Tag Archives: organized crime

How the Italian mafia’s top mobsters used a five-year-old girl to smuggle secret notes after taking her out for ice cream

  • Matteo Messina Denaro, head of the Sicilian mafia, is Italy’s most wanted
  • He and his right hand man used Attilio Fogazza’s daughter to run memos
  • Notes were shoved in the five-year-old’s backpack and jacket after gelato
  • Cosa Nostra kingpin Messina Denaro on the run for more than 20 years  

Italy’s most wanted mobster used a five-year-old girl to run secret messages for him, a mafia informant has revealed.

Head of Sicily’s Cosa Nostra Matteo Messina Denaro used Attilio Fogazza’s young daughter to carry handwritten notes between himself and other mafia top dogs.

Kingpin Denaro has not been seen in public for 20 years, and is considered in the top 10 most wanted men in the world.

Fogazza, who himself is on a murder charge, said Messina Denaro’s second-in-command Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Scimonelli approached his daughter to run the memos, known as ‘pizzini’.

The right-hand man had taken his daughter for an ice cream and put the messages inside her jacket and backpack.

The daughter and the rest of Fogazza’s family have been living in a secret location under police protection while he co-operates with the prosecutors as they attempt to bring down the ‘boss of bosses’ in the Italian mafia scene.

Fogazza, 44, ran a car dealership in south-western Sicily and decided to collaborate with Palermo investigators after he was arrested last December for the murder of Salvatore Lombardo in 2009 who was killed after he stole a van from Scimonelli.

“One day my daughter said ‘Uncle Mimmo’ had taken her for a gelato and put the messages inside her jacket and her backpack,” Fogazza told prosecutors in Palermo according to Italian media reports.

Last year, a Palermo judge sentenced six men including Scimonelli from the hierarchy of the Cosa Nostra – meaning ‘Our Thing’ – to a total of 80 years in prison for racketeering, conspiracy and aiding and abetting the mafia.

Head honcho Messina Denaro, 54, has not been seen in public since the early 90s, but a new e-fit was created in 2014 with the help of another informant.

He is wanted for a string of offences, and a judge found him guilty in his absence in 1993 for his part in the bomb attacks that killed 10 people in Rome, Florence and Milan.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3684773/Matteo-Messina-Denaro-head-mafia-Sicily-used-five-year-old-girl-smuggle-Cosa-Nostra-notes.html#ixzz4EBIyOjwO
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Russian mafia ‘increasingly active’ in Germany

The Russian mafia is becoming “increasingly active” in Germany, with networks recruiting in German prisons and groups bringing in billions of euros each year, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has warned.

“The Russian-Eurasian organized criminality is very dynamic” BKA President Holger Münch told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “They are already expanding in the west.”

One of the most dangerous groups, according to Münch, is the so-called ‘Thieves in law’ (Diebe im Gesetz) gang, founded in Stalin’s labour camps. The group from the former Soviet Union have their own ‘laws’ and a secret language, and is thought to be recruiting from within Germany’s prisons.

The BKA has previously linked 20,000 and 40,000 people in Germany to the group, and authorities believe that its members in Germany today represent “a five-figure number” – only rough estimates are possible due to the clandestine nature of the groups.

“Eight to ten percent of inmates in German penal facilities are Russian-speaking or of Russian origin; about 5,000 people,” explained Münch. “Not all of them are part of ‘Thieves in law’ but this figure shows the large potential for recruitment for these groups in Germany.”

The BKA President emphasized that organized crime may be operating in areas not traditionally associated with the mafia, for example apartment break-ins and shoplifting; Münch mentioned one Georgian shoplifter who had been able to earn €500 per day, and said it could be assumed “with certainty” that in 2015 criminality by these gangs had led to billions of euros worth of damages.

The mafia groups are also thought to operate in drug trafficking, tax fraud, economic offences, protection money and prostitution.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is working closely with the BKA. Münch said: “When people use the asylum process to commit crimes, care must be taken to ensure that their stay is as short as possible and that they are quickly expelled.”

Full article – http://www.thelocal.de/20160711/russian-mafia-increasingly-active-in-germany

Argentina Targets “Chinese Mafia” with Operation “Dragon’s Head”

Written by Mike LaSusa 

A joint operation by Argentine and Chinese authorities rounded up dozens of suspects with alleged ties to the “Chinese Mafia,” a move that officials described as an important blow against the criminal organization inArgentina.

In a June 13 press release, the Argentine Security Ministry announced the detention of 40 suspects in “Operation Dragon’s Head,” which was carried out by the Federal Police with the support of the Chinese police and the Chinese embassy in Argentina.

Clarín reported that 34 of the 40 suspects were undocumented Chinese immigrants. The Security Ministry said that Peruvians, Bolivians and Argentineans also belonged to the crime group. Thirty-one of those arrested have been released from custody, though they are still under investigation.

The suspects are accused of crimes that include extortion and violation of weapons and drugs laws. The Security Ministry said the operation resulted in the confiscation of 14 firearms, four vehicles, several thousand dollars in cash, and unspecified quantities of drugs and cell phones, along with computers and accounting records.

Local media reports identified the targeted organization by the name “Pixiu,” which refers to a mythical “fortune beast” from Chinese folklore. A police source described the Pixiu group to La Nación as “the biggest, most important and most violent Chinese mafia.”

Security Secretary Eugenio Burazco said the group’s leader, identified by Infobae as A Di, “has a history, and his father is the head of the mafia in China.”

According to Infobae, the Pixiu used a trade organization purporting to represent Chinese businesses in Buenos Aires province as a cover for the group’s illegal activities, which focused heavily on extorting local Chinese businesses.

The news outlet reported that the Pixiu demanded an initial fee of $50,000 from businesses seeking the group’s “protection,” and charged each business a recurring fee of about $3,600 per month. The total amount of money the group earned from its illegal activities remains unclear.

Those who refuse or fail to pay extortion fees are often targeted for violent reprisal. A recent government report linked Chinese organized crime groups to at least 37 attacks against owners and employees of Chinese businesses in Buenos Aires since 2009.

InSight Crime Analysis

Argentine officials hailed the arrest of dozens of suspects and the seizure of records related the Pixiu’s illicit business as an important blow against the group. This may be true, but according to a 2014 report, several other powerful “Chinese mafia” groups operate in Argentina, and there are several factors that complicate efforts to combat them.

Linguistic and cultural barriers can make it difficult for Argentine authorities to investigate Chinese organized crime activities. For Operation Dragon’s Head, Infobae reported, the Argentine police had to bring on a police officer from the Chinese embassy to work the case undercover. Also, Chinese immigrants — especially those without regularized migration status — are often reluctant to cooperate with local authorities on investigations of fellow Chinese.

Full Article – http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/argentina-targets-chinese-mafia-with-operation-dragons-head

Ad fraud could become the second biggest organized crime enterprise behind the drug trade

by Patrick Kulp

It may not make for a great Martin Scorsese film, but online ad fraud is growing into one of the biggest organized crime businesses in the world.

That’s according to a new report from the World Federation of Advertisers, which estimates that within the next decade, fake Internet traffic schemes will become the second-largestmarket for criminal organizations behind cocaine and opiate trafficking.

The WFA, an international marketing trade group, arrived at that projection by estimating the current pace of growth in the online ad industry and extrapolating it out over the next 10 years, assuming an accelerating rate of spending on digital media.

The stat puts in stark relief a growing problem: A huge number of online ads — more than half of them, by some accounts — never reach actual humans. Many fall victim to technical display problems, while others are viewed by networks of automated bots designed to mimic human behavior.

Even at conservative projections, the report claims, the total cost of fraud, if unchecked, could exceed $50 billion by 2025 — or one-tenth of the $500 billion the report loftily predicts the global digital ad market will be worth by then.

Researchers then compared that number to United Nations and FBI estimates of the size of other global criminal markets like human trafficking, firearms sales and natural resource smuggling.

According to the report, organized crime members and other criminals are attracted to ad fraud because it offers the prospect of higher payouts than many other criminal pursuits, at a lower risk and with relatively little effort.

The report also claims that law enforcement is not technologically equipped enough to regulate online ad space.

The WFA researchers bank their study on the assumption that ad fraud will most likely grow — either in the number of scammers or the efficiency of their technology — along with spending in digital media.

If that sounds like a lot of guesswork, it’s because illegal businesses don’t exactly keep public financial records, and the scope of the vast ad fraud underbelly is particularly nebulous.

The most widely cited authority on the matter is an annual report published by the Association of National Advertisers, which forecasts a $7.2 billion loss to fraud in 2016 — or about 5% of total spending.

But the WFA claims that the ANA report, which only covers select blue-chip American brands, may have lowballed the threat. Its own research cites various anti-fraud studies that peg the impact at anywhere between 2% and an eyebrow-raising 98%.

More of the studies (from a group of well-established publishers) come in on the lower end of that range, but the true extent of the problem is neither clear-cut nor universally agreed upon.

Part of that murk has to do with the difficulty of tracking the sources of fraud — the assortment of mobsters, former bank robbers, hackers and Russian millionaires in charge of the multibillion-dollar racket.

But cyber criminals aren’t the only ones with an interest in covering their tracks. Actors at every level of the digital ad assembly line, from publishers to agencies to advertising networks — basically everyone except for the brands actually paying for the ads — have at least some incentive to keep the problem in the dark.

“Nobody works alone in this sphere. They’re all sort of riding on each other’s backs,” says Jeremy Goldman, an attorney who specializes in technology and digital media law. “Nobody wants to take the fall and say they were the ones who hired the bad apple. It’s better to hide or push it under the rug.”

Full article – http://mashable.com/2016/06/09/ad-fraud-organized-crime/#0IBbBnRNGOqf

Drug industry hired dozens of officials from the DEA as the agency tried to curb opioid abuse

By Scott Higham, Lenny Bernstein, Steven Rich and Alice Crites

Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture or distribute highly addictive pain pills have hired dozens of officials from the top levels of the Drug Enforcement Administration during the past decade, according to a Washington Post investigation.

The hires came after the DEA launched an aggressive campaign to curb a rising opioid epidemic that has resulted in thousands of overdose deaths each year. In 2005, the DEA began to crack down on companies that were distributing inordinate numbers of pills such as oxycodone to pain-management clinics and pharmacies around the country.

Since then, the pharmaceutical companies and law firms that represent them have hired at least 42 officials from the DEA — 31 of them directly from the division responsible for regulating the industry, according to work histories compiled by The Post and interviews with current and former agency officials.

The number of hires has prompted some current and former government officials to ask whether the companies raided the division to hire away DEA officials who were architects of the agency’s enforcement campaign or were most responsible for enforcing the laws the firms were accused of violating.

“The number of employees recruited from that division points to a deliberate strategy by the pharmaceutical industry to hire people who are the biggest headaches for them,” said John Carnevale, former director of planning for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, who now runs a consulting firm. “These people understand how DEA operates, the culture around diversion and DEA’s goals, and they can advise their clients how to stay within the guidelines.”

Read Full – https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/key-officials-switch-sides-from-dea-to-pharmaceutical-industry/2016/12/22/55d2e938-c07b-11e6-b527-949c5893595e_story.html?utm_term=.a6e6664d1a03