Friday, November 17, 2017

The Beast Is Dead: Notorious Sicilian Cosa Nostra 'Boss Of Bosses' Salvatore 'Toto' Riina, Known As 'The Beast,' Is Dead At 87

The Daily Mail reports that imprisoned Sicilian Cosa Nostra crime lord Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina, known as ‘The Beast’ for his propensity for violence, has died. He was 87.

MILAN (AP) - Mafia 'boss of bosses' Salvatore 'Toto' Riina, who was serving 26 life sentences as the mastermind of a bloody strategy to assassinate both rivals and Italian prosecutors and law enforcement trying to bring down Cosa Nostra, died early Friday.

Riina died the day after his 87th birthday and hours after the Justice Ministry had agreed to allow family members at his bedside. He had been in a medically induced coma following two surgeries in recent weeks in the prison wing of a hospital in Parma, northern Italy. The ministry, without elaboration, confirmed his death.

Riina, one of Sicily's most notorious Mafia bosses who ruthlessly directed the mob's criminal empire during 23 years in hiding, was serving the life sentences for multiple murder convictions, some dating back to the 1950s.

A farmer's son from Corleone, a rocky hill town with notoriety as a Mafia stronghold near Palermo, he carved out a particularly ruthless reputation in a crime syndicate notorious for its evil.

Rival bosses were mowed down in the 1970s and early 1980s in Palermo - murders blamed on mobsters happened at the rate of practically one a day in the Sicilian capital in those years - as Riina orchestrated his rise to power. In his campaign for supremacy, he violated many of Cosa Nostra's rules of conduct, including no longer sparing innocent women and children from the spray of hitmen's bullets.

He was captured in 1993 in Palermo, where he had an apartment hideout, and imprisoned under a special law that requires strict security for top mobsters, including being detained in isolated sections of prisons with limited time outside of their cells.

During the height of his power, prosecutors accused Riina of masterminding a strategy, carried out over several years, to assassinate Italian prosecutors, police officials and others who were going after Cosa Nostra.

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

Getting Carter And Ted Lewis: The Great British Crime Writer You’ve Never Heard Of

Max Decharne at the Spectator offers a piece on the biography of crime writer Ted Lewis, the author of Jack’s Return Home, the great crime novel behind the great crime film Get Carter.

If you search Google Images for Ted Lewis, the results show an American jazz-age band-leader in a battered top hat, or the determined features of the world champion boxer Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis, the ‘Aldgate Sphinx’. In between falls a picture of the crime writer Ted Lewis perched on a stool at a cable-strewn film location in 1970, portable typewriter on his knees, cigarette on his lip, and a sardonically knowing look which says that after years of struggle, overnight success has finally arrived. The film was Get Carter, anote-perfect transcription of Lewis’s hardboiled masterpiece Jack’s Return Home, published in February that year.

Alfred Edward Lewis — Edward to his parents, Ted to his friends — was born in Manchester in 1940, but grew up in the Lincolnshire town of Barton-upon-Humber, close by the southern end of the Humber Bridge, where he roamed as a child with a group of friends called the Riverbank Boys. For more urban excitement, there were Hull and Scunthorpe nearby, and despite the film’s distinctive Newcastle and Gateshead locations, the home to which Jack returns in Ted’s book is essentially Scunthorpe, with a side order of Grimsby.

One of the most valuable aspects of Nick Triplow’s welcome new book — the first biography of Lewis — is the care he has put into finding a wide variety of the author’s family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. From Ted’s earliest days at school, through his time at Hull Art College, playing piano in local jazz bands, working as an illustrator in London and on the animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine, there are many first-hand reminiscences of a man whose story was previously very sketchily known. If only someone in the mid-20th century had put equal effort into locating people from the formative years of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

The portrait which emerges is of an innovative and profoundly talented writer who had difficult relations with many of those around him, not least because of his lifelong attachment to alcohol. He was a regular pub-goer from the age of 14, so it is hardly surprising that his evocations of dismal bars with ‘singing till 10, fighting till 11’ are pin-sharp.

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

22 MS-13 Members And Associates Charged Federally In ICE’s MS-13 Targeted ‘Operation Raging Bull’ Which Netted A Total Of 267 Arrests

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

U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials today announced the results of stepped up efforts by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the department to target and dismantle MS-13 – culminating in the arrest of 267 in the United States and overseas.

“Operation Raging Bull” was led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with support from federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners, and was conducted in support of the Department of Justice’s renewed prioritization of the violent transnational gang.

“With more than 10,000 members across 40 states, MS-13 is one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the United States today,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to reduce crime and take down transnational criminal organizations, and we will be relentless in our pursuit of these objectives. That’s why I have ordered our drug trafficking task forces to use every law available to arrest, prosecute, convict, and defund MS-13. And we are getting results. So far this year, we have secured convictions against more than 1,200 gang members and worked with our partners in Central America to arrest and charge some 4,000 MS-13 members.  I want to thank the Department of Homeland Security, our federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section as well as Treasury, BOP, DOJ’s OCDETF task force members, and all of our state and local law enforcement partners for their hard work. These 267 arrests are the next step toward making this country safer by taking MS-13 off of our streets for good.”

“MS-13 has long been a priority for ICE. However we are now combating the gang with renewed focus and an unprecedented level of cooperation among DHS’s components and our domestic and international partners,” said Thomas Homan, ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director. “ICE has the ability to pursue complex criminal cases using our statutory authorities and to prevent crime by using our administrative arrest authorities to remove gang members from the country. We will not rest until every member, associate, and leader of MS-13 has been held accountable for their crimes, and those in this country illegally have been removed.”

The operation was conducted in two phases, targeting dangerous gang members and their global financial networks. The first phase of the operation which was announced previously, netted 53 arrests in El Salvador at the conclusion of an 18-month investigation in September. The second phase was conducted across the United States from Oct. 8 to Nov. 11, and concluded with 214 MS-13 arrests nationwide.

HSI received significant operational support, including intelligence sharing and collaboration, from ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons (BOP), as well as state, local, federal, and international law enforcement partners.  The Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, with funding from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, along with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Districts of Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Northern District of California, Southern District of Iowa and Southern District of Texas, and are prosecuting the cases.

"Securing the homeland is a critical piece of the USCIS mission,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “We are committed to supporting and providing intelligence to our law enforcement colleagues on public safety initiatives like Operation Raging Bull. We will bring all of our agency’s resources to bear in helping protect the American public from violent crime, and in the pursuit of those who seek to endanger the security of our nation.”

"This joint effort is not new. It is something we all do as law enforcement,” said Border Patrol Deputy Chief Scott Luck. “I look forward to continue working with my partners here at Headquarters as well as the field to address not just this threat but all threats.”

“The Bureau of Prisons is proud to have supported our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners in this successful effort to enhance public safety,” said Assistant Director Frank Lara for the Federal Bureau of Prisons Correctional Programs. “The Bureau of Prisons will continue to work collaboratively to combat the threat violent gangs pose inside prisons and in the community.”

Of the total 214 arrests made in the United States, 93 were arrested on federal and/or state criminal charges including murder, aggravated robbery, Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) offenses, Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) offenses, narcotics trafficking, narcotics possession, firearms offenses, domestic violence, assault, forgery, DUI and illegal entry/reentry. The remaining 121 were arrested on administrative immigration violations.

Sixteen of the 214 arrested were U.S. citizens and 198 were foreign nationals, of which only five had legal status to be in the United States. Foreign nationals arrested were from El Salvador (135), Honduras (29), Mexico (17), Guatemala (12), Ecuador (4) and Costa Rica (1).

Sixty-four individuals had illegally crossed the border as unaccompanied alien children; most are now adults. 

Examples of the federal prosecutions during this operation include:

In Baltimore, Maryland, the arrest and indictment of four MS-13 members on charges that include violent crimes in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering;

In Greenbelt, Maryland, the arrest and indictment of eight MS-13 members on charges that include conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce by extortion; and MS-13 members and associates were arrested in East Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts; Falfurrias, Hidalgo and Laredo, Texas; Nogales, Tucson and Yuma, Arizona; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Annapolis, Baltimore, Clinton, Beltsville, Upper Marlboro, Centreville and Jessup, Maryland; and San Jose, California and charged with various federal offenses including illegal alien in possession of a firearm and illegal re-entry after deportation.
Following this operation, ICE has added six MS-13 fugitives to its list of “most wanted” individuals, including one fugitive wanted for homicide in Montgomery County, Texas, and five others wanted for their involvement in the homicide and attempted homicides of El Salvadoran police officers. All are suspected of being somewhere in the U.S.

Individuals are confirmed as gang members if they admit membership in a gang; have been convicted of violating Title 18 USC 521 or any other federal or state law criminalizing or imposing civil consequences for gang-related activity; or if they meet certain other criteria such as having tattoos identifying a specific gang or being identified as a gang member by a reliable source.

Gang associates are individuals who exhibit gang member criteria but who are not formally initiated into the gang. Law enforcement officers encountering these individuals will determine whether indications of gang association are present by referring to the gang membership criteria.

Note: I wrote a piece on MS-13 for Counterterrorism magazine, which will appear in the upcoming issue. I’ll post the piece here when it comes out.

20 Minute Video Of The Best James Bond Jokes, Puns and Witticisms

Nate Berman at offers a video that covers the entire span of the Bond era, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, and contains some of the best (and worst) of Bond’s jokes, puns and witticisms.

Few of the jokes, puns and witticisms in the films come from Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, but I liked the ones from the early Sean Connery Bond films. The great Scot actor was able to pull off the quips with a natural deadpan style.

In Diamonds Are Forever Connery-Bond is at a Las Vegas casino when a buxom woman in a low-cut dress (Lana Wood) comes up beside him and introduces herself, ""Hi, I'm Plenty."

"Well, of course you are," Bond responds.

"That's my name. Plenty O'Toole," she said. 

Bond looks at her and says "Named after your father perhaps..."

Some of the jokes, puns and witticisms are clever and amusing and some are just silly.

You can watch the video via the below link: 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My Washington Times Review Of Roger Moore's 'A Bientot'

The Washington Times published my review of Sir Roger Moore’s A Bientot.

Although I much prefer Sean Connery’s dark and dangerous portrayal of Ian Fleming’s iconic character James Bond to Sir Roger Moore’s light and comedic approach, I was a huge fan of Mr. Moore’s portrayal of Leslie Charteris’ Simon Templar in the 1960s TV series “The Saint.”

By all accounts, the late Mr. Moore was an intelligent and amiable man with a self-deprecating sense of humor. This comes across clearly in his books, such as “My Word is My Bond” and “Last Man Standing,” as well as his latest book, “A Bientot.”

The book was delivered to his publisher only days before he died on May 23 at the age of 89.

 “A Bientot” (French for goodbye or see you later) offers Mr. Moore’s take on growing old and a look back at what he has called an extraordinarily lucky and charmed life.

“The poet Dante believed old age starts at forty-five. The United Nations suggests it begins at sixty. Meanwhile, in 2016, the Daily Express newspaper reported that Britons do not see themselves as elderly until they are nudging eighty-five,” Mr. Moore writes at the start of his last book. “Well, as I write, I’m in my ninetieth year. Ninety! Where did those years go? But what is old age? Does it define us? Does it inhibit us? You can’t escape it, you can’t avoid it — well, you can, but the alternative isn’t to be recommended — so you just have to embrace it.”

Mr. Moore’s charmed life began in London on Oct. 14, 1927. The son of a policeman, Mr. Moore trained as an actor, served in the British army, and came to fame on British TV as “Ivanhoe” in the 1950s. He replaced James Garner in 1960 on “Maverick” and first appeared as “The Saint” in 1962. “The Saint” ran until 1969. In 1971 he starred in “The Persuaders” with Tony Curtis and in 1973 he starred in his first Bond film, “Live and Let Die.” He would go on to portray James Bond in six more films, finally giving up the role after 1985’s “A View to a Kill.”

But it was his more than 25 years as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador advocating children’s causes that he was most proud of. He was knighted by the British queen for his UNICEF work in 2003.

He was also a lifelong supporter of the British Conservative Party.

“A Bientot” offers Mr. Moore’s musings, along with anecdotes, sketches, photos, complaints about growing old, and abundant humor.

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Beware Of Holiday Scams

With the Holidays approaching fast the Navy Federal Credit Union offers some good tips that can help prevent you from becoming a victim of scams this holiday season.

Some things make an appearance every holiday season: bustling shopping malls, rows of homes strung with lights, office parties—and scams aimed at exploiting holiday shoppers and year-end philanthropists. We’ve highlighted five common scams waiting to grab your money like it’s the last slice of pie at the dinner table.

Too-Good-to-Be-True Travel Offers

A tropical getaway is always enticing in the midst of winter, and that’s exactly what scammers hope will make you take the bait. However, what seems like a dream vacation could end up being a financial nightmare, since you’ll end up paying for a trip you can’t take.


Be skeptical of free trip offers.
Know what’s included in a package deal. Get it in writing.
Do your own travel research to verify the legitimacy of any deals.
Cheer-Free Online Offers

Searching for the perfect gift at a great price? Be careful when buying gifts online. Fraudsters are more focused than ever before on online scams since chip technology has made it more difficult for them to use your card at stores.


Stick to well-known retailers. Remember—if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Watch out for look-alike websites. Check the web address for anything out of the ordinary like rewording or extra or misspelled words. Always look for the lock icon or a URL that begins with “https” before you click “Buy Now.”

Be suspicious of debit- or gift cards-only payment options or requests for wire transfers.

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Last Defendant In The United States Pleads Guilty In Multimillion Dollar India-Based Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims

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

An Illinois man pleaded guilty today to money laundering conspiracy, joining six other defendants who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for their roles in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme perpetrated by a network of India-based call centers responsible for defrauding U.S. residents of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Acting Deputy Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Inspector General J. Russell George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Inspector General John Roth of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) made the announcement.

Miteshkumar Patel, 42, most recently residing in Willowbrook, Illinois; Sunny Joshi, 47, of Sugar Land, Texas; Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, 39, of Montgomery, Alabama; and Rajesh Bhatt, 53, of Sugar Land, each pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Raman Patel, 82, of Gilbert, Arizona; Praful Patel, 50, of Fort Myers, Florida; and Jerry Norris, 47, of Oakland, California, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses.  The pleas were entered before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas between Sept. 22 and Nov. 13, except for Raman Patel’s plea, which was entered before U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Burns in the District of Arizona on Nov. 6.  Six of the men have been in federal custody since their arrests in October 2016 and will remain detained until their pending sentencing dates.

According to admissions made in connection with their pleas, Miteshkumar Patel, Raman Patel, Joshi, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, Bhatt, Praful Patel, Norris and their co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and engaged in other telephone call scams, in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the United States.  Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators targeted U.S. victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.  Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wiring money.  Upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the United States to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds.

Based on admissions in Miteshkumar Patel’s plea, beginning in or around 2013, Miteshkumar Patel managed a crew of a half dozen domestic runners involved in the criminal scheme, liquidating as much as approximately $25 million in victim funds for conspirators from India-based call center and organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL.  Patel communicated about the fraudulent scheme with various domestic and India-based co-defendants via email, text messaging and WhatsApp messaging.  Miteshkumar Patel and his runners purchased reloadable GPR cards that were registered using the misappropriated personal identifying information (PII) of unsuspecting victims that were later used to receive victims’ funds, and used those reloadable cards containing victims’ funds to purchase money orders and then deposit those money orders into bank accounts, as directed, while keeping a portion of the scam proceeds as profit.  Miteshkumar Patel also trained the runners he managed on how to conduct the liquidation scheme, provided them with vehicles to conduct their activities in Illinois and throughout the country, and directed a co-defendant to open bank accounts and limited liability companies for use in the conspiracy.  Miteshkumar Patel further admitted to using a gas station he owned in Racine, Wisconsin to liquidate victim funds, and possessing and using equipment at his Illinois apartment to make fraudulent identification documents used by co-defendant runners in his crew to receive wire transfers directly from scam victims and make bank deposits in furtherance of the conspiracy.

According to admissions in Raman Patel’s guilty plea, from in or around 2014, Patel served as a domestic runner in and around south-central Arizona, liquidating victim scam funds per the instructions of a co-defendant.  Patel also served as a driver for two co-defendants in furtherance of their GPR liquidation and related activities and sent bank deposit receipts related to the processing of victim payments and fraud proceeds to an India-based co-defendant via email and document scan services offered at various retail stores.

Based on admissions in Joshi and Bhatt’s guilty pleas, beginning in or around 2012, Joshi and Bhatt worked together as runners in the Houston, Texas area along with a co-defendant.  They admitted to extensively communicating via email and text with, and operating at the direction of, India-based conspirators from organizational co-defendant CALL MANTRA call center to liquidate up to approximately $9.5 million in victim funds, including by purchasing GPR cards and using those cards, funded by co-conspirators with scam victim funds, to purchase money orders and deposit them in third party bank accounts, while keeping a percentage of the scam proceeds for themselves as profit.  Joshi has also agreed to plead guilty to one count of naturalization fraud pursuant to a federal indictment obtained against him in the Eastern District of Louisiana, based on fraudulently obtaining his U.S. citizenship.

Jagdishkumar Chaudhari admitted in his plea that between April 2014 and June 2015, he worked as a member of a crew of runners operating in the Chicago area and elsewhere throughout the country, at the direction of Miteshkumar Patel and others.  In exchange for monthly cash payments, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari admitted to driving to hundreds of retail stores to purchase GPR cards to be loaded with victim funds by co-conspirators in India, purchasing money orders with GPR cards that had been funded with victim proceeds, depositing money orders purchased using victim scam proceeds at various banks, and retrieving wire transfers sent by victims of the scheme.  Jagdishkumar Chaudhari is an Indian national with no legal status in the United States, and has agreed to deportation after he serves his sentence as a condition of his guilty plea.

In his plea, Praful Patel admitted that between in or around June 2013 and December 2015, he was a domestic runner who liquidated funds in and around Fort Myers, Florida for conspirators from India-based call center and organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL.  Praful Patel communicated extensively via WhatsApp texts with his conspirators.  For a percentage commission on transactions he conducted, Praful Patel admitted to purchasing reloadable GPR cards that were registered using the misappropriated PII of unsuspecting victims that were later used to receive victims’ funds, using those reloadable GPR cards containing victims’ funds to purchase money orders and depositing those money orders into bank accounts as directed, and using fake identity documents to receive wire transfers from victims.

According to Norris’ guilty plea, beginning in or around January 2013 continuing through December 2014, he was a runner who worked with conspirators associated with India-based call center and organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL, and was responsible for the liquidation of victim scam funds in and around California.  Norris admitted he communicated extensively via WhatsApp and email with India-based co-defendants including Sagar “Shaggy” Thakar, purchased GPR cards used in the scheme, sent lead lists to conspirators in India that were then used by callers located in the call centers to target potential victims in the telefraud scheme, received scam proceeds via wire transfers using fictitious names, and laundered scam proceeds from GPR cards via ATM withdrawals.

To date, Miteshkumar Patel, Raman Patel, Joshi, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, Bhatt, Praful Patel, Norris, 49 other individuals and five India-based call centers have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, 2016.  Including the pleas announced today, a total of 24 defendants have pleaded guilty thus far in relation to this investigation.  Defendants Bharatkumar Patel, Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, Harsh Patel, Nilam Parikh, Hardik Patel, Rajubhai Patel, Viraj Patel, Dilipkumar A. Patel, Fahad Ali, Bhavesh Patel, Asmitaben Patel, Montu Barot, Nilesh Pandya, Dipakkumar Patel, Nisarg Patel, Rajesh Kumar, and Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel previously pleaded guilty on various dates between April and September 2017.

Miteshkumar Patel is scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2018.

The remaining defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, DHS-OIG and TIGTA led the investigation of this case.  Also providing significant support were: the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs; Ft. Bend County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; police departments in Hoffman Estates and Naperville, Illinois, and Leonia, New Jersey; San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Family Protection and Elder Abuse Unit; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General; IOC-2; INTERPOL Washington; USCIS; U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service; and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Middle District of Alabama, Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Northern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana, District of Nevada and District of New Jersey.  The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau also provided assistance in TIGTA’s investigation.

Senior Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels and Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), Trial Attorney Amanda Wick of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Mark McIntyre and Craig M. Feazel of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting this case.  HRSP’s Ann Marie Ursini and Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Kennedy of the Eastern District of Louisiana prosecuted the naturalization fraud case against Joshi.

Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to already identified and potential victims and the public.  Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls may contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via this website.

Anyone who wants additional information about telefraud scams generally, or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information, may obtain helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scam website and the FTC identity theft website.

On This Day In History Scottish Author Robert Louis Stevenson Was Born

As notes, on this day in 1850 Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Doctor Jekyyll and Mr. Hyde, The Master of Ballantrae, and other classic novels and short stories, was born.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Message To North Korea: The Military Might of The Three Carrier Task Force Underway

In the above U.S. Navy photo the aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68), along with their strike groups are underway, conducting operations, in international waters as part of a three-carrier strike force exercise near North Korea. 

Note: The above photo was taken by Lt. J.G. James Griffin.

You can click on the above photo to enlarge.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

SHIP JUST GOT REAL: World’s Largest Aircraft Carriers Arrive On Kim Jong-Un’s Doorstep In US Show Of Force Against North Korean Despot

Patrick Knox at the British newspaper the Sun offers a piece on the American military force off North Korea.

For the past few weeks the American ships have been travelling to Asia to form a single three-carrier strike group tasked with carrying out the largest exercise of its kind in recent memory.

Super-carriers the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz are leading the naval group.

An array of warships will support them during the exercise which started today and are due to finish on Tuesday.

The manoeuvres will be a potent reminder to Pyongyang of the US's ability to rapidly mobilise a military force.

The show of strength comes as US President Donald Trump meets with regional leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam.

You can read the rest of the piece and view the photos and illustrations of American military might via the below link:

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

Vice President Pence Says America Owes Vets A Debt, Promises Stronger Military

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., Nov. 11, 2017 — From the dawn of the Republic, the United States has depended upon its veterans, and it owes them a debt of honor that must be paid, Vice President Mike Pence said today at the annual Veterans Day ceremony here.

He stood in for President Donald J. Trump, who is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Pence noted that some 50 million Americans have worn the cloth of the United States since 1775, with 20 million of them alive today. “From the hour of our nation’s birth, our best and bravest have stepped forward to defend our freedom,” he said. “And as we speak, a new generation of American veterans is being forged across the wider world.”

The United States owes a debt to veterans, and “it’s a debt we can never fully repay. But on this Veterans Day we rededicate ourselves to accomplishing just that,” Pence said.

Veterans return from service to the nation to serve their communities, he said.

Pence said the administration has been working hard on delivering the services – especially medical assistance – that veterans need and deserve. “Working with Secretary [David] Shulkin, we’ve made the Department of Veterans Affairs already more efficient, effective, and accountable,” the vice president said.

“Let me be clear: Veterans benefits are not entitlements -- they are earned. They are the ongoing compensation for services rendered in the uniform of the United States of America. And under President Donald Trump, we’re keeping the promises that we’ve made to men and women who’ve served in our armed forces,” he said.

Veterans Choice Program

Pence noted the administration has expanded the Veterans Choice Program by more than $2 billion to give beneficiaries access to real-time, high-quality healthcare. “And because not all wounds of war are visible, we’ve improved veterans’ access to urgent mental healthcare services and given them greater access to telemedicine for our veterans,” he said.

The president also signed into law the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act to ensure veterans receive the highest level of service. “And this president has taken decisive action to end the pattern of neglect and mistreatment at the VA,” Pence said. “We’ve already fired or suspended over 1,500 VA employees for negligent behavior.”

Trump has also signed legislation to expand the post-9/11 GI Bill and eliminate the 15-year limit on benefits for new veterans. “And I’m glad to report, veteran unemployment has already fallen by nearly 40 percent since President Trump was elected,” he said. “It’s lower today than at any point since the year 2000. And we're just getting started.”

Veterans return from service to the nation ready to serve in communities. “Today, our veterans continue to serve our nation in careers ranging from business to education, from law enforcement to public service,” Pence said.

Keep Your Wits

He related an example of service from the tragedy in Texas. “On Wednesday, Karen and I traveled to Sutherland Springs, Texas, to meet the families and the victims of the worst attack on a place of worship in American history,” the vice president said. “At Brooke Army Medical Center, we stood at the bedside of a retired U.S. Marine Corps gunnery sergeant named Juan Macias. We spoke to his family, as he lay before us, recovering from his injuries. But it was from another member of the church that we learned of that veteran’s extraordinary courage last Sunday.

“Julie Workman, a registered nurse, was also wounded in the First Baptist Church that day,” Pence continued. “But no sooner had the attacker left that she began to treat the wounded. Seeing what lay before her, though, Julie told me she was momentarily overcome, and that’s when “Gunny” stepped in. Despite having five bullet wounds, she told me that Gunny sat up, looked her in the eye and said, ‘You were born for this, keep your wits about you, do your job.’ She said that’s all she needed to hear. Heroism outlives the uniform. And her actions and his courage undoubtedly saved lives that day. That’s an American veteran.”

Veterans of the future are serving today, and the vice president said the administration has already taken decisive action to make the strongest military in the history of the world, stronger still. “This President has already signed the largest increase in military spending in nearly a decade, and before this year is out, we’ll enact the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan,” he said.

“And under President Donald Trump, I’ll make you a promise: We’re going to rebuild our military. We're going to restore the arsenal of democracy, and we will once again give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen the resources and training they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe,” Pence said. “That's our promise to all of you.” 

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

Proud To Have Served. Proud To Be A Veteran

Simon Schama On Tolstoy, Waugh And Chandler

The Globe and the Mail offers an interview with Simon Schama, the writer and narrator of the outstanding documentary A History of Britain.

Simon Schama is an award-winning author whose books include Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Landscape and Memory and Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution. His New Yorker columns earned him a National Magazine Award for criticism, and he is a contributing editor at the Financial Times. He is also a professor at Columbia University. Schama's latest book is Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492-1900.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

"Be brave," the last words of my father before he died.

Which fictional character do you wish you'd created?

Chandler's Philip Marlowe gumshoe as wise-cracker, supreme observer of the human condition. Nothing passes him by: poor taste in interior decoration; a smudge of lipstick; a certain something on someone's breath; the possibility of a decent cop; a telling touch of tinny in a nervous chuckle. And yet, he's also a hopeless sap, the hardest-boiled softest-centred romantic in fiction.  

Which books have you reread most in your life?

War and Peace. Next time will be my tenth reading. Sometimes I skip around in translations, but they have to have kept the French passages untranslated. Pevear and Volokhonsky is by far the most satisfying version. Nothing important in human life is missing from Tolstoy's pages – the rage to power; the futile energy spent on schemes political and erotic; the swell and collapse of friendship. But the important things come at you sideways and often in sharp close-up like the fuzz on Lisa's upper lip, which is a tipoff to Andrei's irritation.

Is there a book you consider a guilty pleasure?

Evelyn Waugh's Scoop. "Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole" – the line sings to me as I pass the Waugh shelf in my library – just one more hoot with Boot. Stupendously politically incorrect and generally outrageous, so all the more delicious on yet another reading. But there isn't much Waugh I don't love. Brideshead is a bit mushy, though has one of his great openings. But it was his endings which were startlingly brilliant, the place where he was most brilliant: the eye-poke ending of Vile Bodies; and the most terrifying of all in A Handful of Dust; so terrifying, in fact, that Waugh's American publisher demanded a different and less merciless conclusion, whereupon Waugh produced something ostensibly kinder but in fact a conclusion of ashen cynicism. Two endings, in bleakness competition – that's what I call a writer.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

'Magnum, P.I.' Actor John Hillerman Dies At 84

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that actor John Hillerman, an actor best known as the majordomo of the Robin Masters estate on TV’s Magnum P.I. with Tom Selleck in the 1980’s, has died.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - John Hillerman, who played stuffed-shirt Higgins to Tom Selleck's freewheeling detective Thomas Magnum in the 1980s TV series Magnum, P.I., has died, his nephew said Thursday. Hillerman was 84.

Hillerman, who had been in declining health, died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Houston, nephew Chris Tritico said.

Besides playing manager of the Hawaiian estate that Magnum used as home base, Hillerman was known for his 1970s roles as arrogant radio show detective Simon Brimmer on the Ellery Queen series and the difficult boss on the sitcom One Day at a Time.

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

Note: I’m a big fan of Magnum P.I. and of John Hillerman and I occasionally watch reruns of the show on cable channels. 

During the early 80’s when Vietnam veterans were mostly portrayed as killers and nuts, Magnum P.I. offered up three decent and well-adjusted Vietnam veterans; Thomas Magnum, T.C. and Rick. John Hillerman portrayed a veteran of World War II.     

Veterans Day 2017

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ralph Cipriano: Requiem For An Old-School Pol, South Philly's Jimmy Tayoun

Veteran journalist Ralph Cipriano offers a piece at on the late South Philly politician, former federal prisoner and newspaper publisher James “Jimmy” Tayoun.

He was, at various stages of his long life, a Daily News sports writer, a restauranteur, a state representative, a City Councilman, a felon, a newspaper editor, a raconteur, always a true character, and above all else, an old-school politician.

Jimmy Tayoun died yesterday at 87, after collapsing in front of his home, apparently after suffering a heart attack.

As a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, I visited Tayoun back in 1993, when he was a guest at the Federal Correctional Institute, Schuylkill, in Minersville, PA. It's a sleepy minimum security prison located on a foggy mountaintop where the deer run free, about a 2 1/2 hour drive northwest of the city. At the time, Tayoun was doing 40 months after he got nailed by the feds for paying and taking bribes.

There was a basic honesty about Tayoun that shown through his prison whites, and his circumstances.

"OK, I'm not going to say I'm innocent," he told me. "I'm obviously guilty. I pleaded guilty and I'm here." Tayoun told me how the prosecutors got him to plead guilty. They did it by showing him the indictment they planned to file against his wife.

Tayoun demonstrated how he stuck out his two arms, as if voluntarily agreeing to be handcuffed. "You got me," is what he told the feds.

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

Note: I ran into Jimmy Tayoun many times over the years while covering South Philly in my column for the South Philadelphia American and earlier while freelancing for the South Philadelphia Review. I agree with Ralph Cipriano’s view of the late politician. He was a character.

You can read my Crime Beat column on crooked Philly politicians via the below link:

U.S. Navy: Three-Carrier Strike Force Exercise to Commence in Western Pacific

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet Public Affairs Office offered the below information:

YOKOSUKA (NNS) -- The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) strike groups will commence a three-carrier strike force exercise in the Western Pacific, Nov. 11-14.

Units assigned to the strike force will conduct coordinated operations in international waters in order to demonstrate the U.S. Navy's unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force effort.

"It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three," said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift. "Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet's unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region."

While at sea, the strike force plans to conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers and other training. This is the first time that three carrier strike groups have operated together in the Western Pacific since exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007 off the coast of Guam. Both exercises focused on the ability to rapidly bring together forces from three strike groups in response to any regional situation. Ronald Reagan took part in VS 2006 and Nimitz took part in VS 2007. More recently, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers have conducted dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific including in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea. These opportunities typically occur when strike groups deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations from the West Coast of the United States are joined with the forward deployed carrier strike group from Japan.

For more than 70 years, the U.S. Pacific Fleet has been a persistent and stabilizing presence conducting operations throughout the region. The fleet is just as committed to maintaining those security commitments for the next 70 years.

Note: In the above U.S. Navy photo the USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Carrier Strike Groups transit in formation during a joint photo exercise (PHOTOEX) during exercise Valiant Shield 2007. 

The aerial formation consists of aircraft from the carrier strike groups as well as Air Force aircraft. The strike groups are participating in Valiant Shield 2007, the largest joint exercise in the Pacific this year. Held in the Guam operating area, the exercise includes 30 ships, more than 280 aircraft and more than 20,000 service members from the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

You can click on the photo to enlarge. 

On This Day In History Teddy Roosevelt Established A Naval Base In The Philippines

As notes, Teddy Roosevelt established the Subic Bay naval base on this day in history,

On this day in 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt establishes a naval base in the Philippines at Subic Bay, on territory won from Spain during the Spanish-American War.

In 1898, a naval warship, the U.S.S. Maine, had exploded while docked in Cuba. War hawks in the U.S. blamed Spain for the probably accidental explosion, and war between the two nations soon followed. Roosevelt left his post as secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, signed up for the U.S. cavalry and was promptly deployed to the Caribbean, where he earned the admiration of his countrymen for impassioned leadership and bravery during the Spanish-American War. His popularity as a soldier led McKinley to choose Roosevelt to serve as vice president during his second term. Roosevelt was then thrust suddenly into the presidency upon McKinley’s assassination in March 1901.

As president, the former cavalry hero of the Spanish-American War—his unit was known as the “Rough Riders”—ushered in a new imperial era in American foreign affairs. He proceeded to expand America’s influence into the Pacific as well as neighboring Latin American countries, such as Panama and Puerto Rico. In November 1901, he issued the executive order to establish a naval base at Subic Bay. He believed that the spot should become the Navy’s Pacific headquarters, as the area’s rugged jungle terrain would provide an ideal training ground for naval and marine forces.

Roosevelt also viewed a major naval base in the Philippines as a critical strategic asset in light of Japan’s growing military might in the Pacific region and increasing political unrest in China.

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

Note: I was a frequent visitor to Subic Bay while stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in 1970-1971 during the Vietnam War (The above photo shows Kitty Hawk at Subic Bay). 

Subic Bay served an important role as the carrier and other warships were repaired and resupplied at the U.S. naval base during the war.     

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

President Trump Warns North Korean Leader Not To Underestimate U.S.-South Korean Will

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2017 — President Donald J. Trump warned North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un tonight not to underestimate the will and power of the United States and urged him to rid his country of nuclear weapons.

Trump, who spoke before the National Assembly in the South Korean capital of Seoul, said the United States stands with South Korea in opposing the North.

The president, in the midst of a trip through Asia, said North Korea has pursued its nuclear weapons and missile programs "in defiance of every assurance, agreement and commitment it has made to the United States and its allies."

North Korea promised to freeze its plutonium program in 1994. It did not. "In 2005, after years of diplomacy, the dictatorship agreed to ultimately abandon its nuclear programs and return to the treaty on nonproliferation," Trump said. "But it never did. And worse, it tested the very weapons it said it was going to give up."

In 2009, the United States again offered to negotiate with North Korea. The regime answered by sinking the South Korean navy ship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. "To this day, it continues to launch missiles over the sovereign territory of Japan and all other neighbors, test nuclear devices, and develop ICBMs to threaten the United States itself," the president said.

'We Will Defend Our Common Security'

"The regime has interpreted America's past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation," Trump said. "Today I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for all civilized nations when I say to the North: Do not underestimate us. And do not try us. We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty."

The 38th parallel that separates North and South Korea is the line "between peace and war, between decency and depravity, between law and tyranny, between hope and total despair," the president said.

The line has been drawn by other oppressors in the past, and holding that line is the choice free nations have made through history, Trump said. "We have learned together the high cost of weakness and the high stakes of its defense," he added. "America's men and women in uniform have given their lives in the fight against Nazism, imperialism, communism and terrorism. America does not seek conflict or confrontation. But we will never run from it."

Trump said the United States will not let itself or its allies be blackmailed or attacked. "We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction," he said. "We will not be intimidated. And we will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here on this ground we fought and died so hard to secure."

Trump flatly stated that the time for excuses is over and that now is the time for strength. "If you want peace, you must stand strong at all times," he said. "The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens with nuclear devastation."

Seeking Cooperation From Russia and China

He specifically called on Russia and China to join the rest of the world in isolating the North Korean regime in Pyongyang. He asked all nations to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions, downgrade diplomatic relations with the regime, and sever all ties of trade and technology. "It is our responsibility and our duty to confront this danger together, because the longer we wait, the greater the danger grows and the fewer the options become," he said.

Trump addressed the North Korean leader directly, saying the weapons he is building are not making his regime more secure, but rather are putting it in grave danger. "Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face," Trump said.

Despite all the crimes committed by the regime since 1950, the nations of the world will offer a path to a better future for the North Korean people, the president said. "[The path] begins with an end to the aggression of your regime, a stop to your development of ballistic missiles, and complete, verifiable, and total denuclearization," he said.

South Korea stands in stark contrast to the North, Trump said. "In just a few decades, with only the hard work, courage, and talents of your people, you turned this war-torn land into a nation blessed with wealth, rich in culture and deep in spirit," he said. "You built a home where all families can flourish and where all children can shine and be happy."

South Korea is an independent, confident, peace-loving and respected nation, and is a strong ally of the United States, Trump said. "We are nations that respect our citizens, cherish our liberty, treasure our sovereignty, and control our own destiny," he added. "We affirm the dignity of every person and embrace the full potential of every soul. And we are always prepared to defend the vital interests of our people against the cruel ambition of tyrants."