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Archive for June, 2010

Crooked Lobbyist Jack Abramoff Released to Halfway House

“Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.” Ray Charles, 1961.

Jack Ambramoff/ msnbc

Jack Ambramoff/ msnbc

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who epitomized all that was wrong with official Washington, is close to seeing daylight.

The Associated Press reported that Abramoff, 51, was released Tuesday from a minimum-security federal prison in Cumberland, Md, and sent to a halfway house in that state to finish off his sentence for fraud, corruption and conspiracy. He went off to prison in 2006.

He is set to be free on Dec. 4, AP reported.

Abramoff cooperated in a multi-year Justice Department investigation into public corruption that resulted in convictions of ex-Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), ex-deputy interior Secretary J. Steven Griles and several Capitol Hill aides, AP reported.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Pres. Obama Nominates U.S. Atty. for Fla and 6 U.S. Marshals

marshalsBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday nominated assistant U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill for U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Florida and six people for U.S. Marshal posts around the country.

The Marshal nominations, according to a White House press release include:

  • Mark Lloyd Ericks for the Western District of Washington.
  • Joseph Patrick Faughnan Sr.for the District of Connecticut.
  • Harold Michael Oglesby for the Western District of Arkansas.
  • Donald Martin O’Keefe for the Northern District of California.
  • Kenneth James Runde for the Northern District of Iowa.
  • Charles Thomas Weeks II for the Western District of Oklahoma.

UPDATE: 4:10 p.m. Thurs. —  The Senate Judiciary earlier today gave the nod to four U.S. Attorney noninees: Thomas E. Delahanty for the District of Maine; Wendy J. Olson for Idaho; Donald J. Cazayoux for the Middle District of Louisiana and James A. Lewis for the Central District of Illinois.

FBI Defends Itself in Murder Linked to Joran van der Sloot

Joran van der Sloot

Joran van der Sloot

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI on Wednesday defended itself against accusations that it screwed up in the case involving Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the death of a woman in Peru. He has also long been a suspect in the death of Natalee Holloway, the Alabama high school teen who disappeared in Aruba five years ago after being last seen with van der Sloot.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alabama said in a statement that agents and prosecutors “were working as hard as possible to bring the case to fruition when they learned of the murder.”  Some criticized the FBI, saying it could have arrested van der Sloot before he went to Peru and allegedly murdered a 21-year-old woman.

On June 3, a few days after the murder, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged van der Sloot with wire fraud.  Several weeks before, Van der Sloot had contacted someone close to the Holloway family and asked for $250,000 in exchange for disclosing circumstances surrounding the death of  Natalee Holloway, the FBI said.

Press reports said the FBI set up a sting and an intermediary met on May 10 with van der Sloot in an Aruba hotel and gave him $10,000, according to AOL News. An additional $15,000 was wired to van der Sloot. Some critics say he should have been arrested right there on the spot after taking the money.

Instead, Van der Sloot reportedly used the money to go to Peru and play in a poker tournament, where he met Stephany Flores, 21, a business student.

Read more »

FBI Brings Terrorist Investigative Techniques to Wall Street

Bernie Madoff/facebook photo

Bernie Madoff/facebook photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

Convicted swindler Bernie Madoff was no terrorist in the traditional sense, but he did terrorize many clients by robbing them of their finances and psychological security.

Hoping to spot financial scandals before they get too far — or too Madoff-like — the FBI in New York is increasingly employing the same tools and tactics it uses in terrorist investigations to unearth the evil doings of white-collar thieves and inside traders, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“We’re trying to apply the principles of the national security side so we can prevent something from becoming a $50 billion fraud by catching it early on,” James Trainor, a special agent in charge of the FBI’s Intelligence Division in New York, told the Journal.

The FBI in New York hopes to apply the tactics it uses in terrorist investigations to nab financial criminals, like Bernie Madoff.

The FBI said some of those tools include expanding its network of human sources — a key ingredient in fighting terrorism — who are willing to tip off or guide authorities in probes, the Journal reported. The FBI is also planning to use more intelligence reports and so-called trip-wire programs, things people should be on the lookout for when something seems a little fishy in the financial world.

To read full story click here.

Boston U.S. Attorney Creates New Civil Rights Unit

U.S. Atty. Carmen Ortiz

U.S. Atty. Carmen Ortiz

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office is creating a team of 10 prosecutors to focus on civil rights cases, the Boston Globe reported.

U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said the unit will focus on hate crimes, human trafficking, police misconduct, damage to religious property and employment discrimination, the Globe reported.

“We’re open for business,” Ortiz said, according to the Globe. The unit will handle both criminal and civil cases.

The Globe reported that Ortiz said she wants prosecutors to encourage people in the community to come forward to report civil rights violations. She said too often they do not.

To read more click here.

Maryland Man and 5 Iranians Charged With Providing Hardware and Technology to Iran

iran-mapBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The feds have busted a suburban Washington man who ran a satellite company on charges that he illegally provided technology to his native Iran that resulted in the launching of an Iranian earth satellite, equipped with a camera, in Russia in October 2005, the Maryland  U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Nader Modanlo, 49, of Potomac, Md., a naturalized citizen born in Iran, was among six people named in a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday in Greenbelt, Md.  Authorities alleged that technology and hardware were provided to Iran in violation of the U.S. trade embarago, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Modanlo was arrested Tuesday morning. The other five defendants, all Iranians, were still at large, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“The indictment alleges that the defendants violated the Iran trade embargo by creating a sham company to conceal the fact that they were providing goods, technology and services to Iran in return for millions of dollars,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

Read more in a story in the Washington Post

Read U.S. Attorney Press Release

A Detroit Mob Photo by the FBI Surveillance Squad Captures History

Jack Tocco With Fellow Mobsters in 1979

Jack Tocco With Fellow Mobsters in 1979

I joined the Detroit FBI surveillance squad in 1977. Two years later, on June 11, 1979 , we witnessed an event- its historical significance and ramifications would not be clear until many years later.

But before I get to that, a little history. In the early 1970s, the FBI’s Detroit Field Office established the FBI’s 1st full-time surveillance squad. At that time, organized crime was one of the priorities of the FBI.

Neil Welch, the then Detroit FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC), decided it was a good idea to have a squad dedicated to primarily following members of the Detroit family of the La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia and learning about their activities. It should be noted that the Detroit family was one of the oldest and most successful LCN families in the country.

Although a surveillance squad was not a new concept, it was for the FBI. And FBI headquarters would have to be persuaded it was worthwhile, and that meant the Director, J. Edgar Hoover, had to agree. He did, and the Detroit surveillance squad was born.

The squad was unique not just in its function, but in its entire nature. As its primary target was a sophisticated organization, that would be surveillance wary, the squad had to be equal to the task.

The agents assigned to the squad would no longer report to the FBI office, but would work out of an “off-site” location that would use a phony business front. (It would be dubbed the bat cave.) The agents wouldn’t wear the usual agent garb of coat and tie, but street clothes. The cars the agents would drive would be varied and not have the staid, four-door, sedan look of a police car.

Although radio communication between cars was a necessity, the radios and antennas had to be hidden. The agents would have to learn techniques of conducting long-term surveillances undetected. They would not have the technological tools available today, such as: GPS devices, lap-top computers, cell phones and digitally coded radios. In those days, if you needed to have a phone conversation with someone when you were on the street, you had to find a pay phone- of course so did the bad guys.

The agents would also have to be adept at taking and developing photos (no instant review, but the bat cave had a dark room). They would have to learn the geography of the Detroit metropolitan area and be able to identify known members of the Detroit LCN family. In addition they had to create and memorize code names for the family members and major streets because police radios were susceptible to being “scanned,” being listened to by civilians.

In fact we learned through electronic surveillance that the Detroit family paid to have the FBI radio frequencies scanned regularly. (Today FBI radios are digital and can be encrypted to NSA standards.)

Since the establishment of the Detroit FBI’s surveillance squad, it has proved itself not only in its usefulness in aiding the successful prosecution of the Detroit LCN, but in its ability to provide information and evidence about criminal activities, including terrorism and foreign counter intelligence. The dedicated surveillance squad concept has been replicated in major field offices throughout the Bureau.

And now to that historic moment in 1979.

It was a beautiful summer day. We had set up to begin our surveillance that morning in Macomb County, north of Detroit, at a barber supply business owned by Rafaillo “Jimmy Q” Quassarano, a lieutenant in the Detroit LCN family.

We had done surveillances there many times before and had no reason to believe this day would be particularly notable. Later that morning we saw Giacomo “Jack” Tocco, an upper level LCN figure, arrive at the business. Then we saw Frank “the Bomb” Bommarito, a made guy, arrive driving a silver van. Bommarito went inside, but shortly exited and left driving another car.

A few minutes later Tocco and Quassarano exited the business with two other guys. They entered the van that Bommarito brought and started driving west. We followed the van into rural Washtenaw County to the Timberland Game Ranch (about 50 miles west of Detroit), which we later learned was owned by the Ruggirello brothers, Antonio”T.R.” and Luigi “Louie the Bulldog,” also made guys in the Detroit family. The van entered the ranch, a large a wooded area used for private up-scale hunting excursions. We set up where we could observe the entrance to the ranch and saw several late model Lincolns and Cadillacs each with several occupants drive into the ranch. (Later when the gathering broke up, we had the Michigan State Police stop some of these cars to identify the occupants.)

None of us on the team had ever seen a meeting like this, and we weren’t sure what was happening. I decided this was too big to not try to find out what was going on. So another agent, Keith Cordes, and I went to the back of the ranch away form the main gate.

After scaling a fence (The statute of limitations on trespassing ran out a long time ago.), we hiked through about a half mile of a heavily wooded area in the general direction of a part of the ranch that was cleared and where there were some buildings. At about 100 yards from the cleared area, we could hear the voices of the men at the gathering. But we didn’t know if we could get much closer without being seen or heard, and we couldn’t see much through the trees. Then I saw a narrow swath of cleared land radiating out from where the gathering was. It was an archery lane with a large target on our end. Keith and I got behind the archery target and could see up the lane to where the family had gathered. Keith whispered to me, do you think it’s a good idea to be this close to a target? I replied, “I don’t think mob guys do archery.”

I had brought my camera with a 300 mm lens attached. Near the head of the lane, I could see three men standing. Looking through my camera lens, I could see it was Vito “Billy Jack” Giacalone and Anthony “The Bull” Corrado. (Both Giacalone and Corrado were capos, captains, in the family.) They were standing on either side of Jack Tocco. Resting my camera on the target, I snapped a photo.

We determined that almost everyone of any stature in the Detroit LCN family was at the game ranch that day, even some emeritus members, except Anthony Zerilli. We also learned, through source information, this meeting was called to make Jack Tocco the boss of the family to replace Zerilli, whose performance had apparently been wanting.

It is extremely rare for all the members of a LCN family to meet together. I was told by a Mafia historian, he knew of no other time when such a meeting of any LCN family had been witnessed by outsiders, not to mention to have a photograph of the event.

In March, 1996, 17 members of the Detroit family were federally indicted for violation of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, conspiracy and related predicate crimes. Among those indicted were Vito Giacalone, Anthony Corrado and Jack Tocco. In January, 1998, Vito Giacalone pleaded guilty, and in his plea statement, he admitted there was a Detroit LCN family, and he was a member of it. This was the 1st time an upper level member of the Detroit family had admitted its existence.

A few months later, during the trial of Jack Tocco, Anthony Corrado, and others, I testified about, among other things, the taking of the photograph, almost 20 years before, and about the family gathering at the game farm. The photograph was admitted into evidence.

At the trial the United States presented evidence gathered over that almost 20 year period from sources, financial records, physical surveillance (fisur) and court authorized wire taps and microphones-electronic surveillance (elsurs). In the end, Jack Tocco, Anthony Corrado and all but one of the others was convicted of 50 counts of racketeering (RICO), extortion and conspiracy.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Rick Convertino, one of the prosecutors in the trial, said of the 1979 photo:

“The picture was extremely important. Obviously it was important as information about the inauguration of Jack Tocco as head of the Detroit La Cosa Nostra. But the real key was that LCN members had never met all together at one time at a place that wasn’t a wedding or a funeral. In hundreds and hundreds of hours of surveillance, nothing like that had ever happened before, and nothing like it ever happened again. All the planets were never lined up like that before or after that day.”

But for the creation of a surveillance squad capable of conducting difficult surveillances and adapting to unique situations, that alignment of the planets would not have been witnessed and photographed.

tocco redefine 2

FBI History: The Surveillance Squad Took a 1979 Photo of the Detroit Mob Worth Thousands of Words

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. He is a columnist for ticklethewire.com.

Jack Tocco With Fellow Mobsters in 1979

Jack Tocco With Fellow Mobsters in 1979

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

I joined the Detroit FBI surveillance squad in 1977. Two years later, on June 11, 1979 , we witnessed an event- its historical significance and ramifications would not be clear until many years later.

But before I get to that, a little history. In the early 1970s, the FBI’s Detroit Field Office established the FBI’s 1st full-time surveillance squad. At that time, organized crime was one of the priorities of the FBI.

Neil Welch, the then Detroit FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC), decided it was a good idea to have a squad dedicated to primarily following members of the Detroit family of the La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia, and learning about their activities. It should be noted that the Detroit family was one of the oldest and most successful LCN families in the country.

Although a surveillance squad was not a new concept, it was for the FBI. And FBI headquarters would have to be persuaded it was worthwhile, and that meant the Director, J. Edgar Hoover, had to agree. He did, and the Detroit surveillance squad was born.

The squad was unique not just in its function, but in its entire nature. As its primary target was a sophisticated organization, that would be surveillance wary, the squad had to be equal to the task.

Read more »