Federal prosecutors have brought a racketeering indictment against Nine Tray Gangsters in Alexandria, VA as reported by The Associated Press: "authorities charge that the gang dealt in drugs, forced prostitution and
even counterfeit currency in multiple states, including Virginia,
Maryland and North Carolina."
Undercover agents are advised to incorporate a core part of
their real personality into their criminal persona in order to keep the true self
from getting irretrievably swallowed by the manufactured role. For Jack Garcia, the Cuban-born FBI agent who
infiltrated the Gambino family in 2002 as Jack Falcone in a two-year
investigation which resulted in the convictions of old-school capo Greg DePalma and his Westchester
County crew, the key piece of his authentic personality which he carried into the
undercover work was his good heart.
Jack Garcia chronicled his many undercover experiences over
a 26-year career with the Bureau in the 2008 memoir Making
Jack Falcone which director Stephen Soderbergh is adapting into a
movie starring Benicio Del Toro in the title role. Although Garcia descended as Falcone and
other personas into a dark world of wise guys, drug dealers and dirty officials, he
never let go of his fundamental nature as a decent guy which not only kept his
ego from fragmenting but also was an effective means in disarming the targets.
In recounting an early role as a money launderer preparing
to meet some drug dealers or "dopers" Garcia writes:
Most dopers think that anyone they
meet is going to be a tough guy, so my M.O. is to disarm them with my affable,
outgoing personality. I entered the
restaurant with a bounce in my step, as if I owned the place. I made a comment about the weather: "Man, this heat is killing me! How you doin'? How you feelin' today? What kind of food they serve here, anyway?" The dopers, expecting someone mean, are
invariably delighted to see that I am a nice guy, someone they can talk to.
The G-man's good nature also was an instrumental tool in
later landing the big prize Gambino capo Greg DePalma:
The more time I spent with DePalma,
the more confident I grew in my role. I
was accomplishing the unimaginable. I
passed myself off as an associate, a Mob guy in training, among the real wiseguys. As a result, my true personality came out
even more. I am by nature a gregarious,
fun-loving, people-loving person. I
think my nature was a large part of the reason why the Old Man took to me so
quickly. I don't know if I was ever
afraid of him. I certainly respected him
for the seriousness with which he took his responsibilities as a Gambino
capo. But as our friendship deepened, I
could do things that really expressed my true nature. I hugged him, goofed around with him, and
teased him a little bit. And I know he
loved it. I know he loved me.
Indeed, DePalma loved the undercover agent enough to propose him for membership in the crime family.
The genuinely nice Jack Garcia often was revealed through Jack Falcone in encounters with innocent civilians during the
undercover work. For example, Garcia
recounts his disgust over the roughshod treatment by the Italian mobsters of the
Hispanic staff in the restaurants, and then quietly slipping the bullied
workers a few bucks in a bid to remedy the wrong:
They love to show off by breaking balls,
by putting working people in their place.
This behavior always disgusted me.
I found it revolting and unnecessary when Mob guys addressed hardworking
Hispanic waiters and busboys, family men who were just trying to make a buck,
as if they were lower forms of life. "Hey, what are you, a Mexican
or a Mexican’t?" they might say when
the busboy failed to bring them more bread or water when they had asked for
it. Whenever I saw that happen, I'd
motion the waiter or busboy over to me – of course, when the Mob guys weren't
watching – and hand him a ten, a twenty, or sometimes a hundred, and tell him
not to worry about it, that my friend didn't mean it.
In one instance Garcia refused an offer from DePalma for a
new suit because he knew that the poor tailor would be stiffed on the bill (and
then there was the thorny matter of getting fitted while wearing a wire).
Even though Jack Garcia brought out his good side in the undercover
operations there was no doubt that his street persona – whether mob associate Jack
Falcone or Cuban drug dealer Manny -- was a bad guy, and he carried authority
and projected toughness with his imposing physical heft and big time roles. For example, after a target in one operation
was busted he agreed to cooperate in exchange for protection from Manny, and was
relieved upon learning that the supposed narco was an undercover agent: "He wasn't afraid of jail time, the state
police, the DEA, or the FBI. He was
afraid of me!" Garcia writes:
[I]t's so important for me that I
never come across as a blowhard tough guy when I'm undercover. Obviously you've got to be feared and
respected. What I aim for is to be
respected … and liked. When they like me, the fear just comes along
naturally. You start low key and kick it
up when necessary. You can't start tough and then
become mild. I always used to tell the
dopers, "Never mistake my kindness as a sign of weakness."
Good guy Jack Garcia nabbed a lot of bad guys in his
undercover years, and perhaps the most loathsome of the lot was Greg
"Old Man" DePalma who worshipped only money.
Indeed, if money is the root of all evil, then the Gambino capo was the devil. Garcia calls DePalma "a leech on society,"
and writes: "No amount of money was
enough for Greg. Mob guys are never
satisfied." The Old Man sounded like a
cold sociopath in casting his fortunes with the mob over his own family in the name
of the almighty dollar:
The reality is that these people
aren't wonderful and they aren't generous.
Greg DePalma told me over and over again that for a made man, his crime
family comes ahead of his blood family.
He told me often that if your kid was on the operating table, and he had
only ten minutes to live, and your boss called you in, you had to immediately
leave the hospital and report to him.
You could send flowers later to your kid's funeral.
Indeed, when DePalma's son Craig fell into a coma after a
botched suicide – the kid had remorse for agreeing to cooperate with the feds –
the Old Man placed him in a nursing home, and exploited the tragedy by using his
son's room as a place to hold mob meetings on the assumption that it wouldn't
Before long, Greg was holding court
for as many as eight or nine wiseguys at a time. We met and did business right in front of
Craig's body. Or we would have him
placed on a gurney so we could take him to the "garden" out back and get him
some fresh air. Craig's room became Greg's
office –it’s where he met everyone from [Arnold] Squitieri and [Anthony] Megale,
the Gambino boss and underboss, to members of his own crew including Louis
Filippelli, Robert Vaccaro, and me.
Squitieri, who never met anyone in public, came to the home one time
wearing a baseball cap and glasses. We
got a surveillance photo of him nevertheless.
This was the most distasteful and
disquieting part of my job. I couldn't stand
going to the home, but I had to do it almost every day.
DePalma said the mob came over family, and in the end he had
The feds shut down the DePalma investigation in March 2005
with 32 indictments just two years after Garcia had infiltrated the Old Man's crew. DePalma's wife did not attend his trial since
she hated him for bringing their son Craig into the life, and his mob cronies
shunned him for bringing Jack Falcone into the crew. DePalma was convicted on a racketeering
charge, and sentenced to twelve years. In
reflecting on the resolution Garcia writes:
"As far as his going away, I'm glad
about it. The world is a better place
with him behind bars. Businesses aren't
being shaken down, people aren't being slapped around – everything's
better. At least until the next guy
steps up to the plate in his place."
And there will be "the next guy."
For those who think the Mafia is in its dying days Making Jack Falcone is a wake-up
call. Garcia's infiltration into the
Gambino crime family revealed that the mob is as entrenched as ever in the New
York economy, particularly the construction industry, and there are several capos
running crews about whom the FBI was not even aware.
They'll always be bad guys, and hopefully good guys like
Jack Garcia will continue to step up to bring them down.
The case first drew widespread attention for its random brutality. It became a national story when The Chronicle reported that city juvenile-justice officials relying on San Francisco's sanctuary-city policy had twice shielded Ramos, a suspected illegal immigrant from El Salvador, from possible deportation after he committed gang-related crimes as a minor.
*** In Los Angeles, CA four defendants convicted on federal racketeering charges for their roles in the Columbia Lil Cycos clique from the 18th Street gang "which prosecutors said was an operation spanning a decade of extortion, intimidation, money laundering, drug dealing and murder, terrorizing and poisoning a neighborhood."
*** After law enforcement hobbled the Avenues gang in a northeast Los Angeles, CA neighborhood rival gangs now are seeking their revenge on the once-powerful enemy.
*** The feds bust a suspected housing projects gang in Flint, MI known as the Howard Boys a/k/a Hot Boys a/k/a Howard Block a/k/a Murda Ville: "the gangs, per court records, carried out crimes of all sorts, everything from murder and drug dealing to gun possession and racketeering.
Law enforcement officials nationwide indicate that many gangs in their jurisdictions are involved in mortgage fraud, identity theft, counterfeiting and bank fraud. These financial crimes have higher profitability and lower risk of detection from authorities than the more common criminal acts of drug dealing and weapons trafficking.
On this night in March, the county's north end was in the midst of one of its bloodiest months in recent memory. At least 30 individuals would be shot — almost all of it attributable to street gangs. Of course not all of the victims were gang members – some, like 5-year-old Mckayla Bazile – were caught in the crossfire.
*** In Dodge City, KS the feds indict 23 suspected members of the Nortenos on various charges including targeting Guatemalan immigrants for robbery "because the victims often did not use banks and tried to avoid contact with law enforcement."
*** Three federal agents shot during raid against the 500 Block/C Street gang in San Francisco, CA: "the 500 Block/C-Street gang members identify as Nortenos and are at war with Sureno gangs as well as with rival Nortenos."
Italian anti-Mafia police have arrested eight suspects in connection with a fraud ring intending to back up international financial transactions with $6 trillion in counterfeit U.S. Treasury bonds which were "stored in fake Federal Reserve security boxes in Switzerland" as reported by ANSA: "investigators said the gang may have been planning to offer the bogus bonds to investors in emerging economies or to mainstream brokers . . . 'to get a massive amount of cash.'"
Fashion designer Marc Jacobs "has been forced to cancel his much-anticipated European press day after his entire spring/ summer collection was stolen from a train bound for London" as reported by Simon Tomlinson for the Daily Mail: "as the pieces are effectively worthless because they are not yet in production, it has led to fears that counterfeiters may be involved."
*** Three suspected MS-13 members, including a 17-year-old boy, have been charged with using a machete to murder a gang rival in Elizabeth, NJ: "machetes tend to be the weapon of choice for the violent Mara Salvatrucha set."
*** The feds arrest three suspected members from Colonia Chiques gang on drug and weapon charges pursuant to an ongoing investigation in Camarillo, CA: "police said Colonia Chiques, which was formed in the 1970s, has more than 1,000 documented members and has strong ties to the Mexican Mafia prison gang."
***Street gangs increasingly turning to white collar financial crimes: "the evolving criminal schemes, which include mortgage fraud, counterfeiting, bank and credit card fraud and identity theft, are attractive because they are much less risky than traditional gang-related crimes such as murder, drug trafficking and robbery, and have the potential to yield much greater profits, according to a new national gang threat assessment from the FBI."
*** In New York City the new generation of gangbangers collectively dubbed as Young Guns eschew organized gangs for upstart crews which are "more rash, violent and dangerous than their older counterparts": "the crews . . . aren't guided by any of the codes or hierarchy of established gangs -- a deeply troubling development, cops say."
*** Two Crips members are sentenced on federal racketeering charges in Pittsburgh, PA: "the gang was responsible for robberies, attempted murders, drug trafficking, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation, prosecutors say."
The Mexican drug cartels have become full-blown organized crime organizations with military might, and they're recruiting U.S. kids as their soldiers according to a report by Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw as reported by Diana Washington Valdez for the El Paso Times: "According to the experts, the activities of Mexican criminal enterprises now include the thefts of petroleum, agricultural crops and cargo, counterfeiting and piracy, kidnapping and extortion, and import-export fraud."
Meanwhile, in Monterrey, the capital city of Nuevo Leon state about two hours south of the Texas border where Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel are battling for turf, "five youths between the ages of 17 and 20 were shot and killed early Saturday" as reported by the Latin American Herald Tribune: "the five youths had 'the look of gang members' and had each been shot multiple times." They were sprayed with "dozens of bullets from AK-47s and AR-15s" as "they ordered dinner at a highway-side hot dog stand" as reported by The Associated Press.
Europe's law enforcement agency Europol has released its 2011 Organized Crime Threat Assessment, and the report highlights the increasing use of the internet by crime groups as reported by Stephen Castle for The New York Times: "'Extensive use of the Internet,' the report says, 'now underpins illicit drug synthesis, extraction and distribution, the recruitment and marketing of victims of trafficking in human beings, the facilitation of illegal immigration, the supply of counterfeit commodities, trafficking in endangered species and many other criminal activities.'"