Feature Articles

September 2000

Round Up The Usual Suspects

By John William Tuohy

John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washingon, D.C.

compiled by John William Tuohy

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS An associate to alleged mobster Whitey Bulger pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in federal court this week and admitted involvement in five murders allegedly committed by Bulger's gang.

     Kevin Weeks told the U.S. District Court judge "I did it all"

     Under a plea agreement, Weeks will probably serve less then five years in prison because he is thought to have cooperated and provided evidence against Bulger and others.

     Bulger has been missing since he was indicted in January 1995 on gambling, loansharking and drug charges.

CLEVELAND, OHIO: A contractor has been charged with obstruction of justice, perjury and witness tampering involving work done for Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. D-Ohio, who facing a corruption investigation.

     The contractor is accused of obstructing justice by directing a secretary to falsify bills after FBI agents asked about work his company did on Traficant's farm near Youngstown. Investigators are trying to determine if he and other contractors worked for free or for reduced rates to influence the congressman, the newspaper said.

     Traficant has repeatedly said he expects to be indicted because of his suspected ties to organized crime. He denies any wrongdoing.

OKINAWA, JAPAN: Leaders of the world's rich nations agreed to clamp down on money laundering, and have said that they may use sanctions against offenders who persisted in handling the practice.

     The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) endorsed at their annual economic summit on Japan's southern island of Okinawa threats by their finance ministers to cut offenders off from the international banking system as well as IMF loans.

     The leaders also endorsed a separate report compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which named and shamed a list of tax havens, many of them with ties to Britain that are popular with individual investors.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO: The bodies of five people who had been hanged in a gangland-type killing were discovered this week. The bodies were discovered dumped along a highway.

     The motives for the killings were not clear but it appeared to be "a new style of organized crime execution" police said.

     The bodies were discovered heaped atop one another with ropes still around their necks. Three had their feet tied. One had been shot in the head as well.

     Among the victims was Guillermo Gurrola Gutierrez, 52, brother of a former regional leader of the national oil workers union.

HEADLINE: "Spaghetti Arrested In Tortellini Theft" -- USA Today headline on a story noting the arrest of Stefano Spaghetti for robbing a tortellini shop in Bologna, Italy.

LOS ANGELES, California: ``The Sopranos'' and ``The West Wing'' each received a leading 18 Emmy nominations this month.

MADRID, SPAIN: Spain and Italy signed an agreement on extradition and law-enforcement cooperation which could mean problems for Italian Mafia fugitives believed to be hiding in Spain.

     Spain's relations with Italy have been strained by its reputation as a safe haven for wanted Mafia, agreed to speed up extradition requests and work more closely with Italian police and judges.

ITHACA, NEW YORK: William F. Whyte, a professor emeritus of sociology at Cornell University and author of a seminal study on Italian-American street gangs, died Sunday. He was 86.

     Whyte spent more than a year living with an Italian-American family in Boston's North End and hanging out with gang members. The book, published in 1943, was translated into Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Italian and Spanish, and sold more than 270,000 copies.

SEATTLE: Heroin use is up in the midwest. Police estimate that the city now has some 15,000 to 20,000 heroin users in Seattle and surrounding King County and a new federal report says overdose deaths have increased 134 percent in 10 years.

     In Portland and the surrounding area where men between the ages of 25-54 are dying as frequently of over does and herion addiction as they are of cancer or heart disease.

     According to the federal government, both cities are flooded with heroin becuase they are on the Interstate 5 corridor, which runs from Mexico to Canada and are international ports, makes the cities convenient for smugglers selling heroin.

TRIESTE, ITALY: Italian police have arrested 40 people, mostly Chinese nationals, in a crackdown on three gangs suspected of smuggling illegal immigrants from China into central and northeastern Italy.

     The traffickers charged the would-be immigrants between $12,000 and $14,000 each for the trips and often resorted to beatings, torture and threats against family members to force their clients to pay, police said.

     Three separate networks - whose leaders include a Chinese national and two Croatians - often worked together in organizing the movement of immigrants through Russia and Slovenia and into Italy either overland or by crossing the Adriatic Sea, police said.

RICHMOND, Virginia: Overnite Transportation Company employees at the company's Toledo, Ohio, Service Center have sought approval from the National Labor Relations Board to decertify the teamsters as their bargaining agent.

     The teamsters, who represent less than 1,800 of Overnite's 13,000 employees and do not have a contract with Overnite, represent just 22 of the company's 166 service centers. Toledo is the 12th of the 22 to seek decertification since March 1999.

     On October 24, 1999, the union called for a nationwide walkout against Overnite. Ninety-five percent of the company's employees have ignored the union's plea and are continuing to cross picket lines. In Toledo, where the teamsters represent 45 freight handlers, five full-time and two part-time employees are honoring the picket lines.

     In the mean time, the Teamsters have notified investment bank Goldman Sachs it is "closely reviewing" the billions of pension fund dollars it has with the firm because of Goldman's dealings with New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), an institution the union says is anti-labor.

     The letter was sent by Teamster President James Hoffa Jr. whose father, the notorious Jimmy Hoffa, helped to loan millions to organize crime. Jimmy Hoffa is believed to have been murdered by his organized crime associates.

ROME, ITALY: An Italian man, dressed as a woman, killed his 91-year-old blind psychiatrist because he was dissatisfied with the treatment he received.

     Police said Cesare Fratazzi, 74, crept up on his analyst Emilio Dido, who was blind since the age of two, and shot him in the head. He then killed the psychiatrist's wife, and then turning the gun on himself. ``He was depressed, but after the treatment he was even worse,'' Fratazzi's wife told investigators.

LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS. Police arrested a man for allegedly using bogus electronic bar codes to buy expensive infant formula for a cut-rate price, and then, apparently, resold the the formula for a profit.

     The suspect was caught by a store detective putting forged bar codes on cans of formula and paying a fraction of the original price at checkout.

     A search of the man's truck turned up more than 1,000 cans of infant formula valued at more than $14,000, sales slips for formula from stores in Kentucky and Tennessee and a supply of bar code stickers.

WINNIPEG, CANADA: A Canadian mugging victim was called ``stupid'' by a judge in court for failing to be careful in a rough neighborhood. The judge then let his attacker go. ``If you walk around jingling money in your's like walking in the wolf enclosure at the city zoo with a pound of ground beef in your hand,'' Judge Charles Rubin was quoted as saying.

MIAMI, FLORIDA: A 12-year-old boy told detectives he's stolen more than 50 cars over the last several years and police are inclined to believe him.

     The Broward County Sheriff's Office has confirmed the boy's involvement in 16 thefts and is trying to verify the others.

     The boy, who was not identified because of his age, was arrested July 14 after sheriff's officials identified his fingerprints on a car broken into two days earlier in Dania Beach, just south of Fort Lauderdale. He already had a police record stretching back three years.

     Although four years from the legal driving age, the boy is 5 foot 7 inches tall and can apparently operate the cars, he said.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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