Feature Articles

November 6, 2000

Round Up The Usual Suspects 1

By John William Tuohy

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

compiled by John William Tuohy

New York: Thirty-eight people and 11 companies have been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury on charges of siphoning millions of dollars from city construction projects through bribery, bid-rigging and other crimes.

     A 57-count indictment claimed the defendants, called ``The Lucchese Construction Group'' by investigators, illegally used nonunion labor on eight public and private projects and paid workers less than the legal wage.

     Additionally, crooked contractors in the group billed public agencies and private developers as if they were paying wages in compliance with the law, the indictment said.

     The difference between what the contractors billed the project sponsors and their actual labor costs went to bribes given to corrupt union officials who let them use nonunion labor, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.

     The bribes constituted a ``mob tax'' of at least 5 percent of a contract's value, and the payoff was possible only with the cooperation of the corrupt contractors, he said.

     Six of the 38 people also were named in a six-count federal indictment, which included charges of conspiracies involving wire fraud or extortion or both. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

     Morgenthau said he was unaware of the federal indictment, but said it is not unusual for state and federal officials to run parallel investigations.

Washington: Vinton Cerf, widely regarded as the "father of the Internet," said that so far, he believes the FBI is using its Carnivore surveillance system without violating Internet users' privacy.

     Cerf also told a Senate subcommittee that he opposes efforts to force the FBI to disclose the blueprints for Carnivore.

     The FBI can use the Carnivore software system to monitor Internet traffic and capture e-mail from a criminal suspect. Critics of the system say Carnivore makes it easy to capture electronic communications from innocent people as well.

Australia: Cuts in Australia's budget have the number of reduced surveillance inspector at Sydney's casino says a government report, and as a result their is evidence of prostitution, loan sharking and criminal activity taking a toehold in the industry. The government has promised to take action on the situation.

Costa Rica: According to reports from the San Jose-based Casa Alianza, child prostitution in Costa Rican, El Salvado, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are on the upswing.

     The report says that child prostitution problem in Central America continues to grow despite repeated reports from nongovernmental organizations and foreign media, because the region's governments refuse to recognize the problem.

New York: French President Jacques Chirac addressed the permanent membership of the UN Security Council this week and called for a universal fight against "all cross-border scourges: terrorism and organized crime"

Rome: The Sicilian town of Corleone, made famous by Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather, plans to open a Mafia museum in a building that once housed a convent.

     The museum, which will also serve as an international resource center on organized crime, will house books, articles, police reports, films and audiovisual displays.

     The village, which is on the outskirts of Palermo, is famous in Italy as the birthplace of Toto Riina, the ``boss of all bosses'' of Cosa Nostra, as the Sicilian Mafia is known.

     Riina is serving life in prison after his 1993 arrest.

Bogota: A Russian-designed submarine, being built to smuggle drugs out of Colombia, was confiscated on by authorities in Bogota this week.

     The 100-foot sub was seized in a raid on a warehouse in a working-class neighborhood 18 miles west of the capital.

     Police chief Gen. Luis Ernesto Gilibert said Russian-language documents found alongside the partially completed vessel led authorities to conclude that ``the Russian Mafia or Russian technicians'' were involved in its construction.

     Once work on the sub had been completed, Gilibert said it would have been broken up and smuggled overland before being riveted back together and launched off Colombia's Pacific or Caribbean coast.

     He did not speculate on why work on the ship had been started in the landlocked Colombian capital, which is perched in the Andes Mountains 8,530 feet above sea level.

     Colombia is estimated to supply about 80 percent of the world's cocaine and much of the heroin sold on US streets.

Toronto: Canadian police said Tuesday they made one of the largest heroin seizures in the nation's history, confiscating 343 pounds of illicit drug, some packed into fake duck eggs.

     Ten ethnic Chinese in Toronto and Vancouver were arrested on drug smuggling and possession charges after police and border patrol agents intercepted two separate shipments, according to police officials.

     Police say an elite Asian organized crime groups sent the drugs, but he refused to provide any further details.

Tokyo: Justice Minister Okiharu Yasuoka said the government will consider jailing again a paroled South Korean man convicted of murder in Japan and arrested in Pusan, Korea, earlier this week on arson and attempted murder charges.

     Gwon Hui Ro, a 71-year-old known as Kim Hui Ro in Japan, was paroled last September from a Japanese prison while serving a life sentence for killing two gangsters in 1968 and other crimes. Pusan police charged him with attempted murder Monday after he allegedly confined and assaulted a man in the port city.

     Pusan police said Gwon confined the husband of his 43-year-old girlfriend in an apartment Sunday. Gwon is suspected of trying to kill him with a sharpened bamboo staff and setting some clothing in the room on fire, they said. He was seized shortly afterward.

     On Feb. 20, 1968, Gwon shot two gangsters to death in Shimizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo. Later that day he took 13 people hostage at a hot-springs inn in the prefecture. He was arrested four days later.

     During a five-day standoff with police, Gwon demanded that Japanese people apologize for discriminating against Korean residents in Japan.

Hong Kong: Bill collectors here have taken to burly hiring gangsters to visit and intimate people who are behind on their payments. The hoods, who work in groups of three, bang violently on the debtors door and scream abuse.

     Many people in consumption-crazed Hong Kong have fallen into debt since Asia's financial crisis hit three years ago.

     In a recent survey by the Democratic Party, up to one-fifth of 493 respondents said they had either been harassed by debt collectors or knew people who had.

     To get their money back, banks and credit card firms employ one of the 150-odd "financial management companies", a euphemism for the hoods used to collect the cash owed.

Jamaica: A crime wave has struck this country of 2.6 million where more than 600 people have been murdered so far this year. In comparison, Chicago, a city of 2.7 million with the second highest murder rate in the United States, had 641 killings last year.

     Angry citizens have bombarded Jamaica's government with ideas of introducing the guillotine, lashing convicts and tattooing criminals.

     Prime Minister P. J. Patterson addressed the nation Sunday, promising to stem the ``rampant criminality.'' He announced efforts to stem the flow of guns, a new police strike force to fight organized crime and said his government will reintroduce the death penalty.

     The economy's four-year tumble combined with an official unemployment rate of 16.3 percent are the inevitable results of crime increases over 30 years. In the 1990s alone murders jumped from under 500 to a high of more than 1,000 in 1997.

     Most of Jamaica's violent crime is centered in Kingston, the capital. But the number of murders have doubled in the northwestern parish of St. James, home to tourism capital Montego Bay, from 19 this time last year to 39 so far this year. Robberies and shootings there are also up almost 50 percent.

Hollywood: Jeff Bridges and John Abrams will appear in a low-budget indie feature ``Scenes of the Crime'' for first-time writer-director Dominique Forma. The project is scheduled to begin shooting Nov. 4 in Los Angeles for five weeks.

     The film, budgeted at less than $10 million, centers on a young man (Abrams) who makes extra money as the driver of a local mobster. When the mobster is shot and killed by a rival ranking mob boss (Bridges), the young man finds himself caught in the middle.

Moscow: Sixteen people were injured this week by a grenade lobbed at a line of prostitutes standing alongside a Moscow street, police said.

     A police spokeswoman said by telephone that the grenade exploded at 3:45 a.m. (2345 GMT) on Bolshaya Sukharevskaya street in central Moscow and injured the legs of 15 women and one man.

     A detective investigating the case told NTV that the blast looked like a settling of accounts between rival criminal gangs rather than an act of terrorism.

     A police spokesman said the grenade was not powerful and could have been homemade.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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