Sunday, September 25, 2016

Informants and Law Enforcement

The FBI has used informants and the RICO statute to rip the guts out of the mafia in recent years. Why do they need informants?

The mafia was almost untouchable until the 1980’s because they had a structure with a defined chain of command.  The FBI or the local police would make a case and they would mostly get the low hanging fruit: soldiers or associates, occasionally a capo.

Then they started using a four pronged attack plan to go after the mafia: 1) informants 2) electronic surveillance 3)RICO and 4) witness protection.

They would use RICO to enhance sentences, seize assets and take down members who for a long time were almost immune to prosecution.  Decades long sentences made guys think twice about keeping their mouths shut.  

There are two kinds of informants. One flips when he is already awaiting trial.  He will testify at the trial of his co-defendants and others.  Another is an informant that agrees to help law enforcement gather proof of crimes by wearing a wire and gathering intelligence.  Both kinds of informants can be of immense help to law enforcement because of their historical knowledge and unique access to the group. They can give valuable insight into the types of crimes and the M.O. of the people being investigated.  They can can give layouts and details about places that will be bugged.  They can get and give up cell phone numbers that are used for crimes.

Then law enforcement began to master electronic surveillance.  They use pen registers to figure out what numbers are frequently called by a target.  With that knowledge and other information from informants they can obtain a wiretap and begin listening in on criminal conversations.  In the old days they would have to put a device in the phone or tap into the actual wires.  Most of the wires they use are not transmitters but recorders that last 10 hours or more. They are so small they can fit inside a watch.  They had remote video cameras all over because they are cheap and small. Today they just serve a warrant to your carrier and its done.  

Then comes RICO, which allows them to charge people with crimes that they may have already served time for in the past.  All they have to prove is that you committed them in concert with the organization.  They can seize assets that you gained or were used in crimes. This hit the mafia hard because guys would do the time and come back to economic ruin.

All of this would have not been so effective if not for the WITSEC or witness relocation program.  If you would just be left on street to be killed you might as well do the time.  The program offered a new life, new name and a new place to call home.  This is one of the most effective tools in law enforcement's arsenal against organized crime.

They do let some bad guys off with short sentences but they believe the long term good for society more than makes up for it. There are some bad apples that return to a life of crime, but most just live out their lives.  This aspect of law enforcement is very different in the United States than it is in Europe where they rarely use informants.  When they do, they refer to them as infiltrators and they do not provide WITSEC.

This week in Florida Governor Rick Scott and the clemency cabinet agreed to commute Kevin Bonner’s sentence.  Bonner had cooperated against the Gambino family in the Florida case 10 years ago.  He testified that John Gotti Jr. stabbed Danny Siva to death at the Silver Fox bar in Queens in 1983.  The jury chose not to convict Junior Gotti for that crime or a host of others.  
The FBI and the US Attorney's office went to bat for Bonner.  They all sent letters and some testified.  One of his letters was from Loretta Lynch, the Attorney General of the United States.
Bonner did not commit the murder with the Gambinos, but he was around them.  

You decide, are informants good?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Gotti Follies

The name Gotti brings to mind the image of John Gotti as boss of the Gambino crime family, dressed in a two thousand dollar suit.  The public doesn’t understand the lasting negative effect John Gotti Sr. had on the Gambinos.  The truth is, John Gotti Sr. helped the feds weaken the crime family through his actions.

The Gambino family had a lot of crews in multiple states.  John Sr. started making all his capos check in every week at the Ravenite club in Little Italy. This made it easy for the law to keep tabs on who was doing what.  He held meetings inside an apartment above the club that the Feds had wired up.  He bragged, and they caught him on tape.  Sammy Gravano, the family underboss, flipped to team USA.

John Sr. went away for life and he left his son John Jr. as the acting boss.  Junior would later talk to the Feds when he had a proffer session.   He gave up guys for crimes.

Then his daughter Victoria had a reality show, “Growing up Gotti.” Today, they are shooting a movie about John Gotti.  I wonder if they will include anything about Gotti’s neighbor, John Favara, a hard-working man who “disappeared” after accidentally hitting and killing Gotti’s son Frank, who at the time he was hit was driving an illegal mini bike and not obeying basic traffic rules.

There is Gotti news in 2016.  John’s brother Gene, who did many years for dealing heroin, will be up for release soon.  

John Gotti Sr.’s grandson, John Gotti, the son of Peter Gotti, was arrested on June 30th for possessing 205 Oxycodone pills, Testosterone, Xanax, Marijuana and 18 methadone pills. He also had over $7k in cash on him along with the drugs, and was arrested while driving with a suspended license.  

On August 4th the NYPD concluded Operation Beach Party with the raiding of the former Queens home of John Gotti Sr., where his grandson John Gotti lived with his father Peter. The NYPD found a safe with $40k and over 500 Oxycodone pills inside.  They also raided the Rebel Ink Tattoo parlor and arrested seven other people involved in the drug crew.  The NYPD seized $200k from one of the players, who was said to be holding it for John Gotti.

Grandson John Gotti is now in a Rikers Island drug rehab where he awaits trial. A judge denied his bid to be freed on a $2 million bond because he is facing 25 years if convicted.

That is not all of the recent news in the Gotti saga. Victoria Gotti had her Long Island mansion raided by the IRS on September 14th. They also raided an Auto Parts store in Queens owned by her ex-husband Carmine Agnello, a made member of the Gambino family who is awaiting trial in Cleveland, Ohio where he ran some scrap yards.  The store is currently being run by Victoria and her three sons, who were all reality stars in her show.

Agnello, now divorced from Victoria, is facing charges for his part in a stolen car ring.

The Gottis are not keeping a low profile, although that seems like the best thing to be doing in their situation. Last year a tape was played in the trial of Vincent Asaro, a Bonanno family capo.  Asaro was inside the auto parts store when one of the Gottis said hello to him.

To continue the life of crime with the Gotti name seems crazy.