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May 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for May 14th, 2010

Weekend Series on Crime: The Russian Mob


AP Report Says Drug War Has Been a Failure

dea photo

dea photo

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — No question the protracted drug war America talks so often about has taken its toll on lives and on  urban, rural and suburban America. It’s also wreaked havoc along the Mexican border.

But the Associated Press has written a story saying the war after 40 years is a failure that has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives.

“In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.

To read more click here.

FBI Files Show CBS’s Walter Cronkite Collaborated With Anti-War Protesters

Walter Cronkite/asu photo

Walter Cronkite/asu photo

By Allan Lengel

No surprise that the FBI kept files on Walter Cronkite, one of America’s most influential newsmen.

Yahoo! News reported that it obtained FBI files through the Freedom of Information Act that show “Cronkite allegedly collaborated with anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s, going so far as to offer advice on how to raise the public profile of protests and even pledging CBS News resources to help pull off events.”

The documents said Cronkite encouraged Florida college students to invite Sen. Edmund Muskie to speak at a protest in 1969. The document said that Cronkite told the students that Muskie would be nearby for a fundraiser and that CBS would fly Muskie by helicopter to and from the rally, Yahoo! reported.

Cronkite died last year at age 92.

To read full story click here.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Failed to File Immigration Forms for Household Workers

Commissioner Alan Bersin

Commissioner Alan Bersin

By Allan Lengel

When Joe-Shmoe forgets to file something like this, well, it’s understandable. Maybe.

But when it’s the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin? “Unacceptable”, says Sen. Max Bauchus, according to the Washington Post.

At  issue is paperwork known as I-9 forms verifying that household workers can legally work in the U.S.

The Post reports that the Senate Finance Committee found Bersin “employed 10 household employees since 1993 and failed to complete I-9 forms for all of them. The I-9 form is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which shares immigration enforcement responsibilities with CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Read more »

Book Publisher Claims Convicted ex-NBA Ref Invoked Name of Gambino Crime Family in Tiff Over Money

bookcoverfrontBy Allan Lengel

The Florida book publisher for convicted ex-NBA ref Tim Donaghy claims the ref has threatened to hurt somebody if he doesn’t get money for his book, and has even invoked the name of the Gambino crime family to show he’s serious, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The tiff came to light this week when his book publisher VTi-Media of Florida severed ties with Donaghy “due to safety concerns”, the paper reported. In December, the firm published his popular book “Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA.”

“We’ve had to lock our office doors and get escorted to our cars,” Shawna Vercher, chief executive of VTi told the Daily News.

Vercher told the Daily News that Donaghy had been threatening company employees and book vendors and demanding money for the book.

“One thing he said in particular is that, ‘You know I have associates in the Gambino crime family and they are active in this part of the state,’ ” Vercher told the Daily news. “This stuff has gotten really ugly, really quickly.”

Donaghy, who served a little over a year in federal prison on wire-fraud and gambling charges for betting on NBA games, called the allegations nonsense and said he only wanted to know how many books had been sold and where the doe is, the Daily News reported.

“Absolutely not, there’s nothing to that at all,” he said of the allegations. “It came down to the fact that I asked for the accounting, which I’m allowed to do per my contract with them, and they didn’t provide me with the accounting . . . It just went downhill quick, and all I wanted to know was how much money was in the bank and to see the statements.”

Vercher told the paper that the money is in a holding account, and the company will tally profits by July — the deadline vendors have to  return unsold books.

She added: “We have to send [the profits] to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and not him directly.”

To read more click here.

Pakistani Linked to Militant Group Says he Helped NY Bomber, Washington Post Reports

pakistan-mapBy Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — A Pakistani man linked to a militant group in his country has told authorities he acted as an accomplice to the failed New York car bomber Faisal Shahzad, the Washington Post is reporting.

The Post reported that the man, arrested by Pakistani authorities, has provided an “independent stream” of evidence implicating the Pakistani Taliban. American investigators have had direct access to him, the paper reported.

The news comes one day after authorities raided homes and businesses in three Northeast states, and arrested three people suspected of providing funding to Shahzad. Authorities have said it is unclear whether they knew what Shahzad was up to.

The Post also reported that Pakistani security officials in Islamabad have said they have yet to find concrete evidence to link Shahzad to militant activity in Pakistan, or for that matter, that he trained with the Taliban.

To read more click here.


About 500 N.Y. Feds, State and Local Cops Bust Up Bloods and Latin King Gangs in Small Town

About 500 FBI and other law enforcement officers gather get briefed before raids/fbi photo

About 500 FBI and other law enforcement officers gather to get briefed before raids/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel

About 500 federal, state and local police on Thursday converged on the town of Newburgh, about 50 miles north of New York City, to round up gang members of the Bloods and the Latin Kings, who authorities say have been responsible for a good chunk of crime and drug trafficking in the city along the Hudson River.

Law enforcement agents and officers raided dozens of homes, and as of Thursday, 23 of 78 gang members named in federal indictments had been arrested. About 34 were already in custody, authorities said. Newburgh has a population of about 29,000.

FBI agent Jim Gagliano (left) briefs acting adic George Venizelos (right) /fbi photo

FBI agent Jim Gagliano (left) briefs acting adic George Venizelos (right) /fbi photo

“In a city as small as Newburgh and as violent—there have already been four homicides this year, all directly related to gang violence—these arrests will have a substantial effect on the crime rate in the city,” FBI special agent Jim Gagliano, who who headed a 16-month, FBI-led Safe Streets Task Force investigation said in a statement.

The FBI said the task force had made nearly 100 drug buys totaling more than five kilos of crack cocaine.

“The majority of these buys were done while we recorded video and audio,” Gagliano said. “Not only did we get the subject’s voice on tape, we also see the exchange.”

Justice System Needs Reform

By Ross Parker

Are we the most violent, the most criminal country on the globe?

As someone who was a career federal prosecutor and reveres the criminal justice system, the question seems almost insulting. Do we not have one of the most finely nuanced systems when it comes to protecting human rights while protecting the public from criminals? Many would say Yes.

And yet we, who make up only 5% of the world’s population, have 25% of the world’s prison population, far outstripping countries like Iran, North Korea, and China. 7.3 million people in the U.S. are either in jail, on probation or in some form of supervised release.

One in every 31 can expect to enter the criminal justice system in this country, one in seven African American males.

During the last three decades, the response to the crime epidemic has been to tighten the screws ever tighter by increasing sentences and creating more laws mandating incarceration.

The result has been an increase in the nation’s prison population, which has climbed from about 500,000 in 1980 to almost 2.5 million.

Are we safer today than in 1978 when I prosecuted my first buy-bust cocaine case? Few would think so.

Moreover, sociologists claim that whatever stability there has been in the crime rate is due more to factors like the aging population than our get-tougher response.

Whatever the causes, prisons are overflowing and have become increasingly more dangerous places for corrections officers and inmates. During the same three decades corrections expenditures have ballooned from $8 billion to $70 billion annually. In the current depleted economic condition, states say that they can no longer afford these costs. Their economizing is affecting funding for law enforcement with layoffs and reduced financial support.

As this cause and effect debate rages on, there is a plan to examine the criminal justice system as a whole and suggest workable reforms.

U. S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia last year proposed a bill to create a blue ribbon commission of experts from all fields to study the current problems and come up with solutions.

The bill, which has been reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee, should come up for a vote this year. A companion bill has bipartisan backing in the House of Representatives. The proposal has the support of an array of organizations ranging from the ACLU to the Fraternal Order of Police.

The federal law enforcement community should not only support this bill but should lobby to actively participate in the commission, both directly as members and by providing data and perspective on subjects which will undoubtedly produce a lot of controversy.

Like legalization of marijuana, the Commission will probably study the need to look at a host of alternatives including non-incarceration sentences for some non-violent crimes and the elimination of mandatory minimum drug sentences, to name a few.

Some will think that such controversies should not be opened for debate. But, given the status quo, we cannot afford not to discuss some innovative policy choices, including ones which have been successful in other countries.

There are a number of areas which, in my opinion, deserve study and in which reform is sorely needed:

1. Prisoner Rehabilitation and Re-entry Programs – Two of every three released inmates will be re-arrested and half of them will go back to prison within three years of their release. This rate of recidivism threatens public safety. The current correctional systems have all they can handle, and more, to keep jails and prisons relatively safe. It benefits every citizen to provide programs in the prisons for training, education, and re-orientation to point inmates in a law abiding direction. After their release, support programs for their re-entry into society with legal opportunities and alternatives are needed. Mental health and drug addiction programs are especially important given the sizeable percentage of inmates who have needs in these areas.

2. Drug Enforcement Policy Reform – We have increased the incarceration of drug offenders many-fold in the last 30 years, according to some statistics more than ten times. This increase, for better or worse, is largely responsible for the significant prison population increase. And yet drug cartels and gangs flourish and drug-inspired property crimes abound. Changes in this area will, no doubt, generate fierce controversy, but reforms must be considered. Should sentences continue to be based primarily on drug amounts rather than culpability levels? Are mandatory minimum sentences necessary and effective? Should crack cocaine be equated with powder for sentencing purposes? Should possession and use of small amounts of marijuana be de-criminalized?

3. Law Enforcement Funding, Training – Many states have severely curtailed funding for salaries, training, and improved technology and equipment. No serious plan for reform can be successful without adequate support for its foot soldiers. The trend toward a more educated police force should be enhanced not reduced.

4. Standards and Compensation for Indigent Defense – The overwhelming majority of accused receive appointed counsel. In many states, such as my own, Michigan, the appointment process, qualification and performance standards, and compensation are both chaotic and contribute to the problem. The result is that many good defense lawyers refuse to represent indigent defendants. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, most prosecutors would prefer to deal with prepared and experienced counsel. The likelihood of a just and efficient result is enhanced by adequately compensated defense attorneys. The present situation encourages inaccurate results, unjust dispositions, and endless appeal and post-conviction litigation.

There are a host of other issues and problem areas which may, or may not, be appropriate for a big-picture commission. For example, how should we as a society respond to the growing realization that, even with a system that is 99% accurate, there are thousand of post-appeal inmates who actually did not commit the crime for which they are incarcerated? DNA testing has already exonerated more than 300 prisoners. Hundreds of Innocence Projects have proposed procedures and methods for considering claims of actual innocence. Law enforcement officials, both current and retired, have been active in this movement. This is just one of probably many other subjects which are worthy of study.

Congress should take advantage of the momentum for Senator Webb’s bill and pass this legislation. Whether an innovative blueprint by a Criminal Justice Reform Commission can survive state and federal legislative finger-pointing, inertia and election-motivated partisan politics, will be another, and more challenging, question.