Feature Articles

November 27, 2000

Round Up The Usual Suspects 1

By John William Tuohy

John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washingon, D.C.

compiled by John William Tuohy

Canada: Whoever tried to kill a crime reporter in a newspaper parking lot "may be floating with the fishes somewhere" police said.

     Police are looking into whether two subsequent violent deaths are linked to the near-fatal attack on Michel Auger in the parking lot of Le Journal de Montreal.

     Auger, 56, was shot five times in the back last Wednesday and is recovering in hospital.

     One theory is that a biker gang put out a contract on Auger, in response to his latest articles that analyzed the gangs in the popular Montreal tabloid, said Cmdr. Andre Bouchard, head of the Montreal police force's major crimes unit.

     Police are looking at the biker gangs as possible suspects because of the deadly turf war between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine for control of Quebec's illegal drug trade. The biker war has left more than 150 people dead, mostly gang members, and Auger has closely chronicled it.

     The prime minister closed the door Tuesday on using a weighty constitutional tool to stamp out organized crime.

     Jean Chretien said using the so-called notwithstanding clause to override the Charter of Rights and make it illegal to associate with criminal gangs is not an option for the government as it grapples with the growing problem.

     The government is under pressure to do something drastic since a prominent Montreal reporter was shot last week after writing an expose about bikers gangs and the mafia.

New York: One of the nation's largest immigration asylum law firms was accused of working hand in hand with smugglers who bring illegal Chinese immigrants to the United States and keep them as virtual indentured servants.

     The relationship earned the Porges law firm more than $13 million illicitly over the last seven years, federal prosecutors alleged in the first racketeering case of its kind.

     The smugglers, known as snakeheads, charged desperate aliens $40,000 to $50,000 to sneak them into the country, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said.

     When authorities captured the aliens, the law firm made up stories for each one to qualify for asylum, authorities said. Once they won freedom, the firm delivered the aliens to smugglers who held them captive until the fee was paid, White said.

     The firm - operated by Robert Porges, 61, and his wife, Sheery Lu Porges, 47 - represented aliens throughout the country at nearly every major INS detention center, White said.

     The wide-scale fraud may have changed the outcome of as many as 7,000 asylum cases, forcing the government to review every one to determine whether each person should have been allowed to stay in the country, authorities said.

     Robert Porges, a 1962 Harvard Law School graduate, could face 175 years in prison if convicted, while his wife could face life, White said.

     Sheery Lu Porges also was charged with aiding snakeheads in the kidnappings of 17 Chinese immigrants since 1997. Robert Porges wasn't accused of participating in the seizure of immigrants who owed money.

     The firm used a ``mentality scale'' to grade each client's intelligence on a scale of one to five, and then made up an asylum story the client could remember, White said.

     The case illustrates the ``cold, hard reality'' of alien smuggling, Meissner said. ``Those who are lucky enough to survive the voyage, whether it is aboard a freighter or in the cargo hold of a container ship, do not find the American dream and freedom, ``Instead, they find a life of indentured servitude, working ... 18 hour days to pay off the smuggling debt. Others are forced into prostitution or into working as enforcers for the smuggling operations. Those who try to escape are subject to the extortion of their family members, to torture, to maiming and even death.''

Honduras: The head of Honduras'highest court accused the Central American nation's corruption-riddled police of protecting a Colombian drug trafficker and escorting him out of the country to avoid arrest.

     Supreme Court President Oscar Avila said he had information that police officers escorted Colombian Hector Matheus to the border with El Salvador at the end of August after he had been freed by a court on narcotics smuggling charges.

     The judge who freed Matheus was fired for suspected irregularities and an appeals court issued a new arrest warrant. But by then, he was gone.

     The allegation deepened a growing crisis in the police force since officers were unmasked a few months ago as being in league with the drugs trade, car theft rings and kidnapping gangs.

     Honduras, which has launched a crackdown against crime and corruption, is a transit route for Colombian cocaine heading overland through Central America and Mexico to the United States, anti-drug officials say.

     Honduran authorities say Matheus was a key contact between the Colombian cocaine mafia and the so-called Atlantic cartel on Honduras' Caribbean coast.

New York: The annual report of the United Nations Population Fund, estimates that four million women and girls are bought and sold each year, for marriage, prostitution or slavery. The UN says it is a huge world trade in women, which is only growing, an unwanted consequence of globalisation.

     The the largest volume of trafficking in women taking place in Asia, although women in eastern Europe are becoming more vulnerable.

     A total of four million women are bought and sold, with at least 60 million "missing" as a result of abortions, infanticide or neglect.

     Some two million girls aged between five and 15 are introduced into the sex industry annually, and according to the report, as many as 5,000 women and girls are murdered each year in so-called "honour killings".

     According to the report Japan and Thailand need to enact laws and provide social services to help a large number of Thai women taken to Japan every year to work in the sex-industry jobs entailing ''slavery-like abuses,''.

     The report said many of the Thai women interviewed for the study cited instances of beatings, constant surveillance and coercive threats, including those of being ''resold,'' that put them in a category of forced labor.

     The study said thousands of Thai women are taken to Japan every year to work in the sex industry.

     Kinsey Dinan, one of the report's authors, said an estimated 20,000 Thai women are staying illegally in Japan, most of whom have fallen into debt bondage upon arrival in the country.

     The study noted that while most of the women decided to migrate for work, in doing so, they fell prey to deceptive contracting agents who charged them exorbitant fees for transport, apartment rental and other services, including simple amenities such as the right to use the telephone.

     The result, according to the study, is that these women became bound by their debts which typically range between $25,000-$40,000 and which could take them years to pay off, given the exploitative way in which they are paid.

     Most of the women are employed in Japan's booming ''sex entertainment industry'' worth 4 trillion to 10 trillion yen a year, the study said.

     The Thai women, part of a pool of an estimated 150,000 foreign sex workers in Japan, are expected to perform sexual services for clients picked up at ''dating'' bars, bathhouses and low-end brothels, often run by the yakuza -- members of Japan's crime syndicates, the report said.

     The women, according to the study, are paid a mere fraction of what the clients pay, the rest being picked up by their managers. The report recommends that Japan ''actively investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of trafficking in persons'' and to take measures to protect the victims -- who are likely to be targeted by police as illegal aliens -- by amending existing laws on immigration and labor standards.

     Japanese authorities should ''guarantee victims of trafficking and/or servitude access to redress for abuses suffered'' by making it easier for them to obtain legal counsel and translation services, the report said.

     The Japanese government, which has publicly expressed concern about the situation, needs to ''do something for the victims instead of just talking about it,'' said Regan Ralph, executive director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: A Croatian army general and three Bosnian Croats arrested in police sweeps in Bosnia and Croatia last week are suspected in the assassination of an anti-corruption politician.

     Ivan Andabak, a Croatian army general is in custody, and is the principal suspect in the assassination of Jozo Leutar, a Bosnian Croat deputy interior minister.

     Leutar was killed in a car bomb explosion in March 1999, an attack that the top Bosnian Croat leader first blamed on Muslims. Leutar took a hard line on the reintegration of Bosnia. However, after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord in 1995, he changed his stance, won a job in the federation government and began cooperating in the drive against organized crime and corruption.

Hollywood: A new mob film "Panic", explores the mid-life crisis of a dutiful son whose father obliged him to become a hit man. Reluctant killer Alex (William H.Macy), finding himself in a rut, has decided to talk to a psychologist (John Ritter) about his job dissatisfaction. But this step violates the strict code Alex's father, Michael (Donald Sutherland), inculcated in him as a lad: Don't reveal the family business to anyone.

Baton Rouge: Former Govornor Edwin Edwards conspired with Louisiana's current insurance commissioner and others four years ago to illegally set up an alleged sweetheart settlement scheme for a failing insurance company, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

     Prosecutors allege Edwards bribed a former state district court judge while helping David Disiere, owner of the financially strapped Cascade Insurance Co., to negotiate a settlement of claims against the company.

     The $2.5 million accepted was far less than should have been collected, to the detriment of Cascade policyholders and debtors, prosecutors say.

     Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Mann said Edwards told Sanders he would block a federal and state bid-rigging investigation against the former judge if he agreed to the settlement and drop a separate investigation of Cascade.

Taipei: Police have arrested six teenagers, including a girl, for allegedly kidnapping and murdering a 14-year-old junior high school student.

     Police recovered the body of victim Lee Hsun-teh from a concrete-filled plastic container that had been dumped on the banks of the Tanshui River.

     Lee knew several of the suspects from elementary school days.

     The boy's father, a construction worker, reported his son's disappearance to the police September 14, after receiving a call from a man demanding a 32,000 for the release of Lee.

     The two main suspects, Chang Ching-sung, 19, and Tsai Chi-chang, 18, and a 14-year-old girl only identified as Cheng were eventually apprehended at a motel in Taipei County.

     Chang confessed to strangling Lee at his home in Pali, Taipei County, on Sept. 10 after the boy refused to go along with the idea of staging a kidnapping to extort money from his father, the police said, adding Tsai helped Chang get rid of the body.

Ivory Coast: Human rights group Amnesty International said that groups of Ivory Coast soldiers had been summarily killing unarmed suspected criminals and mistreating lawyers and journalists since the military coup last Christmas Eve.

     It said some suspects had been made to kneel naked before being shot in front of a crowd. Relatives or former employees of ousted President Henri Konan Bedie had been tortured in a bid to recover money that military ruler General Robert Guei says Bedie stole, it added.

     Amnesty said Guei's government had ordered the groups of soldiers, calling themselves ``La Camora'' after the Sicilian mafia, or ``The Red Brigades,'' to fight criminality.

New jersey: The government says 15-year-old Jonathan G. Lebed is the youngest person ever to be accused of stock fraud. Lebed allegedly used the Internet to "pump and dump" stocks for a profit of $272,826, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

     Lebed told the Wall Street Journal that he has been investing in the stock market since he was 12, and he learned about it by watching CNBC and CNN, as well as reading Web sites.

     The agency said Lebed would buy large volume of stocks that were thinly traded, and then "pump" them by posting false messages praising them. After the stocks prices went up, Lebed would dump them at a profit, the SEC said.

London: British company Content Technologies claims it has developed software that has a 90 percent accuracy rate for catching workers that access pornography on the job.

     The product, called Pornsweeper, examines e-mail attachments and other files for images that appear to contain flesh, and the company says it can be modified to fit what employers view as acceptable and unacceptable.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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