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 (nypost.com)


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 MysteriousPress.com 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:


https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2022/apr/14/book-review-the-best-mystery-stories-of-the-year-2/

 


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

My Crime Fiction: Butterfly

 The below short story originally appeared in American Crime Magazine. 

Butterfly 

By Paul Davis 

I lived in what we considered a tough neighborhood in South Philadelphia when I was a teenager in the 1960s. I ran with a tough crowd on the mean streets of “Little Italy” in South Philly, but I would later discover that Olongapo in the early 1970s was a truly rough town. 

During the Vietnam War, Olongapo, the city located next to the U.S. Navy Base at Subic Bay in the Philippines, was like Dodge City, Las Vegas and Sodom and Gomorrah all rolled into one. The U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet ships that operated off North Vietnam were frequent visitors to Subic Bay, as the naval base provided repairs and replenishment to the warships.

As the bent-up American sailors left the ships and swarmed into Olongapo, the city’s shadier elements were waiting. Sailors left the naval base and crossed the small bridge over “Shit River,” so named due to the pungent smell. Despite the filth and pollution, several small children were on boats in the shallow river and begged the American sailors crossing the bridge to toss coins in the river, which they dove for and came up smiling while holding the coin. 

On the other side of the bridge was Olongapo’s main street, Magsaysay Drive, where there was a seemingly endless line of bars, restaurants and hotels all lit up in colorful lights. The street was noisy and crowded with passing sailors, street vendors, including those selling “monkey meat” on a stick (actually beef and chicken), drug dealers, pickpockets, thieves, con artists, armed robbers and innocent-looking young shoeshine boys who were known to hold a razor against a sailor’s heel until he handed over his wallet.

Also on the crowded street were scores of attractive Filipinas enticing sailors to come into their bar with blown kisses, swaying hips, pushed out breasts, and shaking bottoms. Occasionally, a girl would use more strong-arm tactics, such as grabbing a young sailor by the arm and yanking him into the bar and announcing loudly that she had a “Cherry Boy.” 

Crossing the street was often a case of bravery or foolhardiness, as one could be hit by the ubiquitous “jeepneys,” Olongapo’s colorfully decorated jeeps that taxied sailors across town.

Throughout the Vietnam War, the U.S. Navy assigned three aircraft carriers and their battle groups to “Yankee Station” in the Gulf of Tonkin in the South China Sea off the coast of North Vietnam. 

Two of the three carriers were continuously on Yankee Station, launching aircraft that performed combat sorties against the Communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. The third carrier visited ports like Sasebo, Japan or Hong Kong for much needed R&R. The carriers also rotated in and out of Subic Bay in the Philippines for “upkeep” and to let the sailors go crazy in Olongapo. 

On November 6, 1970, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk departed San Diego for the carrier’s fifth combat cruise during the Vietnam War. After a week’s stop at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the carrier sailed on to Subic Bay. 

American sailors were warned of the pitfalls when visiting Olongapo’s bars and other establishments. As an 18-year- old sailor serving on the USS Kitty Hawk in 1970 and 1971, I recall the official and unofficial warnings I received before visiting Olongapo. 

One rule pounded into the sailors was not to “Butterfly” in individual bars. To butterfly was to associate with two bar girls, called “Hostesses,” in any one bar. The bar girls were protective of their claimed sailors and the money they earned from the sailors buying them whisky (actually Coke) and champagne (actually 7-Up). They resented another bar girl poaching on their claim and moneymakers. When a sailor would butterfly, whether on his own initiative or by the encouragement of another bar girl, the aggrieved bar girl would often fly into a rage and attack the other bar girl, and sometimes the offending sailor. 

Even before I set foot in Olongapo, I heard the much-repeated story of one particular American sailor who committed the offense and paid a dear price. The bar girl he had been seeing was so mad when he butterflied with another bar girl that she attacked the girl on the dance floor. To the consternation of the bar’s manager and the utter delight of the American sailors, the two girls pulled hair, and kicked and punched each other. 

The Filipino manager and his waiters pulled the two girls apart. The offended girl then went to her purse and pulled out her Batangas knife, a weapon more commonly known as a “Butterfly” knife. The knife had two handles with the blade concealed in the groves of the handles. When flashed, flipped and fanned by someone who knew what they are doing, the butterfly knife was a most scary and deadly thing. 

This bar girl knew how to use the butterfly knife and she charged the butterflying sailor and slit his throat as he sat in a chair. He died on the way to the base hospital.

 

On my first visit to Olongapo in early December of 1970, I went into one of bars with some shipmates and met a pretty girl who sat with me as I bought her drinks. I had some fun with her, and we ended up in a hotel room for the night. The following day, I returned to the ship, and we shoved off for our first Yankee Station line period off the coast of North Vietnam. 

We spent Christmas on Yankee Station, but we pulled back into Subic Bay on December 31st, New Year's Eve. Not everyone was glad to see us. The American sailors stationed on the base and on smaller ships hated when an aircraft carrier pulled into port. With the carrier’s 5,500 men going ashore with money in their pockets and eager for action, the city’s inhabitants went all out to receive them. 

In a case of reverse butterflying, two sailors stationed on the base at Subic resented the Kitty’s sailors taking over the city on that first night in port. One base sailor was truly angry, as his regular girl at the Stardust ignored him and cuddled up to a young Kitty Hawk sailor. The base sailor got drunk along with his pal and when the girl went to the restroom, the two base sailors bounced on the Kitty Hawk sailor. They beat him to the floor and one of the two assailants broke a bottle of Sam Migel beer over his head. 

The Kitty Hawk sailor was beaten unconscious before other sailors and the Filipino waiters could break it up. The Philippine Constabulary and the U.S. Navy Shore Patrol rushed into the bar and took hold of the two base sailors. 

The Kitty Hawk sailor was gravely injured, and he was taken by two Shore Patrol petty officers to the base hospital. The two base sailors were released by the Philippine police to the custody of two other Shore Patrol petty officers and a junior officer. The Shore Patrol petty officers handcuffed the pair and escorted them to the base, where they were charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder by civilian Naval Investigative Service (NIS) special agents. 

 

The story of the assault on the Kitty Hawk sailor spread quickly all over Olongapo. I heard the story from another sailor as I sat in the Stardust bar with my shipmates, Dino Ingemi, an outgoing and funny guy from the Bronx, and Mike Hunt, a laid-back Californian. 

Dino shrugged the fight off as an isolated incident and said we should just sit here and enjoy the best music and girls in Olongapo. 

Dino was right. The Filipino band at the Stardust had everyone jumping and dancing to their renditions of popular American songs of the time. The Filipino musicians were incredible mimics, sounding like Sly and the Family Stone with one song and then went on to sound eerily like the Beatles in their next number. 

As we ordered drinks, I was approached by Linda Divita, a slim, pretty girl who swayed around me to the music and then pulled me up from my chair to dance with her.    

Linda had long lovely legs beneath her short black dress and the low cut of her dress afforded one the view of her mostly exposed small breasts. Dino approved. 

“She’s got a great ass and cute little tits,” Dino said to me when we finally sat down. I nodded in agreement. Dino was then smacked on the arm by Marlena, the pretty girl he had been seeing since he first visited Olongapo. 

Dino was gregarious and made friends easily. He had already made friends with the Stardust manager, Samuel Rosalita. Rosalita joined us at our table and laughed and drank with us. He gave me his business card. I mentioned to Dino that Rosalita looked like the entertainer Sammy Davis Jr, and Dino began to call him “Sammy,” much to the manager’s delight. Rosalita chuckled and shook his head.    

I had a fun night drinking and dancing with Linda that New Year's Eve at the Stardust, and when the bar closed, I took her to a nearby hotel. By then she was loopy drunk, but she was wild and fun in bed with me right up until the moment she passed out in my arms. 

In the morning, I could not wake her. I knew she was alive, as she moaned and muttered, but she would not move from her face down position on the bed. I found a handful of “Red Devils,” a barbiturate, on the bedside table next to her purse. I didn’t know how many of the pills she took, but I was concerned. I dressed her and left the room. Rosalita’s business card did not have a telephone number on it, but I went to the front desk and gave a five-dollar bill to one of the hotel clerks and asked him to go get the Stardust manager.            

I went back to the room and saw that Linda was still out. About a half hour later, there was a knock on the door. Rosalita came in, accompanied by one of his waiters and an older woman who was the mama-san for the bar. Rosalita thanked me for calling him and then looked at Linda on the bed. He cursed her in Tagalog. The two men lifted Linda and took her out of the room. I left the hotel soon after and went back to the ship.

 

I spent New Year's Day at Grande Island, the U.S. Navy’s recreational island in the bay. I went scuba diving in the beautiful, clear water off the island. Afterwards, I played first base in a softball game, and I eat hot dogs and hamburgers and drank San Miguel beer. I napped in a chair on the beach, enjoying the strong Southeast Asian sun and the cool ocean breezes.

After I returned to the ship, I showered and changed into a black dress shirt and light gray slacks. I was something of a clothes horse in those days, and I stood out among most of the other sailors, who were usually clad simply in t-shirts and jeans. 

I joined Dino Ingemi and Mike Hunt and the three of us stopped at the naval base restaurant, where we had a fine steak and a glass of wine. After that hearty meal, we walked into Olongapo and onto the Stardust. We took a table and Marlena and Mike Hunt’s girl came over and sat with us. I was thankful that I didn’t see Linda. Rosalita came over to the table with a waiter armed with a tray of San Miguel beers. 

Marlena whispered into Dino’s ear, and he nodded. Marlena got up and left the table. She came back to our table with a beautiful girl that she introduced to us as Zeny, her sister. 

Zeny had long, raven hair with bangs cut just above her dark, sultry eyes. She was short with a pretty face and a full figure. I was drawn to her immediately. She was beautiful, sexy, smart and funny. 

I forgot all about Linda. 

After the bar closed, Dino, Mike and I took the girls to a hotel. In my hotel room, I took Zeny in my arms, kissed her, and we fell across the bed. 

An hour or so later, I heard a pounding on the door. I jumped up and retrieved my pocketknife from under the pillow. I heard Linda on the other side of the door. 

“Paul! Paul! Open up,” I heard her holler. “I want to talk to you!” 

Zeny pulled the sheet over her head and giggled. 

“Oh, you think this is funny?” 

I told Linda to go the fuck away.

 “Paul, open up. I want to talk to you!” Linda said in a screeching and blood-curdling voice.

Of course, I didn’t open the door.  

I heard what I presumed were hotel employees arguing with Linda in Tagalog, and thankfully the voices outside the door finally ceased. 

“So, you thought a crazy, drugged girl coming to the room was funny,” I said to Zeny as I took her once again in my arms.  

 

I was awakened in the morning by a pounding on the door. Not again, I thought. But then I heard Dino’s voice. I got out of bed and wrapped a towel around my waist and answered the door. 

Dino bade me to get dressed as we were all going to White Rock, a resort just outside of Olongapo. I took a shower with Zeny and then we dressed and met Dino and Marlena in front of the hotel. Dino said Mike Hunt wanted to spend the day in bed with his girl, so the four of hailed a jeepney, one of the colorfully painted converted jeeps that serve as taxis in Olongapo. 

Our first stop was at Marlena and Zeny’s home, where the girls changed into bathing suits. The girls then piled back into the jeepney, and we drove to White Rock. 

Dino and I went into a store at White Rock and bought swim trunks. White Rock, situated by a beautiful beach, had a large pool and the four of us went swimming. Dino took a photo of Zeny and Marlena on my shoulders as I stood in the pool, and then I took a similar photo of Dino with the girls. We later took photos on the beach. 

As we sat around the pool, Zeny mimicked Linda.

"Paul, Paul, open up. I want to talk to you!" 

The two girls and Dino laughed, and after a second or two, I joined in and laughed as well. 

We swam, eat, drank, and laughed. We had a fine day. 

We later dropped the girls off at their house and we headed back to the ship to shower and change clothes. Afterwards, we ventured back to the Stardust in Olongapo. 

Zeny and Marlena were waiting for us and the four of us took a table. Rosalita waved to us and motioned to a waiter, who quickly came over with San Miguel beers. 

While we were drinking at the table, Linda suddenly appeared by my side. Zeny grabbed my arm and snuggled up close to me. Linda was clearly deranged. 

“You butterfly, you motherfucker!” 

“Get the fuck out of here,” I replied calmly, tilting my head slightly to the right while trying to sound like a South Philly half-a-hoodlum. “Go take some Red Devils.” 

“I get you good, motherfucker,” Linda said, snarling.  

Rosalita rushed over to the table and spoke harshly in Tagalog to Linda. She spat on the table and walked away. Rosalita apologized and left us. Zeny and Marlena were unfazed, and Dino was laughing uncontrollably. 

Linda sat at a nearby table with some poor sailor and began cursing us loudly in English and Tagalog.  

“She crazy,” Zeny said, kissing me to further anger Linda. 

Linda then began to fling several meat sticks at us. One of the sticks hit our table and knocked over a beer. Dino, who was no longer laughing, got up and walked over to Rosalita. Rosalita listened briefly to Dino and then marched over to Linda, and he must have told her in no uncertain terms to cut it out. 

We resumed drinking and having fun and I tried to ignore Linda. A while later, I got up to go to the rest room, which was on the other side of a wall that separated the bar from the rest rooms, the kitchen and other back rooms. When I came out of the rest room, I encountered Linda in my path. 

“You butterfly me, you son a bitch,” Linda hissed. “I kill you.” 

From behind her back, Linda produced a Butterfly knife and began to twirl it front of me. As she twirled the knife in a menacing fashion, I threw a short right punch that hit her square in the face.  

She went down, her nose and teeth bloody, and she lay motionless on the floor. Rosalita and two waiters rushed in, and my immediate thought was that I would have to fight them all. But Rosalita cursed Linda, who lay unconscious, and he kicked her twice. The two waiters picked up Linda and took her into the back. 

Rosalita again apologized to me, and I walked back to the table and told everyone what happened. 


Whenever the carrier visited Subic Bay for the rest of our combat cruise, I went to the Stardust and stayed with Zeny. 

I never again saw Linda, and no one ever said what had become of her.

And I never asked.  

© 2022 By Paul Davis 


Note: You can read my other crime fiction stories via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction Stories 

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 tips.fbi.gov. All identities are kept strictly confidential.