Friday, May 27, 2022

The Aftereffects Of Crime On A Family: My Washington Times On Crime Column On Lisa Scottoline’s 'What Happened to the Bennetts'

The Washington Times published my On Crime column on Lisa Scottoline and her crime novel What Happened to the Bennetts. 

Lisa Scottoline is a bestselling and award-winning author of 34 legal thrillers and historical novels. She also writes a weekly humor column with her daughter Francesca Serritella for the Philadelphiauirer called “Chick Wit,” a witty take on life from a woman’s perspective.

 

Lisa Scottoline’s latest novel is “What Happened to the Bennetts.”

 

I reached out to her to ask about the novel and discovered that we are originally from the same Italian American neighborhood in South Philadelphia, and we lived around the corner from each other when we were young.     

 

I asked her how she would describe her current novel?

 

“I would describe it as a family story and a crime story rolled into one,” Ms. Scottoline replied. “It’s about a family that is driving home from a kid’s hockey game one night, and they are carjacked, and it goes terribly wrong. They later find themselves in witness protection. Violence can happen in a minute, and you can’t pretend that it doesn’t.

 

I asked her why she chose the husband and father as the narrator of the novel, and was it difficult to write in the first person as a man? (I write short stories and I would never be so bold as to write in the first person of a woman).

 

“I started writing about women as I wanted to see women in the lead, but I said to myself, you have to give it a try. You can’t write the same book over and over. I thought about the role of fathers. I’ve written a lot about mothers, being a mother myself, but this time I wanted to put the spotlight on a father. I was very close with my dad. This book is a lot like my dad.

 

“In our culture we are very interested in heroes. There is a reason that Spider-Man movies make 500 million dollars. I’m not putting them down. But you’re trying to look at a larger scene when you’re writing a book.  So, the question in “What Happens to the Bennetts” is what is a hero?

 

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


BOOK REVIEW: 'What Happened to the Bennetts' - Washington Times 



Thursday, May 26, 2022

A Little Humor: Groucho Marx

 

Former Philadelphia VA Hospital Employee Pleads Guilty To Stealing Almost $500,000 In Government Funds

 PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Bruce Minor, 46, of Philadelphia, PA, entered a plea of guilty today before United States District Court Judge Chad F. Kenney in connection with his scheme to embezzle money from his former employer, the Philadelphia Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center (VAMC).

In April 2022, the defendant was charged in a one-count Criminal Information with theft of government funds stemming from his theft of $487,000 in Veterans Affairs travel reimbursement funds, which he helped administer as part of his official duties as an travel clerk. In order to perpetrate the theft, Minor created fraudulent travel reimbursement claims in the names of at least three other VAMC employees and then diverted the fraudulently obtained funds into bank accounts he controlled. According to court documents, in an email to VAMC management, the defendant admitted to stealing approximately $13,000 in travel funds, though subsequent investigation showed that he stole upwards of $487,000 between December 2015 and September 2019.

“Injured veterans – and all Americans – deserve public employees who do their jobs honestly, without gaming the system to line their own pockets,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “While the VA was focused on providing high-quality care and programs to the men and women who served our country, the defendant selfishly took advantage of his position to perpetrate this fraud scheme and cheat the taxpayers who fund these services.”

“Today’s guilty plea should send a message to those who would use their position to steal taxpayer dollars,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher F. Algieri of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Northeast Field Office. “This greed wastes precious funds that could otherwise be used to provide care and benefits to our nation’s veterans. The VA OIG appreciates the commitment of the U.S. Attorney’s Office throughout this investigation and will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to hold wrongdoers accountable.”

The case was investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Diviny. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Texas School Shooting: What We Know About The Victims

The New York Post offers a piece on what we know so far about the victims of the horrific mass shooting at a Texas school.

A veteran teacher who was “just a sweetheart” and an 8-year-old boy were among those killed in the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, according to devastated loved ones.

At least 19 children and two teachers were killed when the alleged gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, opened fire Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small, working-class town near the Mexico border.

All victims were killed inside a single classroom, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.

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

Texas school shooting: What we know about the victims (nypost.com) 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Michael Caine Reads Kipling's Poem 'If'

Michael Caine is one of my favorite actors and Rudyard Kipling (seen in the below photo) is one of my favorite writers (I read Kipling's Kim as a pre-teen, The Man Who Would Be King as a young man, and more recently I read his short stories about his time as a young journalist in India), so I pleased to see to Michael Caine read Kipling's poem If in a video. 

You can watch the video via the below link: 

IF, Rudyard Kipling's poem, recited by Sir Michael Caine - YouTube


Sunday, May 22, 2022

WWII's Great Deception Plan: My Crime Beat Column On Ian Fleming And 'Operation Mincemeat'

I watched and enjoyed the Netflix film Operation Mincemeat, the true story of how British intelligence fooled the Nazis into believing the allies were going to invade Greece rather Sicily in World War II.

As an Ian Fleming aficionado, I was pleased to see the late Ian Fleming portrayed fairly accurately in the film, as well as seeing his role in the grand deception plan acknowledged.  

The deception plot involved the Germans reading and believing the fake secret letters on the corpse of a drowned British Royal Marine who washed up ashore in Spain. The corpse was in fact that of a derelict man who killed himself. British intelligence created a fake background for the corpse, proving him with love letters, a photo of his girlfriend and other personal items, in addition to the fake secret letters from British senior officers.

The bold deception plan worked, as the fake secret documents convinced Hitler that the allies were set to invade Greece, and the Nazi leader moved crack troops from Sicily to Greece. The deception plan saved the lives of countless allied troops who successfully invaded Sicily on July 10, 1943.

The germ of this brilliant plan was one of several suggested ideas in what was called the “Trout Memo” from British Admiral John Godfry, the director of Naval Intelligence. But according to Ben Macintyre, the author of Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, the book the film is based on, the true author of the Trout Memo was Commander Ian Fleming.

Commander Fleming (seen in the above photo) was then Admiral Godfrey’s personal assistant and according to Macintyre, Fleming read a spy thriller before the war that utilized a corpse in the plot, and Fleming placed the outrageous idea in the memo. Fleming would, of course, go on to write spy thrillers of his own that featured a certain character called James Bond.

The now iconic and world-famous Bond character was based on several spies and commandos Fleming met during the war, and Fleming said he also infused Bond with many of his own quirks and characteristics. 

In the Netflix film, Ian Fleming is portrayed by Johnny Flynn (seen in the top photo), who narrates the film in Fleming’s sardonic voice. The two officers who headed the deception plot were naval intelligence officer Ewan Montagu and Royal Air Force officer Charles Cholondley, and they were portrayed in the film by Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen. Admiral Godfrey was portrayed by Jason Isaacs and Jean Leslie was portrayed by Kelly Macdonald. All of the actors were spot on, and the film was directed well by John Madden.  

The film takes some liberty with the facts, as films often do, but overall, I think it is a fine film that is well worth watching, not only for entertainment, but also as a vital history lesson. 

The deception plan was made into an earlier film in 1956 called The Man Who Never Was, which was based on the memoir by Ewan Montagu. But Montagu’s book and the film were unable to tell the whole story as the details were still classified at the time.

Ben Macintyre (seen in the above photo), a London Times columnist and author of several fine books on espionage history, was more fortunate, as he was given access to the declassified files of the operation.  

"This is the thrilling true story of the greatest and most successful wartime deception ever attempted. One April morning in 1943, a sardine fisherman spotted the corpse of a British soldier floating in the sea off the coast of Spain and set in train a course of events that would change the course of the Second World War,” Bloomsbury, Macintyre’s publisher, wrote when the book came out in 2010.

“Operation Mincemeat was the most successful wartime deception ever attempted, and certainly the strangest. It hoodwinked the Nazi espionage chiefs, sent German troops hurtling in the wrong direction, and saved thousands of lives by deploying a secret agent who was different, in one crucial respect, from any spy before or since: he was dead. His mission: to convince the Germans that instead of attacking Sicily, the Allied armies planned to invade Greece.

“The brainchild of an eccentric RAF officer and a brilliant Jewish barrister, the great hoax involved an extraordinary cast of characters including a famous forensic pathologist, a gold-prospector, an inventor, a beautiful secret service secretary, a submarine captain, three novelists, a transvestite English spymaster, an irascible admiral who loved fly-fishing, and a dead Welsh tramp. Using fraud, imagination and seduction, Churchill’s team of spies spun a web of deceit so elaborate and so convincing that they began to believe it themselves. The deception started in a windowless basement beneath Whitehall. It travelled from London to Scotland to Spain to Germany. And it ended up on Hitler’s desk.

“Ben Macintyre, bestselling author of Agent Zigzag, weaves together private documents, photographs, memories, letters and diaries, as well as newly released material from the intelligence files of MI5 and Naval Intelligence, to tell for the first time the full story of Operation Mincemeat. "
 

Ian Fleming never wrote about the operation, or his role in it, due to his oath of secrecy. Sadly, he died in 1964 before the documents were declassified. 

Back in 2012, the British were honoring Ian Fleming with Royal Mail stamps and the Imperial War Museum in London was marking the Fleming centenary with a major exhibition that explores his life and the influences that guided him in his creation of his famous character James Bond. Ben Macintyre wrote a companion book for the Imperial War Museum exhibition called For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming & James Bond.    

Fleming’s father died in combat in WWI and his younger brother died in combat in WWII. So considering his family’s sacrifices and his own military experience, Fleming, I believe, would have been proud. 

I had previously interviewed Ben Macintyre about his earlier excellent book on WWII crook and British spy Eddie Chapman, called Agent Zigzag, and I reached out to him again and interviewed about his book on Fleming. 

He said the book was not a full biography, but rather “a personal investigation into the intersection of two lives, one real and one fictional."

"All novelists find inspiration in reality, but Ian Fleming, more than any writer I know, anchored the imagined world of James Bond to the people, things and places he knew," Macintyre noted.

“Espionage is itself a shadow trade between truth and untruth and is a complex interweaving of imagination, deception and reality. As a former officer in naval intelligence, Fleming thought like a spy, and wrote like one. This book is an attempt to explore a remarkable double life and to establish, as nearly as possible, where the real world of Ian Fleming ended, and the fictional world of James Bond begins."

I asked Macintyre why he wrote the book.

“I have always been a fan, but I was asked by the family, partly because of Agent Zigzag and partly because of articles I have written in the past about Bond and Fleming.”

I asked him to describe how Fleming was inspired by his late father who died in WWI and his own military service in WWII?

“Val Fleming is a large part of the Bond myth. His early tragic death and gallantry provide, I think, the template for the Bond character. Fleming’s wartime service is critical: plots, characters, events, gadgets, places and politics all flow directly from that war. Bond is very much a World War II personality, fighting a Cold War.”

Many people find his novels and the films to be utterly fantastic, but Macintyre said that Fleming’s plots, as well as his characters, were in fact based largely on reality. I asked him to explain this.

“Fleming always based his books firmly in reality. "Everything I write has a basis in truth". True, Bond is able to carry out exploits that would be hard to believe in fact, yet the world of spying quite often beggars belief: Agent Zigzag being a good example,” Macintyre explained.
 

“As a former officer in naval intelligence, Fleming thought like a spy and wrote like one,” Ben Macintyre told me. “This book is an attempt to explore a remarkable double life and to establish, as nearly as possible, where the real world of Ian Fleming ended, and the fictional world of James Bond begins.” 

And now with Netflix’s Operation Mincemeat, we can see the role that Ian Fleming played in the real world of espionage. 

Note: You can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece about Ian Fleming’s WWII experience and his creation of a commando group via below:



A Little Humor: And Writers As Well





Saturday, May 21, 2022

Armed Forces Day 2022: Celebrating And Honoring Those Who Serve

 Today is Armed Forces Day. 

As a proud Navy veteran who served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, I honor and support the members of the U.S. armed forces. 

Armed Forces Day is a special holiday for people all over the world to come together and thank the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. First conceived by President Harry S. Truman, the holiday was established in 1949. The creation of a single day celebration for all five branches of the United States military made sense due to its recent unification under the Department of Defense. 

Today is a day to honor and support U.S. military members stationed all around the world.  

A Little Humor: Nothing Like A Good Insult


Friday, May 20, 2022

NATO Military Leaders Address Security In Wake of Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

 Jim Garamone at the DOD News offers a piece on NATO. 

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, the North Atlantic Alliance has proven its capabilities to mobilize for collective defense and ably support the Ukrainians fighting for their country, the top NATO military leaders said today. 

 

Dutch Adm. Rob Bauer, the chairman of the alliance's military committee, emphasized the alliance faces a new situation. "The focus of this meeting was on collective defense," he said following a meeting of NATO military leaders. "Without a doubt, a new era for NATO has begun. In the past few months, NATO has shown that it is capable [of swiftly and effectively changing] its posture. We have implemented the largest reinforcement of collective defense in a generation." 

The 30-nation Atlantic alliance capitalized on work begun after Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014 to speedily reinforce vulnerable frontline states. All this is part of the new NATO military strategy, which — Bauer said — is evolving even as Russia poured over Ukraine's border on February 24. Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine "has presented us with a new strategic reality," Bauer said.  

A reality the NATO nations can face down. 

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

NATO Military Leaders Address Security in Wake of Russian Invasion of Ukraine > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department News 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Former FBI Director Airs Warning About Elder Fraud Public Service Announcement: Reminds Seniors and Their Loved Ones to Be Vigilant

The Jamaican telephone scammer thought he had an ideal victim due to the man’s advance age.

But the con artist didn’t know that the elderly gentleman on the phone was a retired federal judge and the former director of both the CIA and the FBI.

The scamster is now in prison.

The FBI released a Public Service Announcement (PSA) with Judge Webster warning potential victims of elder fraud.

“If it can happen to me, it can happen to you,” warns former FBI and CIA Director William Webster in a video message that urges older people and their loved ones to be wary of elder fraud schemes.

The 98-year-old retired judge and his wife Lynda were prospective marks in a Jamaican lottery scam in 2014 when an unsolicited caller informed Webster he won a sweepstakes. To collect his winnings—a car and millions of dollars—Webster was told he needed to pay $50,000. When the couple declined repeatedly, the caller became abusive and threatening. The Websters called the FBI and later worked with special agents in the Washington Field Office to nab the scammer, who is now serving time in prison.

The Websters are among millions of older Americans targeted each year in elder fraud schemes like bogus lottery and romance scams. Fraudsters string along victims with promises of love or riches in exchange for cash advances or assistance moving illegal funds. Losses from these types of scams reach into the hundreds of millions each year and are increasing as the U.S. population ages.

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

Former FBI Director Airs Warning About Elder Fraud — FBI 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Washington Times Celebrates Newspaper's 40 Anniversary

 “The Times was to be a different kind of newspaper, one that would go for inspiration ‘back to the future,’ to a time of national consensus on issues of ethics and morality, with an emphasis on the message and not the messenger. We would not only cover the news without slant or bias, but give voice to those who have been shut out of the national debate. The Times was to be wholly secular, to hold to no sectarian cause, to champion no denomination above any other but never to mock faith and belief, to proselytize only for the principles that liberate men from the tyranny of closed minds.”

— Wesley Pruden, former Editor-in-Chief, The Washington Times. 

Congratulations to the Washington Times on the newspaper’s 40 anniversary. The newspaper has consistently offered fair news coverage and four pages of conservative opinion. www.washingtontimes.com

I’ve been a contributor to the Washington Times since 2012 and my On Crime column has appeared in the Washington Times since 2019.   

You can read my On Crime columns via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times 'On Crime' Columns  

And you can read my op-eds and book reviews via the below link: 

Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times Op-Eds And Book Reviews

Sunday, May 15, 2022

My Crime Beat Column: My Q&A With Veteran Newspaper Columnist And Author Stu Bykofsky

For a time, I was proud to have my Crime Beat column appear in Philadelphia Weekly alongside the contributions of veteran newspaper columnist Stu Bykofsky.  

Previous to this, I was also a proud contributor for 19 years to the Philadelphia Inquirer, where Stu Bykofsky’s popular column ran for many years. 

So when I read that Stu Bykofsky had written a novel about newspapers, reporters, crime and politics, called Press Card, I purchased the novel online, and I read and thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Stu Bykofsky described Press Card on his website, STU BYKOFSKY - Reality determines my political positions, not vice versa : 

Did you ever have a bad boss? Sure, you have.

Did you ever do anything about him (or her)?

Probably not.

Claude Shelby does.

He’s a straight-talking, wisecracking, street-savvy reporter who doesn’t like his bosses -- and they don’t like him.

That conflict provides the framework for Press Card, which is funny, sad, poetic, obscene, sexy, and knowing.

Following his demotion for cutting corners to get a political story, Shelby struggles with his bosses, and with what his job sometimes requires him to do. 

When he’s at his lowest point and floating aimlessly, he stumbles into clues that could lead him to the biggest story of his life -- finding fugitive Black revolutionary Sister Sojourner.

He chases the leads he digs out all the way to St. Lucia in the Caribbean, where he receives help from an unexpected source in a skintight dress.

In this picaresque novel, Claude Shelby interacts with memorable characters: a rags-to-riches millionaire, a close friend who regrets quitting journalism for the big bucks of P.R., the Philadelphia artist who designs neon tube clothing accessories that double as dildos, and a predatory female reporter.

Press Card takes readers inside the Fourth Estate and reveals how some newspapers make decisions. It unmasks power plays between union and management, and reporters’ tricks.

It is fiction based on fact.

Press Card crackles like a police radio and rolls as fast as the presses that print the fictional Philadelphia Free Press.

I reached out to Stu Bykofsky and asked him about Press Card. 

Davis: Why did you write Press Card? 

Bykofsky: Two reasons. 1- A personal challenge to myself to see if I could write something that long. “Cats Are Supermodels” was a decade earlier, nonfiction, and about 20% as long as “Press Card.” 2- Wanted revenge on some editors.  

Davis: How would you describe the novel? 

Bykofsky: I call it “faction” -- fact wrapped in fiction. It pulls back the curtains on how print really works, in a fast-paced, humorous manner.  

Davis: Is Claude Shelby in any way autobiographical? 

Bykofsky: Claude Shelby is not Stu Bykofsky, but some of Stu Bykofsky is in Claude Shelby. Claude is somewhat anti-union; Stu is very pro-union. Shelby chews gum, Stu never had, and Stu was never a political reporter. 

Davis: Is the Philadelphia Free Press based on the Daily News or the Inquirer? 

Bykofsky: The Free Press is a tabloid, like the News, and, honestly, the novel is a roman a clef, using the News as a template. You know the adage -- write what you know.

Davis: Are the other characters, especially the editors, based on real people? 

Bykofsky: Some yes, some no. Some are complete inventions; other characters are borrowed from people I know. When inventing a character, I picture someone I know. It helps with the physical descriptions and helps me keep them separate. 

Davis: Did you cover any of the stories that Shelby covered in the novel? 

Bykofsky: I was working the desk the night a tanker exploded in the Delaware. That’s the chapter called Fire on the Water. I actually had a lead on Patty Hearst, through a friend, but the trail went cold fast. As to the suicide of a TV anchor, that was loosely based on Bud Dwyer, but I did not cover that. I was a TV critic for five years and will say the TV reporter Howard Scott was based on WPVI’s Marc Howard.  

Davis: Why do newspapers cover crime stories so prominently? 

Bykofsky: They don’t anymore -- and that is intentional. The “Woke” element in newsrooms have decided coverage of crime is racist. If you give it a moment's thought, you can imagine why.  

Davis: What made you want to go into newspaper journalism?  

Bykofsky: I started by joining the college newspaper at Brooklyn College (night school), because I didn’t like fraternities and it was one club that had girls, where everyone drank and cursed and smoked. It turned out writing was a gift -- I could do it easily and I figured it would be a good career. Not a lot of money, but a lot of fun. My intuition was correct. And the editor of its college paper got me my first professional job at The World-Telegram & The Sun in NYC in 1959. I retired 60 years later. 

Davis: Was anyone in particular a major influence? 

Bykofsky: The aforementioned college editor, Gordon Lattey -- still a friend. Got me the job at the Telegram, and later got me a freelance job with a travel magazine he edited, which opened the door to world travel -- with someone else paying the bill. I have been everywhere from Antigua to Yugoslavia, something that would have been completely impossible for someone like me who grew up in the projects. 

Davis: How are newspapers today different today from the 1970s, the era portrayed in Press Card

Bykofsky: I hate to generalize, but they seem to be run by people guided more by their politics than by news values. 

Davis: What do you see for the future of newspapers? 

Bykofsky: In print -- none, and that is really sad. I see them each becoming silos, catering to the perceived biases of their readers. I can’t be specific because I signed a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) with the Inquirer, which I am suing for defamation. 

Davis: Do you have a favorite book, novel or play about newspapers? 

Bykofsky: Citizen Hearst, although only indirectly about newspapers. And The Front Page, of course, for sheer fun. 

Davis: Do you have a favorite film or TV series about newspapers? 

Bykofsky: There was an OLD series, maybe the ‘50s, called The Big Story, something like that, that was sort of a documentary recreation. I also strongly like Absence of Malice, although it is slightly off-kilter about libel law. But Paul Newman and Sally Field -- what’s not to like? 

Davis: How would you describe your career as a newspaperman and columnist?  

Bykofsky: Pleasure. The bad days were few, and I got to travel the world, and rub elbows with celebrities and politicians. (I don’t really like celebrities, but they make good fodder for story telling). Unfortunately, I now have forgotten most of the stories. Importantly, at stages in my career I was able to help people who needed it, and kick the asses of politicians, who also needed it. 

Davis: Do you plan to write another novel? 

Bykofsky: The first one took almost 40 years. I am 80. And I write a very active blog, so there’s no time. 

Davis: Good luck with the novel.

Note: You can read Stu Bykofsky's bio via the below link:

Stu Bykofsky | Columnist & Author | About (presscardthebook.com)

And you can purchase Press Card via the below link:  

  Www.PressCardTheBook.com




A Little Humor: That Look

 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Honors Nation’s Law Enforcement During National Police Week

 The U.S. Justice Department released the below:

In honor of National Police Week, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland recognizes the service and sacrifice of federal, state, local, territorial, and Tribal law enforcement. This year, the week is observed Wednesday, May 11 through Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

“This week, we gather to pay tribute to the law enforcement officers who sacrificed their lives in service to our country,” said Attorney General Garland. “We remember the courage with which they worked and lived. And we recommit ourselves to the mission to which they dedicated their lives. On behalf of a grateful Justice Department and a grateful nation, I extend my sincerest thanks and gratitude to the entire law enforcement community.”

In 1962, President Kennedy issued the first proclamation for Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week to remember and honor law enforcement officers for their service and sacrifices. Peace Officers Memorial Day, which every year falls on May 15, specifically honors law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. Based on data submitted to and analyzed by the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), over 67% of the law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2021 succumbed to COVID-19.

Additionally, according to 2021 statistics reported by the FBI through the Law Enforcement Officer Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program, 73 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2021 were killed as a result of felonious acts, whereas 56 died in accidents.  Deaths resulting from felonious acts increased in 2021, rising more than 58% from the previous year. In 2021, unprovoked attacks[1] were the cause of 24 deaths, significantly outpacing all other line of duty deaths resulting from felony acts and reaching the highest annual total in over 30 years of reporting. Additional LEOKA statistics can be found on FBI’s Crime Data Explorer website for the LEOKA program. 

The names of the 619 fallen officers added this year to the wall at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial will be read on Friday, May 13, 2022, during a Candlelight Vigil in Washington, D.C., starting at 8:00 p.m. ET. Those who wish to view the vigil live online can watch on the NLEOMF YouTube channel found at https://www.youtube.com/TheNLEOMF. The schedule of National Police Week events is available on NLEOMF’s website.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

South Philly Resident Louis Lozzi Wins Teaching Prize

I was pleased to see that an old friend of mine, Louis Lozzi, won a teaching prize.

The South Philly Review offers a piece on him and the prize.

The South Philly native was one of three teaching grand prize winners of the Citadel Heart of Learning Awards.

Louis Lozzi, a Pennsport resident who teaches at Paul Robeson High School for Human Services, was honored as a grand prize recipient on May 2 at the Mann Center for Performing Arts during the Citadel Heart of Learning Awards ceremony, which honored a total of 31 teachers from the Philadelphia region. 

Lozzi won a personal prize of $5,000 while earning an additional $5,000 for his school. He was the only grand prize winner from the School District of Philadelphia and was joined by Deb Rooney, Bradford Heights Elementary of the Downingtown Area School District, and George Hankins, Colonial Middle School of the Colonial School District. The 28 other honorees all earned $1,000 in gift cards to spend in their classrooms.

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

South Philly resident Lozzi wins teaching prize - South Philly Review 

FBI Philadelphia Warns Of Increase In Sextortion Incidents, More Schemes Targeting Boys

The FBI in Philadelphia released the below information:

FBI Philadelphia is warning parents and caregivers about an increase in incidents involving the sextortion of children.

Sextortion begins when an adult contacts a minor over any online platform used to meet and communicate, such as a game, app, or social media account.

In a scheme that’s recently become more prevalent, the predator (posing as a young girl) uses deception and manipulation to convince a young male, usually 14 to 17 years old, to engage in explicit activity over video, which is secretly recorded by the predator. The predator then reveals that they’ve made the recordings and attempts to extort the victim, demanding money or additional explicit images, or else they’ll post the recordings online.

The same criminal approach is used to target minor girls, as well.

In some cases, the perpetrators will use deceit in soliciting high school boys to share photos of female classmates, thus increasing the victimization of these offenses.

To be clear: sextortion is a crime. The coercion of a child by an adult to produce what is considered Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) carries heavy penalties, which can include up to a life sentence for the offender.

The embarrassment children feel from the activity they were forced to engage in is what typically prevents them from coming forward. Know that sextortion offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, so coming forward to help law enforcement identify the offender may prevent further sexual exploitation of that victim and others.

“Using the anonymity of the Internet, these criminals are creating age-appropriate personas to lure young people in and, unfortunately, they’ve gotten very good at it,” said Jacqueline Maguire, FBI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge. “We want to educate the community about this insidious crime, to prevent more kids from falling victim to sextortion. We ask adults to talk to the kids in your life about this — and we ask anyone who may have been victimized to let us know. The FBI and our partners are doing everything we can to bring these predators to justice.”

Some tips to stay safe:

  1. Be selective about what you share online, especially your personal information and passwords. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to learn a lot of useful information about you.
  2. Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
  3. Remember that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  4. Be suspicious if you meet someone on a game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
  5. Report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.

If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of sextortion:

  1. Contact your local FBI field office, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at ic3.gov, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-THE-LOST or CyberTipline.org).
  2. Don’t delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
  3. Tell law enforcement everything about the encounters you had online; it may be embarrassing, but the details can be a big help as we work to find the offender.

More information on sextortion and resources for parents and caregivers can be found at fbi.gov/sextortion.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

$300 Million Yacht Of Sanctioned Russian Oligarch Suleiman Kerimov Seized By Fiji At Request Of United States

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

Fijian law enforcement executed a seizure warrant freezing the Motor Yacht Amadea (the Amadea), a 348-foot luxury vessel owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov. Fijian law enforcement, with the support and assistance of the FBI, acted pursuant to a mutual legal assistance request from the U.S. Department of Justice following issuance of a seizure warrant from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which found that the Amadea is subject to forfeiture based on probable cause of violations of U.S. law, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), money laundering and conspiracy.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Kerimov as part of a group of Russian oligarchs who profit from the Russian government through corruption and its malign activity around the globe, including the occupation of Crimea. In sanctioning Kerimov, the Treasury Department also cited Kerimov as an official of the Government of the Russian Federation and a member of the Russian Federation Counsel.

According to court documents, Kerimov owned the Amadea after his designation. Additionally, Kerimov and those acting on his behalf and for his benefit caused U.S. dollar transactions to be routed through U.S. financial institutions for the support and maintenance of the Amadea.

“This ruling should make clear that there is no hiding place for the assets of individuals who violate U.S. laws. And there is no hiding place for the assets of criminals who enable the Russian regime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold accountable those who facilitate the death and destruction we are witnessing in Ukraine.”

“Last month, I warned that the department had its eyes on every yacht purchased with dirty money,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “This yacht seizure should tell every corrupt Russian oligarch that they cannot hide – not even in the remotest part of the world. We will use every means of enforcing the sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine.”

“This seizure demonstrates the FBI's persistence in pursuing sanctioned Russian oligarchs attempting to evade accountability for their role in jeopardizing our national security,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI, along with our international partners, will continue to seek out those individuals who contribute to the advancement of Russia’s malign activities and ensure they are brought to justice, regardless of where, or how, they attempt to hide.”

“This seizure of Suleiman Kerimov’s vessel, the Amadea, nearly 8,000 miles from Washington, D.C., symbolizes the reach of the Department of Justice as we continue to work with our global partners to disrupt the sense of impunity of those who have supported corruption and the suffering of so many,” said Director Andrew Adams of Task Force KleptoCapture. “This Task Force will continue to bring to bear every resource available in this unprecedented, multinational series of enforcement actions against the Russian regime and its enablers.”

“The U.S. Marshals Service will continue to contribute our expertise in support of Task Force efforts to take possession of seized assets of Russian oligarchs during these forfeiture operations,” said Director Ronald L. Davis of the U.S. Marshals Service. 

The seizure was coordinated through the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export controls, and economic countermeasures that the United States, along with its foreign allies and partners, has imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine. Announced by the Attorney General on March 2 and run out of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the task force will continue to leverage all of the department’s tools and authorities to combat efforts to evade or undermine the collective actions taken by the U.S. government in response to Russian military aggression.

Upon receipt of a mutual legal assistance request from the United States, Fijian authorities executed the request, obtaining a domestic seizure warrant from a Fijian court.

The Amadea, International Maritime Organization number 1012531, is believed to be worth approximately $300 million or more. The yacht is now in Lautoka, Fiji.

This matter is being investigated by the FBI’s New York Field Office with assistance from the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Canberra, Australia, the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji.

Trial Attorney Andrew D. Beaty of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section and Trial Attorney Joshua L. Sohn of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are handling the seizure. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Marshals Service provided significant assistance. The United States thanks the Fijian authorities for their cooperation in this matter.