Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Publisher Of 'I Heard You Paint Houses' Responds To “The Lies Of The Irishman” And The Author Of Slate’s Story Replies.

In a previous post I linked to Bill Tonelli’s debunking of I heard You Paint Houses, the book that is the basis for the upcoming Martin Scorsese and Robert Di Nero crime film, The Irishman, on Netflix, at Slate - 
Like Tonelli, I don’t believe Frank Sheeran murdered Hoffa or Crazy Joe Gallo. I don’t believe most of the book and although I’ll watch the Irishman when it comes out, I’ll watch it as fiction.
Slate published the publisher’s response to Bill Tonelli’s piece, and Tonelli responded to the publisher.    
Chip Fleischer, the publisher of Steerforth Press, sent the following letter in response to Slate’s Aug. 7 cover story,“The Lies of the Irishman.” Slate is running the letter as it was submitted, followed by a reply from the story’s author, Bill Tonelli. Slate stands by the story. 
To the editors: 
Bill Tonelli’s August 7 write-up for Slate on I Heard You Paint Houses, Charles Brandt’s book about Mafia hit man and Teamsters official Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, is a hit job. It is not journalism in the traditional sense, but rather a glib, intellectually dishonest taunt. Its author, Bill Tonelli, chose to set aside the overwhelming majority of evidence and information contained in the book and provided to him by its author and publisher. Slate’s decision to run the article under the headline, “The Lies of the Irishman” and to add in the subhead “the guy made it all up,” despite the fact that Tonelli’s piece does not contain details of fact in support of such conclusions, is irresponsible in the extreme, not to mention damaging.  A longtime reader of Slate, I expected better. Charles Brandt and I focused on providing Tonelli with evidence and corroboration in response to his agenda-driven questions. His write-up is built upon a base of ad hominem attacks and larded with strong opinions and assertions that, while from experts in many cases, are not supported by facts, and certainly do not disprove anything published in our book. Since publishing I Heard You Paint Houses 15 years ago, we have received substantial independent third party corroboration of its revelations and conclusions, so much in fact that we added a 57-page Conclusion to the current edition to go along with a 14-page Epilogue that was added to the first paperback edition in 2005 detailing much of that corroboration. 
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, August 16, 2019

Social Security Administration Warns That Scams Come In Many Different Forms

Mike Korbey, the Social Security Administration’s deputy commissioner for communication, offers the below crime prevention tips:

Social Security is at the forefront of keeping your online data secure, but you play a vital role in safeguarding your personal information too.

Scammers commonly target people who are looking for Social Security program and benefit information. You might receive an advertisement in the mail, but it could be from a private company or even a scammer. 

U.S. law prohibits people and businesses from using words or emblems that mislead others. Their advertising can’t lead people to believe that they represent, are somehow affiliated with, or endorsed or approved by Social Security or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Medicare).

If you receive misleading information about Social Security, send the complete advertisement, including the envelope it came in, to:

Office of the Inspector General Fraud Hotline
Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 17768
Baltimore, MD 21235

Scams can also happen online. A growing tactic for scammers is to use online dating sites. According to the United States Postal Inspection Service’s recent messaging, before starting an internet-based relationship, we should always keep our personal details to ourselves until you meet face-to-face. Next, do an internet search of the other person’s name and the town they claim to be living in.

Here are indications that someone may not be who they say they are:

A mismatch between their name and the name embedded in their email address.

There are obvious spelling and grammar errors.

They asked if you would send or receive money/packages on someone else’s behalf.

They need money right away due to a medical emergency, or they need a visa or air tickets. Or, a business opportunity arose that was too good to turn down. Can you wire a loan?

If anyone asks for your Social Security number, never give it to them. And if they are specifically pretending to be from Social Security, please report the information to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online.

Protecting your information is an important part of Social Security’s mission. You work hard and make a conscious effort to save and plan for retirement. For more information, please visit the Office of the Inspector General’s website.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Philadelphia Shooting Injures 9 Officers, 6 Shot; Suspect Surrenders After Hours-Long Standoff

6 ABC News in Philadelphia reports on the aftermath of the standoff and shooting of Philadelphia police officers by suspect Maurice Hill (seen in his above mugshot). 

PHILADELPHIA -- A gunman barricaded himself inside a Philadelphia rowhouse for 7 hours, firing on police and wounding six in a dramatic standoff that trapped two officers all while the commissioner and the shooter's attorney tried to negotiate a surrender.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross expressed amazement that the standoff, which began Wednesday when officers attempted to serve a drug warrant, ended with no one dead and no life-threatening injuries.

It "could have been far worse," Ross said Thursday outside the Philadelphia Police Department. "This was a very dynamic situation, one that I hope we never see again."

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Little Humor: The Bible Told Him So

An elderly woman returned home from church and was startled to find an intruder in her house. 

Catching the man in the act of burglarizing her home, she yelled, “Stop! Acts 2:38!” (“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.”)

The burglar stopped dead in his tracks and threw up his hands.

The woman calmly called the police and explained what has happened. 

When the police came they found the burglar standing still with his hands still up in the air.

As he was placing the handcuffs on the burglar, one of the police officers asked, “Why did you just stand there? All the lady did was mention a scripture verse.”

“Scripture?” screamed the burglar, who was still shaking with fear. “She said she had an axe and two 38’s!” 

Note; The photo above is of Frances Bavier, who portrayed Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show 

How A Former CIA Officer Was Caught Betraying His Country

60 Minutes interviews FBI and Justice Department officials about the case of Kevin Mallory, a former CIA officer who spied for the Chinese.

You can watch the piece and see videos of Mallory (seen in his mugshot above) in the act via the below link:

You can also read about Mallory's sentencing via the below link:

Monday, August 12, 2019

My Washington Times Piece On Escalating The War On Police: Dousing Police Officers Is A New Tactic In The War On Cops

The Washington Times published my piece on the dousing of New York City cops.

Attitudes have certainly changed since the 1970s, when the late Frank Rizzo, then-Philadelphia’s mayor and former top cop, told an Italian diplomat that the way to treat criminals was “scappo il capo,” an Italian phrase translated roughly to “crack their heads.”

But has the pendulum swung so far to the left that we now allow police officers to be humiliated and assaulted before jeering crowds? 

Videos posted online last month featured uniformed New York City police officers being doused with buckets of water and pelted with objects by jeering, prancing and laughing young street hoodlums in two separate incidents, one in Harlem and another in Brooklyn. In one video, a man picked up a bucket and threw it at an officer’s head as onlookers watched, laughed and acted up in support.

The officers did not respond to these assaults and simply walked away.

Many are blaming the incidents on the policies and poor leadership of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Our anti-cop lawmakers have gotten their wish: the NYPD is now frozen,” Patrick J. Lynch, New York’s Police Benevolent Association president said. “It’s not the fault of these police officers. It’s the end result of the torrent of bad policies and anti-police rhetoric that has been streaming out of City Hall and Albany for years now.

“We are approaching the point of no return. Disorder controls the streets, and our elected leaders refuse to allow us to take them back. As police officers, we need to draw a line. In situations like this, we need to take action to protect ourselves and the public. The politicians may not care about the dangerous levels of chaos in our neighborhoods, but police officers and decent New Yorkers should not be forced to suffer.”

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

On This Day In history Ian Fleming, Author Of The James Bond Thrillers, Died

As notes, on this day in 1964 Ian Fleming, a World War II naval intelligence officer, journalist and author of the James Bond thrillers, died. 

On this day in 1964, the British author and journalist Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, the world’s most famous fictional spy, dies of a heart attack at age 56 in Kent, England. Fleming’s series of novels about the debonair Agent 007, based in part on their dashing author’s real-life experiences, spawned one of the most lucrative film franchises in history. 

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

On that day in 194 I was a 12-year-old sitting in the back seat of my father's car when I heard on the car radio that Ian Fleming had died. I was thunderstruck.

In the months prior to that sad announcement I had been reading through Ian Fleming's James Bond thrillers. Having loved the first two Bond films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, starring Sean Connery as James Bond, I began reading the novels. I was pleased to discover that the books were darker and more complicated than the films and I've been an Ian Fleming aficionado ever since. 

You can read two of my Crime Beat columns on the late, great thriller writer via the below links:

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine about Ian Fleming's WWII experience and his creation of the intelligence commando group, 30 Assault Unit, via the below link:

Below is Ian Fleming's obituary, which appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer

To learn more about Ian Fleming, you can read John Pearson and Andrew Lycett’s biographies of him.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Little Humor: Hard Working Husband

A man named Bill worked hard at a plant and spent most evenings bowling or playing basketball at the gym. 

His wife thought he was pushing himself too hard, so for his birthday she took him to a local strip club.

The doorman at the club greeted them, “Hey, Bill, how ya doin tonight?”

His wife was puzzled and asked if he’s been to this club before. 

“Oh no,” Bill said. “He’s on my bowling team.”

When they were seated, a waitress asked Bill if he’d like his usual Budweiser. 

His wife was becoming suspicious and said, “You must come here a lot for that woman to know you drink Budweiser.”

“No, honey, she’s in the Ladies Bowling League. We share lanes with them.”

Then a stripper came over to their table and threw her arms around Bill. “Hi Billy,” she said.

“Want your usual table dance?”

Bill’s wife was now furious, and she grabbed her purse and stormed out of the club. 

Bill followed her and sees her getting into a cab.

Before she can slam the door, he jumped in beside her. She then started screaming at him. 

The cabby turns his head and said, “Looks like you picked up a real bitch tonight, Bill.”

FBI: Operation Independence Day - Monthlong Sweep Targeted Sex Traffickers, Recovery of Minors

The FBI released the below information:
A monthlong FBI-led operation to identify and arrest sex traffickers and recover child victims has resulted in dozens of arrests across the country and the identification and recovery of more than 100 juveniles.
The initiative during the month of July, dubbed Operation Independence Day, relied on more than 400 law enforcement agencies working on FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces in each of the Bureau’s 56 field offices. The sweep included undercover operations and has led to the opening of five dozen federal criminal investigations. Agents and analysts at FBI Headquarters and in the field worked closely with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to identify young runaways, missing kids, and juveniles who may have been subjected to human trafficking.
In all, 103 juveniles were identified or recovered and 67 suspected traffickers were arrested. The sweep resulted in 60 new federal investigations.
“The FBI is fiercely focused on recovering child victims and arresting the sex traffickers who exploit them,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Through operations like this, the FBI helps child victims escape the abusive life of sex trafficking.”
 Atlanta, Houston, and Denver were among the cities that took part in Operation Independence Day, a monthlong nationwide initiative in July 2019 to find human traffickers and rescue their underage victims.  
In past years, the FBI initiated weeklong coordinated nationwide sweeps under the name Operation Cross Country to arrest traffickers and recover underage victims. This year, FBI field offices had a longer time window to plan and execute operations as part of the national initiative, with the goal being to develop richer leads and intelligence, and more robust cases.
“We are here to rescue children, and we are here to build good cases against traffickers,” said Jeanette Milazzo, a special agent who led one of the Houston Field Office’s task force operations in early July. In that operation, undercover officers from the Houston Police Department scanned social media and escort sites looking for what appeared to be juveniles advertising for commercial sex. They set up fake dates, met at pre-arranged locations, and then brought individuals (and their pimps in some cases) in for interviews to determine if they were underage or trafficked or if they could help identify other victims or traffickers. In each case, FBI victim specialists ensure the individuals understand their situation and are made aware of the resources available to help them.
“If we have developed enough rapport with the victim, we build a case against their trafficker and hopefully charge them in federal court,” Milazzo said.
The FBI and NCMEC, along with the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative in 2003 to combat sex trafficking of children in the U.S. Today, the initiative includes 86 Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces that work year-round on efforts like those conducted during Operation Independence Day. To date, the collaboration has led to the recovery or identification of more than 6,600 child victims and more than 2,700 criminal convictions of traffickers.
The FBI-led Operation Cross Country sweeps, which were held annually between 2008 and 2017, recovered more than 900 child victims and arrested nearly 1,400 traffickers.
A major element in all the FBI’s trafficking cases is the placement of victim specialists on operational teams. Their mission is to provide victims with resources to help them in their situations. But they also frequently serve as intermediaries between victim-witnesses and investigators.
During a recent operation in Denver, a victim specialist was there while an agent and police detective interviewed a 17-year-old boy who had advertised himself online. The victim specialist talked to the boy, who was not arrested, about the inherent dangers of his actions and plugged him into the local network of resources designed to help him.
“What we see is underage boys who are engaging in unsafe methods online where they agree to meet for a date in exchange for money or anything of value,” said Anne Darr, a victim specialist on the Denver Field Office’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force. “It’s important that we intervene and that we provide education, awareness, and resources to them. So that way they don't go back online and meet somebody who could be an online predator.”
The task forces in the recent operation included federal, state, local, and tribal partners, with efforts in every state and some U.S. territories. A single operation in early July led by the FBI’s office in Guam (part of the Honolulu Field Office) included nearly 20 investigators from the FBI, the Guam Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and Homeland Security Investigations. The effort resulted in a federal case against a 33-year-old man who allegedly trafficked a minor girl to a 48-year-old man in exchange for cash and drugs. 
In his remarks, Director Wray said the FBI’s focus on the issue is not confined to a single week or month each year. The effort to find and stop traffickers and recover kids is ongoing and continuous.
“Our agents, intelligence analysts, professional staff, and victim specialists work tirelessly before, during, and after these operations to make sure that victims get the help they need to reclaim their lives,” Wray said.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Note to China, Russia, Iran And North Korea: US Aircraft Carriers Are Almost Unsinkable Giants Of The Ocean

Having served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War, I’ve often argued that the sinking of an aircraft carrier is a most difficult thing.   

The carrier has a strong steel hull and in addition to the carrier’s defensive aircraft, the warship has missiles and other defensive weapons. And the carrier serves as the center of a battle group that includes submarines and surface warships with anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons, which are all geared to protect the "Queen." 

So I was interested in reading Blake Stilwell’s piece at on how difficult it was for the U.S. Navy to intentionally sink the decommissioned aircraft carrier America. (Seen in better days in the above photo). 

The USS America was a Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier first built in the 1960s and served through the Vietnam War, Cold War clashes, and on into Desert Storm. Decommissioned in 1996, the Navy decided the ship's best post-service use was as a target. America would help design the newest fleet of supercarriers to be even less vulnerable to enemy fire than she was.

The America did not go down easy. For four weeks the Navy hit the ship with everything they could muster, short of a nuclear weapon.

Even today, the wreck lies in one piece at the bottom of the ocean near Cape Hatteras. Despite the Navy's best efforts, they just could not sink the indefatigable carrier. The last time any carrier was lost to battle damage in combat was in World War II, where 12 such ships were sent to the bottom after heavy fighting. The America didn't engage in combat, but the attacking forces were out to hit her as if she had. The sinking of America was a test run for vulnerabilities in American aircraft carrier designs. 

The good news is that China is going to have a really hard time doing it, even if they use an intercontinental ballistic missile. The bad news is that it's somehow possible to sink these floating behemoths, and if done could kill up to 6,000 American sailors. Still, good luck getting close. 

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

You can also watch a video of the sinking of the America via the below link:

Note: I hope my old ship does not share the same fate as the America. Even though it was for a good cause, it was sad to see the proud and mighty America go down.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Defense Contractor To Pay $3.3M To Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below information:
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Ambu, Inc. (“Ambu”), will pay $3.3 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that it manufactured products in China and Malaysia for sale to United States government agencies in violation of the Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”).   
The settlement resolves allegations that, between December 2011 and March 2015, Ambu, a provider of medical supplies, submitted false claims to the Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (“VA”) for payment relating to Ambu’s sales of medical supplies. The Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) requires that products sold to government agencies must come only from countries with which the United States has a trade agreement.  While many countries qualify as TAA compliant countries, China and Malaysia do not.  Ambu began manufacturing its products in these countries and selling them to government agencies in violation of the TAA.  Indeed, over 80% of Ambu’s sales to DLA and VA under these contracts were from these non-compliant countries during the years covered by the settlement.  Ambu executives certified that its products came from compliant countries despite allegedly knowing that most of the products were manufactured in non-compliant countries.       
“Congress passed the Trade Agreements Act as an important part of the United States’ economic, diplomatic, and defense strategy,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain.  “Contractors must follow the law and manufacture their products in TAA compliant countries, whether they like it or not.  By investigating the allegations and reaching a settlement in this case, we have put all companies doing business with the United States government on notice that the TAA is an important law that must be respected.”    
“The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) is committed to protecting the integrity of the U.S. Defense Department’s (DoD) procurement process and ensuring that defense contractors comply with all applicable laws, such as the Trade Agreements Act (TAA),” stated Leigh-Alistair Barzey, Special Agent in Charge of the DCIS Northeast Field Office.  “The settlement agreement announced today is the direct result of a joint effort by the DCIS, Army CID, VA-OIG and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to guarantee that medical supplies purchased by the DoD for members of the U.S. military and their dependents are manufactured in TAA compliant countries.”
This case was a cooperative effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Defense Criminal Investigative Services, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.  For the United States Attorney’s Office, Assistant United States Attorney Colin Cherico and Auditor Dawn Wiggins handled the investigation and settlement.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

Mob Talk 32: Merlino Getting Out Early & Government Informant Outed

 Veteran organized crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser discuss reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joey Merlino’ prison sentence reduction, and how a government informant gets outed in a South Jersey drug case and housing scam, and reputed retired mob boss Joe Ligambi turns 80. You can watch the video via the below link:

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, A Killer, And The Birth Of A Gangster Nation'

The Washington Times published my review of The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, A Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation.

I loved Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” when I was a teenager in the 1960s.

One episode I recall was “The New Exhibit,” in which Martin Balsam portrayed the curator of “Murderer’s Row” in a wax museum who later goes mad. The TV program opened with the curator speaking to a group of visitors about the wax figures of infamous killers, such as Jack the Ripper. The first murderer the curator introduced was an infamous sailor who murdered his fellow crew members in 1860. The ferocious, life-like, ax-wielding wax figure glared angrily at the museum visitors.    

And that was my introduction to Albert Hicks, the subject of Rich Cohen’s book, “The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, a Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation.”

Mr. Cohen notes that while other children heard fairy tales, his father told him tales about the criminal legends of his New York childhood, such as Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and “Charlie Lucky” Luciano. As a writer, he later discovered that criminals had also grown up on gangster stories told by their fathers.

“It gave me a mission, inspired a quest: I would track down and name and chronicle the very first New York gangster, the man behind all the other legends,” Mr. Cohen writes.

Monk Eastman is considered to have been the first, and then there was Bill “The Butcher” Poole (both of whom were featured in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York”). Mr. Cohen wondered who they were told stories about?

Albert Hicks is the closest thing the New York underworld has to a Cain, the first killer and the first banished man, carrying that dread mark: MURDER,” Mr. Cohen explains. “He operated in a city so similar to and yet so different from our own, the word gangster had not yet been coined. He was called a pirate.”   

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

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Lies Of the Irishman: Netflix And Martin Scorsese Are Making Their Biggest Bets Ever On The Confessions Of A Mafia “Hitman” - The Guy Made It All Up.

In a previous post, I stated that I was looking forward to watching Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman on Netflix, as the film stars Robert De Niro (who is half-Irish), Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and a cast of other fine actors. 

I love Martin Scorsese’s crime films, such as Goodfellas, Mean Streets and Casino. Goodfellas, in my view, is the best crime film ever made.    

I'm also looking forward to watching The Irishman as I'm from South Philly and the film has a South Philadelphia connection.

But, as I noted in the post, I’ll view The Irishman as a work of fiction.

The Late Frank Sheeran was a Philadelphia Teamster and a low-level crook who confessed in a book, I heard You Paint Houses, that he murdered former Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa, and New York mobster “Crazy Joe” Gallo. He makes other claims in the book as well. 

I don’t believe a word of it. 

I interviewed former Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss Ralph Natale, and when I asked him about Sheeran’s claims, he responded, “Let me tell you about Frank Sheeran. He’s nothing but a drunk and he imagines things. He begged for me to see him when I was home and I did. I went over to South Philly and I met him there. He was half-drunk and that was it. He said he killed Jimmy Hoffa. I know who killed Hoffa. I have a picture in the book with me and a few of the guys from Lewisburg and one of the guys in the photos was one of the three guys who killed Hoffa. His name was Tommy Andretta. His brother was with him and there was the other guy they killed in New York, Salvatore Briguglio. This was a hit squad from “Tony Pro” Provenzano, who was my dear friend. He was a capo. I get a little angry. You know how guys claim to killed Jimmy Hoffa? I think 15.”    

Several former law enforcement officers I spoke to also dismiss Sheeran's claims.

Bill Tonelli (seen in the above photo), a writer and editor who grew up in South Philly, does a fine job of debunking Frank Sheeran’s claims in a piece at Slate.

Assuming you were alive in April 1972 and old enough to cross the street by yourself, you could take credit for the spectacular murder of mobster Crazy Joe Gallo—gunned down during his own birthday party at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy—and nobody could prove you didn’t do it. 

Of course, anyone who knows anything about New York City organized crime can tell you who was behind it: The murder was payback for an equally brazen shooting—in broad daylight, in midtown Manhattan—of mob boss Joseph A. Colombo Sr. a year earlier, an attack Gallo supposedly ordered (though even that no one can say with absolute certainty, since the shooter was shot dead on the spot). But no one has ever been arrested or charged in Crazy Joe’s killing, and so technically it’s still unsolved. 

The same is true about the disappearance, in July 1975, of Teamsters’ union legend Jimmy Hoffa. He had made some lethal enemies in the mob. After serving a prison term, he persisted in trying to regain control of the union even after he was warned, over and over, to back off. The last time anybody saw him, he was standing outside a restaurant in the suburbs of Detroit, waiting to be driven to what he believed would be a peace meeting. The FBI and investigative reporters have devoted decades of effort to solving the mystery, but all we have is guesswork and theories. So if you want to step up now and say you whacked him, be my guest. 

That’s the thing about these gangland slayings: When done properly, you’re not supposed to know who did them. They’re planned and carried out to surprise the victim and confound the authorities. Eyewitnesses, if there are any, prove reluctant to speak up. And nobody ever confesses, unless it’s to win easy treatment from law enforcement in exchange for ratting on other, more important mobsters. Those cases often turn into the ultimate public confessional—the as-told-to, every-gory-detail, my-life-in-crime book deal. Followed by—if you’re a really lucky lowlife—the movie version that fixes your place forever in the gangster hall of fame.

And then there’s the strange case of Frank Sheeran. 

Only if you had been paying close attention to the exploits of the South Philadelphia mafia back in its glory days (the second half of the 20th century) might you have noticed Sheeran’s existence. Even there he was a second-stringer—a local Teamsters union official, meaning he was completely crooked, who hung around with mobsters, especially Russell Bufalino, a boss from backwater Scranton, Pennsylvania. Sheeran was Irish, which limited any Cosa Nostra career ambitions he might have had, and so he seemed to be just a 6-foot-4, 250-pound gorilla with a dream. He died in obscurity, in a nursing home, in 2003. 

Then, six months later, a small publishing house in Hanover, New Hampshire, unleashed a shocker titled I Heard You Paint Houses. It was written by Charles Brandt, a medical malpractice lawyer who had helped Sheeran win early parole from prison, due to poor health, at age 71. Starting not long after that, Brandt wrote, Sheeran, nearing the end of his life, began confessing incredible secrets he had kept for decades, revealing that—far from being a bit player—he was actually the unseen figure behind some of the biggest mafia murders of all time.

Frank Sheeran said he killed Jimmy Hoffa. 

He said he killed Joey Gallo, too. 

And he said he did some other really bad things nearly as incredible. 

Most amazingly, Sheeran did all that without ever being arrested, charged, or even suspected of those crimes by any law enforcement agency, even though officials were presumably watching him for most of his adult life. To call him the Forrest Gump of organized crime scarcely does him justice. In all the history of the mafia in America or anywhere else, really, nobody even comes close. 

Now, though, Frank Sheeran is finally going to get his due. 

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

You can also read my previous post on The Irishman via the below link:

And you can also read my Q&A with Ralph Natale via the below link: 

And you can read my Crime Beat column, Goodfellas Don’t Sue Goodfellas; A Look Back at Organized Crime and the Philly Mob, via the below link: 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

My Washington Times Piece On Fighting The Scourge Of Drugs: El Chapo Rots In Prison, But The War On Drugs Must Go On

The Washington Times published my piece on the scourge of drugs.

The capture, extradition from Mexico, trial and imprisonment of Joaquin Guzman, better known as El Chapo (Shorty in Spanish), was a major blow to the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel. The drug lord will spend the rest of his life in an American Supermax prison.

Those who advocate an end to America’s war on drugs say the effort to combat drugs is pointless and fruitless, and the imprisonment of Guzman will not stop or even slow drug trafficking.Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, as the saying goes. Or perhaps not.

Guzman was an extraordinary criminal. He was brutal, inspirational, clever, ruthless, organized, innovative and murderous. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the evidence at his trial showed that he was responsible for importing and distributing more than a million kilograms of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin into the United States.

Guzman used fishing boats, submarines, carbon fiber airplanes, underground tunnels and other methods to bring in the drugs, which were then sold to wholesale criminal distributors in New York, Miami, Atlanta, and other major cities and centers.

Guzman used violence to solidify his power. Witnesses testified that he ordered his hitmen to kidnap, torture and slaughter people who stood in his way, and he performed violent acts personally as well. In addition to spreading poison, Guzman also corrupted government officials.

We can hope that his replacement will be far less efficient.

Facing rampant drug abuse and increasing drug-related crime, President Richard Nixon announced at a press conference on June 17, 1971, that drugs were “public enemy number one.”

“In order to fight and defeat this enemy,” the president said. “It is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”  

And so the war on drugs began.

The ACLU has repeatedly called for an end to the efforts to curb drug trafficking and the use of dangerous narcotics. The ACLU states that the war on drugs has cost more than a trillion dollars over the years and has had little or no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in America.

The ACLU believes drugs should be a health issue rather than a crime. The ACLU believes America should use the money spent on fighting drugs to treat drug addicts. They and others state that the war on drugs is a failure, as after all these years, we have not eliminated drug trafficking, drug dealing and drug using. 

This, to me, would be akin to the idea of legalizing homicide simply because some people continue to get away with murder. 

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

Emperors Of The Deep: Sharks - The Ocean's Most Mysterious, Most Misunderstood, And Most Important Guardian

As a young man, I’ve gone scuba diving around the world. I’ve been in the ocean with sharks on numerous occasions, and only once did I feel I was in danger, and that was off Key West, Florida when I came near a Tiger Shark. 

I've always enjoyed watching this great and sometimes frightening creature patrol in the open sea and I enjoy watching documentaries about sharks and reading books about the great sea predator.

Carol Herman, my editor at the Washington Times, offers a good review of a book on sharks, Emperors of the Deep.

There are goals, and there are death-defying goals. “I want to shift the perception of sharks from cold-blooded underwater predators to evolutionary marvels that play an integral part in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans, because this is the only way I know how to protect the species and save the world’s oceans,” writes William McKeever in the introduction to his extraordinary book “Emperors of the Deep: Sharks — The Ocean’s Most Mysterious, Most Misunderstood and Most Important Guardians.”

In a survey that takes Mr. McKeever across the world’s oceans, readers are treated to a close look at the very big fish immortalized in “Jaws” and are given a chance to replace raw dread with the appreciation of what the author posits as one of nature’s most misunderstood creatures. And while sharks still petrify this reader, there’s no doubt that Mr. McKeever makes a glorious — and eloquent — case for why the shark’s beauty, majesty and complexity should be respected.

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

Monday, August 5, 2019

My Washington Times Review of 'Game Of Snipers: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel'

The Washington Times published my review of Game of Snipers.

Stephen Hunter has published his 12th Bob Lee Swagger novel, “Game of Snipers: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel,” which has the popular character pitted against an equally skilled and practiced professional sniper.

The reticent, rangy and retired rifleman, a former U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam War sniper known as “Bob the Nailer,” still manages to become involved actively in action plots and new tests of his specialized skill as a sniper.

Bob Lee Swagger has been portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in “Shooter,” a 2007 film based on Stephen Hunter’s 1993 thriller “Point of Impact,” and by Ryan Phillippe in the “Shooter” TV series. I enjoyed the film and TV series, but both actors were too young and short to fit Stephen Hunter’s description of Bob Lee Swagger as a tall, lean, grizzled and slow-talking but fast-thinking “Arkansas hick” with a hip replacement and assorted other combat injuries.

To me, there is one actor who can best portray the 72-year-old sniper, and that is Clint Eastwood. As Clint Eastwood at 89 is still acting in films he directs, such as 2008’s “The Mule,” I’d like to see him direct a film based on “Game of Snipers” and portray Bob Lee Swagger.

Until then, one can enjoy reading about Bob Lee Swagger in this new novel. In the opening of “Game of Snipers,” Bob Lee Swagger is resting on a rocker on the porch of his Idaho ranch when Janet McDowell arrives unannounced and unwelcomed. 

“Ma’am,” he called. “Just so you know: this is private property, and I’m not what you call a public fellow. If you’re selling, I’m not buying. If you’re interviewing, I’m not talking. And if you’re campaigning, I don’t vote. But if you’re lost, I will happily give you directions, and a glass of water,” Mr. Hunter writes.

“I’m not lost, Mr. Swagger — Sergeant Swagger. It took me days to find out where you lived. I know you don’t like interruptions, and there’s no reason you should, but I would claim the right to a hearing because of the circumstances”

 “Well,“ he said, thinking, oh, Lord what now?

“My son. Lance Corporal Thomas McDowell, sniper, 3/8. Baghdad, 2003. Came home to me in a box.”

And Mom wants the sniper who killed him dead.

Bob Lee Swagger accompanies the Mossad on a raid that delivers some of the answers to these questions and suggests that the sniper is heading to America. Bob Lee Swagger once again becomes a gun consultant on the FBI/Mossad team as the manhunt for Juba in America begins.

The most important aspect of Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger thrillers is guns. Mr. Hunter gets guns — and he gets guns right. As a gun enthusiast and shooter, he knows guns.     

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

Trump Promises Action On Gun Violence After Two Mass Shootings - 'This Is Mental Health Illness'

Dave Boyer and David Sherfinski at the Washington Times offers a piece on President Trump’s reaction to the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

President Trump said Sunday he will announce steps to stop gun violence, as top Democrats raced to blame him for fomenting two mass shootings this weekend in Texas and Ohio with a toxic stew of violence and white nationalism, and pressed him for quick action on gun control.

After conferring Sunday with Attorney General William Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, state officials and lawmakers, the president said he will outline his proposals around 10 a.m. Monday.

“We’re going to take care of it,” Mr. Trump told reporters in New Jersey before returning to Washington. “A lot of things are in the works. I’ve spoken to members of Congress about whatever we can do, and a lot of things are being done right now as we speak.”

He suggested that part of his approach will focus on mental health laws and gun ownership.

“This is also a mental illness problem,” Mr. Trump said. “If you look at both of these cases, this is mental illness. These are really people that are very, very seriously mentally ill.”

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

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Heather Mac Donald: There Is No Epidemic Of Racist Police Shootings

Heather Mac Donald, (seen in the below photo), the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of The Diversity Delusion and the War On Cops offers a piece tin National Review debunking the idea of an epidemic of racist police shootings.   

The Democratic presidential candidates have revived the anti-police rhetoric of the Obama years. Joe Biden’s criminal-justice plan promises that after his policing reforms, black mothers and fathers will no longer have to fear when their children “walk[] the streets of America” — the threat allegedly coming from cops, not gangbangers. President Barack Obama likewise claimed during the memorial for five Dallas police officers killed by a Black Lives Matter–inspired assassin in July 2016 that black parents were right to fear that their child could be killed by a police officer whenever he “walks out the door.” South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg has said that police shootings of black men won’t be solved “until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism.” Beto O’Rourke claims that the police shoot blacks “solely based on the color of their skin.”

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demolishes the Democratic narrative regarding race and police shootings, which holds that white officers are engaged in an epidemic of racially biased shootings of black men. It turns out that white officers are no more likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot black civilians. It is a racial group’s rate of violent crime that determines police shootings, not the race of the officer. The more frequently officers encounter violent suspects from any given racial group, the greater the chance that members of that racial group will be shot by a police officer. In fact, if there is a bias in police shootings after crime rates are taken into account, it is against white civilians, the study found.

The authors, faculty at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland at College Park, created a database of 917 officer-involved fatal shootings in 2015 from more than 650 police departments. Fifty-five percent of the victims were white, 27 percent were black, and 19 percent were Hispanic. Between 90 and 95 percent of the civilians shot by officers in 2015 were attacking police or other citizens; 90 percent were armed with a weapon. So-called threat-misperception shootings, in which an officer shoots an unarmed civilian after mistaking a cellphone, say, for a gun, were rare.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column Q&A with Heather Mac Donald via the below link: 

A Little Humor: Pharmacist Having A Bad Day

When a man arrived home from work, he saw his wife was crying. 

“It’s the pharmacist,” she said. “I called him for advice, and he insulted me.”

The man jumped in his car and drove to the pharmacy and demand an apology. 

He introduced himself as the husband of the woman the pharmacist had insulted over the phone earlier that day. 

“Now, just a minute – listen to my side of it, the pharmacist explained. “This morning the alarm failed to go off, so I was late getting up. I went without breakfast and hurried out to the car, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t lock the house with both house and car keys inside. I had to break a window to get my keys. Driving a little too fast, I got a speeding ticket. Then, about three blocks from the store, I had a flat tire."

He said that when he finally got to the store, there was a bunch of people waiting for the pharmacy to open. The pharmacist opened the store and started waiting on these people, as the phone rang non-stop.

The pharmacist broke a roll of nickels against the cash register drawer to make change and they fell all over the floor. He got down on my hands and knees to pick up the nickels as the phone was still ringing. When he got up to answer the phone, he cracked his head on the open cash drawer, which made him stagger back against a showcase with a batch of perfume bottles on it, and half of them hit the floor and broke.

The pharmacist said he was finally able to answer the phone. It was the man’s wife and she asked how to use a rectal thermometer. 

“Well, mister, I told her!!!”

Note: The above photo is of Martin Mull, who appeared as a reoccurring pharmacist character on the sitcom Two and a Half Men.