Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Colombian Paramilitary Leader Sentenced To More Than 15 Years In Prison For International Drug Trafficking

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

A senior paramilitary leader and one of Colombia’s most notorious drug traffickers was sentenced today to serve 190 months in prison for leading an international drug trafficking conspiracy that imported into the United States ton-quantities of cocaine.  Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made the announcement.

“Through his leadership position in the AUC, Salvatore Mancuso-Gomez directed the manufacture and shipment of over 100,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States and elsewhere,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “In addition to enriching himself, Mancuso-Gomez and the AUC used this drug money to raise and arm a paramilitary force of more than 30,000 fighters and cement his control over regions of Colombia.  This case is yet another example of our continued commitment to collaborating with our international partners to prosecute criminals and warlords who traffic in illegal narcotics, violence and intimidation.”

“DEA is committed to relentlessly attacking global criminal networks who use drug trafficking as a means to finance their terrorist activities,” said Acting Deputy Administrator Riley.  “The arrest and prosecution of Salvatore Mancuso-Gomez clearly illustrates this dedication.  As a senior leader in the AUC, Mancuso-Gomez controlled huge amounts of cocaine production in Colombia, and oversaw its movement to the United States and other parts of the world.  Proceeds from his drug trafficking enterprise were used to acquire weapons and further the AUC’s violent criminal agenda.  DEA is pleased that this significant narco-terror leader has faced justice in a U.S. court of law.”

Salvatore Mancuso-Gomez, aka El Mono and Santander Lozada, formerly of Monteria, Colombia, pleaded guilty in October 2008 to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States.  U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the District of Columbia imposed the sentence.

According to the statement of facts agreed to as part of his guilty plea, Mancuso-Gomez held one of the highest level leadership positions within the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self Defense Forces of Colombia or AUC), a terrorist and paramilitary organization in Colombia.  In September 2001, the AUC was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State.  In May 2003, the AUC was placed on the Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers list by order of the President, pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.  In February 2004, Mancuso-Gomez individually was designated as a Tier II Kingpin by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, subjecting him to severe economic sanctions under the Kingpin Act.

The statement of facts also established that the AUC consisted of approximately 30,000 armed soldiers organized into blocs (or regions) with commanders for each bloc.  In connection with his guilty plea, Mancuso-Gomez admitted that, from the mid-1990s through 2004, he directed thousands of soldiers in two blocs of the AUC, controlling large areas where cocaine was produced.
Mancuso-Gomez admitted that the AUC produced approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine per month during the conspiracy, and that he and members of the organization transported the cocaine to the coastal areas of Colombia where it was loaded onto go-fast boats and other vessels for ultimate transportation to the United States and Europe.  Mancuso-Gomez also admitted that he levied taxes on other narcotics traffickers who needed passage through AUC-controlled territories, and that he used proceeds from his drug trafficking activities to purchase weapons and other supplies for AUC activities.  Mancuso-Gomez further admitted that he and the AUC maintained tight control of their territories in Colombia through intimidation of corrupt members of the Colombian government, including law enforcement and military personnel and politicians.

Today’s sentence does not account for violations of Colombian human rights-related laws allegedly committed by Mancuso-Gomez, which are being addressed in Colombia through the Justice and Peace process – a legal framework enacted in 2005 to facilitate the demobilization of its paramilitary organizations – and Colombian criminal justice system.

The case was investigated by DEA’s Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia, Country Offices, and the DEA Special Operations Division.  The government of Colombia provided unprecedented assistance through the investigation, prosecution and sentencing phase of this case.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Paul W. Laymon and Carmen Colon of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS).  NDDS Judicial Attachés in Bogotá, Colombia; the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs; and the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Colombia (Fiscalia), including the Fiscalia’s Transitional Justice program, provided significant assistance.

Hemingway's 'The Killers' On Film: Blu-Ray's Double Feature

Raymond Benson, who wrote several James Bond continuation novels, looks back at the two film versions of Ernest Hemingway's great crime story The Killers at cinemaretro.com.

The Criterion Collection gave us the DVD versions of these two excellent crime thrillers twelve years ago. The company has now seen fit to upgrade the release to Blu-ray.

Based loosely on a short story by Ernest Hemingway, both versions of The Killers begin with the author’s premise and then take off from there in very different directions. It’s interesting to see how the respective screenwriters adapted the story and then created two disparate feature-length tales out of it. In Hemingway’s piece, two hit men arrive in a small town looking for “the Swede.” They terrorize the owner, cook, and a customer in a diner in an attempt to find the guy. After the killers leave in frustration, the customer runs to the Swede’s boarding house and finds him in bed with his clothes on. He warns the Swede about the men, but the Swede says he’s not going to do anything about it. The customer goes back to the diner and, after realizing no one cares, leaves town. And that’s it.

The 1946 version faithfully captures the short story—even down to the dialogue—for the first ten minutes. Where the short story ends, the movie goes on and we see the hit men actually kill the Swede (played by Burt Lancaster in his first starring role). Enter Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien, with third billing, but he’s really the protagonist of the film!) as an insurance inspector—it turns out the Swede had a life insurance policy that benefits an old lady who helped him once. Reardon is determined to uncover the story behind it all, and the rest of the movie follows his investigation into the Swede’s life in crime (told entirely in flashbacks). The Swede was a boxer who got mixed up with Big Jim, a racketeer (played by Albert Dekker), and falls in love with Big Jim’s gal, Kitty (played by smokin’ hot Ava Gardner, in one of her first starring roles; Gardner had been kicking around Hollywood since the early 40s—this was her big break). As we all know, it’s not good to mess around with the crime boss’s dame.
... The 1964 version is a different animal. It was produced to be the very first TV movie, but NBC viewed the finished product and deemed it too violent for television. Instead, the producers released it theatrically worldwide. Directed by Don Siegel (billed as “Donald Siegel”), The Killers Mach II stars Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager as the hitmen, who here become the focal point of the new story. John Cassavetes plays the Swede character, only here he is a racecar driver named Johnny. The femme fatale, Sheila, is played by Angie Dickinson, and get this... the crime boss is none other than Ronald Reagan in his last film role before he became a politician.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read more about Hemingway's short story The Killers via the below link to my Crime Beat column:

July 4 Terrorist Attack On U.S. Soil A Legitimate Threat, Officials Warn

Maggie Ybarra at the Washington Times offers a piece on a possible terrorist attack on July 4th.

U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers are worried that chatter about a terrorist attack on U.S. soil this Fourth of July may be more than just talk.

The FBI has arrested at least 10 U.S. citizens in three weeks who were plotting various attacks on the homeland on behalf of the Islamic State group, and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint bulletin with the FBI last week putting local law enforcement agencies across the country on heightened alert.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States,” former CIA Deputy Director Michael J. Morell said Monday on “CBS This Morning.” “That’s how serious this is.”

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


Monday, June 29, 2015

Rodney Dangerfield On Johnny Carson, Cracking Jokes And Promoting His Film 'Easy Money'

Below is a link to a video clip of one of my favorite comedians, Rodney Dangerfield, cracking some great jokes and promoting his film Easy Money on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show:


Note: Although he is not in the above clip, Joe Pesci appears in Easy Money and he is nearly as funny as Rodney Dangefield.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

He Had A Way With Words: George Carlin Greatest Comic Rant

The entertainment website cinemaretro.com looks back at one of George Carlin's greatest comic rants.

You can watch the video of George Carlin via the below link:


Second Fugitive Shot Twice And Captured Alive By NY Trooper

The Daily Mail offers a piece on the capture of second fugitive in New York.

David Sweat, the surviving prisoner on the run in New York, has been shot and captured alive two miles from the Canadian border.

He was shot twice in the torso after a veteran officer patrolling the area spotted him brazenly jogging down the road wearing head-to-toe camouflage. 

Sergeant Jay Cook got out his vehicle to question the man before recognizing Sweat. Told to stop, Sweat broke into a run. When he got near a line of trees, almost vanishing from sight, Cook opened fire.

Sweat was treated by first responders at the scene then transported to Alice Hyde Medical Center, a small hospital in Malone, New York, just 40 miles from Clinton Correctional Facility, where he broke free on June 6.

At 6.25pm, Sweat, with an IV in his arm, was wheeled out of the emergency unit in a stable condition and placed in an ambulance bound for the larger Albany Medical Center.

The ambulance, with a heavy escort of state police vehicles, left eight minutes later. Local residents cheered as he left. 'We got you b*****d,' shouted one woman.

Sweat's capture comes two days after his fellow fugitive, double killer Richard Matt, was shot dead by police after leaving a clumsy trail of candy wrappers and liquor bottles in his wake as they fled authorities.

It is believed they were using black pepper stolen from hunting cabins to throw police dogs off their scent. 
You can read the rest of the piece and view numerous photos, maps and a video via the below link:

The Legendary NYPD Cop Who Broke Through "Italian Barrier"

Michael Kane at the New York Post looks back at the legendary Italian-American NYPD officer Giuseppe "Joe" Petrosino.

“Why Italians Are Useless in Police Work.”

That was the headline on an 1896 editorial in the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper — the premise being that newly arrived Italian immigrants would never bring to justice the criminal elements within their own community. One captain quoted said, “They are in dread of the vengeance of the Mafia.”

But the more likely reason was that the Irish, who overwhelming comprised the NYPD, were protective of holding onto their jobs. That was also true of dock work, construction, really any manual labor or civic work they’d claimed after their own wave of immigration 50 years earlier amid the Potato Famine of the 1840s.

No job was more fraternally Irish than police work. At the time of that newspaper article, there were a mere three Italian officers in a Brooklyn police force of 1,700. 

Enter Giuseppe Petrosino, a dock laborer who moved garbage onto barges. Petrosino, who’d become better known as Joseph, disapproved of the nonstop extortion rackets of the Black Hand, the turn-of-the-century precursor to a more organized Mafia to come. (The moniker coming from threatening extortion letters to businessmen “signed” with only an ominous handprint of black ink.)

With the backing of an Irish police captain for whom he’d briefly served as an informant, Petrosino joined the force in October 1883.

“Petrosino, though destined to become one of the NYPD’s greatest heroes, started out as an outsider,” writes journalist Paul Moses in his book “An Unlikely Union.” It took a decade for his first promotion from patrolman, yet all the while the short, scrappy man of few words continued to get collars.

In his first year after finally being promoted by then-NYPD boss Theodore Roosevelt to detective, Petrosino made 98 arrests, busted two murderers and even freed an Italian immigrant who was a week away from execution at Sing Sing by getting the real killer to confess.

His growing renown in getting the cuffs on killers even led to a backwardly respectful call from his Irish bosses when stumped by a murder puzzler: “Get the Dago!”

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


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Convicted Felon Sentenced To 15 Years For Attempting to Shoot Police

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

PHILADELPHIA—Shamarr Pitts, 26, of Lansdowne, PA, was sentenced today to 180 months in prison for assault on a federal agent, using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Joel H. Slomsky ordered a $1,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $300 special assessment.

On June 4, 2013, the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force arrived at 43 Schappet Terrace in Lansdowne, PA, to arrest Pitts on charges related to a shooting at the Purple Orchid nightclub in Southwest Philadelphia that had occurred weeks earlier. Uniformed Lansdowne Police had the residence surrounded when the Task Force arrived. Task Force agents and officers initially knocked on the front door of the house and announced their presence. When no one answered, agents and officers breached the back door, and entered the house. A Philadelphia Police detective discovered Pitts hiding behind a closed bedroom door. When the detective pushed the door open, Pitts pointed a silver pistol directly at the detective’s head, pulled the trigger twice generating a clicking sound, but his gun did not discharge. Pitts also attempted to clear and shoot the weapon again, by pulling the slide back, thus generating more noise.

After being ordered to surrender for several minutes, Pitts eventually complied. On February 3, 2015, a federal jury found Pitts guilty of all three counts of the indictment.

The case was investigated by the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, the Darby Borough Police Department, the Lansdowne Police Department, and the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Zaleski.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Judge Imposes Death Sentence For Boston Marathon Bomber

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

A federal judge in Boston formally sentenced Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev on June 24, for his role in using weapons of mass destruction at the 2013 Boston Marathon.  U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole of the District of Massachusetts imposed a sentence of death and multiple consecutive life sentences.

U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Vincent B. Lisi of the FBI’s Boston Division, Commissioner William B. Evans of the Boston Police Department, Colonel Timothy P. Alben of the Massachusetts State Police, Special Agent in Charge Daniel J. Kumor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’s Boston Field Division and Deputy Special Agent in Charge Michael Shea of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Boston made the announcement.

In May 2014, a federal jury in Boston recommended that Tsarnaev be sentenced to death.  The counts on which the jury recommended a death sentence all related to the pressure cooker bomb Tsarnaev planted and detonated in front of the Forum restaurant, killing Lingzi Lu and Martin Richard.  The same jury convicted Tsarnaev on all 30 counts of the indictment on April 8, 2015.

Tsarnaev, 21, a U.S. citizen formerly residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was convicted of use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and conspiracy; bombing of a place of public use resulting in death and conspiracy; malicious destruction of property resulting in death and conspiracy; use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death; carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury; interference with commerce by threats or violence; and aiding and abetting.

Beginning no later than February 2013, Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, conspired to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs), bomb places of public use and destroy property.  On April 15, 2013, during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, the brothers placed two pressure cooker bombs filled with shrapnel among the crowds of spectators on Boylston Street and then detonated the bombs seconds apart, killing three people, maiming 17 and injuring hundreds more.  The brothers fled the scene in the chaos of the destruction. 

Three days later, on April 18, Tsarnaev and his brother, armed with five IEDs and a Ruger semiautomatic pistol that Tsarnaev had borrowed from a friend, drove to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus where they shot and killed MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and attempted to steal his service weapon.  Approximately 20 minutes later, they carjacked a Mercedes SUV, kidnapped the driver and forced him to drive to a gas station, and  robbed him of $800 along the way.  After the driver managed to escape, the brothers drove to Laurel Street and Dexter Avenue in Watertown, Massachusetts, where they exploded additional IEDs and engaged in a firefight with Watertown police officers.  During the stand-off, Tsarnaev drove the carjacked vehicle at three officers, attempting to kill them and ran over his brother as he escaped.  Tsarnaev hid in a winterized boat in a backyard in Watertown until his apprehension and arrest the following night.  His brother died from injuries sustained at the scene.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Boston Division, Boston Police Department, Massachusetts State Police, Department of Justice’s National Security Division and member agencies of the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force, including the ATF, HSI, U.S. Marshals Service, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and others.  In addition, the Watertown Police Department; the Cambridge, Massachusetts, Police Department; the MIT Police Department; the Boston Fire Department; the National Guard and police, fire and emergency responders from across Massachusetts and New England played critical roles in the investigation and response.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Weinreb, Aloke Chakravarty and Nadine Pellegrini of the District of Massachusetts's Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit, and Trial Attorney Steve Mellin of the Justice Department’s Capital Case Section.  Vital assistance was also provided by attorneys from the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Philadelphia's Troubled Tomorrow: The City of Brotherly Love’s Likely Next Mayor Is Set To Roll Back Policing Policies That Have Made The Streets Safer.

Ethan Epstein at the City Journal offers a piece on the next Philly mayor and crime.

Michael Nutter, Philadelphia’s mayor since 2007, is term-limited. His record, while mixed, has had one clear success: the City of Brotherly Love has enjoyed a remarkable reduction in violent crime, particularly murder. In 2007, 391 homicides took place in Philadelphia, a ghastly number for a city of only 1.5 million people. That figure dropped to 248 last year. Philadelphia still suffers from a higher murder rate than Chicago (not to mention New York and Los Angeles), but the city has made undeniable progress during Nutter’s tenure.

Like Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg in New York, Nutter (and his police commissioner, Charles Ramsey) embraced proactive policing—including the controversial stop, question, and frisk tactic—to turn the crime situation around. Cops can frisk suspects for weapons only when they have established a “reasonable suspicion.” A 2011 consent decree requires the city to maintain records on each stop. (Even the ACLU has praised the arrangement.)

Under Nutter, the city continued its use of data-driven policing, which, through sophisticated analysis of crime statistics, helps ensure that officers are where they need to be. Commissioner Ramsey has also revived some effective old-school policing tactics, like foot patrols. And Nutter has been one of the few Democrats to speak in moral terms about violent criminals, and not just the depredations of bad cops. The mayor seems genuinely outraged by the senseless violence that all too often occurs on Philadelphia’s streets.

In all this, he stands in stark contrast to the winner of the May 19 Democratic primary, former city councilman Jim Kenney, who campaigned on a promise to “end stop and frisk responsibly”—though he had enthusiastically backed the practice back in the 1990s.  

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


Swedish Co-Creator Of Blackshades Malware That Enabled Users Around The World To Secretly And Remotely Control Victims’ Computers Sentenced To 57 Months In Prison

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York released the below information:

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ALEX YÜCEL, the owner of an organization known as “Blackshades” that since 2010 sold and distributed to thousands of people in more than 100 countries a sophisticated and pernicious form of malicious software, or “malware,” known as the Blackshades Remote Access Tool, or “RAT,” was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 57 months. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel. YÜCEL pled guilty to computer hacking on February 18, 2015.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Alex Yucel created, marketed, and sold software that was designed to accomplish just one thing—gain control of a computer, and with it, a victim’s identity and other important information. This malware victimized thousands of people across the globe and invaded their lives. But Yucel’s computer hacking days are now over.”

According to the allegations in documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at today’s sentencing and other court proceedings:

Beginning in 2010, the “Blackshades” organization, which YÜCEL owned and controlled, sold and distributed malware to thousands of cybercriminals throughout the world. Blackshades’ flagship product was the RAT—a sophisticated piece of malware that enabled cybercriminals secretly and remotely to gain control over a victim’s computer.

After installing the RAT on a victim’s computer, a user of the RAT had free rein to, among other things, access and view documents, photographs, and other files on the victim’s computer, record all of the keystrokes entered on the victim’s keyboard, steal the passwords to the victim’s online accounts, and even activate the victim’s web camera to spy on the victim—all of which could be done without the victim’s knowledge. A Blackshades user could also exploit victims’ computers for Distributed Denial of Service (“DDoS”) attacks by commanding Blackshades-infected computers to repeatedly send requests to targeted websites in an effort to disable those websites and deny service from those websites to legitimate visitors.

The RAT was typically advertised on forums for computer hackers and marketed as a product that conveniently combined the features of several different types of hacking tools. Copies of the Blackshades RAT were available for sale, typically for $40 each, on a website maintained by Blackshades. After purchasing a copy of the RAT, a user had to install the RAT on a victim’s computer—i.e., “infect” a victim’s computer. The infection of a victim’s computer could be accomplished in several ways, including by tricking victims into clicking on malicious links or by hiring others to install the RAT on victims’ computers.

The RAT contained tools known as “spreaders” that helped users of the RAT maximize the number of infections. The spreader tools generally worked by using computers that had already been infected to help spread the RAT further to other computers. For instance, to lure additional victims to click on malicious links that would install the RAT on their computers, the RAT allowed cybercriminals to send those malicious links to others via the initial victim’s social media service, making it appear as if the message had come from the initial victim. For example, a RAT user could send an instant message, or IM, to potential victims that appeared to come from the initial victim, inviting them to click on a link that appeared to lead to a legitimate website, but would instead install the RAT on the potential victim’s computer.

YÜCEL co-created the Blackshades RAT with Michael Hogue and operated the Blackshades organization with the help of several employees whom YÜCEL paid to advertise the RAT on various Internet forums and to provide customer support. The RAT was purchased by several thousand users in more than 100 countries and used to infect more than half a million computers worldwide. Blackshades generated sales of more than $350,000 between September 2010 and April 2014.

* * *

YÜCEL, 24, a Swedish national, was arrested in Moldova in November 2013. He was the first defendant ever to be extradited from Moldova to the United States. In addition to the prison term, YÜCEL was sentenced to three years’ supervised release, and forfeiture of $200,000 and the computer equipment used.

Brendan Johnston, an administrator for the Blackshades organization, pled guilty in November 2014, before U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman to conspiracy to commit computer hacking. On June 19, 2015, Johnston was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

Marlen Rappa, a customer of Blackshades who purchased the RAT and used it to infect victims’ computers, spy on those victims using their web cameras, and steal personal files from their computers, pled guilty in October 2014, before U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni. On April 22, 2015, Rappa was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

Kyle Fedorek, a customer of Blackshades who purchased the RAT and used it to steal financial and other account information from more than 400 victims, pled guilty in August 2014 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. On February 19, 2015, Fedorek was sentenced to two years in prison.

Michael Hogue, the co-creator of the RAT, pled guilty before Judge Castel in January 2013, and is awaiting sentencing.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Lai and Daniel Noble are in charge of the prosecution.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Worst Burglar Ever Eats Leftover Chicken, Then Falls Asleep In Guest Bedroom

Foxnews.com reports on a dumb criminal they call the worst burglar ever.

A hapless burglar is in jail after he allegedly ransacked a New Hampshire couple’s home, ate their leftover chicken wings and fell asleep.

Renaud "Junior" Plaisir was charged with burglary after police say he slit a screen and then snuck into the Manchester home as the couple slept.

He allegedly ransacked the house before taking his shoes off in the hall and then falling asleep in the guest bedroom.

Resident John Terrell woke up and noticed the shoes outside of the bedroom. He then peeked in, where he found Plasir napping with a knife in his back pocket and the stolen goods surrounding him.
Terrell held Plaisir at gunpoint while his wife, Elinor, called police.

Plaisir is being held in jail on $25,000 bond. He was reportedly found with jewelry and credit cards in his backpack, likely from previous break-ins.

You can watch the video clip via the below link:


Alleged Mastermind Of Global Cybercrime Campaigns Extradited To The United States To Face Charges

Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed in a Brooklyn, New York federal court charging Ercan Findikoglu, a Turkish citizen also known as “Segate,” with organizing three worldwide cyberattacks that inflicted $55 million in losses on the global financial system in a matter of hours. 

The defendant’s organization used sophisticated intrusion techniques to hack into the systems of global financial institutions, steal prepaid debit card data and eliminate withdrawal limits.  The stolen card data was then disseminated worldwide and used in making fraudulent ATM withdrawals on a massive scale across the globe.  The charges announced today follow charges previously brought against other members of the organization, including members of a New York City cell charged in May 2013 in connection with their roles in two of the attacks.  The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned at 11 a.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.

The charges were announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie for the Eastern District of New York and Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Sica of the U.S. Secret Service New York Field Office.

“Cybercriminals, and especially hackers as this defendant is alleged to be, wreak havoc and steal millions of dollars by breaching our information systems and networks with clicks and keystrokes from the perceived anonymity of their computers at locations all over the globe,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie.  “However, in doing so they leave traces in digital space that allow law enforcement to identify, apprehend and ultimately hold them accountable for their crimes.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Currie praised the extraordinary efforts of the Secret Service in investigating these complex network intrusions and thanked the authorities in Germany for their assistance in effecting the defendant’s extradition.  

“For the past twenty years, Special Agents assigned to the Secret Service New York Electronic Crimes Task Force have worked closely with our law enforcement partners, the business community and our partners in academia to pursue cybercriminals who have taken aim at our homeland’s financial infrastructure.  Today, we recognize our international law enforcement partners who were instrumental in the extradition of Ercan Findikoglu,” said Special Agent in Charge Sica.  “The significance of this case cannot be understated as Findikoglu is the alleged mastermind behind the global ATM cashout operations which plagued the financial services sector from 2010 until his capture in late 2013.  The Secret Service and its international partners remain committed to solving complex financial crimes as well as tracking down and bringing to justice significant cybercriminals who pose a threat to payment systems worldwide.”

As detailed in the indictment and other court filings, Findikoglu gained unauthorized access to, or “hacked,” the computer networks of at least three payment processors for various types of credit and debit card transactions (the Victim Processors).  He then targeted Visa and MasterCard prepaid debit cards serviced by the Victim Processors, breached the security protocols that enforce withdrawal limits on those cards, and then dramatically increased the account balances on those cards to allow withdrawals far in excess of the legitimate card balances.

Findikoglu allegedly managed a trusted group of co-conspirators who disseminated the stolen debit card information to leaders of “cashing crews” around the world; they, in turn, used the stolen information to conduct tens of thousands of fraudulent ATM withdrawals.  During these operations, Findikoglu allegedly maintained access to the computer networks of the Victim Processors in order to monitor the withdrawals.  These coordinated, calculated cyberattacks are known in the cyber-underworld as “Unlimited Operations,” because the manipulation of withdrawal limits enables the withdrawal of literally unlimited amounts of cash until the operation is shut down.

In one operation on Feb. 27 and 28, 2011, cashing crews withdrew approximately $10 million through approximately 15,000 fraudulent ATM withdrawals in at least 18 countries.  In a second operation on Dec. 22, 2012, cashing crews withdrew approximately $5 million through more than 4,500 ATM in approximately 20 countries.  In a third operation on Feb. 19 and 20, 2013, cashing cells in 24 countries executed approximately 36,000 transactions and withdrew approximately $40 million from ATMs.  During this third operation, in New York City alone, cashing crews withdrew approximately $2.4 million in nearly 3,000 ATM withdrawals over the course of less than 11 hours.
Once the funds were extracted, Findikoglu and high-ranking members of the conspiracy allegedly received the proceeds from other co-conspirators in various forms, including by wire transfer, electronic currency and the personal delivery of U.S. and foreign currency. 

On one occasion, members of a New York City cashing crew transported approximately $100,000 to co-conspirators in Romania.  Findikoglu directed a co-conspirator to destroy evidence of their criminal activities after learning that a member of a New York cashing crew had been arrested.
On Dec. 18, 2013, Findikoglu was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, and yesterday was extradited to the United States.                      

The government’s case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York’s National Security & Cybercrime Section.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hilary Jager, Douglas M. Pravda, Richard M. Tucker and Saritha Komatireddy are in charge of the prosecution.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Morris of the Office’s Civil Division is responsible for the forfeiture of assets.  Additional assistance was provided by Marcus Busch and Cristina M. Posa of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The Charm of Evil: Martin Scorsese On 'The Third Man': The Best Revelation In All Cinema

I'm a huge admirer of The Third Man, a great film directed by Carol Reed, written by Graham Greene, and starring Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles and other fine actors.

You can read what Martin Scorsese thinks of the film thanks to a piece in the British newspaper the Independent.  

I saw The Third Man for the first time on television in New York, with commercial interruptions. I think I was about 15 years old, maybe 16. I saw Citizen Kane around the same period. I remember that I wanted to see the film on its first release, but was unable to do so, which created a mystique about the film. The theme was a radio hit, but my first viewing was on TV, around '56 or '57. But even with commercial breaks on a 16-inch screen, the power of the picture, the surprise, the entertainment, the film-making itself… a revelation. Expressive style, virtuosity – I became fixated, obsessed.

I couldn't wait to see the film again, but I had to wait until it was shown on television, maybe four or five months later. It wasn't the optimum viewing condition, I still lived in a small apartment with my family, so it was difficult to find the concentration and quiet I needed to figure out why the picture affected me so much. I was becoming aware of film-making itself around this time, about storytelling, about extraordinary cinematic experiences.

Simultaneously, a young priest who was a mentor to me and some friends gave us Graham Greene's books to read. The Power and the Glory had quite an effect on me. There was a stage version of it off-Broadway, and a live TV play with Laurence Olivier and George C Scott, also. Graham Greene's Catholicism had a strong impact on me, his themes of sin and redemption. I was very much aware of Graham Greene's contribution to The Third Man before seeing it. And I had seen his name on the credits of The Fallen Idol, in particular, the combination of Graham Greene and Carol Reed. I also admired Odd Man Out, as both of these films were shown on TV constantly.

... Has it had an influence on my career? When I saw it, I was ripe for it – ready to understand what you can do with the camera. The themes of the picture made me feel comfortable about dealing with similar kinds of characters, characters you'd consider undesirable - the charm of evil. I did a paper on the film when I was 18 at NYU. The professor had different ideas. He wrote a note on the paper: "Remember, it's only a thriller." I disagreed. We know what happens in Psycho or Vertigo or The Red Shoes. So why do we keep watching? If some dismiss a work because it "fits" into a genre, then why does it sustain repeated viewings? It's more than the plot twists and surprises of the story. Certainly, it's the characters, the world they inhabit, the love stories, the trust and betrayals – the human heart. Each presented with intelligence, wit, and a very real joy of film-making, while still feeling fresh.  

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


Note: I named The Third Man's Harry Lime character as one of the top three villains in my Crime Beat column. I named Martin Scorsese' Jimmy the Gent and Tommy from Goodfellas and Ian Fleming's Auric Goldfinger from Goldfinger as the other top film villains.

You can read the column via the below link:


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Seventeen Alleged Leaders And Associates of Clan Usuga Indicted In Brooklyn and Miami As Part Of Coordinated Strike Against Colombia’s Largest and Most Influential Drug Trafficking and Armed BACRIM Criminal Group

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

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie of the Eastern District of New York and Regional Director Jay Bergman of the Andean Region of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today the unsealing of five indictments in U.S. federal courts in Brooklyn, New York, and Miami charging 17 alleged leaders and associates of Colombia’s largest and most influential BACRIM (banda criminal or criminal group), Clan Usuga (formerly referred to as Los Urabeños). 

The alleged leaders and other high-ranking members of Clan Usuga are charged with operating continuing criminal enterprises, participating in international cocaine trafficking conspiracies and using firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes. 

Clan Usuga and many of its principal leaders have been previously designated by the President of the United States and the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control as specially designated narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.  The Department of State has posted a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of alleged Clan Usuga principal leader Dairo Antonio Usuga David, also known as Otoniel.

“The cases referenced today demonstrate that the U.S. government, in collaboration with our international law enforcement partners, continues to successfully combat leaders and associates of BACRIM criminal enterprises that seek to supply narcotics to the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer.  “Together, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Colombian authorities strive to systematically dismantle one BACRIM structure after another and eliminate the threat they pose to our communities.”

“The indictments announced today are the result of a sweeping national and international effort to stem the flow of drugs across the world and into our communities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie.  “We stand united with our partners in Colombia in our unwavering commitment to root out the leaders of drug trafficking criminal enterprises wherever they may be found.”    
U.S. Attorney Ferrer and Acting U.S. Attorney Currie extended their grateful appreciation to the DEA’s New York Field Division, Miami Field Division and the Bogotá Country Office as well as the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) New York El Dorado Task Force and the Colombian National Police, the agencies responsible for leading the investigations.  Mr. Ferrer and Mr. Currie also expressed their gratitude for the invaluable assistance provided by the Colombian Fiscalia General and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.

“These indictments are the culmination of years of work and far too often heartfelt sacrifice by the brave men and women of the Colombian National Police and the Office of the Prosecutor General of Colombia,” said DEA Regional Director Bergman.  “These indictments represent the United States’ steadfast bilateral commitment to conclusively dismantle what is the largest and arguably the last of the nationally structured criminal bands in Colombia.”

“Today’s indictments illustrate our commitment, along with our international law enforcement partners to disrupt a criminal network responsible for smuggling tons of cocaine into the United States,” said Country Attaché Luis Sierra of ICE-HSI in Colombia.  “HSI will continue to use its unique customs authorities to attack and dismantle these types of organizations and will aggressively pursue leads, regardless of where that information may lead us.”

Six of the Clan Usuga leaders were charged in both Brooklyn and Miami.  Dairo Antonio Usuga-David aka “Otoniel,” “Mao,” “Gallo,” and “Mauricio-Gallo,” is alleged to be the principal leader of CLAN USUGA.  Roberto Vargas Gutierrez aka “Gavilan,” Carlos Alberto Moreno Turberquia aka “Nicolas,” Aristides Manuel Mesa Paez aka “El Indio,” and Cesar Daniel Anaya Martinez aka “Tierra,” are alleged commanders of Clan Usuga responsible for collecting drug taxes, managing armed combatants and maintaining control over specific territorial areas within Colombia.  Also charged in Brooklyn and Miami is an alleged manager of Clan Usuga, Ramiro Caro Pineda aka “Nolasco,” who was in charge of collecting drug taxes, coordinating drug shipments and maintaining control over airstrips and ports on the coast of Colombia.

The Brooklyn indictments also charge seven other cartel leaders, including Daniel Rendon-Herrera aka “Don Mario,” the original founder and prior leader of Clan Usuga; Luis Orlando Padierna Pena aka “Inglaterra,” and Jobanis de Jesus Avila Villadiego aka “Chiquito” and “Chiquito Malo,” commanders of Clan Usuga; and Jhoni Alberto Grajales aka “Guajiro,” Orlando Gutierrez-Rendon aka “Negro Orlando,” Gustavo Palomino Araujo aka “Camilo,” and Eduard Fernando Cardoza-Giraldo aka “Boliqueso” – alleged leaders of drug collections offices and paramilitary armed groups aligned with Clan Usuga.           

A Miami indictment unsealed today charges Dairo Antonio Usuga-David aka “Otoniel,” “Mao,” and “Mauricio,” Jairo De Jesus Durango Restrepo aka “Gua Gua,” Roberto Vargas Gutierrez aka “Gavilan,” Aristides Manuel Mesa Paez aka “El Indio,” Alverio Feo Alvarado aka “Benevides,” Oscar David Pulgarin-Ganan aka “Nino” and “Coroso,” Ramiro Caro-Pineda  aka “Nolasco” and “Hugo,” Cesar Daniel Anaya Martinez aka “Tierra,” and Eduardo Luis Vargas Gutierrez aka “Pipon,” with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing that it would be imported into the United States.  Specifically, the defendants are charged with the distribution from as early as 2002 through June 2015, in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico and elsewhere.

According to a previously unsealed superseding indictment out of Miami, beginning around October 2006 through Feb. 10, 2012, defendants Henry De Jesus Lopez Londono aka “Mi Sangre,” “Salvador,” “Carlos Mario,” “Brother,” “Krackin,” and “Federico,” Jhon Fernando Giraldo Usuga aka “Simon,” and “Revenlino,” Arley Usuga Torres aka “07,” “Siete,” and “Samuel,” Jose Carlos Londono Robledo aka “Tito” and “Wolverine,” Carlos Antonio Moreno Tuberquia aka “Nicholas,” Edison Gomez Molina aka “El Doctor,” and Juan Diego Giraldo Usuga aka “Menor” and “Camilo,” are charged with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine knowing that it would be imported into the United States.  Gomez Molina, Giraldo Usuga and Fernando Usuga pleaded guilty to the superseding indictment on Nov. 26, 2013, March 20, 2014, and May 8, 2014, respectively.  According to their stipulated factual proffers, from at least October 2006 through February 2012, Gomez Molina, Giraldo Usuga and Fernando Usuga, along with others, used airplanes and other means of transportation to ship multiple loads of cocaine from Colombia to Central America.  The loads ranged anywhere from 300 to 600 kilograms each.  From there, the cocaine would be delivered to representatives of other organizations, who would take the cocaine and ultimately import it into the United States.  Each defendant admitted that he was responsible for the shipment or attempted shipment of at least 150 kilograms of cocaine and knew that the cocaine would ultimately be imported into the United States.  Gomez Molina was sentenced to serve 63 months in prison on Feb. 4, 2014.  Girlado Usuga was sentenced to serve 63 months in prison on June 9, 2014.  Fernando Usuga was sentenced to serve 168 months in prison on Aug. 29, 2014.

In another Miami indictment, Victor Alfonso Mosquera Perez aka “Negro,” is charged with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing that it would be imported into the United States.  Specifically, the distribution allegedly occurred from as early as 2008 until approximately May 9, 2014, in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

According to another indictment, Andres Fernandez Perez-Restrepo aka “Anthrax,” is charged with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, knowing that it would imported into the United States.  Specifically, the defendant is alleged to have committed the distribution from at least as early as July 2012 through March 2, 2014, in Colombia, Honduras and elsewhere.

As detailed in one of the Brooklyn indictments, between June 2003 and December 2014, Usuga-David, Vargas Gutierrez, Moreno Turberquia, Padierna Pena, Avila Villadiego, Anaya Martinez and others, as leaders of Clan Usuga, conspired to import more than 73 metric tons of cocaine into the United States.  Clan Usuga coordinated the production, purchase and transfer of multi-ton shipments of cocaine, as well as the receipt of shipments of cocaine in Mexico and Central America, for ultimate importation into the United States. 

Clan Usuga also controlled territory in various areas in Colombia and imposed a tax on any drug traffickers operating in those territories – a set fee for every kilogram of cocaine that was manufactured, stored or transported through areas under their control.  The indictment further alleges that these defendants employed sicarios, or hitmen, who carried out acts of violence including murders, assaults, kidnappings and assassinations to collect drug debts, maintain discipline, control and expand drug territory and to promote and enhance the position of the organization.

In a second of the indictments unsealed in Brooklyn, Orlando Gutierrez-Rendon aka “Negro Orlando,” is charged with leading the Gutierrez-Rendon drug trafficking organization, a cocaine trafficking and cocaine-debt collection organization based in Cali, Colombia, that was aligned with Clan Usuga.  According to the indictment, the Gutierrez-Rendon’s organization was involved in multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, El Salvador and Panama for ultimate importation into the United States.  The organization is also alleged to have acted as a collection agency, using violence and murder to collect payments and outstanding debts related to cocaine shipments on behalf of Clan Usuga.  In exchange for its role in collecting funds, the organization received ownership interests in the cocaine shipments.  Gutierrez-Rendon is also charged with conspiring to murder rival drug traffickers, including the murder of Samir Garcia.  Between January 2006 and May 2013, Gutierrez-Rendon allegedly imported more than 30,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.

In a third Brooklyn indictment, Gustavo Palomino Araujo aka “Soldado,” “Zarco,” and “Camilo,” is charged with leading the Palomino Araujo, an organization responsible for cocaine trafficking, cocaine-debt collection and a paramilitary organization based in Cali, Colombia, that was aligned with Clan Usuga.  The organization allegedly facilitated the transfer of multi-ton shipments of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and Central America for importation into the United States, controlled territory in various areas in Colombia, imposed a tax on any drug traffickers operating in regions under its control and employed sicarios, or hitmen, to collect debts.  Palomino Araujo is also charged with conspiring to murder numerous drug rivals.  

In the fourth Brooklyn indictment, Eduard Fernando Cardoza-Giraldo aka “Boliqueso,” is charged with international cocaine trafficking in connection with his role in controlling a drug debt collection office aligned with Clan Usuga. 

In all, 25 individuals have been charged in the investigations coordinated between the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in Brooklyn and Miami.  All of the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison, if convicted of the charges against them.  Certain individuals named in indictments unsealed today have also been charged by other U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country.  These cases are the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.
The cases in the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven L. Tiscione, Gina M. Parlovecchio and Margaret Lee of the office’s International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section.

The cases in the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nadler of the office’s Narcotics Section.
An indictment is a formal charging document notifying the defendant of the charges.  All persons charged in an indictment are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Odd Facts About The Aircraft Carrier USS Kitty Hawk

I served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War in 1970-1971, so I was interested in an Allison Batdorff's Stars and Stripes piece that offers some odd facts about the old warship.

The second "K" on USS Kitty Hawk’s nameplate is upside down. The letter was skewed when welders transferred the small steel letter plates from the fantail to below the flight deck in the 1960s.

The USS Kitty Hawk is the second U.S. Navy warship to be named after the North Carolina site of the Wright brothers’ famous flight. The first was the civilian ship SS Seatrain New York, which was acquired by the Navy, renamed USS Kitty Hawk, and converted into an aircraft transport ship during World War II. It was decommissioned and given back to its original owners in 1946.

The Kitty Hawk is the second-oldest active ship in the Navy. The first is the USS Constitution, a wooden frigate that sailed in both Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. "Old Ironsides" is used for ceremonial, recruiting and tourism purposes today.

Kitty Hawk nicknames include "Miss Kitty," "Battlecat" and "Chicken Hawk."

... Kitty Hawk did six tours in Vietnam between 1963 and 1976 and was the first aircraft carrier ever to be awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. The award, the unit equivalent of the Navy Cross, was presented by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Dec. 20, 1968, to the ship and Carrier Air Wing 11.

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


Note: The piece did not include the carrier's most popular nickname when I served on her. Sailors during my day called the Kitty Hawk the "Shitty Kitty."

You can read my post on the Kitty Hawk via the below link:


Department Of Justice Filed Charges On More Than 2,700 Human Smugglers In Fiscal Year 2014

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

The Justice Department is committed to using its resources to bring to justice those that are breaking the law by smuggling migrants into the United States.  In Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14, Oct. 1, 2013, up to Sept. 30, 2014), the Justice Department filed criminal charges against 2,762 individuals for human smuggling or harboring immigrants.  Nearly 90 percent of the criminal charges filed in FY14 for smuggling took place in Texas (1,515), California (511), Arizona (394), Florida (75) and New York (31).

The announcement of these actions is just one part of ongoing, collaborative efforts to tackle unlawful migration.  These efforts also helped to address last year’s influx of Central American migrants, including unaccompanied children and families crossing into the Rio Grande Valley, and demonstrate a continued commitment to dismantling human smuggling operations that put so many lives at risk.

Individuals that facilitate smuggling acts need to be aware that they face criminal prosecution and fines.  They also need to be aware of the dangers faced by the individuals that are being smuggled and also that the Department of Justice will seek forfeiture of funds transferred to others in connection with a smuggling crime.  In addition, individuals trying to bring a family member to the United States by transferring funds to a coyote should be aware that those acts are against the law and their funds can be seized by the federal government.

The penalty for human smuggling if done for commercial benefit is up to 10 years in prison and an accompanying fine.  For example, in January, Ruth Fernandez Morales-Lopez pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle of the Southern District of Texas to bringing in and harboring aliens and money laundering.  Morales-Lopez admitted that she was the person who decided, based on whether they paid their smuggling fees, which individuals could stay at the “stash house,” located in San Benito, Texas.  She further admitted that more than $1 million in her bank account was comprised of smuggling fees and that she structured her withdrawals from that account to circumvent the Bank Secrecy Act.  Morales-Lopez faces up to 10 years in federal prison for the smuggling charge and up to 20 years for money laundering.  The remaining five defendants in the case, all of whom pleaded guilty, each face up to 10 years of federal imprisonment.

Many of the stories revealed in court cases outline the severe examples of exploitation and violence against migrants.  For example, in April 2014, a federal jury in Del Rio, Texas, convicted Eduardo Rocha Sr., 44, for his role in a human smuggling ring operation in Carrizo Springs, Texas, known for torturing its victims and exploiting their families.  The evidence presented during the trial showed that Rocha Sr. extorted additional money from family members of migrants that already lived in the United States.  In some instances, he ordered his accomplices to subject migrants to brutal violence and mutilation while their family members were forced to listen over the phone.

The Justice Department has a long history of working with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal partners to investigate and prosecute human smugglers.  These collaborative efforts lead to prosecutions of those responsible for the illegal entry of individuals, including unaccompanied minors.  The string of human smuggling convictions on the southwest border emphasizes the federal law enforcement resources being brought to bear to dismantle and disrupt these dangerous, criminal operations.  Human smuggling acts can also lead to extremely dangerous circumstances that pose a public safety threat and significant humanitarian concerns.  Many of the cases prosecuted by U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country involve migrants who have been kidnapped, taken hostage, beaten, sexually assaulted, threatened or who have actually died as a result of living under some of the most perilous conditions.

Tragic stories have become all too familiar along the southwest border.  In October 2014, for example, Carlos Hernandez-Palma and Fernando Armenta-Romero were apprehended and sentenced for their role in the death of an undocumented immigrant woman that they abandoned in the wilderness of Otay Mountain near the San Diego border.  Court records revealed that the woman’s husband pleaded with the smugglers, to no avail, to call for assistance for his pregnant wife after she became gravely ill during the venture.  It would be several days before the U.S. Border Patrol found his wife’s body.  Her cause of death was attributed to hyperglycemia from being diabetic and hypothermia from environmental exposure.

In addition, the Justice Department is working with countries like Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico to identify and prosecute smugglers who are aiding unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border.  The coordinated efforts also target facilitators operating in foreign countries.

These ongoing enforcement efforts started before last year’s surge of unaccompanied minors and the Justice Department will continue to be vigilant in bringing smugglers to justice.  In the years 2009 to 2014, the Justice Department charged more than 18,000 defendants with smuggling or harboring immigrants.

OPM Chief: Contractor's Credential Used To Breach System

The Philadelphia Inquirer offers a piece on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) director explaining the massive computer security breach of the agency's files.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The head of the government agency that suffered two massive cyberattacks said Tuesday that a hacker gained access to its records with a credential used by a federal contractor.

Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, told a Senate hearing that an "adversary" somehow obtained a user credential used by KeyPoint Government Solutions, a contractor based in Loveland, Colorado.

She didn't say specifically when that occurred or if it was linked to the two cyberbreaches that exposed private information on nearly every federal employee and personal histories of millions with security clearances.

"I want to be very clear that while the adversary leveraged - compromised - a KeyPoint User credential to gain access to OPM's network, we don't have any evidence that would suggest that KeyPoint as a company was responsible or directly involved in the intrusion," she said.

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


General John R. Gavin: 'Fighting The Cold War: A Soldier's Memoir'

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of retired General John R. Gavin's book, Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier's Memoir, for the Washington Times.

As the leadership of the United States Army has become intensely intellectualized in recent decades, Gen. John R. “Jack” Galvin gained a deserved reputation as one of the “brainiest generals” ever to don a uniform.

Born into an Irish-American family in small-town Wakefield, Mass., Gen. Galvin was a protege-quality student from the beginning. After West Point he began his career as an airborne infantry officer. His account of the care taken to measure such things as drop-zone wind speeds should bring solace to anyone who has ever jumped out of an airplane.

Next, Vietnam, and here Gen. Galvin’s career took a potentially terminal dip. He was involved in helicopter attack operations, and he and a superior office did not mesh. So he was shunted back to Saigon as a logistics officer — relieved, essentially. (A later Vietnam tour was successful). During a teaching stint at West Point, he moonlighted as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, studying the poet Yeats. And at one point he almost resigned to teach college full-time.

But a knack for languages — Spanish and German — brought him prime assignments in NATO and Central America. His account of the latter experience shows how the attitudes and policies of local leaders can affect what the United States can do, militarily and diplomatically.

... During his 44-year career, Gen. Galvin would hold three major four-star positions: serving as commander in chief of the United States Southern Command in Latin America; the commander in chief of the United States European Command; and as NATO supreme allied commander, Europe.

Gen. Galvin’s greatest contribution to national security was his central role in adapting a post-Soviet NATO to the radical changes in the international balance of power. He was the man trusted by the military to insure America’s national security was not damaged by the drastic arms reductions — especially in nuclear weapons — following the Soviet collapse.

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


RICO Conspiracy Charged in Payday Lending Case: First Federal Prosecution of Its Kind

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

PHILADELPHIA—Adrian Rubin, 58, of Jenkintown, PA, has been charged with participation in a racketeering conspiracy for the operation of a “payday lending” business that allegedly violated the usury laws of Pennsylvania and other states, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Rubin is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and two counts of mail fraud and aiding and abetting mail fraud. It was investigated by the FBI, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and IRS Criminal Investigations.

According to the information unsealed today, between 1998 and 2012, Rubin owned, controlled, financed, and/or worked for multiple businesses that issued short-term loans, commonly known as “payday loans.” Rubin allegedly conspired with other people to evade state usury laws and other restrictions on payday loans by engaging in a series of deceptive business practices that included: (a) paying a federally-insured bank, which was not subject to state laws, to pretend that it was the payday lender; (b) relocating his operations to a state considered “usury friendly;” and (c) paying an Indian tribe to pretend that it was the actual payday lender as part of a scheme to have the tribe claim that “sovereign immunity” prevent application of state usury laws and other regulations.

Rubin and his co-conspirators also allegedly went to great lengths to hide Rubin’s personal involvement in the payday lending business because he had a criminal record. It is further alleged that Rubin, with the knowledge of his co-conspirators, incorporated his payday businesses in the names of his father-in-law and a family friend and then forged the signatures of those people on company documents. In total, it is alleged that Rubin and his co-conspirators reaped tens of millions of dollars from the defendant’s payday lending activities, much of which stemmed from the collection of fees that were usurious in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Pennsylvania law makes it a crime to collect interest, fees, and other charges associated with a loan at a rate in excess of 36 percent per year. Payday loans are short-term loans of relatively small amounts of money, usually a few hundred dollars, which borrowers promise to repay out of their next paycheck or regular income payment, such as a social security check. Some loans have finance charges or fees of between 10 and 30 percent of the amount borrowed. Given the short-term nature of these loans, those charges can translate to annual percentage rates of interest (“APR”s) of 260 to 780 percent.

Rubin also was charged with helping his two sons with their own multi-million-dollar telemarketing scam that duped more than 70,000 people into buying a credit card http:/www.justice.gov/usao-edpa/pr/trio-charged-selling-worthless-credit-cards. The Platinum Trust card was falsely marketed as a general-purpose credit card that customers could use to buy merchandise over the Internet and improve their credit. Blake and Chase Rubin pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

If convicted of all charges, Adrian Rubin faces a possible advisory sentencing guideline range of at least 10 years in prison with a statutory maximum sentence of 65 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $1 million, and a $400 special assessment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark B. Dubnoff and Joel M. Sweet.

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

Don Winslow Returns To Drug Wars In Thriller 'The Cartel'

Hillel Italie offers a piece in the Washington Times on Don Winslow and his new crime thriller, The Cartel.  

“People refer to this as the ‘Mexican drug problem’ and it’s NOT the Mexican drug problem. It’s the American drug problem. It’s the European drug problem,” the crime novelist says during a recent interview at the Landmark Tavern in Hell’s Kitchen, where he’s eating a late breakfast and discussing the events that inspired his new novel, “The Cartel.”

“We spend billions of dollars buying these drugs at the same time we spend billions of dollars a year trying to keep them from coming in. It’s that conflict, that schizophrenia, it’s that insanity that not only created the cartels but keeps them in business.”

The 61-year-old Winslow, bald and dark-eyed with a deliberate, focused speaking style, has become an unintentional expert on a subject that sickens him. Admittedly prone to “rant” once he gets started, he will invoke everything from philosophy books to World War II as he explains the long history of drugs in this hemisphere and how the U.S. got caught up in a conflict it doesn’t know how to stop.

In 2005, he published the 500-page “The Power of the Dog,” his brutal and acclaimed saga about the drug war and the rare honest man trying to end it - a maverick DEA agent named Art Keller.

Convinced, like Keller, the story was told, Winslow moved on to other projects, including Oliver Stone’s adaptation of his novel “Savages.” But he never stopped keeping an eye on the latest in Mexico and was horrified as the casualties and the cruelties only accumulated. More than 100,000 people have been killed because of the wars among the drug cartels, according to some studies.
“I started reading again and watching again and talking to people, and I think for probably a year or more denying to myself and everybody else that I was going to do that book,” he says. “The more I read the angrier I got.”

Blurbed by James Ellroy as the “‘War and Peace’ of dope war books,” the 600-page “The Cartel,” like “Power of the Dog,” is an intricately detailed narrative of the cartel life - where they live, the cars they drive, the clothes they wear. Winslow’s editor, Alfred A. Knopf publisher Sonny Mehta, said at times the author seemed so immersed in the world of his book he worried that Winslow might have “crossed some lines” and put himself in danger.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read my Crime Beat column on Don Winslow and his earlier crime thriller, Savages, via the below link:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why America's Most Famous Veterans Lined Up Behind Rick Perry

Brendon Bordelon at National Review offers a piece on why the country's most famous military veterans support former Texas Governor Rick Perry for president.

It was a hot day on a Texas ranch in 2010, and Chris Kyle — the man who would one day become the most famous veteran in America — was about to “make an ass of himself” in his first meeting with Governor Rick Perry. “There was a minute when a photo was about to be taken that he just did something hysterically funny,” says Taya Kyle, widow of the Navy SEAL now known nationwide as the “American Sniper.” She’s cagey about exactly how her husband ribbed Perry, but can’t stop herself from laughing at the memory.

“It’s one of those things where the governor could’ve rolled with it, or he could’ve been not at all thrilled,” Kyle says. Chris later told her it “could’ve gone either way — it could’ve pissed him off.” Instead, the governor just laughed at the teasing, and the two quickly became close friends. “He thought, ‘Good! I’m not looking for somebody to kiss my backside. Just be real with me,’” Kyle says Perry later explained to her. “I felt like maybe that’s where [Perry and Chris] really connected.

They were just these two guys that were going to keep it real.” It’s a sentiment repeated over and over by the high-profile former warriors backing his presidential run — with Perry, what you see is what you get. From Taya Kyle to “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell to Medal of Honor winner Michael Thornton, America’s best-known veterans and their families are taking to the campaign trail to rally support for the former Texas governor in 2016. Though these famous surrogates express admiration for his conservative, small-government policies, what attracts them to Perry is his character, humility, and compassion for suffering soldiers. And in a GOP primary where foreign policy is sure to loom large, their support may prove a potent weapon.

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


Anthony Fulwood, Philadelphia Police Officer, Bodyguard for Frank Rizzo, Lynne Abraham and Ron Castille, Dies At 72

John F. Morrison at the Philadelphia Daily News offers a fine obituary of former Philadelphia Police Officer Anthony Fulwood, bodyguard to Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo.

TONY FULWOOD had tears in his eyes when he walked into Frank Rizzo's hospital room and saw the mayor in the bed with a broken leg.

Tony felt responsible for the injury, even though it was an accident and even though he was doing his job of protecting the mayor when an explosion rocked the Arco refinery in a nine-alarm fire in 1976, and he fell on Rizzo to protect him from the blast.

"I hope you're not upset with me," Tony blubbered. "I wish I was in that bed instead of you."

"You know, Tony," Rizzo said. "So do I."

Despite the levity, Rizzo hadn't the slightest inclination to blame his bodyguard for the injury. Theirs was a father-son relationship built on mutual respect and love.

Anthony Fulwood, a police officer who served as bodyguard for Rizzo through his terms as police commissioner and mayor, then did the same for Lynne Abraham for 17 years when she was district attorney, then for Ronald Castille, former Pennsylvania chief justice, for several years, died Wednesday of blood cancer. He was 72 and lived in Wynnefield.

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


You can also read Tony Fulwood's obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer via the below link:


Note: Over the years I saw Tony Fulwood standing near Frank Rizzo and Lyn Abraham at public events. He was a big, impressive man. My friend Mark Tartaglia, a retired Philadelphia detective, introduced me to him some years ago. Tony Fulwood was a well-respected and well-liked police officer and man. 

'Justified’ EP Chris Provenzano Inks AMC Overall Deal, To Adapt Elmore Leonard’s ‘Gunsights’

Nellie Andreeva at deadline.com reports on the deal to bring the late, great writer Elmore Leonard's last Western novel to TV.

Justified executive producer Chris Provenzano has signed an overall deal with AMC. Under the pact, he already is working on a drama series project, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1979 novel Gunsights. This makes it a nice continuation for Provenzano, who spent the last five years on FX drama Justified, based on Leonard’s novella Fire In The Hole.

Considered Leonard’s final Western novel, Gunsights, set in 1893, centers on two tough men and friends, scout Dana Moon and Army man Brendan Early, who used to work together, including a mission chasing an Apache chief into Mexico.

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


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day: 20 Uplifting Quotes

The British newspaper the Telegraph offers 20 uplifting quotes for Father's Day, including the classic Mark Twain line;

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

MARK TWAIN (1835 -1910), author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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


Penguin Offers George Simenon's Inspector Maigret Novels In New Translations

John Timpane, my editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, offers a good review of the series of new translations of George Simenon's novels - including his great Inspector Maigret novels - that Penguin is releasing.

Belgian novelist Georges Simenon (1903-1989) is a big name in 20th-century literature, available in English and dozens of other languages for 80 years. The long-running Maigret series on PBS's Masterpiece made millions familiar with Simenon's most famous creation, Inspector Jules Maigret of the Police Judiciare in Paris.

And now, over the next few years, Penguin is bringing out, in fine, new translations, all the Maigret novels (75 in all, singly, or bound in hardcover "omnibuses": Omnibus 1 contains a few of his earliest Maigret books) plus a few of Simenon's romans durs ("tough novels"), brief realist masterpieces such as the obsessive Mahé Circle and the devastating Mr. Hire's Engagement.

There probably will never be a complete, collected Simenon. He wrote around 200 novels under his own name and another 200 under about 18 pseudonymns. Writing like a maniac, he turned himself into a remorseless, stripped-down, modernist storyteller. His novels are short, single-sitting reads. He distinguished between his vast body of "commercial novels" and his romans durs, which he wrote for himself and for art.

The Maigret books may be commercial, but they're also tough and pitiless. The Saint-Fiacre Affair leads Maigret back to his hometown to solve a mysterious murder. Sense details fly, along with boyhood memories: "Maigret savoured the sensations of youth again: the cold, stinging eyes, frozen fingertips, an aftertaste of coffee. Then, stepping inside the church, a blast of heat, soft light; the smell of candles and incense. . . . " There's a wildness, events beyond control, fragmentary conversations, glimpsed faces, half-understood movements. An off-balance tenor runs throughout, not least of all in Maigret himself, who "forgot how uncanny his presence was."

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