Head of FBI's Boston office says he's concerned expansion of casino gaming will increase public corruption cases



By PHILIP MARCELO, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — The head of the FBI's Boston office said Monday he's concerned the expansion of casino gambling might lead to an increase in public corruption and financial and organized crime.
Special Agent Vincent Lisi, whose office covers Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, said the industry's growth provides "fertile ground" for bribery, fraud and abuse. "When you look at legalized gaming, you have a heavy amount of regulation, along with a lucrative business," he said. "Those two factors combined make for pretty fertile grounds for corruption of public officials."
Lisi made the comments Monday as the Boston office announced it will launch a dedicated, toll-free tip line focused on public corruption: 1-844-NOBRIBE (662-7423). It will also launch a billboard advertising campaign called "Stop Corruption Now" and will promote the initiative through Facebook. Tips also can be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov.
The American Gaming Association, a casino industry trade group, responded in a statement: "Study after study has shown that fears about increased crime after a new casino opens are unfounded, and gaming operators in Massachusetts and elsewhere are committed to upholding the integrity of our highly-regulated industry."
In Massachusetts, the state licenses and regulates casino operators and assesses state taxes on their gambling profits while cities and towns are charged with issuing local building and zoning permits and assessing local property taxes.
Lisi stressed that the tip line is not a direct response to the burgeoning regional casino industry.
Instead, he said it's prompted by a steady rise in public corruption-related cases the office has dealt with in recent years. Among them: the 2013 sentencing of a Rhode Island man in a kickback scheme that defrauded the U.S. Navy of nearly $18 million and the 2011 conviction of former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi on bribery charges.
"If you look at some of the cases we've had in the past, you'd think they'd be deterrents and that there would be a decline in the numbers that we've had," Lisi said. "That's not been the case."
But at least in Massachusetts, potential criminal activity has been a prominent part of the public debate over the casino industry.
For example, three owners of the waterfront land that Wynn Resorts plans to build into a $1.6 billion resort casino in Everett face federal wire fraud charges. They allegedly tried to hide from state regulators and the casino company the fact that a convicted felon and known mob associate named Charles Lightbody would profit from the land deal, in violation of state statutes.
And the state gambling commission is conducting an inquiry after The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the IRS has requested information on Wynn's clients, domestic and overseas marketing offices and internal controls. The newspaper said federal authorities are probing whether the Las Vegas-based gambling giant violated money laundering laws.
Lisi said the federal case dealing with the Everett land sale is ongoing; he declined to comment on the apparent IRS investigation into money laundering.




Fight Over Giancana Memorabilia in Vegas


By MIKE HEUER

     LAS VEGAS (CN) - A defunct Mafia museum claims an auction house sold dozens of articles once owned by Sam Giancana, though the museum owns them - having bought them from the late Chicago boss's daughter.
     The Mafia Collection LLC sued Munari Auctions and William Woolery on Monday, in Clark County Court.
     The Mafia Collection claims that it warned Munari that it owned the Giancana collection, but Munari auctioned them off on Nov. 22 anyway.
     It's a rather tangled tale.
     The Mafia Collection claims in the lawsuit that it paid $23,300 to buy the artifacts from Giancana's daughter, Antoinette McDonnell, in 2009, and that has the bill of sale. It bought the articles for the now-closed Las Vegas Mob Experience, which featured artifacts from many prominent gangsters.
     The artifacts include photographs, court documents, furnishings and personal effects once owned by Giancana and passed on to his daughter.
     McDonnell initially was a paid consultant for the Las Vegas Mob Experience, which was owned and operated by Murder Inc., according to a Las Vegas Review article on a previous lawsuit 2011.
     The Las Vegas Mob Experience was an interactive exhibit housed in the Tropicana Las Vegas hotel and casino from 2011 to 2013. It featured artifacts from Giancana, Bugsy Siegel, Anthony Spilotro and others.
     Before that exhibit opened, McDonnell sued Murder Inc. and the Mafia Collection in Clark County Court. McDonnell claimed the Mafia Collection never paid her for Giancana's items and that the selling price was too low.
     In the present lawsuit, the Mafia Collection calls that lawsuit "frivolous," and says that a judge ruled against McDonnell in July this year and ordered her not to get rid of the artifacts in question.
     But McDonnell turned over the stuff to Munari Auctions, according to the lawsuit, and Munari sold some or all of them in November.
     The Sam Giancana Estate Auction featured 152 "lots," including photos, documents, furniture and police and coroner reports about the mobster's 1975 murder in his Chicago home, according to the auction catalogue.
     The Mafia Collection claims that Munari's auction was "reckless and done in circumvention of the law, court order and the directive of the artifacts' owner" and done "for the gain and profit of both McDonnell and itself."
     Some or all of the artifacts are housed and controlled by McDonnell's "appointed agent in fact," William R. Woolery, according to the lawsuit.
     Mafia Collection seeks declaratory judgment that it owns the articles, possession of it, and damages for conversion.
     Giancana was boss of the Chicago mob from 1957 to 1966. His alleged ties to President John F. Kennedy and the CIA are the stuff of legend. The CIA allegedly sought his help to assassinate Fidel Castro. Giancana was shot in the head in his Chicago home in 1975. He was 67. 



Mafia in the middle


Italian mobsters have spread from the south northward

IN THE crime movie “The Italian Job” Charlie, played by Michael Caine, upsets a mafia boss by trespassing on his turf to steal gold. The plot is entertaining, but absurd: the film is set in Turin in 1969, when organised crime in Italy was confined to the downtrodden south.
No longer. On December 10th police arrested 61 people in an operation against the ’Ndrangheta, the mafia from Calabria, the toe of Italy. Such dragnets are common. But this one was launched from Perugia, the capital of Umbria, a region famed for beautiful hilltop towns and Renaissance art—not for mobsters.
Operation Fourth Step was the most startling sign yet of the pervasiveness of Italy’s traditional mafias. Police found evidence that Calabrian gangsters settled in Umbria had planned a murder and violently intimidated shopkeepers, builders and others.
Of all Italy’s main organised-crime groups, the ’Ndrangheta has the deepest roots outside the south. A six-year investigation culminating in 2010 found that its presence in the industrial north was extensive. More than 150 people were arrested.
There are two causes of the spread of Italy’s mafias. One is that richer parts of the country offer more possibilities for laundering the proceeds of crime. The other is a 1956 law that allowed mafiosi to be uprooted from their normal surroundings and sent north. In Umbria investigators point to a third factor: two high-security prisons, which mean that relatives of jailed mobsters have bought houses in the area so they can visit their loved ones more easily.
Operation Fourth Step shifted attention away from another organised-crime scandal, in Rome. Arrests on December 2nd highlighted a gang that has established close links with local officials and politicians of left and right. Prosecutors call the gang, which is led by a one-eyed former far-right terrorist, Mafia Capitale. Its bosses are known to have had links with established crime syndicates. But it is unclear whether they aspired, like genuine mafiosi, to replace the authorities by asserting territorial control of a specific area.
What is most alarming is the ease with which they suborned officials to win contracts for firms in their sway. Among those accused of taking the gang’s money are a former head of Rome’s waste-management company and a former boss of a big municipal property scheme. Most skulduggery took place while Gianni Alemanno, a former neo-fascist, was mayor. But the mobsters also had good relations with several leading members from the centre-left Democratic party (PD). One was arrested.
The PD’s leader (and prime minister), Matteo Renzi, has moved swiftly to limit the damage by announcing a bill to stiffen the penalties for corruption. If it survives its passage through parliament it will be a welcome step in the right direction for a country that earlier this month slipped to joint last place in the European Union in Transparency International’s corruption-perceptions index.


'Mafia capital': Rome hit by mobster scandal


Mafia gangsters, corrupt politicians and a one-eyed former terrorist made millions in Rome by exploiting migrants and gipsies

By Nick Squires, Rome

A toxic mix of mafia gangsters, corrupt politicians and a one-eyed former terrorist made millions in Rome by exploiting migrants and gipsies, it emerged on Wednesday, in a scandal that has seriously shaken the capital's faith in its leaders.
Mobsters operating in the capital boasted that they made more out of rigging contracts and embezzling money intended for refugee and migrant centres than they did from the drug trade.
Even for a country inured to corruption scandals and the pervasive influence of organised crime, the extent of the alleged collaboration between criminals, politicians and even members of the secret services is shocking.
"Rome, Mafia capital" was the headline in one newspaper, while another publication spoke of a "political-judicial earthquake" rippling through the city.
Police on Tuesday arrested 37 people, charging them with extortion, corruption, fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.
They placed under investigation another 100 prominent politicians and businessmen, including Gianni Alemanno, a former mayor of Rome with far-Right political leanings.
Mr Alemanno, a former political ally of Silvio Berlusconi and mayor of Rome until last year, stepped down on Wednesday from his various posts within the Brothers of Italy political party, which traces its origins to the fascist regime of Mussolini. His home was searched by police looking for evidence of alleged rigging of public contracts.
The city's anti-corruption tsar, Italo Walter, was also named in the investigation.
Prosecutors said they suspected that "elements of the forces of order and the secret services" were caught up in the scandal as well.
Of those arrested, the most high-profile was Massimo Carminati, 56, who lost an eye during a shoot-out with police in the early 1980s.
Dubbed "the last king of Rome" by fellow criminals, he was given a ten-year prison term in 1998 for his involvement with the Magliana Gang, the capital's most notorious and ruthless criminal network, which was at its most powerful in the 1970s and 1980s.
Carminati is a former member of the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei, a far-Right group that was involved in the bombing of Bologna railway station in 1980, in which 85 people died.
While regarded as a ruthless thug by the authorities, Carminati also has an artistic side - when police raided his home, they found art works by Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol adorning the walls and confiscated tens of millions of euros' worth of assets.
In previous wire taps, he boasted of reigning over a "demi-world", a shadowy realm where corrupt members of the establishment encounter criminals, with himself as arbitrator and facilitator. "It's like there are the living above, and the dead below," he said.
In another intercepted conversation, members of his alleged gang discussed the effectiveness of intimidating opponents with their firearm of choice, the Russian-made, semi-automatic Makarov pistol, equipped with a silencer.
On Wednesday the scope of the investigation widened, with prosecutors releasing wire-tapped conversations which suggested that criminal bosses and corrupt politicians conspired to embezzle state money that was supposed to be used to run facilities for immigrants and refugee centres.
"Do you have any idea how much I make on these immigrants?" Salvatore Buzzi, Carminati's right-hand man, was heard saying when police intercepted his phone calls. "Drug trafficking is less profitable".
"We closed this year with turnover of 40 million but ... our profits all came from the gipsies, on the housing emergency and on the immigrants," he said.
Giuseppe Pignatone, the chief prosecutor in the capital, said: "With this operation we have answered the question of whether the mafia exists in Rome. The answer is that it certainly does."
He said the gangsters caught up in the investigation did not belong to Italy's established mafias, such as Cosa Nostra in Sicily or the Camorra around Naples, but rather to a different, Rome-based criminal underworld.
The scale of the corruption and the cynical exploitation of vulnerable people such as refugees and Roma gipsies was condemned across Italy.
"The investigation into Rome as the mafia capital reveals a disgusting, horrifying situation which goes beyond even the darkest hypothesis," Federconsumatori, a consumers' rights group, said in a statement.





Mafia Sweep Nets Reputed Gambino Underboss



(NEW YORK) -- The reputed underboss of New York's Gambino crime family was arrested Thursday in Brooklyn.
Francesco Palmieri is wanted in Italy for extortion. About 30 FBI agents and Italian authorities raided his apartment and arrested him as part of a larger crackdown on the mafia in Milan, Matera and New York, Italian police said.
Palmieri was among eight people arrested, including five in Italy and three in the United States, and charged in a blackmail conspiracy. Italian police said the group tried to extort the owner of a climate control systems company in Basilicata in southern Italy out of more than $1 million.
Another man, John Grillo, described by authorities as a "key figure" in the case, was arrested at the airport in Milan just before he boarded a flight to New York on a one-way ticket.
Italian police linked Thursday’s arrests to an investigation that began over a year ago as a follow up to an operation known as "New Bridge." That case closed last February with the arrest of 26 purported mobsters who operated a drug trafficking route between Calabria, Italy, and the United States.



Victim of Montreal Mob hit named in Italian court case


  Adrian Humphreys

The latest victim of Montreal’s Mob violence — shot dead by masked gunmen Monday in a Rivière-des-Prairies restaurant — was recently named in court in Italy as a member of the rebellious faction of mobsters fighting to overthrow Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto.
Antonino Callocchia, usually called Tonino or Tony, was hit Monday afternoon by multiple bullets from one or more masked gunmen who then fled.
It was the second attempt on Callocchia’s life; on Feb. 1, 2013, he was seriously injured in a similar ambush in a restaurant in Laval.
Born Nov. 6, 1961, his ties to the Mafia in Montreal have been documented for decades. Part of his underworld strength came through his link by marriage to the Armeni clan of well-known Mob-linked drug traffickers. One of his first arrests, according to Quebec Court records, was in 1985 alongside four members of clan, although he was acquitted.
He was also arrested in a landmark money laundering and drug trafficking case in Montreal in 1994 alongside notable Mobsters and lawyers who helped invest Mob money linked to Mr. Rizzuto.
But before his death, the enigmatic man was moving from the criminal sidelines and becoming more central to the city’s underworld.
The move brought increased scrutiny over his standing and allegiance in the Mafia war that has rocked Montreal — a sweeping power struggle between Rizzuto and rebels trying to oust him when he was imprisoned in the United States in 2006. The war went badly against the Rizzutos until the boss returned to Canada in October 2012 and fought to reclaim his position of power.
Some saw Callocchia as a Rizzuto loyalist and even a possible successor to Vito Rizzuto — who died of natural causes in December 2013. His involvement in a case of extortion against a woman with ties to Raynald Desjardins, a gangster named in Italian court as the leader of the rebellious faction, furthered that view.
Others saw his closeness to Calabrian dissidents unfriendly toward the Sicilian-born Rizzuto as well as to Joseph Di Maulo, an influential Mafia boss killed in 2012, likely for not remaining loyal to Rizzuto, as a sign he, too, had strayed.
Callocchia, however, was subject to a recent assessment by the anti-Mafia police in Sicily, the birthplace of the Mafia, as they investigated the murders in Palermo of two Mobsters from Canada.
Police in Italy are analyzing reams of secretly recorded telephone calls made last year by a Mobster from Canada who was living in Sicily. The chatty mobster, Juan Ramon Fernandez, was close to Rizzuto for decades and spoke disrespectfully of Callocchia when talking to other Rizzuto loyalists.
Fernandez called him “a fucking idiot,” according to wiretap transcripts obtained by the National Post.
A few days after the 2013 attack on Callocchia, Fernandez phoned for an update from a friend in Montreal, identified in court as Antonio Carbone who was described as a veteran Montreal Mobster close to the Rizzutos.
The two spoke of the attacks against enemies of Vito Rizzuto; Callocchia was named on a list of perceived opponents.
The authorities in Italy note that Callocchia was shot the first time while Rizzuto was travelling to the Dominican Republic to meet in privacy with acolytes to plot revenge against those who were disloyal to him and his family while he was in prison.
While Rizzuto was out of the country, “the offensive against the ‘dissident’ faction was unleashed,” says a report on the Mafia war prepared by the Carabinieri ROS, Italy’s anti-Mafia police unit, and presented in court last month.
Monday’s murder of Callocchia came after months of relative peace within Montreal’s underworld after shocking displays of murder and violence.
Callocchia was pronounced dead around 1:30 p.m. inside Bistro XO Plus, a restaurant in a plaza on Henri-Bourassa Blvd. E. near LJ-Forget Ave.
“He was a big player (within the Mafia). That is certain,” said a Montreal police source.
According to Quebec’s business registry, Callocchia was the owner of a numbered company, 9166-3807 Quebec Inc., involved in real estate management, and another company called Construction T.D.P.
In 1994, Callocchia was arrested along with 56 other people as part of a major RCMP drug trafficking and money laundering investigation against the Rizzuto organization. Following a lengthy trial, Callocchia was found guilty of acting as an intermediary for Vincenzo Di Maulo (brother of Joseph), who was laundering drug money through various businesses.
Callocchia received a four-year sentence but authorities then moved against him on a second case, dating to 1994, where the RCMP had evidence he tried to smuggle more than 160 kilograms of cocaine into Canada through a Toronto airport.
He pleaded guilty to drug smuggling-related charges in 1998. With everything combined, he ended up having to serve an aggregate sentence of 21 years in all.
When he appeared before the Parole Board of Canada in 2001 he was described as intelligent, well-structured and “an active member of the Italian Mafia.”
“The offences you have committed are large-scale and they required organization and planning at a level that only a highly organized group can hope to execute,” the board said. He took college-level business administration courses while serving the sentence.
When he was granted full parole in 2002 he told the board that he had no financial concerns because of an inheritance from his grandfather and the sale of a large piece of real estate that belonged to his mother.
The board believed he was now motivated “to follow the rules of society” away from a life of crime.
National Post with files from Paul Cherry, Montreal Gazette


Mobster gunned down in Montreal was part of a ‘dissident faction’ trying to overthrow Rizzuto: documents




Adrian Humphreys |

The latest victim of Montreal’s mob violence — shot dead by masked gunmen Monday in a Rivière-des-Prairies restaurant — was recently named in court in Italy as a member of the rebellious faction of mobsters fighting to overthrow Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto.
Antonino Callocchia, usually called Tonino or Tony, was hit Monday afternoon by multiple bullets from one or more masked gunmen who then fled.
It was the second attempt on Mr. Callocchia’s life; on Feb. 1, 2013, he was seriously injured in a similar ambush in a restaurant in Laval.
Born Nov. 6, 1961, his ties to the Mafia in Montreal have been documented for decades. Part of his underworld strength came through his link by marriage to the Armeni clan of well-known mob-linked drug traffickers. One of his first arrests, according to Quebec court records, was in 1985 alongside four members of the clan, although he was acquitted.
He was also arrested in a landmark money laundering and drug trafficking case in Montreal in 1994 alongside notable mobsters and lawyers who helped invest mob money linked to Mr. Rizzuto.
Why, Pete? Why?”
Sprawled across the front seat of a rental car in a ramshackle construction yard in Sicily and bleeding from a dozen bullet wounds, Juan Ramon Fernandez did not beg for his life or cry or shout or pray. A perfect gangster knows when and how he is going to die. He spent his final breath only voicing surprise at who was standing over him.
“Why, Pete? Why?”
The retort from the gunman at the open car door, nursing an injury of his own from the frantic ambush, was to lift his pistol once more, aim at Fernandez’s head and fire a finishing round.
Fernandez did not learn the answer to his question that spring night in 2013 but a court in Palermo is now filling in the blanks.
But before his death, the enigmatic man was moving from the criminal sidelines and becoming more central to the city’s underworld.
The move brought increased scrutiny over his standing and allegiance in the Mafia war that has rocked Montreal — a sweeping power struggle between Mr. Rizzuto and rebels trying to oust him when he was imprisoned in the United States in 2006. The war went badly against the Rizzutos until the boss returned to Canada in October 2012 and fought to reclaim his position of power.
Some saw Mr. Callocchia as a Rizzuto loyalist and even a possible successor to Vito Rizzuto — who died of natural causes in December 2013. His involvement in a case of extortion against a woman with ties to Raynald Desjardins, a gangster named in Italian court as the leader of the rebellious faction, furthered that view.
Others saw his closeness to Calabrian dissidents unfriendly towards the Sicilian-born Rizzuto as well as to Joseph Di Maulo, an influential Mafia boss killed in 2012, likely for not remaining loyal to Mr. Rizzuto, as a sign he too had strayed.
Mr. Callocchia, however, was subject to a recent assessment by the anti-Mafia police in Sicily, the birthplace of the Mafia, as they investigated the murders in Palermo of two mobsters from Canada.
Police in Italy are analyzing reams of secretly recorded telephone calls made last year by a mobster from Canada who was living in Sicily. The chatty mobster, Juan Ramon Fernandez, was close to Mr. Rizzuto for decades and spoke disrespectfully of Mr. Callocchia when talking to other Rizzuto loyalists.
Mr. Fernandez called him “a f———ing idiot,” according to wiretap transcripts obtained by the National Post.
A few days after the 2013 attack on Mr. Callocchia, Mr. Fernandez phoned for an update from a friend in Montreal, identified in court as Antonio Carbone who was described as a veteran Montreal mobster close to the Rizzutos.
The two spoke of the attacks against enemies of Vito Rizzuto; Mr. Callocchia was named on a list of perceived opponents.