Judge rules investigators can see Mafia boss’s jailhouse emails

By Selim Algar

A Mafia boss can’t expect his jailhouse emails to be protected from the prying eyes of authorities — even if the communiques are to and from his lawyer, a Brooklyn federal judge has ruled.
Reputed Bonanno crime family boss Thomas “Tommy D” DiFiore and his lawyer, Steve Zissou, had argued that the monitoring of their Web-based conversations violated his right to counsel — even though jailhouse rules clearly spell out that inmates’ emails are subject to review.
Judge Allyne Ross had temporarily blocked federal investigators from checking DiFiore’s emails while she considered the argument, but ruled in favor of the government last week.
Ross found that DiFiore had other opportunities to privately communicate with his attorney and that the email snooping did not “unreasonably interfere” with his ability to defend himself in court.
She said that inmates know that they are waiving their confidentiality when using the prison email function.
Ross did concede in her decision that the federal Bureau of Prisons should consider some form of protected email forum for inmates and their attorneys to facilitate communication.
“Certainly, it would be a welcome development for BOP to improve TRULINCS (the jail computer system) so that attorney-client communications could be easily separated from other emails and subject to protection,” the judge wrote.

DiFiore is charged with participating in an extortion scheme with co-defendant Vincent Asaro, the infamous Bonanno capo charged with the 1978 Lufthansa Airlines heist depicted in the film “Goodfellas.”

Two purported mobsters, employee of Joe Berrios snared in a racketeering investigation

Two convicted burglars with reputed mob ties and an employee of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios have been snared in a racketeering investigation that found members of their crew engaged in murder and posed as cops to rip off drug dealers, prosecutors said Saturday.
Paul Koroluk, 55, his wife Maria Koroluk, 53, and Robert Panozzo, 54, are among five defendants charged in the case brought by Cook County prosecutors. Also charged were Maher Abuhabsah, 33, and Panozzo’s son, Robert Jr., 22.
Authorities said they launched “Operation Crew Cut” in October after Robert Panozzo Sr. and others tried to have a state witness killed. The witness was preparing to testify against members of the crew in a kidnapping and home invasion case, prosecutors said.
The investigation revealed evidence that the crew engaged in murder, home invasion, drug trafficking, burglary and weapons offenses, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, the crew routinely received information from gang members about the location and contents of drug cartel stash houses. They allegedly used GPS trackers and other equipment on drug dealers’ cars, then would enter the houses posing as police officers and steal the drugs inside.
During one home invasion and kidnapping in 2013, Panozzo allegedly sliced off the ear of a victim after he heard him speaking English. Panozzo was angry because the man said he only spoke Spanish, prosecutors said.
Panozzo stole more than 25 kilograms of cocaine and two cars in that home invasion, prosecutors said.
Paul Koroluk, Robert Panozzo, Panozzo’s son and Abuhabsah were ordered held without bail Saturday.
Paul Koroluk, Panozzo Sr. and Abuhabsah are charged with racketeering and drug conspiracy. Panozzo Jr. is charged with drug conspiracy.
Maria Koroluk, who was charged with possession with intent to deliver a Super Class X amount of cocaine, was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Maria Koroluk works for Berrios as director of technical review with a salary of $97,304 a year, according to a Berrios spokesman, who was unaware of her arrest.
A task force composed of the Chicago Police, the Cook County Sheriff’s office, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI arrested Paul Koroluk, the Panozzos and Abuhabsah on Wednesday at a home in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the Southeast Side, officials said.
Authorities received court approval to rig the house with surveillance equipment and the men attempted to steal 44 kilograms of cocaine in the sting operation, prosecutors said.
Police also raided the Koroluks’ home in the 2100 block of West Race where they arrested Maria Koroluk, sources said.
Sources said police recovered weapons and large quantities of drugs in the raids.
On Saturday, Paul Koroluk’s attorney Joseph Lopez said, “There’s no questions it’s an FBI set-up. The FBI had the house wired up. The FBI had all kinds of electronic surveillance in this case. The FBI had wire taps.”
That may help his case, Lopez said, contending “Obviously a lot of people when they think about the [commitment] of crimes, they think about not the FBI setting it up. They think about people actually committing crimes ... The videotape shows that they engaged in this conduct at the behest of the FBI informant. . . .It shows the FBI set it up.”
Operation Crew Cut is the second racketeering case Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has brought under a new state statute. Last year, she charged leaders of a West Side street gang with violating the statute. It’s modeled after the 1970 federal racketeering statute that was used to target the Mafia.
“This case involves extremely serious allegations of dangerous criminal conduct,” Alvarez said at a press conference Saturday. “It is yet another example of the vital importance that our Illinois RICO law plays in our ability to combat violent organized crime here in the state of Illinois and demonstrates why it is an indispensable tool for law enforcement here ... This is a perfect example of the type of case that we were looking to be able to handle under this new law. It is so important that we as prosecutors have these tools.”
Paul Koroluk and Panozzo — convicted burglars — have been in the headlines for years for their reputed ties to the Chicago Outfit.
Eight years ago, they were convicted for their involvement in a crew suspected of stealing everything from jewelry to Lladros porcelain figurines from wealthy victims they allegedly targeted through limo drivers’ tips and yacht club listings, officials say.
Panozzo’s name surfaced recently in the trial of former Chicago Police Officer Steve Mandell, who was convicted in February of plotting to kidnap, kill and dismember a suburban businessman.
The star witness, former North Shore banker George Michael, said Panozzo introduced him to Mandell over lunch at La Scarola restaurant on West Grand Avenue. The FBI recorded the meeting.
Sources said Paul Koroluk and Panozzo are tied to the Chicago Outfit and the C-Notes street gang located in “The Patch” along Grand Avenue just west of the Loop.
The neighborhood has been home to some of the city’s most infamous mobsters.
Despite his criminal record, Koroluk once served as a local school council member in the neighborhood.
In 2006, Koroluk and Panozzo were both sentenced to seven years in prison in for burglary and possession of burglary tools. The crew was accused of breaking into north suburban homes and stealing jewelry.
Officers cracked the case when they tracked footprints in the snow from a burglarized Niles home to Koroluk’s car, in which they found two pillowcases filled with jewelry and cash, police said.
And in 1986, he was caught with thousands of videos that were allegedly stolen from stores on the West and Northwest Sides. At the time, he was running a video store near Chicago and Damen. Koroluk was convicted of burglary and sentenced to probation.
In the past, Koroluk and his associates were suspected of paying a Secretary of State’s employee $50 bribes to get personal information on victims. No one was charged in connection with that allegation. Sources said police are investigating whether the current case against the Koroluks and Panozzo also involves public corruption.

Jailed mobsters given communion after Pope's 'excommunication': priest

 (Reuters) - A Roman Catholic priest said he was continuing to give Holy Communion to mafia bosses at a high-security prison in Italy, even after Pope Francis said members of organized crime groups were "excommunicated".
During a trip to one of Italy's most mafia-infested regions last month, Francis for the first time described mafiosi as "excommunicated" - totally cut off from the Church - because "their lives follow this path of evil".
After the pope's comments, "some prisoners came to me and asked me if they should consider themselves excommunicated, saying that if they could no longer take the sacrament, they would stop coming to Mass," prison chaplain Marco Colonna told la Repubblica newspaper in an article published on Monday.
"I tried to explain to them that the Church doesn't kick anyone out, and after a few days of reflection, I told them that they would continue to receive the sacrament," said Colonna, who works at the prison in the southern town of Larino.
"I continued to give communion to bosses ... I cannot avoid it," the priest added.
The Vatican has said the pope's use of the word "excommunication" last month had not amounted to a formal decree under church law.
Instead, a Vatican spokesman said, the pope had meant to tell the criminals they had effectively excommunicated themselves and could not participate in Church sacraments because they had distanced themselves from God.
High-ranking Church officials also quoted in the Italian media on Monday said the pope's words meant mafia bosses should not be allowed to take communion, but added that did not mean they were shut out forever.
"Someone who is excommunicated cannot take communion and is excluded from the sacraments, but he can listen to the word of God," Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian Bishop's conference whose diocese the pope was visiting when he spoke out against the mob, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.
In some areas, like the one Galantino comes from, the Church has taken a strong stand against organized crime.
But many members of organized crime groups in Italy see themselves as part of a religious, cult-like group and regularly take part in sacraments.
On Wednesday, during a religious procession of a statue of Saint Mary in the southern Italian town of Oppido Mamertina, parishioners paused before the home of the town's elderly mafia boss as a sign of respect, triggering an impassioned debate in the Italian media.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Tocco, believed to be longest-serving U.S. mob boss, dead

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Jack Tocco, believed to be the longest-serving mob boss in the United States and the last living person with first-hand knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the death of Jimmy Hoffa, has died aged 87.
Tocco, who died on Monday, was the godfather in Detroit for 35 years, longer than any current godfather in the country, according to Scott Burnstein, an author and expert on organized crime in the city.
“He is one of the last, if not the last, link to the golden era of the American Mafia,” he said.
Since the 1930s, when Jack Tocco’s father and uncle founded the Mafia in Detroit, a Tocco has led the mob in the city, Burnstein said.
With his passing, the leadership shifts from a boardroom, white collar gangster to blue collar leadership. “It’s a huge changing of the guard,” he said.
Tocco, known as “Black Jack,” owned a race track and a business that provided linen to local hotels. He was convicted of federal racketeering in 1998 and sentenced to two years in prison, according to Burnstein.
Burnstein said Tocco had probably been the last person alive with first-hand knowledge of what happened to former Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa, whose disappearance has remained unsolved since he was last seen in 1975.
“With Tocco dying, any first-hand knowledge of that infamous crime goes to the grave,” he said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Alan Raybould)


Reprinted from:
The Mob Museum
300 Stewart Avenue
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101

Maxwell Street in Chicago (Library of Congress)
The Chicago Mob vs. Chicago Street Gangs

By Dr. Wayne A. Johnson
Editor’s note: Over the Fourth of July weekend, gunfire in Chicago struck 82 people in 84 hours. Fourteen of the shooting victims died. Many decades after Chicago became known for Mob violence – the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred in 1929 – the city continues to be plagued by shooting in the streets. Dr. Wayne Johnson, an expert on Chicago organized crime, is set to speak at 1 p.m. Saturday, September 13, at the Mob Museum.

In its nearly 100 years of existence, the Chicago Mob, fabled in a multitude of books, movies and TV shows, has had a storied and violent existence that has gained it enormous wealth and power.
Trading in corruption, vice, dope and murder, the Mob continues to suck the very decency out of our society, seemingly untouched and above the law — and at quick glance shows no signs of weakening. But today the mighty and seemingly all-powerful Mobs of Chicago, New York, New England and other places in the United States are threatened by the massive and powerful street gangs that increasingly haunt our cities.
An estimated 70,000 gang members strut through the streets of Chicago today, and their numbers, their might and their presence on the crime scene are growing. One quarter of all the homicides in Chicago are attributable to street gang violence. Nationally, close to 1,000 agencies report growing gang activity, and although not all agencies report on gang-related murders, at least 2,000 gang homicides are reported each year across the country.

Early street gang (Library of Congress)
In Chicago, street gangs have existed for more than 100 years, first appearing on the scene in the late 1860s. Mostly ethnic European in origin and made up of mostly immigrants, they formed in distinct geographic areas to protect themselves from other groups of immigrant gangs looking to victimize the weak and powerless.

Confiscated bootleg whiskey (Library of Congress)
These ethnic gangs eventually became a reliable commodity for political organizations and even plied their fighting skills for warring newspapers at the turn of the twentieth century. Some of the more established gangs, such as the Circus Gang and the 42 Gang, provided talent for growing traditional organized crime groups during Prohibition.
In the early 1960s, the gangs’ demographics changed as did their trade when they moved into the lucrative narcotics business. And then everything changed, as these statistics show:
·        Chicago Street gangs/drug activity were responsible for 2,362 murders from 1991 to 2000.
·        Chicago Street gangs/drug activity were responsible for 1,879 murders from 2001 to 2010
Although streets gang demographics have changed, and the vice trade has changed along with it, the Chicago Mob, or Outfit, which often recruited its deadly talent from these very street gangs, remains an elusive traditional organized crime entity. And I want to be clear on this point: The Chicago Outfit is just that, traditional organized crime.  It is not the Mafia; it has always been very diverse and operates under the principals of Southern Italian organized crime.
Until the late 1950s it was considered a local problem with little federal intervention. Prohibition turned it into a very profitable and well-run organization but reform movements of the 1920s caused protection agreements to break down, leading to open warfare on the streets of Chicago.

Chicago gangsters Alberto Anselmi and Giovanni Scalise, 1929
Again, we see that as the Mobs changed on the Chicago landscape, the murder rate changed. The Chicago Mobs were responsible for 594 murders from 1920 to 1929. From 1930 to 1939, the Chicago Mobs were responsible for 325 murders.
To answer the growing threat of organized criminal gangs, in 1931 the Chicago Police Department formed one of the first intelligence and organized crime prevention units in the world under the leadership of Captain William Shoemaker. The unit, known as Scotland Yard, was a super-secret group of crack detectives who operated free of political interference.

Frank Nitti, left, Chicago Outfit boss 1932, and Tony Accardo, right, Mob boss (State of Illinois Public Library)
The unit was known for its brutal tactics and soon became focused on the traditional organized crime entity, by this time known as the Outfit and run by Frank Nitti. The members of this unit had limited success over the years until 1952 when they were led by Lt. Joe Morris, a tough and able crime fighter.
Morris’s tactics infuriated the Outfit and led to shootings at police stations and brought multiple lawsuits. He had the audacity to appear at crime boss Tony Accardo’s large July 4th party posing as an ice cream vendor until recognized by other Outfit members. He was not opposed to illegal surveillance practices and wiretaps.

Virgil Peterson, Chicago Crime Commission director
The end came in 1956 when the unit was accused of bugging Mayor Richard J. Daley’s campaign office, which happened to be in the same building as various mobsters’ offices. At the time, renowned crime fighter Virgil Peterson, operating director of the Chicago Crime Commission, voiced his outrage over this administrative decision.  Under orders of the mayor, the 73 detectives in the unit were scattered into other units throughout the city.

O.W. Wilson, Chicago Police superintendent (Justice Department)
The next efforts at traditional organized crime detection came in 1960 under the leadership of O.W. Wilson. Wilson, a renowned criminologist from the University of California, Berkeley, was brought to Chicago to lead a national search for a new police superintendent and was offered the job by the very committee he chaired. He took over a department scarred by scandal and corruption. Seeing the need to combat traditional organized crime, Wilson created a new Intelligence Unit that by the early 1970s was a division of the police department boasting 150 personnel.
This unit worked hand in hand with Federal Strike Force personnel and together made successful arrests and prosecutions. However, these efforts did not go without criticism and political resistance from the so-called West Block, a group of politicians that represented Outfit interests when it came to legislative and police matters.
Over the years the criticisms did not cease, political pressure always loomed and the department reacted with diminishing resources and little support while known mobsters took city jobs, mostly as no-show employees, and had an abundance of political support, as reflected in the recent indictment of John Bills, a relative to several Mob associates and a City Hall insider.
By 1993, when I entered the Intelligence Unit, there were fewer than 50 people in it, and while each squad of eight to ten individuals had different responsibilities, I was assigned to the Organized Crime Squad. We were the only squad still looking at the Chicago Outfit.  By the time I left the unit in 1997 to take the position of chief investigator for the Chicago Crime Commission, there were even fewer. Today, not one member of the Intelligence Unit is actively pursuing the Outfit.
The Organized Crime Strike Forces were created in the late 1960s for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting traditional organized crime as it related to racketeering activities. This effort drew resources from Justice Department lawyers, the FBI, IRS, Postal Service and the Department of Labor. It also received support from other federal and local agencies as needed. Eventually there were 14 strike forces around the country.
The Strike Forces were formed by Congress under the leadership of Senator Robert Kennedy. During their brief time in operation, the strike forces won important convictions of Mob leaders in Boston, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Haven, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Rochester. In Chicago, Mob luminary Joey Aiuppa was jailed through the efforts of the Strike Force. It also aided in eradicating corruption from the Teamsters and other major labor unions.
By 2000 the Federal Strike Forces were disbanded by Congress, in favor of state and local efforts to combat traditional organized crime. I find this amusing because by this time major cities were reassigning intelligence personnel to other duties and deferring traditional organized crime cases to the FBI. This pointless circular strategy had been caused by the Bureau’s lack of trust in local law enforcement in matters of traditional organized crime.
Today, the FBI is concentrated almost exclusively on combating global terrorism and has little inclination to go after the Mobs on a local basis. Organized crime squads are underfunded and seldom properly staffed, and all the while the Mobs grow richer and take their deadly toll on our society.

Dr. Wayne Johnson served on the Chicago Police Department from 1973-1997. From 1997 to 2001 he was the chief investigator for the Chicago Crime Commission and later served as police chief for the City of Cicero, Illinois. He is a professor and program coordinator of Law Enforcement Programs at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. Johnson’s latest book, A History of Violence: An Encyclopedia of 1,400 Chicago Mob Murders 1st Edition, is available on Amazon.com.