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June 2011


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for June, 2011

Big-Time NY Lawyer Has Lost Mob Clients After Cooperating With the Feds

Joseph Tacopina/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel

The headline on the website Gang Land News says it all: “Red Hot NY Lawyer Tacopina Gets Big Chill From Wiseguys.”

The headline was in reference to hotshot lawyer Joseph Tacopina, who was once the go-to guy for a lot of mobsters.

But no more — apparently not since he became a cooperating witness and dished  info to the feds.

“While Tacopina has represented numerous wiseguys and cohorts of at least four New York area crime families in years past, his current roster of clients appears devoid of mob-tied customers, local court databases show,” writes Jerry Capeci, editor of Gang Land News.

Gang Land News reported that Tacopina’s wiseguy clients seemed to vanish after he found himself in the middle of a fee-splitting and tax evasion probe of a prominent New York lawyers  and became a cooperating witness. Gang Land reported that the probe stemmed from an investigation into former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik, who was a Tacopina client.

Gangland reported that Tacopina became a cooperating witness against Kerik and also told federal investigators that he had funneled about $100,000 to attorney Ronald Fischetti ” from legal fees that he had received from a client whom Fischetti had referred to him in a major state court prosecution.”

Gang Land reported that the fee splitting is not a crime, but could lead to disciplinary action. It can also lead to criminal tax problems. The investigation never lead to any criminal charges.

Still, Gang Land News quoted an unnamed defense attorney as saying:

“It’s an open secret that Tacopina threw Fischetti under the bus four years ago, and that’s a really big issue for wiseguys – and lots of lawyers too.”

Tacopina declined to comment for Gang Land News.  Fischetti told the website that the allegations against him were not true.

N.C. Sheriff’s Deputy Assigned to U.S. Marshals Task Force Shot and Killed

By Allan Lengel

A sheriff’s deputy assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service task force was shot and killed Thursday while trying to serve an arrest warrant in a murder in Kinston, N.C., station WRAL reported.

The station reported that the deputy, Warren “Sneak” Lewis, was a nine-year veteran of the Nash County Sheriff’s Department.

The station reported that Lewis was approaching a home around 7 p.m. to serve a warrant when someone opened fire. The station reported that five people were detained, including three suspected in a June 2 murder.

“Investigator Lewis was a gentle soul and would go out of his way to give you the shirt off his back, if he thought you needed it. He will definitely be missed, and he leaves a void at this office that will never be filled,” Sheriff Dick Jenkins said in a statement.


Republicans Delay Judiciary Committee Vote on Mueller’s Extension; Gives the Nod to 3 U.S. Attorneys

Sen. Grassley/official photo

By Allan Lengel

Legislation that would enable FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to extend his 10-year term by two years seems all but certain to pass.

But it may not be with out a little resistance.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a vote Thursday on the legislation. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) said he wanted more time to get answers to some questions, according to the news website Main Justice. The bill was held over til the next meeting.

Grassley said the process should move forward in an orderly fashion after pressing questions are answered, Main Justice reported.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the panel had an opportunity during a hearing on Wednesday to get answers and that the delay could be risky with a the limited time Congress has with upcoming Congressional recesses.

The committee on Thursday also gave the nod to U.S. Attorney nominees Felicia Adams for the Northern District of  Mississippi, Ronald Sharpe for the Virgin Islands and George Beck for the Middle District of Alabama, Main Justice reported.

Second Hearing on ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious to Include Slain Agent’s Mother

atf photo

By Allan Lengel

A second Congressional House hearing on ATF’s controversial “Operation Fast and Furious” gun program — set for June 15 — will include a host of witnesses including Sen. Chuck Grassley and the mother and other relatives of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

The hearing, conducted by the House  Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,  will examine the consequences of the operation, which include allegations that guns purchased in the sting ended up being used to kill agent Terry.

“The reckless decisions of ATF and Justice Department officials in Operation Fast and Furious have devastated lives and put fear into communities on both sides of the border,” said Committee Chairman Darrell Issa in statement. “By exploring this Justice Department sanctioned program, we can better understand the flawed process surrounding the genesis and implementation of an operation that put guns into the hands of criminals.”

The operation encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all in the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

The first hearing titled “Obstruction of Justice: Does the Justice Department Have to Respond to a Lawfully Issued and Valid Congressional Subpoena?” is set for Monday, June 13th.

The second hearing witnesses are as follows:

Panel 1

· Senator Charles Grassley, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary

Panel 2

  • · Ms. Josephine Terry, Mother of the Late Border Agent Brian Terry
  • · Ms. Michelle Terry Balogh, Sister of the Late Border Agent Brian Terry
  • · Mr. Robert Heyer, Cousin of the Late Border Agent Brian Terry
  • · Special Agent Olindo James Casa, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Phoenix Field Division
  • · Special Agent Peter Forcelli, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Phoenix Field Division
  • · Special Agent John Dodson, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Phoenix Field Division

Panel 3

· Mr. Ronald Weich, Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice

Mexico Cartels Using Bullet-Proof Trucks Known as “Monsters”

By Allan Lengel

The drug cartels are using bullet-proof trucks known as “monsters”, according to CNN.

CNN reports that the trucks are built on a three-axle truck bed and include such features as swiveling turrets to shoot in any direction,a reinforced steel battering ram in front to demolish vehicles and walls and a one-inch-thick steel plate to protect occupants from gunfire and grenades. They can transport about 20 armed people.

Mexican officials say, according to CNN, that the monster trucks are used for transporting drugs and battling rival gangs.

In all, CNN reported that Mexican authorities have seized 20 narco-tanks in northeast Mexico.

Closings in Blago II; He’s a Liar and Swindler and His Testimony Was “Absurd”

By Allan Lengel

Surprise Surprise (not really).

Federal prosecutor Carrie Hamilton delivered closing arguments on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in downtown Chicago, calling defendant Rod Blagojevich a liar and a swindler, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. And oh yes, she said his seven days of testimony was “absurd” and “ludicrous.”

The closings marked the beginning of the end for Blago II, the sequel to the first trial which didn’t go so well for the prosecution. It convicted Blago on only one of 24 counts — lying to the FBI. The jury deadlocked on the remaining counts.

This time around, the prosecution tried to simplify the case after the jury in Blago I complained the case was too complicated.

She asked the jury to keep this in mind, according to the Sun-Times:

“Did the defendant try to get a benefit for himself in exchange for an official act?”

“That’s really all this case and these charges boil down to, and it’s really not any more complicated than that,” Hamilton said.

The Sun-Times wrote that the prosecutor  tried to address what some see as a weakness in the case: Blago talked a lot but never completed any illegal acts.

“The law protects people from being squeezed,” Hamilton said. “The harm is done when the ask is made because that’s the violation of the people’s trust.”

Her closing continues Thursday, the Sun-Times reported.

Mass Indictment in Atlanta Delivers Blow to Mexican Drug Traffickers, Authorities Say

By Allan Lengel

The DEA on Wednesday announced the break up of a large Mexican cartel organization operating out of Atlanta.

Dubbed “Operation G-60″, authorities said a three- year investigation by the DEA and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force has resulted in the indictment of  of 32 people operating  outlets for Mexican drug traffickers.

Sixteen people have been arrested and others remain at large.

“Operation G-60 has dealt a severe blow to the Mexican drug cartels operating in the metro Atlanta area,” Atlanta U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement.

“Earlier this morning, numerous alleged drug traffickers and money launderers were arrested in neighborhoods all across Atlanta. As a result of the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA and our state and local partners, over seven million dollars worth of cocaine and over a million dollars in dirty drug money have been taken off of the streets.”

The investigation resulted in the seizure  312 kilograms of cocaine (with an estimated wholesale street value of over $7 million), approximately 1,525 kilograms of marijuana and over $1.5 million in drug proceeds.

Someone Inside the Beltway Likes Missouri U.S. Atty. Beth Phillips

U.S. Atty. Beth Phillips/doj photo

By Allan Lengel

Somebody inside the Beltway apparently likes Beth Phillips.

In 2009, President Obama appointed her as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City.

Earlier this week,  the White House nominated the U.S. Attorney for a federal judgeship in Missouri.

Before becoming U.S. Attorney she was  an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the same district from 2008 to 2009.

Before that, she  worked at the law firm of Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny from 2001 to 2008.

She also worked  an Assistant Prosecutor with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office from 1997 to 2001.