Posts tagged federal
Wanted by the FBI: One Highly Successful Serial Bank Robber.
Federal authorities are seeking the public’s help in identifying a serial bank robber known as the “I-35 Bandit,” who has held up several financial institutions along the highway in Texas.
They say the man is suspected in at least 15 holdups that have occurred along the Interstate 35 corridor between Waco, Austin and San Antonio, Texas, as far back as 2003.
"It is bizarre. It’s not unheard of [but] it is a rarity," Special Agent Erik Vasys of the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office told AOL News.
According to the FBI, the I-35 Bandit is a takeover-style robber. He enters banks armed with a gun and takes everyone inside hostage while he stuffs the stolen cash into a black bag that he carries with him.
"We’re looking at a different type of robber who has definitely studied what it takes to be successful," Vasys said. "He strikes [and then] there’s time that passes between when he hits [again]. He’s selecting his banks based on different criteria, on unique criteria."The robber always wears disguises — fake beards, hair, hats, sunglasses and gloves — that obscure his face and features. But he can only dress up so many different ways.
"He’s very stocky," Vasys said. "If you know him, you’re going to recognize him. It’s just [a matter] of getting the right exposure. For someone to say, ‘You know what, I think I know this guy.’ "
According to the FBI, none of the robberies has turned violent so far, but the I-35 Bandit is aggressive and considered extremely dangerous.
Here are a few details about the serial robber provided by the bureau.
- He is white, middle-aged and probably about 5 feet 6 inches tall.
- He is broad-shouldered and appears to be athletic; during one robbery, a security camera caught him easily vaulting a counter with one hand.
- He has no distinguishable accent but is likely a Texan, judging from his knowledge of state roads and how he picks his targets.
- He chooses remote, out-of-the-way branches that typically don’t have a lot of customers.
- He typically uses stolen, late-model cars and stolen license plates.
- In some of the robberies, he has worn fake white beards, drawing comparisons to the lead singer for the rock band ZZ Top and also to Santa Claus.
"Most bank robberies are solved by witnesses, a mistake made in the bank or a good photo," Vasys said. "In this case, he’s striking in a specific geographical area. So, you throw the dice. Does he live in the area or is he outside the state? We don’t know, but we’re confident somebody knows this guy."
The FBI says the man is also bold. He was once spotted putting on a fake beard while he was driving down a Texas road, authorities say. A schoolteacher became suspicious and called 911. The man started waving a handgun at her and sped off. Later that day, a nearby bank was robbed.
"Interesting mentality to think, ‘I may as well do it now,’ " Vasys said. "It might say something about the guy."
Bank robbers are typically spontaneous and have poor impulse control. They usually expose themselves to law enforcement one way or another, and eventually get caught. So far, the I-35 Bandit has broken the mold, but authorities do not think he will stop anytime soon.”He’s not quitting,” Vasys said. “There is a reason why he started in 2003 and why he is still going.”
If he is caught, the bandit faces up to eight years in prison on each of the gun charges and up to 20 years behind bars for each robbery.
"Depending on how the U.S. Attorney’s Office groups it, and whether he has a previous record, he could get 30 [years] to life," Vasys said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the FBI at 210-225-6741. There is a reward for original information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the I-35 Bandit.
127 Busted in Largest Mafia Roundup in FBI History.
Federal authorities today announced what they called the largest mob roundup in FBI history: the indictment of 127 people, including key Mafia figures from the New York, New Jersey and New England crime families, on charges ranging from murder and racketeering to gambling, extortion and loan-sharking.
About 800 law enforcement members from the FBI, the Secret Service, the U.S. Labor Department, and state and local law enforcement today arrested 121 people who were named in 16 indictments filed in different jurisdictions. Four others were already in custody, and one member of the Colombo family was arrested in Italy.
The indictments were aimed at all five New York crime families — the Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno and Luchese families — along with the New England Patriarca family and the New Jersey Decavalcante family.
"Today’s arrests mark an important and encouraging step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra operations," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference this morning in Brooklyn, N.Y. "But the reality is that our battle against organized-crime enterprises is far from over."
Authorities said the indictments resulted from years of investigations, including the use of wiretaps and cooperating informants.”These cases are the cumulative results of years of investigative work, including the development of key cooperating witnesses, a trend that has definitely been tilting in law enforcement’s favor,” said Janice Fedarcyk, head of the New York FBI. “The vow of silence that is part of the oath Omerta is more myth than reality today.”
In all, authorities said 91 members and associates of seven crime families were indicted, along with 36 others who were charged with “associated criminal activity.” More than 30 were “made men.”
The higher-profile mob figures indicted included Luigi Manocchio, 83, the former boss of New England’s Patriarca crime family; Andrew Russo, street boss of the Colombo family; Benjamin Castellazzo, 73, acting underboss of the Colombo family; Richard Fusco, 74, consigliere of the Colombo family; Joseph Corozzo, 69, the consigliere of the Gambino family; and Bartolomeo Vernace, 61, a member of the Gambino family administration.
"Some of the allegations involve classic mob hits to eliminate perceived rivals," Holder said. "Others involve truly senseless murders. In one instance, a victim was allegedly shot and killed during a botched robbery attempt. And two other murder victims allegedly were shot in a public bar because of a dispute over a spilled drink."But not all are convinced the case is what the government says it is.
Stuart P. Slotnick, a New York defense attorney with the firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, is skeptical, saying: “With regard to organized crime, there may be loose affiliations with people who know each other, but it’s not really a mob as portrayed by the Department of Justice and the media.”
He facetiously added that he thought he had heard the Justice Department say before that it had eliminated the Mafia.
And he went on to say that the cases can be tough to win when the government relies on informants, who are career criminals who “don’t know the difference between the truth and a lie and they’ll say anything that the U.S. Attorney’s Office wants them to say, including making up stories of being in the mob, only to save themselves from a significant jail sentence.”
Fedarcyk conceded at the press conference that getting rid of the mob for good has been no easy task.
"The FBI has waged a largely successful campaign against the mob over the last three decades, but the mob has shown itself to be resilient and persistent," she said. "Arresting and convicting the hierarchy of the five families several times over has not eradicated the problem."
Whatever the case, the feds today unsealed hundreds of pages of indictments in four jurisdictions that included the classic mob allegations: extortion, running gambling operations and illegal card games, murder, shakedowns of unions and union members, and extortion of businesses for protection.
In Newark, an indictment charged 14 people with racketeering and extortion of Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen’s Association and other dockworkers locals. Some defendants are former and current union officials with alleged ties to the Genovese family, authorities charged.
Included in the indictment were allegations that the mobsters extorted money from longshoremen around Christmastime when they received a portion of royalty payments made by shipping companies using the ports of New York and New Jersey.
Then there were the allegations of murder.
Authorities alleged that Colombo street boss Russo was involved in the 1993 death of Colombo family underboss Joseph Scopo, who was shot in the passenger seat of a car outside his home in Ozone Park in Queens, N.Y.
In a much earlier case dating back to 1981, authorities alleged that Vernace, a member of the current Gambino family administration, was involved in the double murder of bar owners Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese inside the Shamrock Bar in the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens. The incident reportedly stemmed from a spilled drink.
Authorities said that D’Agnese died from a single gunshot to the face, and Godkin was struck with a point-blank gunshot to the chest.
Authorities alleged that the mobsters went to great lengths to conceal their activities and “proceeds from those activities” and in particular said of the Gambino crime family:”That conduct included a commitment to murdering persons, particularly members or associates of organized crime families, who were perceived as potential witnesses against members and associates of the enterprise.”
In New England, authorities alleged that mobsters used intimidation and threats of violence to get monthly cash protection payments from adult bookstores and strip clubs in Providence, R.I.
FBI director Robert S. Mueller III said in a statement: “Some believe organized crime is a thing of the past; unfortunately, there are still people who extort, intimidate, and victimize innocent Americans. The costs legitimate businesses are forced to pay are ultimately borne by American consumers nationwide.”
Kenny Mack Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison for Gun Charge.
Kenny Mack, an Oregon-based hip-hop performer whose real name is Nathan Paul Burke, is suffering through just about the worst possible fate for an up-and-coming rapper that has yet to find a big national audience. He has been sentenced to more than seven years in a federal prison after pleading guilty to being in possession of an illegal firearm. Burke admitted his guilt to the federal court back in October 2010 and received his sentence on (Jan. 11).
Mack was truly on his way up before a series of crimes derailed his career. The rapper was voted as Artist of the Year at the West Coast Hip-Hop Awards in 2009 and had the potential to be a rare breakout MC from the Pacific Northwest. Yet later that year he was arrested outside a Portland bar called the Spare Room Tavern with a loaded .45 caliber handgun that officers watched him toss in an attempt to flee the scene. Police were responding to reports that the bar was experiencing some sort of gang activity and nabbed Burke as he was on the run.
Burke’s sentence of seven years was prolonged because he had also earned a previous conviction for the unlawful use of a weapon as well as the delivery of a controlled substance.
Federal Judge Among Victims in Arizona Shooting.
PHOENIX — A federal law enforcement official says that a federal judge was fatally shot in the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.
U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales confirmed to the Associated Press that U.S. District Judge John Roll died in the attack Saturday.
Gonzales offered no other details into the shooting.
TSA Probes Pilot Critical of Airport Security.
SAN FRANCISCO - Federal authorities are investigating a pilot who posted videos on YouTube that were critical of security at San Francisco International Airport, the pilot’s attorney said Friday.
Don Werno of the Santa Ana-based law firm Werno and Associates said the Transportation Security Administration is looking into whether his client revealed sensitive information.
The pilot remains employed with a major airline, but he has withdrawn from a program that trains flight crew to help prevent hijackings after authorities confiscated his federally issued firearm, Werno said. He declined to release the pilot’s name, citing concerns about the man’s job.
The TSA wouldn’t answer questions but said in a statement it is responding to the situation and is confident in the security at San Francisco International Airport.
"As to access control at SFO, TSA is confident in the tools the airport has implemented and reminds passengers there are security measures in place that are both seen and unseen."
The pilot posted several videos on YouTube in late November or early December that showed how ground crew members can enter secure areas by swiping security cards and without undergoing further screening. He notes in the footage that pilots undergo intense screening, but then have access to ax-like weapons that are stored in the cockpit in case of emergencies.
One of the videos, which number more than six, was of federal air marshals and sheriff’s deputies who came to the pilot’s home earlier this month to seize his federally issued firearm. The pilot had been allowed to carry the weapon on board as part of a program after 9/11 that trains certain flight crew to serve as “federal flight deck officers” to prevent hijackings.
Werno said his client was upset about what he feels is lax security for ground crew, including baggage handlers, working at SFO while flight crews and passengers are subject to intense screening.”The airport should be a security zone where everything that comes into the airport perimeter is checked,” he said.
The pilot removed the videos from YouTube after the TSA objected.
The pilot, a 50-year-old Sacramento-area native, has worked for a major airline for the past 10 years and continues to fly, according to Werno. He has been advised by his airline not to disclose his identity.
In its statement, the TSA said it “responded and took action in this situation because the pilot in question was a FFDO (federal flight deck officer).”
"FFDOs must be able to maintain sensitive security information as a condition of the FFDO program," the agency said. It did not elaborate.
Madoff’s Surviving Son Faces Long List of Woes.
(Dec. 13) — His brother has hanged himself. His father is serving a 150-year prison sentence for perpetuating the world’s biggest Ponzi scheme. For Andrew Madoff, life just keeps getting worse.
The surviving son of admitted swindler Bernard Madoff is the focus of a federal criminal probe, along with other family members. He also faces more than 1,000 civil suits filed by investors and separate actions filed by Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee recovering assets for the victims.
He has not spoken publicly since Saturday, when his 46-year-old brother, Mark Madoff, was found dead. The elder son had hanged himself with a dog leash while his 2-year-old son slept in their Manhattan apartment. Friends said Mark had become increasingly depressed over recent media reports alleging that he and his brother helped their father bilk clients of billions.In a last e-mail to his wife, Mark wrote that their family “would be better off without ‘this’ hanging over them all, forever,” the New York Daily News quoted a source as saying.
Mark’s suicide does nothing to impede the legal process. “The litigation will take its course, and the death of Mark Madoff will not impact that fact,” trustee attorney David Sheehan told The New York Times.
The brothers have not been criminally charged. Both were high-ranking employees of the family’s wealth management firm. They turned their dad in to federal agents two years ago after the patriarch admitted his entire enterprise was “one big lie.”
Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts last year and was sentenced to 150 years at a medium-security federal prison in North Carolina. He most likely will not be allowed to attend Mark’s funeral.
The sons have consistently claimed they knew nothing of their father’s schemes. But other employees and the court trustee have said otherwise, accusing both of withdrawing millions in unearned compensation.Andrew, who lives in Manhattan with fiancee Catherine Hooper, has battled lymphoma and now bikes more than 100 miles per week. He never seemed to be as troubled as Mark by the ever-growing scandal surrounding his family. Last year, Andrew got into a street fight in New York City after being yelled at by a former Madoff employee, the New York Post reported.
Neither brother has spoken to his parents in two years, according to several news reports. Last year, their mother, Ruth Madoff, was ordered to report expenses of more than $100 to trustee Picard, who is trying to locate and liquidate assets to reimburse deceived customers, The Associated Press reported.
On his LinkedIn page, Andrew is listed as director of operations for Black Umbrella LLC, a private disaster management firm.
The company was founded by his fiancee and sells preparedness packages for natural or man-made disasters — including losing everything. In an October interview with the Times, Andrew said he hoped his own disaster wouldn’t taint his future wife’s business opportunities.
"I think that what happened to me illustrated to me how important it is to be prepared for unexpected events," Andrew Madoff said. "I’m just another example."
Obama Proposes Two-Year Salary Freeze for Federal Employees.
This year, the post-Thanksgiving belt tightening isn’t just about too much pumpkin pie: President Obama is proposing a salary freeze for all civilian federal employees over the next two years (military personnel will not be affected).
Asserting that this was a difficult decision, Obama put the freeze into the context of a broader effort to trim government costs across the board, including freezing salaries for all senior White House officials last year, reducing improper government payments by $50 billion by the end of 2012, and putting forward over $1 trillion in deficit reduction into the 2011 budget.
"I am committed to doing my part," the president said Monday. But "the hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifices" — including some on the part of federal employees.
According to the White House, the freeze — which negates a planned 1.2 percent increase in 2011 for 2.1 million workers — will save $2 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, $28 billion over the next five years and more than $60 billion over the next 10.The announcement comes as the White House is under increasing pressure to tackle the mounting federal deficit and play ball with Republican leaders — including Sen. Mitch McConnell and incoming Speaker John Boehner — who have called for a renewed focus on the deficit during the next session of Congress. Specifically, the White House has been gearing up for a fight with the GOP over the Bush tax cuts — set to expire at the end of this year. At the heart of the debate is whether to extend the cuts for both middle- and upper-income earners and what effect a full extension will have on the growing deficit.
Also this week, the president’s bipartisan fiscal commission is due to make a series of recommendations for trimming the size of the deficit. Early outlines of the recommendations from the commission’s chairmen, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, met with sharp criticism from Democrats, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, while a majority of Americans said they thought the proposed cuts were “a bad idea.”
(The Bowles-Simpson report outlined cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and defense spending. Tax increases included higher gasoline taxes, lowering the corporate tax rate but limiting business tax deductions, and placing a limit on the tax deduction for homeowners with mortgages over $500,000.)
White House officials denied that the timing of the pay-freeze announcement is tied to congressional pressure, the Bush tax-cut debate or the deficit commission’s report. “There is a legal requirement for the president to submit to the Hill the locality pay increase for 2011, and to decide on the fiscal year 2012 pay by the end of this month,” said OMB Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients. “Where we are in the budget process is the driver” for this announcement, he explained.
Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer further rebuffed assertions that Obama’s announcement was made to preempt the fiscal commission’s recommendations, saying, “This is not viewed as anticipating anything [the commission] may or may not present.”
Either way, Obama will be having his share of budgetary debate this week: On Tuesday he is scheduled to have a highly anticipated meeting with Republican leaders McConnell and Boehner — one where discussion of the deficit is sure to be featured prominently. Previewing the meeting, the president noted, “Everyone’s going to have to cooperate.”
Contract Employees: Should They Have to Pay for Their Own Thong?
Nine exotic dancers, employed as independent contractors, got a conditional okay from a federal judge to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the Penthouse Executive Club for alleged violations of federal and state labor laws.
That means that other women employed as contract workers by Penthouse Executive Club can join the lawsuit now that it’s been conditionally certified as class action. The defendant claims that since the women are independent contractors they are not protected by the traditional federal and state labor laws. Therefore, this case will be closely watched by other contract employees.
The grievances by the strippers, reports the New York Post, include:
- Must pay for their own uniforms, that is, thongs
- Employer didn’t pay minimum wage or overtime and confiscated part of tips
- Employer charged dancers a house fee for dance shifts
- Employer deducted a 20 percent premium when dancers exchange the house tokens, which some customers used for tips, for cash.