Feature Articles

April 2013

Terror Comes To Boston

By J. R. de Szigethy


     9/11, 2011, was the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist's attacks that forever changed the United States - and the world. That event, on a beautiful, clear, and warm morning back in the Fall of 2001, began in Boston, with the hijacking of two Airliners by Islamic terrorists. Two other planes were then hijacked outside Washington and Newark, New Jersey. Thus, 10 years later, law enforcement agencies nationwide were on alert, anticipating the possibility that those who hate America might commit crimes against the United States to commemorate this Anniversary of Evil. Americans across the country as well as those in law enforcement breathed a sigh of relief when the anniversary came and went without apparent incident.

     There was, in fact, one horrific crime that occurred on that anniversary, although it received little attention at the time. In an apartment in the Boston suburb of Waltham, three young men, Brendan Mess, 25 years old, Erik Weissman, also 25, and Raphael Teken, 37, were brutally murdered, their throats having been cut with either a knife or an ice pick. Weissman had a prior arrest for marijuana trafficking in 2008. The murderer or murderers then left two deliberate clues behind, the clear intent being to send some sort of message to others. One was the spreading of marijuana across the bodies of the victims. The other was the intentional leaving behind of $5,000 of drug money belonging to the victims. Robbery, of drugs or cash, was thus not a motive for these killings.

     A year later, when there had been no apparent movement in the case, some friends of the victims criticized the local Prosecutors, wondering out loud if they had any real interest in bringing those responsible to Justice. 7 months later, the case took an unexpected twist with the identification of the two brothers of Chechen descent who planted the terrorist bombs at the Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a once-promising Golden Gloves boxing champ, had regularly practiced martial arts with his "best friend" Brendan Mess at a local gymn, yet skipped his memorial service and funeral. (1) Younger brother Dzhokhar was described by friends as a dealer and daily user of marijuana. (2) Also, the strong activism within the Jewish community of the victims was viewed by some as evidence that the murders were in fact a hate crime, making the date of their murders significant. (3) Once again, the local prosecutors were criticized, this time for failing to identify the two brothers as "persons of interest" in the triple homicide.

     When it was revealed that Tamerlan had been interviewed previously by the FBI, at the request of the government of Russia, some politicians denounced the FBI for not taking stronger action, and demanded Congressional hearings on this "failure" of the FBI. (4) But are the criticisms against the prosecutors and the FBI valid? Are the politicians in question simply demanding accountability, are they ignorant of the current challenges facing law enforcement, or are they simply exploiting a national tragedy for their own, perceived political gain?

     Herein is an examination of this case. First, the criteria used by the local authorities in Waltham will be explored, and then the relevant factors pertaining to the FBI. The simple fact of the matter is that for the past 4 decades, law enforcement groups nationwide have been confronted with literally thousands of individuals similar to the Tsarnaev brothers. Those in law enforcement - Federal, State, and local - have had to adjust to the changing face and nature of crime in the U. S. presented by these individuals. This is a tale that few could have foreseen, and many today still do not understand.


     The crime scene that the authorities encountered at the site of the triple homicide was rare for the suburb of Waltham, but not for the Boston Metropolitan area. Like many crime scenes today, the murders appeared to have been drug related, although the backgrounds of the three men did not suggest that any were major drug dealers. However, those who purchase and consume illegal drugs by definition will be associated with criminals who distribute such drugs, and such people can be dangerous. The distribution of the drugs on the bodies of the victims - as opposed to their theft - as well as the cash left behind - were clear signals that the perpetrators wanted to send a message to others. No sign of break-in suggested that the victims knew the person - or persons - who killed them. The brutality of the murders - committed against three healthy, young men, also suggested more than one person was involved.

     Similar murders in the fight for "turf" by people who sold drugs began to become frequent in the northeast corridor of the United States beginning in the 1980s. Two factors were involved; one was the rapid growth in the demand for marijuana and cocaine. Secondly, during that time, two gangs of criminals in the Boston area fought each other for their share of this lucrative market; the Patriarca Mafia Family, consisting of members of the Italian-American Mafia, and their rivals, the Winter Hill Gang, a group of mostly-Irish criminals led by the infamous Whitey Bulger.

     The Patriarca Family obeyed by the protocol set down years before by the traditional American Mafia. Those rules dictated that no member of the Media, nor law enforcement, ever be harmed. When, for example, Gus Farace, a drug dealer for the Colombo Mafia Family made the mistake of murdering an Agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Everett Hatcher, members of Farace's own family participated in the efforts to track him down and kill him. (5) Another rule precluded members of the Mob from informing to law enforcement. When Luchese Family Underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso learned that Louis Facciolo had broken this rule, Casso had Facciolo murdered and a dead canary stuffed inside his mouth. The canary, like the infamous dead fish wrapped in a newspaper, are well-known Mafia symbols designed to frighten people into silence.

     The Winter Hill Gang played by a different set of rules. Journalists were not off-limits. A plot to murder reporter Howie Carr was pursued. (6) Selling weapons to terrorists in the Irish Republican Army was allowed. (7) Heroin trafficking was not allowed, although just about any other drug was. Some of Bulger's gang extorted cash from drug dealers on threat of execution, while others dealt drugs directly themselves. The culture of athletes in the U. S. in the 1950s through the 1970s was such that drugs, with the exception of steroids, were never to be used. Acknowledging this, Bulger preferred that his drug dealers be athletes in the belief that they would be unlikely to use such drugs themselves. Local boxing champs Kevin Weeks, John "Red" Shea, and Edward MacKenzie, Jr. were recruited for this venture. All three men would later write books about their life of crime, as did others, and a popular movie, "The Departed," was also produced, inspired by contemporary organized crime in the Boston area. (8) (9) (10)

     Thus, an enormous volume of information was publicly available regarding organized crime in Boston, this in addition to what those in law enforcement have access to which is secret. Such information would point to the Waltham triple homicides as the result of a drug turf war. Authorities in the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office are now said to be re-focusing their original investigation to include the Tsarnaev brothers as suspects. (1)

     The criticism of that office, however, pales in comparison to that being directed at the FBI. It was, in fact, the FBI that instigated the original investigation of Islamic terrorists operating within the United States decades ago. It was one of the best-kept secrets in law enforcement circles at that time, and only became public when a similar horrific event occurred in a city in the heartland of America that is not synonymous with serious crime.


     Beginning in the 1970s, criminals with ties to terrorist organizations in the Middle and Far East infiltrated major cities throughout America, establishing their own criminal syndicates. The first wave of such gangs came from Palestine, with close associations with terrorists such as Abu Nidal. A second wave of criminal immigrants would begin as a result of the Soviet Union's being forced to withdraw from their war in Afghanistan, "Russia's Vietnam." Some of those from Muslim countries who had fought against the Soviets brought their various skills, which included bomb making, to America. Then, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, criminal gangs from that region immigrated to the United States. Some were former KGB Agents, who settled in the Brighton Beach area of New York City.

     St. Louis, Missouri was one destination for Palestinian immigrants during the 1980s. There, as elsewhere, many of the immigrants set up small businesses that catered to the specific needs of their ethnic group. Small grocery stores that specialized in Middle Eastern foods were common amongst these new arrivals, many of whom were illegal aliens. Many of these small stores were involved in a variety of illegal activities, including the distribution of drugs, among them hashish and marijuana, and the trafficking of cigarettes, smuggled into the State without paying local taxes on each pack, thus resulting in enormous profits.

     It is now known that the FBI had such aliens under surveillance. Electronic eavesdropping devices were planted inside their small businesses, and sometimes in their homes as well. This operation remained a secret for several years, until one horrific crime that received national attention. In her book "Guarding the Secrets," local reporter Ellen Harris would reveal how on the morning of November 6, 1989, an FBI agent learned of the death of a 16 year old girl, Palestina Isa, who died of multiple stab wounds inside her apartment. The FBI agent in question knew that the Isa apartment was bugged, and that whatever transpired inside that apartment would be captured on an FBI tape. When examined, the tape revealed that Palestina's father, Zein Isa, had confronted her the night of her death, angry that she had defied his honor by applying for a part-time job at a Wendy's fast food restaurant without his consent. A popular honors student and cheerleader at her local High School, the young girl had also dated an African-American man who was not a Muslim.

     Palestina's parents had claimed that she attacked her father with a knife and that he only acted in self-defense. The FBI had no choice but to reveal the existence of the tapes and make them available to Prosecutors. The father's voice is clear on the FBI tape: "Listen, my dear daughter: tonight, you're going to die!" Eight minutes of the tape reveal Palestina's screams as her mother holds her down while her father repeatedly stabs her in her heart with a butcher knife. Both parents were convicted.

     The FBI operation would continue, but was no longer a secret. Only in April, 1993 would the public learn as to a key reason why the FBI had the Isa family under surveillance. At that time, Zein Isa was indicted by the Feds on charges he participated in a terrorist plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Indicted along with Isa were co-conspirators Tawfiq Musa, Saij Nijmeh, and Luie Nijmeh. The indictment marked the first time that members of a terrorist group, in this case the Abu Nidal Organization, were indicted in the United States for plotting terrorist attacks within our borders. The four men were charged under RICO statutes, usually utilized in prosecuting members of the Mafia. The RICO statutes provide substantial prison sentences and each man faced Life in Prison if convicted of all charges.

Incredibly, the charges against Zein Isa were dropped and his 3 co-conspirators accepted a plea bargain of 21 months which resulted in their immediate release. Jewish leaders worldwide were outraged and some predicted that the message this sent to terrorists operating within America would lead to more such terrorist plots. They, among others, would be proven right.


     Yet another FBI agent to stumble upon the growing threat of terrorism was Lawrence Reinfeld, who, in the late 1980s, having just retired from the agency, was hired as an investigator for the A. C. Nielsen company, one of America's largest firms that redeem grocery store coupons. Reinfeld, along with his associate Ben Jacobson, a former NYPD Detective, discovered that in major cities across America cells of Islamic terrorists were raising millions of dollars a year through a lucrative and simple scam involving 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 multi-billion dollar 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 goods. What Jacobson and Reinfeld discovered was that Islamic terrorists were stealing huge quantities of coupons and redeeming them through their small stores as if they had been used by consumers. Incredibly, when the two former law enforcement officers tried to convince America's law enforcement community to investigate their findings, they were rebuked.(11)

     In July, 1996 Al Guart of the New York Post ran a 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. Guart relayed the evidence that coupon fraud was being raised to divert substantial amounts of cash to the Palestinian Liberation Army, as well as the Iraq-based Abu Nidal terrorist organization, and associates of blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rachman. One such front for the coupon fraud was a store in Brooklyn through which Egyptian-born Mahmud Abouhalima operated. Abouhalima was a veteran of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan who later applied for and received American citizenship under provisions of Congress' Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Abouhalima is currently serving Life in Prison for his role in the first bombing of the World Trade Center. In August, 2002, Abu Nidal died in Baghdad, Iraq, the official version being that he shot himself in the mouth with a gun. (12)


     In 1974, Congress passed a Trade Act which included the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The purpose of the legislation was to put pressure on the Soviet Union in regards to it's limitations placed on Soviet Jews who wished to immigrate to Israel or the United States. The legislation succeeded in facilitating the immigration of many Soviet Jews, who were oppressed, but a small number of those were criminals. Marat Balagula was one such person, and he came to the United States. Balagula eventually formed an alliance with members of the Colombo and Luchese American Mafia families that would earn billions of dollars. Marat's scam involved the sale and distribution of bootleg gasoline, for which taxes had not been paid. There were the inevitable murders along the way, Vladimir Reznikov being one such, murdered by Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. (13)

     With the collapse of the Soviet Union, many gangsters from Russia, some of whom had served as KGB Agents, flocked to the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn, where the Russian Mob was already well established. Gaspipe Casso, however, was soon to be arrested, upon which he attempted to become that which he had murdered so many others for being - or suspected of being; a government Informant. Marat Balagula served 8 years in a Federal prison in the U. S. before his release in 2004. In December, 2012, President Obama signed into law Congressional legislation which repealed the Jackson-Vanik Amendment of 1974. Robert Levinson was among those FBI Agents assigned to investigate the Russian and Italian Mafia during his career, which ended with his retirement.

MOSCOW, 2004

     On the night of July 9, 2004, Paul Klebnikov, a resident of New York City then working as the Editor of the Russian edition of Forbes Magazine, was shot several times by unknown assailants on a street in Moscow. Early suspects in Klebnikov's murder included Boris Berezovsky, a businessman who quickly accumulated wealth in the billions following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In his 1996 Forbes article, "Godfather of the Kremlin," Klebnikov detailed Berezovsky's alliance with Chechen organized crime figures. In 1995, Berezovsky was the target of a Mafia-styled assassination attempt, when a bomb-car was exploded via remote control as he drove past in his Mercedes. The attack drew comparisons to the bomb-car murder of Irish Mobster Danny Greene, dismembered in Ohio by the Cleveland Mafia Family back in 1977. In this case, Berezovsky escaped with minor injuries, although his driver was decapitated.

     Berezovsky would then flee to England, in part to escape prosecution for the various economic crimes he committed in Russia, for which he would be convicted in absentia. Russian President Vladimir Putin would engage in a relentless campaign, publicly and privately, seeking the extradition of Berezovsky to Russia. The government of England refused. On March 23, 2013, Boris Berezovsky was found hanged at his palatial home in Ascot. The official cause of death was suicide. (14)

     A few weeks after the murder of Paul Klebnikov, Islamic terrorists, many from Chechnya, launched an attack against an elementary school in Beslan, Russia. Over 1,100 people were held hostage, including 777 children. Once the siege was over, 334 people, 186 of which were children, were dead. This terrorist attack was preceded by the assault by Chechen terrorists on a movie theater in Moscow on October 23, 2002. All 40 terrorists and 130 hostages were killed.

     These terrorist attacks, among others, resulted in the Intelligence community of Russia becoming the world's expert on Chechen terrorists. Thus, Vladimir Putin spoke with authority when he would later ask the government of the United States to investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his alleged ties to Chechen terrorists. Putin himself has come under pressure from the past two Administrations in regards to the murder of U. S. citizen Paul Klebnikov. In 2006, two Chechen men were placed on trial in Russia for Klebnikov's murder, but they were Acquitted. An Appeals Court later overturned their Acquittal, and the U. S. government pressured the government of Russia to re-try the men. Delay after delay occurred, and eventually the case was dropped. It is unlikely those who murdered young Klebnikov will ever be brought to Justice.


     After Robert Levinson's retirement from the FBI in 1998, Agent Levinson became a private investigator, working mostly for corporate clients. One client was a British tobacco firm which was losing millions of dollars due to the international smuggling of cigarettes by criminal gangs, including terrorist organizations. Agent Levinson was the right man for the job, having investigated such criminal activities during his career with the FBI. Levinson knew that the Chechen Mafia was involved in the lucrative cigarette smuggling racket, and also was investigating the murder of Paul Klebnikov as related to his investigation.

     Thus, Agent Levinson's investigation took him to Kish Island in March, 2007. Agent Levinson then vanished without a trace. Soon thereafter, an Islamic assassin gave an interview to the Western Media, in which he made some very disturbing claims. The man's name was Dawud Salahuddin. Born David Belfield in North Carolina in 1950, young David was raised in a strict Christian family on Long Island, New York. At age 18, Belfield converted to Islam. In 1980, while the new Islamic regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini was holding 52 U. S. citizens hostage in Tehran, Belfield agreed to murder an opponent of the regime living in Maryland. Posing as a mailman, Belfield shot the Dissident three times in the stomach. Now a wanted murderer in the United States, Belfield fled to Iran, although he would spend time in various countries, including Afghanistan and North Korea. Taking the name Dawud Salahuddin, the admitted terrorist has worked for the State-controlled Media in Iran. Salahuddin claimed that he met with Agent Levinson, but was then apprehended by the Iranian police, and upon his release discovered that Levinson had disappeared. (15)

     Furthering concern is that Agent Levinson is of the Jewish faith, and may be being held by a regime which denies the Holocaust occurred and calls for the destruction of Israel. Disturbing images of Levinson were forwarded to his family in late 2010, confirming he is still alive. In the meantime, the international community, with Israel taking the lead, has increased pressure on the government of Iran to abandon what experts agree is their concerted effort to develop nuclear weapons.


     Hearings in Congress have already begun regarding the FBI's handling of the two terrorists who planted bombs at the Boston Marathon. Simultaneously, members of Congress, some of whom have been the most critical of the FBI in this matter, are also pursuing new Immigration legislation that would offer Amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. The Tsarnaev brothers, it should be noted, immigrated to the United States legally, and qualified for and received Welfare benefits from the very taxpayers they would later unleash their terrorist bombs upon.


J. R. de Szigethy can be reached at:

Related Features by this author:

"Crime Scene - World Trade Center:
Part Three: The Terrorists, the Mafia, and Missed Opportunities
A Special Report on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11"


1. "Police probe possible link between Marathon bomber and unsolved triple homicide in Waltham," by Michael Rezendes and Bob Hohler. The Boston Globe, April 22, 2013.

2. "Tsarnaev brothers appeared to have scant finances," by Todd Wallack and Beth Healy. The Boston Globe, April 24, 2013.

3. "Slain Boston Bomb Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev eyed in Jewish Triple Murder," by Seth Berkman. The Jewish Daily Forward, April 22, 2013.

4. "Bombing Inquiry Turns to Motive and Russian Trip," by Eric Schmitt, Michael S. Schmidt, and Ellen Barry, The New York Times, April 20, 2013.

5. "Death of a Hood," by Eric Pooley. New York Magazine, January 29, 1990.

6. "The Brothers Bulger," by Howie Carr, Grand Central Publishing, 2006.

7. "Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that brought him to Justice," by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy. W. W. Norton and Company, 2013.

8. "Brutal: The Untold Story of my life inside Whitey Bulger's Irish Mob," by Kevin Weeks and Phyllis Karas. William Morrow, 2006.

9. "Rat Bastards: The Life and Times of South Boston's Most Honorable Irish Mobster," by John "Red" Shea. William Morrow, 2006.

10. "Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Irish Mob," by Edward MacKenzie Jr., Phyllis Karas, and Ross A. Muscato. Steerforth Publishing, 2003.

11. "Deadly Discounts," by Jack Willoughby. The Wall Street Journal, October 22, 2001.

12. "Iraq Details Terror Leader's Death," by Jane Arraf. CNN, August 21, 2002.

13. "Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss," by Philip Carlo. William Morrow, 2008.

14. "Did Boris Berezovsky Kill Himself? More Compelling, Did He Kill Forbes Editor Paul Klebnikov?" by Richard Behar. Forbes Magazine, March, 2013.

15. "Intrigue Surrounds former FBI Agent who Disappeared in Iran two months ago," by Pat Milton. The Associated Press, May 10, 2007.

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