Friday, October 31, 2014

Government Contractor, Its Owner, And Two Employees Charged In Multi-Million-Dollar Fraud Scheme

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

PHILADELPHIA—Devos Ltd., doing business as Guaranteed Returns (“Guaranteed Returns”), in Holbrook, NY, its Chief Executive Officer, Dean Volkes, and two others were charged by indictment, unsealed today, in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud customers, including the government. Volkes, 51, of Port Jefferson, NY, Donna Fallon, 50, of Miller Place, NY, and Ronald Carlino, 66, of Deer Park, NY, are all charged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice and were arrested this morning, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger.

The indictment alleges that more than $116 million worth of drug products had been returned for refund and more than $14 million of those drugs belonged to federal government agencies, including the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. Other victims include numerous hospitals, pharmacies, and long-term care facilities.

Fallon serves as Chief Financial Officer for Guaranteed Returns and Carlino is an Information Technology employee. All four defendants are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by concealing and destroying records involved in a Defense Department investigation, six counts of obstruction of justice, and three counts of lying to federal agents about those records. Volkes, Guaranteed Returns, and Fallon are also charged with money laundering conspiracy. Volkes and Guaranteed Returns are charged in 18 counts of wire fraud, 14 counts of mail fraud and one count of conversion of government property.

According to the indictment, Guaranteed Returns was in the business of managing the returns of pharmaceutical products for healthcare providers, including the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Administration. Manufacturers of pharmaceutical products frequently allow expired drugs to be returned for a refund. Guaranteed Returns handled this process for healthcare provider clients in exchange for a fee based on a percentage of the return value.

The indictment charges that Guaranteed Returns promised its clients that it would hold the clients’ “indate” (not yet expired) drug products until they expired, and then return them on the clients’ behalf, in exchange for a fee. Instead, according to the indictment, Guaranteed Returns, at the direction of CEO Dean Volkes, stole a significant portion of the “indate” drug products that it received from its clients; returned the drugs to the manufacturers; and kept the resulting refund money for itself and Dean Volkes.

The indictment further alleges that during the course of the scheme, a federal grand jury sitting in this district began investigating the diversion of funds under a contract with the DoD. During that investigation, an agent from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service met with Dean Volkes and served him with a grand jury subpoena requiring Guaranteed Returns to turn over records related to the DoD contract. Volkes and other Guaranteed Returns employees stated that they would comply with the subpoena. Instead, it is charged that with the help of Donna Fallon and Ronald Carlino, they destroyed some records and concealed others, and then lied to the investigating agents about why the records were not produced.

“The defendants in this case found a way to defraud the government, hospitals, pharmacies, and long-term care facilities by exploiting the system for returning expired drugs to pharmaceutical companies,” said Memeger. “My office will continue to aggressively prosecute and seek to recover illegal proceeds from those who use our precious health care dollars to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.”

“Fraud against the government amounts to stealing from American taxpayers, in service of pure greed,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Edward J. Hanko said. “The FBI takes that very seriously, and we’re committed to tracking and shutting down financial fraud schemes.”

If convicted of all charges, defendant Guaranteed Returns faces a possible fine of over $200 million along with a $4,400 special assessment; Volkes faces a maximum possible statutory sentence of 810 years in prison, a fine of over $200 million, three years of supervised release, and a $4,400 special assessment; Fallon faces a maximum possible statutory sentence of 160 years in prison, a fine of over $200 million, three years of supervised release, and a $1,100 special assessment; and Carlino faces a maximum possible statutory sentence of 140 years in prison, a $2.5 million fine, three years of supervised release, and a $1,000 special assessment.

This case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nancy Rue and Paul Shapiro.

An Indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Suspected Murderer Of Pennsylvania State Trooper Captured In The Poconos Mountains

Laura McCrystal and Mike Newall at the Philadelphia Inquirer offer a piece on the capture of the suspected killer of a Pennsylvania state trooper.

Eric Frein, the suspected cop-killer who for six weeks was the target of a Poconos manhunt involving more than 1,000 law enforcement officers, surrendered Thursday after being discovered hiding in an abandoned airplane hangar, officials said.

A search team found Frein at the hangar at Birchwood Resort in Tannersville. U.S. marshals led the search team, two sources confirmed. Frein was unarmed and surrendered without incident, the sources said, and was expected to be transferred to nearby Pike County.

The site - on a near-deserted country road - remained an active crime scene Thursday night, with a road leading to the resort blocked off and law enforcement vehicles driving and in out. A group of police officers huddled at the entrance of the abandoned resort, and patrol cars, lights flashing, lined the road.

Pennsylvania State Police spokeswoman Trooper Connie Devens confirmed Frein was in custody, but would not elaborate.

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fox News Lands First Interview With Bin Laden Shooter

The Hollywood Reporter offers a piece on Fox News' announcement that the cable news channel will be the first to interview the U.S. Navy SEAL who killed the man responsible for the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Fox News has landed the first interview with the man who killed Osama bin Laden, which will be part of a two-night documentary airing on Nov. 11 and 12.

In the special, titled The Man Who Killed Usama Bin Laden, the Navy SEAL who says he fired the shots that killed Bin Laden, also known as "The Shooter," will reveal his identity and speak out publicly for the first time.

 The shooter will describe the events leading up to and during the raid that took place in May 2011, including his elite training and involvement in Operation Neptune Spear, the mission that killed bin Laden. He'll also offer his first-hand account of what happened during the SEAL Team 6 raid. Fox News promises that the documentary will include never-before-shared details.

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

Patrick McGoohan's Secret Agent (AKA Danger Man): The Complete Series DVD To Be Released On December 9th

Spy thrillers were the big thing in the 1960s when I was a teenager.

I was watching Sean Connery as Ian Fleming's iconic character James Bond at the movies and on TV I was watching Patrick McGoohan as John Drake in Secret Agent.

For those of you from my generation who may wish to recapture their youth by watching John Drake in action again, or for younger viewers who have never seen Patrick McGoohan's classic TV spy drama, Shout Factory announced that they will be releasing Secret Agent: The Complete Series on DVD on December 9th.

Shout Factory offers the below synopsis:

“Every government has its secret service branch. America, CIA; France,Deuxième Bureau; England, MI5. NATO also has its own. A messy job? Well that's when they usually call on me or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake.”

Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner) stars as John Drake in Secret Agent, the popular television series from the Golden Age of Spy Thrillers, the 1960s. Travelling the world to capture international criminals, John Drake rarely solved problems with a gun, preferring to use charm and wit over violence to bring in the bad guys.

Encompassing all 86 episodes from its successful broadcast run, Secret Agent (known in the United Kingdom as Danger Man) is an essential addition to the collection of any fan of the spy game.      

I purchased a Secret Agent DVD set last year and over the course of the year I watched all of the Secret Agent episodes.

Patrick McGoohan is terrific as the cool and resourceful British agent. Secret Agent is an intelligent and clever show that holds up very well after all these years.

Note: You can read Patrick McGoohan's obituary in the Los Angeles Times via the below link:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Today In Media History: In 1954, A Former Journalist Named Ernest Hemingway Received The Nobel Prize For Literature

David Shedden at the journalism web site offers a look back at author and journalist Ernest Hemingway, who received the Nobel Prize for literature on October 28, 1954.

Ernest Hemingway was a reporter for the Kansas City Star from October 1917 to April 1918.

In 1999, the newspaper’s website created a special section in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth. This included old stories, various links, anecdotes, and a story titled, “Of ‘Star Style’ and a reporter named Hemingway.”

“And into the midst of The Star staff, in late 1917, came a youth who, when he could get away with it, wore a red and black checkered hunting shirt to work. Old timers frowned on such dress. But the young reporter worked outside the office most of the time. His name was Ernest Hemingway.

….Ernest Hemingway came to The Star as a big, round-faced boy of 18 with limitless energy, and a desire to be in the thick of the action whether a shooting scrape or chasing ambulances. Hemingway worked at the paper for seven months. In late April 1918, he and Ted Brumback, another Star reporter, joined an ambulance unit in Italy.”

“After returning from World War I, Ernest Hemingway moved to Toronto and began writing for the Toronto Star. He worked there from 1920 to 1924 and some 70 of his articles have been archived online in an attractive new website, the Hemingway Papers. At first Hemingway was a stringer and later he wrote as a staff writer, under the byline Ernest M. Hemingway.

….He went on to write for the Star about boxing and trout fishing and organized crime in Chicago. By 1922 Hemingway had moved to Paris with his wife and sent dispatches that anticipated the themes of the novels that would make him famous.”
You can read the rest of the piece, hear Hemingway's Nobel Prize acceptence speech and watch videos about Hemingway via the below link:

Federal Jury Convicts Friend Of Suspected Boston Marathon Bomber

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

Following an eight-day trial, the jury convicted a college friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for making false statements to investigators assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The jury found Robel Phillipos, 21, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, guilty of making false statements during the terrorism investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 20, 2013, and April 25, 2013.  U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Jan. 29, 2015.

“In the wake of one of the most significant events in this City’s modern history – an event which left two young women and a child dead, and many more injured – thousands of ordinary citizens assisted law enforcement in identifying and locating the perpetrators,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for the District of Massachusetts.  “Today, a federal jury concluded that Robel Phillipos did just the opposite.  He lied to agents when he could have helped.  He concealed when he could have assisted.  It is a crime to lie to law enforcement agents, and that is why Robel Phillipos was charged and why the jury found him guilty today.  But this case also reminds us that our public safety network relies on every citizen in the Commonwealth.  We look to all of our citizens – our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues, even strangers whom we have never met before – to assist law enforcement in detecting, preventing, and solving crimes.  Mr. Phillipos made a choice: a choice to lie instead of tell the truth.  With its verdict today, the jury got it exactly right.”

In August 2014, Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges related to the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.  Kadyrbayev admitted to removing evidence from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and discarding Tsarnaev’s backpack with fireworks, some of which appeared to have been emptied of their explosive powder, in a garbage dumpster.  In July 2014, Azamat Tazhayakov was found guilty by a federal jury in Boston of obstruction of justice charges for his role in impeding the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.  His conduct was related to the same conduct as charged against Kadyrbayev that occurred in Tsarnaev’s dormitory room on the evening of April 18, 2013.  

At the Phillipos trial, the government proved that Phillipos lied about his knowledge and activities on the evening of April 18, 2013.  Specifically, Phillipos repeatedly lied to investigators when he denied that, on the evening of April 18, 2013, he entered Tsarnaev’s dormitory room and saw Kadyrbayev remove a backpack containing fireworks.

According to evidence presented at trial, at 7:00 p.m. on April 18, 2013, Phillipos saw the images released by the FBI of the two suspected bombers and immediately recognized one of them as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 

At 10:00 p.m., Phillipos went with Tazhayakov to Tsarnaev’s dormitory room where he and Tazhayakov watched, as Kadyrbayev searched through Tsarnaev’s belongings and found a backpack containing fireworks.  When Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos left Tsarnaev’s room at 10:30 p.m., Kadyrbayev removed Tsarnaev’s backpack containing fireworks, a jar of Vaseline, and Tsarnaev’s laptop computer. 

Later that night while Tazhayakov and Phillipos were monitoring the manhunt for the Tsarnaevs on television, Kadyrbayev discussed getting rid of the backpack containing the fireworks with them.  Tazhayakov agreed with Kadyrbayev that they should get rid of it.  After this conversation, Kadrybayev placed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack in a garbage bag and placed it in a dumpster outside their New Bedford apartment.  The FBI recovered the backpack a week later, after 30 agents spent two days searching a landfill in New Bedford.

Between April 19, 2013 and April 26, 2013, Phillipos was interviewed five times by investigators conducting the Boston Marathon bombing investigation and during each of those interviews Phillipos lied.  At the conclusion of the fifth interview, Phillipos finally admitted that he did go into Tsarnaev’s dormitory room on the evening of April 18, 2013 and that he saw Kadyrbayev remove evidence from Tsarnaev’s room.  After he confessed, Phillipos indicated he regretted his decisions.  In his signed statement, Phillipos stated: “In retrospect, I should have notified the Police once I knew Jahar was the bomber.  Further, I should have turned over the backpack to the authorities.”

The charging statute provides a sentence of no greater than eight years in prison for each of the two false statement counts, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 for each charge.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The sentencing hearing for Kadyrbayev is scheduled for Nov. 18, 2014, and Tazhayakov’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 19, 2014.  

U.S. Attorney Ortiz and Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston Field Division made the announcement today.  This investigation was conducted by the FBI's Boston Division and member agencies of the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) which is comprised of more than 30 federal, state and local enforcement agencies.  Essex County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General, Massachusetts State Police, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Department of Public Safety, New Bedford Police Department, Dartmouth Police Department, U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, and Homeland Security Investigations in Boston provided assistance to this investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys B. Stephanie Siegmann and John A. Capin of U.S. Attorney Ortiz’s Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit.

Happy Birthday To British Novelist Evelyn Waugh

Happy birthday to the late British novelist Evelyn Waugh.

In an interview with the online publication The Daily Beast (which takes the name from Waugh's novel Scoop), the conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke explained why he was calling his Daily Beast column Up To a Point.

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.”

Great stuff.

I discovered Waugh in my early 20′s in the mid-1970s when I was stationed on a Navy tugboat at the U.S. nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland.

I was an aspiring writer at the time and I planned to major in journalism when I left the Navy, so I purchased a Penguin paperback of his brilliant satire of journalism, Scoop. I thought it was a great satirical novel, and I’ve reread it again and again over the years.

I later discovered that much of Scoop was based on Waugh's true experiences as a newspaper correspondent in Ethiopia. That made the novel even more funny and powerful to me.

I went on to read Waugh's other satirical novels, such as Black Mischief and Decline and Fall, as well as his great World War II Sword of Honour trilogy: Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender. I also read his classic novel, Brideshead Revisited, the rest of his novels, his diary and several books about him.

A decade later, my wife and I enjoyed watching the weekly television installments of Brideshead Revisited on PBS.

By all accounts and his own admission, Waugh was not a pleasant man, but he was a brilliant writer. And he was funny.

He even satirized himself in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. 

Waugh told a great story of how he had to endure sitting next to a man on a long train ride who was reading one of his satirical novels. Waugh said he was compelled to watch the man turn each page as he read, not laughing or smiling, even for an instant.

Had Waugh sat next to me on a train while I was reading one of his novels, he would have seen me smiling and even laughing out loud.

If you have not read Waugh, I suggest you start with Scoop and then read all of his works.

The Truth About the Vietnam War In A Six-Minute Video Lesson

I played a minor role in the Vietnam War, as I wrote in one of the below linked pieces, but I like to think of the Vietnam War as my war.

I was only a teenage sailor on an aircraft carrier, but I've made a great study of the Vietnam War over the years. I've read countless books on the war and I've interviewed a good number of Vietnam veterans, including soldiers, Marines, airmen, blue water sailors, small boat sailors, pilots, Navy SEALs, Green Berets and CIA officers.
So it was with some interest that I viewed Bruce Herschensohn's six-minute video lesson on the Vietnam War.

This is not how the history of the Vietnam War is taught in most schools, as most of the older teachers ducked the war, and went on to teach students their anti-war views. And some of those students went on to become anti-war teachers themselves.      
Ricky Price from Kentucky, a former sailor who served on a Navy tugboat with me at the nuclear submarine base in Holy Loch Scotland in 1975, and who previously, like me, served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, sent the link to the Vietnam War lesson to me. Thanks, shipmate. 
You can watch the video via the below link:
You can also read two of my pieces on the Vietnam War via the below links:

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Speech: Ronald Reagan's Famous Speech Turns 50 Today

John Fund at the National Review looks back at President Ronald Reagan's great 1964 speech that launched his political career. The speech is applicable today. 

Today marks the 50th anniversary of what has become known as simply “The Speech.”

The actual title Ronald Reagan gave to the address with which he electrified a nation during a 30-minute broadcast for the failing Goldwater campaign was “A Time for Choosing.” Goldwater lost a week later to Lyndon Johnson, but conservative presidential politics had a North Star in Reagan after that. “It defined conservatism for 50 years,” Reagan biographer Craig Shirley concluded.

Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote that the night of Reagan’s address represented “the most successful political debut since William Jennings Bryan” and his “Cross of Gold” speech in 1896. “I didn’t know it then,” Reagan wrote in his 1991 autobiography, “but that speech was one of the most important milestones of my life.”

... In the middle of the Cold War Reagan forthrightly said liberals refused to acknowledge that “There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.”

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a video of the great speech via the below link:

Aircraft Carrier Sailing Home

Having served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63) during the Vietnam War, I liked the above photo that shows the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) sailing out of the Gulf of Aden.

The Bush Carrier Strike Group is returning to Naval Station Norfolk after supporting maritime security operations, strike operations in Iraq and Syria and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Note: The above U.S. Navy photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt.

You can click on the photo to enlarge.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

FBI And Secret Service Team Up To Educate Private Sector On Cyber Crime

The FBI web site offers the below piece:

“Partnership is the key to any type of [long-lasting] cyber investigation and cyber team work,” said Executive Assistant Director Robert Anderson during a joint FBI/U.S. Secret Service presentation in Washington, D.C. on October 20, 2014 before the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR), an advocacy organization for the U.S. financial services industry. The event was held as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month."

And Anderson wasn’t just talking about our growing partnership with the Secret Service—with whom the Bureau works collaboratively on cyber crime matters. He was also referring to the importance of collaborating with private sector companies, many of whom were represented in the audience.

During the event, joint teams of FBI and Secret Service agents discussed a number of various cyber-related topics to educate and raise awareness of the cyber threat. Those topics included the extent of the problem (more than 500 million personal records stolen over the past 12 months, according to public sources), various stages of a hack (from reconnaissance efforts to the actual data theft), our outreach efforts to the private sector (e.g., InfraGard, National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance), and Operation Clean Slate (the Bureau’s innovative and collaborative approach against the most serious botnet threats).

Also discussed were several significant cyber investigations—including operations Trident Breach, Coreflood, Ghost Click, and GameOver Zeus—that owed much of their success to the assistance provided by our private sector partners.

Other key players in these investigations—and in many of our cyber investigations overall—are our international law enforcement partners. Their support is vital because many of the cyber criminals that victimize American financial institutions, other businesses, and the American public operate outside of the U.S. Said FBI Assistant Director Joseph Demarest, Jr., “Wherever these actors sit in the world, we’re going after them.”

Demarest also warned financial industry representatives that a cyber intrusion “is going to happen” to their company at some point and he advised them to “have a plan” before it happens. That plan should include an internal response team and an already-established cyber point of contact with the U.S. government.

Note: You can read my interview with FBI Special Agent and InfraGard coorinater John Cheeson via the below link: 

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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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:

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:

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: 

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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

South Philly One-Time Mob Boss Joseph Merlino Ordered Back To Philadelphia For Parole Violation

Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia is covering Joseph Merlino's federal hearings for

It looks like an encore is planned for U.S. District Court in the ongoing Skinny Joey Merlino saga.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick issued a one-page ruling this morning denying a motion by Merlino's lawyer seeking to have his probation violation voided. Instead, Surrick set a hearing on the issues for Friday at 10 a.m.

Merlino, who has been living in Boca Raton for the past three years, drew a media horde when he appeared earlier this month for the first hearing in the case. That proceeding focused on a motion filed by defense attorneys Edwin Jacobs Jr. and Michael Myers who argued that federal authorities had failed to properly notify Merlino of the alleged violations.

Merlino, they said, had not been given a summons to appear in court prior to the expiration of his three-year probation. Prosecutors argued that the practice in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was to file a notice of a violation rather than issue a summons. That notice was filed on Sept. 2, five days before Merlino's probationary period ended.
Surrick provided not details in his order, but simply denied the defense motion, setting the stage for a return trip to Philadelphia by the one-time celebrity mob boss. 
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: