Saturday, December 31, 2022

What Goes Up Must Come Down: Philadelphia Officials Warn New Year's Eve Partiers Not to Fire Guns In The Air

Some years ago, I attended my late brother’s New Year’s Eve house party. 

At the stroke of midnight, we and the other residents of my brother’s South Philly row house block came out on the street to welcome in the New Year. 

Along with kissing and hugging, the neighbors enjoyed the fireworks that were launched into the air. 

One neighbor, a 20-something young man, celebrated the New Year by pulling out a revolver and firing several rounds into the air. I grabbed his arm and wrist and pointed the gun downward. I told him to stop firing the gun in the air, as my young nieces and other children were on the street. 

I know a bit about guns, as I was military-trained on firearms, and I own a couple of handguns. I told the young man that the bullets he fired into the air may come back down and injure someone. 

The man, somewhat drunk, apologized, and put his gun away. 

Thankfully, no one was injured. 

This past 4th of July, two Philadelphia police officers were injured by what was believed to be falling bullets or bullet fragments, so Philadelphia city officials are cautioning partiers to not fire guns into the air on New Year’s Eve. 

It's a crime, they said.   

Remember, what goes up, must come down. 

Happy New Year. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

I'm Shocked, Shocked That Politicians Lie

In the classic 1942 film Casablanca, French Captain Renault, portrayed by Claude Rains, follows Nazi orders to shut down Rick’s. 

Rick, portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, confronts Renault.

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?

Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Then a croupier hands Renault a pile of money.

Croupier: Your winnings, sir.

Renault: Oh, thank you very much.

Much like Captain Renault, I’m shocked, shocked that a politician has lied to get elected to office.

But, as Douglas Murray at the New York Post notes, Congressman-elect George Santos takes the cake.   

Why do they do it? Who needs to lie like this? I am thinking, of course, of Representative elect George Santos. But also of the whole lot of them. Of politicians as a species. Why do they feel the need to make stuff up?

It must be admitted that Santos is emerging as the undisputed top of his class of fibsters.

To date he claims to have attended a prestigious Bronx prep school which has no record of him ever being there. He claims to have graduated from Baruch College, despite never having enrolled there. He claims to have worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs but never did. When confronted with the fact that he´d never worked for either company he blamed a “poor choice of words.”

I can see the point. I often claim to have worked for the Dalai Lama, UN Secretary General and the Pope as their joint global emissary to solve all world conflicts. Whenever anyone points out that I haven’t left my apartment much lately I too just blame a “poor choice of words.”

Still, it is the sheer weirdness of Santos’ claims which keep striking me. It’s not just career embellishments — it is lies about pretty major things. For instance, so far the Republican has claimed that he is both Jewish and Catholic. When confronted by The New York Post about this he replied “I never claimed to be Jewish. I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was Jew-ish.” It turns out that his family are from Brazil.

Then yesterday we learned that as recently as last year he was claiming that his mother died as a result of 9/11. Then he said she died of cancer in 2016.

What is it with this guy? Why does he feel the need to any of this? Does he think that people vote out of pity? Or because of which school or college someone went to? And what the hell does he think of New Yorkers if he thinks we deeply want representatives who worked for Goldman Sachs?

Of course, he´s not the only one who does this. Our very own President is a master of the career-embellishing lie. President Biden has been caught in a few lies of his own since taking office. 

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

George Santos lies, but why does Joe Biden get a pass for his? (

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Four Local 98 Employees In Philadelphia Plead Guilty To Illegal Use Of Union Assets

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia released the below information:

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Michael Neill, 56, Marita Crawford, 53, Niko Rodriguez, 31, and Brian Fiocca, 31, all of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and all employees of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (“Local 98”), entered pleas of guilty this week before United States District Court Judge Jeffrey Schmehl to federal charges arising from their personal use of the assets of Local 98 in ways that did not benefit the membership of Local 98 as a whole, including embezzlement of labor union assets, wire fraud, and theft from a union employee benefit plan.

All four were charged with former Local 98 Business Manager John Dougherty, who is set to stand trial with codefendant Brian Burrows, President of Local 98, on similar charges, in January 2023.

Michael Neill served as the Training Director of Local 98’s Apprentice Training Fund. He pleaded guilty to four counts of embezzlement of labor union assets, one count of theft from a union employee benefit plan, and one count of making and subscribing to a false federal income tax return. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 7, 2023.

Marita Crawford served as Local 98’s Political Director. She pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud, the object of which was to obtain money and property from Local 98 by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises. She is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4, 2023.

Niko Rodriguez was employed by Local 98’s Apprentice Training Fund and by Local 98. He pleaded guilty to six counts of embezzlement of labor union assets. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4, 2023.

Brian Fiocca was employed by Local 98 as an office employee. He pleaded guilty to six counts of embezzlement of labor union assets. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 6, 2023.

The Indictment returned in January 2019 alleges that from April 2010 through August 2016, defendants John Dougherty, Brian Burrows, Michael Neill, Marita Crawford, Niko Rodriguez, Brian Fiocca and others conspired and agreed to embezzle, steal, and convert to their use and the use of others, the funds, property, and other assets of Local 98 and of the Apprentice Training Fund, in violation of the IBEW constitution, the by-laws of Local 98, the interests of the members of Local 98, and federal law.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Labor Management Standards, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Pennsylvania State Police, with assistance from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Frank Costello, Chief of the Corruption & Civil Rights Unit; Bea Witzleben, Co-Chief of Trials; Jason Grenell; Anthony Carissimi; and Richard Barrett, Chief of the Office’s Criminal Division.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

A Look Back At The Beaton Marionette's 'The Nativity' And 'Twas The Night Before Christmas'

I had a conversation the other day with my granddaughter about old Christmas traditions and I told her that her grandparents and millions of others used to watch the Beaton Marionettes on TV every year as they performed The Nativety and Twas the Night Before Christmas. 

Marionettes pouncing from strings must seem very low-tech to a preteen and teenager today, but when we were children in the 1950's and 1960's we loved these shows.

The two programs were narrated by the late, great actor Alexander Scourby (seen in the above photo). Scourby also portrayed C. Clement Moore, the author of Twas the Night Before Christmas.

The TV programs brings back fond memories of Christmas as a child. My parents did not have a lot of money, but they always provided a grand Christmas holiday for our family.

You can watch the two short programs via the below links: 

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2022

Merry Christmas from Bond, James Bond

"Which lunatic asylum did they get you out of?"

I saw this amusing photo with the above caption on Facebook.

It made me laugh.

(The line about a lunatic asylum is what Sean Connery’s James Bond asked Robert Shaw’s mad killer Red Grant in From Russia With Love).

My children are grown and have their own homes, so we don’t have an Elf on the Shelf here.

But as I'm an Ian Fleming aficionado and a fan of the Bond films (especially the early ones from the 1960s, with the late, great Sean Connery as Bond), my daughter some years ago bought me the James Bond action figure from Dr. No that appears in the above photo.

The James Bond action figure is on one of my bookshelves in my book-lined basement office, along with my mementos from my Navy days and my travels.   

According to the maker of the elf, “The magical Scout Elves help Santa manage his nice list by taking note of a family’s Christmas adventures and reporting back to Santa at the North Pole nightly. Each morning, the Scout Elf returns to its family and perches in a new spot, waiting for someone to spot them. Children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their Scout Elf.       

In my view, the Elf on a Shelf is a most creepy holiday traditional.

It would take James Bond, who has a license to kill, to eliminate this evil elf. 

NORAD Ready To Track Santa’s Flight For 67th Year

The U.S. Air Force News Service offers a piece on NORAD tracking Santa again. 

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --  Every day of the year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command defends North America using an all-domain and globally integrated approach to track everything that flies in and around Canada and the United States. On Dec. 24 each year, NORAD adds a special mission: tracking Santa.  

Like many origin stories, NORAD’s mission to track Santa began by accident. In 1955, a young child trying to reach Santa dialed the misprinted phone number from a department store ad in the local newspaper. Instead of calling Santa, the child called the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  

Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the commander on duty that night who answered the child’s phone call, was quick to realize a mistake had been made and assured the child he was Santa. After more incoming calls, Shoup assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls and a tradition was born, that continued when NORAD was formed in 1958.  

Each year since, NORAD has dutifully reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families across the world. Because of the support, services and resources generously provided by volunteers, our government and corporate contributors, NORAD Tracks Santa has persevered for more than 65 years.   

In fact, what started because of a typo has flourished and is recognized as one of the Defense Department's largest community outreach programs.  

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa website receives several million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers typically answer more than 130,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children across the globe.  

In addition to the phone line and website, children and the young-at-heart can track Santa through mobile apps and social media platforms:  



Thursday, December 22, 2022

Three Great Old Christmas Movies To Watch And Enjoy This Holiday Season

Every holiday season I watch a lot of old, familiar Christmas movies on TV, from my DVD collection, and on the Internet. 

There are perennial favorites, such It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Story. 

I love these movies, but my three favorite Christmas films may not be on your list, or even on your radar. 

I love O. Henry’s short stories and I love the 1952 film, O. Henry’s Full House.    

The film offers five adaptations of O. Henry’s great short stories with Christmas themes, featuring five fine directors, fine screenwriters and a fine cast.  

The film presents some of my favorite short stories from one of my favorite writers.  

The O. Henry stories - The Clarion Call, The Gift of the Magi, The Ransom of Red ChiefThe Cop and the Anthem, and The Last Leaf - offer humor, drama, pathos and irony.   

I especially like the crime story The Clarion Call, with Dale Robinson and Richard Widmark (seen in the top photo).

You can watch the film, which features the late, great actor Charles Laughton and a young Marilyn Monroe (seen in the above photo), via the below link:

 O. Henry's Full House (1952) - YouTube

Although 1951’s A Christmas Carol is another perennial favorite, and actor Alastair Sim is nearly everyone’s favorite Scrooge, I love the film with George C. Scott as Scrooge. 

The 1984 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol offers a powerful performance by Scott, who is strong, willful and downright mean and nasty. 

If you have not seen this film, I suggest you watch it. 

You can watch the film via the below link:

 A Christmas Carol George C Scott 1984 - YouTube

One may not think of a James Bond film as traditional Holiday fare, but every Christmas season I watch On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The film, which was released in December of 1969, has a Christmas setting and takes place in the snow-covered Swiss Alps.

The film, despite not having the late, great Sean Connery as Bond, is one the best in the series in my view.  

Considering that the new Bond, George Lazenby (seen in the above photo), had to follow Connery in the role, and that he had not acted before, I believe he delivered a better than fair portrayal of Bond.  

He looked like Ian Fleming's Bond, and he was very good in the fight and action scenes.

The film was also graced with the late, great Diana Rigg (seen in the above photo) as Tracy, a strong, yet troubled woman with whom Bond has a serious, if ultimately tragic, love affair.

Although I would have preferred a European actor to portray Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Telly Savalas (seen in the above photo) was a commanding, brilliant and truly mad Blofeld. The supporting actors were also very good.

The director of this fine film was Peter Hunt, who edited the earlier Bond films. Hunt was faithful to Ian Fleming's novel, even going with the thriller's dark ending. Peter Hunt gave us a true James Bond thriller.

The film also offers a terrific soundtrack by John Barry. 

You can watch the film's trailer via the below link:

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) - Official Trailer - George Lazenby Bond Movie HD - YouTube

You can also watch scenes and listen to John Barry's great love song sung by the late, jazz great Louie Armstrong via the below link:

On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Louis Armstrong - John Barry - Maurice Binder [HD STEREO] - YouTube

Enjoy the films. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Social Security Administration: Helping You Avoid Scams This Holiday Season

Stephen McGraw, the Acting Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications at the Social Security Administration, offers some tips on how to avoid holiday scams:

Social Security-related scams continue to be widespread, especially during the holidays. Criminals pretending to be from Social Security and other federal government agencies are tricking victims into sending money or sharing personal information. The scam tactics and scripts may vary, but the ultimate goal is to pressure victims to send money using methods such as gift cards or wire transfers.

This holiday season, protect yourself from scams. Be skeptical and cautious of unexpected calls or messages. Criminals are using the names of federal government officials and sending pictures of documents, evidence, federal employee credentials, and law enforcement credentials and badges, to try to prove their legitimacy. They may change the picture or use a different name, agency, or badge number, always with the intent to scam people out of money or personal information.

Ignore suspicious calls, texts or social media messages, emails, and letters.

We will NEVER:

Send pictures of an employee’s official federal government identification.

Suspend your Social Security number.

Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.

Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.

Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.

Send “official” letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send automated emails and text messages if you have agreed to receive them from us and only in limited situations, including the following:

When you have subscribed to receive updates and notifications by email or text.

As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe money to us, you will receive a letter with payment options and appeal rights. We do not accept gift cards, wire transfers, internet or cryptocurrency, or cash by mail.

Please share this message with your family and friends — because scammers never take a holiday break.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Cop Who Busted Santa

As the Christmas season is here once again, I’d like to offer my short story, The Cop Who Busted Santa.

Some years back I wrote a short story called A Christmas Crime Story, which was about a mean, anti-Christmas cop who was later redeemed. You can read A Christmas Crime Story via the link at the bottom of the page. 

The below short story, which appeared originally in American Crime Magazine, is a prequel to A Christmas Crime Story.   

The Cop Who Busted Santa

By Paul Davis

I truly love the Christmas season. I love holiday lights, Christmas music, colorful church services, and gatherings of family and friends. I also love walking through shopping districts and watching people buying presents and celebrating the joyous holiday, despite the cold weather.

While walking along East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia this Christmas season, I came across John Snyder, a retired Philadelphia police officer. His large, pan-shaped head was now nearly bald, and his stocky frame held a few more pounds since I last saw him some years ago. He still displayed his gruff demeanor, but there was also a shy smile on his face. 

John Snyder was not known for his smile.

Back in the 1990s I had written several stories about Sergeant Snyder in my crime column in the local newspaper. Most of them were unflattering, but he never complained, and he still greeted me, albeit reluctantly, when I saw him at the 3rd police district in South Philly or at cop bars.

About that time Sergeant John Snyder became famous as “The Cop Who Busted Santa.” 

On Christmas Eve of that year, while patrolling the 3rd district in South Philadelphia, Snyder pulled over a driver who had performed what is known locally as “the South Philly Roll,” which is a deliberate failure to fully stop at a stop sign or traffic light. 

Walking up to the driver’s car window, Snyder was not amused by the driver, who was dressed as Santa Claus with a huge false white beard. He greeted Snyder with a hearty, but somewhat slurred, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Christmas.”

“You ran that stop sign back there,” Snyder said in his low, gruff voice that more than one cop called his “bark.” 

George Jankowski, the man dressed as Santa, laughed loudly and his huge belly, which was his own and not costume stuffing, shook in the front car seat. 

“Oh, really,” Jankowski replied. “Sorry about that officer, but I’m on my way to an orphanage, here in my modern-day sleigh, to deliver toys for the poor, little orphans.”

“It’s sergeant, not officer, and there’s no excuse for running a stop sign,” Snyder declared. “Have you been drinking? Get out of the car.”

Jankowski cursed and struggled to get out of the car. 

“I’ve had a few, yeah, you know, it’s Christmas Eve.”

Snyder grabbed Jankowski and twirled him around and placed the man’s white gloves on the patrol car. He kicked his legs apart.

As a good number of people were out on the street that night, coming in and out of stores, bars and restaurants, a crowd gathered quickly and watched Snyder manhandle and search the man dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

The crowd was aghast. One bystander full of holiday spirit – both faith-based and liquid – called out to Snyder, “Hey Officer Grinch! Leave Santa alone.”

Others began to complain as well, and several children began to cry. One man walked out into the street towards Snyder to reason with him. 

“Back off!” Snyder commanded. “Or I’ll place you under arrest too. I’ll arrest all of you people,” he barked to the crowd.

Snyder handcuffed Jankowski and squeezed the big man into the backseat of his patrol car. As Snyder drove off, he heard one bystander say sarcastically, "And a Merry, Merry Christmas to you too." 

If this event had happened these days, several people would have recorded the arrest on their cell phone and uploaded the video to the Internet. And the video would have gone viral, as they say, with millions of people viewing it.

As it were, several outraged people contacted the police and complained, and more than one witness contacted the press. The 6 o’clock TV news stations all ran the story with on-air interviews with the angry witnesses to the arrest. 

The daily newspapers followed up with the story on the front page and the story of the arrest of Santa on Christmas Eve appeared in newspapers and on TV and radio across the country on Christmas Day. The national press mocked Philadelphia and they all brought up an earlier story of Philadelphia sports fans who pelted Santa Claus with snowballs at a ball field. 

“So much for Philadelphia being the “City of Brotherly Love,” one national TV newscaster commented dryly. 

The TV 6 o’clock news reports on the arrests prompted a series of phone calls from the mayor, the police commissioner, a deputy police commissioner, a chief inspector, an inspector, and finally the 3rd district’s captain. 

The captain drove to the station from his home and released Jankowski, who was being held over for arraignment. The captain, along with the lieutenant, chewed out Snyder, but the sergeant held his ground and defended his actions. 

The captain reminded Snyder of his actions on the previous Christmas Eve. 

“You locked up a bunch of kids for just being merry, remember? And you locked up those newlywed tourists who only wanted you to take their picture,” the captain said. “What are you, a one-man Christmas joy-killer?”

Later that evening, Jankowski went on TV and told his story. He complained of police abuse and false arrest and said he was going to sue the city. He also said that while in police custody, he had to call his son and tell him to go and pick up the car, which had been towed on Snyder's orders, as the car had the presents for the orphaned children. 

Jankowski, dressed again as Santa, delivered the toys to the Catholic Orphanage on Christmas Day. He was accompanied by reporters and the story was carried widely across the nation as a positive story on Christmas.    

The day after Christmas Jack Ferrari, a 3rd district cop that I had gone out on a ride-along with and wrote about in my column, called and invited me to meet him at the Penrose, a South Philly diner.

He was on his lunch break with his partner in a booth and I slid in and joined them. 

Ferrari slipped me a piece of paper that had Jankowski’s name and phone number on it. The note also had Snyder’s phone number on it. I placed the note in my jacket pocket. 

Ferrari’s partner, an officer named Bill Hanson, said Snyder was a son of a bitch - but don't use my name, he added.  

“He’s a cheap and miserable bastard,” Hanson continued. “No wonder his wife kicked him out and even his kids won’t speak to him. And he wears boxing gloves at the bar.”


“He wears boxing gloves just so he can’t reach into his pocket and take out money to buy a guy a drink,” Hanson said. “OK, not really, but I’ve never seen him buy anyone a drink.”  

Ferrari noted, to be fair, that Snyder also never took a drink when other people were buying. He simply stood alone at the bar and nursed a beer or two.  

“Snyder is a tough sergeant, but when there is a shooting or altercation involving his officers, Snyder dives right in,” Ferrari said. “He also makes sure that higher-ups never mess with his guys. He took the heat for us many times,” Ferrari said.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Hanson agreed. 

I left the diner and called Jankowski. He was still full of rage, and he bent my ear over the phone for an hour. I also called Snyder to get his side, but he refused to talk about the incident.  

“No comment,” he barked over the phone.

I felt bad for Snyder, as he was one of those sad people who only felt sorrow and bitterness on Christmas. I hoped that he would someday discover true happiness, especially at Christmas. 

I published my “The Cop Who Busted Santa” column in the local paper later that week.

This incident was unfortunate, but it led to some positive actions. The Catholic orphanage received a lot of publicity and donations poured in. Jankowski sued the City of Philadelphia and received a substantial settlement, which he used to establish a Christmas charity fund.  

The incident also united a good number of people in their critical response to the well-publicized arrest of Santa.  

And, lo and behold, they also began to speak to each other and to their children of the true meaning of Christmas; joy, love, charity, and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. 

And yes, I got a column out of it.

© Paul Davis 2018. 

You can read A Christmas Crime Story via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: "A Christmas Crime Story" 

Monday, December 19, 2022

Twas A Crime Before Christmas: My Interview With Santa Claus

As Christmas approaches once again, I'd like to offer my short story, Twas a Crime Before Christmas., The story originally appeared in The Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2009.

Twas a Crime Before Christmas: My Interview with Santa Claus

 By Paul Davis

As a crime reporter and columnist, I was compelled to look into a report of a burglary of an unemployed construction worker on Christmas Eve in South Philadelphia.

The burglar or burglars broke into the home early on the morning of the 24th. They stole the family’s TV and other household goods. They also took a dozen or so wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree that were intended for the family’s two children.

I interviewed the victim, who was so devastated by the burglary that he could hardly speak. I also spoke to a detective who said he presently had no leads on the case, but he planned to keep working it. I also spoke to a local priest who told me that the church was collecting donations for the poor family.

Lastly, I spoke to a man of great wisdom and experience. The jolly old fella was kind enough to pause during his special night out to talk to me about crime.

I interviewed Santa Claus as he was packing up his sleigh and getting ready to head off on his magical trip, bringing toys and goodies to good children around the world.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard on his chin was white as snow. His eyes twinkled and his dimples were merry. His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. He looked like a candidate for a heart attack.

And he smoked. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth and the smoke encircled his head like a wreath (the Surgeon General would not approve). He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot (PETA would not approve) and his clothes were tarnished with ashes and soot (Mrs. Santa would not approve). With a lumpy sack over his shoulder, he looked like a homeless person.

I asked Santa Claus if the public’s fear of crime had changed how he did his job.

“The increased use of car and home burglar alarms makes my journey tougher, I must say,” Santa told me. “As you know, my miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer make such a clatter, they set off every car alarm on the block.”

Santa also said that home burglar alarms has made his surreptitious entry, via the fireplace, most difficult. When he slides down the chimney, he sets off alarms, which wakes the household and brings the police. 

Santa went on to say that the alarms ruin the surprise for the children, and he is often detained by the responding police officers, who demand identification and administer alcohol tests.

Fortunately, Santa looks like a right jolly old elf, so the police officers have to laugh, in spite of themselves. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head give the people who thought they were being robbed the knowledge that they had nothing to dread.

“I once had my sleigh and reindeer stolen while I was in a home setting up the toys, and I must admit that I paused to enjoy the milk and cookies that a child left me,” Santa said. “But with some kindly police officer’s help, I was able to recover the sleigh and reindeer rather quickly. You see my lead reindeer has a bright red nose and we were able to spot him from about three blocks away.”

Santa said his brush with crime made him understand why families were installing burglar alarms and why they were more concerned about a strange old fat man in red entering their home in the middle of the night. He told me that he was looking into some kind of security system for his sleigh as well.

I asked him about the burglary that occurred that morning in South Philly and he replied he was well aware of the sad incident.

“I plan to visit the house tonight on my rounds and with a little magic I’ll leave them some special gifts under their tree,” Santa explained. “I also did a little investigative work to find the crooks, as I have powers the police lack."

Santa said he discovered who the crooks were, and he tipped the police off. He also plans to leave the crooks lumps of coal in their stockings, which will be hung with care in the local jail.

“Don’t they know I’m watching?” Santa asked.” I know when they have been naughty or good. My surveillance techniques are finer than the FBI’s.”

“This should be a joyful time of year as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” Santa said. “This should be a time of love, charity and good cheer.”

The interview concluded, he sprang to his sleigh and to his team gave a whistle and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Note: With apologies to Clement C. Moore. I offer my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all. 

© 2009 Paul Davis 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Crime Under The Christmas Tree: My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column Roundup Of True Crime And Crime Fiction For Aficionados

The Washington Times ran my On Crime column today.

This holiday season, one might want to buy the crime aficionado on your shopping list one or more of this year’s fine true crime or crime fiction books.

 Here’s a roundup of some of the best crime books:


‘Hell and Back’ 

By Craig Johnson
Viking, $28, 352 pages


Craig Johnson returns with another novel about Sheriff Walt Longmire of Absaroka County, Wyoming. In this mystical crime thriller, the sheriff wakes up in a heavy snowstorm and doesn’t know his name or where he is. While Longmire’s friend, Henry Standing Bear, and his deputy, Vic Moretti, are looking for him, he is living in an altered reality with a shape-shifting villain.


‘Sonny: The Last of the Old-Time Mafia Bosses, John “Sonny” Franzese’ 

By S.J. Peddie
Citadel, $27, 288 pages


“Sonny” is a fascinating look at a real old-time gangster. Journalist S.J. Peddie conducted numerous interviews with Sonny Franzese, the former underboss of the Colombo crime family and a notorious reputed killer, prior to his death at age 103. Franzese, who spent more than half of his life in prison and was never an informant, gave his only interviews to the author. While loyal to Cosa Nostra, Franzese lamented the damage to he did to his natural family.  

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

A roundup of true crime and crime fiction for aficionados - Washington Times

Underboss of Philadelphia Cosa Nostra Crime Family Sentenced To Five Years After Pleading Guilty To Leading Racketeering, Loan-Sharking And Extortion Conspiracies

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia announced yesterday that Steven Mazzone, the reputed underboss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra organized crime family, was sentenced to five years in federal prison.

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Steven Mazzone, 59, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised release by United States District Judge R. Barclay Surrick, for his role in several conspiracies to commit racketeering, making extortionate extensions of credit, and conducting an illegal gambling business, all while serving as the underboss of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra (“LCN”), also known as the Philadelphia “mafia” or “the mob.”

In June 2022, Mazzone pled guilty to five counts in a Superseding Indictment, thereby admitting his guilt as a leader of the Philadelphia mafia who directed a vast network of criminal activity that spanned Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey. His conduct involved conspiracies to commit crimes involving extortion, illegal gambling, drug dealing, and loansharking. As the underboss, the defendant set rules for LCN members and associates and collected profits from illegal activity that was siphoned upward through the LCN command structure to ensure the enterprise continued to exist. Mazzone also organized the composition of smaller groups of members and associates, or “crews,” which reported to management, or “capos,” who in turn reported to Mazzone.

The investigation into the organization, conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Philadelphia Police Department, utilized wiretap interceptions of cellular phones used by LCN members and associates to conduct illegal sports betting and loansharking in the Philadelphia area. The wiretap evidence established that Mazzone financed high-interest loans to customers of the sportsbook who were unable to pay their debts, resulting in the collection of interest rates on loans of as much as 264%. Members of the LCN made several threats of violence to debtors who did not pay, including one threat to make a victim “disappear” for nonpayment on a loan.

The defendant’s command and control over the LCN was made apparent in a recorded conversation at a “making ceremony” to induct new members into the mob in South Philadelphia in 2015, at which time an LCN member announced that “We’re all in the family now,” to which Mazzone added, “Nobody break this chain . . . I know you were explained the rules already.”  Mazzone also discussed his co-conspirators’ efforts to extort bookmakers and loan sharks in and around Atlantic City, New Jersey, while he coached his underlings in their methods of intimidation and collection of gambling proceeds. At that same meeting, the defendant declared, “We got to get a hold back on Atlantic City, buddy! That’s what I want. That’s what I want. We have to get that back. I mean we have a few guys out there, you know, right now. You’re going to have a couple more guys out there with you. . . . I want you, I want you to do something.”

This case represents Mazzone’s second federal conviction for criminal activity in connection with the LCN. He had previously committed similar offenses in Philadelphia over 20 years ago as a member of the organization. In 2000, when he was in his early 30s, Mazzone was convicted in this District for conspiracy to commit racketeering and illegal sports bookmaking. In that case, Mazzone was captured on intercepted wiretap conversations discussing the extortion. One of the victims was shot and seriously injured during the course of the extortion. Mazzone was ultimately sentenced to nine years in prison for that conviction.

“Even though the Philadelphia mob has been weakened over the decades due in large part to persistent law enforcement efforts, the LCN and its criminal activities are still very much a problem and are damaging the communities in which it operates,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting anyone who is committing serious federal crimes like these, and we will not rest until the mob is nothing but a memory that lives on in movies.”

“The Department of Justice has long been committed to dismantling LCN across the country and reducing its reach and influence,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “In this case, the defendant used his role as the underboss of the Philadelphia organized crime family to try to revive its fortunes, extorting victims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. As this prosecution demonstrates, the department remains steadfast in its commitment to eradicating organized crime from our communities.”

“Steven Mazzone has been here before, previously convicted in an LCN case and sentenced to federal prison,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “When he got out, he went right back to the same streets and same old rackets — overseeing loansharking, illegal gambling, and extortion. Mazzone and co. need to accept that the FBI is just as committed to shutting down organized crime here as ‘the family’ has been to sustaining it.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan Ortiz and Justin Ashenfelter, and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Alexander Gottfried, Organized Crime and Gang Section.