Friday, July 6, 2007

Police battle gangs in Kenya

Police in the African nation of Kenya are battling politically linked organized criminal groups, according to recent press accounts.

A report from Nairobi yesterday indicated that police had killed 10 suspects in shootouts within the capital city. Three suspected gang members were shot to death in the Ngon'g district. Police ordered the three to stop, but instead they opened fire. The remaining fatalities occurred in the Huruma, Gachie and Kayole neighborhoods within Nairobi.

Police are tangling with the fundamentalist religious Mungiki sect, which has been officially banned. That group is charged with committing more than 40 murders since March. A dozen of the murders have involved beheadings. The Mungiki had been a religious order known for its rejection of western civilization. It has reportedly deteriorated into a politically motivated criminal organization advancing itself and its aims through murder and extortion.

LA grocer charged with racketeering

George Torres, owner of a chain of Numero Uno groceries in Los Angeles, pleaded not guilty this week to federal racketeering charges, according to an AP story by Andrew Glazer published in the Monterey Herald.

Federal prosecutors say Torres, 50, murdered rivals, intimidated employees and bribed public officials as he expanded his supermarket chain in poor L.A. neighborhoods. Among his alleged victims are a member of the Primera Flats street gang who was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1993 in retaliation for the murder of a Numero Uno security guard, a Mexican Mafia gangster who was shot to death in 1994 after attempting to extort protection money from a Numero Uno market, and a Torres employee who met his end after Torres decided he was stealing large amounts of money from the business.

Charged along with Torres in a 59-count indictment were his brother Manuel Torres-Ramos, 53; his son Steven Torres, 26; L.A. Convention and Exhibition Center Authority Commission member George Luk, 58; and former L.A. planning commission member Steven Carmona, 39. All pleaded not guilty.

Torres was initially arrested June 13. A trial date has been tentatively set for Aug. 7.

Judge asks that federal prosecutor be punished

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf of Boston's federal court is seeking a disciplinary hearing for federal prosecutor Jeffrey Auerhahn for withholding evidence in a New England Mafia trial, according to an AP report published on

Auerhahn reportedly failed in the early 1990s to tell defense attorneys for accused killer Vincent Ferrara that a key witness had recanted a statement linking Ferrara with the 1985 murder of Vincent "Jimmy" Limoli.

When Judge Wolf learned of Auerhahn's actions in 2005, he freed Ferrara, who was serving a 22-year prison sentence. Now the judge wants Auerhahn to receive more than the letter of reprimand he was given by the Justice Department. The judge asked the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers to conduct a disciplinary hearing. That board has the power to disbar an attorney.

Chicago 'Family Secrets' trial

Trial updates:

- Roy L. McDaniel, a retired FBI fingerprint analyst, testified that reputed crime boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo's fingerprint was found on a car title document for a vehicle used by the 1974 killers of Daniel Seifert, according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times. Seifert was set to testify that Lombardo was stealing funds from a Teamsters Union pension fund.

- Ronald Seifert, brother of murdered Daniel Seifert, testified that Daniel's wife told him she suspected Lombardo's involvement in the murder, according to Sun-Times coverage. Emma Seifert earlier testified that she was able to identify Lombardo among her husband's masked assassins by his build and his stride. Defense attorneys pointed out that she did not reveal her suspicion to police investigating the murder. She responded that she remained silent out of fear for her family. Ronald Seifert said Emma told him of her suspicions on the day of Daniel's death.

- Joel Glickman, an acknowledged bookmaker, refused to testify against defendant Frank Calabrese Sr. on July 2 despite a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to stories by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times and Jeff Coen of the Chicago Tribune. Glickman, 71, was asked if he had paid a "street tax" to Calabrese. He responded "I respectfully refuse to testify." Judge James Zagel found Glickman in contempt and sent him to lockup. He is expected to spend at least the duration of the trial behind bars. Prosecutors expected Glickman to testify that he paid between $1,300 and $2,000 a month for permission to run his gambling operation.

- Jim Stolfe, owner of Chicago's Connie's Pizza chain, testified Tuesday that he was approached in the early 1980s with a demand for a $300,000 "street tax," according to a video report by John Drummond of CBS-2 in Chicago. When Stolfe approached Frank Calabrese Sr. with the problem, Calabrese arranged for Stolfe to pay $100,000 instead. Later, he realized that Calabrese was behind the extortion racket.

- On Tuesday, Frank Calabrese Jr. (above) took the stand and began testifying against his father, a reputed bigshot of the Chicago Outfit., according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times. The younger Calabrese recalled being caught after stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his father's underworld enterprises. Frank Sr. "pulled out a gun, and he stuck it in my face and told me, 'I'd rather have you dead than disobey me.'" Frank Jr. recalled going out with his father and his uncle Nick Calabrese on collections, and he testified that his father had him set fire to a garage. The theft from his father was in support of a cocaine habit, Frank Jr. revealed on the stand.

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Brooklyn DA goes after freed racketeers

The New York State Court of Appeals has cleared the way for the Kings County District Attorney to bring charges against two alleged Genovese Crime Family associates who were tried and convicted for similar offenses in federal court, according to a story by Alex Ginsberg of the New York Post.
At the end of June, the court ruled that Carmine Polito and Mario Fortunato (right) could be tried in state court for the alleged hired killing of a man in 1994. The two men were charged with the specific killing in a federal racketeering trial. Their conviction was later thrown out because the murder was said to have been a personal matter, rather than an organizational one.
The court decided that no double-jeopardy violation would occur through state charges.

Cuba: U.S. still out to get Castro

The Cuban parliament insists that the U.S. continues to seek the end of its communist President Fidel Castro, according to an AP story by Will Weissert published on

In the wake of the release of anti-Castro documents by the CIA in June, the parliament condemned combined CIA-Mafia assassination attempts and insisted the U.S. policy has carried on to the present day. "The conduct of the Bush government clearly shows its intention to keep employing the worst possible tactics against Cuba," a resolution said.

In 1960, the CIA reached out to American mobsters for help getting rid of the communist president. Johnny Roselli, linked to the Chicago Outfit, was a key player. Poison pills were settled on as the method of assassination. The efforts reportedly ended after the failure of the Bay of Pigs mission in spring of 1961. Official U.S. involvement in assassination was outlawed in the 1970s.

Castro, 80, has not made a public appearance since last summer, when he established his brother Raul Castro as temporary leader of the government and underwent surgery to repair an intestinal problem.

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Writer, editor, researcher, web publisher, specializing in organized crime history. (I am available to assist with your historical/genealogical research, as well as your writing and editing chores. Email me at
I am editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer; publisher of American Mafia history website; moderator of Mafia-related online forums; author of Wrongly Executed?; coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime; contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime; writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.