Feature Articles

January 29, 2001

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

The Magazines Network...

New York: According to police in 1994, while dozens of people watched, alleged mobster Anthony DiSimone stabbed a Yonkers college student to death and has worked feverishly to avoid prison ever since. Wittnesses say the student was stabbed 37 times in several minutes.

     Police say that DiSimone, with help from other Luchese crime family, silenced witnesses, tampered with evidence and even hid clothes stained with the victim's blood.

     However, DiSimone, 33, was convicted this week of killing 21-year-old Louis Balancio outside the now-defunct Strike Zone Bar in Yonkers.

     Two men who helped DiSimone ditch the bloody clothes, Anthony (Blue Eyes) Santorelli, 54, and his son, Alfred (Freddy Boy) Santorelli, also have been convicted. The elder Santorelli saw the New York Court of Appeals uphold his conviction yesterday.

     In all, 23 people � many of them members of organized crime or the Tanglewood Boys, a group of local toughs in Yonkers � were arrested and jailed.

     But the bloody clothes DiSimone was wearing were discovered by police the morning of the homicide. Anthony Santorelli got the clothes from his son and threw the sweater, jacket and sweat suit into two trash cans at a Bronx hamburger joint.

     Blood on the clothing was eventually matched to DNA blood samples from Balancio and DiSimone.

Santa Ana, California: More than a decade after a highway patrol officer-turned-strip club owner was gunned down outside his home, three men were charged Monday with the machine-gun attack.

     Horace McKenna Jr. was killed in March 1989 by former business partners intent on taking over his multimillion-dollar operations. One of those partners was also a former patrolman. "We don't believe it was an organized crime hit. But there were certainly organized crime associations that played into it" a police spokesman said.

     McKenna was shot as he sat in a limousine outside his home. At the time of his death, he was under investigation for alleged ties to prostitution, counterfeiting, narcotics and gambling.

     Charged with murder and with conspiracy to murder were Michael Woods, 58, a fellow California Highway Patrol officer who later became McKenna's partner; business associate David Amos, 41; and John Sheridan, 38, former manager of one of McKenna's nightclubs.

     Authorities say Woods masterminded McKenna's death because he wanted to take over the clubs, and offered Amos $50,000 and a share of the businesses to carry out the attack. Amos then hired Sheridan as the hitman, they said. State corporation records show Woods and Amos are now part-owners in three clubs that McKenna and Woods previously owned.

Ohio: Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. is facing a critical election that, in the exactly right circumstance, could make him the deciding vote for the next House speaker.

     The Ohio Democrat has spent most of the year with the threat of a corruption indictment hanging over him. Traficant also has said repeatedly that he expects to be indicted, an outspoken prediction typical of the eight-term incumbent, who has been the darling of blue-collar Youngstown since beating mob-payoff charges in a 1983 trial.

     Starting in late 1997, a federal probe of organized crime influence in the Youngstown area has led to more than 70 convictions, including those of a sheriff, judges, a county prosecutor and a Traficant congressional aide.

     Last week, a contractor and friend of Traficant admitted he directed his secretary to falsify billing records regarding work his construction company did at the congressman's farm.

Miami: A U.S. judge's decision to allow the U.S. government to seek the credit card records of people who may have used Caribbean tax havens to evade income taxes will help tax agents but raises serious privacy concerns, experts said.

Arlinton Va.: Norman A. Willox, Chairman of the National Fraud Center addressed the growing sophistication of money laundering over the Internet today at the 12th Annual American Bankers Association Money Laundering Enforcement Seminar which was held October 29-3.

     Additional topics discussed at the conference included an overview of the 2000 Debate on Money Laundering, international anti-money laundering training tips, privacy and its effect on criminal reporting and how financial services companies can protect themselves.

New York: Junkies shopping for heroin can now choose generic over brand-name smack.

     For years, drug dealers stamped brand names onto glassine envelopes to encourage product loyalty among their customers. However, dealers are now selling "clear zips," a no-name heroin packaged in clear Ziploc-type glassine envelopes.

     The reasons for the packaging shift are unclear, but law enforcement officials insist it has had no effect on their ability to track drug gangs.

New York: Four teens from a Brooklyn group home run by the city have been charged with burning, beating and robbing a 15-year-old resident of the home as part of a sadistic gang ritual.

     The victim told police thatfour of his roommates at the Atlantic Transitional Center held him down, burned gang marks into his shoulder, scorched him with a scalding-hot belt buckle, beat him with a stick and robbed him.

     The attackers also made him drink shampoo and eat soiled underpants, police sources said. The entire ordeal, said police sources, is called "giving a guy medications" by gang members. "They said they had to give a guy his medications, which is a ritualistic way to strip them of their self-respect," the police source said. "Then, after they burned the mark of the Bloods gang into him, they were going to drop him off in a Crips neighborhood so they could really work him over."

     The mark of the Bloods is three paw prints. The attackers allegedly burned it into the victim's right shoulder.

Germantown Md: The V-ONE Corporation announced it has been selected by Louisiana State University and their subcontractor, Science Applications International Corporation to provide security for Law Enforcement Online (LEO), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) project which established the nation's first-ever communications mechanism to link all levels of law enforcement across the country.

     LEO is a Criminal Justice/Public Safety Extranet, currently serving primarily the law enforcement community. Its unique value is its ability to deliver secure communications services to local, state, and Federal law enforcement on an any time, any-place basis.

     The LEO system has become an important tool in equipping officers to share information that provides an enhanced capability to investigate crimes that involve a coordinated effort across United States law enforcement operations, such as money laundering and organized crime.

Los Angeles: Actress Muriel Evans has died at age 90. Evans, who appeared in more than 40 films during the 1930s and 1940s starred in the 1934 gangster classic "Manhatten Melodrama" with Clark Gable and Myrna Loy.

St. Louis: A circuit judge has overturned a jury verdict awarding former St. Louis Blues enforcer Tony Twist $24.5 million for the unauthorized use of his name.

     Twist, 32, formerly among hockey's most feared fighters, has been out of the game since June 1999, when his Blues contract expired.

     In July, following a two-week trial, a jury found that artist Todd McFarlane based a character in his ``Spawn'' comic book series on Twist. The character, ``Antonio Twistelli,'' is a vile, vulgar mobster.

Sun Valley, Idaho: Producer Thom Mount said he had to coax Al Pacino from his trailer when he got so caught up in his role as gangster Tony Montana in the 1983 movie ``Scarface'' that he became paranoid.

Montreal: Montreal's port and its two airports have been infiltrated by organized crime according to reports which claim that ten tons of drugs enter the country each week through the Port of Montreal.

Mexico: Mexico's president-elect told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that he wants to start dealing with the issues of drugs and corruption on an international level.

     Vicente Fox indicated that Mexico wants to get away from the annual U.S. evaluation of its performance fighting illegal drugs and start attacking the problem with other affected nations.

     Mexico and other countries resent the annual State Department evaluation of their drug-fighting performance, saying it is unfair for the United States alone to decide. If a country's performance is deemed inadequate, economic sanctions could be imposed.

     Fox has proposed that countries affected by drug trafficking - either by the production or sale of drugs - should unite forces to combat it.

Sicily: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will visit the Sicilian town of Corleone which inspired the "Godfather" movies and was home to the modern mafia's most feared boss.

     Annan will travel to Corleone during a U.N. summit on organized crime to be held in the Sicilian capital Palermo from December 12-15 where he will inaugurate a new anti-mafia information centre in the hilltop town, 25 miles south of Palermo.

     Representatives of 189 countries as well as Interpol and non-governmental organizations have been invited to the conference which is expected to approve a U.N. charter on fighting organised crime.

     Salvatore Riina, the Sicilian mafia's so-called "boss of bosses," was leader of the Corleone clan which emerged as the most feared criminal force on the island following years of bloody feuds with rival gangs in the 1980s. With Riina behind bars since 1993, another Corleone mobster, Bernardo Provenzano, is the Mafia's leading fugitive.

Zurich: Eleven of the world's top banks have announced details of a new code designed to crack down on money-laundering. The agreement on the code, announced in outline last week, comes after criticism of the laxity of banks' efforts to fight money-laundering in established financial centres and offshore markets.

     The banks are Banco Santander, Barclays, Citigroup, Chase Manhattan Corp, Credit Suisse Group, Deutsche Bank, HSBC Holdings J.P. Morgan, Societe Generale and UBS AG.

     The guidelines, named the Wolfsberg directives after the Swiss town where they were formulated, were published together with global anti-corruption organisation Transparency International (TI).

     Recent revelations that dictators and mafia groups stashed away illicit millions with the knowledge of banks have increased pressure on financial institutions to take action.

Bern: The Swiss Police have named Judith Voney as the head of its money-laundering-reporting office as a replacement for Daniel Thelesklaf and will increase its staff to six from four.

Paris: The European Union gave its backing to Russian President Vladimir Putin's reform program, promising to forge closer ties.The broad commitments came at a EU-Russia summit in Paris which included discussions on fighting organized crime.

Paris: France and Monaco began renegotiating their relations as Prince Rainier, stung by charges of money laundering, told Paris to stop meddling in his wealthy principalitiy's affairs.

     French Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau said France had agreed last June to "dust off" an 82-year-old bilateral treaty which Monaco authorities deem obsolete.

     The 77-year-old Rainier told the daily Le Figaro: ""Monaco will no longer allow Paris to treat us the way it does. We want our full sovereignty back."

     While it is a sovereign country with a seat in the United Nations, the tiny principality, a rocky enclave on the French Riviera, is effectively a French protectorate.

     France warned Monaco earlier this month to clean up banking practices or face tough counter-measures.

     The French Finance Ministry said Monaco was hiding vital data about secret bank accounts, large share portfolios and suspected money laundering in the Riviera playground.

     Rainier said the charges were false and Monaco's rules against money laundering were stricter than those of many European countries.

     The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), created by the Group of Seven industrialised nations, has left Monaco off its money laundering blacklist but listed it as a tax haven.

Channel Islands: Police officers in the Channel Islands are being lured to the financial sector as banks and insurance companies seek to take advantage of their knowledge of the tax havens' regulatory framework.

     Five police officers who have left the Guernsey force's financial investigation unit recently have all found jobs in banking and insurance, which accounts for 70 percent of the island's economy, the paper said, citing Mike Torode, Guernsey's president of home affairs.

     Tax havens such as Guernsey and its neighbors Jersey, Sark and Alderney, face tighter controls in the face of an international crackdown on tax evasion and money laundering. Stricter rules are putting more pressure on banks and other institutions to report suspicious transactions.

     With 139 officers, Guernsey's force is 27 percent under strength. Experienced officers are being lured into compliance officer roles by packages of up to $80,000.

Berlin: Germany's intelligence agency defended itself over a report alleging international criminal organizations have laundered money in the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein.

     The unusual public row over the contents of a secret spy report comes after the former prime minister of Liechtenstein, Hans Brunhart -- now head of the small Verwaltungs- und Privat-Bank AG -- said he was suing the German BND spy agency for defaming him and his bank.

     The dispute started last year when the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel printed details from a leaked BND report on money laundering in Liechtenstein.

     Part of the report said Brunhart's bank had been used to launder considerable sums of drugs money and said he played a central role. The report also said Russian criminal gangs and a Colombian cocaine cartel were funnelling profits through the mountain tax haven nestling between Switzerland and Austria.

London: A government commissioned report recommends that British Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda bring finance regulations up to international standards as part of a drive to crack down on money laundering.

     In late June the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development threatened to sanction 35 tax havens, arguing that loopholes in their finance laws have been used for money laundering and tax evasion.

     The 35 states included the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos. Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, the other of the five British territories in the Caribbean, were not on the OECD list.

Moscow: A blast that appeared to have been caused by a bomb tore through an apartment, killing a man.

     The explosion occurred around midnight and killed a 32-year-old man, but left his wife and two children, who were also in the third-floor apartment, unscathed.

     Bomb explosions are common in Russia. Organized crime groups use bombs to settle scores.

Japan: The Metropolitan Police Department has increased the number of staff in its special unit on international organized crime to 170 in an effort to reinforce its crackdown on crimes committed by foreigners.

     Since it was launched two years ago, the unit has mostly operated in Kabukicho. Among other busts, the squad cracked a counterfeit ring that forged alien registration cards and booked a group that smuggled a Colombian woman into Japan for prostitution.

Japan: A Dutch national has been arrested for allegedly attempting to smuggle about 50,000 sheets soaked with the hallucinogenic drug LSD. It is the largest ever haul of LSD sheets in Japan.

Japan: Masafumi Okanda has been arrested on suspicion he held captive in 1999 a former director at his online music company. As president Liquid Audio Japan, an affiliate of the U.S.-based Liquid Audio Inc., Okanda rubbed shoulders with starlets and music producers and even appeared on TV talk shows. Now police have implicated him in the bizarre abduction of a 33-year-old executive, otherwise unidentified, who was kidnapped in a hospital parking lot, confined in a hotel room at a remote mountain region and released in a forest three days later. Okanda has denied the charges.

     The arrest and the kidnapping underline questions about some Japanese startups and their alleged links with the underworld in this nation long dominated by established companies.

     The music and entertainment industries are believed to have links with so-called ``yakuza'' gangsters, and Japanese gangs have long infiltrated legal businesses such as real estate. Now, organized crime groups under pressure from Japan's decade-long economic slump see high-tech startups as easy targets to obtain new sources of revenue, market watchers say.

Hong Kong: The Hong Kong government welcomed the United States' decision to remove the territory from its list of major drug transit centers.

     The U.S. can impose substantial restrictions on assistance to areas labeled as major drug-producing or transit areas. The territory had been identified as a major drug transit center by the U.S. since 1987.

     Hong Kong Commissioner for Narcotics Claire Lo said Thursday the importation of dangerous drugs into Hong Kong and their re-export to the U.S. via land and sea routes have virtually ceased.

Morocco: Human rights activists and former political prisoners demonstrated peacefully in Rabat to demand an inquiry into the fate of Mehdi Ben Barka, a leading opposition figure who disappeared in 1965.

     Ben Barka disappeared in mysterious circumstances on October 29, 1965 in Paris. It is widely believed that he was killed.

     Antoine Lopez, a former French counter-espionage agent had spoken to French media of the involvement of Moroccan authorities in a kidnapping which took a fatal turn when a French gangster broke Ben Barka's neck.

     Lopez recounted how he and several others lured Ben Barka into a car outside the Brasserie Lipp Cafe on the fashionable Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris in October 1965.

     France decided in January to lift state secrecy on some of the documents relating to the mystery at the request of a Paris magistrate who has also asked Rabat to renew cooperation in his inquiries into Ben Barka's disappearance.

Turkey: At least five people have died in fighting at a jail where prisoners have taken warders hostage, shooting or throwing some from windows. Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk told reporters members of an organized crime syndicate were responsible for the unrest.

Istanbul: Turkey's government is preparing to submit a proposal for a partial amnesty to free thousands of prisoners, including a vast number of organized crime figures. The proposal was vetoed by the president last year following widespread public opposition.

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