March 5, 2001|
Round Up The Usual Suspects
By John William Tuohy
compiled by John William Tuohy
The Magazines Network...
NEW JERSEY: Former Jersey Mob boss Ralph Natale told the feds that he was "paranoid" about being bugged and used code names when he talked on the telephone and that whenever he discussed Mafia business at his apartment, he would crank up the TV or the radio.
He also said that when he was at his "office" ... a restaurant at a racetrack -- he would whisper or take associates for a walk down the hall.
"And I was right, because I'm sitting here," he said earlier this month, in a standing-room-only crowd in the federal courtroom where he testified for the government in the corruption trial of Camden Mayor Milton Milan.
The former boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob is believed to be the highest-ranking American Mafia figure ever to turn government witness.
Natale began cooperating with prosecutors in 1999 after being charged with running a methamphetamine ring. Apparently, Natale wasn't paranoid enough: His telephone had been tapped, his kitchen, TV room and balcony were bugged, and, worst of all, a top associate had worn a wire and recorded hundreds of conversations with Natale and other mob figures.
Milan's trial is the first in which Natale testified. He is expected to take the stand in a series of trials that could put organized crime figures from Philadelphia to Boston behind bars.
During four days on the stand, Natale, 65, pleasantly explained the workings of the underworld to jurors and a gallery that included mob wives and girlfriends, FBI agents, and attorneys of former associates.
In a 1996 conversation recorded by the FBI at his apartment in Pennsauken, a city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Natale talked about beating up some guy "cause he answered me in a tone that he wasn't supposed to be doing.''
Natale told of how friends and associates would keep their distance from him to avoid overhearing any conversations. "When I always talk to anyone, being the boss of the Mafia, they would never stand too close to me,'' he said. "They would always stand 5 or 6 feet away.''
Natale detailed for jurors how, through an intermediary, he gave $30,000 to $50,000 to Milan to steer city contracts to mob-backed businesses. The bagman, Daniel Daidone, allegedly gave the money to Milan in $100 bills in white envelopes.
Natale said he wanted Milan to be beholden to him. "I wanted him to feel he had to rely on me and nobody else,'' Natale said. "If he had a headache, I would send him an aspirin.''
Under cross-examination by one of Milan's lawyers, Natale admitted involvement in nearly a dozen murders committed as retaliation, during battles for control or simply to save face.
"Failure to pay homage to you was a death sentence, correct?'' asked Carlos A. Martir, Jr.
"Correct,'' Natale answered.
Milan, 38, is accused of taking payoffs from mob figures and others seeking contracts or favorable treatment, and laundering drug money. Prosecutors are still presenting their case.
The mayor has denied the allegations and has said all along that the government "made a deal with the devil.'' After Natale took the stand, Milan said: "The devil himself came up to testify.''
NEW YORK: The leader of a violent street gang who is the subject of rap songs extolling his crimes was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of six people and drug trafficking in three states.
Peter Rollack, 26, the leader of the gang Sex, Money and Murder (SMM) pleaded guilty in January to murdering or ordering the murder of six people, attempting to murder a seventh and conspiring to kill two others who were eventually slain by members of his gang. Rollack later affiliated SMM with the nationwide Bloods prison gang.
If convicted without a plea bargain, Rollack could have faced the death penalty. Rollack had been indicted along with 10 others in 1998 for the murders and for trafficking in cocaine and crack in New York, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
The judge also sentenced Rollack to an additional 105 years in prison. As part of his sentence he will be placed in special restrictive confinement and prohibited from communicating or receiving visits from anyone other than his lawyers or family members approved by the court and the prison.
According to court papers filed by prosecutors, one of the main ways SMM obtained enormous power in a short period of time was through Rollack's reputation as a ruthless killer.
They said Rollack was imprisoned in North Carolina for ordering a Thanksgiving Day shooting in 1997 that killed two men as they played in a neighborhood football game in the Bronx. Dozens of families, some with small children, were watching the game when the murders occurred. Prosecutors said that Rollack had ordered the killing to stop one of the men from testifying against him.
Rollack and his gang have been the subject of rap songs on a 1998 compact disc by Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz, court papers said. In one song, "Sex, Money, Life or Death," a known member of the gang supposedly calls the recording artists at their studio. Another song on the album appears to be a biography of Rollack, court papers said.
Prosecutors said Rollack is also shown on T-shirts bearing Rollack's face and the words "Free Pistol Pete."
SAN FRANCISCO: Stanley Williams, a founding member of the Crips street gang who is now on San Quentin's death row has been nominated for a 2001 Nobel Peace Prize by the Swiss Parliament for his work coordinating an international nonviolence effort for at-risk youth.
Williams, now 46, and high school friend Raymond Washington created the Crips in 1971 to fight rival gangs in East Los Angeles. Washington was killed in 1979.
Williams, who was called "Big Took" on the street, was convicted of killing four people in 1981 and was sentenced to death.
He published the first of eight children's books in 1996. His latest, "Life In Prison" tells of feeling homesick and humiliated by his experience.
He has also created the Internet Project for Street Peace, which allows at-risk youths in California and South Africa to share their experiences through e-mail and chat rooms from community centers.
The Nobel Peace Prize's five-member awards committee gives no hints and never releases the names of peace prize nominees, only the number -- a record 150 this year. However, those nominating others for the award often divulge their choices in advance.
Members of national assemblies and governments, and members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union are among those persons entitled to nominate candidates.
The 2001 Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded on December 10, 2001.
LOS ANGELES: Victor Manuel Alcala Navarro, a key figure in the biggest drug money laundering investigation in U.S. history, would get nearly 23 years in prison under a plea agreement announced by federal prosecutors.
Alcala, a Mexican citizen, pleaded guilty to two new drug money laundering charges in federal court Monday. That brought to 27 the number of counts to which he has pleaded guilty since his arrest in 1998.
He was one of 100 people and three Mexican banks indicted in a two-year Customs Department investigation of money laundering by the Cali and Juarez drug cartels and their use of Mexican and Venezuelan banks.
A money launderer for the Juarez syndicate, Alcala unwittingly introduced undercover customs agents to Mexican bankers and businessmen willing to launder drug profits for a commission.
Alcala refused to cooperate with prosecutors. If a judge approves the government's recommendation at Alcala's sentencing Dec. 11, it will be the stiffest penalty meted out to date in the Operation Casablanca case.
BOSTON: A Lawrence man pled guilty today in federal court to selling two military fragmentation hand grenades to an individual posing as a member of Lawrence's Latin Gangsta Deciples street gang.
David Molloy pled guilty to a two-count indictment charging him with illegal possession of destructive devices and the illegal transfer of destructive devices.
CHICAGO: With the economy booming, many employers around the country are so desperate for workers that they are going out of their way to recruit ex-convicts, former gang members and recovering drug addicts. Fliers are being posted in halfway houses.
HOLLYWOOD: Actor Ed O'Neill AKA Al Bundy from "Married...with Children" is coming back to series television next year in a new cop drama on CBS. The series, tentatively titled "Big Apple,'' will find O'Neill starring as a feisty Irish detective working the mean streets of New York City and will focus on the interrelationship of the NYPD, the FBI and the Mafia.
NEW ORLEANS: White supremacist David Duke finally called home from Russia to learn that federal agents raided his home last week and carried away boxes of materials.
The FBI is investigating whether Duke gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars he solicited from supporters of his white supremacist cause. He has not been charged with a crime.
Duke has been in Russia to promote his new book "The Ultimate Supremacism,'' in which Duke argues that Russia and the former Soviet bloc can save the white race from Jewish oligarchs and organized crime. The book is being published in Russian.
CHICAGO: Four veteran Chicago police officers suspected of shaking down Polish immigrants outside taverns were charged with felonies after three of them were videotaped stealing cash from an undercover FBI agent.
In one day, the agent was robbed by one of the officers and then was shaken down a half hour later by two other officers on the same block, according to sources.
Officers Steven G. Miller, 55; James P. Petruzzi, 47; Michael W. Simpson, 52, and William J. Tortoriello, 50, were arrested at their homes without the usual courtesy of advance notice.
- Accused con artist Barry Wolf told a court he was paralyzed and needs a wheelchair, but a federal judge refused saying that he predicted a miraculous recovery if he released Wolf before trial.
Wolf is accused of running two bogus trading companies and is accused of stealing from about 200 investors a total of more than $1.5 million.
Wolf gained attention earlier this year when he helped in the case of ex-girlfriend April Goodman, who was convicted of trying to hire a Chicago Mob hit man to kill her millionaire husband, Albert Goodman.
- Raymond "Ray" Schoessling, aged 93, the Teamsters International union's second top officer has died.
Known as "Mr. Clean" within the union and the mob, Schoessling had risen through the ranks from longtime head of the beer and beverage drivers Local 744, to head the local Teamsters umbrella group, Joint Council 25 and then the 13-state Central Conference of Teamsters, the largest and most powerful in the country. He was also a major local figure and a close friend of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley.
- Robert Natale, the Mayor of Stone Park, a Chicago suburb, is alleged to have gotten $5,000 from the Chicago mob for helping an adult bookstore open in town and, according to federal prosecutors, wanted even more cash from the outfit.
The feds say Natale was already getting $500 a month to protect illegal video poker machines in local bars.
The allegations come in the case of Anthony Centracchio, the reputed mob boss of the West Side and DuPage County who is charged with passing out bribes to protect video gambling operations in several western suburbs. Centracchio and three other defendants, including Natale, are to go on trial later this month.
In recently filed court papers, prosecutors released the most detailed information yet on the case, including what the government says are transcripts of conversations Centracchio had with underlings in his West Side office in 1994.
Tape-recorded conversations show that former Stone Park Police Lt. Thomas Tucker, who is accused of passing bribes to Natale, told his boss Centracchio that the mayor wanted money on a monthly basis from the bookstore operation. But Centracchio balked, saying the $5,000 was enough.
Centracchio ordered Tucker to "go back there and tell him [the mayor], 'You don't get a [expletive] thing. You know at the end of the year, maybe the end of the year, we might settle for a $500 bill or something like that.' "
When Natale was stopped and searched by agents in December 1994, they found $1,000 on him wrapped together by a white band of paper that had the number 1,000 written on it, records show.
Natale explained he had so much money because he had recently made a bank withdrawal for Christmas presents.
But investigators found a record of a deposit that day, not a withdrawal, and an FBI expert is expected to testify at trial that the number 1,000 may have been written by Centracchio.
- Suburban Cicero, once the home operating base for the Capone criminal empire now supports nearly 20 active street gangs who pitch violent battles over turf, according to sources.
This week two 13 year old boys were killed there when the colors they were wearing on their coats were apparently mistaken for the colors of a rival gang.
Cicero police arrested 16-year-old Robert Haynie, who they said was the shooter, and 19-year-old Juan M. Casillas, who they said told Haynie to shoot. Both men are said to be members of the Latin Counts, or Roachos, who co-exist in the neighborhood with the Latin Kings.
The Counts wear black and red, the Kings black and gold.
Some say that the two dead boys may have been members of the 4GMs, or ForgiveMes, a branch of the Kings.
- Prosecutors say that for twenty years reputed mobster Nicholas "Buddy" Ciotti ran an illegal gambling operation in the western suburbs that raked in more than $6 million.
Ciotti, 57, of Melrose Park, pleaded guilty to gambling and bribery charges and could face 10 years in prison. He will be sentenced in March.
Ciotti's employee, Rocco "Rocky" Circelli, pleaded guilty earlier this week in the case and could face nearly nine years behind bars.
Two other men, Robert Cechini and Lawrence Scialabba, also said to work for Circelli, were convicted at trial in April and will be sentenced in December.
Also awaiting trial is the alleged mob boss of the West Side and DuPage County, Anthony Centracchio, who is accused of bribing public officials, including Stone Park Mayor Robert Natale, to leave the illegal gambling machines alone.
In court, Ciotti, who now collects unemployment, admitted to once owning All Games Amusement Inc., which put video gambling machines in bars and restaurants in Melrose Park and other suburbs. Ciotti would have an employee, such as Circelli, make weekly collections from the machines, splitting the profits with the bar or restaurant owners. Later, the men issued phony receipts to the owners to understate the income from the machines.
While not pleading guilty to bribery, Ciotti also allegedly handled payoffs for a short time in the early 1980s to former Stone Park Police Chief Harry Testa, who is serving a prison sentence for drug dealing.
He said Circelli had collected for Ciotti and so had Johnny "The Goat" Rizzo, but "The Goat" had skimmed money from the top, Ciotti complained to the government agent.
Circelli admitted collecting proceeds from gambling machines in about 20 bars and restaurants in Melrose Park, Northlake and Stone Park every week from 1995 to 1998.
- In the midst of a probe into the December slaying of a reputed top Bridgeport mobster, Chicago police investigators employing a wiretap turned up a major midwestern cocaine ring centered in the South Side neighborhood, law- enforcement sources said.
Charges were announced Friday against 15 people allegedly involved in a ring that distributed up to $1 million in cocaine every two weeks in Chicago and Michigan. Police dubbed the probe Operation Vendetta II.
- The criminal trial for former Chicago chief of detectives William Hanhardt was delayed after defense attorneys said they needed more time to examine evidence, including more than 700 tape cassettes of court-authorized wiretaps and 18,000 pages of transcripts.
The trial, involving a nationwide jewelry theft ring, had been scheduled for January, but no new trial date was set.
Prosecutors revealed in court that several phones of Hanhardt and his alleged right-hand man in the ring, Joseph Basinski, had been tapped.
Also the Illinois secretary of state's office said it would investigate how a fake state ID was issued to another alleged ring member, Sam DeStefano, which sources say links to boxer Mike Tyson's personal assistant.
In a safe deposit box seized as evidence, authorities found an Illinois ID bearing the photograph of a man charged in the case, Sam DeStefano. But the ID listed the name and Social Security number of Tyson's assistant Darryl Francis, according to people close to the case.
The box was in the name of DeStefano's wife, Karen DeStefano, who is seeking a divorce, said Ernie Rizzo, a private investigator working for her.
Rizzo said he learned of the box, which also contained diamonds and jewelry and wiretapping devices, about 18 months ago. But he did not turn over the ID and devices until he received a federal subpoena last month, he said.
An attorney for Karen DeStefano turned over the jewelry, Rizzo said. Rizzo said the ID was an Illinois driver's license, but Sam DeStefano said it was only a "state ID." DeStefano questioned the value of a state ID to someone wishing to commit a crime, but Rizzo said phony IDs could help jewel thieves check into hotels without leaving tracks for investigators.
DeStefano would not discuss the origin of the ID, adding that he never met Tyson or sold jewelry to him.
Frank B. Zeuberis, the former boss of a Laborers Union local in Chicago Heights was charged with racketeering and fraud for allegedly stealing more than $470,000 in union funds for himself, his wife and a reputed mob lieutenant he installed in a top local office.
- James T. Sullivan, 67, of Chicago's Ashburn neighborhood, a 30-year auto-theft detective with the Chicago Police Department and later a special investigator in the Cook County state's attorney's office, died of cancer Sunday, November 12.
Sullivan was known for his quick wit and good humor. He worked on the mob-linked "chop-shop wars" of the 1970s and later the growing international auto-theft trade.
BOSTON: University of Massachusetts President William Bulger, brother to fugitive mobster Whitey Bulger, had his phone monitored by the FBI in an effort to find his brother. Another brother, John P. Bulger, the clerk magistrate in Boston Juvenile Court, apparently had his phone bugged as well.
The FBI placed devices called "pen registers'' on the telephone lines, which don't record conversations, but which do record the numbers dialed from the phone. Sources say it's easier for law enforcement officials to get approval for a pen register than for an actual wiretap.
Recently federal and Massachusetts State Police investigators have agreed to join forces to capture the fugitive Mob boss.
Bulger, 71, has been a fugitive since January 1995 and was placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List last summer. Federal authorities are currently seeking permission to double a $250,000 reward for his capture.
The merger is significant because of years of mistrust between the FBI and state police. It has been revealed that Bulger and Flemmi were longtime FBI informants who provided their handlers with information about the Mafia in Boston.
- The U.S. Marshals Service, which has been concerned that alleged mobster Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi might escape, has moved Flemmi to an out-of-state federal prison.
U.S. Marshal Nancy McGillivray wouldn't say Thursday where Flemmi has been moved. But she said he is now in a facility for federal pre-trial detainees where the security level is high.
Flemmi spent more than five years in the Plymouth County jail, but was moved early last month to MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole. He complained about the conditions there, saying there was no privacy and he didn't have access to his documents to prepare his case.
Flemmi, 66, was allegedly a leader of the Winter Hill Gang with Whitey Bulger.
Flemmi's son is helping federal authorities build a case against the reputed gangster and his brother, Michael, a retired Boston cop.
Prosecutors made the announcement at a bail hearing for Michael Flemmi, accused of moving the gang's arsenal of machine guns, shotguns and handguns to keep investigators from finding them.
His nephew, William St. Croix, formerly known as William Hussey, is also giving evidence to the state as well.
St Croix' mother, Marion, is Stephen Flemmi's longtime, common law wife. According to St. Croix, Stephen Flemmi admitted killing St. Croix's half-sister, Deborah Hussey.
CLEVELAND: A jury convicted Mahoning County Sheriff Philip A. Chance on all counts in a racketeering and extortion trial based on charges he took $65,000 in payoffs from alleged Youngstown mob boss, Lenine Strollo.
Chance, 49, was tried before U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley on charges of racketeering, extortion, obstructing law enforcement and two conspiracy counts. The most serious charge, racketeering, carries a possible 20-year sentence.
GERMANY: Splendid Film GmbH, a subsidiary of Splendid Media, agreed to distribute some of the films it owns under license to cinemas and pay TV services through 20th Century Fox over the next two years including the $100-million production "Gangs of New York" with Leonardo DiCaprio.
JAPAN: Japan's largest organized crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-Gumi, reeling from police crackdowns, which have damaged the gang's income from traditional sources over the past decade, has pumped its money into high tech start up companies under the direction of its leader Yoshinori Watanabe.
The Yamaguchi-Gumi is suspected of having political connections reaching into the highest echelons of government.
The Yamaguchi-Gumi's full-time membership has increased by a third since Watanabe took over 12 years ago, reaching 16,500 in 1999. As many as 38,000 gangsters, or nearly one in two professional Japanese criminals, report to Watanabe.
BRAZIL: Gunmen killed 10 people, mostly teen-agers, living in an abandoned house in what may have been a retaliatory attack between drug gangs.
The victims were all between 13 and 20 years old and were shot at close range with 9 mm weapons as they lay in their beds.
"Most of them were shot in the back, one was shot lying face up. But it didn't appear they were sleeping and no one was tied up,'' a police official said.
Witnesses said several men on motorcycles arrived outside the house in Jacarei, a small city 50 miles northeast of Sao Paulo, and entered by jumping over a wall.
Most of the victims had been squatting in the house for some time, and police believed the others were visiting when the attack occurred.
Jacarei is one of the most violent cities in Sao Paulo state.
According to recent statistics, a killing takes place every 13 minutes in Brazil.
AMSTERDAM: Three people were shot dead when a man opened fire in a Japanese restaurant in central Amsterdam.
A police spokesman said one of the victims -- two men and one woman -- was killed instantly. The other two died of their injuries at the scene.
Police have traced a spate of recent killings in the Netherlands to a turf war between rival drugs gangs.
ROME: Italy is set to approve a decree designed to make it harder for suspected criminals to be released from prison before a sentence is handed down.
In the past year, the release of suspected criminals before they stand trial or ahead of a sentence has sparked a debate on the need to reform Italy's criminal justice system. Also under discussion is the early release of convicted criminals who have gone on to commit further crimes.
Ten suspected mafia members were released from a prison in the southern Italian Puglia region this month. Arrested in 1997, they were freed before they stood trial.
The ten suspected Mafia hitmen were released because time had run out for their cases to get to court after three and a half years behind bars.
They had been locked up since June 1997 for their alleged roles in about 30 murders around the port town of Bari, but were released under a provision which stops suspects being held in pre-trial custody indefinitely.
Courts in some of the Mafia hubs of southern Italy say they do not have enough resources to push sensitive cases through fast enough.
Last week a two-year-old girl was killed in a shootout which the media were quick to blame on two members of the Camorra who had also been released from prison without trial.
The two were later killed in a revenge shooting.
FINLAND: Until as late as the 1990s illegal substances were considered a foreign problem, but looser border controls as well as the increasingly curious and tolerant attitudes toward drugs by young people have brought the problem home.
With the numbers of heroin seizures and deaths from overdose stable in most of the European Union, statistics show that cases in Finland have risen rapidly in recent years. And officials say this year will break records for heroin deaths, with victims ever younger.
While heroin users in other EU countries are an aging minority, in Finland addicts are not only increasing in numbers, but are also becoming younger and younger.
Heroin is an opiate that can be smoked, sniffed or drunk, but is most commonly, and at most risk to the user, taken by direct injection into a vein. The preference for injecting heroin led to a Finnish outbreak of the HIV virus at the end of the 1990s, largely because of shared needles and syringes.
Cases are no longer multiplying as fast as a couple of years ago but, contrary to the trend in most of Europe, numbers are still rising in Finland.
Deaths from overdose have shot up in recent years, suggesting that heroin users are becoming a larger minority. And because the substance circulated in Finland is relatively pure, or high in heroin content, the risk of overdosing is high, especially for young, inexperienced users.
BERN: Swiss Justice Minister Ruth Metzler promised Italian Interior Minister Enzo Bianco to improve cooperation with Italy in its fight against cigarette smuggling and the washing of the proceeds.
The Swiss government will create a new posting in Italy to facilitate the exchange of information necessary to combat white-collar crime. The two countries plan to jointly fight organized crime, such as cigarette smuggling and money laundering.
Italy has criticized Switzerland for not doing enough to stop cigarette smuggling to Italy and today's announcement comes as the latest step in the Swiss effort to spruce up its defenses against white-collar crime. Switzerland has long been regarded as a safe haven for money gained through illegal means.
Switzerland earlier began cracking down on banks for accepting cash from illegal activities, as cigarette smuggling, in order to enhance the reputation of its financial markets. It introduced an anti-money-laundering law in 1998.
TOKYO: Japan intends to sign a new international convention to combat transnational organized crime when governments will gather to sign it in Palermo, Italy on December 12.
The U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted Wednesday by the U.N. General Assembly, calls on countries to legislate to ban organized crime and money laundering, as well as to cooperate with each other in investigations and on the extradition of suspects.
The protocols of the convention call for measures to tackle illegal firearms deals, illegal immigration and human trafficking.
If Japan signs the documents, it will be required to legislate to provide immunity from criminal prosecution for people who cooperate with investigations, and to legislate punishment for conspiring to commit organized crime.
The United Nations' lead crime fighter said the benefits of globalization for international organized crime could become a tool to combat such criminal activity due to a new treaty approved by the U.N. General Assembly.
The breakdown of borders and the increase in communication methods have been seen as increasing the scope and sophistication of criminal activities.
"Organized crime has benefited greatly from globalization, and now this treaty will use the same elements of sharing information between states," to reverse the trend, said Pino Arlacchi, head of the Vienna-based U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
This week the 189-member assembly approved by consensus, without a vote, a resolution on the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime that sets legal standards for fighting the illicit trafficking of humans and drugs, and money laundering.
TOKYO: The Takefuji Corporation has asked the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission to investigate the Zaikai Tembo monthly magazine for spreading what it calls unfounded news against the major consumer finance company.
The Zaikai Tembo reported that Takefuji had incurred huge losses through a deal with Yoshihiko Kokura, a financier charged with defrauding failed Taisho Mutual Life Insurance Co.
The Zaikai Tembo also alleged Takefuji had used gangsters to threaten Kokura.
The magazine story has sent Takefuji's stock plunging from the 10,000-yen level at the end of October to 5,650 yen.
CAYMAN ISLANDS: The Cayman Islands' newly elected legislature has named a lawmaker to head the government.
Kurt Tibbetts will become the leader of the government. He replaces Truman Bodden, who voters ousted in apparent anger over the weakening of secretive banking laws that have made the islands wealthy.
The Cayman Islands has only 33,000 people but is the world's fifth-largest banking center, thanks to its no-tax regime, lenient regulations and strict confidentiality laws.
In June, the Cayman Islands was put on two international blacklists of countries judged tax havens and noncooperative in the fight against money laundering.
LONDON: U.S. researchers said they have devised an accurate method of tracing cocaine back to its country of origin, giving drug enforcement officials a powerful new weapon in their battle against traffickers.
By examining the so-called fingerprint of cocaine the scientists can tell where it came from, if a country is in compliance with drug regulations and whether or not the narcotics originated in the country where they were confiscated.
The technique will also help officials to reconstruct trade routes, tell if two samples have a common origin and identity new cocaine producing regions as they develop.
About 99 percent of the world's cocaine comes from Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. The scientists, who work closely with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, can trace cocaine back to specific regions.
CORLEONE: A convoy of anti-Mafia activists set out on drive round Sicily demanding the quick return to public use of properties confiscated from the mob.
It started from a 96 acres homestead seized from the family of former Mafia boss Luciano Liggio, which is slated to grow fruit under an agricultural project entitled "Take these thorns from our side."
The convoy, including three buses packed with toys for children, passed through Corleone, a hill city synonymous with the Mafia, which was made famous by The Godfather novel and films.
It will visit 19 towns known have been controlled by the Mafia and ends next month in San Giuseppe Jato, the scene of regular Mafia killings in the 1980s and 1990s.
The organizers want local officials to reduce the time lag between confiscating Mafia properties and handing them over to communities for public use, such as parks.
Mr. Tuohy can be reached at MobStudy@aol.com
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