Feature Articles

March 12, 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

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New York: Former underboss and turncoat Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, already in an Arizona prison on drug charges, was charged by federal prosecutors with buying 40,000 pills of the hallucinogen ecstasy from a New York drug ring.

     The federal complaint against Gravano, 55, his son Gerard, 25, and Michael Papa, 24, former leader of a skinhead group known as the Devil Dogs, was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

     Prosecutors said Gravano, whose testimony helped send Gambino crime family boss John Gotti to prison for life in 1992 on murder and racketeering charges, could come to Brooklyn to face arraignment as early as next week.

     Gravano was arrested in Arizona in February on state charges that he ran a Phoenix area operation that sold 20,000 to 25,000 tablets of the popular nightclub drug each week.

     "I own Arizona" Gravano told one of Zarger's dealers at the 1999 meeting at a restaurant in Arizona, according to informants quoted in the complaint. "It's locked down. You can't sell pills here without going through me."

     Last July authorities arrested 18 members of the New York ring, headed by Israeli national Ilan Zarger, who investigators say has ties to Israeli organized crime.

     Zarger's gang is alleged to have sold about 1 million ecstasy pills a year in New York and Arizona.

     Gravano, a former Gambino crime family hit man and Gotti's right hand man, was sentenced to five years in prison in 1994 for 19 murders, labor racketeering and loan sharking. He opted to cooperate with the government rather than face life in prison and then went into a federal witness protection program.

     In 1997, Gravano left the program voluntarily and lived in Arizona under his witness protection program name, Johnny Moran.

Pennsylvania: A reputed mobster and his wife were accused of smuggling sperm out the federal prison where he is serving time so she could get pregnant.

     Antonio and Maria Parlavecchio, both 36, were indicted this week in federal court.

     Authorities say that at least three times, beginning in October 1998, Antonio Parlavecchio sent sperm from the Allenwood prison to a New York City fertility clinic, where his wife paid for storage.

     Federal prosecutor Wayne P. Samuelson said he does not know whether attempts at artificial insemination were successful.

     Four people, including three former prison guards, have already been indicted in the scheme.

     Antonio Parlavecchio is serving time for loan sharking and racketeering, and federal criminal complaints list him as a mob associate.

     He was cited this week for conspiracy, bribery and three counts of illegally possessing sperm kits for artificial insemination. His wife was charge with three counts of providing the kits.

New York: John Kobler, who wrote one of the first and most accurate biographies of Al Capone, has died. He was 90.

     Kobler wrote many biographies but was best known for his ``Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone.'' Initially published in 1971, it remains in print.

     Kobler started writing police and crime stories for various news organizations before editing for PM, a 1940s New York tabloid.

     In World War II, he was a civilian intelligence officer for U.S. embassies in North Africa, Italy and France. After the war he returned to writing about crime as a free-lancer for The New Yorker, Colliers, Vanity Fair and The Saturday Evening Post.

     His first book, published in 1938, was ``The Trial of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray.'' It blended trial testimony with commentary about a notorious 1927 murder case.

     Kobler's biography of the Chicago gangster, ``Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone,'' was published in 1971. He later wrote biographies about Henry Luce, John Barrymore, Otto Kahn and John Hunter, an 18th-century Scottish anatomist, who was the precursor of the modern-day surgeon. India: The Indian film industry has links with organized crime networks who finance movies, the top police officer in India's film capital says.

     "Actors, actresses, producers have links with the underworld," said M.N. Singh, Bombay's police commissioner, adding that the financial interest of organized crime networks in the film industry is increasing on an almost daily basis "This is the reason film people receive threats from the underworld and are sometimes attacked"

     Singh was referring to the recent rash of extortion threats by gangsters against film personalities.

     India produces nearly 800 movies a year, making it one of the world's largest film industries.

     Singh's statement came two days after film producer Nadeem Rizvi was arrested for extortion, links with organized crime and for attempting to murder Rakesh Roshan, another producer, in January. Roshan survived the attack with bullet injuries in his arm.

Sicily: A U.N. conference on transnational organized crime ended with a number of countries associated with rigid bank secrecy agreeing to start a process that may lead to more transparency.

     Of the 148 countries present, 121 signed the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime in four days.

     They promised to push through ratification by their national parliaments of the entire Convention, which attempts to confront the dark side of globalization by increasing international cooperation among investigators.

     The Convention is a wide-ranging attempt to turn the screws on the world's mafias and their growing business, including human trafficking and transnational prostitution.

     Signatories promised to establish or strengthen national legislation for four criminal offenses: participation in an organized criminal group, money laundering, corruption and obstruction of justice.

     The Convention must be ratified by 40 countries before it becomes an instrument of international law. The United Nations expects this to happen within two years.

     The money laundering section of the Convention calls for countries to further regulate financial institutions, scrap bank secrecy laws that prevent investigation of crimes, outlaw anonymous bank accounts or accounts with false names, and set up financial intelligence units.

     In the mean time, an Italian magistrate is investigating claims that Mafia front companies helped prepare for a United Nations anti-mafia conference being held in Palermo.

     A local newspaper, La Repubblica, said a magistrate in the Sicilian capital had opened the investigation after judges received two anonymous letters. The letters alleged that some of the contracts for an estimated $36 million in projects awarded by the city and region may have been won by Mafia controlled companies, the newspaper said.

     In a related story, prosecutor Paul Gains was part of a delegation from Youngstown, Ohio, who came to Corleone for crime-fighting seminars being held on the sidelines of a U.N. conference on creating stronger laws to battle organized crime.

     The Ohio group's quest took them from their gritty steel town - nicknamed Crimetown, U.S.A., for the many officials and local mobsters who have been prosecuted there - to this medieval-era hamlet once shamed as a Cosa Nostra capital and now eager to impart lessons on battling the mob.

     Corleone's Lesson No. 1 is that schools, churches and other community institutions can empower citizens to free themselves from the decades-old resignation to mob dominance.

     In City Hall, Corleone's Deputy Mayor Giuseppe Governale tried to debunk the notion that the town, home to Salvatore ``Toto'' Riina, the ``boss of bosses'' who was captured in 1993 after two decades on the run, was once subservient to Cosa Nostra.

     Members of the Youngstown group craned their necks to look at a bust of a Corleone mayor who Governale said was slain a century ago for refusing to bow to the Mafia.

     Callen, founder of the Citizens League of Youngstown, testified in 1984 on his city's organized crime problem before the U.S. Senate.

     Mafia families in Cleveland and Pittsburgh long fought for control of Youngstown, and bombings and other killings bloodied the city in the 1960s, and in later years. A federal investigation of corruption continues, and so far, more than 70 people have been convicted.

     Youngstown Sheriff Randall Wellington toured Corleone's new Mafia museum and blamed public apathy back home for some of his city's woes.

Washington: The government offered a $2 million reward for a Mexican drug kingpin known as ``the friend-killer'' as agents in three countries began arresting more than 100 members of his Mexican gang that smuggled tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States.

     Begun in October 1999, Operation Impunity II was the third major effort launched by the Drug Enforcement Administration since 1997 against the gang based in Reynosa and Matamoros, Mexico.

     The gang's violent leader, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, stitched together remnants of two other gangs, formerly led by Amado Carrillo Fuentes and Juan Garcia Abrego, Marshall said.

     DEA and FBI agents were arresting people in New York; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Memphis, Tenn.; Louisville, Miss.; and Houston, McAllen and Brownsville, Texas. By late afternoon, 57 people had been arrested, DEA spokeswoman Ila Brown said.

     Eight U.S. provisional arrest warrants were given to Mexican police, who were trying to arrest key figures there. Another warrant was forwarded to the Dominican Republic for their police to arrest a Dominican national.

     The Mexican attorney general's office announced the arrest of three Colombians, Ruben Dario Nieto Benjumea, Gustavo Adolfo Londono Zapata and Elkin F. Cano Villa, who were allegedly coordinating a cocaine shipment with Cardenas Guillen. The Mexicans also seized various property belonging to Cardenas Guillen in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

     The State Department offered a $2 million reward for the capture of Cardenas Guillen or either of his two lieutenants, Adan Medrano and Juan Manuel Garza Rendon, in case they elude Thursday's dragnet in Mexico.

     Prior to Thursday's raid, Operation Impunity II had made 82 arrests and seized $10.8 million in cash, 9,000 pounds of marijuana and 5,266 kilograms of cocaine, Marshall said. Overall, the three operations had produced 248 arrests and seized $36 million, 25,000 pounds of marijuana and 46,200 pounds of cocaine from 1997 through Wednesday.

     The gang smuggled cocaine from Colombia into the United States hidden under tractor-trailer loads of carrots, cilantro, lettuce, limes and jalapeno peppers, said Rod Benson, assistant special agent of the DEA's special operations branch. Sixty percent of each shipment was moved to New York and turned over to Colombian and Dominican distribution cells.

Saarajevo: Interpol has urged Balkan policemen to coordinate their efforts to combat organized crime.

     "Organised crime is destabilising this whole region and has an impact even beyond the region itself," said Iver Frigaard of the International Criminal Police Organisation.

     Norwegian diplomat Kim Traavik, who chaires the Stability Pact's working table on security issues said the meeting was an unprecedented event in the recent history of the region.

     Interior ministers from Yugoslavia, Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Romania were represented at the meeting, which took place under the auspices of the European Union's Balkans Stability Pact.

Massachusettes: Nine Springfield-area residents have been arrested on charges of conspiring to run an illegal gambling business. Several were also charged with conspiring to make extortionate extensions of credit and conspiring to collect extensions of credit by extortionate means.

     Arrested were Anthony J. Delevo, Emilio Fusco, Jenny C. Santos-Fusco Albert "baba" Scibelli, Carmine "Carminuccio" Manzi, Giuseppe "Little Joe" Manzi Todd Illingsworth, Ralph Santaniello, Andrew Scibelli

     Electronic phone surveillance caught members of the conspiracy discussing gambling business and collecting debts owed by both gambling and loanshark debtors. One member of the conspiracy, when advised that a bettor owed a significant sum, stated that they should "put this guy in cement."

"Round Up The Usual Suspects" is produced by the
"Round Up The Usual Suspects" is produced by the

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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