Browsing: Corruption

Saul Kassin, one of the rabbis nabbed in New York

​While this case isn’t as weird as the recent case involving money laundering rabbis in New York and New Jersey, there does seem to be a small problem with corruption in the rabbinical ranks.

Last week, police in Cleveland took down a massive mortgage fraud ring that involved 41 people, 453 homes and $44 million in fraudulent loans. It may well be the largest mortgage fraud case in U.S. history. But while this tends to be a common crime in Cleveland — the city long led the league in mortgage schemes before they became fashionable on the coasts — it was the way alleged ringleader Uri Gofman secreted away his money that raises attention.

Prosecutors contend Gofman’s scam took in a sweet $31 million in profits. And that money was apparently deposited in European banks by a Ukrainian rabbi, who would fly in and out of Cleveland on the same day carrying large piles of loot. In related news, it is not believed that the rabbi is currently upholding any vow of poverty.

Sheriff Danny Presgraves, sexual harasser extraordinaire

​Longtime Page County, Virginia Sheriff Daniel Presgraves has pleaded guilty to racketeering. But based on his original indictment, which carried maximum penalties of 300 years in a federal slam, he probably got off easy. The evidence against him seemed overwhelming.

It began with a tip that Presgraves was taking kickbacks from a cockfighting ring. Under the agreement, the sheriff wouldn’t arrest the ringleaders and would tip them off if another law enforcement agency was planning a raid.

The sheriff was also accused of doing the same thing for an unnamed company facing legal problems. According to the feds, Presgraves deposited more than $100,000 in cash in his checking account from 2001 until 2004.

Prosecutors further accused the sheriff of ripping off his own department. They say he withheld depositing a $39,000 payment from the U.S. Customs Service, and $47,000 from the company operating pay phones in the Page County Jail. And this was just the beginning of his crimes…

Jim Traficant.jpg
Traficant escaped charges of felonious use of a hairpiece

​No one can compete with New Jersey when it comes to corruption. (State motto: I Don’t Know How That Grocery Bag Filled With Unmarked Bills Got In My Trunk!) But if nothing else, Ohio is still hoping to land a wild card seed in the playoffs. That’s the only way to explain the 1,000 tickets sold for the Jim Traficant Appreciation Dinner scheduled for Sept. 6, four days after the ex-congressman is released from federal prison.

When we last left the Youngstown Democrat, he was being sentenced to seven years in the slam for shaking down his constituents in return for favors, which resulted in a conviction for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. He somehow managed to escape prosecution for felonious use of a hairpiece.

Only 200 tickets remain for the feat of this illustrious con. As the Youngstown Vindicator lovingly writes, “All partygoers are invited to dress Jimbo-style. But if you don’t own
skinny ties, bell-bottom pants and denim suits — all Traficant
trademark clothes — the dress is casual.”

In related news, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers — a Cleveland Indians Single-A baseball team — had also planned a Jim Traficant Release Night promotion. But that was canceled after the team received 100 calls and emails complained about the event.

The FBI’s notion of what Whitey Bulger looks like today

​The FBI is still on the hunt for Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger more than a decade after he fled the city before he could be charged on 19 counts of murder, money laundering, and drug trafficking. The agency has released new age-enhanced photos that hopefully depict what he now looks like on the verge of turning 80.

Bulger, the basis for Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed, ran the Irish faction of the Boston mob while serving as an FBI informant, ratting out Italian rivals to diminish the competition. He became close to his FBI handler, John Connolly Jr., who tipped Bulger off before he could be arrested, allowing him to bolt town with his girlfriend, Catherine Greig. (Connolly is currently serving a 10-year sentence.)

Bulger was last seen in London in 2002. The FBI believes he has money stashed in banks around the world, funding his life on the lam. Though there’s been a flurry of recent sightings in Florida, he’s also thought to have traveled from Ireland to South America.

If you happen to see the guy, it’ll be worth your time to call the FBI. There’s a $2 million reward for his arrest.

John Gotti not long before his death

​Popular opinion says the Mafia is no more — or at least not what it was in its heyday. That theory says it’s been reduced to a collection of informants, poseurs, and expired HBO shows. But the New York Daily News makes an argument that it’s alive and well, reincarnated for a changing economy.

Though the mob has lost juice in its traditional fields of union racketeering, construction and garbage, it’s making up for that by basically following the criminality of Wall Street. The paper points to scams involving hedge funds, mortgage securities, and house-flipping. Mobsters are also heavy players on the web, running porn and off-shore gambling sites, not to mention swiping credit card numbers.

One member of the Gambino Family even owns an energy drink company called American Blast, presumably used to launder money.

The difference with today’s mob is that it’s not composed of preening sociopaths like John Gotti Era. These days, it’s less violent, more quiet, and quicker to commit mortgage fraud than hijack a truck.

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