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Posts Tagged ‘MAFIA’

MACHIAVELLI VS. THE IRS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 7, 2020 at 12:10 am

More than 500 years ago, the Florentine statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, warned: A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.  One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this. 

And never is the need greater to imitate the fox than when dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Several years ago, a private investigative agency found itself in serious trouble with that agency.

One of its employees had suddenly quit the company—leaving behind a major financial disaster.

That employee—whom I’ll call Pete—had been tasked with sending payroll tax records to the IRS. The company’s owner, Bill, assumed he had carried out his assignment.

Until he learned from the IRS that they had never received the records.

Consider the potential consequences:

  • Failing to timely and properly pay federal payroll taxes results in an automatic penalty of 2% to 10%.
  • Similar state and local penalties apply.
  • Failing to properly file monthly or quarterly returns may result in additional penalties.
  • Failing to file W-2 Forms results in an automatic penalty of up to $50 per form not timely filed.
  • A particularly severe penalty applies where federal income tax withholding and Social Security taxes are not paid to the IRS.
  • The penalty of up to 100% of the amount not paid can be assessed against the employer entity as well as any person (such as a corporate officer) having control or custody of the funds from which payment should have been made.

About 70% of the annual revenue collected by the IRS comes from payroll taxes. Under-reported and unpaid employment taxes account for about $72 billion of the United States tax gap. So the IRS makes the collection of payroll taxes a high priority.

No doubt about it—Bill was facing serious trouble.

Sales/Use Tax Alert | Green NRG Institute

What to do?  

Fortunately, Steve, one of Bill’s employees, had a B.A. in Communications and had worked as a newspaper reporter.

When Bill told him of the calamity he was facing, Steve offered his best advice: Immediately contest the charge that he had been delinquent in providing the records. And explain to the IRS—in writing—what had happened.  

Bill agreed.

First,  Steve interviewed him at length to make certain he fully understood the circumstances leading up to his present crisis. 

Then Steve sat down and typed up a letter—on office letterhead stationery—-to the IRS. Letterhead would give it an official appearance—and Steve wanted every advantage he could get.

Steve offered a straightforward presentation of what had happened: Pete, the number-two man in the company, had been entrusted with submitting payroll tax records to the IRS. But, nursing a grudge against his employer, he had dumped the records in a box and stashed this in a locked filing cabinet.

Then he had given notice and left the company.  Later, an investigation of the office turned up the records—as well as the revelation that Pete had often used his office computer to access pornography.

In his letter, Steve emphasized that Bill’s company had previously had an unblemished record for meeting its payroll tax obligations on time. And he stated that the newly-found records had been sent to the IRS by registered mail.

Finally, Steve wrote that Bill was prepared to fully meet his financial obligations  to the IRS. But he asked that Bill not be penalized for the irresponsible actions of a single, disgruntled employee.

The result? 

Bill ended up paying only those monies that he legally owed.  He was not forced to pay a penalty.

So what are the lessons to be learned from this episode?

  • In dealing with an agency as powerful as the IRS, don’t ignore its letters. 
  • You have nothing to gain by pretending it will go away.  It won’t.
  • If you owe money, don’t deny it. 
  • Remain calm, even if you feel angry or afraid. 
  • Don’t use profanity or insults. 
  • Don’t try to play tough-guy with the IRS.  Even the Mafia fears this agency.
  • And with good reason: Al Capone didn’t go to prison for murder or bootlegging. He went away for income tax evasion.

  • If you have a legitimate reason for having missed a payment, say so. 
  • Remember that everything you say to the IRS—verbally or in writing—is considered evidence given under oath. 
  • If you lie and get caught, you can face perjury charges as well as those for failing to comply with tax laws.
  • Offer to fully pay any monies that you legally owe.
  • If these amount to more than you can meet in a single payment, say so. Ask the agency to set up a plan by which you can pay it off in installments.
  • If the agency balks at cooperating with you, contact a veteran tax accountant or attorney.
  • The best accountants or attorneys for dealing with the IRS are former agents now working in private practice. They not only know the tax laws; they know the best ways to short-circuit an IRS audit and/or penalties.

A REALISTIC PORTRAYAL OF POLICE CORRUPTION—AND JUSTICE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 29, 2020 at 1:19 pm

Almost 40 years later, “Prince of the City” remains that rarity—a movie about big-city police that:

  • Tells a dramatic (and true) story; and
  • Offers serious truths about how police and prosecutors really operate. 

Released in 1981, it’s based on the real-life case of NYPD Detective Robert Leuci (“Danny Ciello” in the film). 

Robert Leuci (“Danny Ciello” in “Prince of the City”)

A member of the elite Special Investigating Unit (SIU) targeting high-level narcotics dealers, Ciello (played by Treat Williams) volunteers to work undercover against rampant corruption among narcotics agents, attorneys and bail bondsmen. 

His motive appears simple: To redeem himself and the NYPD from the corruption he sees everywhere: “These people we take from own us.” 

His only condition: “I will never betray cops who’ve been my partners.” 

And Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Cappalino assures Ciello: “We’ll never make you do something you can’t live with.” 

As the almost three-hour movie unfolds, Ciello finds—to his growing dismay—that there are a great many things he will have to learn to live with. 

Treat Williams as “Danny Ciello”

Although he doesn’t have a hand in it, he’s appalled to learn that Gino Moscone, a former buddy, is going to be arrested for taking bribes from drug dealers. 

Confronted by a high-ranking agent for the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Moscone refuses to “rat out” his buddies. Instead, he puts his service revolver to his head and blows out his brains.  

Ciello is devastated, but the investigation—and film—must go on. 

Along the way, he’s suspected by a corrupt cop and bail bondsman of being a “rat” and threatened with death. 

He’s about to be wasted in a back alley when his cousin—a Mafia member—suddenly intervenes. The Mafioso tells Ciello’s would-be killers: “You’d better be sure he’s a rat, because people like him.”

At which point, the grotesquely fat bail bondsman—who has been demanding Ciello’s execution—pats Danny on the arm and says, “No hard feelings.”

It is director Sidney Lumet’s way of graphically saying: “Sometimes the bad guys can be good guys—and the good guys can be bad guys.”

Prince Of The City folded.jpg

Lumet makes it clear that police don’t always operate with the Godlike efficiency of cops in TV and films. It’s precisely because his Federal backup agents lost him that Ciello almost became a casualty.  

In the end, Ciello becomes a victim of the prosecutorial forces he has unleashed.  Although he’s vowed to never testify against his former partners, Ciello finds this is a promise he can’t keep.

Too many of the cops he’s responsible for indicting have implicated him of similar—if not worse—behavior. He’s even suspected of being involved in the theft of 450 pounds of heroin (“the French Connection”) from the police property room.

A sympathetic prosecutor—Mario Vincente in the movie, Rudolph Giuliani in real-life—convinces Ciello that he must finally reveal everything he’s done.

Ciello had originally claimed to have done “three things” as a corrupt narcotics agent. By the time his true confessions are over, he’s admitted to scores of felonies.

Ciello then tries to convince his longtime SIU partners to do the same. One of them commits suicide.  Another tells Ciello to screw himself:  “I’m not going to shoot myself and I’m not going to rat out my friends.”

To his surprise, Ciello finds himself admiring his corrupt former partner for being willing to stand up to the Federal case-agents and prosecutors demanding his head.

The movie ends with a double dose of irony.

First: Armed with Ciello’s confessions, an attorney whom Ciello had successfully testified against appeals his conviction. But the judge rules Ciello’s admitted misdeeds to be “collateral”—apart from the main evidence in the case—and affirms the conviction.

Second: Ciello is himself placed on trial—-of a sort. A large group of assistant U.S. attorneys gathers to debate whether their prize “canary” should be indicted. If he is, his confessions will ensure his conviction.

Some prosecutors argue forcefully that Ciello is a corrupt law enforcement officer who has admitted to more than 40 cases of perjury—among other crimes. How can the government use him to convict others and not address the criminality in his own past?

Other prosecutors argue that Ciello voluntarily risked his life—physically and professionally—to expose rampant police corruption. He deserves a better deal than to be cast aside by those who have made so many cases through his testimony.

Eventually, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York makes his decision: “The government declines to prosecute Detective Daniel Ciello.”

It is Lumet’s way of showing that the decision to prosecute is not always an easy or objective one.

The movie ends with Ciello now teaching surveillance classes at the NYPD Academy. 

A student asks: “Are you the Detective Ciello?”

“I’m Detective Ciello.”

“I don’t think I have anything to learn from you.”  And he walks out.

Is Danny Ciello a hero, a villain, or some combination of the two? It’s with this ambiguity that the film ends—an ambiguity that infuses America’s clearly hopeless “war on drugs.”

RFK: FIGHTING THE EVIL OF THE MAFIA–AND THE EVIL OF POVERTY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 5, 2020 at 12:08 am

Fifty-two years ago, the Reverend Martin Luther King was shot to death as he stood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. He had come there to lead a march of striking garbage workers.

New York United States Senator—and now Presidential candidate—Robert Francis Kennedy had been scheduled to give a speech in Indianapolis, Indiana, before a black audience.

Just before he drove into the city to deliver his address, he learned of King’s assassination. There was a real danger that rioting would erupt. Police who had been assigned to protect him said they wouldn’t accompany him into the inner city.

Kennedy drove off anyway, leaving behind his police escort.

Standing on a podium mounted on a flatbed truck, Kennedy spoke for just four minutes and 57 seconds.

His waiting audience hadn’t yet learned of King’s death. Kennedy broke the news to gasps, and then gave an impromptu speech eulogizing the slain civil rights leader.

For the first time since the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, he spoke publicly of that killing. He noted that JFK—like King—had also been killed by a white man.

And he called upon the crowd to “dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”

Riots erupted in 60 cities following King’s death—but not in Indianapolis.

During the mid- and late 1960s, Robert Kennedy aroused passions of an altogether different sort from those aroused by Donald Trump.

Kennedy had been a United States Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator from New York (1964-1968). But it was his connection to his beloved and assassinated brother, President John F. Kennedy, for which he was best known.

In October, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his wise counsel helped steer America from the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. As a U.S Senator he championed civil rights and greater Federal efforts to fight poverty.

Robert F. Kennedy campaigning for President

Millions saw RFK as the only candidate who could make life better for America’s impoverished—while standing firmly against those who threatened the Nation’s safety.

As television correspondent Charles Quinn observed: “I talked to a girl in Hawaii who was for [George] Wallace [the segregationist governor of Alabama]. And I said ‘Really?’ [She said] ‘Yeah, but my real candidate is dead.’

“You know what I think it was? All these whites, all these blue collar people who supported Kennedy…all of these people felt that Kennedy would really do what he thought best for the black people, but, at the same time, would not tolerate lawlessness and violence.

“They were willing to gamble…because they knew in their hearts that the country was not right. They were willing to gamble on this man who would try to keep things within reasonable order; and at the same time do some of the things they knew really should be done.”

Campaigning for the Presidency in 1968, RFK had just won the crucial California primary on June 4—when he was shot in the back of the head.

His killer: Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian furious at Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. on June 6.  He was 42.

On June 8, 1,200 men and women boarded a specially-reserved passenger train at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. They were accompanying Kennedy’s body to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

As the train slowly moved along 225 miles of track, throngs of men, women and children lined the rails to pay their final respects to a man they considered a genuine hero.

Little Leaguers clutched baseball caps across their chests. Uniformed firemen and policemen saluted. Burly men in shirtsleeves held hardhats over their hearts. Black men in overalls waved small American flags. Women from all levels of society stood and cried.

A nation says goodbye to Robert Kennedy

Commenting on RFK’s legacy, historian William L. O’Neil wrote in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s:

“…He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and, through error and tragic accident, failed at….He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time.

“That too must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing. With his death something precious disappeared from public life.”

America has never again seen a Presidential candidate who combined toughness on crime and compassion for the poor.

Republican candidates have waged war on crime—and the poor. And Democratic candidates have moved to the Right in eliminating anti-poverty programs.

RFK had the courage to fight the Mafia—and the compassion to fight poverty. At a time when Americans long for candidates to give them positive reasons for voting, his kind of politics are sorely missed.

ARROGANT EMPLOYERS MEET LYING JOB-SEEKERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2020 at 5:51 am

Until recently, only organized crime witnesses with a price on their head could obtain falsified job histories.  But no more.

Thousands—if not millions—of job-seeking Americans are now able to obtain stellar job references to impress potential employer.  And they’re doing it the unconventional way: They’re hiring companies to create them.

One such company is CareerExcuse.

CareerExcuse runs 200 fictional companies that don’t exist, have staffs or make money.

But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and they’ll confirm you were an outstanding employee.

For between $100 and $200, you’ll get:

  • One to three false—and positive—references from a company or companies you’ve never worked for.
  • A fake company address.
  • Local phone numbers to give to prospective employers.
  • A guarantee that those employers will receive positive vouchers for you.
  • “Instant” degrees.
  • Landlord reference
  • A “completely legitimate” resume-writing service.

Unlike the Federal Witness Security Program (WITSEC) the clients of CareerExcuse aren’t hardened criminals.

They are legitimate citizens trying to erase gaps in their resumes. Or they have worked for a long series of short-term employers and want to appear a stable employee.

Click here: CareerExcuse Job References

Or they’ve acquired–deservedly or not–a series of bad job references 

Image result for images of resumes

“Some people see it as unethical,” Jennifer Hatton, senior partner at CareerExcuse, said in a 2015 interview with Business Insider.

But, said Hatten, “I don’t see why you shouldn’t deserve a shot, just like the next person” if you do have the skills and experience required.

“There are many things that happen in people’s lives, with [employers] going out of business, being laid off, managers just unrightfully firing you, sexual harassment suits—-you name it, it happens in the workforce.”

And it’s true.

An article in the March, 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest gives the lie to the excuses so many employers use for refusing to hire.

Entitled “22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job,” it reveals such truths as:

  • After you’re unemployed more than six months, employers consider you unemployable—no matter your skills/experience. 
  • It’s not what but who you know that counts.
  • Cover letters are often ignored, going directly into “the round file.”
  • Many employers illegally try to screen out parents—such as by checking cars for child safety seats.
  • You’re not protected against age discrimination. Many employers regularly ignore the law. If you are in your 50s or 60s, leave your year of graduation off your resume.

And in its June 8, 2011 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery?  Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Wrote Rana Foroohar, Time‘s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business:

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

Meanwhile, CareerExcuse claims to have more than 2,000 job-seeking clients.

“Our main clientele right now is IT executives, and they’re pretty high-level,” Hatton claimed. The average customer seeks a salary of $60,000 to $80,000.

There are areas of employment that CareerExcuse refuses to fill—medicine, government, law enforcement or government. Jobs where your employment would “put other people in danger,” said Hatten. These are also employers capable of conducting serious background investigations.

Hatton claimed that during the almost two years she had been with CareerExcuse, no one had ever discovered a faked background.

But William Schmidt, who founded the company, admitted to Motherboard that a fake reference could easily be punctured: “All it would take is one person to drive to that address and go to that office.”

And the inevitable result would be immediate termination.

For some users of CareerExcuse, the company has proven an infuriating disappointment.

Click here: 17 CAREER EXCUSE complaints and reports @ Pissed Consumer

Like many clients of the Federal Witness Security Program, they complain of promises not kept. Among their complaints on Pissed Consumer, a consumer-complaint website:

  • “When a serious job opportunity came recently, I realized alot of loop holes in their services, address of company on the website was different, email addresses weren’t valid or active.”
  • “They took my $ and never returned my calls or emails.What a joke!”
  • “Their phone go to voice mail and they dont reply back to calls after a voice mail is left for them to reply …It is easy for the employer to know that the reference is fake.”
  • “When the prospective employers called, Career excuse answered the phone with ‘Career Excuse, how can I help you.’ They were supposed to answer the phone in the name of the fake company they put together.”
  • “They only gave me a cheap looking web page and they don’t even answer the phones to GIVE the service I payed for. They are a scam and complete rip-off.”

Throughout the United States, countless numbers of lazy, greedy, arrogant and/or incompetent employers are refusing to hire. And millions of willing-to-work Americans remain trapped in unemployment or under-employment as a result.

Until this situation changes, companies like CareerExcuse will continue to function—and proliferate.

Such a change isn’t going to happen tomorrow.

ARROGANT EMPLOYERS MEET LYING JOB-SEEKERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2020 at 12:17 am

In 1966, the U.S. Department of Justice did something it had never before done: Protect a witness against the Mafia during trial, and then relocate him (and his family) to safety under a new identity.

That witness was Joseph “The Animal” Barboza.  Once the most-feared enforcer for the New England Mafia family of Raymond Patriarca, Barboza had run afoul of his boss.

With a mob contract out on him, Barboza felt he had nothing to lose by telling FBI agents and Federal prosecutors everything they wanted to know about the Boston Mafia.

Related image

Joseph Barboza

A 16-man security detail of deputy U.S. marshals was immediately assigned to Barboza. The marshals relocated him to Thatcher’s Island, off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. There they foiled two attempts by the mob to kill Barboza with a telescopic-sighted rifle.

Through a series of trials, Barboza sent the top echelons of the Patriarca family—including Patriarca himself—to prison. Then he and his wife and daughter were outfitted with new names and shipped out of New England to begin life over in safety.

The success of the Barboza detail led other Mafia witnesses to come forward. And this, in turn, led to the official creation of the Witness Security Program (WITSEC) by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.

To date, the U.S. Marshals Service—which runs WITSEC—has successfully protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,500 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Click here: U.S. Marshals Service, Witness Security Program.

It’s been the “new identities” part of the Program that has always attracted the most attention from the press and movie-makers.

Staged photograph of a WITSEC detail

In the early days of WITSEC, a handful of security Inspectors created these in a totally haphazard fashion. These included legal name-changes, Social Security card, driver’s licenses and falsified job histories.

In some cases, marshals would tell prospective employers, “We can vouch for this man’s skills as a(n) ———-, but that’s all we can tell you.”

Witnesses’ children were provided with fictitious school records.  The names of schools would be changed, but the actual grades earned by the children would be retained.

These records would be “backstopped”—supported with documentation placed at those institutions where the witness (or his family) was alleged to have worked or attended school.

Similarly, medical records for witnesses and their children would be partially falsified. That is, names of hospitals they had obtained care in would be changed, but their actual medical histories would be accurately charted.

Since the 1990s, the Marshals Service has centralized its “re-documentation” program. Parents, spouses, children, siblings and even mistresses are all taken to an orientation center in a Washington suburb

Related image

There, witnesses are debriefed by Federal agents and prosecutors.  They—and their families—are also prepared for the new lives they’ll take on under new identities.

In the early years of the program, witnesses were provided with flimsy aliases that quickly collapsed under even light scrutiny.

In 1973, Gerald Martin Zelmanowitz, a convicted stock swindler, found his new identity of Paul J. Maris easily punctured.

He got into a legal dispute with Creative Capitol, an investment firm that had loaned $2 million to his struggling new business,”The Paul Maris Company.”

Creative Capitol’s president, Milton Stewart, ordered a quiet investigation into Maris’ background.

This quickly turned up the following:

  • Maris and all five members of his family had been issued sequential Social Security numbers.
  • There was no record of Maris’ birth certificate.
  • Maris had claimed a background in Army Intelligence, but his Army service number had never been issued.
  • Maris’ resume said he had attended John Bartram High School in Philadelphia and Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.  But officials at both schools denied that he had ever been one of their students.
  • Maris’ alleged home address in Philadelphia turned out to be a vacant lot in an all-black neighborhood.

Finally, the private investigator discovered that Maris had testified against a Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, a notorious New Jersey Mafia chieftain.  His testimony had convicted DeCarlo for murder conspiracy.

Fearing for his life, Maris fled with his family from San Francisco. All of them were readmitted to the Witness Security Program and relocated under new identities.

Until recently, only organized crime witnesses with a price on their head could obtain falsified job histories.  But no more.

Thousands—if not millions—of job-seeking Americans are now able to obtain stellar job references to impress potential employers.

CareerExcuse runs 200 fictional companies that don’t exist, have staffs or make money.

But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and they’ll confirm you were a stellar employee while you were there.

For between $100 and $200, you’ll get

  • One to three false—and positive—references from a company or companies you’ve never worked for.
  • A fake company address.
  • Local phone numbers to give to prospective employers.
  • A guarantee that those employers will receive positive vouchers for you.
  • A “completely legitimate” resume-writing service.

Unlike WITSEC, the clients of CareerExcuse aren’t hardened criminals. They are legitimate citizens trying to erase gaps in their resumes.  Or they have worked for a long series of short-term employers and want to appear a stable employee.

BANKSTERS AND DRUGGIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 16, 2020 at 3:50 am

It’s a scene familiar to anyone who’s seen Scarface, the 1983 classic starring Al Pacino as a Cuban drug dealer who makes it big in the cocaine business.

Scarface - 1983 film.jpg

Tony Montana (Pacino) is holding court in his Florida estate.  His visitor is a WASPish banker.

Bankers as a rule don’t make house calls. But Tony is no ordinary customer—his men literally haul bags full of bills into the bank when making deposits.

Except that now the banker has some unpleasant news for Tony: We’re not a wholesale operation.  We’re a legitimate bank.  The more cash you give me……the harder it is for me to rinse. The fact is I can’t take any more of your money unless I raise the rates on you.” 

Then follows this exchange:

TONY: You gonna raise…

BANKER: I gotta do it.

BANKER: The IRS is coming….

TONY: Don’t give me that shit! Let’s talk. I’m talking. I go low, you go high. I know the game. This is business talk.

BANKER: Let me explain something. The IRS is coming down heavy on South Florida. There was a Time magazine story that didn’t help. There’s a recession. I got stockholders I got to be responsible for.  I got to do it, Tony.

TONY: We’ll go somewhere else.  That’s it.   

BANKER: There’s no place else to go. 

TONY: Fuck you, man! Fuck you! I’ll fly the cash myself to the Bahamas. 

BANKER: Once maybe. Then what? You’ll trust some monkey in a Bahamian bank with millions of your hard-earned dollars? Come on, Tony. Don’t be a schmuck. Who else can you trust? That’s why you pay us what you do. You trust us.

Stay with us. You’re a well-liked customer. You’re in good hands with us.

(At this point, movie audiences burst into laughter.  The line, “You’re in good hands with us” seemed directly lifted from the slogan used by Allstate Insurance: “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”)

Now, fast forward to 2014.

A Reuters news story dated May 21, 2014 noted that investigators from the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were probing Charles Schwab and Bank of America Corporations Merrill Lynch brokerage.

The SEC wants to determine if these brokerages violated anti-money laundering rules that require financial institutions to know their customers.

Broker-dealers are required to establish, document and identify customers and verify their identities in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.

In 2012, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, ordered regulators to guarantee that financial institutions are identifying the true beneficial owners of their accounts.

The reason: Drug cartels and terrorist groups have become highly creative in hiding and transferring their illegal funds.

According to sources close to the investigation, Charles Schwab and Merrill accepted shell companies and persons with phony addresses as clients.

In both cases, some of the accounts were eventually linked to drug cartels.  Some of those accounts held hundreds of thousands of dollars; others held millions.

A Texas rancher and Charles Schwab client transferred money to a holding company that was actually a shell company.

Most of the Schwab clients being investigated lived near the Mexican border. Some were linked to Mexican drug cartels.

Click here: Exclusive: SEC probes Schwab, Merrill, for anti-money laundering violations – sources | Reuters

In December, 2017, the  the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined Merrill Lynch $26 million for failing to identify suspicious money-transfer activities in customer accounts for years. 

In fact, the government should have assumed long ago that brokerage companies were engaging in such behavior.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Discourses, his landmark book on how to preserve freedom within a republic:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. 

But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Whenever the creating of wealth becomes an end in itself, all other ends are sacrificed to this.

Greed begins in the neurochemistry of the brain. A neurotransmitter called dopamine fuels our greed. The higher the dopamine levels in the brain, the greater the pleasure we experience.

Harvard researcher Hans Breiter has found, via magnetic resonance imaging studies, that the craving for money activates the same regions of the brain as the lust for sex, cocaine or any other pleasure-inducer. 

But snorting the same amount of cocaine, or earning the same sum of money, does not cause dopamine levels to increase. So the pleasure-seeker must increase the amount of stimuli to keep enjoying the euphoria.

Federal investigators need to view large concentrations of wealth as sources for at least potential corruption.

And they should ruthlessly—and routinely—investigate those sources, whether in the vaults of the Mafia or of major financial institutions.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 3, 2020 at 12:13 am

“John and Robert Kennedy knew what they were doing. They waged a vicious war against Fidel Castro–a war someone had to lose.”

And the loser turned out to be John F. Kennedy.

So writes investigative reporter Gus Russo in Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK, published in 1998.

In what is almost certainly the definitive account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Russo reaches some startling—but highly documented—conclusions:

  • Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy.
  • He did it alone.
  • Oswald, a former Marine, was a committed Marxist—whose hero was Castro.
  • The CIA’s ongoing campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate Castro was an open secret throughout the Gulf.
  • Oswald visited New Orleans in the spring of 1963.
  • There he learned that Castro was in the crosshairs of the CIA.
  • For this, he blamed John F. Kennedy.
  • Oswald told his Russian-born wife, Marina: “Fidel Castro needs defenders. I’m going to join his army of volunteers.”
  • Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, murdered Oswald because he was distraught over Kennedy’s death.
  • Ruby was not part of a Mafia conspiracy to silence Oswald.
  • Skeptics of the Warren Commission—which concluded that Oswald had acted alone–asked the wrong question: “Who killed Kennedy?”
  • They should have asked: “Why was he killed?”
  • The answer–according to Russo: “The Kennedys’ relentless pursuit of Castro and Cuba backfired in tragedy on that terrible day in November, 1963.”

Another book well worth reading about America’s Cuban obsession during the early 1960s is American Tabloid, by James Ellroy.

Although a novel, it vividly captures the atmosphere of intrigue, danger and sleaziness that permeated that era in a way that dry, historical documents never can.

“The 50’s are finished,” reads its paperback dust jacket. “Zealous young lawyer Robert Kennedy has a red-hot jones to nail Jimmy Hoffa. JFK has his eyes on the Oval Office.

“J. Edgar Hoover is swooping down on the Red Menace. Howard Hughes is dodging subpoenas and digging up Kennedy dirt. And Castro is mopping up the bloody aftermath of his new Communist nation….

“Mob bosses, politicos, snitches, psychos, fall guys and femmes fatale. They’re mixing up a Molotov cocktail guaranteed to end the country’s innocence with a bang.”

Among the legacies of America’s twisted romance with anti-Castro Cubans:

  • Following the JFK assassination, there was a cover-up.
  • Its purpose: To protect the reputation of the United States Government—and that of its newly-martyred President.
  • The CIA and FBI concealed the CIA-Mafia assassination plots from the Warren Commission assigned to investigate Kennedy’s murder.
  • Other government officials participating in the cover-up included Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • Ironically, this secrecy ignited the widespread—and false—belief that the President had died at the hands of a government conspiracy.
  • Robert Kennedy feared that his relentless pursuit of Castro might have led Castro to “take out” JFK first.
  • Fearing his own assassination if he continued Kennedy’s efforts to murder Castro, President Johnson ordered the CIA to halt its campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate the Cuban leader.
  • The huge Cuban community throughout Florida—and especially Miami—continues to exert a blackmailing influence on American politics.
  • Right-wing politicians from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump have reaped electoral rewards by catering to the demands of this hate-obsessed voting block.
  • These Cuban ex-patriots hope that the United States will launch a full-scale military invasion of the island to remove Castro. 
  • Having grown rich and soft in the United States, they fear to risk their own lives by returning to Cuba to overthrow the Castro regime—as he had overthrown Fulgencio Batista.
  • Only President Barack Obama had the political courage to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba—in 2015.
  • This occurred long after the United States had done so with such former enemies as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam.  
  • Donald Trump—obsessed with reversing Obama’s record—has reinstated travel and trade restrictions on Cuba. It has also allowed American citizens to sue foreign businesses using property seized during the 1959 Cuban revolution, 

The Cuban Missile Crisis remains the single most dangerous moment of the 50-year Cold War, when the world stood only minutes away from nuclear Armageddon.

That crisis stemmed from the American Right’s twisted obsession with Cuba, an obsession that continues today.

So what are the lessons to be learned from that obsession?

  • The United States should end the half-century contamination of American politics by those Cubans who live only for their hatred of Castro—and those political candidates who live to exploit it. 
  • (For example: Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ recent—and truthful—statement that Castro created a literacy program for poor Cuban children has ignited bipartisan outrage. If Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, it has virtually guaranteed his 
  • A population of about 1,700,000 Cuban exiles living in Florida should not be allowed to shape the domestic and foreign policy of a nation of 300 million.
  • Those who continue to hate—or love—Fidel Castro should be left to their own private feud.
  • But that is a feud they should settle on their own island, and not from the shores of the United States.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 2, 2020 at 12:06 am

On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy went on nationwide TV to announce the discovery of nuclear missiles in Cuba—and his blockade of that island.

He warned that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union—and would trigger “a full retaliatory response” upon the U.S.S.R.

President John F. Kennedy addresses the nation

And he demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba:

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are, but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world.

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

On October 26,  the United States raised the readiness level of Strategic Air Command forces to DEFCON 2—the step just short of war. For the only time in U.S. history, B-52 bombers were dispersed to various locations and made ready to take off, fully equipped, on 15 minutes’ notice.

Other measures taken included:

  • One-eighth of America’s 1,436 bombers were on airborne alert.
  • About 145 intercontinental ballistic missiles stood on ready alert.
  • Air Defense Command redeployed 161 nuclear-armed interceptors to 16 dispersal fields within nine hours with one-third maintaining 15-minute alert status.
  • Twenty-three nuclear-armed B-52 were sent to orbit points within striking distance of the Soviet Union.

An invasion date was set for October 29. But the Kennedy Administration—and the American military–didn’t know that the Russian soldiers guarding the missiles had been armed with tactical nuclear weapons.

Had the Marines gone in, those mini-nukes would have been used. And a fullscale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union would have almost certainly followed.

At the height of the crisis, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy offered a solution.

Khrushchev had sent two teletypes to Kennedy. The first had agreed to remove the missiles, but the second had demanded that the United States remove its own missiles from Turkey, which bordered the Soviet Union.

Robert Kennedy’s solution: The administration should ignore the second message—and announce that it had accepted Khrushchev’s offer to remove the missiles.

After this announcement was made, President Kennedy said to his advisers: “It can go either way now.”

John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office

The crisis ended on October 28. Under enormous pressure, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.

Behind his decision lay a secret promise by the Kennedy administration to remove its obsolete nuclear missiles from Turkey, which bordered the Soviet Union. And a public pledge to not invade Cuba.

On the night the crisis ended, there occurred a prophetic exchange between the two Kennedy brothers.

JFK: “Maybe this is the night I should go to the theater”—a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s fatal attendance of Ford’s Theater at the end of the Civil War.

RFK: “If you go, I want to go with you.”

John F. and Robert F. Kennedy

But President Kennedy was not finished with Castro. While continuing the campaign of sabotage throughout Cuba, the Kennedys were preparing something far bigger: A fullscale American invasion of the island.

On October 4, 1963, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted its latest version of the invasion plan, known as OPLAN 380-63.  Its timetable went:

  • January, 1964:  Infiltration into Cuba by Cuban exiles.
  • July 15, 1964:  U.S. conventional forces join the fray.
  • August 3, 1964:  All-out U.S. air strikes on Cuba.
  • October 1, 1964:  Full-scale invasion to install “a government friendly to the U.S.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Kennedy—referring to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—had resisted demands for a “sneak attack” on Cuba by saying: “I don’t want my brother to be the Tojo of the 1960s.”

Now the Kennedys planned such an attack on Cuba just one month before the November, 1964 Presidential election.

Then fate—in the unlikely figure of Lee Harvey Oswald—intervened.

On November 22, 1963, while the President rode through Dallas in an open-air automobile, a rifle-wielding assassin opened fire. He scored two hits on Kennedy—in the back of the neck and head. The second wound proved instantly fatal.

The nation and the world were shocked—and plunged into deep mourning.

But for some of those who had waged a secret, lethal war against Fidel Castro for the previous two years, Kennedy’s death—at least in retrospect—didn’t come as a surprise.

Robert Kennedy, in particular, spent the remaining years of his life agonizing over the possibility that his highly personal war against Castro had backfired.

That Castro, fed up with the CIA’s assassination plots against him, had retaliated with one of his own.

Robert Kennedy’s fears and guilt were compounded by the fact that, while waging war on Castro, he had waged an equally ruthless crusade against organized crime.

He knew that some of the mobsters he had tried to send to prison had played a major role in the CIA’s efforts to “hit” Castro. Had the Mafia—believing itself the victim of a double-cross—put out a “contract” on JFK instead?  

It was a question that haunted him until the day he died.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2020 at 12:12 am

In April, 1961, the CIA tried to overthrow the Communist regime of Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro, at the Bay of Pigs.

When that failed, President John F. Kennedy ordered Castro’s removal through a campaign of sabotage and assassination.

These covert operatives became known within the CIA as the Special Group, and were ultimately supervised by Robert F. Kennedy, the President’s brother and Attorney General.

The war against Castro became known within the CIA as Operation Mongoose.

But not everyone in the CIA was enthusiastic about the “get Castro” effort.

“Everyone at CIA was surprised at Kennedy’s obsession with Fidel,” recalled Sam Halpern, who was assigned to the Cuba Project. “They thought it was a waste of time. We all knew [Fidel] couldn’t hurt us. Most of us at CIA initially liked Kennedy, but why go after this little guy?

“One thing is for sure: Kennedy wasn’t doing it out of national security concerns. It was a personal thing. The Kennedy family felt personally burnt by the Bay of Pigs and sought revenge.”

It was all-out war. Among the tactics used:

  • Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder Cuban police officials and Soviet technicians.
  • Sabotaging mines.
  • Paying up to $100,000 per “hit” for the murder or kidnapping of Cuban officials.
  • Using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry.

“Bobby (Kennedy) wanted boom and bang all over the island,” recalled Halpern. “It was stupid. The pressure from the White House was very great.”

Among that “boom and bang” were a series of assassination plots against Castro, in which the Mafia was to be a key player.

Chicago Mobster Johnny Rosselli proposed a simple plan: through its underworld connections in Cuba, the Mafia would recruit a Cuban in Castro’s entourage, such as a waiter or bodyguard, who would poison him.

The CIA’s Technical Services division produced a botulinus toxin which was then injected into Castro’s favorite brand of cigars. The CIA also produced simpler botulinus toxin pills that could be dissolved in his food or drink.

But the deputized Mafia contacts failed to deliver any of the poisons to Castro. 

Rosselli told the CIA that the first poisoner had been discharged from Castro’s employ before he could kill him, and the back-up agent got “cold feet.” 

Other proposals or attempts included:

  • Planting colorful seashells rigged to explode at a site where Castro liked to go skindiving.
  • Trying to arrange for his being presented with a wetsuit impregnated with noxious bacteria and mold spores, or with lethal chemical agents.
  • Attempting to infect Castro’s scuba regulator with tuberculous bacilli.
  • Trying to douse his handkerchiefs, tea and coffee with other lethal bacteria.

Former members of the Kennedy Administration later insisted that neither John nor Robert Kennedy knew or approved of these assassination plots. But the sheer weight of available evidence indicates otherwise.

Bobby, in particular, was constantly pressing the CIA to “do something” about Castro. In the world of covert action, words like “Kill Castro” aren’t committed to paper. Or even spoken.

Castro, rightly seeing his life and regime threatened, appealed to Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, for assistance.

1960s poster of Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev

Keizers [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Khrushchev was quick to comply: “We must not allow the communist infant to be strangled in its crib,” he told members of his inner circle.

By October, 1962, the Soviet Union had sent more than

  • 40,000 soldiers,
  • 1,300 field pieces,
  • 700 anti-aircraft guns,
  • 350 tanks and
  • 150 jets

to Cuba to deter another invasion.

Most importantly, Khrushchev began supplying Castro with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Their discovery, on October 15, 1962, ignited the single most dangerous confrontation of the 50-year Cold War.

Suddenly, the United States and the Soviet Union—bristling with nuclear weapons—found themselves on the brink of nuclear war.

At the time, Kennedy officials claimed they couldn’t understand why Khrushchev had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. “Maybe Khrushchev’s gone mad” was a typical public musing.  

This remained the official American view for years afterward—as depicted in Robert Kennedy’s memoir, Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis, published in 1969, the year after his assassination. 

No admission was made that JFK had been waging a no-holds-barred campaign to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate its leader.

The same proved true for the 1974 doc-u-drama, The Missiles of October, starring William Devane as John F. Kennedy and Martin Sheen as Robert Kennedy. 

On October 16, President Kennedy was informed of the missile installations. He immediately convened a group of his 12 most important advisers, which became known as Ex-Comm, for Executive Committee.

Then followed seven days of guarded and intense debate by Kennedy and his advisers. Some of the participants—such as Air Force General Curtis LeMay—urged an all-out air strike against the missile sites.

Others—such as Adlai Stevenson, the United States delegate to the United Nations—urged a reliance on quiet diplomacy.

It was Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara who suggested a middle course: A naval blockade—a “quarantine” in Kennedy’s softened term—around Cuba. This would hopefully prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons on the island.

Finally, the President decided to to impose a naval blockade.

On October 22, Kennedy went on nationwide TV to announce the discovery of the missiles and his blockade of Cuba.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY CONTINUES TO HAUNT US: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2020 at 1:14 am

On November 25, 2016, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s longtime “Maximum Leader,” died at the age of 90.

Old age and disease finally achieved what years of plotting by CIA and Mafia assassins could not.

To his supporters he was a tireless champion of the poor and a foe of American imperialism. To his enemies he was a ruthless dictator who drove his country to economic ruin in the name of a failed ideology–communism.

His reign began on January 1, 1959, when he swept triumphantly into Havana after a two-year guerrilla campaign against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel Castro

Almost immediately, hundreds of thousands of Cubans began fleeing to America. The first émigrés were more than 215,000 Batista followers. The exodus increased, peaking at approximately 78,000 in 1962.

In October, 1962, Castro stopped regularly scheduled travel between the two countries, and asylum seekers began sailing from Cuba to Florida.

Between 1962 and 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans entered the United States under the Attorney General’s parole authority.

By 2008, more than 1.24 million Cubans were living in the United States, mostly in South Florida, where the population of Miami was about one-third Cuban. Their sheer numbers transformed the state’s political, economic and cultural life.  And not entirely for the better.

Many of these Cubans viewed themselves as political exiles, rather than immigrants, hoping to eventually return to Cuba after its Communist regime fell from power.

The large number of Cubans in South Florida, particularly in Miami’s “Little Havana,” allowed them to preserve their culture and customs to a degree rare for immigrant groups.

With so many discontented immigrants concentrated in Florida, they became a potential force for politicians to court.

And the issue guaranteed to sway their votes was unrelenting hostility to Castro. Unsurprisingly, most of their votes went to Right-wing Republicans.

John F. Kennedy was the first President to face this dilemma.

During the closing months of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA had begun training Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland.

The exiles’ goal: To do what Castro had done—seek refuge in the mountains and launch a successful anti-Castro revolution.

But word of the coming invasion quickly leaked: The exiles were terrible secret-keepers. (A joke at the CIA went: “A Cuban thinks a secret is something you tell to only 300 people.”)

Kennedy insisted the invasion must appear to be an entirely Cuban enterprise. He refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers.

More than 1,400 invaders landed on April 17, 1961 at the Bay of Pigs—and were quickly overwhelmed, with hundreds of the men taken prisoner.

Kennedy publicly took the blame for its failure: “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.” But privately he seethed, and ordered the CIA to redouble its efforts to remove Castro at all costs.

To make certain his order was carried out, he appointed his brother, Robert—then Attorney General–to oversee the CIA’s “Castro removal” program.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

It’s here that America’s obsession with Cuba entered its darkest and most disgraceful period.

The CIA and the Mafia entered into an unholy alliance to assassinate Castro—each for its own benefit:

  • The CIA wanted to please Kennedy.
  • The mobsters wanted to regain their casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba their private playground in pre-Castro times. They also hoped to use their pose as patriots to win immunity from future prosecution.

The CIA supplied poisons and explosives to various members of the Mafia. It was then up to the mobsters to assassinate Castro.

The CIA asked Johnny Roselli, a mobster linked to the Chicago syndicate, to go to Florida in 1961 and 1962 to organize assassination teams of Cuban exiles. They were to infiltrate their homeland and assassinate Castro.

JohnRoselli.jpg

Johnny Roselli

Rosselli called upon two other crime figures: Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, the Costra Nostra chieftain for Tampa, for assistance.

Sam Giancana.jpg

Sam Giancana

Giancana, using the name “Sam Gold” in his dealings with the CIA, was meanwhile being hounded by the FBI on direct orders of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The mobsters were authorized to offer $150,000 to anyone who would kill Castro and were promised any support the Agency could yield.

Giancana was to locate someone who was close enough to Castro to be able to drop pills into his food. Trafficante would serve as courier to Cuba, helping to make arrangements for the murder on the island.

Rosselli was to be the main link between all of the participants in the plot.

The available sources disagree on what actually happened. Some believe that the Mob made a genuine effort to “whack” Fidel.

Others are convinced the mobsters simply ran a scam on the government. They pretended to carry out their “patriotic duty” while in fact making no effort at all to penetrate Castro’s security.

The CIA’s war against Castro was known as Operation Mongoose—the mongoose being a deadly enemy of the cobra. And those entrusted with this assignment were known as the Special Group.

“We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter,” Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara later testified before Congress about these efforts. “And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.”

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