IN THIS ISSUE|
· Bonannos Mopped Up
· Rakes to Rake it In?
· Bad Year for "The Chin"
· Short Takes
· This Week in Mob History
· Trials and Tribulations
Bonannos Mopped Up
It’s being touted as the "most extensive crackdown" on the Bonanno Family since FBI Agent Joseph Pistone, ala Donnie Brasco, infiltrated the gang 20 years ago.
As AmericanMafia.com reported last week, the feds did come huffing and puffing on the door of the Bonannos and the result was devastating. On March 19 a 15-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court charging 13 family members with murder, conspiracy to murder, drug trafficking, extortion, loansharking and illegal gambling. The offenses occurred during the past twelve years.
The breakdown of those indicted are five soldiers, five associates, one capo, one acting capo and the family’s consigliere – Anthony "T.G." Graziano. The 61 year-old Graziano was reputedly promoted from capo to consigliere a year ago when his predecessor, Anthony Spero, went to trial and was convicted of racketeering and ordering three murders. Spero is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Frank "Big Frank the Fireman" Porco, a capo in the crime family is reported to be in hiding.
Heidi Singer of the Staten Island Advance reported, "Five of the accused are already behind bars, and the remaining seven were indicted yesterday [March 19]. They appeared a depressed and unhealthy crop of accused mobsters, according to their medications, which their lawyers said included the anti-depressants Paxil and Zoloft, along with Valium, methadone and a drug to prevent tuberculosis."
The New York Post reported that prosecutors James Walden and Greg Andres indicted Graziano based on testimony from former members of the "Bath Avenue Crew" from Brooklyn. The newspaper claimed, "The ‘Crew’ is a loose cell of tattooed thugs turned ‘rat’ who helped put away…Anthony Spero, in April 2001."
Kati Smith of the Post writes, "Prosecutors have turned the tide against the family in recent years by persuading a new breed of violent mob wannabes – involved in murder, drug dealing and even torture – to testify in exchange for lighter sentences."
In papers filed with the court prosecutors claim Fabrizio DeFrancisci "stabbed, beat and burned his victims, including at least three acts of brutal torture involving a blowtorch, a noose and a cigarette lighter."
Prosecutors claim they have more than ten witnesses who will identify Graziano from his capo days. The new consigliere allegedly ran a Charleston strip club where last December the FBI confiscated envelopes full of cash that were to be a Christmas present for Graziano.
In early 2001 Graziano traveled to Mexico and Italy with Joseph Massino, the boss of the Bonanno Family. Massino, who was not indicted, has led a charmed life as of late. He’s the only boss of the five New York City crime families that isn’t behind bars. That could change soon. Kevin Donovan, who replaced recently retired Barry Mawn as assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York City office, issued this warning: "The Bonanno Family should clearly understand that the pressure is on, the investigation continues and more is to come."
This past November Bonanno Family underboss Salvatore "Uncle Sal" Vitale was arrested for bank fraud, loansharking and money laundering.
When the dust settles who knows which will be the largest gang left operating in New York City. It could be between the Five Points Gang and Hudson Dusters.
Another day, another lawsuit involving the Boston FBI office and the Gold Dust Twins of the Beantown underworld – James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi. This time it’s Stephen Rakes who has filed a suit asking for $120 million.
On March 18 Boston Herald reporter J. M. Lawrence wrote, "The juxtaposition of the civil suits and eight pending criminal cases involving Bulger and Flemmi’s status as informants means prosecutors are presenting evidence of abuse in one courtroom while Department of Justice attorneys try to fend off claims over the abuses in another." Lawrence was referring to the current case of Michael Carucci, Flemmi’s money launderer and the upcoming case of scumbag former FBI agent "Dishonest John" Connolly.
Commenting on the government’s dilemma, former federal prosecutor Paul Kelly, who is representing Rakes, told reporters, "It is just an awfully difficult position they find themselves in. The better the job the DOJ does in its own prosecution of Flemmi and John Connolly and others, the more difficult position it puts itself in with respect to the civil cases."
J. M. Lawrence reported that this ongoing disaster led newly appointed US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan to request that judges meet and determine a schedule to handle the criminal cases first and "manage discovery in the civil cases in a manner that will not hamper the criminal cases." William G. Young, the Chief Justice of the US District Court, denied the request.
The story of the encounter between the Rakes family and Bulger and Flemmi was one of the most disgusting tales in the book Black Mass written by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. Stephen Rakes and his wife, Julie Miskel, purchased an abandoned gas station in South Boston and renovated it into a liquor store. Purchasing a liquor license at auction for $3,000 the couple hustled to complete the store in order to be in business for the New Year’s Eve rush of 1983.
The Rakes had two young daughters and Julie was pregnant with a third child. The couple split their time between the home and the liquor store and received some help from family members in getting it ready.
All of their efforts went for not before the first week of business was over. Bulger and Flemmi had been keeping an eye on the progress of the liquor store with intentions of making it their own. On the first Wednesday night of 1984 Stephen, at home with the children, was paid a visit by Bulger, Flemmi and Kevin Weeks. Bulger told Rakes that other liquor store operators in the area wanted him dead due to the competition he was creating.
"Instead of killing you, we’ll buy the store," Bulger offered.
"It’s not for sale," said Rakes.
Bulger cursed and threatened Rakes and then stormed out. He returned moments later with a brown paper bag. As the four men were gathered in the kitchen, one of the Rakes’ daughters entered, curious to see what was going on. Flemmi removed a gun from his waistband and placed it on the table. He then lifted the young girl and sat her on his lap.
"Isn’t she cute," cooed the hood. He then let the child handle the gun and watched as she put part of it in her mouth to suck on. "It would be a sin for her not to see you," he told Rakes.
Lehr and O’Neill write in Black Mass:
"Stephen Rakes watched in horror. Bulger continued: either we kill you or we buy the store. Rakes sat still and listened. Bulger explained that inside the paper bag, packed in neatly folded bunches, was $67,000 in cash. Never mind that Stephen and Julie actually put about $100,000 into their new business – between the cost of the lease, the renovation, the refrigerators, and the stock – all of which they fully expected to make back and more. Bulger had set his own price, and this was Bulgertown."
"You’re lucky you’re getting what you put into it," Bulger told Rakes. "Now go away."
"It’s ours," Flemmi told him.
In minutes, one of Bulger’s hoods was at the store helping Julie pack up her personal belongings. She never set foot in the store again.
A few days after the takeover the Rakes’ met with Julie’s uncle, a Boston police detective, who promised to help. He knew a local FBI agent and called to set up a meeting. Unfortunately the agent turned out to be "Dishonest John" Connolly. End of story.
In 1991 and 1995 Rakes was summoned before federal grand juries investigating money laundering and extortion at Bulger’s liquor store. Both times Rakes testified that he had voluntarily sold the store to Kevin Weeks. The government that had failed to protect Stephen Rakes in 1984 convicted him in 1998 of perjury and obstruction of justice.
After agreeing to cooperate with the government, Rakes provided information that led to the indictments of Kevin Weeks and Kevin O’Neill in November 1999. By that time Flemmi was in custody and Bulger was a fugitive. Rakes was eventually sentenced to two years probation.
A July 4, 2001 article by J. M. Lawrence states that the Rakes divorced in 1992 after 12 years of marriage. Julie claimed that during the perjury trial, her ex threatened her to keep silent. Today the remarried Julie Dammers has a suit filed against Bulger and company for $30 million. Stephen Rakes has custody of the couples three teenaged daughters.
For you number crunchers and lawyers out there, here is a breakdown of the lawsuits against the government, which total $1.466 billion, and Whitey Bulger:
Against the United States government:
March 7, 2001 – $50 million– filed by Jeffrey A. Denner, representing Christopher McIntyre, his mother Emily and the estate of murder victim John McIntyre
March 8, 2001 – $36 million– filed by Robert A. George, representing the family of Michael J. Donahue, an innocent man who was murdered with Brian Halloran.
July 24, 2001 – $375 million– filed by William T. Koski, representing Peter J. Limone and the families and estates of Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco.
August 3, 2001 – $25 million– filed by Albert F. Cullen, Jr., representing Patricia Marie Maccarelli, the widow of Brian Halloran.
March 14, 2002 – $860 million– filed by Frank Libby, representing the family of Oklahoma millionaire Roger Wheeler.
March 21, 2002 – $120 million– filed by Paul Kelly, representing Stephen Rakes
Editor’s Note: The last two lawsuits must have superceded suits filed last year. In a May 14, 2001 article, the Boston Globe reported that Frank Libby and Paul Kelly, "who once worked alongside FBI agents," had filed legal claims against the FBI seeking $600 million in damages for the Wheeler and Rakes’ families. The article came across as if the two ex-federal prosecutors were working together.
In addition, a lawsuit has yet to be filed by attorney Victor J. Garo who is representing Joseph Salvati. Last July Garo requested that the government "spare" Salvati and his family a civil trial and pay them restitution.
Against James "Whitey" Bulger et al:
February 26, 2001 – $30 million– filed by Robert S. Sinsheimer, representing Olga Davis, the mother of Debra Davis, who disappeared in September 1981.
February 26,2001 – $14 million– filed by James E. Riley, Jr., representing Richard Milano and the family of Michael Milano.
July 3, 2001 – $30 million– filed by an attorney representing Julie (Rakes) Dammers.
Who would have believed that after "Oddfather," Vincent Gigante went away to prison in 1997 that five years later he would be back in the headlines even bigger than before? Well, believe it! And believe that the medical wonder boss at 73 years of age is off to his worst year yet.
In February Gigante was arraigned on charges that he still runs the Genovese Crime Family from the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas where he is in the middle of a twelve-year sentence for racketeering and a conspiracy to commit murder conviction. In the latest indictment he is also charged with obstruction of justice for feigning the mental illness that delayed his first trial for some seven years.
Since his arraignment Gigante has been held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. His lawyer, Gary Greenwald, who maintains his client is not mentally competent to stand trial due to dementia and a heart problem, has requested that Gigante be transferred to a New York area hospital for the duration of his sentence.
In a ruling on March 13 Judge I. Leo Glasser denied the request stating that Gigante was "in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, not the court." Glasser claimed that Gigante "is asking the court to micro-manage the Bureau of Prisons by way of an order the court has no authority to issue."
From that moment things just got worse for the "Oddfather."
On March 20 federal prosecutors released audio and videotapes of Gigante "acting like a normal prison inmate" at the Fort Worth facility. The tapes reveal:
December 12, 2000 – Gigante is relating a conversation to his wife, Olympia, that he had with his prison doctor. Gigante discusses medical terms and treatments with a clear understanding.
December 25, 2000 – Gigante has a discussion with his girlfriend, Olympia (he must have a fetish for women named Olympia) about a problem with laryngitis that his daughter, Yolanda, is having:
Gigante: She can’t talk.
Olympia [girlfriend]: Why?
Gigante: I don’t know. There’s something, she says she’s lost her voice. I says you, you got like me. [Gigante then chuckles and uses the mumble routine over the phone that he uses in his crazy act]. She, she’s alright.
April 20, 2001 – Speaking with his wife again, Gigante claims he has heard about the recent indictment of 33 members of the Genovese Family (the result of Michael Durso’s work for the government).
Gigante: They says I’m indicted on something.
Olympia [wife]: All I know is, they say some men were arrested. They said they were with a family and you were running it from Texas.
Gigante: I’m running it? I’m running around the park.
August 2001 – A videotape shows Gigante in an "animated" conversation with sons Andrew and Salvatore and his cardiologist. Gigante is taped walking around and combing his hair without the "stumbling and mumbling" of his Greenwich Village days.
Gigante could be facing more serious problems on another front. Caught on Michael Durso’s tapes is a conversation with Salvatore "Sammy Meatballs" Aparo, who claims that Gigante "gets visits" and "sends messages." Aparo reveals that Gigante "knows what’s going on. He just has to continue that act."
Mob watchers are now waiting to see if some of the higher-ups in the Genovese Family who were nailed in the April and/or December 2001 indictments will "rat out" Gigante as they prepare to plea bargain rather than face the reality of the Durso tapes.
Apparently the only person left on the planet that believes the "crazy act" is Gigante’s lawyer Greenwald. What a sap. At least he’s making good money to promote it.
Here’s some free advice for Gigante that he won’t get from his attorney – Cut and Roll! Cut a deal with prosecutors and roll over on whomever you have to in order to keep from expiring in prison. Gigante is 73 years old and has six years left on the current sentence. Who knows how many years will be tacked on if he is convicted again? With his legitimate health problems it isn’t likely he’ll live through the current stretch. Because of John Gotti’s circumstances don’t expect Gigante to be given any sympathy for his medical condition by the government.
If Gigante’s family doesn’t want to see "Crazy Vince" die in stir, they better act now. Father Louis Gigante, "Chin’s" brother, better rally the troops – sons, daughters and Olympias – to convince the "Oddfather" that this is the best thing he can do. And why not? Everyone else is doing it. Is becoming a government witness any less honorable then continuing the crazy man charade, which has been going on for decades. Jerry Capeci was right when he concluded, "Chin’s nutty act is so tired it’s giving us dementia."
Perhaps Gigante, who once criticized John Gotti for getting his son involved in the mob, can pull off a deal that will keep his own son, Andrew, out of prison. Now that would be the honorable thing.
Chicago – A federal jury in the theft and bribery trial of Michael A. Spano, Sr. found the Cicero mob boss and two co-defendants guilty last Thursday. A detailed account of the trial and the defendants will appear next week
Florida – Add Florida to the list of states that are looking at revenues from video lottery terminals (aka slot machines) to help them out of budget deficits. Two state senators from the Miami area are spearheading the effort, which they claim will net $185 million in the first year. The bill calls for the slot machines to be placed at the state’s racetracks and jai alai frontons. Florida gambling detractors claim that people spending money on gambling hurts the state because it is disposable income not spent on items that generate sales tax revenue. A study released last month by the Florida Counsel on Compulsive Gambling found that approximately 275,000 residents of the state are currently experiencing "serious to severe gambling problems." Early last month Governor Jeb Bush said he would veto any proposal for the video lottery terminals.
Philadelphia – A three-judge panel from the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia met March 21 to hear attorneys argue whether or not imprisoned mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino can be tried again for the murder of Joseph Sodano. In question was the jury decision from last year’s 14-week trial in which Merlino, although avoiding conviction on several major charges, still ended up with a fourteen-year sentence. During deliberations US District Judge Herbert J. Hutton told jurors they could mark "un-proven" on certain charges, one of which involved the Sodano murder. Merlino’s attorney, Christopher Warren, claims the juror’s decision was tantamount to a not-guilty verdict therefore preventing Merlino from being retried on the charge because it would constitute double jeopardy. Sodano, a North Jersey crew boss, was ordered to be killed for not coming in when called by Merlino and former mob boss-turned-government-witness Ralph Natale. The two wanted a cut of Sodano’s gambling profits. Kitty Caparella reported in a Daily News article that, "Jurors had been in favor of convicting Merlino of the murder to the tune of 11 to 1. The panel of judges will review the information and issue an opinion. Caparella also reported that Merlino’s embattled wife, Deborah, attended the hearing along with Merlino’s mother and sister. AM.com wonders if Deborah’s transgressions have been forgiven or if the family is just trying to put on a good face? During an early morning search of the Merlino home in December raiders found William "Billy" Rinick hiding under the bed of one of the couple’s children. His presence among the dust bunnies has never been explained. Meanwhile, the "Skinny One," who is adjusting to life at a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas, was not invited to the hearing.
April 1, 1924 – Salvatore "Frank" Capone was considered the brightest of the Capone brothers and the one most compared to Johnny Torrio. Unfortunately he was the first to die and in a mob rarity, killed by police. Plain-clothes officers hurried into Cicero from Chicago on Election Day to stop the voting illegalities of the Capone gang. When ten carloads of the officers started pouring out of their automobiles, Frank Capone, thinking they were rival gangsters, went to draw his gun. Although an inquiry claimed he returned fire, the fact is his never got the gun out of his pocket before he was cut down. He was 29 years old. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_11-15-99.html
April 1, 1953 – Anthony "Fat Tony" Gizzo was one of Kansas City’s more colorful mobsters. After the murders of Charles Binaggio and Charles Gargotta, and the imprisonment of Gaetano Lococo, Gizzo would assume the leadership of the Kansas City underworld. His rule would be short lived, but it wouldn’t be a violent ending. Gizzo died of a massive heart attack in a hotel room in Dallas. The 52-year-old Gizzo and his wife had gone to Texas to visit their son who was serving time for a narcotics offense. See my story http://www.crimemagazine.com/kcfamily.htm
April 1, 1994 – Ronald Coppola and Peter Scarpellino were murdered by New England Mafia member Antonio "Nino" Cucinotta after he felt the two men disrespected him. Cucinotta left a social club the three had been at, got a gun, and returned. Walking into the club, he headed directly toward the table where Coppola and Scarpellino were seated playing cards. He fired two bullets into Ronnie Coppola’s head killing him instantly. Scarpellini ran shoeless to the bathroom and locked himself in. Two shots fired through the door ripped through his neck and back killing him.
April 3, 1966 – Jerry Morales was murdered and Charles Canelstein wounded by Westies’ gang members Jimmy Coonan and Eddie Sullivan after an attempt to shake the two victims down for money failed.
April 3, 1967 – Walter Bennett was one of three Boston area brothers who were murdered by the local underworld during what was called the M & M War. The brothers were involved in gambling operations in the city. Despite recent information provided by Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, who was involved in the murders, the bodies of Walter Bennett, and his brother Edward (who disappeared earlier), have never been recovered by authorities.
April 3, 1971 – Joseph Valachi was perhaps the most celebrated "Mob Rat" of all-time. A cellmate of Vito Genovese in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, "Don Vitone" believed Valachi helped set him up in the drug bust that sent him to prison. Fearing for his life, Valachi agreed to become a government witness after killing an innocent man whom he suspected was sent to kill him. Valachi’s revelations to the government during the McClellan Committee hearings in 1963 were one of this country’s most important insights into the inner workings of La Cosa Nostra. Unlike the many "mob rats" who would come after him negotiating incredible plea bargains, Valachi spent the rest of his life behind bars, dying of a heart attack at the age of 67 in the La Tuna Federal Prison in El Paso, Texas.
April 4, 1927 – Vincent "the Schemer" Drucci was one of the few Italian members of Chicago’s Northside Gang and the only Italian to be its leader, albeit for a short time. Like Frank Capone, three years earlier, Drucci’s death at the hands of a police officer was a rarity and he is the only mob leader to meet his demise in this fashion. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_3-22-99.html
April 4, 1996 – Michael "Dutchie" Avicoli was the 34 year-old bodyguard for Philadelphia mobster Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Avicoli disappeared and his body has never been found.
April 4, 1999 – William Manolis was an 18 year-old St. John’s University student who was stabbed to death by Carmine Galante, the nephew of the murdered Bonanno mob boss with the same name. Galante senselessly stabbed Manolis at a Bay Ridge bar because he talking to his girlfriend.
April 6, 1950 – Charles Binaggio and Charles Gargotta were murdered in the First District Democratic Club in one of Kansas City’s most notorious Mafia murders. The bodies of Binaggio and Gargotta were found around 4:00 a.m. Police believed the killers were known to both men as neither victim was armed. Binaggio’s body was sprawled in a swivel chair at his desk. His assassin pressed a .32 caliber automatic to his head and pulled the trigger four times. All four wounds bore powder burns. Police theorized that Gargotta then ran for the front door to escape. The first of four bullets hit Gargotta in the back of the head from several feet away. After he fell to the floor, his killer stood over him and fired three more bullets into his head at close range. See my article at http://www.crimemagazine.com/kcfamily.htm
April 6, 1972 – Joseph "Crazy Joey" Gallo was one of the New York underworld’s most colorful mobsters. One of three brothers who dominated a Brooklyn crew of the Profaci Family, Joey Gallo let it be known for years that he was one of the hitmen who killed Albert Anastasia, although most mob historians have a different opinion. Gallo was out celebrating his 43rd birthday with his new wife, their daughter and a few friends in Manhattan’s Little Italy at 4:00 in the morning. In one of the city’s most sensational mob killings, Colombo Family gunmen, notified of Gallos’ presence by Joe Luparelli, entered Umberto’s Clam House and began blasting. Gallo chased his killers out to the street before falling dead.
AmericanMafia.com attempts to keep its audience advised of ongoing legal matters in the world of organized crime. New entries and addition to existing information will appear in RED.
Due to space constraints, the complete "Trials and Tribulations" listing will only be shown on the first Monday of each month. Weekly we will show the ones that are due to occur in the next 30 days and any new additions.
April 1, 2002 – Boston – Retired state trooper Richard J. Schneiderman goes on trial on charges that he hampered the FBI’s search for James "Whitey" Bulger by letting Bulger family members know that the FBI had requested pen registers on their telephones. The trial was originally scheduled for January 28. AmericanMafia.com would like to thank Boston Herald reporter J. M. Lawrence for the update. AM.com, which uses a lot of Lawrence’s articles, was surprised to find out J. M. is a woman. Lawrence also tells us that Judge Edward F. Harrington, who was called Washington DC to testify last week, has recused himself from the case.
April 15, 2002 – Providence – Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. and four co-defendants go on trial in what the FBI has dubbed Operation Plunder Dome.
April 15, 2002 – Boston – The racketeering trial of Robert Luisi, Jr. is scheduled to get underway before US District Court Judge Reginald C. Lindsay. Luisi at one time had a plea agreement which called for him to testify against Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino last year. On December 27, 2001 Luisi withdrew the plea.
April 15, 2002 – Rochester, NY – Albert M Ranieri goes on trial for conspiracy to traffic cocaine. Since his arrest on December 29, 2000, another defendant, prominent defense attorney Anthony Leonardo, Jr., has pled guilty and implicated Ranieri in the May 2000 murder of his former business partner Anthony Vaccaro. Authorities also suspect Ranieri of a 1990 armor car heist of $11 million.
April 17, 2002 – New York – Nicholas Gambino will be back in court and a decision will be made to either strike a deal with Queens’ prosecutors or go to trial again on the three charges jurors deadlocked on in his February trial. At tat trial he was acquitted on nine charges involving a vicious knife attack in August 2002 in which four young men were wounded. Gambino claimed self-defense.
May 6, 2002 – Boston – The long awaited trial of former FBI agent John J. Connolly, Jr. is scheduled to get underway before US District Judge Joseph L. Tauro.
May 20, 2002 – Chicago – Michael Spano, Sr. and Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese go to trial for looting the city coffers of millions of dollars.
June 2002 – Las Vegas – The Nevada Supreme Court has scheduled arguments on the appeals of Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish the convicted murderers of Ted Binion. Alan Dershowitz will argue Murphy’s case.
July 29, 2002 – Cleveland – Richard E. Detore goes to trial on one count of conspiring to violate a federal bribery statute involving United States Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr.
April 29, 2002 – Chicago – Originally scheduled for January 31, the sentencing of the former chief of Chicago detectives William Hanhardt was delayed to allow prosecutors additional time to prepare their pre-sentence report. Hanhardt pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy and interstate theft for operating a nationwide jewelry theft ring that involved members of organized crime. Hanhardt, 72 years old, has been held since an unsuccessful suicide attempt this past October.
May 17, 2002 – New York – Colombo Family underboss John "Jackie" DeRoss will be sentenced for his February 6 conviction on extortion charges.
June 2002 – Buffalo – Three former Buffalo narcotics detectives will be sentenced for their role in stealing money from an undercover FBI agent posing as a Jamaican drug dealer. The men were found guilty in March.
June 2002 – Newark – Nicodemo "Young Nicky" Scarfo will be sentenced for supervising a North Jersey gambling operation by US District Judge Joel Pisano.
June 13, 2002 – New York – Alphonse "Allie Boy" Persico will be sentenced after pleading guilty to extortion, loansharking and money laundering. The son of jailed-for-life mobster Carmine "the Snake" Persico was the alleged "acting boss of the Colombo family.
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