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L.A. Judge Drops Key Convictions in Racketeering Case After Feds Discover Tape Beneficial to Defense

George Torres

George Torres

This case was considered a tough one, which made it all the more gratifying for federal prosecutors when they emerged victorious. Now it’s an embarrassment. The prosecution said it just discovered a tape recording that was helpful to the defense. On Tuesday, the judge took action.

By Scott Glover
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES — A federal judge  today tossed out two of the most serious convictions in the racketeering case against supermarket mogul George Torres, dramatically reducing the amount of time Torres faces behind bars.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered Torres released immediately on the condition he sign papers stating he would attend future hearings in the case.

The judge issued the order after federal prosecutors over the weekend turned over tape recordings of at least one key informant in the case that contained potentially exculpatory evidence.

The judge’s ruling marks a serious blow to prosecutors who last month won a conviction against Torres. Before the judge’s action, Torres faced a potential life sentence. With two of most serious convictions dismissed, Torres potential sentence will likely be significantly shorter. Authorities could not immediately say how much prison time he might face.

The convictions voided by Wilson were at the heart of the government’s case — racketeering and conspiracy, including murder.

For Full Story

Ex-Chicago U.S. Atty. Edward V. Hanrahan Dead at Age 88

chicagomap

Hanrahan served as U.S. Attorney in the 1960s before becoming  Cook County State’s Attorney.

By The Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — Edward V. Hanrahan’s promising political career ended in a hail of gunfire, when officers from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office killed two Black Panthers in a pre-dawn raid on Dec. 4, 1969.

A firestorm of controversy and years of court hearings followed. Mr. Hanrahan, who had once been seen as a potential mayor or governor, was defeated by a Republican in a bid for reelection as the county’s top prosecutor in 1972.

Indicted on conspiracy charges as a result of the Panthers raid but later cleared, Mr. Hanrahan never again held elected office.

Mr. Hanrahan, 88, died today. His death was confirmed by Peterson Funeral Home in Chicago, which is handling arrangements. The cause of death and other details were not immediately available.

For Full Story

Prosecutors Suggest Bribes Helped Pay for ex-Rep. Jefferson’s Childrens’ Top-Notch Education

William Jefferson

William Jefferson

Jury selection began Tuesday and could wrap up Wednesday, with opening statements slated for Thursday. If not, opening statements will begin Tuesday. Win or lose, Jefferson isn’t likely to get a Boy Scout badge at the end of the  trial with all the allegations and the unflattering FBI wiretaps.

By Jonathan Tilove
New Orleans Times-Picayune
WASHINGTON — There is no doubt about what former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, considers his greatest accomplishment: his five daughters and their academic achievements.

“The most important thing in life is for your children to have success; if you have that, nothing else matters, ” Jefferson said in an interview last month. “The most heart-warming thing for me in my life is my children have been able to have these outstanding educations.”

But even as Jefferson was joined by his wife and five daughters Tuesday at the opening day of jury selection for his corruption trial at the federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., prosecutors released a 152-page list of trial exhibits that is dotted with the names of his daughters and the elite colleges and universities they attended.

For Full Story

FBI Dir. Mueller Honors Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., 90, Who Portrayed Ideal Agent in Show “The FBI”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
More than three decades ago,  actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. graced America’s tv sets with his collective cool, his slick dark hair and finely tailored suits.  In living rooms everywhere,  he was known as the beloved fictional agent Insp. Louis Erskine on a show simply named “The FBI”.

Dir. Mueller Honors Efrem Zimbalist Jr./fbi photo
Dir. Mueller Honors Efrem Zimbalist Jr./fbi photo

The show, which ran from 1965-74, was a public relations bonanza for an agency that has always taken public relations seriously .  It was also a great recruiting tool for some future FBI agents. Zimbalist was always fighting evil, always portraying the ideal FBI agent.

On Monday morning, in a ceremony at the Los Angeles FBI field office, FBI Dir. Robert Mueller III honored Zimbalist with an honorary FBI special agent  badge. He still looked fit at age 90, but the slick dark hair associated with the fictional character Insp. Erskine had gone the way of the black and white tv, only to be replaced with a shock of white hair.

“Inspector Erskine became a classic TV character, and a household name,” Mueller said during the presentation. ” For many Americans, the show was their first glimpse into the work of the FBI, and their first encounter with an FBI special agent.

“We could not have asked for a better character, or a better man to play his role,” Mueller  said. ” Over the years, many actors have played FBI agents. But thanks to Efrem’s fine work, Inspector Erskine will always remain the icon of an FBI special agent.”

A press release from FBI headquarters said that “Mr. Zimbalist has been a steadfast supporter of the FBI for nearly four decades.

“After the show ended, Mr. Zimbalist continued his relationship with the FBI, participating in charity events that helped raise money for families of agents killed in the line of duty, lending his well-known voice to help narrate FBI recruiting videos, and appearing at various FBI functions around the country,” the press release said.

“Blood Wires” Continue to Flow Over the Mexican Border

western-union

Money transfers have long been the lifeline for drug traffickers and others involved in illegal activity. Authorities in Arizona say Western Union is smack in the middle of it all and hasn’t cooperated enough. Western Union calls the allegations “erroneous and inflammatory”.

By Josh Meyer
Los Angeles Times
PHOENIX —  The bleeding body of Mexican immigrant Javier Resendiz Martinez was the first thing police noticed when they raided the bungalow on North 63rd Avenue here four years ago after reports of gunshots.

Soon afterward, however, they found payment logs of more than 100 wire transfers to Western Unions in the border town of Caborca, Mexico — which state and federal officials cite as evidence that the financial services company and other money transmitters are used by Mexican crime syndicates to help facilitate the smuggling of people into the United States.

Arizona Atty. Gen. Terry Goddard said human smuggling has become a $2-billion-a-year business in his state alone, thanks in large part to what he calls “blood wires,” the payments from family members, friends and employers to smugglers via Western Union and other companies.

Goddard and other Arizona officials have not accused Western Union of a crime. But in interviews and court documents they say the company consistently has rejected requests for cooperation, undermining efforts in Arizona to go after the crime cartels that control much of the increasingly violent trade in humans, drugs, weapons and laundered cash from their havens in Mexico.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Busts Actor Anthony Borgese of Sopranos and Goodfellas Fame on Extortion Charge

Anthony Borgese/photo from friends of ours website

Anthony Borgese/photo from friends of ours website

The fine line between acting and reality sometimes vanishes as it seems to have in this case. Apparently there was a reason Anthony Borgese was such a good actor on tv and in the movies: The roles came naturally.

BY John Marzulli
New York DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
NEW YORK — A veteran actor with roles in “The Sopranos” and “GoodFellas” played a tough guy in real life, too, prosecutors say.

Anthony Borgese – along with a reputed Gambino crime family soldier – was charged with trying to strong-arm cash from an unlucky soul who owed money to a loanshark.

Borgese pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he tried to extort the unidentified man in upstate Monticello in 2004.

The longtime character actor, who grew up in Brooklyn, uses the stage name Tony Darrow and calls himself the “Goodfella of Comedy” on his Web site.

He was busted by FBI agents at LaGuardia Aiport as he arrived home from a film shoot late Thursday, sources said.

The 70-year-old actor looked haggard in court Friday after spending the night at the federal lockup in Brooklyn.

For Full Story

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller Defends Use of Informants in Mosques

Robert Mueller III

Robert Mueller III

This issue over FBI informants in mosques has created serious tension as of late between the FBI and the Islamic community in the U.S. This comes after great inroads have been made to improve relations in the Post-9/11 era.

By MICHAEL R. BLOOD
Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES — FBI Director Robert Mueller on Monday defended the agency’s use of informants within U.S. mosques, despite complaints from Muslim organizations that worshippers and clerics are being targeted instead of possible terrorists.

Mueller’s comments came just days after a Michigan Muslim organization asked the Justice Department to investigate complaints that the FBI is asking the faithful to spy on Islamic leaders and worshippers. Similar alarm followed the disclosure earlier this year that the FBI planted a spy in Southern California mosques.

“We don’t investigate places, we investigate individuals,” Mueller said during a brief meeting with reporters in Los Angeles.

“To the extent that there may be evidence or other information of criminal wrongdoings, then we will … undertake those investigations,” Mueller added. “We will continue to do it.”

For Full Story

Retirees Returning to Fed Agencies Would Not Lose Income Under Legislation

cash2First off, the mandatory retirement age of 57 for agencies like the FBI is silly. A 57 year old today is surely capable of carrying on duties and contributing to an agency. Joe Davidson of the Washington Post reports that the Senate may vote on legislation that would allow agencies to rehire retirees without having them lose retirement income, a bill that would benefit the agencies like the FBI and DEA.

By Joe Davidson
Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Before James J. Cameron Jr. retired after 34 years with the federal government, he served as a law enforcement officer with Customs, the Border Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Now he’d like to serve his country again. But he doesn’t want to lose money doing it.

Like other retired federal employees, Cameron, 67, faces a quandary when thinking about hitching up for another ride with Uncle Sam. If they go back to government work, their salaries would be cut by the amount of their pension.

“I would not consider taking part-time work if I had to have a reduced annuity,” said Cameron, who now lives in New Portland, Maine, after postings in eight cities around the country.

If he found work outside the federal sector, with a local police department for example, his federal annuity would not shrink.

The Senate may vote this week on legislation that includes a provision allowing Uncle Sam to rehire retirees like Cameron without making them lose some of their retirement income.

For Full Story