Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: The FBI Suggests Using Strong Passphrases And Account Protection

 The FBI released the below information:

EL PASO, TX—For Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the FBI is encouraging the public to strengthen their passwords/phrases and account protection.

Passwords are used for everything; we use them for our phones, computers, email, even financial information. Unfortunately, many use the same simple passwords, like 1234 or Password1, for multiple accounts. Simple passwords, even those with special characters, are easier for someone to crack.

Recent guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advises that password length is much more important than password complexity. Instead of using short complex passwords, use passphrases that combine multiple words and are longer than 15 characters. For example: TechTuesday2023Strengthen!

Strong passphrases can also help protect against personal data breaches.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a personal data breach is defined as a leak/spill of personal data which is released from a secure location to an untrusted environment. Also, a security incident in which an individual’s sensitive, protected, or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen, or used by an unauthorized individual.

Texas reported over two hundred victims of personal data breaches with losses of more than $10.7 million since January 2023, according to IC3. It’s important to note that scammers obtain people’s information in many ways. Sometimes a victim will unintentionally give the scammer their passwords, other times, the criminal is able to crack the code.

The following tips may help protect you and your information from a breach:

  • Make sure, at the very least, that your email, financial, and health accounts all have different unique passwords and/or passphrases.
  • Make sure your password is as long as the system will allow.
  • Set up multi-factor authentication for your accounts.
  • Don’t allow password “hints”

If you believe your email or other smart device has been comprised, please contact FBI El Paso at (915) 832-5000. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.

For more information on how to protect your voice and your devices, visit, https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/counterintelligence/foreign-influence/protected-voices.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

John McNesby Stepping Down As President Of The Fraternal Order of Police, Philadelphia Lodge #5

John McNesby announced that he stepping down as the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Philadelphia Lodge #5. He has accepted a position with the state. 

I interviewed John McNesby for my Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat column back in 2021. 

You can read the column below:

'Super Mafia' Fears As 'Leading Figures From Italy's Three Most Powerful Mobs' - 'Ndrangheta, Camorra And Cosa Nostra - Are 'Seen Sharing A Meal Of Wine And Pasta Together'

Jonathan Guildford at the British newspaper The Daily Mail reports that leaders from the three largest organized crime groups in Italy broke bread together. 

There are fears Italy's three most powerful mafia groups may formed a formidable alliance after images emerge of leading figures sharing a meal together.   

Senior members from the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate based in the peninsular region of Calabria. the Camorra of Naples and Cosa Nostra, which is based in Sicily, were allegedly caught on camera sharing a meal of pasta and wine together in a garden in April 2021.     

The meeting was reportedly one of many that police had under surveillance with prosecutors warning the emergence of a grand crime coalition in the affluent

'This is Milan,' one alleged Camorra mafia don was heard saying to an ally. 'We're not in Sicily, we're not in Rome, we're not in Naples, this is where we're doing the good stuff,' according to a Telegraph report. 


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

'Super mafia' fears as 'leading figures from Italy's three most powerful mobs' - 'Ndrangheta, Camorra and Cosa Nostra - are 'seen sharing a meal of wine and pasta together' | Daily Mail Online 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

British Book Launch of Nicholas Shakespeare's New Biography Of The Late, Great Thriller Writer Ian Fleming

 Ajay Chowdhury at MI6-Hq - the James Bond website, not the British Secret Intelligence Service - covered the British release of the much-anticipated new Ian Fleming biography by Nicholas Shakespeare. 

As I noted here before, I’ve been an Ian Fleming aficionado since my teens, so I look forward to reading the new biography when it is released in the U.S. 

I’m particularly interested in reading about Ian Fleming’s WWII experiences as the assistant to Admiral John Godfrey, the Director of British Naval Intelligence. (I wrote a piece on Fleming’s intelligence commando group, 30 Assault Unit, for Counterterrorism magazine some years ago). 

Much classified information about Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming and the British Naval Intelligence Division in WWII has been declassified since the previous biographies of the creator of James Bond, and Nicholas Shakespeare includes the newly declassified information in the book.  

On Tuesday, 17th October 2023, Harvill Secker publishers celebrated the release of their new biography, 'Ian Fleming: The Complete Man' by Nicholas Shakespeare. The launch event was at Tophams Hotel in Ebury Street, next door to Flat 22B where Ian lived in his formative years commemorated by an English Heritage blue plaque. Published on Global James Bond Day, 5th October 2023, the book party assembled a number of key persons from Fleming’s life. Fueled by champagne and rather potent Vesper Martinis, the audience was addressed by the book’s editor, Liz Foley who then introduced Kate Grimond, Ian’s niece – nursing a broken arm – and then Mr. Shakespeare himself. 

Nicholas Shakespeare’s father was a newspaperman whose first job was working under Ian Fleming’s first official biographer, John Pearson at the Times Literary Supplement in 1953. Fate’s finger pointed at Nicholas. Pearson lent his working papers to Shakespeare’s project and the biographical baton was passed on. 

The resultant 700-page-plus tome was drawn from hundreds of new interviews with the Fleming family, heirs, associates, and friends. As Grimond, daughter of Ian’s older brother Peter, observed, ‘The Life Of Ian Fleming’ by John Pearson, published in 1966 was hampered by being too proximate to family and the era in which it was written, “Bletchley Park was still to be outed!” 

Grimond paid tribute to Andrew Lycett’s “comprehensive” 1995 biography, ‘Ian Fleming’, but pointed out that in the last 30 years, the amount of declassified material released had made another work worthwhile. Grimond thanked some of the notable guests present. Veteran newspaper editor and historian, Max Hastings, Shakespeare’s old boss, who Grimond recalled had opined Fleming’s work had the “highest descriptive gifts.” Ian’s step-daughter, Fionn Morgan, still a spritely presence, who Kate felt “knew Ian best” was one of the last direct connections with that era. Grimond thanked bibliographer Jon Gilbert and the many fan organizations, especially noting the US-based charity, the Ian Fleming Foundation. 

You can read the rest of Ajay Chowdhury’s piece via the below link:

Book Launch - Ajay Chowdhury reports from the launch of the new Ian Fleming biography - James Bond 007 :: MI6 - The Home Of James Bond (mi6-hq.com) 

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming via the below link:    

Paul Davis On Crime: My Piece On The 30 Assault Unit, The British WWII Commando Group Created By Ian Fleming, The Creator Of James Bond 

Note: Below is a photo of actor Sean Connery and Ian Fleming on the set of the film Dr. No, and beneath is a photo of Ian Fleming's biographer Nicholas Shakespeare.   

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

"The Phantom Hacker:" FBI Warns Public Of New Financial Scam

The FBI released the below information:

Phoenix, Ariz.–FBI Phoenix is warning the public of a new scam dubbed “The Phantom Hacker.” Scammers are impersonating technology, banking, and government officials in a complex ruse to convince a typically older victim that foreign hackers have infiltrated their financial account. The scammers then instruct the victim to immediately move their money to an alleged U.S. Government account to “protect” their assets. In reality, there was never any foreign hacker, and the money is now fully controlled by the scammers. Some victims are losing their entire life savings.

“The Phantom Hacker” Scam: How It Works. The FBI has observed repeated behavior by criminals involved in “The Phantom Hacker” scam. The ruse is often perpetrated in three major steps: 

Step 1 – Tech Support Imposter In the first step, a scammer posing as a customer support representative from a legitimate technology company initiates contact with the victim through a phone call, text, email, or a popup window on their computer and instructs the victim to call a number for “assistance.”

Once the victim calls the phone number, a scammer directs the victim to download a software program allowing the scammer remote access to the victim’s computer. The scammer pretends to run a virus scan on the victim’s computer and falsely claims the victim’s computer either has been or is at risk of being hacked. Next, the scammer requests the victim open their financial accounts to determine whether there have been any unauthorized charges – a tactic to allow the scammer to determine which financial account is most lucrative for targeting. The scammer informs the victim they will receive a call from that financial institution’s fraud department with further instructions.

Step 2 – Financial Institution Imposter In the second step, a scammer, posing as a representative of the financial institution mentioned above, such as a bank or a brokerage firm, contacts the victim. The scammer falsely informs the victim their computer and financial accounts have been accessed by a foreign hacker and the 3 victim must move their money to a “safe” third-party account, such as an account with the Federal Reserve or another U.S. Government agency.

The victim is directed to transfer money via a wire transfer, cash, or wire conversion to cryptocurrency, often directly to overseas recipients. The victim is also told not to inform anyone of the real reason they are moving their money. The scammer may instruct the victim to send multiple transactions over a span of days or months.

Step 3 – U.S. Government Imposter In the third step, the victim may be contacted by a scammer posing as the Federal Reserve or another U.S. Government agency. If the victim becomes suspicious, the scammer may send an email or a letter on what appears to be official U.S. Government letterhead to legitimize the scam. The scammer will continue to emphasize the victim’s funds are “unsafe” and they must be moved to a new “alias” account for protection until the victim concedes. Victims often suffer the loss of entire banking, savings, retirement, and investment accounts under the guise of “protecting” their assets.

Tips to Protect Yourself

The FBI recommends that the public take the following steps to protect themselves from “The Phantom Hacker” scam: •

  • Do not click on unsolicited pop-ups, links sent via text messages, email links, or attachments.
  • Do not contact the telephone number provided in a pop-up, text, or email.
  • Do not download software at the request of an unknown individual who contacted you. • Do not allow an unknown individual who contacted you to have control of your computer.
  • The US Government will never request you send money to them via wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or gift/prepaid cards. Reporting Suspected Fraud The FBI requests victims report these fraudulent or suspicious activities to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov. Be sure to include as much information as possible, such as: The name of the person or company that contacted you. • Methods of communication used, to include websites, emails, and telephone numbers.
  • The bank account number where the funds were wired to and the recipient’s name(s). 

Monday, October 23, 2023

A Touch Of Edgar Allan Poe: Netflix’s Horror And Drama Series ‘The Fall Of The House of Usher’ Offers A Homage To The Late, Great Writer

 I’ve been an Edgar Allan Poe aficionado since I was a teenager, so I was curious to see what the Netflix miniseries The Fall of the House of Usher did with Poe’s characters, stories and poems. 

I enjoyed the interesting horror and drama miniseries, which is homage of sorts to the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Brian Tallerico at www. rogerebert.com offers a good review of the miniseries:   

“The Fall of the House of Usher” updates the work of Edgar Allan Poe for the era of Big Pharma, turning his most famous tales into a sprawling story of the decline of a wealthy American family. It’s “Succession” meets The Tell-Tale Heart, a story of vengeance, power, betrayal, and bloody parts. It can sometimes feel simultaneously overcrowded in its cramming in of various sources and narratively thin at the same time, but Mike Flanagan’s craft and his assemblage of returning performers keep this pendulum swinging through eight grisly episodes of horror television that should appeal to any fans of “The Haunting of Hill House” or “Midnight Mass.” In a month filled with surprisingly lackluster new streaming shows and films for horror fans, it’s a highlight.

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

The Fall of the House of Usher movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert

You can also read my Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat column on Poe in Philadelphia below: 

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

Joran Van Der Sloot Pleads Guilty And Is Sentenced for Extortion And Wire Fraud

The Justice Department released the below information: 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Dutch citizen Joran van der Sloot (seen in the above Peruvian mugshot) pleaded guilty on October 18th and was sentenced for his role in a scheme to obtain $250,000 from Elizabeth (“Beth”) Ann Holloway, the mother of Natalee Holloway, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Carlton Peeples.

The guilty plea and sentencing of Joran Andreas Petrus van der Sloot, 36, occurred before U.S. District Court Judge Anna M. Manasco.  Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to extortion and wire fraud and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. 

According to the plea agreement, in 2010, van der Sloot solicited money from Beth Holloway, Natalee Holloway’s mother, on promises he would reveal the location of her daughter’s remains in Aruba and the circumstances of her 2005 death. However, after being paid a total of $25,100, van der Sloot provided information that he later described as “worthless.”

According to the sentencing memorandum and plea agreement, van der Sloot agreed to provide full, complete, accurate, and truthful information regarding Natalee Holloway’s disappearance in exchange for a sentence of 20 years. 

“Today, the United States held Joran van der Sloot accountable for his scheme to exploit a mother looking for information about her missing daughter,” U.S. Attorney Escalona said. “The United States hopes that the information regarding Natalee Holloway’s disappearance provides some important answers for the family and the community that has followed this family’s tragedy. Today’s result would not have been possible without the help of the FBI, Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the Government of Peru, the Netherlands and Aruba, U.S. Marshals Service, and Shelby County Sherriff’s Office, who assisted in this process.  I am grateful for their hard work and dedication.  May this long-awaited day finally bring justice for Beth and for Natalee’s family and friends.”

“Today’s sentence holds Joran van der Sloot accountable for the pain he has caused the family and friends of Natalee Holloway,” said FBI Birmingham SAC Carlton Peeples.  “After more than a decade of uncertainty, hopefully this will bring them and this community some closure.  During this lengthy investigation, the FBI remained committed in aggressively pursuing and holding this individual accountable for the crimes he committed against US persons. I would like to thank our local, state, federal, and foreign partners who assisted in this investigation and a special thanks to all the FBI personnel, past and present, who worked tirelessly in bringing this individual to justice.”

The FBI investigated the case.  Criminal Chief Lloyd C. Peeples and Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine L. Crosby prosecuted the case. 

DOD Responds To Attacks, Continues Efforts To Deter Spread of Israel-Hamas War

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers a piece on the U.S. military in the Middle East. 

DOD assets in the Red Sea, Iraq and Syria responded to missile and drone attacks over the past two days, as U.S. service members look to deter groups from using the Israel-Hamas war as an opportunity to launch conflict that could engulf the region, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said today.

Ryder also spelled out the steps Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has taken to strengthen DOD posture in the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts.

Ryder said the crew of the guided missile destroyer USS Carney (seen in the above photo) operating in the northern Red Sea earlier today shot down three land attack cruise missiles and several drones launched by Houthi forces in Yemen. "This action was a demonstration of the integrated air and missile defense architecture that we built in the Middle East and that we are prepared to utilize whenever necessary to protect our partners and our interests," he said. 

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

DOD Responds to Attacks, Continues Efforts to Deter Spread of Israel-Hamas War > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department News 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

American Citizen Sentenced to Life in Prison for Providing Material Support to ISIS That Resulted in Death

 The U.S. Justice Department released the below: 

In federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, 46, a U.S. citizen and former resident of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was sentenced to life in prison for providing material support to ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization, that resulted in death. Asainov was also sentenced to concurrent terms of 20 years in prison on related convictions of conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS and obstruction of justice, and 10 years in prison for receipt of military-type training from ISIS. Asainov was convicted by a federal jury after a three-week trial in February.

“Mr. Asainov abandoned his family and country to fight for ISIS and train others to carry out its reign of terror, a cause to which he remains devoted to this day,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division. “Now, he is being held accountable for his crimes with a sentence of life in prison. The Department of Justice is committed to bringing to justice those who would aid such murderous terrorist organizations.”

“Today’s life sentence was rightly holds Asainov responsible for the carnage he inflicted as a sworn member of ISIS and protects the world community from this avowed killer,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “The defendant committed his life to that terrorist organization and became a lethal sniper for ISIS in Syria, training many other ISIS members to shoot to kill as ISIS waged its brutal, barbaric campaign. To this day, the defendant maintains his unrepentant allegiance to that evil cause. Like this defendant now knows, anyone who takes up arms in service of ISIS and causes death and destruction will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by this office.”

“The U.S. government worked tirelessly with our international partners to locate and return this U.S. citizen to face accountability for his crimes,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “He's a convicted terrorist who fought for ISIS and taught others how to kill on behalf of their violent extremist ideology. Justice was served with today's life sentence.”

Between December 2013 and March 2019, Asainov provided and conspired to provide material support and resources in the form of personnel, including himself, training and expert advice and assistance, to a foreign terrorist organization, namely ISIS, knowing that ISIS was a designated foreign terrorist organization that had engaged in terrorist activity and terrorism. Asainov also received military-type training from ISIS, in violation of federal law.

On Dec. 24, 2013, Asainov abandoned his wife and daughter in Brooklyn, and boarded a flight at JFK International Airport, bound for Istanbul, Turkey. Along with a co-conspirator, Mirsad Kandic, by early January 2014, Asainov traveled to northern Syria in the area of Aleppo and joined ISIS as a fighter. Kandic was arrested in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS resulting in death by a federal jury in Brooklyn in May 2022, and sentenced to life in prison in July.

Over the course of approximately five years fighting on behalf of ISIS, Asainov fought in numerous battles against ISIS enemies, including engagements at Kobani, Tabqa, Raqqa, Dayr Az Zawr, and ISIS’s last stand in Syria at Baghouz, in March 2019. Asainov received training in how to use automatic rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. In Tabqa, in mid-2014, he volunteered to train as a sniper. Over time, Asainov became a sniper trainer or “emir” on behalf of ISIS, estimating that he taught nearly 100 students. A former U.S. Navy SEAL scout sniper testified at Asainov’s trial that the defendant’s sniper training course was consistent with what the former SEAL would expect to be taught in a sniper training program.

From Syria, the defendant attempted to recruit another individual to travel from the United States to Syria to fight for ISIS and sought to obtain funds to purchase a scope for his rifle from the same person. The defendant also told his estranged wife that he was fighting on behalf of ISIS, described by him in a recorded January 2015 voicemail as “the most atrocious terrorist organization in the world that ever existed.” Asainov’s estranged wife testified at his trial that he sent her a photograph of three dead fighters, one of whom was wearing a patch reading, “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,” i.e., ISIS, in Arabic script.

Asainov was captured in Syria after ISIS’s last stand at Baghouz, near the Syria-Iraq border. Just before his capture, Asainov discarded his rifle and destroyed his cell phone.

Asainov admitted to agents from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that he had fought in numerous battles on behalf of ISIS as a warrior and sniper, serving in several different katibas or ISIS fighting brigades. In recorded phone calls to his mother from facilities operated by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the defendant told her that he was carrying out Allah’s orders when he waged jihad and killed for ISIS, that he intended to return to waging jihad if released, and that he would fight until he “meet[s] Allah,” i.e., until his death. In September 2020, staff at a BOP facility confiscated a makeshift ISIS flag affixed to Asainov’s cell wall. The defendant had filled in an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper with black ink and Arabic writing in the design of the ISIS flag. During his trial, the defendant reiterated his allegiance to ISIS to court personnel, stating that ISIS would rise again.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas M. Pravda, J. Matthew Haggans, Nicholas J. Moscow and Nina C. Gupta for the Eastern District of New York are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Paralegal Specialists Wayne Colon and Mary Clare McMahon.

The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the FBI’s Legal Attachés abroad, and foreign authorities in multiple countries on multiple continents provided critical assistance in this case. The Bosnian and Herzegovinian authorities, and the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Sarajevo provided extraordinary assistance in the investigation and prosecution. The Ministry of Justice for the Republic of Finland, the Stuttgart Police Department and Federal Office of Justice in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development in the Republic of South Africa, and the Prosecutor General’s Office in Ukraine, and the FBI’s Legal Attaché Offices in or responsible for those countries provided valuable assistance in the investigation.

Monday, October 16, 2023

A Look Back At The Israeli Perspective Of Homeland Security

 Like nearly everyone, I’ve been following the news about the horrific terrorist attack on Israel and the Israeli counterattack in Gaza. 

The Israelis are a tough and resourceful people and they have been pushed to the brink by the slaughter of their men, women and children.     

I recall meeting and interviewing three Israeli men back in September of 2002, on the one-year anniversary of 9/11, 

I attended the American Society of Industrial Security's annual seminar in Philadelphia on assignment for Counterterrorism magazine. 

I interviewed a number of current and former intelligence, security law enforcement and military people, including two former members of the Israeli security services and a former Israeli Special Forces commando.

You can read my piece below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

A Documentary Looks Back At The Late, Great Crime Writer Elmore Leonard

As I’ve noted here before, I’m an Elmore Leonard aficionado.  

I’ve read all of his fine crime and western novels and short stories, and I met the late, great crime writer briefly when he spoke at the Philadelphia Free Library. 

I recently watched a fine comprehensive documentary on Elmore Leonard from some years back when he was still alive. 

 You can watch the documentary via the below link:

Elmore Leonard Documentary: Criminal Records - YouTube

And you can read my Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat column on Leonard below:

Friday, October 13, 2023

Happy 248th Birthday To The U.S. Navy

Happy 248th birthday to the United States Navy. 

I served in the Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War in 1970-1971. 

I also served on the USS Saugus, a Navy harbor tugboat, at the U.S. nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland in 1974-1975. 

My late father served as a Chief Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) frogman in WWII. 


My Washington Times On Crime Column On The Italian Squad, Part Two

The Washington Times published part two of my On Crime column on Paul Moses’ The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia. 

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

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Italian Squad,' part two - Washington Times


As I noted in part one of my coverage of Paul Moses’ “The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia,” I’m half Italian, and I grew up in South Philadelphia’s Little Italy.


I knew many future Cosa Nostra members as a kid. As a writer, I’ve interviewed many Cosa Nostra members, including Philip Leonetti, the former underboss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime family who became a cooperating government witness; Ralph Natale, the former boss of that crime family who became a cooperating government witness; and Michael Franzese, a former New York Colombo Cosa Nostra crime family captain who walked away from the criminal life and became a Christian public speaker and author.


I also know many Italian police officers.


So with my background, I was interested in “The Italian Squad.” I contacted Mr. Moses (seen in the below photo) and asked him who the most interesting and prominent Italian Squad members were.


“After Joseph Petrosino, three of the detectives he’d worked closely with took center stage at various times. All three — [Anthony] Vachris, Lt. Charles Corrao and Sgt. Michael Fiaschetti — were nationally celebrated sleuths. Vachris (seen in the above photo) completed the mission Petrosino was on in Italy when he was murdered.

“He was an impressive commander, but throughout his career he ran into political obstacles. A commissioner transferred him to patrol in far-off City Island in the Bronx — a four-hour commute from his home in Brooklyn — in retribution for speaking up. Corrao was the first recipient of the NYPD’s highest award, the Medal of Honor; he snuffed out a bomb’s burning fuse in a tenement. Fiaschetti was a national celebrity for, among other cases, using his sources in New York to help convict the killers of four police officers in Akron, Ohio.”


Was the Black Hand in America affiliated with the Cosa Nostra in Sicily?


“No. The first thing to know about the Black Hand was that it wasn’t a single organization, but rather a brand name that different groups of thugs used, aware that drawing a black hand on a blackmail letter would terrify the recipient. The Italian Squad detectives often made that point to reporters, but it didn’t sink in.

“There was one gang with ties to the Mafia in Sicily, however. Ignazio Lupo and Giuseppe Morello, brothers-in-law who both fled from criminal charges in Sicily, were the leaders. The evidence indicates they were probably responsible for the murder of Petrosino in Sicily, working with a leading Sicilian mafioso. No one was convicted of the murder, but the Secret Service sent Lupo and Morello to prison for counterfeiting.”


Did the Italian Squad make a difference in New York?


“It made a big difference for the many people who found a unit of savvy detectives willing to take them and their crime problems seriously. It helped to break up some serious gangs that were starting to grow into multi-tasking criminal enterprises, but ultimately, the Italian Squad wasn’t able to stop the rise of an American Mafia. It was shut down in 1922, just when needed most: Thanks to Prohibition, the gangs were becoming rich and powerful.”


Why was the Italian Squad disbanded?


“One reason was that leaders of the Italian community, who’d initially wanted the squad when it was created in 1904, began to push back against having an ‘Italian’ squad. After all, there were major gangs from other ethnicities, but no specific squads for them. Another reason is that it lost all sponsors in the internal police politics.”


Like me, you are part Italian. What was the most surprising thing you discovered about immigrant Italians in your research?


“Yes, my ancestry is Italian on my mother’s side. My grandfather was from Cerasi, a village in the Aspromonte mountains in Calabria, and my grandmother from Laurenzana, a town in Basilicata. (Both died before I was born.) Writing this book further heightened my appreciation for what they went through to establish themselves in America; they lived on Mott Street, right in the middle of many of the crimes I describe.


“From researching this book and the previous one on the Irish and Italians, I was surprised to see just how much Italian immigrants were despised. I knew, of course, that it was difficult for them, but saw that under eugenic theory that was widely accepted at the time, they were viewed as if inherently unfit to be Americans. It’s humbling, but I also came to appreciate the innate sense of dignity those Italian immigrants had. Through their focus on the family and willingness to work hard, they rose above it.”


Readers interested in history and a good crime story will enjoy “The Italian Squad.”


 Paul Davis’ On Crime column covers true crime, crime fiction and thrillers.

You can read part one of my On Crime column on The Italian Squad via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times On Crime Column On 'The Italian Squad: The True Story Of The Immigrant Cops Who Fought The Rise Of The Mafia,' Part One