Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Check Cashing Murder

The TV Show Mob Wives is like watching a train wreck, and like a wreck, people watch it.  It may have a gotten a Gambino associate beaten up in prison.  It seems his prison mates didn't like what they were hearing about his wife being on Mob Wives.  Never mind that it not been confirmed.  What about Ramona Rizzo’s fiance Joseph Sclafani a Gambino who got 18 years?

Then we have Alicia DiMichele aka Garafalo, the wife of Eddie Garofalo.  She was the person who helped Eddie and Teddy dummy up Union papers, yet she got no time inside, unlike the two men.

Then we have Renee Graziano’s former husband Hector Pagan.  Hector, the great upstanding guy that he was on Staten Island, took part in the robbery of a man named James Donovan. James ran a shady check cashing business.  Hector not only took part in the robbery he is the person who fired a fatal shot into James Donovan’s thigh.  The crew was waiting in ambush outside an Auto Body shop for hours waiting for James Donovan to show up with a large sum of cash.  Hector Pagan not only killed the man, he also wore a wire on his father-in-law Anthony “TG” Graziano, a high ranking Bonanno Family man.  Hector then testified against the two guys in the crew that went with him on the robbery.  I guess it worked out pretty good for Hector Pagan, who made a deal and will have to serve very little time if any.

Who was James Donovan? James Donovan was no angel.  He is listed as a Lucchese Family associate.  He was arrested for threatening a man named John Ferris who claimed he gave James Donovan and Christopher Gargiulo $500,000 to hold for him.  When he asked for it back they refused and they threatened him.  What they did not know was that a little known law enforcement agency known as the Business Integrity Commission was already involved.  There were threats.  Cars and trucks were burned and in 2008 all three men, John, James and Christopher, were all arrested. When James Donovan was arrested they found $62,000 in cash and a ledger book along with checks and deposit slip from auto body businesses.  

This really got the  Business Integrity Commission’s attention and they opened an investigation on James Donovan.  They started to unravel what was a major source of his income.

The agents thought James Donovan was collecting insurance checks from the auto body shops, cashing them for a fee.  He would hand over cash with no paperwork so the shops could hide it from the taxman.  

The agents found that James Donovan was cashing more than a million dollars a year in checks and he was taking home over a $100k.  He was using his connection with check cashing places to get the checks cashed for the auto body shops, and keeping a portion as cash profit.

The law enforcement named the sting Operation Tax Grab.  Then something happened.  The agents had a camera set up that was filming James Donovan outside an auto body shop when four men approached him on July 2, 2010.  They tried to grab him, but he struggled and was shot in the thigh. They stole $90k in cash and $60k in checks from him as they fled and left him to die.  

The agents collected cigarette butts from the scene and were able to extract DNA, but the DNA was not in the system.  They then caught a break when some of the stolen checks were deposited in a bank and that camera picked up a suspect.  While he was in jail he made some calls to a Colombo family guy and then some wiretaps brought them to Hector Pagan, Richard Riccardi and Luigi Grasso.

So Hector Pagan flipped and wore a wire when he was on Mob Wives.

To each his own. If Hector got a good deal then that is what he had to do.  James Donovan was no innocent businessman and if you lay down with dogs you will get fleas.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

You can't teach a dumb old dog new tricks.

Today I am going way back to the 1990’s in the San Fernando Valley.  I was sitting in the back office of a business known as Mid Valley Trading.  What they really traded I have no idea, but they did have a lot of stuff go through that warehouse. Mid Valley Trading was the home base of Jerry Zimmerman circa 1990’s.  Jerry Zimmerman a larger than life Jewish con man who was around the Colombo family through his friendship with Sonny Franzese.

In mafia circles Sonny Franzese is very well respected, young guys call him “The Rock.”  He is much more respected than John Gotti to those involved in the life.

So here I am, sitting at Jerry's desk when the phone rings, and it's a collect call from a federal institution.  It is Sonny Franzese, and he is looking for Jerry, but Jerry has gone out and left me manning the phones.  Sonny asks me to write down a name and he tells me this guy will be calling Jerry tomorrow.  I wrote the name on a desk blotter calendar and when Jerry came back I told him.  He rolled his eyes because every guy Sonny sent turned out to be some loser.  While I was sitting there the guy called and Jerry made an appointment to see him the next day.

The next day came and the guy showed up, and when he did I left.  I didn't like this guy the first minute I set eyes on him.  One thing, and it may be nothing to some people, but to me it set off alarms.  He wore blue jeans that were pressed with a crease in the front.  Who does that?

I went with him on a collection once, and I pushed in the door when the guy answered it.  This guy just yelled with his tough voice after I went inside.  I didn't like him and I tried to keep my distance.  

He tried to con me out of a grand, but I got him back by reversing it on him.  He made threats but couldn't do a thing.  He called a friend in Florida in Sonny’s crew, and cried to him over it.  The guy in turn asked me not to bust his head open.

Later he was present when we received the counterfeit traveler's checks that helped the FBI put together Operation Thin Crust in Las Vegas.

A week later he suckered Jimmy Caci into taking a ride with him.  He went inside an office and threatened a guy who cracked him in the head with a tape dispenser.  The guy was getting a pistol when Jimmy stopped him.  This loser had to be carried out by a 70 year old man with his head gushing blood.  

Unknown to Jimmy or any of us, the loser had been busted for first stealing some pirate cable boxes from a police evidence warehouse and then agreeing to sell them to federal agents in New Jersey.  He had flipped and began giving information to the FBI.  He went to Frankie's on Melrose and wore a wire on Joe Dente Sr., a Capo in the Genovese family who was a huge shylock.  Joe wanted nothing to do with him and told Jimmy Caci. Jimmy told this guy to stay away from him.

One night we all went to Frankie's on Melrose for dinner and Jimmy decided to stay at this loser's place. This loser went downstairs so the LAPD could come up and arrest Jimmy for the incident where this loser got beat up by the tape dispenser for threatening the guy in his office.  The victim even told them it was not Jimmy, but the LAPD hated Jimmy so they arrested him on that crap charge.

This is how I got a tape he made when he was speaking to the FBI.  He claims that he was not an informant, that instead he was conning the FBI, just using them for money.  Come on!  You do not con the FBI.  They have multiple sources and they know when it's bad information.  He told them he would be made.  The tape of him talking to the FBI is public on YouTube for all who wish to hear it and decide for themselves.  

This was years ago.  Since then, this loser was arrested in a case where he had guys fly into LA and get a rental car for them, then go to a ladies home and beat her and tie her up because they thought it was a drug stash.  It was not.  They all went away but this guy did not get much punishment, and nothing at all happened to his son, who was part of the conspiracy. How do you rent a car in your name for guys who are flying in to rob a woman and the FBI knows it but you do not get in trouble?  This guy gets out of prison and runs around town claiming he is a made guy conning the FBI.

Fast forward to last week.  I get a call from a friend and he tells me a story.

There is a movie being made. Some producers have a falling out and one of them wants some money back from the other producer. The producers with the cash in hand say kick rocks to the LA Producer.

Now enter another person who I hold in very low regard.  An aging “talent agent” who represents stars from years gone by that have seen better days.  This guy likes to go around and brag about his “mafia connections.”  He is the worst kind of person, a big coward that sits behind a desk and scares other cowards in the business with his big talk.  I always disliked guys like this agent - he reminds me of every Italian restaurant owner in every small city in America. They all think they are connected.  They talk big but they have no guts to do a thing themselves.  You cannot buy loyalty, you have to earn it.  Unless you are in a crew doing dirt you are nothing.  You are a cash machine for whatever guy you think you are “with.”

He tells the LA producer that he can get the money back for him, because he knows who to call.  He has the same pressed-jeans loser from the Jimmy Caci days call the producer.  Keep in mind this loser is now 70 years old with diabetes and could not fight his way out of a paper bag, even when he was young. He was no match for a tape dispenser. He was never in the same league as Jimmy Caci.  The loser tells the producer that for a cash payment he will get some guys to fly in from Florida and "get the money back for him."

This LA producer wonders if this might be the answer to his problem. Its a Federal crime, first of all, because he is sending guys across state lines to collect a debt.  Then, if they hurt the people, or worse, and it’s connected to you in any way?  It’s conspiracy, or possibly, murder, if someone dies.   Let’s say, best case scenario, they do get money back, or the other producer has a change of heart and pays what he owes after they have a “talk.” Now, these clowns who got involved will own this LA producer forever, as they can blackmail him on top of what he already paid.

Legitimate people that think they can dabble in the life are a joke. You are either a citizen or you are a gangster. You cannot be both.   People never learn and others keep doing the same thing.   I cannot understand why a 70 year old man would want to leave this world still doing the same stupid stuff he did when he was young.  He never learned from his time away.  He cannot see that he is just wasting his life.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.