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Law Enforcement Perspective - by John Christopher Fine
Organized crime is defined by modern law to mean the association of people in pursuit of criminal activity. The Chief Assistant District Attorney in New York County and head of the Rackets Bureau under legendary DA Frank S. Hogan, Alfred J. Scotti, considered organized crime a purely American brand of criminal activity. Of course he was of Italian ancestry and like many Italo-Americans resented labels Washington bureaucrats put on racketeering.
Mostly incompetent federal officials, desk bound all of their working lives, conducted hearings and drew up organizational charts that started a trend to label racketeers as Mafia or members of La Cosa Nostra. The Feds, a derisive term for federal bureaucrats in various law enforcement jobs based in Washington or working out of field offices, spend millions on training. They go to seminars, conduct programs, love committee meetings and rarely do more than shuffle papers. Congress has given incompetent federal agencies more and more money, more and more power, more and more equipment, more and more leeway to spy on citizens. The justification for this exorbitant expenditure of taxpayer money is in the name of defeating terrorism, organized crime, and racketeering.
Assistant Attorney General In Charge, Organized Crime Task Force
John C. Fine testifying before Senate Crime Committee. The hearing
for the first time revealed the extent of organized crime’s involvement
and control of the toxic waste industry. Fine’s life was threatened and corrupt
government officials interfered with his investigations trying to prevent
grand jury action
Ample laws have always been on the books to combat criminal conduct without creating more laws. Murder is murder. Conspiracy to conduct criminal usury is a serious felony. Loansharking (except that conducted by banks and credit card companies it seems) is interest in excess of 25% per annum. Union thugs that assault would-be opponents of racket controlled candidates can be punished. Waste haulers that pour toxic chemicals into landfills and the ocean can be caught. It only means gathering evidence. Feds rarely have been able to do more than create cover-their-butt reports, leave their desks to go to lunch then drive government cars home. The rarely prowl the streets of New York City making surveillances, developing informants and conducting long term sensitive investigations.
Sad to say that in most major investigations in recent memory federal agencies proved to be not only incompetent but malevolent. The World Trade Center bombing and other tragic disasters of 9/11/01 were made possible by a failure of federal agencies to communicate and share information. The Atlanta Games bombing was “solved” by the Feds when an innocent security guard was blamed. The explosion aboard a U.S. Navy battleship, when a large gun misfired, was blamed on a sailor who was singled out for an erroneous revenge killing. Federal investigators in these and other cases were incompetent. They use their force and power to overpower civil rights rather than painstakingly investigate crime.
Al Scotti deplored the use of the word Mafia or La Cosa Nostra. Not necessarily from the fact that it was improper, rather that it was imprecise and inaccurate. Joe Valacci, a mobster in the 50s, testified before Congress about organized crime. He was part of an Italo-American gang in New York City. He used the phrase La Cosa Nostra, translated as “our thing.” The name stuck. From that point on the Feds enjoyed themselves with charts and Italian terms like “Capo de Capo Tuti,” boss of all bosses. They glued photos onto cardboard and described an organizational structure with Italian names that represented organized crime families throughout America.
Fire Department responders were not aware of the deadly peril of toxic
chemicals emanating from arson at the chemical site taken over by elements associated with organized crime
The Feds didn’t go out into the field to conduct investigations. When they did they bungled it. A large four-door unmarked sedan with two big gawks inside gave any surveillance they attempted in New York City away. In another case the FBI presented themselves at a terrorist suspect’s house and tried to interview him. This was during a highly sensitive New York police and DA’s office investigation of the suspect that eventually led to his arrest and conviction. The visit by the Feds sent the suspect further underground and his movements and activities became more difficult to follow.
“They wear brown shoes and white socks,” said one New York City detective attached to the Manhattan DA’s squad. The FBI under Hoover was an image machine. They hired CPA and law graduates, no women, no minorities. Not the best of the bunch, but they had education. None of them could fit on the street in an undercover capacity. None knew how to properly conduct a complex organized crime investigation. Not that Iowa or Nebraska doesn’t have its share of crime, but they don’t raise New York City street smart cops there. The transplants that ended up in the New York field office were not suited for the job assignments they were given.
New responsiblities post 9/11 have been heaped upon federal bureaucracies. Reorganization has lumped previously unwieldy agencies together under the Homeland Security umbrella. Boats, planes, and cars have been repainted but nothing has really changed. Young kids, usually without previous military experience that inculcates discipline and respect, have been swept into jobs in Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement, Customs and myriad services that require careful monitoring.
Too much power has been vested in too many inexperienced and incompetent federal bureaucrats. DA Hogan’s Chief Investigator, Tom Fay, put it plainly when he said, “The Feds are a one way street.” The failure to share information resulted in tragedy on 9/11.
John C. Fine examining pollution caused by concerns associated with organized crime into natural resources
If Americans are to give up civil liberties to ineffectual federal agencies staffed with those unfit to serve, then only the good in society will be penalized by the loss of Constitutional rights. Organized crime, like terrorism, flourishes in an atmosphere of confused authority fighting for turf and power. Of course the bottom line is human beings demand illegal services. Illicit drugs, prostitution, loans, protection, waste hauling, union labor concessions: organized crime responds to fill the need.
“They can be trusted by the police and government officials,” said Al Scotti. That’s why official corruption succeeds. They corrupt officials for protection. The racketeer will not squeal. A street junkie deprived of heroin will give up his mother. A member of organized crime will go to jail, will die before testifying.” Scotti was definitive about one of the reasons for the success of organized crime in America: in law enforcement incompetence is as bad as corruption.
Barrels of toxic waste illegally brought into Chemical Control Company in Elizabeth, NJ
John Christopher Fine served as the senior Assistant DA in Frank Hogan’s Rackets Bureau where he investigated and brought to trial some of the most notorious racketeers in history. He was head of the Organized Crime Task Force and Counsel to U.S. and State Senate Committees investigating organized criminal activities. He is a frequent contributor and columnist for 9-1-1 Magazine.
Photos copyright 2011 John Christopher Fine.