Monday, September 20, 2021

35 Minutes Of the The Late Norm McDonald On O.J. Simpson On Saturday Night Live

I just watched a 35 minute clip of the late Norm Macdonald, who recently died of cancer,  mocking O.J. Simpson and accusing him of murder on Saturday Night Live.  

When Simpson was found not guilty, Norm Macdonald said on the air, "Well, it is now official. Murder is legal in the state of California."

The Weekend Update bits got Macdonald fired, as an NBC executive was Simpson's friend.  

Funny stuff from a funny guy. He will be missed

You can watch the clip via the below link:

35 Minutes of Why Norm Macdonald Got Fired on Weekend Update - YouTube 

 

Two Famous Quotes About Joe Biden

No matter how things work out for the rest of President Biden's term in office, he will, I believe, always be defined and remembered by two famous quotes. 

President Obama reportedly said of his vice president, "Don't underestimate Joe's ability to fuck things up." (As noted in Bruce Tinsley's Mallard Filmore cartoon above).

And former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said of Biden in his memoir, "I think he's been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

National Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action Results In Charges Involving More Than $1.4 Billion In Alleged Losses

The Department of Justice released the below information: 

The Department of justice announced criminal charges against 138 defendants, including 42 doctors, nurses, and other licensed medical professionals, in 31 federal districts across the United States for their alleged participation in various health care fraud schemes that resulted in approximately $1.4 billion in alleged losses. 

The charges target approximately $1.1 billion in fraud committed using telemedicine (the use of telecommunications technology to provide health care services remotely), $29 million in COVID-19 health care fraud, $133 million connected to substance abuse treatment facilities, or “sober homes,” and $160 million connected to other health care fraud and illegal opioid distribution schemes across the country. 

“This nationwide enforcement action demonstrates that the Criminal Division is at the forefront of the fight against health care fraud and opioid abuse by prosecuting those who have exploited health care benefit programs and their patients for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The charges announced today send a clear deterrent message and should leave no doubt about the department’s ongoing commitment to ensuring the safety of patients and the integrity of health care benefit programs, even amid a continued pandemic.” 

Today’s enforcement actions were led and coordinated by the Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, in conjunction with its Health Care Fraud and Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force program and its core partners, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), FBI, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as part of the department’s ongoing efforts to combat the devastating effects of health care fraud and the opioid epidemic. 

The cases are being prosecuted by Health Care Fraud and ARPO Strike Force teams from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, in coordination with 31 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide, and agents from HHS-OIG, FBI, DEA, and other federal and state law enforcement agencies.

“Health care fraud targets the vulnerable in our communities, our health care system, and our basic expectation of competent, available care,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Despite a continued pandemic, the FBI and our law enforcement partners remain dedicated to safeguarding American taxpayers and businesses from the steep cost of health care fraud.” 

“We have seen all too often criminals who engage in health care fraud — stealing from taxpayers while jeopardizing the health of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Gary L. Cantrell of HHS-OIG. “Today’s announcement should serve as another warning to individuals who may be considering engaging in such illicit activity: our agency and its law enforcement partners remain unrelenting in our commitment to rooting out fraud, holding bad actors accountable, and protecting the millions of beneficiaries who rely on federal health care programs.” 

“Holding to account those responsible for health care fraud and diversion of prescription drugs is a priority for DEA,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “These fraudulent activities prey on our most vulnerable – those in pain, the substance-addicted, and even the homeless – those who are most susceptible to promises of relief, recovery, or a new start. Not only do these schemes profit from desperation, but they often leave their victims even deeper in addiction. We are grateful to our partners who stand with us to keep our communities safer and healthier through our collective efforts to prevent the misuse and over-prescribing of controlled medications.” 

“Every dollar saved is critical to the sustainability of our Medicare programs and meeting the needs of seniors and people with disabilities,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “CMS has taken actions against 28 providers on behalf of people with Medicare coverage and to protect the Medicare Trust Fund. Actions like this to combat fraud, waste and abuse in our federal programs would not be possible without the successful partnership of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.”  

Telemedicine Fraud Cases 

The largest amount of alleged fraud loss charged in connection with the cases announced today – over $1.1 billion in allegedly false and fraudulent claims submitted by more than 43 criminal defendants in 11 judicial districts – relates to schemes involving telemedicine. According to court documents, certain defendant telemedicine executives allegedly paid doctors and nurse practitioners to order unnecessary durable medical equipment, genetic and other diagnostic testing, and pain medications, either without any patient interaction or with only a brief telephonic conversation with patients they had never met or seen. Durable medical equipment companies, genetic testing laboratories, and pharmacies then purchased those orders in exchange for illegal kickbacks and bribes and submitted over $1.1 billion in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and other government insurers. In some instances, medical professionals billed Medicare for sham telehealth consultations that did not occur as represented. The proceeds of the scheme were spent on luxury items, including vehicles, yachts, and real estate.  

The continued focus on prosecuting health care fraud schemes involving telemedicine reflects the success of the nationwide coordinating role of the Fraud Section’s National Rapid Response Strike Force, the creation of which was announced at the 2020 National Health Care Fraud and Opioid Takedown. The National Rapid Response Strike Force helped coordinate the prosecution of the telemedicine initiative, Sober Homes initiative, and COVID-19 cases that were announced today. The focus on telemedicine fraud also builds on the telemedicine component of last year’s national takedown and the impact of the 2019 “Operation Brace Yourself” Telemedicine and Durable Medical Equipment Takedown, which resulted in an estimated cost avoidance of more than $1.9 billion in the amount paid by Medicare for orthotic braces in the 20 months following that takedown. 

COVID-19 Fraud Cases 

Nine defendants in the cases announced today are alleged to have engaged in various health care fraud schemes designed to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the submission of over $29 million in false billings. In one type of scheme, defendants are alleged to have exploited policies that were put in place by the CMS to enable increased access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as expanded telehealth regulations and rules. Defendants allegedly misused patient information to submit claims to Medicare for unrelated, medically unnecessary, and expensive laboratory tests, including cancer genetic testing. 

The law enforcement action today also includes criminal charges against five defendants who allegedly engaged in the misuse of Provider Relief Fund monies. The Provider Relief Fund is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a federal law enacted March 2020 designed to provide needed medical care to Americans suffering from COVID-19. The defendants allegedly used the moneys for their own personal expenses, including for gambling at a Las Vegas casino and paying a luxury car dealership.  

The COVID-19 cases announced today build upon the success of the COVID-19 Health Care Fraud Takedown on May 26, a coordinated law enforcement action against 14 defendants in seven judicial districts for over $128 million in false billings. The law enforcement action and the cases announced today were brought in coordination with the Health Care Fraud Unit’s COVID-19 Interagency Working Group, which is chaired by the National Rapid Response Strike Force and organizes efforts to address illegal activity involving health care programs during the pandemic. 

Sober Homes Cases 

The sober homes cases are announced on the one-year anniversary of the first ever national sober homes initiative in 2020, which included charges against more than a dozen criminal defendants in connection with more than $845 million of allegedly false and fraudulent claims for tests and treatments for vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction. 

The over $133 million in false and fraudulent claims that are additionally alleged in cases announced today reflect the continued effort by the National Rapid Response Strike Force and the Health Care Fraud Unit’s Los Angeles Strike Force, with the participation of the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Central District of California and the Southern District of Florida, to prosecute those who participated in illegal kickback and bribery schemes involving the referral of patients to substance abuse treatment facilities; those patients could be subjected to medically unnecessary drug testing – often billing thousands of dollars for a single test – and therapy sessions that frequently were not provided, and which resulted in millions of dollars of false and fraudulent claims being submitted to private insurers. 

Cases Involving the Illegal Prescription and/or Distribution of Opioids and Cases Involving Traditional Health Care Fraud Schemes 

The cases announced today involving the illegal prescription and/or distribution of opioids involve 19 defendants, including several charges against medical professionals and others who prescribed over 12 million doses of opioids and other prescription narcotics, while submitting over $14 million in false billings. The cases that fall into more traditional categories of health care fraud include charges against over 60 defendants who allegedly participated in schemes to submit more than $145 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and private insurance companies for treatments that were medically unnecessary and often never provided.

Prior to the charges announced as part of today’s nationwide enforcement action and since its inception in March 2007, the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,600 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for approximately $23 billion. In addition to the criminal actions announced today, CMS, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, announced 28 administrative actions to decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Never Underestimate An Old Man Who Served On The USS Kitty Hawk

As an old man who served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk when I was a young man during the Vietnam War, I got a kick out of seeing a t-shirt that read "Never Underestimate An Old Man Who Served On USS Kitty Hawk."

You can purchase the t-shirt and other items via the below link:

 USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) - militaryxstore.com


You can read about the old carrier via the below link:

Saturday, September 18, 2021

My Crime Fiction: Bozo's Last Stand: A Story Of Stolen Valor

 The below short story first appeared in American Crime Magazine.

 Bozo’s Last Stand: A Story of Stolen Valor 

By Paul Davis

After I completed my most recent crime column for the local paper, which was about a fraud who posed as a former Navy SEAL in order to received unearned Veteran’s Administration benefits, I thought back to other frauds I knew who lied about being in the military and serving in combat. 

I thought of Tony Russo, an odd guy that I knew from a local taproom in South Philadelphia. One of the other guys told us, half-jokingly, that Russo's mother had dropped him on his head when he was a baby. 

“That explains things,” another bar patron said. 

I didn’t think Russo was a bad guy, just a bit weird and socially awkward. That is until he began telling the guys in the bar, and probably everyone else, that he was a Vietnam veteran. 

I knew that Russo, who was a few years older than me, had certainly not served in the Vietnam War. I knew, because like most veterans, we had discussed what we had done in the service more than once in the bar. 

I told Russo that I had served as a sailor on the USS Kitty Hawk as the aircraft carrier performed combat operations on "Yankee Station" in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970 and 1971. Russo told me that he was an MP (military police) in West Germany during the early 1960s, before the big build-up in South Vietnam. 

Being an MP in West Germany was honorable service and something to be proud of, but in his twisted mind, I suppose it was not enough. 

Previously, I had interviewed him for my newspaper column when he joined the Vietnam Veterans of America. I quoted him as stating that although he was not a Vietnam veteran, he respected those who did serve there. 

Then, only a few years later, he got it into his head that he had served in the Vietnam War, just as the veterans he hung around did. He claimed to have won a Purple Heart and other medals in the war. Some gullible guys who first met him bought him drinks and sandwiches, which he accepted. This, I knew, was a crime, although the cost of a beer and a sandwich perhaps made it a minor crime.   

As I noted in my newspaper column, under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, it is a crime to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefits while fraudulently claiming to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and other combat medals. 

Russo began wearing a baseball cap with “Vietnam Veteran” embroidered on it, and he also wore a jacket and a sweatshirt embroidered with “Vietnam Veteran.” I can only assume that his underwear was embroidered with “Vietnam Veteran” as well. 

I thought that his lying about serving in Vietnam was a despicable act, and an insult to those who actually served in the war. It was Stolen Valor. But I didn’t bother to expose him at the bar, or call the FBI, because I believed he had mental issues. And most of the guys at the bar didn't believe him in any case. 

I recall one time when he was telling his phony war stories in his usual stammer with awkward pauses, when he stated, “I spent eight months in, hey ya, Hell.” 

“Don’t all guys spend a full year in-country tour?” One of the bar’s patrons asked. 

Russo had a strained look on his face, and then said, “I left because I had high blood pressure.” 

“Didn’t everyone in Vietnam have high blood pressure?” I asked.

 

My thoughts then drifted to another time back in the late 1970s when I was a young man.  

I had gone to a jewelry store to pick up a watch that needed to be repaired. At the entrance to the jewelry store were two unarmed black security guards. They both wore black paramilitary uniforms. One of the guards was a big guy and his black uniform shirt was stretched as his upper torso bulged with muscle. He also wore a black baseball cap that read “Navy SEAL Vietnam Veteran” embroidered above the bill. 

The second guard, a smaller, thinner, and older black man, wore a simple black baseball cap and his black uniform hung loose on his lean frame. 

The bigger of the guards stood in front of me and looked me over. He was twice the size of me, but having been an amateur middleweight boxer, I was not intimidated. 

I stared up at the big man and looked him in the eye. 

The thinner guard nudged his bigger partner aside and said, “C’mon in, man.” 

“Thanks,” I replied and walked over to the counter. 

A pretty young black girl was behind the counter. I smiled, said hello, and handed her my slip. She smiled back and walked towards the back room, once looking over her shoulder and smiling again at me. 

“What you looking at, pretty boy?” 

I turned and saw space mountain standing next to me. My flirtatious good humor vanished, and I responded like a good son of South Philly. 

“Fuck you.” 

“That girl there is my girl. And you don’t want to fuck with me, boy, I’m a Vietnam veteran. 

So am I,” I said. “Sort of.” 

“I was a fucking Navy SEAL in the shit. What was you?” 

“I was on an aircraft carrier.” 

“Pussy,” he said curtly. “This here jewelry store hired me because I fought in Vietnam as a SEAL and won the Silver Star in combat.” 

My bullshit antenna raised. I didn’t believe him. 

“Go back to the circus, Bozo.” 

“Are you calling me a clown? I’ll rip your head off!” 

“Or die trying,’ I said, my right fist balled and ready. 

Bozo ripped his shirt open, struggled to get it off, and then tossed it with a fury to the floor. 

“Do I look like I’m afraid of you?” I asked calmly. “Do you see me running?”   

“Come outside, Motherfucker, and I’ll fuck you up.” 

He yanked the store’s door open and stepped out, and I followed. 

Bozo stood on the sidewalk, flexing his muscles. 

I wasn’t impressed, as I knew that steroid-induced muscles made one strong, but not fast. 

The second security guard came out and stood between us. 

“Man, there ain’t no need for violence.” 

“Get out the way, Harry, I’m going to fuck this pretty boy up.” 

With that he came at with a slow, clumsy roundhouse. 

One did not need to be a former boxer to slip that telegraphed punch. I leaned my head back and turned it slightly to the right and felt the air of the missed punch sail by.  

I countered quickly with a hard right cross and Bozo dropped to the cement. He lay there holding his head and moaning and rolling from side to side. 

The pretty counter girl came out of the store and stood over Bozo. 

“Please don’t hit him again!” She pleaded. “He wasn’t a Navy SEAL. He wasn’t even in the service.” 

I nodded.

She handed me my repaired watch in a bag, and I handed her a $20 dollar bill, which gave her a $5 dollar tip. I turned and walked away. 

Harry rushed up to me. 

“Thank you, man.” He said. “I’ve been listening to his shit for almost a year. He’s always putting me down as I was a Marine in Nam, even though I was shot and almost died. He always saying SEALs is tougher than Marines.” 

“Well,” I said to Harry. “Thank you for your service.” 

“You too,” he said as I walked away. 

© Copyright Paul Davis 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Stolen Valor: My Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat Column On A Fake Navy SEAL Who Stole From The VA

Philadelphia Weekly published My Crime Beat column on a fake Navy SEAL who stole from the Veteran's Administration.

You can read the column online via the below link or the below pages:

 Stolen valor - Philadelphia Weekly   


You can click on the above and below to enlarge.


14 Defendants Indicted, Including The Entire Administration Of The Colombo Organized Crime Family: Colombo Crime Family Boss, Underboss, Consigliere And Captains Are Among The Defendants Charged With Labor Racketeering, Extortion And Money Laundering

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

On September 14, 2021, U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York announced in federal court in Brooklyn, a 19-count indictment was unsealed charging 14 defendants, including 10 members and associates of the Colombo crime family of La Cosa Nostra and a member of the Bonanno organized crime family, with various offenses including labor racketeering involving multiple predicate acts of extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and extortion, extortionate collection of credit conspiracy, extortionate collection of credit and money laundering conspiracy.  

The charges in the indictment against the Colombo crime family members relate to multiple charged schemes in a long-running effort by the crime family to infiltrate and take control of a Queens-based labor union (the “Labor Union”) and its affiliated health care benefit program (the “Health Fund”) that provides medical benefits, including dental, optical and pharmacy benefits, to the members of the Labor Union, and to a conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with workplace safety certifications.

Among those charged with racketeering are Andrew “Mush” Russo, the boss of the Colombo crime family, Benjamin “Benji” Castellazzo, the underboss, and Ralph DiMatteo, the consigliere.  Alleged Colombo crime family captains Theodore Persico, Jr., Richard Ferrara and Vincent Ricciardo are charged with racketeering, along with soldier Michael Uvino and associates Thomas Costa and Domenick Ricciardo.  In addition, alleged Bonanno family soldier John Ragano is charged with loansharking, fraud and drug trafficking offenses. 

Thirteen defendants were arrested today in New York and New Jersey and are scheduled to be arraigned via videoconference this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Taryn A. Merkl at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.  Vincent Ricciardo was arrested in North Carolina and will be arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler in federal court in Charlotte.  DiMatteo remains at large.

Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Michael Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, New York Region (DOL-OIG); Patrick J. Ryder, Commissioner, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD); Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD); and Margaret Garnett, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation (DOI), announced the charges and arrests.

“Today’s charges describe a long-standing, ruthless pattern by the administration of the Colombo crime family, its captains, members and associates, of conspiring to exert control over the management of a labor union by threatening to inflict bodily harm on one of its senior officials and devising a scheme to divert and launder vendor contract funds from its health care benefit program.  In addition, for their own enrichment, the defendants conspired to engage in extortionate loansharking, money laundering and fraud, as well as drug trafficking,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “This Office and its law enforcement partners are committed to dismantling organized crime families, eliminating their corrupt influence in our communities and protecting the independence of labor unions.”

Ms. Kasulis also thanked the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Atlanta and New York Offices (DOL-EBSA), the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor and the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gang Section for their valuable assistance in the investigation.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself. The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well. These soldiers, consiglieres, under bosses, and bosses are obviously not students of history, and don't seem to comprehend that we're going to catch them. Regardless of how many times they fill the void we create in their ranks, our FBI Organized Crime Task Force, and our law enforcement partners, are positioned to take them out again, and again,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.

“An important mission of the Office of Inspector General is to investigate criminal allegations relating to organized crime and their illicit influence over labor unions and their affiliated employee benefit plans.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these types of allegations,” stated DOL-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Mellone.

“The indictment of 14 defendants, including members of the Columbo crime family on labor racketeering, extortion and money laundering charges should send a clear and concise message that these types of crimes will never be tolerated by law enforcement.   By infiltrating and taking control of a Queens-based labor union and its affiliated health care benefit program these defendants were able to extort a substantial amount of money which should have been used for the members of the union. These benefits included medical, dental, optical and pharmaceutical.  Congratulations to all of the investigators and their affiliated agencies on a job well done during this extensive investigation,” stated NCPD Commissioner Ryder.

“This indictment is another example of the NYPD’s long-term commitment, working with its law enforcement partners, in making sure those accused of organized crime are held accountable. I commend those who carried out the investigation as well as the office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District in New York for its work in ensuring there is justice in this case,” stated NYPD Commissioner Shea.

“Every time construction certifications are faked, every time bogus records are created and used to manipulate the facts, building in this City is undermined and New Yorkers' safety is compromised. This investigation is evidence of how corruption can erode the integrity of construction in New York City. And these charges reveal how DOI is working with its law enforcement partners to uncover and stop the illegal conduct,” stated DOI Commissioner Garnett.  “DOI thanks the City Department of Buildings for reporting allegations related to this conduct, and the Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the FBI, and the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Labor for their partnership.”

As set forth in the indictment and other court documents, the defendants and their co-conspirators committed a variety of crimes – including extortion, loansharking, fraud and drug trafficking – on behalf of the Colombo organized crime family.  First, the Colombo crime family’s administration, including Russo, Castellazzo and Dimatteo, as well captains Persico, Ferrara and Vincent Ricciardo, used extortionate means, including direct threats of bodily harm, to control the management of the Labor Union and caused it to make decisions that benefitted the Colombo crime family.  Since approximately 2001, Colombo captain Vincent Ricciardo and his cousin, associate Domenick Ricciardo, have collected a portion of the salary of a senior official in the Labor Union (“John Doe #1”) by threatening to harm John Doe #1 and his family.  At the direction of the Colombo crime family’s leadership, beginning in late 2019, the defendants broadened the extortion effort to force John Doe #1 and others at the Labor Union and its affiliated Health Fund to make decisions that benefitted the Colombo crime family, including by forcing them to select vendors for contracts who were associated with the Colombo crime family.  The defendants sought to divert more than $10,000 per month from the Health Fund’s assets to the administration of the Colombo crime family. 

For example, on June 21, 2021, in a consensually recorded conversation, Vincent Ricciardo threatened to kill John Doe #1 if he did not comply with Vincent Ricciardo’s demands.  He explained that John Doe #1 knows, “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids, right in front of his f-----g house, you laugh all you want pal, I’m not afraid to go to jail, let me tell you something, to prove a point? I would f-----g shoot him right in front of his wife and kids, call the police, f--k it, let me go, how long you think I’m gonna last anyway?”

Further, Colombo crime family members Russo, Castellazzo, Dimatteo, Ferrara, Persico, Vincent Ricciardo, Uvino joined with defendants Thompkins and Bellantoni, among others, to devise a scheme to launder money from Health Fund contracts and payments through third parties and eventually to the Colombo crime family’s leaders.  The defendants attempted to re-bid Health Fund vendor contracts for claims administration, pharmaceuticals and other health services to persons and companies affiliated with the defendant Joseph Bellantoni.  Bellantoni and others agreed that in exchange for the new vendor contracts, they would pay kickbacks to the Colombo crime family and would use various intermediaries to hide the payments.

The indictment also charges Bonanno organized crime family soldier John Ragano with leading a scheme to issue fraudulent workplace safety training certifications.  As alleged, Ragano operated two workplace safety schools in the New York area that claimed to provide Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) training courses and certifications, along with various New York state certifications, to construction industry workers.  Rather than provide training, Ragano along with his business partner John Glover and Domenick Ricciardo, falsified paperwork to the U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies which represented that hundreds of workers had completed required safety courses when in reality they had not.  Instead, various defendants used Ragano’s “schools” to conduct meetings involving members of La Cosa Nostra and to store illegal drugs and fireworks.

Vincent Ricciardo, Uvino, Ragano and Costa are also charged with loansharking.  As alleged, these defendants participated in extending and collecting on extortionate loans totaling $250,000 to an individual identified as “John Doe #2.”  The defendants charged and collected a weekly 1.5% interest rate that did not reduce the principal owed and divided the proceeds between themselves.  Further, Vincent Ricciardo, Ragano, Costa, Glover and Vincent Martino were charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana by transporting large shipments of marijuana in vehicles from New York to Florida.  Vincent Ricciardo and Costa were also charged, as previously convicted felons, with possessing and transporting ammunition, and Persico, who is currently on federal supervised release following his release for a prior racketeering conviction, was charged with lying to federal court officers about his dealings with other Colombo crime family members. 

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys James P. McDonald and Devon Lash are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendants:

ANDREW RUSSO (also known as “Mush”)
Age: 87
Glen Head, New York

JOSEPH BELLANTONI
Age: 39
Massapequa, New York

BENJAMIN CASTELLAZZO (also known as “Benji”)
Age: 83
Manahawkin, New Jersey

THOMAS COSTA
Age: 52
West Islip, New York

RALPH DIMATTEO
Age: 66
Merrick, New York

RICHARD FERRARA
Age: 59
Brooklyn, New York

JOHN GLOVER
Age: 62
Queens, New York

VINCENT MARTINO
Age: 43
Medford, New York

THEODORE PERSICO, JR. (also known as “Teddy”)
Age: 58
Brooklyn, New York

JOHN RAGANO (also known as “Bazoo” and “Maniac”)
Age: 59
Franklin Square, New York

DOMENICK RICCIARDO
Age: 56
Franklin Square, New York

VINCENT RICCIARDO (also known as “Vinny Unions”)
Age: 75
Franklin Square, New York

ERIN THOMPKINS
Age: 53
Franklin Square, New York

MICHAEL UVINO
Age: 56
Garden City, New York 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Babylon Bee: Trump Wows Met Gala Crowd In 'Rigged Election' Dress

The Babylon Bee mocks Socialist Congresswoman Cortez’s silly and self-aggrandizing stunt of wearing a gown with “Tax the Rich” written on it while attending an elite gathering in New York.

NEW YORK, NY—Beloved president and celebrity Donald Trump left Met Gala speechless this year when he showed up in a flowing white dress emblazoned with the phrase 'Rigged Election!'

"It's a beautiful, bold, brave statement," said fashion writer Vandross Tixatron, who was wearing an $82,000 garbage bag plucked from a landfill in Zimbabwe. "It's even braver when you consider the fact Trump wasn't even invited and he's being chased down by security now. What a statement!" 

Other stunning attendees to the gala included:

  • Gavin Newsom in a dress made of discarded hobo tents
  • Bill Clinton, who wore a tux embroidered with the message "Believe All Women"
  • Buffalo Bill, a transgender hero in his latest skin-suit
  • Bill Cosby in a #MeToo dress
  • AOC, who wore a 'Tax The Rich' dress made by enslaved migrant children
  • Greta Thunberg, who wore a 'Save The Planet' dress made with clubbed baby seal skins
  • General Milley, who draped himself in the vibrant red flag of the Chinese Communist Party

In spite of the audacious and colorful characters at the Met Gala, Trump's dress and attendance were deemed inappropriate and he was tackled by two dozen security guards and dragged outside. 

Trump has announced he will be organizing his own, way cooler Met Gala for REAL Americans this winter.

You can read other satirical pieces via the below link:

The Babylon Bee | Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

‘Narcos: Mexico’ To End With Season 3 On Netflix; Premiere Date, First-Look Photos & Teaser Released

I’ve watched Netfilix’s Narcos crime series from the beginning and enjoyed it thoroughly. 

From the series’ first tale of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar to the murder of DEA special agent Kiki Camarena and the aftermath in Mexico, the series has been consistently first rate.    

So I was pleased to read Rosy Cordero’s report at Deadline.com that Narcos will be returning to Netflix with the third season in Mexico. 

Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico returns with season 3 on Nov. 5 — its final season in Mexico. It is as yet unknown if the franchise will continue with another installment after the original series, set in Colombia, and the Mexico offshoot, both of which ran for three seasons. Executive producers previously have said their intention was to follow the drug trade across various countries.

The new season is set in the ’90s, when the globalization of the drug business ignites. 

It examines the war that breaks out after Félix Gallardo’s (Diego Luna) arrest. As newly independent cartels struggle to survive political upheaval and escalating violence, a new generation of Mexican kingpins emerge. But in this war, truth is the first casualty – and every arrest, murder, and take-done only pushes real victory further away. 

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

‘Narcos: Mexico’ To End With Season 3 On Netflix – Deadline 


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Remembering 9/11: Attacks 20 Years Ago Shaped Today’s FBI

The FBI offers a piece on how the 9/11 terrorist attack changed the FBI.

The morning of September 11, 2001 remains one of the most pivotal points in American history—and for the FBI. The ensuing investigation was the largest in the history of the Bureau. The attacks led to far-reaching changes in the organization as it elevated terrorism to the gravest threat against the U.S.

The attacks took the lives of nearly 3,000 people, and the crash sites represented the largest crime scene in FBI history. At the peak of the case, more than half of all FBI agents were at work to identify the hijackers and their sponsors and, along with other agencies, to head off any possible future attacks.

Over the last 20 years, the Bureau evolved from an agency focused primarily on criminal offenses into an intelligence-based national security and law enforcement organization. Preventing terrorism continues to be the FBI’s top priority; the Bureau has established more than 200 Joint Terrorism Task Forces with partner law enforcement agencies across the country.

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

9/11 Attacks 20 Years Ago Shaped Today’s FBI — FBI 

9/11 Twenty Years Later: A Look Back At A New York Cop's After Action Report

Below is my Crime Beat column on 9/11, which originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine:  

I covered the Police-Security Expo in Atlantic City in June and heard Joseph Dunne, the former New York deputy police commissioner during 9/11, speak to the attendees.  

Sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police, the theme of the expo was to prepare to act and respond to terrorism. Previous to 9/11, counterterrorism was largely a federal responsibility, but now police officers have become front line soldiers. 

I sat in on a seminar conducted by Joseph Dunne, who retired as New York's deputy police commissioner. He gave what we used to call in the military a commander’s "after-action report" on the 9/11 attack. 

Dunne played tapes of some of the 911 emergency calls, one of which had the voice of a young woman on the 110th floor pleading with the operator to tell her what she should do. The woman paused and told the operator that she was pregnant. The audience was a tough group of cops and security people, but most of thm were touched by the woman’s frantic call for help.

While standing near the towers, Dunne said he thought debris was falling around him, but he discovered that it was people. This, he said, left an indelible image in his mind.

"Consider the state of mind of the people who elected to jump and end their lives," Dunne said. "What awful choices these poor people had." 

Dunne said that the Port Authority and NYPD quickly closed tunnels and bridges and kept the lines open for rescue personnel. This quick action saved countless lives, he said.

Dunne recalled hearing a plane overhead and tensed up, "Don’t worry," someone told him. "It’s one of ours." Before 9/11, a conversation like that took place only on a foreign battlefield.


"The people in the buildings were innocent victims and rescue officers voluntarily rushed in," Dunne said, proud of his officers.


Dunne spoke of one officer who was filling out his retirement papers when the call came in. He left the retirement papers on his desk and rushed out to help. Like 22 other NYPD officers, he lost his life that day.


Dunne rolled out some gruesome stats: 19,000 body parts were signed into the morgue and they collected 12,622 DNA samples.


"No one signs on to policing to deal with the collection of bodies and body parts," Dunne said sadly.
 

By Dunne’s account, 25,000 lives were saved thanks to the NYPD’s rapid and skilled response. 

"As memories of September 11th fade, we have to remain resolved," Dunne advised. "It’s going to happen again."

9/11 was perhaps America’s worst disaster, but the acts of heroism and humanity that followed the attack lead me to believe that we have the resolve to win the war on terrorism.
 

Note: The above FBI.gov photo shows the Statute of Liberty and beyond it the World Trade Center on fire on 9/11. The photo beneath is of Joseph Dunne.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Remembering 9/11: Events 20 Years Ago Moved Many to Serve In The FBI

The FBI offers a piece on how the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack led many Americans to join the FBI.

In the moments after the country was attacked on September 11, 2001—before the largest-ever FBI investigation took shape and evidence response teams deployed, even before heroic first-responders were seen heading to plane crash sites in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—many people across the country felt a profound new calling to help and to serve.

“I can vividly remember the moment and then the days and weeks following September 11, and I immediately knew that I wanted to be part of preventing that ever happening again,” said Brandon, a forensic DNA expert at the FBI Laboratory, who was in college 20 years ago when terrorists crashed four planes and killed nearly 3,000 people. “What September 11 did for me was it gave me that new direction.”

As she watched wall-to-wall news coverage during the immediate aftermath of the attacks, 14-year-old Carrie, who today is an intelligence analyst in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, said that all she wanted to do at the time was go to the attack site in New York and help. “It really was like, ‘I want to do something. I want to help. I want to go to Ground Zero and help them,’” Carrie recalled in a recent interview. “But everyone’s telling you, ‘You can’t. You’re too young. You don’t understand.’ And you’re like, ‘I do understand. I do know what’s going on. And I want to help.’”

You can read the rest of the piece and listen to audio accounts via the below link:

9/11 Moved Many to Serve — FBI 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Broken Window: My Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat Column On Restaurant Owner's Outrage and Unease Over Vandalism

Philadelphia Weekly published my Crime Beat column on an act of vandalism which broke Mac Mart's front window in Center City. 

You can read the column via the below link or the below pages:

‘I just want to feel safe’ - Philadelphia Weekly

You can click on the above and below to enlarge.



Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Babylon Bee: Republicans Call For Impeachment Of Whoever Is Telling Biden What To Do

 The Babylon Bee offers another fine satirical piece on President Biden.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Several prominent Republicans came forward this week to call for the impeachment or resignation of whoever on earth is telling Biden what to do every day. 

"I think it's clear at this point that the person controlling Biden —and telling him what to do and say every moment—is completely incompetent," said Republican Representative Bob McCobb. "We're not really sure who that is, but they need to be impeached immediately. They suck." 

Americans increasingly agree with this sentiment, as recent polls revealed record-low approval ratings for whoever that person is who is pulling the strings of the barely sentient

"Seriously, can he find a person who can put better words in his mouth and tell him better decisions to make?" said one Ohio voter who agreed to be interviewed.

Biden responded to the attacks, saying "The notion that someone is controlling me and telling me what to say and what to do and chewing my food and changing my diapers is absolutely ridiculous. But that's all I'm allowed to say right now." 

You can read other humorous piece via the below link:  

The Babylon Bee | Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A 9/11 Reflection: The Terrorist Attack On The Pentagon In Photos

The U.S. Defense Department offers some photos from the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. 

On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists took the lives of nearly 3,000 people on American soil.

At the Pentagon, headquarters for the Defense Department, American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the west wall of the first floor, setting off a chain of events that killed 125 people inside — most of whom were Army and Navy service members and employees — along with the 64 people on board the Boeing 757. 

There are iconic photos from that day that will remain seared in the minds of many forever. Here are some photos that show the devastation at the Pentagon:

You can view the photos via the below link:

A 9/11 Reflection: The Pentagon in Photos > U.S. Department of Defense > Story   

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the 9/11 Pentagon terrorist attack via the below link:  

Paul Davis On Crime: A Look Back At The 9/11 Attack On The Pentagon 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

General Milley Says Civil War In Afghanistan ‘Likely’ After US Withdrawal, Could Lead To 'Reconstitution Of Al Qaeda'

Jennifer Griffin at Fox News offers an interview in Ramstein, Germany with General Mark Milley. 

She asked the general about the military operation to process 17,000 Afghan evacuees headed for the U.S. 

"What they're doing as people come in, they're getting their names registered. They're doing the biometrics. They check their irises. They do their fingerprints. They take a full facial photo," he explained, referencing not only the Department of Homeland Security but officials in the FBI, USAID, the State Department, and Customs and Border Protection.  

… The general was asked whether the U.S. is safer following the complete withdrawal from Afghanistan but said it was too soon to tell.  

"My military estimate is…that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war," Milley said.  "I don't know if the Taliban is going to [be] able to consolidate power and establish governance." 

The general’s premonition was followed by his concern that the terrorist organizations could use the disorder in Afghanistan as an opportunity to find gains. 

"I think there's at least a very good probability of a broader civil war and that will then, in turn, lead to conditions that could, in fact, lead to a reconstitution of al-Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other myriad of terrorist groups," he told Fox News.  

"You could see a resurgence of terrorism coming out of that general region within 12, 24, 36 months. And we're going to monitor that," he added. 

The general emphasized that maintaining U.S. security and intelligence gathering in the region will be a more difficult task now that the U.S. has no official presence inside Afghanistan. 

"We'll have to reestablish some human intelligence networks, etc.," he said. "And then as opportunities present themselves, we'll have to continue to conduct strike operations if there's a threat to the United States." 

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

Milley says civil war in Afghanistan ‘likely’ after US withdrawal, could lead to 'reconstitution of al Qaeda' | Fox News 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Marine Corps Colonel Pleads Guilty In International Navy Bribery And Fraud Scandal


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

SAN DIEGO – U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Enrico DeGuzman pleaded guilty to a bribery charge today, admitting that he accepted more than $67,000 in extravagant meals, drinks, entertainment and hotel stays in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo from foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis.

DeGuzman admitted that in return for this and other things of value, he corruptly used his official position to assist Francis, the owner and CEO of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a ship husbanding company that serviced U.S. Navy ships in the Asia Pacific region.  DeGuzman admitted that he endeavored to influence Navy ships into ports serviced by GDMA; he shared confidential Navy information with Francis in order to help GDMA; and he helped with evaluating and indoctrinating potential new Navy members into Francis’s cabal.

In one instance, DeGuzman joined Francis and others for a $40,000 meal that featured foie gras terrine, duck leg confit, ox-tail soup, and roasted Chilean sea bass, paired with expensive wine and champagne, followed by digestifs, cigars and overnights at the Shangri La - all at Francis’s expense.

DeGuzman was one of nine members of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2017 for conspiring with Francis and for receiving bribes.  DeGuzman is the second of the Seventh Fleet defendants to plead guilty. The trial of the remaining defendants was scheduled to begin November 1, 2021, but yesterday it was postponed until February 7, 2022.  The remaining defendants - who are accused of trading military secrets and substantial influence for sex parties with prostitutes and luxurious dinners and travel - include U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless; Captains David Newland, James Dolan, Donald Hornbeck and David Lausman; Commander Stephen Shedd; and Commander Mario Herrera.

The overarching fraud and bribery case has resulted in federal criminal charges against 34 U.S. Navy officials, defense contractors and the GDMA corporation. So far, 27 of those have pleaded guilty, admitting collectively that they accepted millions of dollars in luxury travel and accommodations, meals, or services of prostitutes, among many other things of value, from Francis in exchange for helping GDMA win and maintain contracts and overbill the Navy by over $35 million.

DeGuzman served on the Seventh Fleet Staff as the Fleet Marine Officer from July 2004 to July 2007.  In this role, DeGuzman was responsible for coordinating the mission of the U.S. Marine Corps within the Seventh Fleet area of responsibility.  From July 2007 to January 1, 2011, DeGuzman served as the Assistant Chief of Staff of Operations for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, and thereafter, DeGuzman served in a civilian capacity as the Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.

The U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet represents a vital piece of the United States military’s projection of power as well as American foreign policy and national security. The largest numbered fleet in the U.S. Navy, the Seventh Fleet is comprised of 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and approximately 40,000 Sailors and Marines. The Seventh Fleet is responsible for U.S. Navy ships and subordinate commands that operate in the Western Pacific throughout Southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, Australia, and Russia and the Indian Ocean territories, as well ships and personnel from other U.S. Navy Fleets that enter the Seventh Fleet’s area of responsibility.

“With every extravagant meal, Enrico DeGuzman violated his duty to serve the United States with honor and integrity,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Today those choices have caught up to him, and he has been held accountable.” Grossman commended the federal prosecutors and agents who diligently pursued this case.

“Mr. DeGuzman knowingly misused his position of trust as a senior U.S. Marine Corps officer to actively work with, and advocate for, a corrupt U.S. Navy contractor, while expecting and receiving lavish gifts in return, all at the expense of the U.S. Navy and the national security interests of the United States,” said Kelly P. Mayo, the Director of the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).   “As this case underscores, DCIS will work tirelessly with its partners to root out corruption within the Department of Defense and its components in order to maintain the trust, faith, and precious resources of the American taxpayer.”

“Colonel DeGuzman put his personal interests ahead of protecting the nation,” said NCIS Director Omar Lopez.  “NCIS and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue any act of bribery and corruption involving Mr. Francis and GDMA or otherwise as these reprehensible acts diminish the operational readiness of the fleet and warfighter superiority of the USMC and U.S. Navy.”

According to his plea agreement, DeGuzman admitted to receiving the following bribes from Francis:

  • On February 17, 2006, during the U.S.S. Blue Ridge's port visit to Hong Kong, DeGuzman and others dined and drank at Francis’s expense at the Petrus Restaurant at a cost of more than $20,000. To conceal and cover up their corrupt relationship, Francis created fraudulent receipts for the Petrus dinner that DeGuzman knew represented a small fraction of the actual cost of the dinner. While in Hong Kong, DeGuzman and others also stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel paid for, in part, by Francis.
  • On March 9, 2006, during the U.S.S. Blue Ridge’s port visit to Singapore, DeGuzman and others dined with Francis at the Jaan Restaurant in Singapore. Prior to dinner, DeGuzman and others enjoyed entertainment and cocktails on the exclusive rooftop helipad. At dinner, enjoyed foie gras terrine, duck leg confit, ox-tail soup, and roasted Chilean sea bass, paired with expensive wine and champagne, followed by digestifs and cigars.  The estimated cost to Francis was $40,000.
  • On September 9, 2006, DeGuzman and others dined at Francis's expense at the New York Grill in Tokyo, Japan, and stayed at Francis's expense at the Park Hyatt Hotel, all at a total cost to Francis of approximately $30,000.
  • During the U.S.S. Blue Ridge's port visit to Singapore from about February 22-27, 2007, Francis paid for the hotel expenses for DeGuzman and others at the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore at a total cost to Francis of approximately $50,000. As part of this port visit, DeGuzman and others dined with Francis at Francis's expense on multiple occasions, including at the Blu Restaurant within the Shangri-La Hotel, and at the Jaan Restaurant atop the Shangri-La Hotel.
  • On March 24, 2007, DeGuzman and others attended a multi-course dinner hosted by Francis at the Oak Door in Tokyo, Japan, during which was served, at Francis's expense, foie gras, Lobster Thermidor, and Sendai Tenderloin, and for dessert, “Liberté Sauvage,” the winning cake of the 10th Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie 2007, followed by cognac and cigars. During the event, the attendees posed for a photograph wearing custom-made GDMA neckties. 

In a moment of candor encapsulating these corrupt relationships, just before DeGuzman departed Seventh Fleet assignment, he warned Francis in an email dated July 7 2007, “[U]nfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to influence people [in my next assignment] like I did there at 7th Fleet.”

DEFENDANT                                                Case Number: 17-CR-0623-JLS                            

Enrico DeGuzman                                          Age: 63                     Las Vegas, Nevada

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Bribery of a Public Official, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(2)

Maximum Penalty: Fifteen years in prison, $250,000 fine

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Defense Criminal Investigative Service

Naval Criminal Investigative Service

Defense Contract Audit Agency

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine on the Fat Leonard case via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Piece On The 'Fat Leonard' U.S. Navy Bribery And Fraud Case