Archive for the ‘True Crime’ Category

Man of honor crimezine Joe Bonnano mafia

Joseph Bonnano—a man of tradition

Bon Vinuti Crimeziners, Comu va? The tiny town of Castellammare Del Golfo, Sicily is much more than a tiny fishing village, or a marginally pronounceable scrabble high score, it is also the birthplace of Mafia boss of bosses Joseph Bonanno.

For generations Castellammare has been a place of tradition, so it is perhaps no surprise that Joe Bonanno refers to himself as a man of tradition, in a similar way he refers to his associates as men of tradition. Joe eschews the word Mafia, but in his Autobiography, A Man of Honor, he tells us at a very early stage the true Sicilian meaning of the word Mafioso; an adjective that means—spirited, brave, keen, beautiful, vibrant and alive. Anything can be Mafioso he tells us—an apple a woman, a horse or a man.

The pejorative connotations of the word Mafia are something that Bonanno struggles with throughout the book. As a man of tradition, Bonanno prizes respect above all things and he outlines in great detail just what kind of respect he is talking about. He would have us believe that his kind of respect has little to do with the world of modern “gangsters”—people who confuse fear with respect.

Bonanno also wants to make clear he hates the sobriquet “Joe Bananas”. Bonanno means “Good year” in Italian; all educated people he assumes would know this.

In the 1920s Bonanno went to naval college, with big plans of sailing the world, but Benito Mussolini threw a spanner in his educational ambitions and Bonanno moved to Brooklyn, by way of Cuba and Tampa Florida; where he quickly hooked up with Salvatore Maranzano and the Castellammarese mafia clan.

Crimeziners who are interested in the genesis of the Sicilian mafia and the many stories this branch of organized crime gave way to, will find this book fascinating. Clear parallels can be drawn between Bonanno’s early career and Mario Puzo’s stories about the Corleone family for example.

Bonnanno is understandably coy about his nefarious dealings, however. He prefers to call himself a businessman and describes his legion of associates as like-minded men of tradition, helping each other forward in a strange country.

Bonanno rarely dishes the dirt in this book. He does however make notable exceptions. He doesn’t have too many kind words to say about Brooklyn crime lord Joe “the Boss” Masseria, nor does he have much time for Masseria associates Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, or Vito Genovese. He also has a dim view of Big Al Capone of the Chicago Outfit, a man who gave him a gold watch upon their meeting. For Bonanno men like Capone and Meyer Lansky represented a new and unwelcome addition to his circle of business associates—men who were non-Sicilian—men without respect—professional gangsters.

Bonanno provides invaluable background to the November 14, 1957 Apalachin Crime Commission meeting/bust, that blew the lid of the American Mafia and changed the FBI focus away from chasing communists. Typically, Bonanno says he wasn’t there, and that his involvement was down to and underling who had his driving license getting busted in his place.

The discerning reader will quickly realize that while Bonanno spins a fascinating yarn, his version of events is often times doubtful at best. Throughout, he adopts an “I never done anything wrong, not ever,” tone that gradually becomes more wearing and less believable as the book goes on. A good example of which is his version of the career changing kidnap plot that saw him “retire” to his home in Arizona.

The Tucson years were plagued by ill health—he had three heart attacks—and a constant barrage of harassment from Federal Law enforcement. He also picked up a five-year felony conviction—a convoluted indictment, alleging he obstructed a San Jose grand jury investigation into his California assets. He served one year, due to ill health, which isn’t bad going considering he was 75 years old at the time, and had been at the top of his mafia game for decades.

Man of Honor was published in 1983 and at the time many New York mafia leaders, such as Gambino boss Paul Castellano and Joseph Massino, whined endlessly on Federal wire taps about “that rat” Bonanno; although it must be noted that Bonnano kept his vow of omertà to the very end, whilst Massino subsequently became the biggest rat the Bonnano family ever had, doing perhaps more damage to the mafia than even the Joe Pistone/Donnie Brasco undercover sting.

A man of Honor Joseph Bonanno

Joseph Bonanno—businessman, honorable man of tradition.

It should also be noted, that [former] United States Attorney and hat in the ring political crank, Rudolph Giuliani, has cited the mafia family chart in Bonnano’s book as instrumental in his landmark Mafia Commission trial of 1985; a prosecution that saw the successful RICO prosecutions and subsequent jailing of mafia kingpins such as ‘Big’ Paul Castellano, ‘Fat’ Tony Salerno, Carmine ‘the snake’ Persico and Tony ‘Ducks’ Corallo. The prosecution failed to snare Bonanno [although Bonnano family boss Phil ‘Rusty’ Rastelli caught a twelve stretch].

Man of Honor may not tell the full story, but the part it does tell is certainly very engaging. Check it out Crimeziners.

Joseph Bonanno died on May 11, 2002, of heart failure at the age of 97. He is buried at Holy Hope Cemetery & Mausoleum in Tucson, Arizona.

RED NOTICE CRIMEZINEZdravstvuj Crimeziners! And a triple word score to you all! For it is from that free market paradise formally known as the USSR that we bring you today’s special edition of Crimezine the world’s favorite crime blog.

Our Russian friends, or more especially Russki Capo di tutti capi, Vlad-it-wasn’t-me-who murdered-those-dissidents-honest-Putin, are never far from the news these days. Whether it is poisoned sushi that is to blame, a “careless” fall from a balcony window, or a car door handle liberally covered in a lethal nuclear isotope, you can be sure the bare-chested, tiger-wrassling Vlad is never far from the news media podium, to offer one of his famous pokerfaced denials of malfeasance.

“Former” KGB goon Putin has upped his game substantially in recent years, using his trademarked totalitarian newspeak to explain away the shooting down of holiday airliner MH17, the invasion of the Ukraine, and the brutal murder of leading opposition figure Boris Nemetsov.

But it is perhaps one of Putin’s least understood achievements that concerns us today. Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the breathless rush to the free market transition that followed, the Russian government started selling major assets, such as oil companies and other state-owned industries, at yard sale prices. Many were bought by a handful of well-connected oligarchs who became the world’s new super rich.

Enter Stanford educated Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, an Investment management maverick, who figured how to buy into the assets of the new Russia and make billions in the process. Red Notice is the book that details How Browder made the transition from a down on his heels corporate investor into an international financial superstar and fell victim to the world’s greatest criminal conspiracies as a result.

Browder’s capitalist dream became a nightmare when—Vlad-it’s-a-nice-day-in-the gulags-today-Putin’s meteoric rise to power put the breaks on foreign investment. Oligarchs fled in fear of their lives and the full police-state machinery of the new Russia was turned to the purpose of swindling foreign investors.

Forget about the Ocean’s Eleven robbing the Bellagio Casino, or Goldfinger cornering the market in world gold. This crime was bigger, way bigger. In the scramble to claw back control from foreigners the Russians “redistributed” assets from companies they had already sold, effectively stealing entire oil and gas fields from Western investors—assets worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Bill Browder became persona non grata of course. Worse than that, the Putin police state now viewed him as an enemy and treated him accordingly. Red Notice is the story of the merciless treatment Browder recieved—A story where we meet an endless parade of corrupt cops, bent judges, secret agent assassins and vile politicians, as they scramble to ruin and discredit our hero.

At the time of writing Browder is still breathing. But the book makes it clear that he is a marked man. Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was not so lucky. His attempt to represent Browder and expose corruption in the Putin Government caused him to be brutally murdered. Sergei Magnitsky’s story is outlined in detail in this book. This is a touching, dynamic, and widely acclaimed account of the Browder story that will thrill and surprise you, as it outlines the crime of the century. But more than that, this book will enlighten you to the true nature of Vladimir Putin and the new Russia.

Crimezine-the real crime zine.

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Young Alcapone

Al Capone practiced looking crazy in a mirror— but did he really need to?

This book should slam harder than Babe Ruth, on a home run romp with cigar fixed firmly between the teeth. The authors, Bill and John Balsamo, are former “Longshoremen” and their great uncle, Batista Balsamo, was regarded by many as the first godfather of Booklyn, so it is safe to assume these two savvy seniors are more mobbed up than a Mulberry Street Trattoria.

Impressively, Bill Balsamo was a consultant on Brian De Palma’s 1987 mafia classic, The Untouchables—and just about every cable TV show involving the Mafia you would care to mention. So you would think that a two hundred fifty-page book on the early Capone years would be a snap right? Twenty-five years of research involved—trumpets the cover flap, rather grandly.

Trouble is, this little volume promises much and delivers little. Firstly, the Balsamo’s chose, rather unwisely, to pursue the dramatized route whilst constructing this novel, the result is a turgid and messy Polenta Pasticciata of almost inedible proportions, in which the free flowing rookie errors and clichés fly thicker and faster than bullets from a Thompson Annihilator, with a C drum magazine.

Yes, we get a number of interesting word of mouth anecdotes, including the full skinny on the legendary tale of how paralytic mobster Frank Galluccio opened up Capone’s face after the portly youngster cheeked Gallucio’s sister; we also get an authoritative account of how and why Capone was forced to leave New York, his childhood home, so that he could become mob boss of Chicago.

Trouble is, we also get a bazillion laundry lists of every New York mobster who ever drew breath—along with the inevitable, and often ludicrous, nick names. Worse, despite this being a dramatized account of Capone’s early life, there is little true drama and almost zero characterization; which is frustrating.

The Balsamo’s tell us that Capone’s early life was shrouded in mystery—they also promise “frank and shocking interviews with Capone’s last living relatives,” unfortunately these interviews never materialize and this book leaves the early life of Al Capone as shrouded in mystery as ever it was. Young Capone should be avoided by all but mob minded completists.

Virginia Hill, a fast-talking, foul-mouthed goddess of glamour, with a penchant for dangerous liaisons. But who was this gangster groupie, and how did a poor girl from rural Alabama get to hang with the mafia in the ritziest neighborhood in America?

Virginia Hill—fast-talking, foul-mouthed goddess of glamour

On the night of June 20, 1947 notorious gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel died in a hail of bullets at 810 North Linden Drive in Beverly Hills—the house was being rented, by mob moll Virginia Hill, a fast-talking, foul-mouthed goddess of glamour, with a penchant for dangerous liaisons. But who was this gangster groupie, and how did a poor girl from rural Alabama get to hang with the mafia in the ritziest neighborhood in America?

Bugsy’s Baby—The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill, is an in-depth work by investigative journalist Andy Edmonds. It traces the origins of Hill, focusing on her associations with the Capone era Chicago mob and the New York Syndicate of Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Bugsy’s Baby provides a fascinating insight to the structure of the American Mafia and it’s major players, and relates how a bad girl from deepest Alabama ran rings around all of them.

Young Hill, carried cash for the mob, placing racetrack bets and acting as bagman for their myriad dealings—who would suspect a cute little redhead fresh out of her teens—of such nefarious dealings?

The trouble with fast company is it burns through convention, until morality is fused into a permanent state of overload. The claxon voiced Hill, coming from a life of poverty and abuse, in the depression era south, quickly became addicted to a life of fast cash, diamonds and dangerous sex—a lifestyle that most Americans could only stare at on a movie screen.

Bugsy’s Baby follows Virginia Hill as she heads west to Los Angeles—where the psychopathic Siegel is tasked with monopolizing the west-coast wire [bookmaking] service, and extorting money from movie studios. It is here that we find out just how weak and despicable Bugsy Siegel was—a hair-trigger killer, rapist, and inveterate gambler, who beat and swindled everyone he met.

Then of course there was Las Vegas—a town Siegel was credited with kick starting.

Andy Edmonds is to be commended, as Bugsy’s Baby gives the fullest account yet, of Bugsy Siegel’s misadventures in Las Vegas, including the building of the famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino—named after Hill and her long-legs. We also get a blow-by-blow account of the famous Siegel murder that explains just who killed the mobster and why.

Virginia Hill courted notoriety, she dressed like a film star, had relationships with Errol Flynn and George Raft and many, others, drawing ever more attention, until eventually, she was called before Estes Kefauver’s committee on organized crime, a Mafia show trial that was televised across America.

When asked by the committee how she got “all that money” Hill responded live on television “Because I am the best cocksucker in town!” needless to say Senator Kefauver nearly popped a gasket, as did irate viewers across America. Infamy is no friend of the criminal, as Hill and many others found to their cost.

Hill’s decline and fall is described in detail. This book is a historical testament, cautionary tale, and fast punching crime thriller all rolled into one. For Crimeziners who love stories about the mafia, Bugsy’s Baby is a must.

For committed crime fans with deep pockets, 810 North Linden Drive is currently on the market for $4.3 million. Tell ’em Crimezine sent you.

When the Mob Ran Vegas: Stories of Money, Mayhem and Murder, By Steve Fischer

Sam Giancana, would you buy a weekend break from this man? Arm or leg?

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right, Crimeziners? Except we all know that is not strictly true. Surely the entire planet knows that the mob—primarily the Chicago “Outfit”, in association with Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters pension fund, turned Las Vegas from a quiet desert town into a pulsing neon Mecca of avarice and debauchery?

Steve Fischer is no career-minded writer—he is however, a life long enthusiast of the Vegas experience and the history that engendered that experience. There are a lot of structural problems with this book—The kind of mistakes that would never cut muster back in the hallowed days of old school Vegas.

But never fear, the tales of money, mayhem, and murder, more than compensate. What this book does have and in sumptuous abundance are a hundred and one anecdotes from the classic era of Vegas. You heard the one about Frank Sinatra getting his teeth knocked out? Or the one about Howard Hughes spending $5.4 million dollars on the Silver Slipper Casino, so he wouldn’t have to watch their sign revolve outside his penthouse window?

Some of the stories will be familiar—the Frank Sinatra Cal-Neva debacle, or the Lefty Rosenthal era at the Stardust—a story that was immortalized in the De Niro/Pesci film Casino. Others, such as the way Mafia outside man Johnny Roselli became the Chicago Outfits man on the west coast, and subsequently strong-armed Colombia Pictures into getting Frank Sinatra his Oscar winning role in From Here to Eternity [& signing unknown actress Marylin Monroe] well, those tales might be rather less familiar, until you suddenly realize much of The Godfather was way closer to the truth than many would still like to admit.

Fischer also name-checks just about every mafia player who ever spent a weekend in Vegas—every one of them more ruthless than the last—it all becomes a head-smashing finger-crushing blur after a while, but we are left in no doubt just how deeply the mafia influence in Vegas permeated. Although, the demise of the Mafia’s Vegas interests could have perhaps been given rather more attention.

For prospective historians of the Vegas scene, When the Mob Ran Vegas is a useful primer, you get a run down of the players; an idea of the genesis of the big name casinos, and a frothy, Vegas-buffet-style portion of misty eyed reminiscences about the old days. You cannot help but wonder, in these days of corporate mega-casinos and entertainment-by-numbers tourist shows—do they still bury bad guys in the desert? Don’t you wish they would? Nostalgia, don’t cha love it Crimeziners?

Whitey Bulger, America’s Most Wanted

Whitey Bulger, America’s Most Wanted

Just when you thought you had heard the last of South Boston crime legend James “Whitey Bulger” a new book by Boston news hacks Shelly Murphy and Kevin Cullen has hit bookstores.

Bulger is a man with a RICO rap sheet that dates back to the 1950’s. The Irish mobster from the Boston badlands has spent a lot of time behind bars. He is also widely lauded as the FBI’s biggest fink, who doubled up on a career of mayhem and murder even as he was eating out of the hand of the Federal Government.

But Bulger is perhaps most famous for bunking out of a Federal rap and evading capture by the FBI for sixteen long years, before being eventually tracked to Santa Monica Califorina where the 83 year old gangster was snatched by the Feds and arraigned in Federal court on July 6, 2011. In court Bulger plead not guilty to 48 charges, including 19 counts of murder, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, perjury, narcotics distribution and multiple weapons violations.

Shelly Murphy, who has covered organized crime for years with The Boston Globe, claims the new book Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice does not recycle old stories about Bulger. Well, hurrah to that Crimeziners, because Whitey’s wonderful world  is anything but pleasant. But why the new book?

“I think what’s really new here is we get a chance to see what Whitey thinks of himself. We talked to people he has been writing to since his capture and I think it’s quite a revelation that he’s determined to try to portray himself as this, sort of, noble patriot who gave to military veterans groups. He really wants to try to sort of change the narrative of what we all know about him.”

“But what he wants more than anything, he wants to refute two points. He says he was never an informant for the FBI and he says he never killed the two women whose murders are among the 19 he’s charged with.”

Cullen said Bulger knows he‘s not getting out of prison and can’t wait for his trial, which is scheduled to begin in June 2013.

“He writes to his friends that he’s been doing about 100 push-ups a day in his cell to try to keep fit.  He’s certainly mentally very with it, according to his lawyer, and I really hope that he does get to trial, because he says he’s determined to take the stand and tell his side of the story. So whether people believe it or not is another question, but I think it’s really important that we hear what he has to say,” Murphy said.

As Bulger languishes in his cell reimagining history, Crimezine wonders if he is remembers the Boston Herald four-part series (2001), entitled “Stolen Innocence”, an article that interviewed dozens of women who alleged childhood sexual abuse by Bulger and his associates. The series reported how Bulger and associate Stephen Flemi gave heroin, to underage girls as young as thirteen and sexually abused them, one victim later died of a drug overdose in her early 20’s

Two of these girls, Deborah Hussey and Deborah Davis, are also alleged to have been later murdered by Bulger in early adulthood, in at least one case to allegedly keep the victim from going public, after years of sexual abuse. Charges for their murders are now pending against Bulger.

Undoubtedly Bulger will try to further embarrass the FBI during his forthcoming trial, by revealing further details about the poorly managed attempt by Federal authorities to use him as a confidential informant. Perhaps he will also reiterate his involvement in the CIA MK-ULTRA program, the goal of which was to research powerful mind-control drugs such as LSD on prison inmates (including Bulger alleges himself).

Whatever the future holds, we can rest assured that Whitey Bulger, the man who ratted on his friends, murdered his enemies and lied to any one who would listen is firmly where he belongs. In Federal Prison.

Drugstore-Cowboy-Crimezine

Jimmy Fogle in 1968

Jimmy Fogle blew every chance he had to go straight. Jimmy was a career criminal with a weakness for dope that had him in and out of prison for most of his seventy five years. Most recently in 2010 geriatric Jimmy was caught by police as he hauled two trash bags filled with prescription meds out of a pharmacy he had just held up with a BB gun.

Jimmy was no stranger to drug addled stupidity, one time the cops caught him fast asleep in a drugstore he had just broken into. They said he planned to steal drugs worth $10,000, he had his stolen booty bagged up ready to go but wasn’t together enough to make the getaway. That was Jimmy’s problem, he was better at getting caught than he was at stealing. The longest he was out of jail in his four decade career heisting drugstores was three years.

But it wasn’t all bad, Jimmy started writing in the 1960’s and by the 1970’s had produced a prison biography called Satan’s Sandbox. Unfortunately for Jimmy he was no Edward Bunker and of his eleven books, the only work of substance was the story of his life, Drugstore Cowboy, which was turned into the 1989 Matt Dillon movie with the famous William S. Burroughs cameo.

Mainstream literary success proved elusive however, and the cult success of the Drugstore Cowboy movie was unable to provide the financial stability that Jimmy needed. The lure of drugs and the criminal life quickly drew him back.

After long decades of drug abuse, it is ironic that Jimmy’s fate was finally sealed by a prison rehabilitation program. Working in the prison shop as a steam pipe fitter it is thought that Jimmy contracted an asbestos related lung tumor that finally killed him. Sentenced in 2011 for his final robbery, Jimmy Fogle died in Monroe prison California.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMiPvPe95iw

Crimezine -NCIS

LL Cool J (foreground) Would you break into this mans home?

The Hollywood Hills, home to the rich and infamous. This week muscle bound NCIS heartthrob LL cool J got up close and personal with an ill advised burglar who thought breaking into Cool J’s Sherman Oaks home might be the thing to do.

The burglar, Texas transient Jonathan Kirby 56, a man with a rap sheet, (if you will excuse the rap sheet pun) going back decades, was pummeled comprehensively by the Jayster, receiving a broken nose, jaw, and ribs.

It could have been much, much worse: Crimezine is no expert in these matters, but burglarizing the home of a muscle bound rapper—a man with a weekly television show advertising well versed familiarity with fire arms of all descriptions—that would most likely figure very low on our list of home invasion targets.

We can only assume Mr Kirby is unfamiliar with Cool J’s work. The Jayster rose to fame with the hit song “Mama Said Knock You Out”. Owch!

LAPD are insistent that the Jayster acted in self-defence. Quite right too, but this being Los Angeles, Crimezine knows that the burglar is almost certainly working with a team of ambulance chasing lawyers intent upon suing the NCIS star for all manner of preposterous reasons.

If so, it may be sometime before the burglar gets to see the results of such action, his previous record could result in a sentence as long as 38 years.

Onion-Field- Crimezine

Jimmy Lee Smith left, and Gregory Powell

March 9 1963 LAPD officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger pulled over a suspicious car containing armed robbers Greogory Ulas Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith. Following an armed stand off, officer Hettinger was forced to relinquish his weapon, which resulted in both officers being kidnapped and driven to a lonely onion field outside Bakersfield, where officer Campbell was murdered.

Crimeziners who have read Joseph Wambaugh’s classic account of this crime will remember how slowly the gears of justice ground in a case that resulted in a public realization that the Dragnet generation of omnipotent policing had ended, ushering in a bold new era of lawless brutality.

This week a new sign that reads “Ian Campbell Square” has been installed at Gower Street and Carlos Avenue, the junction where the two cops were kidnapped. At the dedication Crimezine favorite, author James Ellroy, read the Scottish Pipers Incantation quoted in Wambaugh’s book. “The wild insistent pipes and the marching feet defiantly answer that there is no more death,” Ellroy said. “Ian, rest in peace.”

The words must have echoed around the California Medical facility in Vacaville, because as soon as they had they been uttered, Gregory Powell was dead from prostate cancer. Powell 79 who escaped the death penalty after killing Campbell was denied parole 11 times, most recently in 2010. Powell associate Smith was paroled but continued to have run-ins with the law. He died in 2007 while imprisoned for a parole violation.

Officer Campbell’s daughter, Valerie Campbell-Moniz, from El Dorado County witnessed the unveiling. Only 3 years old when she lost her father, she has spent her life following the fates of the killers.

LAPD’s bagpipe ensemble, played at the dedication. Campbell, who died at 31, had played the pipes since childhood. Bagpipes were played at his funeral, a tradition the LAPD has continued for every fallen officer.

The tale of Campbell and Hettinger is taught to every LAPD recruit. New strategies and procedures were implemented, as a result of this case including how officers approach vehicles, position themselves, communicate and keep control of their guns. It’s not uncommon for a veteran officer to drive a rookie to the intersection where Campbell and Hettinger were kidnapped.