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Posts Tagged ‘SAMMY “THE BULL” GRAVANO’

LESSONS IN DISLOYALTY—GOTTI AND TRUMP: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2018 at 12:04 am

President Donald Trump shares more than a few striking similarities with John Gotti, who, for five years, ruled as the boss of the most powerful Mafia family in the United States: The Gambino Family. 

Among those similarities: A complete lack of loyalty to anyone. 

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Donald Trump

Unknowingly speaking into an FBI electronic bug, Gotti charged that Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in command, was too greedy. He also blamed him for the murders of three Mafiosi whom Gotti had ordered hit.

When Gravano learned of these slanders at a pretrial hearing, he agreed to testify against Gotti and other Mafiosi in exchange for a five-year prison sentence. 

And just as Gotti’s disloyalty ultimately destroyed him, the same may yet prove true for Trump.

Consider the case of attorney Michael Cohen.

  • An executive of the Trump Organization, Cohen acted as “Trump’s pit bull.” “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”
  • In 2015, a reporter for The Daily Beast asked Cohen about Ivana Trump’s charge (later recanted) that Trump had raped her while they were married. Cohen: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”
  • In 2016, while Trump was running for President, Cohen acted as the go-between for a $130,000 hush-money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. The reason: To prevent her from revealing a 2006 tryst she had had with Trump.  

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges reportedly include bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law.

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Michael Cohen

By IowaPolitics.com (Trump executive Michael Cohen 012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

Then there’s Paul Manafort—a lobbyist, political consultant and lawyer.

  • He joined Trump’s  presidential campaign team in March 2016 and was campaign chairman from March to August 2016. He attended the Republican Convention in July, where Trump was officially nominated as the GOP candidate for President.
  • On June 9, 2016, Manafort, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian Intelligence agents at Trump Tower. The reason: The Russians claimed to have “dirt” on Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In March, 2017, news broke that Manafort, in his work as a lobbyist, had represented Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and close associate of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The story fueled growing controversy over the Trump campaign’s documented ties to Russia,

Trump’s response: 

“The President was not aware of Paul’s clients from the last decade,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

Describing Manafort’s role as chairman of the Trump campaign, Spicer said that he “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” 

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Paul Manafort

An April 19, 2018 headline in Esquire magazine warned: “If the Water is Rising, Donald Trump Will Throw You Overboard.” 

The article read in part:

“No matter how long or how intimately you’ve known Donald Trump, you’re one news cycle away from being tossed overboard….

“An old friend becomes a needy acquaintance; a campaign chairman becomes someone you got from the temp agency; a national security adviser becomes a ‘volunteer.'” 

Trump’s desertion of his former allies places them in jeopardy—but it also endangers him.

Cohen wasn’t just Trump’s lawyer. He was his fixer, a man who made problems “go away” with threats and bribes. He knows many—if not most—of Trump’s darkest secrets.

And he may be preparing to reveal them.

In a recent off-camera interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Cohen warned: “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy” if Trump or his attorneys try to discredit him.

And unlike Trump—who has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election—Cohen said he believed it did.

As for Manafort: He resigned as Trump’s campaign manager when news broke that he had received $12.7 million from then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Puttin lackey.

Given Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s focus on Trump’s ties to Russia, Manafort—through his own ties there—can deliver a mother-lode of secrets if he so desires.

Donald Trump now faces the dilemma—and possibly the same fate—of John “Teflon Don” Gotti: Faced with increasing evidence of his blatant criminality and possibly even treason, does he:

  • Stand by those whose secrets can destroy him? or
  • Throw them to the wolves, hoping they will still not betray him?

LESSONS IN DISLOYALTY—GOTTI AND TRUMP: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 11, 2018 at 12:11 am

On December 11, 1990, FBI agents and NYPD detectives raided the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan.

They had arrest warrants for John Gotti, boss of the Gambino Mafia Family, and his two lieutenants: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in-command, and Frankie Locascio, his Consigliere, or adviser.

Gotti had become boss of the Gambino Family in December, 1985—by arranging the execution of its then-boss, Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, on December 16.

Since then, he had moved his headquarters from Queens to the Ravenite. And, like a king holding court, he had ordered all of his captains to report to him at the Ravenite once a week.  

Word quickly reached the FBI—and agents in vans shot video as they staked out Prince Street. 

Gotti had handed the FBI a mob organization chart.

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FBI Seal

It was only a matter of time before the FBI’s Technical Surveillance Squad (TSS) breached the security of the Ravenite. 

In 1989, the TSS planted a hidden microphone in an apartment above the Ravenite where Gotti held his secret meetings. Tape recorders were running when he bragged that he had ordered three murders—and was running a criminal enterprise: The Gambino Mafia Family.

When he wasn’t bragging, Gotti was badmouthing virtually everyone—past and present—in the Mafia: Paul Castellano, Carlo Gambino, Vincent “The Chins” Gigante. And, most fatally, his own underboss: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.

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John Gotti

On December 12, 1989, the electronic bug picked up the following conversation between Gotti and his Consigliere, or adviser, Frankie Locascio. 

The subject: The murders of three former Gambino Family mobsters: Robert “Deebee” DiBernardo, Louis Milito and Louis DiBono.  

DiBernardo had been murdered over Gravano’s objections. A fellow mobster had told Gotti that DiBernardo had made “subversive” comments behind Gotti’s back.

But that wasn’t the way Gotti told it.

GOTTI: “Deebee, did he ever talk subversive to you?”

LOCASCIO: “Never.”

GOTTI: “Never talked it to Angelo, never talked it to [Joseph Armone] either. I took Sammy’s word that he talked about me behind my back….I was in jail when I whacked him. I knew why it was being done. I done it anyway. I allowed it to be done anyway.”

Next Gotti focused on the murders of Louis Milito and Louis DiBono. Milito had been “whacked” for questioning Gotti’s judgment. And DiBono had been hit because he refused to answer a Gotti summons

But Gotti was determined to lay the blame on Gravano. He claimed that both men had been killed because Gravano had asked for permission to remove his business partners.

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Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

GOTTI: “Every time we get a partner that don’t agree with us, we kill him. [The] boss kills him. He kills him. He okays it. Says it’s all right, good.” 

And there was more: Gotti accused Gravano of excessive greed—and hoarding money for himself at the expense of the Family. 

GOTTI: “That’s Sammy….Every fucking time I turn around there’s a new company poppin’ up. Building. Consulting. Concrete.  Where the hell did all these new companies come from?  Where did five new companies come from? 

“Paul [Castellano, the Gambino Family’s previous boss] sold the Family out for a fucking construction company. And that’s what Sammy’s doing now.  Three, four guys will wind up with every fuckin’ thing. And the rest of the Family looks like waste.” 

He accused Gravano of creating “a fuckin’ army inside an army,” adding: “You know what I’m saying, Frankie? I saw that shit and I don’t need that shit.” 

Gotti’s effort to rewrite history soon came back to haunt him.

At a pretrial hearing following the arrests of Gotti, Gravano and Locascio, prosecutors played the FBI’s tapes of Gotti’s unintended confessions—including his badmouthing of Gravano. 

Gravano suddenly realized that his future in the Mafia was nil. 

Gravano, Gotti and Locascio were all facing life imprisonment as targets of RICO—the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

And if the Feds didn’t send him to prison, mob gunmen—sent by Gotti—would eventually get him. Gotti clearly planned to make him the fall guy—in court or in a coffin—for murders that Gotti himself had ordered

Only John Gotti was shocked when Gravano agreed to testify against him—and other Mafiosi—in exchange for a five-year prison sentence.

Gravano, as Gotti’s second-in-command, had literally been at the seat of power for five years.  He knew the secrets of the Gambino Family—and the other four Mafia families who ruled New York.

On April 2, 1992, a jury convicted Gotti of five murders, conspiracy to murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. He drew a life sentence, without possibility of parole.  

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, in virtual solitary confinement. He died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61.    

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit: In his greed, arrogance, egomania, love of publicity and vindictiveness. 

So far, he has survived his lifelong hubris.  But he may not survive his lifelong dedication to “looking out for Number One.”

TEFLON DON, MEET TEFLON PRESIDENT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 5, 2018 at 12:02 am

In August 1983, two members of John Gotti’s “crew” were arrested for dealing heroin.

Paul Castellano, the most powerful Mafia boss in the nation, had continued the Gambino Family’s longtime “deal and die” policy against trafficking in narcotics. Castellano threatened to “whack” Gotti and his entire crew. 

For Gotti, it was literally a case of kill-or-be-killed. 

On December 16, 1985, four gunmen, wearing white trench coats and black Cossack Diplomat hats, shot Castellano as he exited his car to enter Sparks Steakhouse in downtown Manhattan. With him died his underboss, or second-in-command, Thomas Bilotti.

Gotti and his closest associates pretended they didn’t know who ordered the execution. But nearly all of the Family’s capos knew it was Gotti. Gotti assumed the position of “acting boss,” but nobody dared challenge his leadership.  

Suddenly, Gotti burst into the public’s consciousness. He swaggered down streets, gave impromptu press conferences to reporters, partied at discos and nightclubs. He delighted in being approached by average citizens on streets and in restaurants. 

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John Gotti

Old-style Mafia bosses like Carlo Gambino had carefully avoided publicity. During the 1950s, newspapers didn’t have photos of Gambino in their files. 

Gotti moved his headquarters from Queens to the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan. Like a king holding court, Gotti ordered all of his captains to report to him at the Ravenite once a week. Word quickly reached the FBI—and agents in vans shot video as they staked out Prince Street.

Gotti handed the FBI a mob organization chart. 

Like other mobsters, he often found himself under indictment. Unlike other mobsters, he didn’t claim physical infirmity to avoid prison. He claimed he was a victim of anti-Italian prejudice. He taunted the FBI agents he knew were stalking him.

He swaggered into courtrooms and smirked as his attorney, Bruce Cutler, viciously attacked the prosecution’s witnesses. And he emerged victorious in three high-profile trials in a row.

Local and Federal prosecutors didn’t realize his secret: Jury tampering and witness intimidation.

The press dubbed him “The Teflon Don.”  

In 1989, the FBI planted a hidden microphone in an apartment above the Ravenite where Gotti held his secret meetings. Tape recorders were running when he bragged that he had ordered three murders—and was running a criminal enterprise: The Gambino Mafia Family.

When he wasn’t bragging, he was badmouthing virtually everyone—past and present—in the Mafia: Paul Castellano, Carlo Gambino, Vincent “The Chins” Gigante. And, most fatally, his own underboss: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.

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Sammy Gravano

Gotti charged that Gravano was too greedy—and tried to frame him for the murders of three Mafiosi Gotti had ordered hit.

On December 11, 1990, FBI agents and NYPD detectives raided the Ravenite, arresting Gotti and Gravano. At a pretrial hearing, prosecutors played the FBI’s tapes of Gotti’s unintended confessions—including his badmouthing of Gravano. 

Gravano, enraged, agreed to testify against Gotti and other Mafiosi in exchange for a five-year prison sentence. 

On April 2, 1992, a jury convicted Gotti of five murders, conspiracy to murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. He drew a life sentence, without possibility of parole.  

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, in virtual solitary confinement. In 1998, he was diagnosed with throat cancer.  He died on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61. 

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit:   

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Donald Trump

  • He craves publicity like a drug.
  • His egomania long ago reached psychotic heights: In a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine, he offered his worldview: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” 
  • He impulsively and brutally badmouths virtually everyone—in press conferences and on Twitter. 
  • He brags constantly—about his wealth, his intelligence, his sexual prowess, his achievements: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”  
  • He has bought his way out of legal trouble: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from him while her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. After Bondi dropped the case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 
  • He repeatedly threatens violence against his opponents: On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, “I think you’d have riots….I think bad things would happen.” 
  • Although not a member of the Mafia, he has often been linked—directly or indirectly—to men who are, such as “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.
  • He prizes being seen as a tough guy: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” At a Las Vegas rally in 2016, he said about a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
  • He has no loyalty to anyone: In April, 2018, his longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, came under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law. Trump’s reaction: Cohen handled  only a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of Trump’s overall legal affairs.

History still waits to learn if the hubris that struck down John Gotti will overtake Donald Trump.

TEFLON DON, MEET TEFLON PRESIDENT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2018 at 1:08 am

He was tall, broad-shouldered and bushy-haired.  He spoke in a heavily New York-accented voice, and his speech was often laced with crudities and obscenities.

He loved to strut in public, wearing $2,000 custom-made suits, and surrounded by a phalanx of tough-looking bodyguards. He loved being noticed, especially in restaurants and discos, by “my public.”  Making the cover of Time magazine was probably the greatest thrill of his life.

And he loved to brag: He was the toughest, the smartest, the guy nobody dared cross.  And when he wasn’t bragging about himself, he was disparaging even his closest associates.

He was rumored to be implicated in a long string of felonies. He knew the FBI was watching him. But he continually met openly with his cronies at the same place—a social club in Little Italy. 

He ordered his subordinates to be extremely cautious when they talked on the phone. But he totally ignored his own advice—and created a litany of incriminating tapes that would destroy him.

No, he wasn’t Donald Trump.

He was John Gotti, once the boss of the most powerful crime family in America.

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John Gotti’s 1990 mugshot

And he shared more than a few striking similarities with Donald Trump—another New Yorker who has since become President of the United States.

Like Trump, Gotti spent a good portion of his time in court—although Trump’s 3,500 lawsuits (filed by and against him) completely dwarf Gotti’s four high-profile trials.

Like Trump, he seemed invincible in court: He won three of those legal confrontations—and thus earned the nickname, “The Teflon Don.”

And, like Trump, he loved to taunt the FBI agents he knew were stalking him. After each court victory he gave a press conference, claiming he had been framed by FBI agents who hated Italians.

Warned to knock it off, to show humility instead of arrogance, Gotti told his would-be protectors to go to hell. He wasn’t going to be anything but what he was.

Years afterward, the FBI learned the reason for the Teflon: Gotti had used jury tampering and witness intimidation to beat the rap.  

It was the fourth trial that did him in—and sent him away for life.

Unlike Trump, he wasn’t born into a wealthy family, with a father who gave him $200 million to start his own real estate business. Instead, he grew up in poverty, resenting a father who worked as a day laborer and liked to gamble. 

He was born on October 27, 1940—almost six years before Trump (June 14, 1946). He turned to crime at the age of 12, working with street gangs affiliated with the New York City Mafia. By 1966 he had been jailed twice.

He hijacked trucks at John F. Kennedy Airport.  Arrested three times for hijacking, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years at Pennsylvania’s Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary.

Paroled in 1972, Gotti’s big break came in 1973.  Emanuel Gambino, the nephew of the Mafia’s “Boss of all Bosses” Carlo Gambino, was kidnapped and murdered. Gambino sent a trio of hitmen—one of them Gotti—after the culprit: James McBratney. Although not the actual killer, Gotti was identified by eyewitnesses as a participant.  

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Carlo Gambino

Through a plea bargain arranged by attorney Roy Cohn, Gotti received a four-year prison sentence for attempted manslaughter. 

Cohn had earned an infamous reputation as chief counsel for Red-baiting Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s. After leaving government service in 1954, Cohn went into private practice. Among his clients: Mafia bosses “Fat Tony” Salerno and Carmine Galante—and real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Released from prison in July, 1977, after only two years, Gotti finally received his dream gift: He was fully initiated as a “made man” into the Gambino Family. 

Gambino himself had died of natural causes in 1976, and was now succeeded by his son-in-law, Paul “Big Paul” Castellano.

Gambino had represented the “old-school” Mafia: Men who shunned publicity like the plague and cultivated the image of a harmless small businessman. Although he had ordered his “soldiers” to steer clear of the drug trade, which brought too much heat, Gambino reaped millions from loansharking, extortion, hijacking, bookmaking and labor racketeering.

Castellano sought to “legitimize” the Mafia by moving it into legitimate business. He launched Dial Poultry, a poultry distribution business that once supplied 300 butchers in New York City. He profited as well by supplying construction concrete. No one could pour concrete for a project worth more than $2 million without the approval from the “Concrete Club”—a mob-controlled enterprise. 

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Paul Castellano

“Big Paul,” who had never “whacked” anyone, didn’t see himself as a gangster. He liked socializing with bankers and even once told his maid (with whom he was having an extramarital affair) that “I could even do a favor for a President.”

John Gotti, by contrast, was neither publicity-shy like Gambino nor seeking to enter the legitimate business world like Castellano. There was no point, he reasoned, in being a gangster if you weren’t going to act like one. 

For Gotti, those two traits—his love of publicity and desire to be “a real gangster”—would prove a fatal combination.

SCREEN CRIMINALS AND REAL ONES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on January 21, 2016 at 12:01 am

Sean Penn is not the first celebrity to “get close to” a gangster.

Singer Frank Sinatra set the standard as far back as the 1940s when he was often seen in the company of notorious Mafiosi such as Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Willie Moretti.

(It was Moretti who is rumored to have freed Sinatra from his financially-limiting contract with bandleader Tommy Dorsey in the early 1940s.  

His alleged method of persuasion: Jamming a pistol down Dorsey’s throat and threatening to kill him.  Dorsey eventually sold the contract to Sinatra for one dollar.

But the mobster whom Sinatra was most-often linked with–by gossip and FBI reports–was Sam “Mooney” Giancana.

Giancana started out as a “wheelman” and enforcer for the teenage “42 Gang,” then joined the Chicago mob in the late 1930s. By 1957 he had been appointed its boss.

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Sam Giancana

Sinatra often partied with Giancana, both in nightclubs and at his own residence in Palm Springs, California.

In December, 1959, financier Joseph P. Kennedy summoned Sinatra to the family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. His son, Senator John F. Kennedy, was planning to run for President in 1960. And the elder Kennedy wanted Sinatra’s help.

Sinatra and the Senator were by now well-acquainted.  They shared a taste for gossip, nightclubs and beautiful women.

According to Sinatra’s daughter, Tina, the Kennedy patriarch said: “I think that you can help [the campaign] in [the] West Virginia [primary] and Illinois [in the general election] with our friends.

“You understand, Frank, I can’t go. They’re my friends, too, but I can’t approach them.  But you can.”

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Frank Sinatra

By “our friends,” Kennedy meant the Mafia. Joseph P. Kennedy had done business with the mob as a bootlegger during Prohibition.

Now he wanted the Mafia to pressure local union members into voting for JFK–and making contributions to the Kennedy Presidential campaign.

Sinatra went to his friend, Sam Giancana, and asked for the mob’s support.  And Giancana promised to deliver it.

In return, Giancana–and other mobsters–expected to win an ally in the White House. He was later overheard on an FBI wiretap saying he had been promised by Sinatra that “if I even got a traffic ticket, none of those fuckers [the FBI] would know me.”

Since 1959, Giancana and other “Top Hoodlum” mobsters had been under increasingly heavy FBI surveillance. Giancana wanted it stopped.

And Sinatra had assured him that, under a Kennedy Presidency, it would stop.

On Election Night, 1960, John F. Kennedy carried Illinois–and won the White House by a mere 120,000 votes nationwide.

Then, to the horror of the Mafia, JFK installed his brother, Robert Francis Kennedy, as Attorney General. From 1957 to 1959, RFK had pursued gangsters as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee. 

Now he declared all-out war on organized crime.  Convictions against organized crime figures rose 800% during his four years in office.

 Robert F. Kennedy

Sinatra tried to deliver for Giancana.  He sent Peter Lawford–his Rat Pack pal and brother-in-law to the President–to talk with Robert Kennedy about laying off on the Mafia don.

Kennedy told Lawford to mind his own business.

Giancana came under even greater pressure.  FBI agents put a 24-hour “lockstep” surveillance on him, following him even into church and restrooms.

“I was on the road with this broad,” Giancana raged to his murderous associate, Johnny Formosa. “There must have been 20 guys [FBI agents].  They were next door, upstairs, downstairs, surrounded all the way around!

“Get in a car, somebody picks you up  I lose that tail–boom!–I get picked up someplace else!  Four or five cars, back and forth, back and forth.”

In another exchange with Formosa, Giancana’s anger at Sinatra boiled over:

“The last time I talked to [Sinatra] was at the hotel in Florida.  And he said, ‘Don’t worry about it.  If I can’t talk to the old man [Joseph P. Kennedy] I’m going to talk to the man [President Kennedy].’

“One minute he says he’s talked to Robert, and the next minute he says he hasn’t talked to him.  So he never did talk to him.”

Formosa suggested a remedy: “Let’s show ’em.  Let’s show those fuckin’ Hollywood fruitcakes that they can’t get away with it as if nothin’s happened.

“Let’s hit Sinatra.  Or I could whack out a couple of those other guys, Lawford and that [Dean] Martin.  And I could take the nigger [Sammy Davis, Jr.] and put his other eye out.”

Giancana refused to issue the contract. But he seriously considered doing so, as he confessed to a Chicago associate named Tommy DiBella:

“One night I’m fucking Phyllis [McGuire, a member of the famous McGuire sisters trio], playing Sinatra songs in the background, and the whole time I’m thinking to myself, ‘Christ, how can I silence that voice?’

“It’s the most beautiful voice in the world. Frank’s lucky he’s got it.  It saved his life.”

Sinatra’s Rat Pack “pally,” Dean Martin, summed it up: “Only Frank could get away with the shit he’s got away with. Only Frank. Anybody else would’ve been dead.”

Sinatra survived the murderous anger of a mob boss.  It remains to be seen if Sean Penn can do the same.

SCREEN CRIMINALS AND REAL ONES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement on January 20, 2016 at 12:02 am

Actor Sean Penn believes the Mexican Government wants to put him at risk by convincing Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman that Penn played a role—deliberately or negligently—in his capture.

“We know the Mexican government, they clearly were humiliated by the notion that someone found him before they did,” Penn told interviewer Charlie Rose.

“Nobody found him before they did.  We are not smarter than the DEA, or Mexican Intelligence.  We had a contact upon which we were able to facilitate an invitation.”

By “we” Penn meant himself and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who had actually arranged the meeting.

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 Actress Kate del Castillo

“They wanted to encourage the cartel to put you in their crosshairs?” Rose asked.

“Yes,” Penn answered.

This is entirely possible.  Guzman’s escape from a “maximum security” prison in July, 2015, had proved internationally embarrassing for the Mexican Government

Even more embarrassing: He escaped through a mile-long tunnel that literally led to his cell.  Almost certainly this happened with the collusion of some prison guards.

Penn–and del Castillo–could face dangers from at least three groups.

Danger #1: El Chapo

Already there is evidence that “El Chapo” regrets having given an interview to Penn and del Castillo in the Mexican jungle on October 2, 2015.

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Sean Penn

Published in Rolling Stone on January 9, the article contained such Guzman boasts as:

“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anyone else in the world.  I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

Juan Pablo Badillo, one of Guzman’s attorneys, has since claimed that the article contains falsehoods:

“It’s a lie, absurd speculation from Mr. Penn. Mr. Penn should be called to testify to respond about the stupidities he has said.

“He [Guzman] could not have made these claims. Mr. Guzman is a very serious man, very intelligent.”

This could spell danger for Penn and del Castillo. Guzman is responsible for the deaths of thousands of rivals, journalists and police.

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Among the witnesses to the drug cartels’ savagery is Michael Levine, a 25-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the author of Deep Cover: Mexican Government Drug Corruption From the Inside.

“Depending on what the cartels and/or the many corrupt Mexican cops and Mexican government officials believe El Chapo divulged during the interview, Penn, and whomever else was present, may be in more physical danger than he could ever imagine,” said Levine.

An anonymous law enforcement official said that not only could Penn be in danger, but so could his entire family.

“It won’t happen now.  They [the cartels] wait.  Him or people close to him are in danger.  They don’t single out the one person.  They go for the person’s family.

“He poked his head into a nest of vipers with an amazing global reach. He was a fool.  As public as Penn is, he will be a sitting duck.”

Danger #2: Guzman’s Competitors in the Drug Trade

“The problem with dealing with someone like Guzman on this personal basis, where one is perceived as a ‘friend’ or an aide or a business partner of sorts to Chapo, is that you have to be prepared to inherit all his enemies, and there are many,” warned Michael Levine.

“These are some very kill-crazy people. The notoriety gained by killing someone like Penn or even del Castillo will actually turn these bastards on.

“It’s a step into the dark world of the kill crazies.  Believe me it is there, and unwittingly these two may have stepped into a world where there is an actual competition to kill them,” said Levine, who has dealt face-to-face with Latin American drug lords.

Danger #3: Wannabe Cartel Members

Countless men–in Mexico and the United States–would love to “do El Chapo a favor” by gunning down Penn and/or del Castillo.

This could happen even if Guzman harbors no ill will toward either.  It would be enough for someone to simply believe that he did.

An additional motive: The fame–or infamy–that the assassin of a “big celebrity” like Penn would receive.  John Lennon died at the hands of such a fame-obsessed, psychotic gunman.

This means that literally anyone could be a potential assassin–making it that much harder to defend against.

When clients enter the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program, they are quickly asked: “Who do you think poses the biggest threat to you?”

Deputy U.S. marshals, who operate the program, assume that a witness is the best judge of who poses the greatest danger to him.

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Witness Security Program protection detail

This works well when a witness is unknown and testifying against someone who is equally unknown to the public.

But when a witness is notorious–such as Sammy “The Bull” Gravano–and the defendant is equally infamous–such as John Gotti–all bets are off.

Of course, Federally-protected witnesses have two advantages going for them that Penn and del Castillo do not:

First, they are protected by the U.S. Marshals Service, which has an excellent track record in protecting its charges; and

Second, they are expected to assume a low profile, which serves as their best protection.

Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo aren’t Federally-protected witnesses. And they’re unlikely to assume a low profile by going into hiding.

SCREEN CRIMINALS AND REAL ONES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement on January 19, 2016 at 1:25 am

Actor Sean Penn is used to being a tough guy–onscreen.  

In 2006, he played real-life mobster Mickey Cohen (1913 – 1976) in Gangster Squad.  And in 2013, he played Willie Stark, a corrupt, Huey Long-type Southern governor in a remake of All the King’s Men.

As Cohen, Penn put out contracts on his enemies and even went mano-o-mano in a long-running (and fictional) fistfight with an LAPD detective.

And as Stark, he clawed his way to power and bullied both his enemies and his supporters.

Perhaps Penn should have paid more attention to the way those movies ended.

Sean Penn by Sachyn Mital (cropped).jpg

Sean Penn

Mickey Cohen goes to prison, where he is brutally waylaid by other inmates.

And Willie Stark, at the height of his power, is shot by a longtime enemy.

Had he thought about it, he might have decided it could be a mistake to meet with Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman, the notorious Mexican drug lord.

On October 2, 2015, Penn met with Guzman in an undisclosed location in the Mexican jungle.  He was there to interview him on behalf of Rolling Stone magazine. 

Guzman wanted a movie made about him.  So he had reached out to Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, asking her to meet with him to discuss such a project.  She, in turn, referred him to Penn, whom Guzman said could come along for the meeting.

Penn had his own agenda: To write an article for Rolling Stone whose “purpose [would] contribute to this conversation on the war on drugs.”

Three months later, on January 8, 2016, Mexican Marines and Federal Police launched an early-morning raid on a house in Los Mochis, in northern Sinaloa, where Guzman’s drug cartel operated.

The Marines expected to find Guzman there, and they did–ending his almost six-month flight after escaping from prison in July.  

One day after Guzman’s capture, Rolling Stone published Penn’s 10,000-word article.  

Penn had not been allowed to bring a tape recorder or even take notes with pen and paper.  So he had been forced to memorize as much of Guzman’s tale as he could.

Penn seemed to be enraptured by Guzman:

“There is no doubt this is the real deal. He’s wearing a casual patterned silk shirt, pressed black pants, and he appears remarkably well-groomed and healthy for a man on the run.  

“He opens [actress Kate del Castillo’s] [car} doorand greets her like a daughter returning from college.  

“It seems important to him to express the warm affection in person that, until now, he’d only had occasion to communicate from afar.”  

Even so, Penn quoted Guzman as bragging: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world.  I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo Guzmán.jpg

 Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

After the interview’s publication, Penn came under fire for having allowed Guzman to approve the article.  He claimed that, despite this, Guzman had not asked for any changes.  

He also drew sharp criticism for having used his status as a movie star to play the part of a reporter.  

But worse was to come.  

Shortly after the capture of “El Chapo,” Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez “credited” Penn with having played a vital role in the capture of the drug kingpin.  

The meeting between Penn, Castillo and Guzman “was an essential element, because we were following [Guzman’s] lawyer, and the lawyer took us to these people and to this meeting.”  

Suddenly, American experts on Mexican organized crime cartels began seeing Sean Penn in a new light–that of a movie star with a big target on his chest and back.

Suppose Guzman began suspecting that Penn had deliberately led Mexican authorities to him?  Or that he had done so even accidentally, through negligence in how he had traveled?

“These cartels are very violent, they do not forgive any transgression and they will respond in a most violent manner,” said Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“These are people who have been dismembered, who have decapitated individuals.  So killing Sean Penn and del Castillo means absolutely nothing to them.”

Vigil believed it was careless for the Mexican Government to publicize any ties between the Penn meeting and Guzman’s arrest:

“If Chapo Guzman perceives that they cooperated with authorities in his capture, [the cartel] will go after them.”

He argued that the risk is likely likely for del Castillo because she was the one in contact with Guzman.

She was the one whom Guzman’s associates supplied with a Blackberry–the phone they believed most secure.  And it was her and Guzman’s flirtatious exchanges that led to the meeting in the jungle with Sean Pean.

“Apart from that, [del Castillo] is originally from Mexico, she has all of her family in Mexico.  One of the traditional violent methods [the cartels] use is if they can’t get to the target, they’ll go after their family members.

“If I were Kate del Castillo, I would run like the wind.”

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