Friday, March 31, 2017

Two Women Sentenced For Providing Material Support To Terrorists

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

Muna Osman Jama, 36, of Reston, Virginia, and Hinda Osman Dhirane, 46, of Kent, Washington, were sentenced today to 12 years and 11 years respectively. Jama and Dhirane were found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Shabaab, a foreign terrorist organization, and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization after a bench trial in front of U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga on Oct. 25, 2016.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord for National Security, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente for the Eastern District of Virginia, Assistant Director in Charge Andrew W. Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Jay S. Tabb, Jr. of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga.

According to court documents, Jama and Dhirane sent money to financiers of al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya, which they referred to respectively as the “Hargeisa side” and the “Nairobi side.” The defendants also organized what was called a “Group of Fifteen,” which included women from Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Canada, as well as Minneapolis, Minnesota. The “Group of Fifteen” met regularly in a private chatroom that Jama established to organize and track monthly payment of money to the “Hargeisa side,” which was used to finance al-Shabaab military operations in the Golis Mountains in northern Somalia, and the “Nairobi side,” which was used to fund two al-Shabaab safehouses. One of the safehouses was used by al-Shabaab to store weapons and to prepare for attacks. The other was used to treat al-Shabaab fighters who had been wounded in battle.

A substantial part of the government’s case consisted of recorded telephone calls and other communications among the “Group of Fifteen.” These recordings demonstrated that the women had close connections with al-Shabaab leadership and were privy to non-public, inside information concerning al-Shabaab activities. Jama and Dhirane were recorded as they laughed as the carnage at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi was still taking place. Dhirane and co-conspirator were also recorded as they laughed at the Boston Marathon Bombing before it became known who committed the attack.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI’s Minneapolis and Seattle Field Offices. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis also provided valuable assistance to the prosecution. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs played an essential role in coordinating arrests and searches with foreign authorities. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James P. Gillis and Danya E. Atiyeh prosecuted the case with assistance from C. Alexandria Bogle, Trial Attorney, Counterterrorism Section. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vietnam Veterans Day: Remember And Honor Those Who Served

On This Day In History U.S. Withdrew Combat Troops From Vietnam

As notes, on this day in 1973 all American combat troops withdrew from South Vietnam.

Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops leave South Vietnam as Hanoi frees the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. America’s direct eight-year intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam.

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

Carlos the Jackal : French Hand Imprisoned Terrorist And Murderer Third Life Sentence

The BBC reports that the imprisoned terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal (so named because the French police found a copy of Frederick Forsyth’s classic thriller Day of the Jackal in his abandoned apartment) was again sentenced to life in prison

Carlos the Jackal, a notorious Venezuelan militant serving two life sentences, has been handed a third by a French court.

The self-styled revolutionary, whose real name is Iliac Ramirez Sanchez and is now 67, was convicted of a 1974 grenade attack on a Paris shop.

Ramirez threw a grenade into the shopping area, killing two and injuring 34 others, the court found.

He denied the charges and called the trial, 43 years later, "absurd".

Born into a wealthy Venezuelan family, Ramirez studied in Moscow before joining a militant group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He converted to Islam in 1975.

When his latest trial began in early March, he said that any killings he had committed had been carried out in the name of "the revolution" and condemned "scavenging" lawyers and "Zionist interests".

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

You can also read an earlier post on Ramirez (who ought to be known as Carlos the Jackass) via the below link:

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Washington Times Review of 'Last Don Standing: The Secret Life Of Mob Boss Ralph Natale'

My review of Last Don Standing: The Secret Life of Mob Boss Ralph Natale appeared in the Washington Times.

Ralph Natale, the boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey Cosa Nostra organized crime family in the 1990s, was the first mob boss to become a government witness.

He explains why in “Last Don Standing: The Secret Life of Mob Boss Ralph Natale.” He agreed to become a witness because he said that the men he left in charge of the crime family after he was arrested in 1998 did not, as they swore to him they would do, provide for his family while he was “inside.”

Natale’s bitterness toward his former criminal associates enabled him to finally, after a lifetime in organized crime, testify about Cosa Nostra crime. That same bitterness also led him to allow Dan Pearson, the executive producer of the Discovery Channel’s “I Married a Mobster,” and Larry McShane, a crime reporter and author of “The Chin: The Life and Crimes of Mafia Boss Vincent Gigante,” to write this book.

… The book offers a primer on Philadelphia and New Jersey organized crime history. Although Natale was in prison at the time, he says he heard all about the 1980 murder of Bruno and the good number of other murders that led to Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo becoming the boss. Scarfo’s murderous reign ended when he went to prison, which led to Stanfa becoming the boss until he too went to prison.

I grew up in South Philly, not far from where Natale was raised a generation earlier. I contacted him and we talked about his life and the book. I noted that he didn’t appear to be particularly remorseful or repentant in the book. Did he have any regrets about his past criminal life?

“I have regrets about one thing, I broke my marriage vows,” Natale replied. “That’s the only thing I regret in my life. When I was 12 years old, I was a hoodlum. I was a born killer, that’s what I did and why I rose to the top so easily. But I never touched an innocent man or a woman or a child. I just clipped the guys who were supposed to get clipped. And they went. It was a simple thing for me.”

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Conducts OIR Missions Against ISIS

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mario Coto with USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs offers the below report:

ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is currently launching missions against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) from the Arabian Gulf.

Rear Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell, commander, CSG 2, said the missions are part of the key to accelerating the fight against ISIS.

"The superb efforts made by the men and women of this strike group will be critical to continuing this fight," said Whitesell. "The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group brings a flexible, mobile and lethal multi-mission strike force to work with our allies and partner nations to engage ISIS and the threat they pose to the region and the greater international community."

Whitesell credited the strike group's readiness on the extensive training leading up to deployment.

"This is what we've been training for," said Whitesell. "We're ready to support the mission wherever and whenever we're needed. We have a crew of highly-trained, warfighting professionals ready for this mission, and I know that we, along with our allies and regional partners, will be successful."

OIR is the unwavering resolve and commitment of the U.S and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the terrorist group ISIS and the threat they pose.

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group is comprised of the staff of CSG 2; USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77); the nine squadrons and staff of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8; Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 22 staff; guided-missile destroyers USS Laboon (DDG 58) and USS Truxtun (DDG 103); and Mayport-based guided-missile cruisers USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and USS Hue City (CG 66).

In the above and below U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines F/A-18E Super Hornets attached to the "Golden Warriors" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87 launche from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush. 

Note: You can click on the above photos to enlarge.

Long-Time Bonanno Crime Family Member Indicted For Arson; Six Others Indicted For Violent Crimes

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

BROOKLYN, NY – Two indictments were unsealed this morning in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging seven defendants variously with arson, bank robbery, Hobbs Act robberies and firearms offenses based, in part, on their participation in the criminal affairs of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the Bonanno family).[1]  The defendants – Vincent Asaro, John J. Gotti, Michael Guidici, Matthew Rullan, also known as “Fat Matt,” Christopher Boothby, also known as “Bald Chris,” Matthew Hattley, also known as “Mack,” and Darren Elliott – were arrested earlier today. 

The seven defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann, at the United States Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.  The cases have been assigned to United States District Judge Allyne R. Ross.

The charges and arrests were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).

“The defendants are charged with committing an assortment of violent crimes – arson to exact punishment for a perceived slight and robberies to unjustly enrich themselves.  This Office and its partners will continue to vigilantly pursue such organized violence and stop it in its tracks,” said Acting United States Attorney Rohde.  Ms. Rohde thanked the Queens District Attorney’s Office, the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and the Nassau County Police Department’s Major Case Bureau and Robbery Squad for their assistance in the investigations.

“A man well-known in organized crime circles allegedly got cut off in traffic, and exacted his revenge by sending his associates to allegedly torch the victim’s car.  The FBI refuses to allow acts like arson, bank robbery and home invasions to be conducted as business as usual, as if it is just another day in the office.  The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively go after those who refuse to follow the laws and prey upon the law-abiding public,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.


As alleged in the government’s court filings, Asaro was inducted into the Bonanno family more than 30 years ago and has previously held the position of captain.  In early April 2012, Asaro was traveling in a car in Howard Beach when he became enraged at another motorist who had switched lanes in front of Asaro at a traffic light.  Asaro chased the other vehicle at a high rate of speed.  Later, after obtaining the home address of the owner of the other vehicle, Asaro directed an associate of the Bonanno family (“Associate-1”) to set fire to that vehicle.  Associate-1 then recruited Gotti and Rullan to help him carry out the arson.

As further alleged, Associate-1, Gotti and Rullan drove in Gotti’s Jaguar sedan to a service station in the pre-dawn hours of April 4, 2012 where they filled a container with gasoline and proceeded to the residence of the owner of the other vehicle.  Associate-1 doused the vehicle with gasoline, and Rullan ignited it.  An NYPD police officer in an unmarked car observed the crime in progress and pursued the Jaguar on a high-speed chase through the streets of Queens until he terminated the pursuit for safety reasons due to Gotti’s reckless driving.

The following day, Associate-1 told Asaro about the arson, and Asaro drove to the auto body shop where the burned vehicle had been towed to confirm that his order had been carried out.

Bank Robbery

Two weeks after the vehicle arson, Gotti, Rullan, and Guidici allegedly robbed the Maspeth Federal Savings and Loan Association.  On April 18, 2012 at approximately 5:45 p.m., Guidici entered the bank and handed the teller a note demanding money and stating, among other things, “I HAVE A BOMB[.]”  The teller placed $5,491 on the counter, which Guidici took.  Guidici then joined Gotti and Rullan who were waiting outside the bank in a car.  The three defendants then fled the scene together.

Home Invasion Robbery

Boothby, an associate of the Bonanno family, and Hattley are charged with robbing a residence in Queens on March 12, 2014.  Boothby remained outside the home as a lookout while Hattley and another Bonanno associate (“Associate-2”) tied up the homeowner’s girlfriend (“Jane Doe”).  The defendants then stole more than $50,000 in cash and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry, including high-end designer watches and a Cartier ring from Jane Doe’s finger, among other items.

Jewelry Store Robbery and Attempts

Hattley and Elliott are charged with the gunpoint robbery of a jewelry store in Franklin Square, Long Island, making off with approximately $250,000 in merchandise, and the attempted robberies of two other jewelry stores, also in Franklin Square, between August 17, 2011 and May 5, 2012.  The jewelry store owners were menaced with guns and tied up.

All of the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on the robbery, attempted robbery, arson and arson conspiracy charges.  In addition, Asaro, Gotti and Rullan each face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment if convicted of the arson-related charges and Hattley and Elliot face a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment if convicted of the firearms charges.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime & Gangs Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole M. Argentieri, Lindsay K. Gerdes, Keith D. Edelman, and Alicyn L. Cooley are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendants:

Age: 82
Queens, NY

Age: 23
Queens, NY

Age: 22
Queens, NY

MATTHEW RULLAN, a.k.a. “Fat Matt”
Age: 26
Queens, NY

CHRISTOPHER BOOTHBY, a.k.a. “Bald Chris”
Age: 37
Queens, NY

Age: 30
Queens, NY

MATTHEW HATTLEY, a.k.a. “Mack”
Age: 26
Queens, NY

E.D.N.Y. Docket Nos. 17-CR-00127 (RRM) and 17-CR-00128 (ARR)

[1] The charges contained in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Look Back At South Philly Southpaw Boxer Lew Tendler's Restaurant: Now This Was A Philly Sports Bar

Frank Fitzpatrick’s column in the Philadelphia Inquirer offers a look back at Lew Tendler’s Restaurant, where sports figures, newspapermen and mobsters used to hang out together.

When the sirloins were thick and rare, the whiskey cheap and plentiful, the wise guys brash and colorful, Lew Tendler's Restaurant was, as the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign over its bar proclaimed, "The Quaker City's Sporting Hub."

"Sports bar" is now a tired marketing concept, one connoting a place where young males gather to ogle big-screen TVs, memorabilia, and waitresses dressed as scantily as the house salad.

Tendler's was so much more.

"It was the kind of place you can't find in Philadelphia any more," Gabe Oppenheim wrote in a 2015 Pennsylvania Gazette piece, "a pub where mobsters, athletes and writers gathered."

Between its 1933 opening - 71 days before Prohibition's repeal - and its closing 37 years later, the ornate establishment at Broad and Locust was home base for Philly's leading sports figures as well as the Runyonesque barflies who buzzed around them.

In fact, Damon Runyon himself, the newspaperman who immortalized New York's touts and hustlers, drank at Tendler's whenever he was in town. Most of Philadelphia's sportswriters, including Red Smith when he worked at the Record, haunted the place, as did visiting scribes such as Jimmy Cannon and Dan Parker. On any given day, you might find journalists; baseball and basketball players; boxers; jockeys; NFL owners; mobsters; and an assortment of quirky gamblers with names like Mugsy, Cappy, Frisco Legs, Oysters, Blinky, and Sassy Doc.

… But the real action was boxing. In the late 1940s, two large TVs were installed and the bar was packed on fight nights. When, in September 1952, Rocky Marciano challenged heavyweight champ Joe Wolcott at Municipal Stadium, hundreds of sportswriters and bookies made Tendler's their pre-fight headquarters.

And, according to a Marciano biography, one of the Brockton Bomber's uncles, Pete Piccento, was able to place $40,000 in bets that week at Tendler's.

Organized crime ran boxing then. According to Oppenheim, mobster Blinky Palermo once asked Sugar Ray Robinson - at Tendler's - to throw a fight. Though Robinson had no choice but to agree, he instead knocked out his opponent.

"It was an accident," Robinson later told Palermo at the bar. "I just happened to catch him with a hook."

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

U.S. Strike Kills High-Profile Terrorist Leader

The Defense Department released the below information:

The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed that a U.S. counter-terrorism airstrike conducted March 19 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, resulted in the death of Qari Yasin, a well-known al Qaida terrorist leader responsible for the deaths of dozens of innocent victims, including two American service members.

Yasin, a senior terrorist figure from Balochistan, Pakistan, had ties to Tehrik-e Taliban and had plotted multiple al Qaida terror attacks, including the Sept. 20, 2008, bombing on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens of innocent people, among them U.S. Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez and Navy Cryptologic Technician Third Class Petty Officer Matthew J. O’Bryant.

Yasin was also responsible for the 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed and six members of the team injured.

"The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice," said Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

CEO, CFO, And Company Convicted Of A $180 Million Scheme To Defraud, Launder Money, And Obstruct Justice

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Eastern Pennsylvania released the below information regarding the conviction of a former Defense contractor:

PHILADELPHIA – Dean Volkes, 53, and Donna Fallon, 52, of Long Island, NY, and Devos Ltd., doing business as Guaranteed Returns, located in Long Island, were convicted Wednesday on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and false statements, announced Acting United States Attorney Louis Lappen. Volkes and Fallon face substantial sentences of incarceration, as well as a three-year period of supervised release. All three defendants face a possible fine and mandatory payment of full restitution. For Volkes and Guaranteed Returns, restitution is anticipated to be approximately $180 million. Additionally, the jury today ordered defendant Dean Volkes to forfeit bank accounts totaling $127 million.

Volkes was the President, Chief Executive Officer, and sole owner of Guaranteed Returns, a reverse pharmaceutical distributor located in Holbrook, New York. Fallon, who is Volkes’ sister, was the company’s Chief Financial Officer. As a reverse distributor, Guaranteed Returns managed the returns of pharmaceutical products for healthcare providers, including numerous hospitals, pharmacies, and long-term care facilities, as well as Department of Defense facilities. Pharmaceutical manufacturers often 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 evidence at trial proved that from approximately 1999 through 2014, Guaranteed Returns promised its clients that it would hold their “indate” (not yet expired) drug products until they expired, and then return them on the clients’ behalf, in exchange for a fee. Instead, Guaranteed Returns, at CEO Volkes’ direction, stole indated drug products that it received from its clients, returned the drugs to manufacturers, and kept the refund money. Volkes created a system in which he classified clients as either “managed” or “unmanaged.” The company returned the indated product that it received from all of its clients. For customers that Volkes designated “unmanaged,” however, Guaranteed Returns kept the full value of the returned product for itself. The evidence demonstrated that through this fraud, Volkes and Guaranteed Returns stole more than $180 million from over 13,000 clients, including more than $20 million from numerous medical treatment facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.

The evidence also showed that Volkes, Fallon, and Guaranteed Returns stole clients’ refund money by diverting a percentage of the refunds into internal company accounts. In fall 2010, Volkes caused the company’s IT staff to write a computer program that allowed Guaranteed Returns to skim a portion of clients’ refund money from both expired and indated products through a computerized accounting adjustment. The CFO, Donna Fallon, then implemented this program over a dozen times, resulting in the theft of approximately $500,000 in just five months.

The jury also found that Volkes, Fallon, and Guaranteed Returns had conspired to launder the proceeds of the fraud. Specifically, the evidence showed that when the defendants returned drugs to the respective manufacturers for refunds, they intentionally combined drugs that had been stolen with drugs that had not been stolen. Consequently, as the defendants knew and intended, the payments that the manufacturers made to the wholesalers would comprise commingled funds – i.e., refunds for drugs that the defendants had stolen from clients, which refunds the defendants intended to keep and did keep for themselves, were commingled with refunds for drugs that were not stolen and that would be forwarded to clients as the defendants were required to do. Afterward, the defendants transferred millions of dollars in commingled funds through the company’s accounts to accounts controlled by Volkes.

Finally, the evidence at trial showed that the defendants obstructed justice in connection with a grand jury investigation. As part of an unrelated investigation, a grand jury subpoena had been served on Guaranteed Returns, requiring the production of various records. In March 2010, Volkes met with his IT department and instructed them to delete data called for by the subpoena and then to obtain a wiping program to ensure that deleted data could not be forensically recovered, which they did. Volkes then directed the head of the company’s IT department to falsely inform federal investigators that this deletion was part of a routine data purge, which he also did. In the same timeframe, March 2010, Fallon concealed from the investigators that in January 2010 she had received the computer hard drives of two former employees whose emails and documents were covered by the subpoena. The investigators discovered Fallon’s concealment and false statements when the hard drives were found locked in a cabinet in Fallon’s office during a judicially-authorized search of the company’s office in April 2011, during which the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Defense Criminal Investigative Service seized almost 30 servers, over 20 computers, and hundreds of boxes of documents.

“The defendants and their company betrayed the trust of their numerous clients through a complex fraud scheme that cheated these victims of $180 million,” said Lappen. “The verdict in this case, which is the culmination of years of work, makes clear that this office and its many law enforcement partners will continue to devote substantial resource to prosecute large scale health care fraud and hold these dishonest businesses and their officers accountable.”

“This long-running scheme appears fueled by sheer greed,” said Michael Harpster, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “The defendants’ boldness is really something to behold: doing business under the company name ‘Guaranteed Returns,’ while merrily pocketing refunds due to clients – among them, the U.S. government.”

The case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Philadelphia office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nancy Rue and Patrick J. Murray.

DEA: Top Hizballah Terror Financier Arrested - Kassim Tajideen Is A Specially Designated Terrorist Charged With Evading U.S. Sanctions

The DEA released the below information:

WASHINGTON – DEA and other federal officials today announced the arrest of Kassim Tajideen, a prominent financial supporter of the Hizballah terror organization. Tajideen is charged with evading U.S. sanctions imposed on him because of his financial support of Hizballah.

Tajideen, 62, of Beirut, Lebanon, was arrested overseas on March 12, 2017, based on an 11-count indictment unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia following his arrival to the United States. Tajideen made his initial court appearance today before Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather. Tajideen pleaded not guilty and was ordered held pending a detention hearing set for March 29.

The arrest and indictment are the result of a two-year investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and assisted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The effort is part of DEA’s Project Cassandra, which targets Hizballah’s global criminal support network – dubbed by the DEA as the Business Affairs Component (BAC) that operates as a logistics, procurement and financing arm for Hizaballah.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan of the Special Operations Division, and CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan made the announcement.

“Kassim Tajideen posed a direct threat to safety and stability around the world,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Donovan. “A prominent money man for Hizballah, Tajideen acted as a key source of funds for their global terror network. DEA and our partners are unrelenting in our pursuit of the world’s most dangerous terror and criminal networks and their many facilitators who threaten the rule of law and innocent lives.”

“Because of his support for Hizballah, a major international terrorist group, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Kassim Tajideen in 2009 that barred him from doing business with U.S. individuals and companies,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco.  “Those sanctions are a powerful tool in our efforts to combat terrorists and those who would support them.  Indeed, the sanctions posed such a significant threat to Tajideen’s extensive business interests that he allegedly went to great lengths to evade them by hiding his identity from the U.S. entities he did business with, and from the government agencies responsible for enforcing the sanctions.  Thanks to the diligent work of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, we broke through the web of intermediaries Tajideen allegedly used to conceal his involvement, and he has been brought to the United States to face justice.”

“Kassim Tajideen is alleged to have willfully flouted U.S. sanctions that were based on his prior support for Hizballah, a designated foreign terrorist organization,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security McCord. “Those sanctions are designed to protect our national security and public safety by limiting terrorists’ access to resources, and this extradition sends a clear message that we are resolved to find and hold accountable those who violate these laws.”

“The investigation of this case and the arrest and extradition of this defendant demonstrates our commitment to enforcing vitally important sanctions laws that are in place to protect our national security and foreign policy interests,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “Because of the hard work of law enforcement here and abroad, Kassim Tajideen will now face charges in an American courtroom.”

The indictment charges Tajideen with one count of willfully conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, seven counts of unlawful transactions with a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. The indictment also indicates that the government will seek a forfeiture money judgment against the defendants equal to the value of any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to these offenses.

According to the indictment, Tajideen allegedly presided over a multi-billion-dollar commodity distribution business that operates primarily in the Middle East and Africa through a web of vertically integrated companies, partnerships, and trade names.  The indictment further alleges that Tajideen and others engaged in an elaborate scheme to engage in business with U.S. companies while concealing Tajideen’s involvement in those transactions.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control named Tajideen a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on May 27, 2009.  This designation prohibits U.S. companies from transacting unlicensed business with Tajideen or any companies which are operated for his benefit – in essence stripping Tajideen’s global business empire of its ability to legally acquire goods from, or wire money into, the United States.  However, the indictment alleges that Tajideen restructured his business empire after the designation in order to evade the sanctions and continue conducting transactions with U.S. entities.  Tajideen and others are alleged to have created new trade names and to have misrepresented his ownership in certain entities in order to conceal Tajideen’s association.  The scheme allowed Tajideen’s companies to continue to illegally transact business directly with unwitting U.S. vendors, as well as to continue utilizing the U.S. financial and freight transportation systems to conduct wire transfers and move shipping containers despite the sanctions against Tajideen.

According to the indictment, between approximately July of 2013 until the present day, the conspirators illegally completed at least 47 individual wire transfers, totaling over approximately $27 million, to parties in the United States.  During the same time period, the conspirators caused dozens of illegal shipments of goods to leave U.S. ports for the benefit of Tajideen, without obtaining the proper licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This investigation was carried out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the DEA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center Counter-Network Division, with assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas A. Gillice and Deborah Curtis and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline L. Barkett of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Joseph Palazzo from the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.

Participating investigative agencies in DEA’s Project Cassandra include the DEA’s New Jersey Field Division and Special Operations Division and various DEA country offices, as well as the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

From Smiling Kent Schoolboy To Murdering Jihadi: Police Release Mugshot Of Westminster Terrorist

The British newspaper the Daily Mail published the mugshot of the London terrorist and a story of how he became radicalized.

This is the first picture of the Westminster ISIS-inspired jihadi Khalid Masood as an adult in a police mugshot released by Scotland Yard today.

Masood was a career criminal with a string of convictions for violent crimes and weapons offences who was jailed twice and radicalized behind bars.

The Met released his picture as part of a public appeal for information as officers try to find out if the ISIS-inspired extremist was acting alone or helped by a wider terror network in Britain.

You can read the rest of the piece and see more photos via the below link:

My Q&A With Nelson DeMille, Author Of 'The Lion's Game' And 'The Panther'

The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International published my Q&A with Nelson DeMille, the author of The Lion's Game, The Panther and other crime, espionage and terrorism thrillers.

You can read the interview via the below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

My Piece On The 'Fat Leonard' U.S. Navy Bribery And Fraud Case

The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International published my piece on the 'Fat Leonard' U.S. Navy bribery and fraud case and scandal.

You can read the piece below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Philadelphia District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams Indicted On Bribery And Extortion Charges - Also Charged With Defrauding Nursing Home, Family Friends

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey released the below information:

PHILADELPHIA – A federal grand jury today returned a 23-count indictment charging Philadelphia District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams with bribery, extortion, and honest services wire fraud in connection with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of concealed bribes that he received from two business owners in exchange for his agreement to perform official acts. The indictment also charges Williams with defrauding a nursing home and family friends of money earmarked for a family member’s care.

The charges were announced today by Acting New Jersey U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick, along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster, Philadelphia Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Floyd of IRS-Criminal Investigation, Philadelphia Office; and Special Agent in Charge Marlon V. Miller of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia.

Williams, 50, of Philadelphia, is charged with 10 counts of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery contrary to Pennsylvania law (the “Travel Act counts”), two counts of Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, five counts of honest services wire fraud, and six counts of wire fraud. He will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on a date to be determined.

“The indictment alleges that as District Attorney, Mr. Williams compromised himself and his elected office by standing ready to help those who were willing to pay him with money, trips, and cars,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said. “Mr. Williams’ alleged willingness to compromise his position of public trust in exchange for private financial gain is all the more unfortunate given that he was elected to protect the interests of the people of Philadelphia as their chief law enforcement officer.”

“The alleged misconduct, as specifically laid out in this indictment, is brazen and wide-ranging, as is the idea that a District Attorney would so cavalierly trade on elected office for financial gain,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Harpster said. “The immense authority vested to law enforcement has to be kept in check, and that requires decision-makers and leaders with a steady ethical compass. When elected or appointed officials stray from their sworn oaths, they must be held accountable. Combating public corruption remains the FBI's top criminal priority."

According to the indictment:

From July 2010 to July 2015, Williams solicited and accepted a stream of bribes from two business owners in exchange for Williams performing and agreeing to perform official acts for the business owners and their associates. In order to conceal these illegal arrangements, Williams filed false and misleading personal financial statements for the years 2012 through 2015, which intentionally omitted references to the valuable items that Williams received from the business owners during those years. After Williams learned of the federal investigation, he amended those financial disclosure statements to list many of the items listed in the indictment, excluding a pre-owned 1997 Jaguar he received in June 2013.

The Unlawful Arrangement with Business Owner #1

From July 2010 through May 2015, Williams allegedly solicited and accepted a number of valuable items from an individual identified in the indictment as “Business Owner #1,” including an all-inclusive vacation to Punta Cana worth $6,381, a custom sofa worth $3,212, a $502 dinner at a Philadelphia restaurant, a $7,000 check, approximately $2,000 in cash, a Louis Vuitton tie worth $205, an iPad worth approximately $300, a Burberry watch, and a Burberry purse for Williams’ girlfriend.

In exchange, Williams agreed to help Business Owner #1 with security screenings when Business Owner #1 returned from foreign travel. On numerous occasions, Williams contacted a Philadelphia police official in order to pressure and advise the police official to assist Business Owner #1 with those border encounters. On March 15, 2013, Williams met with the police official and Business Owner #1 and asked the police official to help Business Owner #1 avoid secondary screening. That same day, Williams accepted a $7,000 check from Business Owner #1. Williams also repeatedly offered to write an official letter, under his authority as the District Attorney, on behalf of Business Owner #1 to pressure and advise the police official to assist Business Owner #1 with the border encounters.

Williams agreed to assist with criminal charges brought by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office against Business Owner #1’s associate, an individual identified in the indictment as “Person #1.” Between Feb. 1, 2012, and Feb. 5, 2012 – while on the Punta Cana vacation paid for by Business Owner #1 – Business Owner #1 asked Williams to help with Person #1’s charges, and Williams agreed. On Feb. 8, 2012, just days after returning from Punta Cana, Williams received a text message from Business Owner #1 listing the docket number and hearing date for Person #1’s case. The text message stated that Person #1 would “take any punishment” but “just doesn’t wanna do jail!” Williams responded with a text message stating: “I will look into it.” Moments later, Williams asked about a second anticipated trip to Punta Cana paid for by Business Owner #1 and stated “I am merely a thankful beggar and don’t want to overstep my bounds in asking...but we will gladly go.”

When Business Owner #1 sent a text message in September 2012 again asking Williams to assist Person #1, Williams responded with text messages saying, among other things, “It seems like he has the possibility of having it thrown out or continued ... if it gets continued I will then ask for the file and see what can be done to make it a county sentence...”

The Unlawful Arrangement with Business Owner #2

From March 2012 through July 2015, Williams solicited and accepted from a Philadelphia bar owner identified in the indictment as “Business Owner #2” approximately 16 round-trip airline tickets to Florida, San Diego, and Las Vegas for himself, his girlfriend and members of his family. Williams also solicited and accepted from Business Owner #2 a 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible and at least $900 in cash.

In return for the benefits that he received from Business Owner #2, Williams appointed Business Owner #2 as Special Advisor to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office in November 2012, including issuing an official badge, writing an official letter of appointment, and giving certain assignments to Business Owner #2 as Special Advisor. At the time, Business Owner #2 was on federal probation resulting from a June 2010 federal tax conviction.

In May 2013, Business Owner #2 requested that Williams write an official letter, as the Philadelphia District Attorney, acknowledging Business Owner #2’s appointment as Special Advisor to his office. On May 10, 2013, Williams provided the letter to Business Owner #2. In June 2013, Williams accepted the Jaguar from Business Owner #2.

On June 2, 2014, Williams issued a second official letter to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in order to influence a then-pending hearing to revoke or suspend Business Owner #2’s California liquor license.

In July 2015, Williams obtained a police accident report at Business Owner #2’s request. During this time, Williams sent text messages to Business Owner #2 saying, among other things, “I wish I could help more,” “Can I be a greeter or celebrity bartender to work off my debt…?” and “…I was serious about just doing whatever I can to help you guys!”

The Fraud on the Nursing Home and Family Friends

From February 2012 through November 2013, Williams allegedly diverted a relative’s pension and Social Security payments to pay for his own personal expenses instead of applying them to the relative’s nursing home costs, as was his obligation under agreements with the nursing home. Williams also falsely told a nursing home employee his relative spent the pension and Social Security payments. In addition, after accepting $10,000 from friends of his relative intended to cover expenses for the relative’s nursing home care, Williams spent the money on his personal expenses instead.

“Rooting out public corruption remains one of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s highest priorities,” IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Floyd said. “Today’s indictment underscores our commitment to work in a collaborative effort to promote honest and ethical government at all levels and to prosecute those who allegedly violated the public’s trust.”

“Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice public officials who betray the trust of the community by engaging in unscrupulous behavior,” Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia, said. “The public places an enormous amount of trust in elected officers, as such, they should be held accountable to a higher standard of conduct. HSI is pleased with the results of this criminal investigation and the collaborative efforts between our agency and our counterparts at the FBI and IRS.”

Each of the Travel Act counts is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right and the wire fraud charges are punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Each count carries a potential fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of a total of $54,466, representing the sum of $34,146 worth of bribe proceeds and $20,320 worth of fraud proceeds.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Harpster; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Floyd; and special agents of the HSI Philadelphia, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Miller, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment. He also thanked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio, for its participation in the investigation.

The U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recused his office from the investigation involving the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the matter was assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. Two prosecutors from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania office were assigned to the case, subject to the supervision of prosecutors in the New Jersey office.

The government is represented by Deputy Chief Eric W. Moran of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Chief of Appeals Robert A. Zauzmer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On This Day In History Western Novelist Louis L'Amour Was Born

As notes, on this day in 1908 Louis L’Amour, author of Hondo, How the West Was Won and other classic western novels, was born.

He died at age 80 in 1988.

You can read about the late author and his work via the below link:

You can also visit the Louis L'Amour website via the below link:

‘Untalented’ Crime Writers Respond To Their No 1 Critic: 13 Thriller Writers Take William O’Rourke To Task For Dismissing Them And Their Readers

Martin Doyle at the Irish Times offers the response of 13 crime writers who take issue with a professor who claimed crime novelists had a “fatal lack of talent.”

Last Friday, William O’Rourke, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, came to The Irish Times to praise his former protégé Michael Collins and, almost as an aside, to bury the entire crime fiction genre. Cause of death? “Fatal lack of talent.”

“Michael [Collins] has too much talent to succeed as a crime writer,” wrote O’Rourke. “He doesn’t possess the fatal lack of talent required. America really doesn’t possess enough of a literary culture anymore to maintain a writer like Michael.”

Retribution by crime writers on social media was swift. Think the denouement to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Ian Rankin, bestselling author of the Rebus series, tweeted: “One needs a ‘lack of talent’ to be a crime writer. Nice...” Melanie McGrath reacted: “WTAF? Had to read this twice before I could take it in. After which I just laughed like a drain. Claire McGowan’s response was perhaps the best: “Someone needs to produce an anthology called ‘A Fatal Lack of Talent’.”

A piece I saw recently, which described crime fiction as fast food in contrast to the nourishment provided by literary fiction, was similar: an unprovoked attack.

The canard that crime fiction is inherently inferior to “serious literature” should be a dead duck by now. American literary critic Leslie Fiedler’s 1969 essay Cross the Border – Close the Gap was one of the first to challenge and fill in the perceived gap between “high art” and “popular art” or “pulp fiction”. But every now and then, an attempt like this is made to reopen the rift and sometimes 140 characters is not sufficient to tease out an issue. So I asked some of the finest Irish and international criminal minds, or crime writers at any rate, to respond in detail to O’Rourke’s dismissal of their genre, quoted here in full.

… John Banville: Lack of talent? Georges Simenon; Margery Allingham; Raymond Chandler; Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark; James M Cain; Dashiell Hammett; Ngaio Marsh; Jim Thompson; Edmund Crispin . . . and that’s only a handful of the dead ones. I rest my case.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

FBI: Craigslist Robbers - California-Based Thieves Targeted Big-Money Items And Sellers

The FBI released the below report:

For the high-end jewelry sellers on the popular online classifieds site Craigslist, it must have seemed like their ship had come in: A prospective buyer in California offered not only their asking price but would fly them into town and have a limo waiting.

“The individual would think they were going to the jewelry store to meet with the actual buyer,” said Special Agent Darin Heideman, who works out of the Oakland Resident Agency of the FBI’s San Francisco Division, “when in fact, a co-conspirator would take them to a predetermined location, assault them, and then basically rob them of all their items.”

The crew of robbers, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is estimated to have stolen more than $500,000 in jewelry from victims who traveled from more than six states between November 2012 and December 2013. Five men were charged in 2014 in connection with the violent robberies during which, among other items, a $90,000 Cartier watch, a $14,000 Rolex watch, and a $19,000 engagement ring were stolen. The last member of the crew to be sentenced, Michael Anthony Martin, 42, of Tracy, California, was handed a term last December of 30 years in prison.

The case illustrates how the FBI and police work together on cases that may at first appear to be local or isolated, but on closer investigation can span multiple jurisdictions. In this case, a Bay Area detective’s efforts to solve a “snatch-and-grab” robbery at a Fremont, California coffee shop ultimately led him to more than 20 similar robberies of victims from as far away as Wisconsin and Florida. Fremont Police Department Det. Michael Gebhardt’s legwork also uncovered the scheme’s mastermind: a prison inmate who personally called Craigslist targets—purporting to be a successful record producer—and assigned his co-conspirators to carry out the plans.

“It’s definitely a tale of something that started small and just mushroomed into this massive investigation,” said Gebhardt.

It all started in 2012 with the brazen robbery of a Bay Area man who was selling his watch. The seller and the purported buyer, both local, arranged to meet in Fremont in a public place—a coffee shop. “As they are talking, the potential buyer just grabs the Rolex and takes off running,” Gebhardt said.

“It’s definitely a tale of something that started small and just mushroomed into this massive investigation.”

Video surveillance and the so-called buyer’s cell phone number turned up an identity that police were able to link to two more robberies in Bay Area cities. In each case, the victims were selling Rolex watches and the prospective buyers grabbed the goods and ran. “The M.O. [modus operandi] is the same,” Gebhardt recalled thinking. “He’s targeting people on Craigslist for Rolexes.”

Two months later, the detective received word that police in Oakland were investigating five similar robberies, including one they witnessed firsthand during a separate investigation. Oakland police officers arrested three men, who it turned out were associates of the watch thief Gebhardt was investigating for the 2012 coffee shop heist. With some digging, Gebhardt learned his subject was taking directions from his father, an inmate at the California Men’s Colony state prison. The father was using a number of relatives, including his son and a cousin in Texas, to lure prospective Craigslist sellers with flights and limos and then have co-conspirators rob them once they were captive.

For the sellers, it might have seemed a safe bet when prospective buyers offered plane tickets and limos. “That’s exactly what they want,” said FBI Special Agent Paul Healy, who also worked the case out of Oakland. “They’re being told everything’s being taken care of.”

Heideman said it was a relatively small investment for the robbers. “You have to think—what does a plane ticket cost? Probably $400 to $500. A limo is going to cost a couple hundred bucks,” he said. “If you're traveling with a $30,000 diamond, that’s just a drop in the bucket to what they are going to steal. They were able to build these personas and build trust where there should not have been trust.”

Gebhardt learned of a Wisconsin woman who flew to St. Louis to sell the $19,000 diamond ring she had listed on Craigslist but ended up getting robbed instead. When Gebhardt saw a picture of the suspect, he recognized it was the same guy he’d been trying to run down—the son of the prison inmate. Still other cases—from Florida, Oregon, and Colorado—started to point back to the same prime suspects and associates.

“So we needed one big agency to basically be able to charge this thing,” Gebhardt said. The detective called the FBI, and agents from the Oakland Resident Agency helped set up a sting. They posted an ad on Craigslist hoping to attract the attention of the robbery crew’s leader in prison. And it worked.

“He calls me from prison and we set up a deal to sell my Rolex to him,” Gebhart said. “I would be flying in from Texas to the Oakland airport. He would have a driver pick me up.”

As that plan was coming to fruition, the FBI discovered that another Craigslist seller from Los Angeles was to arrive—with his Rolex—in Oakland on the same day.

“Obviously we couldn't let him get robbed, but we also didn’t want to tip him off because we didn't want him to call the guy that was going to rob him,” said Heideman. So the investigators posed as Craigslist buyers, contacted the seller in L.A., and outbid the robbery crew. They met him in a bank parking lot in Oakland. “We basically pulled him aside and said, ‘Here’s what you were about to walk into,’” Gebhardt said. “He was obviously relieved.”

“They were able to build these personas and build trust where there should not have been trust.”
Special Agent Darin Heideman, FBI Oakland Resident Agency

Meanwhile, on the same day of the sting in Oakland—December 16, 2013—two other simultaneous operations took down the robbery crew’s mastermind in prison and arrested his son, who was in hiding in Alabama.

The arrests led to federal indictments in 2014 against five defendants who have since received sentences ranging from 41 months to 30 years. The father, who cooperated with investigators, was given an addition seven years in prison for his role.

Looking back, the robbery crew was so prolific and violent they had no choice but to expand beyond their local area, agents said. Even limo drivers stopped working with them. “They would literally wear out a jurisdiction,” said Healy. “So they would go 40 miles away—or 400 miles away—to another town to do it.”

Tips for Staying Safe

The Craigslist website offers tips on personal safety when meeting someone for the first time. The site states, “With billions of human interactions, the incidence of violent crime related to craigslist is extremely low.”

Among the personal safety tips:

Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe, bank, or shopping center.
Do not meet in a secluded place or invite strangers into your home.
Be especially careful buying/selling high-value items.
Tell a friend or family member where you're going.
Take your cell phone along if you have one.
Consider having a friend accompany you.
Trust your instincts.

Meanwhile, some jurisdictions have moved to create “Safe Lots” for exchanging items from online classifieds. Det. Gebhardt says his department suggests on social media that if people are going to meet, they should meet in their local police department’s parking lot.

“If somebody says, ‘I don't want to meet there,’ then that’s probably a red flag about the person you’re meeting,” he said.