Saturday, April 30, 2022

How And Why Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano Turned On John Gotti

Brad Hamilton at the New York Post offer a piece on former federal prosecutor John Gleeson’s new book on John Gotti.

It was the biggest gamble of John Gleeson’s life.

In 1991, the federal prosecutor, gearing up for his second murder trial of John Gotti in four years, had gotten word that the Gambino crime boss’s underling and co-defendant, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, wanted to meet — without his lawyer.

The only logical reason was that Gravano was ready to flip and testify against the “Dapper Don.” That, however, would be an epic betrayal of the Mafia’s code of silence and the most devastating blow ever delivered to organized crime, given that no one even close to Gravano’s level of power had ever cut a deal with prosecutors before. 

But deputy US Attorney Gleeson, the top mob buster in Brooklyn, was deeply concerned that if Gotti got wind of a meeting with his hitman underboss, Gravano would be targeted for death.

So the prosecutor arranged a secret pow-wow to see what Gravano had to say. They met privately in a jury room at the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn. After shaking hands, Gravano got right to the point:

“I want to jump from our government to your government,” he said.

“Why?” Gleeson asked.

“I think if we manage to beat the case, John will try to kill me when we hit the street,” Gravano replied. “So if we do win, I’d have to kill him or be killed by him. If I kill him, I’ll have to kill his brothers Gene and Pete. And his kid, probably some others too.

“It would get complicated.”

Once closely-connected mobsters, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano (left) turned on Gambino crime family chief John Gotti (right) to help prosecutors finally put the organized-crime boss behind bars.

This is just one of the shocking revelations in Gleeson’s new book, “The Gotti Wars: Taking Down America’s Most Notorious Mobster.” Out Tuesday, it focuses on the five years, from 1987 to 1992, when the prosecutor twice indicted the Gambino boss in a relentless and often frustrating effort to put him behind bars.

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

Book reveals how Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano turned on John Gotti (

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Four Members And Two Associates Of The Genovese Organized Crime Family Charged With Racketeering

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

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Letitia James, New York State Attorney General, and Eric Gonzalez, Brooklyn District Attorney, announced today the unsealing of a Superseding Indictment charging four members and two associates of the Genovese Organized Crime Family with racketeering. 

The Superseding Indictment charges NICHOLAS CALISI and RALPH BALSAMO, alleged Captains in the Family, MICHAEL MESSINA and JOHN CAMPANELLA, alleged Soldiers in the Family, and MICHAEL POLI and THOMAS POLI, alleged associates of the Family, with racketeering conspiracy involving illegal gambling and extortion.

MESSINA was previously arrested and presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang on April 12, 2022.  BALSAMO, CAMPANELLA, MICHAEL POLI, and THOMAS POLI were arrested today and will be presented in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger this afternoon.  CALISI was arrested in Boca Raton, Florida and presented before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of Florida.  The case is assigned to United States District Judge John G. Koeltl.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:  “From extortion to illegal gambling, the Mafia continues to find ways to prey on others to fill its coffers.  Our office and our law enforcement partners remain committed to putting organized crime out of business.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James said:  “For years, members of the Genovese crime family have terrorized New York communities with violence and illegal businesses. These individuals allegedly made their money through illegal gambling and loan sharking — saddling victims with incredible debt that they cannot repay. Today’s indictment makes clear that we will continue to root out organized crime wherever it exists, and I thank U.S. Attorney Damian Williams and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez for their partnership in taking down these criminal enterprises.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said:  “Organized crime, and the illegal conduct that flows from its activities, remain a problem in Brooklyn and beyond. My Office is committed to continue working together with our law enforcement partners to investigate these criminal organizations, as we’ve done in this case. I thank the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the New York State Office of the Attorney General for their partnership and cooperation.”

According to the allegations in the Superseding Indictment, which was unsealed today[1]:

The Genovese Organized Crime Family is part of a nationwide criminal organization known by various names, including La Cosa Nostra (“LCN”) and the “Mafia,” which operates through entities known as “Families.” 

Like other LCN Families, the Genovese Organized Crime Family operates through groups of individuals known as “crews”.  Each “crew” has as its leader a person known as a “Captain” and consists of “made” members, known as “Soldiers.”  Soldiers are aided in their criminal endeavors by other trusted individuals, known as “associates,” who sometimes are referred to as “connected” or identified as “with” a Soldier or other member of the Family.  Associates participate in the various activities of the crew and its members.  In order for an associate to become a made member of the Family, the associate typically needs to demonstrate the ability to generate income for the Family, and/or that the associate is capable of committing acts of violence.

A Captain is responsible for supervising the criminal activities of his crew, resolving disputes between and among members of the Family, resolving disputes between members of the Family and members of other Families and other criminal organizations, and providing Soldiers and associates with support and protection.  In return, the Captain typically receives a share of the illegal earnings of each of his crew’s Soldiers and associates.

At times relevant to the charges in the Superseding Indictment, NICHOLAS CALISI and RALPH BALSAMO were Captains in the Genovese Family, MICHAEL MESSINA and JOHN CAMPANELLA were Soldiers in the Genovese Family, and MICHAEL POLI and THOMAS POLI were associates of the Genovese Family.

Members of the Genovese Family, including CALISI, BALSAMO, MESSINA, CAMPANELLA, MICHAEL POLLI, and THOMAS POLLI, engaged in or agreed that others would engage in certain crimes, including making extortionate extensions of credit, financing extortionate extensions of credit, collecting extensions of credit by extortion, extortion, operating illegal gambling businesses, and transmission of gambling information.

*          *          *

A chart containing the ages, residency information, and charges against the defendants, as well as the maximum penalties they face is attached.  The maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Office of the New York Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its assistance in this investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Celia V. Cohen, Rushmi Bhaskaran, and Justin Rodriguez, as well as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamela Murray, are in charge of the prosecution.  The case is being handled by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit.

The charges contained in the Superseding Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Philadelphia Man Sentenced To Nearly 22 Years For Kidnapping And Robbing United States Postal Workers

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

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that James Chandler, 55, of Philadelphia, PA was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison, and five supervised release by United States District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick for two counts of robbery of a postal worker and one count of kidnapping.

In September 2021, the defendant pleaded guilty to the charges in connection with two incidents that occurred on January 11 and February 4, 2021, during which Chandler robbed postal workers using a replica handgun, forcing them into their postal trucks and stealing packages from inside. During the incident in February, Chandler also forced the postal worker to drive him for several blocks in her postal truck before he fled on foot.

“Targeting and violently assaulting employees of the United States Postal Service is a serious federal crime,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Mail carriers provide an essential service to nearly every citizen and business, oftentimes going above and beyond to execute their duties in challenging circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Chandler terrorized two postal workers at gunpoint, and he will now spend decades behind bars for his actions.”

“Early in 2021, James Chandler terrorized two mail carriers with the United States Postal Service by pointing a gun their faces and robbing them of parcels they were delivering.  With some old fashioned police work, Postal Inspectors and Philadelphia Police detectives quickly identified and arrested Mr. Chandler,” said Damon Wood, Inspector in Charge of the Philadelphia Division of the Postal Inspection Service’s Philadelphia Division. “While Inspectors are busy investigating narcotic trafficking, mail fraud schemes, and the theft of mail, few other crimes will mobilize Inspectors and the resources of the Inspection Service more so than violence committed against its employees or its customers.  I want to thank the officers and detectives of the Philadelphia Police Department and the prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office for working alongside us in holding Mr. Chandler responsible.” 

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.   The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin Oshana.

Monday, April 25, 2022

FBI Director Says Violence Directed At Police Officers Unlike Anything He's Seen Before: 73 Police Officers Murdered In 2021

Fox News reports on the FBI director's 's comments regarding the war on cops.

FBI Director Christpher Wray addressed the skyrocketing rate of murders against police officers Sunday, saying the surge is far outpacing general violent crime.

Wray made the comments during a "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday, saying murders of police officers rose 59% in 2021. The total murder rate rose 29% last year, and the U.S. lost 73 police officers to such attacks in 2021.

"Violence against law enforcement in this country is one of the biggest phenomena that I think doesn't get enough attention," Wray said, adding that officers are being murdered at a rate of nearly "one every five days." 

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

FBI director says violence directed at police officers unlike anything he's seen before | Fox News

A Little Humor: Rodney Dangerfield Was Quick On His Feet

Someone on Facebook told a funny story about one of my favorite comedians, Rodney Dangerfield.

Some years ago, when the late Rodney Dangerfield was doing his act at Dangerfield's, his New York City nightclub, he saw an entire table of people get up and start to walk out in the middle of his act. 

Ever quick on his feet, Dangerfield commented on the group walkout as they made a scene parading through the audience on the way out the door of the club. 

"Oh, look. I’m getting a standing ovation," Dangerfield said into his mic. "Only it’s moving." 

He was a funny guy.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Friday, April 22, 2022

Speaking To Crime Novelist Lisa Scottoline

Yesterday, I interviewed Lisa Scottoline, the best-selling crime novelist and the author of What Happened to the Bennetts. 

What Happened to the Bennetts is a well-written, fast-paced and suspenseful crime thriller.  

My interview with her will appear in my On Crime column in the Washington Times. I’ll post the column here when it comes out in a week or two. 

Lisa Scottoline is just as intelligent, interesting and witty as her crime novels. 

Although I knew she had deep South Philly roots, I discovered that in our early lives, we lived in the same Italian American neighborhood in South Philadelphia. Although I’m a few years older, she lived on Daly Street near 9th and Wolf, just around the corner from Tree Street, where I lived. 

She told me that her Aunt Rachel owned and operated Ray’s, the luncheonette with pinball machines at 9th and Wolf where I hung out as a kid. 

Small world. 

You can visit Lisa Scottoline’s website via the below link:

Lisa Scottoline – #1 Bestselling Author

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

FBI Director Christopher Wray Announces Actions To Disrupt And Prosecute Russian Criminal Activity

FBI Director Christopher Wray delivered the following remarks during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., with partner agency officials announcing actions to prosecute criminal Russian activity. (Remarks as delivered):

I’m pleased to be here today to help announce this series of actions countering threats originating from Russia.

I want to focus for a few minutes on the FBI’s role in one of the actions the Attorney General mentioned, and what it says about the FBI’s unique cyber capabilities and what we can accomplish together with the private sector.

Today, we’re announcing a sophisticated, court-authorized operation disrupting a botnet of thousands of devices controlled by the Russian government—before it could do any harm.

We removed malware from devices used by thousands of mostly small businesses for network security all over the world. And then we shut the door the Russians had used to get into them.

Yesterday’s Darknet takedown struck a blow against Russian criminals and the ecosystem of cryptocurrency tumblers, money launders, malware purveyors, and other supporting them. The botnet disruption we’re announcing today strikes a blow against Russian intelligence, the Russian government.

The bot network we disrupted was built by the GRU—the Russian government’s military intelligence agency. And in particular it was the unit within GRU known to security researchers as Sandworm Team.

This GRU team, Sandworm, had implanted a specific type of malware known as Cyclops Blink on thousands of WatchGuard Technologies’ Firebox devices—these are security appliances, mainly firewalls, that are typically deployed in home office environments and in small to mid-size businesses.

Sandworm strung them together to use their computing power in a way that would obfuscate who was really running the network and let them then launch malware or to orchestrate distributed denial of service attacks like the GRU has already used to attack Ukraine. I should note here, that the GRU’s Sandworm team has a long history of outrageous, destructive attacks: The disruption of the Ukrainian electric grid in 2015, attacks against the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics in 2018, a series of disruptive attacks against the nation of Georgia in 2019, and, in 2017, the NotPetya attack that devastated Ukraine but also ended up hitting systems here in the U.S., throughout Europe, and elsewhere, causing more than 10 billion dollars in damages­—one of the most damaging cyberattacks in the history of cyberattacks.

With the court-authorized operations we’re announcing today, we’ve disrupted this botnet before it could be used. We were largely able to do that because we had close cooperation with WatchGuard.

We’ve worked closely with WatchGuard to analyze the malware and develop detection tools and remediation techniques over the past several weeks. And our operation removed Russia’s ability to control these Firebox devices on the botnet network, and then copied and removed malware from the infected devices. Now I should caution that as we move forward, any Firebox devices that acted as bots may still remain vulnerable in the future until mitigated by their owners, so those owners should still go ahead and adopt WatchGuard’s recommended detection and remediation steps as soon as possible.

We’re continuing to conduct a thorough and methodical investigation, but as we’ve shown, we are not going to wait for our investigations to end to act. We are going to act as soon as we can, with whatever partners are best situated to help, to protect the public.

This announcement today shows the value of the FBI’s technical expertise and unique authorities—both as a law enforcement agency and an intelligence service. And that unique combination, both of which were essential to the success of this operation. 

It also shows what we can accomplish with our partners to help companies—like the thousands of mostly small business affected by this botnet—hit by threats like these posed by the Russian government.

Our partnership with the private sector was key here. WatchGuard enthusiastically cooperated with the FBI to figure out the source of the infection and to counter it. That kind of cooperation makes successes like the one we’re announcing today possible, and it will continue to be important going forward.

The Russian government has shown it has no qualms about conducting this kind of criminal activity, and they continue to pose an imminent threat. And this global botnet disruption, in conjunction with the other actions discussed today, reflect an aggressive effort by the FBI and our partners to go on offense against Russian cyber threats, wherever they appear.

I’d also like to commend our partners at the DEA, IRS, and our foreign partners on the Hydra Darknet takedown and all of the men and women of the FBI involved with both of those operations, as well as the indictments and property seizures involving Russian oligarchs this week.

I should emphasize that we will continue to rely on companies to work with us the way WatchGuard has so that we can protect our nation’s cybersecurity together. For businesses, I would encourage you to have a cybersecurity plan and to include contacting your local FBI field office as an important part of that plan. And if you suspect a cyber intrusion, please contact your local FBI field office immediately—the more quickly we get involved, the more we can do to protect you. We are laser focused on disrupting the threat, on preventing harm from dangerous adversaries. Sometimes that means making arrests, and other times—like both yesterday and today—that means taking adversaries’ capabilities off the field.

No agency or business can do this alone. It takes everyone's cooperation. And the FBI will be there to work with you on cyber threats from Russia or anywhere else.

Finally, I would like to thank and congratulate our FBI teams in a wide number of field offices here in the U.S. and our legal attaches overseas for their work that has paid off this week—with seizing sanctioned assets here and in Spain, with the indictments we’re announcing today, and with the disruption of both criminal and hostile intelligence activities that we’re here to discuss this morning.

Thank you. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Watching 'Jesus Of Nazareth'

My wife and I watched part one of Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth tonight.   

The brilliant 1977 TV series, co-written by Zeffirelli, Suso Cecchi d' Amico and novelist Anthony Burgess, starred Robert Powell as Jesus. The series also has a fine supporting cast with some of the world's best actors. 

We'll probably watch the rest of the series tomorrow after a family dinner.

We've seen the series before, but it is worth watching again after several years.     

Friday, April 15, 2022

My Washington Times On Crime Column On The Best Mystery Stories Of The Year 2021

The Washington Times published my On Crime Column on The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021. 

Mystery and crime short stories are popular with readers and Otto Penzler (seen in the below photo), the president and CEO of and the owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, offers another fine anthology of crime and mystery short stories.


“The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021,” guest-edited by Lee Child, the author of the Jack Reacher thriller series, offers short stories from some of our best writers, such as James Lee Burke, Stephen King and Joyce Carrol Oates.


“Long ago, I came to agree with the brilliant John Dickson Carr, who wisely averred that the natural form of the traditional mystery is not the novel but the short story,” Otto Penzler noted in the introduction to the book. “It is not uncommon for a detective story to revolve around a single significant clue – which can be discovered, divulged, and its importance explained in a few pages. Everything else is embellishment, and novels have more of this than short stories.”


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


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Federal Officials Unveil Two Indictments Charging 14 People With Illegally Trafficking 400 Firearms Into Philadelphia

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

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Philadelphia Field Division Special Agent in charge Matt Varisco announced federal charges in two separate interstate firearms trafficking cases at a press conference held at Philadelphia ATF Headquarters today. Both cases involve individuals illegally trafficking firearms from states in the southern United States into Philadelphia, a large northeastern city, a fact pattern which is known as the ‘iron pipeline.’ Taken together, both trafficking conspiracies are alleged to be responsible for illegally putting approximately 400 firearms on the streets.

In the first case, captioned United States v. Norman, et al, the following 11 defendants have been charged by Indictment with conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to make a false statement to a federally licensed firearms dealer:

  • Fredrick Norman, 25, of Atlanta, GA;
  • Brianna Walker a/k/a “Mars, 23, of Atlanta, GA;
  • Charles O’Bannon a/k/a “Chizzy,” 24, of Villa Rica, GA;
  • Stephen Norman, 23, of Villa Rica, GA;
  • Devin Church a/k/a “Lant,” 24, of Villa Rica, GA;
  • Kenneth Burgos a/k/a “Peppito,” 23, of Philadelphia, PA;
  • Edwin Burgos a/k/a “Rock,” 29, of Philadelphia, PA;
  • Roger Millington, 25, of Philadelphia, PA;
  • Ernest Payton, 30, of Philadelphia, PA;
  • Roselmy Rodriguez, 22, of Philadelphia, PA; and
  • Brianna Reed, 21, of Shippensburg, PA.

Additionally, defendants Edwin Burgos and Kenneth Burgos were each charged with dealing firearms without a license.

In the second case, captioned United States v. Ware, et al, the following three people have been charged by Indictment with conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to make a false statement to a federally licensed firearms dealer:

  • Muhammad Ware a/k/a “Moo,” 26, of Myrtle Beach, SC;
  • Haneef Vaughn a/k/a “Neef,” 25, of Philadelphia, PA; and
  • Jabreel Vaughn a/k/a “Breely,” 20, of Elkins Park, PA.

Additionally, defendant Muhammad Ware is charged with dealing firearms without a license.

United States v. Norman, et al:

Beginning in October 2020, ATF Special Agents identified multiple firearms which were recovered in the Philadelphia area as having been originally purchased in Georgia. The short time frame between the firearms’ purchase in Georgia and subsequent recovery in Philadelphia (known as a short “time to crime” period) indicated that the weapons may have been trafficked into the city.

According to the Indictment, subsequent investigation showed that over the course of six months, the conspiracy led by defendant Norman allegedly purchased nearly 300 firearms from dealers in and around Atlanta, and transported the firearms to Philadelphia for distribution and sale on the black market in exchange for approximately $116,000.

United States v. Ware, et al:

Beginning in March 2020, ATF Special Agents identified multiple firearms which were recovered in Philadelphia as having been originally purchased in South Carolina. Agents subsequently learned about a number of additional firearms recovered in Philadelphia with short “time to crime” periods that indicated they may have been trafficked into the city, just as in Norman, et al.

According to the Indictment, the recovered firearms were concentrated in a particular area of Philadelphia and were originally purchased near Myrtle Beach, SC. Subsequent investigation showed that defendant Ware had allegedly purchased several of the recovered firearms, and conspired and communicated with defendants Haneef Vaughn and Jabreel Vaughn, and others about the purchase, transportation and sale on the black market of over 100 illegal firearms.

“When I announced the All Hands On Deck initiative in April 2021, I vowed that our Office would do all we could to stop the violence ravaging our city and support the Philadelphia Police Department in its work,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Earlier this year, the Justice Department announced strategies to fight violent crime, including cracking down on firearms trafficking and the ‘iron pipeline’ – the illegal flow of guns sold in mostly southern states, transported up the East Coast, and found at crime scenes in northeastern cities like ours. The two indictments announced today, charging fourteen people with iron pipeline firearms trafficking conspiracies, show that we are aggressively focused on this work.”

“Preventing the illegal use and trafficking of firearms is a central focus of ATF's strategy to combat violent crime and protect our communities,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “Illegally purchased firearms often end up in the hands of violent offenders and affect communities near and far.  Ensuring firearms traffickers are aggressively investigated and swiftly brought to justice will remain a top priority for our firearms trafficking task force. And this collaborative effort between all of our law enforcement counterparts is a prime example of such.”

In Norman, et al: If convicted of all charges, Edwin Burgos and Kenneth Burgos face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. All other defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.

In Ware, et al: If convicted of all charges, defendant Ware faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Defendants Haneef Vaughn and Jabreel Vaughn each face a statutory maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.

These cases are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

The Norman, et al case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Harrisburg Field Offices, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Marshals, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Priya T. De Souza.

The Ware, et al case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Miller and Special Assistant United States Attorney Martin Howley.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

FBI, State Department Announce $5 Million Reward For Fugitive Semion Mogilevich

 The FBI released the below information:

The FBI, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) Rewards Program, announced today a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Semion Mogilevich, wanted for his alleged participation in a scheme that defrauded thousands of investors out of more than $150 million.

Mogilevich was federally indicted in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2002 and 2003. The charges against him include racketeering, securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering.

The indictments allege that between 1993 and 1998, Mogilevich headed and controlled the Mogilevich Enterprise, an association which consisted of numerous individuals and a network of companies in more than 20 different countries that orchestrated a sophisticated scheme to defraud investors in stock. The scheme was allegedly funded and authorized by Mogilevich. This complex network of corporations was set up to create the illusion of a profitable international business.

Semion Mogilevich is described as a white male, 5’6” to 5’7”, 290 pounds, balding, with gray hair and green eyes. He was born on June 30, 1946, in Kyiv, Ukraine, but also uses July 5, 1946, as an alias date of birth. Mogilevich has Russian, Ukrainian, and Israeli passports. His current residence is believed to be in Moscow, Russia.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Gang Section (OCGS) of the Department’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

Individuals with information on Mogilevich that could be helpful to investigators are asked to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI, via WhatsApp (neither a government-operated nor government-controlled platform) at 215-839-6844, or online at All identities are kept strictly confidential.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Tokyo Vice: HBO Max's Series About An American Reporter On The Police Beat In Japan

It’s a long way from Miami to Tokyo, but Michael Mann, the creator of Miami Vice, has directed the first of eight episodes of Tokyo Vice, which is airing on HBO Max. 

Tokyo Vice, based on Jake Adlestein’s true crime book, Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, is an interesting journalistic thriller about an American working on Japan’s largest newspaper in Japan. The young reporter covers crime for the newspaper and encounters Japanese yakuza gangsters and Japanese cops.   

Tokyo Vice is laboriously slow at times, but rich in exotic atmosphere and introduces the viewer to some unique characters, such as Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort), a nice Jewish boy from Missouri who travels to Japan at 19 to attend college and later becomes the only American to work on a major Japanese newspaper. Other interesting characters in the series are a Japanese cop (the great actor Ken Watanabe) who mentors Adelstein, and a young yakuza gangster (Sho Kasamatsu). 

Whether you’ve visited Japan, as I have, or not, most viewers will be fascinated with Tokyo Vice, Japanese culture and Japanese crime. 

I also recommend that viewers of the series go on to read Jake Adelstein's book.

I covered the book in my Crime Beat column in 2010. 

You can read my column below: 

Jake Adlestein, an American reporter working the police beat for a Japanese newspaper, begins his true crime story with a meeting he took with two members of the yakuza, Japan’s organized crime group.

“Either erase the story, or we will erase you. And maybe your family. But we’ll do them first, so you learn your lesson before you die,” one of the yakuza members said to Adelstein.

Adelstein writes that this seemed like a straightforward proposition.

“Walk away from the story and walk away from your job, and it’ll be like it never happened. Write the article, and there is nowhere in this country that we will not hunt you down. Understand?”

Adelstein understood. In Tokyo Vice, Adelstein notes that it is never a smart idea to get on the wrong side of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest organized crime group. With about forty thousand members, Adelstein writes that it’s a lot of people to piss off.

The yakuza, Adelstein explains, are the Japanese mafia and one can call themselves yakuza, but many of them like to call themselves gokudo, meaning literally “the ultimate path.”

“The Yamaguchi-gumi is the top of the gokudo-heap,” Adelstein tells us. “And among the many subgroups that make up the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Goto-gumi, with more than nine hundred members, is the nastiest. They slash the faces of film directors, they throw people from hotel balconies, they drive bulldozers into people’s houses. Stuff like that.”

Although the history of the yakuza is murky, Adelstein explains that there are two major types:

“There are the tekiya, who are essentially street merchants and small-time con artists, and bukuto, originally gamblers but now including loan sharks, protection money collectors, pimps, and corporate raiders. Another large faction is made up of dowa, the former untouchable caste of Japan that handled butchering animals, making leather goods, and doing other “unclean” jobs.”

Adelstein writes that the Japanese National Police Agency estimates that there are 86,000 gangsters in the country’s crime syndicates, making the yakuza much larger than the Cosa Nostra or any other crime group in America.

Adelstein writes that the yakuza are organized as a neo-family, with each organization having a pyramid structure. The modern-day yakuza have moved into securities trading, and they have infected hundreds of Japan’s listed companies.

“Goldman Sachs with guns,” is how Adelstein describes them.

Although the Japanese were my father’s brutal enemy in World War II, he was forgiving, and he maintained a lifelong interest in all things Japanese. Like my father, I’ve long been interested in Japan.

I visited Sasebo and Nagasaki many years ago when I was in the Navy, and I have fond memories of my time in Japan. Although I am hardly an expert on all things Japanese, I’ve long been interested in Japanese history, literature, films and music and my personal library has many books on Japan. And over the years, I’ve talked to a good number of Japanese men and women who have visited here. 

And as a student of crime and a crime reporter and columnist, I’ve long been interested in the yakuzaTokyo Vice is a good addition to my library.

Tokyo Vice reads like a crime thriller, with Adelstein narrating the tale in a noir-style voice. The book also contains a good bit of self-deprecating humor. He is very open about his personal life, although parts of which I could have done without knowing about.

Adelstein tells an interesting story about a nice Jewish boy from Missouri who travels to Japan to study Buddhism and the martial arts and becomes the only American to write for the Yomiuri Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper.

Adelstein’s father was a county coroner, so he was always interested in crime and what he calls the dark side of the human condition. This interest led to his becoming a reporter covering Japan’s world of crime.

Adelstein covered many stories about murder, prostitution, the sex slave trade, drugs, and assorted crimes. He befriended a Japanese police officer who guided him through Japan’s complicated culture and the ways of the yakuza.

I found his stories about the Japanese cops, who lack the authority American cops have in fighting organized crime, to be the most interesting part of the book. His mentoring cop friend accompanied him to his meeting with the yakuza who threatened his life.

The story that led to his being threatened was a case concerning a yakuza boss named Tadamasa Goto. In Tokyo Vice we learn that this boss informed on his own organization to the FBI in order to receive a liver transplant in America, jumping ahead of American citizens on the waiting list.

(So much for Japan’s universal health care. Look at the lengths a powerful crime boss went to come to America for our health care system).

Adelstein wisely did not publish the story in the Japanese press, but he left Japan and published Tokyo Vice in America.

Tokyo Vice is a fascinating book and I recommend it if you’re interested in Japan, Japanese organized crime, and a very good crime story.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Chinese National Sentenced For Economic Espionage Conspiracy

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

A Chinese national formerly residing in Chesterfield, Missouri, was today sentenced to 29 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $150,000 fine for conspiring to commit economic espionage.

Xiang Haitao, 44, pleaded guilty to the charge in January 2022.  According to court documents, Xiang conspired to steal a trade secret from The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto, an internationally based company doing business in St. Louis, Missouri, for the purpose of benefitting a foreign government, namely the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“Xiang conspired to steal an important trade secret to gain an unfair advantage for himself and the PRC,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The victim companies invested significant time and resources to develop this intellectual property.  Economic espionage is a serious offense that can threaten U.S. companies’ competitive advantage, and the National Security Division is committed to holding accountable anyone who steals trade secrets to benefit a foreign government.”

“The defendant took advantage of living and working in the United States to steal a valuable trade secret for the benefit of PRC entities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This type of theft threatens employers large and small in every state, and it imperils our economic competitiveness as a nation. Individuals entrusted with valuable trade secrets should be on notice that if they abuse that trust – especially for the benefit of foreign nations – we will hold them accountable.”

“Those who conspire to steal technology from U.S. businesses and transfer it to China cause tremendous economic damage to our country," said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. "The government of China does not hesitate to go after the ingenuity that drives our economy. Stealing our highly prized technology can lead to the loss of good-paying jobs here in the United States, affecting families, and sometimes entire communities. Our economic security is essential to our national security.  That’s why at the FBI protecting our nation’s innovation is both a law enforcement and a top national security priority.”

“This is the first economic espionage conviction ever in the history of the Eastern District of Missouri,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Akil Davis of FBI’s St. Louis Field Office. There are less than two dozen such convictions nationwide. Economic espionage convictions are rare because the elements required to prove state-sponsored theft is extremely difficult,” “Today’s sentencing is a culmination of more than five years of tenacity and dedication by our agents and federal prosecutors. I commend their success in protecting the victim company and ultimately our U.S. economy.”

According to court documents, Xiang was employed by Monsanto and its subsidiary, The Climate Corporation, from 2008 to 2017, where he worked as an imaging scientist. Monsanto and The Climate Corporation developed a digital, online farming software platform that was used by farmers to collect, store and visualize critical agricultural field data and increase and improve agricultural productivity for farmers. A critical component to the platform was a proprietary predictive algorithm referred to as the Nutrient Optimizer. Monsanto and The Climate Corporation considered the Nutrient Optimizer a valuable trade secret and their intellectual property.

In June 2017, the day after leaving employment with Monsanto and The Climate Corporation, Xiang attempted to travel to China on a one-way airplane ticket. While he was waiting to board his flight, federal officials conducted a search of Xiang’s person and baggage. Investigators later determined that one of Xiang’s electronic devices contained copies of the Nutrient Optimizer. Xiang continued on to China where he worked for the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Soil Science. Xiang was arrested when he returned to the United States in November 2019.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Drake and Gwendolyn Carroll for the Eastern District of Missouri, Senior Trial Attorney Heather Schmidt and Trial Attorney Adam Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and Senior Counsel Jeff Pearlman and Assistant Deputy Chief Matthew Walczewski of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section prosecuted the case.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

70% Of Philadelphians Believe Public Safety Is The Most Important Issue Facing The City, Poll Finds

Anna Orso at the Philadelphia Inquirer reports on a recent poll that states that crime, drugs and public safety is the number one issue for 70 percent of Philadelphians.

More than half of Philadelphia residents do not feel safe in their neighborhoods at night, two-thirds have heard gunshots in the last year, and an overwhelming majority see public safety as the biggest issue facing the city.

That’s according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which surveyed 1,541 Philadelphians in January on issues related to crime, policing, and the twin impacts gun violence and COVID-19 have had on residents’ outlook. It was conducted after 2021 saw record numbers of people killed or injured by gunfire.

Among Pew’s starkest findings was that the number of residents who said crime, drugs, and public safety was the No. 1 issue — about 70% — has increased by 30 percentage points compared with August 2020, the last time Pew conducted such a survey. It’s the highest percentage any topic has received since Pew started polling more than a decade ago, said Katie Martin, senior manager of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia research and policy initiative.

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

70% of Philadelphians believe public safety is the most important issue facing the city, poll finds ( 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Feds Charge Eight Suspected Carjackers Tied To Multiple Offenses In Violent Crimes Across Philadelphia Region

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

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams, together with federal, state and local law enforcement officials, announced that six defendants were arrested and charged with federal carjacking and other violent crimes in connection with incidents that occurred in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties:

  • Christopher Robinson, 20, of Philadelphia, PA, was charged by Criminal Complaint with (1) carjacking, (2) carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence; in connection with three armed carjackings on December 9, 2021, January 5, 2022, and January 11, 2022, all in West Philadelphia.

The carjacking victims in these three separate incidents were caught off guard while on the phone sitting in their parked vehicles or filling their gas tank.

  • Tarik Chambers, 19, and Nikeem LeachHilton, 21, both of Philadelphia, PA, were charged by Criminal Complaint with (1) carjacking, (2) carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence; in connection a carjacking on December 19, 2021, in Delaware County.

The defendants allegedly used a privately-made “ghost” gun to carjack the victim in the rear parking lot of a retail store along Baltimore Pike in Springfield. The defendants fled from the police, leading officers on a high-speed car chase through Delaware County before crashing into another motorist’s car, who suffered severe, life-threatening injuries including broken bones and significant head trauma.

  • Dayon Hackett, 19, of Philadelphia, PA, was charged by Indictment with (1) carjacking, (2) carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence; in connection with an armed carjacking that occurred in the Bridesburg section of Northeast Philadelphia and a second armed carjacking and shooting in South Philadelphia, both of which occurred on December 22, 2021.

The second carjacking incident occurred while the victim was sitting in his parked car waiting for a parking space to open. The victim and two offenders exchanged gun fire and the victim sustained serious injuries including severed arteries, shattered bones, and bullets lodged near internal organs.

  • Sean Allen, 23, of Camden, NJ, was charged by Indictment with (1) carjacking, (2) carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence; in connection with two armed carjackings on January 4, 2022, and January 6, 2022, in Northeast Philadelphia.

The carjacking incidents occurred after victims posted their vehicles for sale on Facebook Marketplace and were contacted by an account claiming to have an interest in purchasing the vehicles.

  • Cameron Styles, 20, of Philadelphia, PA, was charged by Indictment with (1) carjacking, (2) carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence; in connection with two carjackings on February 10 and February 11, 2022, in Northeast Philadelphia.

The carjacking incidents occurred while the first victim was waiting for a train, and while the second victim was parked at a gas station.

Additionally, and as previously announced, in February 2022, Alex Fernandez-Pena and Juan Jose Rodriguez were charged by Indictment with carjacking and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence stemming from their alleged involvement in a carjacking incident of a rideshare vehicle earlier this year in the Parkside section of Philadelphia, during which the victim shot both defendants while they tried to flee. These arrests bring the total number of carjacking suspects taken into federal custody in the last several weeks in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania up to eight.

The swift action to investigate and federally charge these defendants is the result of the newly formed Philadelphia Carjacking Task Force, which is comprised of members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Violent Crime Unit; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Philadelphia Police Department. The goal of the Taskforce is to stem the wave of armed carjackings and violent crimes through investigative and enforcement techniques meant to identify and refer for federal prosecution all who terrorize innocent victims through commission of these offenses within Philadelphia and surrounding areas.

“It has been nearly a year since we launched our ‘All Hands On Deck’ initiative, and in that year our Office and our federal partners have doggedly pursued every opportunity to support the Philadelphia Police Department, which now includes the recently-created joint carjacking task force,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “I have said repeatedly that if you commit a violent offense like a carjacking at gunpoint, federal authorities are coming for you. In just weeks we have arrested and charged eight people, and there’s much more to come.”

“The rash of carjackings we’ve seen in and around Philadelphia is unacceptable,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “That’s why this task force is united in our efforts to find those responsible and get them off the street. The potential penalties for federal carjacking charges are severe, so if people want to keep committing these crimes, they should know that the carjacking task force will make it a priority to put them in cuffs and behind bars for a good long time. We simply won’t stand for criminals terrorizing innocent people like this.”

“These indictments exemplify the strength of our newly established carjacking task force,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division.“Over the past year we have witnessed a spike in carjackings throughout the Commonwealth, and the announcement of these indictments should send a clear message to those who are thinking about committing violent acts.  The public should know we are working closely together with our local, state, and federal partners to seek justice for those responsible for these types of crimes.”

“There are far too many in this city who think that they can commit violent crimes with impunity, and that law enforcement will sit idly by while our communities are traumatized,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “These latest arrests prove yet again that criminal behavior will not be tolerated, and sends the message that if you’re doing wrong, if you’re engaging in illegal activities, the PPD along with our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies will find you, arrest you, and you will be charged to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Carjackings are dangerous, violent acts that strike fear into our communities and threaten public safety,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “We will continue to share available intel to collaborate with our law enforcement partners so we can use every resource available to hold individuals who commit these crimes accountable. I’m thankful for the hard work of the agents in our office, as well as our local, state, and federal partners in this important task force.”

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison, as well as a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison.

These cases were investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Philadelphia Police Department; with assistance from the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General; and are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kelly Fallenstein, Justin Oshana, Robert Eckert, Jeanette Kang, Michael Miller and Special Assistant United States Attorney Sandy Urban.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.