Feature Articles

November 2004

The American Mafia's Worst Nightmare

By J. R. de Szigethy

     In the final days before the Presidential election, Republican insiders in New York, confident President Bush would be re-elected, began a quiet campaign to promote the candidacy of two of their own for key positions in a second Bush Administration. The two men being promoted are former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose supporters are advocating as Attorney General, and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who is being touted for Director of Homeland Security. �Giuliani is exactly what America needs right now,� says Robert Hornak, President of the Urban Republican Coalition, a grass-roots organization dedicated to advancing core Republican ideas in Urban America. �Giuliani is a tough, no-nonsense person with a clear vision for how he wants to get things done!�

     Paul Rodriguez is the President of the New York Young Republican Club, who ran for Congress on the Republican ticket from New York�s 12th Congressional District. Says Rodriguez: �Who better than Giuliani and Kerik to show the Republican majority in Congress that there are many New Yorkers who are just as committed to the war on terror as the Bush Administration?�

     While Giuliani may be a dream candidate for Attorney General to some, to the members of the American Mafia such a scenario could be their worst nightmare. Rudolph Giuliani�s position in Mafia history is already secure; as U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York during the 1980s, Giuliani achieved prosecutions of New York�s five Mafia families that puts him in the same league as Prosecutors Tom Dewey, Robert Kennedy, and Robert Morgenthau. When Giuliani first ran for Mayor of New York City in 1989, organized crime syndicates were so concerned about the detrimental effect his Administration could have on their criminal enterprises that they orchestrated an elaborate voter fraud scam which literally stole the election away from the celebrated Prosecutor. Four years later, Giuliani�s campaign enlisted the services of hundreds of New York City police officers, who manned the polls to prevent the voter fraud from being perpetrated a second time. Giuliani�s Administration, which included Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, turned one of our country�s most unsafe urban areas into the �safest large city in America.�

     The appointment of Giuliani as the top law enforcement figure in the United States not only could become one of the most significant events in the history of organized crime in America, but could also become the vehicle that could eventually propel Giuliani into the White House. The example set by three of Giuliani�s predecessors, Democrats Robert Kennedy and Robert Morgenthau, and Republican Thomas Dewey, bares this out.

     Thomas Dewey was the right man for his time during the crime-ridden days of the 1930s in New York City. The Mafia in New York had grown tremendously during the 1920s as a result of Prohibition, which was a failure that organized crime capitalized on. In the 1930s, Congressional legislation resulted in hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers becoming members of labor unions, who contributed millions of dollars in union dues and pension funds that Mafia figures seized control of. The average Worker in New York during this time was weary of the effects of organized crime on their daily lives. The crime wave that was the result of the Mob's drug dealing, gambling, and prostitution schemes created an atmosphere of fear that made average citizens fearful to venture into the public, making them in effect prisoners within their own homes. Working people in cities controlled by the Mafia understood that they paid a "Mafia tax" on most goods and services, thus reducing their disposable income and standard of living.

     Then along came Thomas Dewey, whose stance against organized crime resonated with working people in New York. Dewey capitalized on this, winning election as District Attorney for Manhattan in 1937 and as Governor of New York for three terms beginning in 1942. Then as now, New York was a predominantly Democratic State, and the election of Dewey, as well as Giuliani after him, demonstrates that the basic need of average citizens to be protected from criminals is a powerful political fundamental that crosses party lines.

     In 1948 Dewey ran for President on the Republican ticket. Most members of the Media expected Dewey to win, given his enormous popularity with crime-weary residents of the major cities of the United States. When Dewey's opponent Harry Truman went to bed on election night, Truman did so believing he had lost the election, given that the urban vote had been tabulated and was overwhelmingly for Dewey.

     Overnight, however, as the �farm� vote slowly came in from rural America, the vote total shifted towards Truman. The working people of Chicago awoke that day to the promise that they would be rescued by the election of a tough, anti-Mafia President in Prosecutor Dewey. The Chicago Daily Tribune's front page opened with the headline "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!"

     Unfortunately, for the next four years working people would be victimized by organized crime and organized labor figures that were protected by President Truman's Attorney General Tom Clark, one of the most corrupt Attorney Generals in United States history. Despite his narrow loss, the enormous popularity of Thomas Dewey with urban Americans was the first example of the potential of a Mafia prosecutor to build a strong political base that crossed party lines by taking a stand against the scourge of working people and their families.

     The next Prosecutor in American history to gain his fame from targeting organized crime was a Democrat, Robert Kennedy. Kennedy, the son of a wealthy Boston organized crime figure, was first introduced to the dilemma of the Mafia�s impact on ordinary citizens after viewing the compelling motion picture �On the Waterfront.� This 1953 epic starring Marlon Brando graphically portrayed the hopelessness and despair of those working people in New York being victimized by a labor Union controlled by the American Mafia. Robert Kennedy left that viewing of the film dedicated to taking a stand against the Mafia, a decision that would ultimately pit him against his own father. Determined to make his mark, Kennedy approached Senator John McClellan after the Democrats regained a majority in the Congress following the elections of 1954. Kennedy asked to be Chief Counsel on a new Committee led by McClellan that would investigate organized crime in America. Joining Bobby Kennedy on this Committee would be his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

     The McClellan Committee became a national obsession, with Bobby Kennedy the star during televised hearings in which Kennedy grilled leading Mafia figures of the day, most of whom repeatedly invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Bobby Kennedy taunted his adversaries relentlessly; during one such grilling of Chicago Mob Boss Sam Giancana, the wiseguy erupted into a nervous giggle, prompting Bobby Kennedy to taunt: "I thought only little girls giggled, Mr. Giancana!" Bobby Kennedy also aggressively pursued Dave Beck, Jimmy Hoffa, and Tony Provenzano of the Teamsters' Union as well as Mob bosses Joey Gallo, Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante.

     In his 1978 biography of Robert Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. revealed that Kennedy, like Thomas Dewey before him, was the target of conspiracies by organized crime figures. Threats were made against Kennedy's young children. A whispering campaign was launched with members of the Media that falsely claimed Kennedy was a homosexual, a campaign believed by many to have been perpetrated by Kennedy�s nemesis, J. Edgar Hoover. Kennedy would not be intimidated and his efforts sent many Mafia/Labor figures to prison, including Teamsters President Dave Beck. Efforts by Kennedy to do the same to Beck's successor, Jimmy Hoffa, took many years of work before reaching fruition.

     In order to empower working people and their families victimized by the Mafia, Robert Kennedy and his brother John spent two years drafting legislation towards this end. Congress finally passed a compromise Bill in 1959. Called the Landrum-Griffin Act, the legislation included provisions that prohibited individuals from holding office within a labor Union for a period of 5 years after that person had resigned as a member of the Communist Party and/or 5 years after being released from prison after a felony conviction. The Act also strengthened Freedom of Speech rights for Union members who dared to criticize Union leaders, strengthened the rights of members to sue their Unions, and compels labor Unions to file annual financial reports with the U. S. Department of Labor. Bobby Kennedy then published a book that summarized his fight for working people and their families. Entitled "The Enemy Within: The McClellan Committee's Crusade Against Jimmy Hoffa and Corrupt Labor Unions," the book became an immediate best seller.

     There was, however, a dark, downside to Robert Kennedy's investigations; his uncovering of his own father's ties to organized crime and corrupt labor Unions. Robert's father Joseph Kennedy had made a fortune during Prohibition by running illegal liquor from his headquarters in Boston. He took this money with him to Hollywood, where he made more millions as a self-made movie mogul. In the process he acquired associations with some of the most notorious organized crime figures in America, some of whom he would turn to in 1960 when his son John sought the Presidency.

     The election of 1960 was one of the closest in U. S. history and the country faced the prospect of Court challenges to the outcome. Clear evidence existed of massive voter fraud committed by corrupt figures in Illinois and Texas that threw the election to Senator Kennedy. The Republican candidate Richard Nixon later stated in his memoirs that he could not put the country through a contentious Court challenge of the voter fraud. Thus, on a cold January morning in 1961, Nixon stood a few feet away on the steps of the Capital as John F. Kennedy was sworn in as President.

     One of the most decisive yet controversial acts of the new President was to name his brother Robert as his choice for Attorney General of the United States. Bobby Kennedy's priorities as Attorney General were two-fold; to move the country along in the growing civil rights movement and to prosecute those members of organized crime and organized labor who preyed upon working people and their families.

     A major obstacle to both goals was in the person of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. In theory, the Director of the FBI reports to the Attorney General. In practice, however, Hoover was his own force to be reckoned with. In regards to the Mafia, the Mafia personally compromised Hoover himself. Hoover associated with members of the Mob, gambled with them, and took the public position that the Mafia did not even exist. (What did in fact exist, along with the Mob, according to some, was the Mob's possession of photographs of Hoover in a compromising position with another man.) While a victim of blackmail himself, Hoover was a master in the art of blackmail and this was the only reason Hoover retained his position as FBI Director for so many years.

     Such was the complex situation Attorney General Robert Kennedy faced in his crusade to protect the average American citizen from organized crime. To secure the popular support he felt he needed in order to carry out his agenda against the Mafia, Bobby Kennedy turned to the example set by the movie "On the Waterfront." Recognizing the enormous impact this motion picture had made with the American people, Kennedy approached Budd Schulberg, the Oscar-winning screenplay author of that movie and convinced him to write a screenplay of his book "The Enemy Within." Schulberg agreed.

     However, Kennedy and Schulberg soon encountered resistance from the labor Unions that wielded enormous power in Hollywood. The Teamsters threatened that their truck drivers would not deliver copies of such a movie to the thousands of movie theatres across America that they were under contract to. The projectionists that loaded the movies within every theater also belonged to a mobbed-up Union. Hollywood Mob boss Johnny Roselli was reported to be pulling strings to prevent the movie from being made. Jimmy Hoffa's cronies also waged a campaign of intimidation against Hollywood moguls to keep the movie from being made. Then, the Producer of the movie suddenly died of a heart attack. He was just 49 years old. Thus, the movie version of "The Enemy Within" died.

     Undaunted, Attorney General Kennedy kept up his relentless pursuit of Mafia and Union bosses. Kennedy had federal agents arrest drug dealer Carlos Marcello and physically deport him to his alleged country of origin, Guatemala. Jimmy Hoffa was put on trial on charges of extortion.

     Then, on a November day in 1963, the Attorney General was having lunch at his home outside Washington with several members of his Mafia and Union prosecution team, including a young Robert Morgenthau, then the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Kennedy received a phone call from J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI Director informed the Attorney General that his brother had just been shot in Dallas, Texas.

     In SONS AND BROTHERS Kennedy biographer Richard D. Mahoney reveals that from that moment until his death, Bobby Kennedy was tormented by his belief that his brother's murder was the result of his relentless prosecution of organized crime. This suspicion was strengthened 3 days after the President's murder when the man held in custody for this crime, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself murdered by a man named Jack Ruby, an event witnessed nationwide on live television. Ruby, a nightclub owner and former Organizer for a corrupt Union, was an Associate of the Chicago Mafia Family.

     Extensive investigations by the Warren Commission, CBS News, ABC News, and acclaimed author Gerald Posner, who wrote the best-seller CASE CLOSED, all concluded that there was no Mafia conspiracy to murder the President and that Oswald acted alone. To this day four decades after Kennedy's death, millions of Americans believe the Mafia was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

     In 1964 Robert Kennedy announced that he was resigning as Attorney General in order to seek election to the United States Senate from the State of New York. As had Dewey before him, Kennedy�s stand against the scourge of working people resonated with the average citizens of New York. Although Kennedy was not even a resident of New York, he was easily elected.

     In 1968 Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for President of the United States. On June 5 the crucial California primary was held. As the elections results came in that night, among Kennedy's entourage at campaign headquarters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles were authors Budd Schulberg and George Plimpton, along with football star Rosey Grier. As millions watched on television after Kennedy's victory speech, an assassin, a young Palestinian named Sirhan B. Sirhan, cut down Bobby Kennedy. With Robert Kennedy died the opportunity for any meaningful prosecution of organized crime for more than another decade.

     In 1980 Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. Reagan brought to his Administration his strong opposition to the "Evil Empire" represented by the Soviet Union and his determination to take a stand against organized crime. Both attitudes were a result of his having encountered both Communists and Mafia associates while President of the Screen Actors� Guild.

     pReagan named William French Smith as his Attorney General. Appointed to the number 3 position within the Justice Department was a young attorney from New York named Rudolph Giuliani. That position put Giuliani in charge of all of the U. S. Attorneys across the country. In 1983 Giuliani accepted his own demotion to that of U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Giuliani felt he could make more of an impact on organized crime by prosecuting members of New York's Five Mafia families utilizing the provisions of the RICO Act of 1970. Giuliani soon racked up one of the most impressive records of prosecutions of Mafia figures in United States history. Among these was 1986's "Commission Trial" in which top associates of all five New York Mafia families were convicted, as well as the infamous "Pizza Connection" drug trafficking trial.

     In 1992 George H. W. Bush was defeated for re-election and the new President, Bill Clinton, appointed Janet Reno Attorney General and Mary Jo White U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Soon, the records of both individuals would demonstrate why it is essential to appoint the right person to such critical positions.

     In Mary Jo White�s case, her office soon developed a rivalry with that of Robert Morgenthau, the former U. S. Attorney for the Southern District who went on to win every election he sought as Manhattan District Attorney. As in Dewey�s and Kennedy�s case, Morgenthau racked up an impressive track record in prosecuting Mafia figures who preyed on the average citizens of New York. One case in particular is compelling as to the difference between Mary Jo White�s tenure and that of Morgenthau�s; the case of Union leaders corrupted by members of New York�s Luchese Mafia Family. In the year 2000, Morgenthau�s and White�s office simultaneously worked the same investigation, with Morgenthau indicting 38 mobbed-up Union officials. The indictments returned by White�s office charged only 6 minor Mafia associates and no corrupt Union officials.

     Janet Reno�s legacy as Attorney General includes ignoring evidence of organized crime syndicates operating within the United States run by Islamic terrorists. One such case involves a scam few Americans have ever heard of, coupon fraud. This is how coupon fraud works: every day, millions of Americans shop for groceries which they discount by redeeming a coupon on items such as soap, breakfast cereal, and candy bars. The grocery store then redeems the coupons with clearing houses and receives a monthly check as reimbursement. This industry is a $8 billion a year operation, in which manufacturers print and distribute coupons in an effort to entice consumers to try their product. The costs of these coupons are passed on to the consumer through higher prices on just about all goods offered for sale in grocery stores.

     During the late 1980s Islamic terrorists began to infiltrate many American cities, where they set up small grocery stores in which they redeemed thousands of coupons stolen from distributors. Experts have testified before Congress that this simple scam generated up to $100 million a year for associates of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Iraq-based Abu Nidal terrorist organization, and associates of blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rachman.

     This evidence was repeatedly forwarded to Janet Reno�s Justice Department during her tenure by FBI agents, police officers, and others. One such person was Joseph Occhipinti, the Executive Director of the National Police Defense Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides support services to America�s law enforcement community.

     Ignored by Janet Reno�s Justice Department, Occhipinti took his evidence to Al Guart of the New York Post. In July, 1996 Guart ran the story, "U. S. Coupon Scams Tied to Terror Fund," which detailed how the first bombing of the World Trade Center was funded by terrorists in America engaged in coupon fraud. One such front for the coupon fraud was a store in Brooklyn through which Lebanese immigrant Radwan Ayoub and Egyptian-born Mahmud Abouhalima operated. Abouhalima was the blind Sheik�s driver convicted for his role in the first World Trade Center bombing.

     This case alone is indicative of how critical it is that the right person be appointed Attorney General of the United States.

     The office of Director of Homeland Security is also of crucial importance in the times in which we live, and supporters of Bernard Kerik believe they have the right man for the job. Kerik and Giuliani share something in common with the late Robert Kennedy, in that they each confronted a negative situation in their personal lives that they turned around into something positive in their professional lives. This is in regards to the fact that each man had a parent involved with the American Mafia. In the case of Giuliani and Kennedy, it was their father; in Kerik�s case, it was his mother. In his 2001 best-seller �The Lost Son,� Kerik confronts the psychological trauma that was inflicted upon him as a child due to his mother�s neglect as she supported her drug addiction through work as a prostitute for a Mafia-connected ring in Ohio. It was this early exposure to the horrors of drug abuse that inspired Kerik to fight such criminal activity as a narcotics officer for the New York City Police Department.

     In 1988 another event occurred that left a profound impact on Kerik; on October 18 of that year, a 24 year old police officer, Michael Buczek, was murdered by Dominican drug dealers in Washington Heights. The three murderers then fled back to the Dominican Republic, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. For 15 years, Bernard Kerik, former Congressman Guy Molinari, and others led a crusade to have the murderers returned to the United States to stand trial. Finally, New York Congressman Benjamin Gilman used the tactic of withholding foreign aid to the DR as a means of coercing DR officials to turn the murderers over to U. S. authorities to stand trial.

     The tenacity Kerik exhibited in the Buczek case was one trait that earned him the respect of the 40,000 members of the New York City Police Department during his tenure as Commissioner. Then came 9/11, a day on which Kerik and Giuliani narrowly escaped death. The two men then emerged as national heroes. Kerik would later escape death a second time while training police officers in Baghdad, Iraq.


     Americans will never know how different this country could have been had Thomas Dewey or Robert Kennedy made it to the White House. Now, Rudolph Giuliani has a chance to become Attorney General, and perhaps President. Some Americans will support this and some will oppose this. However, there can be no mistaking; the terrorists do not want this, nor do the members of the American Mafia.

Related Features by this author:

Crime Scene: World Trade Center

Death on the Waterfront

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