he said.

"[Canada] has the 'pilots' this year who will take on the 'fighter jet' mission, and as Santa makes his approach into North America, [the 'jets'] go up, make sure it's him, verify it on the flight plan that he gave us and let him go on his way," Lewis said.

As Santa makes his rounds, the call center volunteers tell the children they must be asleep between 10 p.m. and midnight before Santa can bring their presents.

"A lot of times when we tell the children what time it is they say, 'That's really close to now!' and you'll hear the phone just drop as they run off to bed," Lewis said.

The military and civilian volunteers work in two-hour shifts from 3 a.m., Mountain Standard Time Dec. 24 to 3 a.m. Christmas day, he said. Responses are available in eight languages -- English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.

"In just the call center alone, volunteers do anything from social media posting, pushing out tweets all night, posting on our Facebook page, and answering phones -- which is the largest percentage of [the shift] -- and they answer emails," Lewis said.

During Christmas in 2012, more than 1,250 volunteers in the "NORAD Tracks Santa" call center fielded about 114,000 calls and nearly 11,000 emails from children, NORAD figures show.

The website had 22.3 million visitors from 235 countries and territories across the globe during December, and the program's Facebook page grew to more than 1.2 million followers.

More than 129,000 people also tweeted about Santa's journey on Twitter, and cell phones downloaded 1.5 million applications. Altogether, 25 million people around the world followed Santa's journey in real-time on the web, on their mobile devices, by e-mail and by phone in 2012.

The program began in 1955 when a local newspaper ad directed children to call Santa directly, but the number was a misprint. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Operations Center. Since 1958, Lewis said, NORAD has carried on the tradition.

The program is paid for by 55 corporate contributors, Lewis said.

"We have people calling all the time to help," he said. "We just could not do this without the volunteers."

The volunteers sign up for "NORAD Tracks Santa" for a good reason, Lewis said.

"It's the joy of the season in your heart," he said. "When you get the first few phone calls from these kids and hear the innocence in their voices ... if you step back and take it all in, it's incredible."

Do You Feel Safer?: Crony Donors At Homeland Security

Michelle Malkin's column in the New York Post looks at the appointment of Jeh Johnson (seen in the above DoD photo) to head the Department of Homeland Security. 

On Monday night, Senate Democrats voted 57-37 to end debate on the nomination of Jeh Johnson to head DHS. That’s three votes short of the traditional 60-vote filibuster threshold that Reid nuked last month. Johnson went on to win his appointment by a 78-16 margin.

The White House performed its Snoopy happy dance soon after, with President Obama declaring Johnson “a strong leader with a deep understanding of the threats we face and a proven ability to work across agencies and complex organizations to keep America secure.”

News coverage instead stresses that Johnson is the “first African-American” to hold the No. 1 position at DHS. Because, you know, diversity will keep us safe.

... Here’s more you should know about Johnson: He’s a lifelong beneficiary of the government/law-firm revolving door, dating back to the Clinton years. In a recent interview with a legal Web site, Johnson cheerfully bragged that his initial “foray into national security was a fluke, really. The Clinton White House recruited me to be general counsel of the Air Force. I had no idea what the job was about, had never been in the military and had never set foot in the Pentagon.”

Yep, a “fluke.” That’s a confidence-booster.

Johnson counts among the “big breaks” in his life a fateful meeting with Obama in 2006. He went on to shovel gobs of money into Obama’s campaigns and Democratic coffers. In 2008, this top campaign-finance bundler served on the Team Obama transition team. Next, Johnson found himself — like the feather floating in “Forrest Gump” — appointed to the position of general counsel at the Defense Department.

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


Review of Charles Krauthammer's 'Things That Matter'

Michael Talube reviewed Charles Krauthammer's Things That Matter for the Washington Times.

If you had to name the top conservative writers or thinkers in today’s society, Charles Krauthammer would surely be on that list.

The American-born physician and former Democrat, who was raised in Montreal, has gradually become one of the country’s leading conservative intellectuals. He writes a weekly syndicated column for The Washington Post, which is carried in more than 400 newspapers, and appears on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” and PBS’ "Inside Washington."

Mr. Krauthammer's strong support of limited government, lower taxes, free markets and more individual rights and freedoms are commendable. His powerful positions on foreign policy and the war on terrorism — he coined two popular terms “Reagan Doctrine” and “unipolarity” — have made him a must-read for defense hawks. Yet his position on certain domestic issues isn’t always to the right. He leans pro-choice on abortion and opposes capital punishment, for example. Most small “c” conservatives have learned to look past some of these (shall we say) indiscretions as a result of their immense respect for his knowledge, breadth and depth on most issues, however.

In his new book, “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics,” we find out just how well Mr. Krauthammer’s columns and essays have stood the test of time. The author acknowledges a few minor grammatical changes “for the sake of uniformity,” and some tiny edits and typo corrections “for reasons of obscurity, redundancy or obsolescence.” Everything else “remains untouched” and “stands as it was on the day it was first published: imperfect, unimproved, unapologetically mine.”

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


Philly Mob Associate Ron Galati Switches Lawyers Amid Speculation And Temporary Delay In Federal Mob Trial

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for Bigtrial.net.

The racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew and co-defendant George Borgesi was temporarily derailed this afternoon by a Philadelphia Daily News story about mob associate Ron Galati.

Meanwhile speculation mounted that the South Philadelphia auto-body shop operator and mob associate may be considering cooperating with authorities.

Galati, 63, abruptly replaced Joseph Santaguida as his attorney today with Anthony Voci, a criminal defense attorney and former Assistant District Attorney. Santaguida said he was informed of the change in a telephone conversation with Galati's son this afternoon. Santaguida had met with Galati at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility this morning.

... The impact on the Ligambi trial was temporary, but the Galati situation has added another twist to the ongoing saga of the mob boss and his co-defendant nephew. Both have been identified as friends of Galati's. Borgesi, according to testimony, has also been involved in scams run from the auto-body shop.

The Daily News article published this morning included a blaring front page headline that labeled Galati a "Wrecketeer." The piece, by William Bender, raised questions about how Galati, who was convicted of insurance fraud and racketeering in 1995, was able to obtain a contract to repair cars for the Philadelphia Police Department.

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


You can also read the Philadelphia Daily News piece on Galati via the below link:


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Defense Department Official Examines Federal Facilities Security Practices

Amaani Lyle at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2013 – In the wake of the Sept. 16 shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard, officials have initiated evaluations to gauge the ability to deter, withstand and recover from the full range of threats at military installations, a senior Defense Department official said today at a Senate hearing called to examine physical security at federal facilities.

Steve Lewis, deputy director for personnel, industrial and physical security policy, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the Defense Department evaluated facility security policies and the practices it uses to reduce vulnerability of people and property.

“Based upon the results of these evaluations, active and passive measures are tailored to safeguard and prevent unauthorized access to personnel, equipment, installations and information by employing a layered security concept known as ‘security-in-depth,’” he said. 

Lewis said the deputy defense secretary will consolidate key recommendations based on concurrent independent and internal reviews to identify and recommend actions that address gaps in security programs, policies and procedures, including clearance grants and renewals for DOD employees and contractors.  The final report, Lewis explained, will be sent to the secretary of defense for review and, if approved, will be addressed in an implementation plan, in coordination with the DOD components and key federal agency partners, as appropriate.

DOD also calls for the development and maintenance of comprehensive plans to address a broad spectrum of natural and man-made scenarios, including joint response plans to adverse or terrorist incidents, such as shooters and unauthorized access to facilities, Lewis reported. Natural and man-made scenarios could include chemical and biological attacks, unauthorized access to facilities and physical security breaches. “Military commanders or their civilian equivalents, using risk-management principles, are required to conduct an annual local vulnerability assessment, and are subject every three years to a higher-headquarters assessment, such as a Joint Staff Integrated Vulnerability Assessment,” he said.

A JSIVA considers both the current threat and the capabilities that may be employed by both transnational and local terrorist organizations. “The department has worked very hard to foster improvements that produce greater efficiencies and effectiveness in facility securities,” Lewis said.  DOD efforts to harmonize facility security posture with more than 50 federal departments and agencies and with military commanders located in DOD-occupied leased space includes incorporation of the Interagency Security Committee’s physical security standards in DOD guidance, Lewis reported.

“These forums enable the sharing of best practices, physical security standards, and cyber and terrorist threat information in support of our collective resolve to enhance the quality and effectiveness of physical security of federal facilities,” he said. 

Other initiatives include the development of an Identity Management Enterprise Services Architecture, or IMESA, that will provide an enterprise approach to identity sharing and physical access control information. “IMESA will provide real-time vetting of individuals requiring unescorted access to DOD facilities, and these will be run against DOD, federal, state and other … data sources,” he said. Because IMESA users will be able to authenticate individual access credentials and fitness to enter the facility, Lewis added, “IMESA will vastly enhance the security of DOD personnel and facilities worldwide.”

Note: For the last 21 of my more than 37 years of U.S Navy/Defense Department service, I oversaw  security programs for a Defense Department command in Philadelphia.

Up To A Point: Daily Beast Interview With Humorist P.J. O'Rourke

The Daily Beast offers an interview with one of my favorite writers, P.J. O'Rourke, and announced that the humorist will write a weekly column for the online publication.

The legendary libertarian humorist is joining The Daily Beast as a weekly columnist. Here, he riffs on his rapid-fire style, why politics is as funny as ever, and more.
So, what do you think makes a great column?

A lot of newspaper columns used to be written in a rat-a-tat-tat, fast-paced style—and they tended to be funny. They were a little relief from the grimmer, grayer parts of the newspaper, and one of the best people at doing this was Will Rogers. He had a weekly newspaper column called “Illiterate’s Digest,” and it was just him riffing off the events of the day. Many of the things we remember Will Rogers saying—like “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”—are right out of his column. And they didn’t need a lot of connective tissue because the connective tissue was really what had happened that last week and so there was no need for throat clearing at the beginning or summation at the end or bloviating in between.

... Has the humor gone out of politics?

Oh, no. It’s better than ever. Well, not better than ever—we can’t possibly top certain portions of the Clinton years. But politics is always hilarious because everybody’s mad at each other. I mean, go back to the Civil War. A man named David Ross Locke wrote these columns that Lincoln was crazy about and they were supposedly by a fellow named Petroleum V. Nasby, who was the world’s stupidest southern sympathizer. He was an Ohio Copperhead type who sympathized with the southern states in a way that was so blatantly stupid—lest we think we invented irony—that it was just hilarious. And people don’t get any madder at each other than they were during the Civil War. People say, oh, politics is so polarized today, and I’m thinking…1861, that was polarized.

Your column will be called “Up to a Point.” Why did you choose that name?

The most famous book among all foreign correspondents is Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. The newspaper in Scoop is, of course, The Daily Beast, which is owned by the moronic Lord Copper and run by the obsequious Mr. Salter. There’s a brief passage which I think all reporters know. “Whenever Lord Copper was right, Mr. Salter would say, ‘Definitely, Lord Copper,’ and whenever Lord Copper was wrong, Mr. Salter would way, ‘Up to a point, Lord Copper.’” Then follows a little snatch of dialogue where Lord Copper says, “Hong Kong—belongs to us, doesn’t it?” “Definitely, Lord Copper.” “Yokohama—capital of Japan, isn’t it?” “Up to a point, Lord Copper.”

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


Note: Evelyn Waugh's Scoop is a great novel and it is one of my favorites. I reread Scoop every couple of years.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NCIS Agent Pleads Guilty In International U.S. Navy Fraud And Bribery Scandal

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

A special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) pleaded guilty today to participating in a massive international fraud and bribery scheme, admitting he shared with a foreign Navy contractor confidential information about ongoing criminal probes into the contractor’s billing practices in exchange for prostitutes, cash and luxury travel.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Director Andrew Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and Deputy Inspector General for Investigations James B. Burch of the U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jan Adler of the Southern District of California.   The plea is subject to acceptance by U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino.  Sentencing is set for March 9, 2014, before Judge Sammartino.

Supervisory Special Agent John Bertrand Beliveau Jr., 44, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and bribery, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.   In his plea agreement, Beliveau acknowledged that he regularly searched confidential NCIS databases for reports of investigations related to the contractor, Leonard Glenn Francis, chief executive of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).   Beliveau admitted that, over the course of years, he helped Francis avoid multiple criminal investigations by providing copies of these reports plus advice and counsel on how to respond to, stall and thwart the NCIS probes.   This duplicity began while Beliveau was stationed in Singapore and continued for more than a year after Beliveau returned to the NCIS office in Quantico, Va.

Beliveau is one of five Navy officials and civilian contractors who are implicated so far in the widening corruption case involving hundreds of millions of dollars in Navy contracts.   In addition to Beliveau and Francis, also charged are U.S. Navy Commanders Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz and Jose Luis Sanchez and GDMA executive Alex Wisidagama.   The charges against Francis, Misiewicz, Sanchez and Wisidagama are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

“Today, John Beliveau has admitted to accepting lavish gifts in exchange for revealing sensitive law enforcement information to a primary target of this massive bribery investigation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman.  “For nearly two years, Beliveau deliberately leaked the names of cooperating witnesses, reports of witness interviews, and plans for future investigative steps.  Through his corrupt conduct, Beliveau helped the target of the investigation evade the reach of law enforcement, and cost the U.S. Navy millions of dollars.  Thanks to the Navy’s extensive cooperation and assistance, and the hard work of the NCIS and DCIS agents assigned to this ongoing investigation, we have now been able to hold him to account.”

“Instead of doing his job, John Beliveau was leaking confidential details of investigations to the target himself,” said U.S. Attorney Duffy. “This is an audacious violation of law for a decorated federal agent who valued personal pleasure over loyalty to his colleagues, the U.S. Navy and ultimately his own country. His admissions are a troubling reminder that corruption may exist even among those entrusted with protecting our citizens and upholding our laws.”

“John Beliveau's reprehensible actions, providing sensitive information to the targets of ongoing fraud investigations and accepting bribes, tragically tarnished his NCIS badge,” said NCIS Director Traver.  “Nevertheless, the tireless and dedicated work of NCIS and DCIS effectively brought this to a halt, and these agencies continue to vigilantly protect Department of Navy personnel and resources.”

“Today’s guilty plea of former NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau is part of an ongoing joint effort by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and our enforcement partners to identify, investigate and bring to justice those seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of U.S. taxpayers,” said Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Burch.   “While the conduct of a vast majority of those in the U.S. Navy and law enforcement community is beyond reproach, we will vigorously pursue those individuals who put the safety and security of U.S. Navy personnel at risk.  The conduct of former Special Agent Beliveau is reprehensible and today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Defense Criminal Investigative Service will continue to pursue allegations of fraud and corruption that puts the Warfighter at risk.”

Among the law enforcement-sensitive information provided by Beliveau to Francis were the identities of the subjects of the investigations; information about witnesses, including identifying information about cooperating witnesses and their testimony; the particular aspects of GDMA’s billings that were of concern to the investigations; the fact that the investigations had obtained numerous email accounts and the identities of those accounts; the reports to prosecutors and their interactions with the investigations; and planned future investigative activities.

According to information provided in court, when authorities became aware of Beliveau’s duplicity, they began tracking Beliveau’s efforts to misappropriate information from the criminal investigation and then provide it to Francis.  Soon after that, Francis came to San Diego from Singapore for a meeting with Navy brass, where Francis was arrested.  Beliveau was taken into custody the same day in Virginia.

All told, Beliveau leaked information to Francis about criminal investigations into GDMA’s overbilling scheme that cost the Navy at least $7 million in fraudulent overpayments for “husbanding” services such as food, fuel and other supplies and services to the ships, according to the plea agreement.

In return for leaks of internal NCIS information and advice from Beliveau, Francis allegedly provided the agent with envelopes containing cash on at least five occasions, along with luxury travel from Virginia to Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand, the plea agreement stated.  On many occasions, beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2012 while Beliveau was posted in Singapore, Francis allegedly provided the NCIS agent with prostitutes, lavish dinners, entertainment and alcohol at high-end nightclubs.  The tab for each of these outings routinely ran into the thousands of dollars.

According to court records, in April of 2012 Beliveau complained to Francis, saying, “You give whores more money than you give me,” and, “I can be your best friend or worst enemy.”

Court records state that Beliveau and Francis tried to hide their illicit activity by employing techniques that Beliveau had learned from his specialized training as a law enforcement agent.  These steps included deleting emails, changing email accounts, creating covert email accounts shared by Beliveau and Francis, not transferring funds through the normal banking channels and using Skype chat and calls to transmit information.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by NCIS, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.  Significant assistance was provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and the DOJ Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the Royal Thai Police and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau Singapore.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Pletcher and Robert Huie of the Southern District of California and Director of Procurement Fraud Catherine Votaw and Trial Attorney Brian Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, as well as Special Trial Attorney Wade Weems on detail to the Fraud Section from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

Those with information relating to fraud, corruption or waste in government contracting should contact the NCIS anonymous tipline at www.ncis.navy.mil or the DoD Hotline at www.dodig.mil/hotline , or call (800) 424-9098.

My Crime Fiction: "Twas A Crime Before Christmas"

The below short story first appeared in The Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2009:

As a crime reporter and columnist, I was compelled to look into a report of a burglary of an unemployed construction worker on Christmas Eve in South Philadelphia.

The burglar or burglars broke into the home early on the morning of the 24th. They stole the family’s TV and other household goods. They also took a dozen or so wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree that were intended for the family’s two children.

I interviewed the victim, who was so devastated by the burglary that he could hardly speak. I also spoke to a detective who said he presently had no leads on the case but he planned to keep working it, and I spoke to a local priest who told me that the church was collecting donations for the poor family.

Lastly, I spoke to a man of great wisdom and experience. The jolly old fella was kind enough to pause during his special night out to talk to me about crime.

I interviewed Santa Claus as he was packing up his sleigh and getting ready to head off on his magical trip, bringing toys and goodies to good children around the world.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard on his chin was white as snow. His eyes twinkled and his dimples were merry. His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. He looked like a candidate for a heart attack.

And he smoked. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth and the smoke encircled his head like a wreath (the Surgeon General would not approve). He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot (PETA would not approve) and his clothes were tarnished with ashes and soot (Mrs. Santa would not approve). With a lumpy sack over his shoulder, he looked like a homeless person.

I asked Santa Claus if the public’s fear of crime had changed how he did his job.

“The increased use of car and home burglar alarms makes my journey tougher, I must say,” Santa said. “As you know, my miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer make such a clatter, they set off every car alarm on the block.”

Santa also said that home burglar alarms has made his surreptitious entry, via the fireplace, most difficult. When he slides down the chimney, he sets off alarms, which wakes the household and brings the police.

Santa went on to say that the alarms ruin the surprise for the children and he is often detained by the responding police officers, who demand identification and administer alcohol tests.

Fortunately, Santa looks like a right jolly old elf, so the police officers have to laugh, in spite of themselves. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head give the people who thought they were being robbed the knowledge that they had nothing to dread.

“I once had my sleigh and reindeer stolen while I was in a home setting up the toys, and I must admit that I paused to enjoy the milk and cookies that a child left me,” Santa said. “But with some kindly police officer’s help, I was able to recover the sleigh and reindeer rather quickly. You see my lead reindeer has a bright red nose and we were able to spot him from about three blocks away.”

Santa said his brush with crime made him understand why families were installing burglar alarms and why they were more concerned about a strange old fat man in red entering their home in the middle of the night. He told me that he was looking into some kind of security system for his sleigh as well.

I asked him about the burglary that occurred that morning in South Philly and he replied he was well aware of the sad incident.

“I plan to visit the house tonight on my rounds and with a little magic I’ll leave them some special gifts under their tree,” Santa explained. “I also did a little investigative work to find the crooks, as I have powers the police lack."

Santa said he discovered who the crooks were and he tipped the police off. He also plans to leave the crooks lumps of coal in their stockings, which will be hung with care in the local jail.

“Don’t they know I’m watching?” Santa asked. ”I know when they have been naughty or good. My surveillance techniques are finer than the FBI’s.”

“This should be a joyful time of year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” Santa said. “This should be a time of love, charity and good cheer.”

The interview concluded, he sprang to his sleigh and to his team gave a whistle and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

(With apologies to Clement C. Moore and my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all)

© 2009 By Paul Davis

A Look Back At The Nativity & Twas The Night Before Christmas With The Beaton Marionettes

Growing up in the 1950s and the 1960s, I was one of millions of television viewers who watched The Nativity and Twas the Night Before Christmas with the Beaton Marionettes every Christmas.

The program was narrated by the late, great actor, Alexander Scourby.

The TV program brings back fond memories of Christmas as a child. My parents did not have a lot of money, but they always provided a great Christmas holiday for our family.

You can watch the two short programs via the below links:
Twas the Night Before Christmas
Part One of The Nativity
Part Two of the Nativity
Merry Christmas.

Philly Mob Associate Jailed In Murder For Hire Case

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for Bigtrial.net.

Here we go again.

Last year it was  mobster Anthony Nicodemo, arrested for allegedly carrying out a gangland hit while mob boss Joe Ligambi was on trial in U.S. District Court.

This year it's Ronald Galati, a notorious wannabe wiseguy. Galati, whose name surfaced during the testimony of Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello two weeks ago in the ongoing Ligambi retrial, was arrested Saturday for allegedly hiring a hit man (or men?) to knock off a witness in a pending insurance fraud investigation in which he is the principal target.

Galati, 63, who owns an auto body shop in South Philadelphia, has been in this situation before. The question being asked in law enforcement and underworld circles is whether the fast-talking mob associate, who was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for insurance fraud back in 1995, is ready to roll the dice in a case that could land him in state prison for the next 15 years?

The retrial of Ligambi and his co-defendant and nephew George Borgesi resumes this morning before Judge Eduardo Robreno. The case could go to the jury early in January. But there are those who believe the racketeering conspiracy charge the defendants are currently fighting could be the least of their problems if Galati rolls.

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


Monday, December 16, 2013

Jimmy Fallon On James Bond's Hard-Drinking Lifestyle

Late night comedian Jimmy Fallon offers the below comment on the British medical study on Ian Fleming's iconic fictional character James Bond's drinking:

Somebody actually did a study that found that because of his hard-drinking lifestyle, the character James Bond would live to be only 56 years old. When men heard that they were like, “Yeah, I'd take that deal.”

Note: Was a study really needed?

Ian Fleming, Bond's creator - who gave Bond his personal lifestyle, which included eating well, heavy smoking and hard-drinking - lived to be 56.

They also could have saved time, effort and money by simply reading Ian Fleming's Thunderball.

In the beginning of Fleming's thriller he has Bond sent to a clinic because he is drinking too much.

Fleming also wrote Bond's (and his own) epithet: "I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

'Big Book Of Christmas Mysteries' Offers Yule Time Fun And Crime

Patrick Anderson at the Washington Post offers a review of Otto Penzler's Big Book of Christmas Mysteries.

Vicious crime at Christmastime?

Murder most foul as kiddies sing and sleigh bells ring?

Poison in the punch? Cyanide in the pudding?

Ye gods, what unspeakable horror!

But what fun, too, in “The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries,” Otto Penzler's collection of 59 notable Christmas crime stories of past and present!

Penzler, writer, publisher and proprietor of Manhattan’s Mysterious Bookshop, draws on his encyclopedic know­ledge of English-language crime fiction to give us a panoramic look at outstanding stories from the late 19th century to the early 21st. There are celebrated writers here — Thomas Hardy, John D. MacDonald, Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, Robert Louis Stevenson — and others undeservedly forgotten. Happily, the stories don’t offer much violence and gore; it’s mostly offstage. Indeed, one of the joys of the collection is how many are delightfully funny.

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


Frank, Bing, Nat, Dino & Others Sing Our Beloved Christmas Songs

Although a good number of people complain about Christmas songs being played too early in the season, and far too often, I don't mind. I love Christmas music.

Christmas music celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and the season of faith, hope, love, giving and sharing. And there are so many good Christmas songs.

I wrote a piece that defended Christmas music for the Philadelphia Inquirer a few years ago.

You can read the piece via the below link:


Sunday, December 15, 2013

'A Christmas Crime Story'

As the Christmas season is here again, I'd like to once again offer my short story A Christmas Crime Story.   

To get in the true spirit of the Christmas holiday, some people go to church, some people go to the homes of family and friends, and some people go out and shop.

Me? I go to cop bars.

...  As a writer, I’ve talked to cops in station houses, in patrol cars, on the street and in bars. I’ve listened to their concerns, prideful boasts and sorrowful confessions. I’ve accompanied cops on patrol and witnessed them handle insane, intoxicated and incongruous citizens. I’ve observed how they console crime victims and their families. I’ve seen how they cope with the aftermath of criminal violence and man’s inhumanity to man. And I’ve come to appreciate their black humor, which like military humor, is a necessary safety valve to get them through the bad times.

... Cops are generally in good spirits despite the fact that the holiday season is a busy one for them. It’s a sad commentary, but the holiday season is a peak time for crime. Criminals certainly love the holiday season, but not for spiritual or sentimental reasons. It’s simply a time of grand opportunity. And criminals certainly don’t take a Christmas vacation. As joyous and hopeful people go out to worship, shop, dine and visit family and friends, criminal predators go out and pickpocket, shoplift, mug, steal and burglarize.

You can read the rest of the short story via the below link:


Kansas Man Charged In Plot To Explode Car Bomb At Airport

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

A man has been charged in federal court with attempting to explode a car bomb at Wichita Mid Continent Airport, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, John Carlin and U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced today. The defendant was arrested as part of an FBI undercover investigation, and the device used by the defendant was, in fact, inert and at no time posed a danger to the public.

Terry Lee Loewen, 58, of Wichita, Kan., is charged in a criminal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Wichita with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

“There was no breach of Mid-Continent’s Airport’s security,” said U.S. Attorney Grissom.  “At no time was the safety of travelers or members of the public placed in jeopardy.”

Loewen, who works as an avionics technician, is alleged to have spent months developing a plan that involved using his access card to airport grounds to drive a van loaded with explosives to the terminal.  He planned to pull the trigger on the explosives himself and die in the explosion.

Agents arrested Loewen about 5:40 a.m. Friday after he attempted to enter the airport tarmac and deliver a vehicle loaded with what he believed were high explosives.  Members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) took him into custody without incident.

Loewen has been under investigation by the Wichita Joint Terrorism Task Force since early summer 2013. It is alleged that, prior to his attempted attack, he made statements that he was resolved to commit an act of violent jihad against the United States. Over a period of months, he took a series of actions to advance the plot. According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Loewen:
  • studied the layout of the airport and took photographs of access points;
  • researched flight schedules;   
  • assisted in acquiring components for the car bomb;
  • and talked about his commitment to trigger the device and martyr himself.

On Friday, Loewen went to Mid-Continent Airport to detonate the car bomb.  He was taken into custody when he attempted to open a security access gate. FBI Evidence Response Teams are executing search warrants related to the case.  Although the investigation is ongoing, no additional arrests are anticipated.

“Lone wolves - home grown violent extremists remain a very serious threat to our nation’s security, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Kaste.  “Today’s arrest emphasizes the continual need for the public to remain vigilant as law enforcement relies on the public’s assistance.” 
If convicted, Loewen would face a maximum penalty of life in federal prison.

The investigation was conducted by the Wichita FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes members from the FBI, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and Kansas Highway Patrol. Assisting with the investigation were the FBI Kansas City Division, the Transportation Security Administration, the Wichita Airport Authority, and the Wichita Police Department. 

The case is being handled by prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.