Social Media and Survival: Following the Mexican Drug War via Twitter

Posted October 5th, 2011 in Crime, Social media by davecopeland

All of the writing I’ve been doing about Mexican drug cartels for Daily Dot — and, specifically, how the cartels are now targeting social media users in the same way that they once targeted cops and journalists — ended up becoming the basis for a lecture I gave this morning on social media as a replacement for traditional journalism, with an examination on all the pros and cons:

People who post information on social media about Mexican drug cartels are essentially facing a two-sided attack. One one side, you have the cartels themselves, which killed three people last month for purportedly posting information on Mexican crime blogs. The cartels themselves are online, posting propaganda about themselves, false information to distract or disparage rivals and law enforcement, and to root out enemies to target for execution.

On the other side is the government, which is looking to avoid a repeat of an August incident in Veracruz, in which tweets about armed gunmen taking hostages at a school spread rapidly. The false reports set off chaos as parents raced across the city to retrieve their children, and now at least two Mexican states are considering laws that would punish people who “disrupt public order” with information they post online.

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The Ecuadoran murder suspect’s link to the Israeli Mafia

Posted March 3rd, 2011 in Bloodandvolume, Boston, Crime by Muhammad84G

I posted a four-page, .PDF excerpt of Blood & Volume: Inside New York’s Israeli Mafia that deals with many of the same issues Massachusetts prosecutors are facing as they try to charge a 40-year-old Ecuadoran man suspected in the beating deaths of a woman and her two-year-old son in Brockton last month. Luis Guaman fled to his native country, but Massachusetts officials are confident he will be returned to face trial.

Ecuador, like Israel in the 1990′s, has a Constitutional provision that prohibits extradition of its citizens. And, like Israel did with members of the Israeli Mafia that I wrote about in B&V, Ecaudor has promised to try Guaman for his crimes in that country. From the excerpt I posted:

Israel “Alice” Mizrachi and Joe Reich couldn’t outrun their American crime spree…in 1993 — after significant pressure from U.S. authorities — an Israeli judge rules that Mizrachi and Reich could be tried in Israel for their role in the Markowitz murder, even though the murder had been committed in the United States. It was an unprecedented and difficult way to try a case.

A story in today’s Globe about the Guaman case alludes to some of those difficulties:

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said talks were underway to return Guaman to the United States, despite Ecuador’s constitutional prohibition on extraditing its citizens. Cruz said he “fully expects’’ Guaman to face prosecution here.

“The legal jurisdiction is here, the witnesses are here, the physical evidence is here, and the many experts dedicated to analyzing that physical evidence at the State Police crime lab are here,’’ he said. “This community demands that the perpetrator of those crimes face justice here.’’

Guaman’s return would be a dramatic shift in a case that just days ago seemed destined to take place in Ecuador. Ecuadoran authorities, who are holding Guaman on charges of traveling under a passport with another name, had said Friday that they were cooperating with law enforcement in the United States to proceed with a murder trial there, using evidence gathered in the United States.

If tried in Ecaudor, my money is on an acquittal for Guaman (Mizrachi and Reich were acquitted in Israel on the murder charges, although Mizrachi was convicted of smuggling four kilos of heroin from Amsterdam to New York by a jury in Jerusalem. When he was released from prison he reportedly led a law-abiding life and worked as a florist before being killed in a car bombing, presumably as retribution for misdeeds in New York, in 2003).

Read another excerpt and more about “Blood & Volume,” or order your copy.

I’m going to prison.

Posted October 5th, 2010 in Crime, Teaching, Writing by Muhammad84G

And I’m serving about four Saturdays there this winter.

A former student is getting her MFA at Lesley and is coordinating Pen New England’s Prison Writing Program. She asked if I’d run the nonfiction workshops, and now I’m honored that she thought of me, excited about the opportunity, and, admittedly, slightly nervous. I’ll be working at Bay State Correctional Facility, a medium-security men’s facility in Norfolk County here in Massachusetts, or at the women’s prison in Middlesex County.

Not sure how many details I’ll be able to share here but I’ll let you in on what I’m allowed to when the sessions start Feb. 5.

Update on Gary Zerola: The YouTube File

Posted August 30th, 2010 in Boston, Crime by Muhammad84G

Ever since I wrote about him for Boston Magazine 2+ years ago, I feel like I have become a bit of an archivist for Gary Zerola. It’s hard for me to recall off the top of my head a more polarizing figure that I have personally had a chance to write about — whether people love him or hate him, they’re always willing to forward info about him.

(Personally, I’m still waiting to hear about what happened with Gary’s book deal, but he never really was into returning my calls and the number I had for him was disconnected long ago. In any case, if you see him, tell him I’m available for any ghost writing gigs he wants to throw my way).

Here’s the latest Gary dump, including some videos plugging his law firm and some photos, which follow the videos (the videos were found by a Gary watcher who pointed out that Tracey O’Neil linked to them from her YouTube page; O’Neil testified in Gary’s defense in the first of two trials in 2008).

Gary has videos shilling his services as a criminal defense attorney for people accused of violent crimes, theft crimes and probation violations. He also has a couple of videos on OUI defense.

But, perhaps most interesting, is that he has not one, but two videos on sex crimes. In the first one on sex crime defense, he tells potential clients “I have successfully defended clients when charged with various different kinds of sex crimes…In defending clients that have been charged with this nature of a crime, I engage and employ in various different types of professionals in aiding in the defense of my clients.”

A proofreader/grammar doctor for his copy writer was not, apparently, one of those professionals. Wasn’t this guy once a hot shot reporter for Suffolk University’s student newspaper?

In the second, on registering as a sex offender in Boston (which, for the record, Zerola never had to personally do), he says “If you’re being investigated for a sex crime, or you’re being charged with a sex crime, or you have an administrative hearing before the sex offender registry board, contact me immediately.”

I’d say something, but it’s almost too easy. During his trial, Gary mentioned that he “worked hard” and “played hard.” I’m not sure when the following photos were taken, but they seem to offer the right contrast from the hard-working Gary shown in the videos:

lmaO .. l

heLLO ?!

ON THE HARLEYY

mEe beTh nD gaRy

mEe gaRy nD aShLEY

For a previously-posted Gary dump, including photos, click here.

Evolution of Greed

Posted May 21st, 2009 in Crime, Teaching by Muhammad84G

The reading list for the course on greed that I’m teaching this fall continues to expand. I’m probably not going to go with a textbook, but if I did, I’d lean toward McMafia, which I’m currently reading.

Also looking for a handful of films to show: I need to re-watch Wall Street to see if its too dated and Boiler Room to see if it’s too cheesy. Also thinking I may throw Trainspotting into the mix. And I’d love to show Casino or Goodfella, but damn those films are long.

In any case, keep sending article and film suggestions, and I am starting to look for guest speakers with a unique take on the subject. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the course description:

Gangsters, Meltdowns and Greed: Social Deviance in American Society
Why can some people so easily break the law while most of us choose to obey it? The goal of this writing-intensive course is to understand behavior that goes against accepted social norms. We’ll look at career criminals, kidnappers and scam artists and show what social situations prompted them to make life choices most of us would never consider. A key focus of the class will be the current economic recession and the greed-fueled decisions that partially caused it. The instructor will draw on his work as a journalist who has covered financial wrongdoing, corruption and organized crime and will include some unlikely guest speakers.

114 days to go!

Posted April 21st, 2009 in Boston, Crime by Muhammad84G

Throughout its coverage of the arrest of a suspect in the Craigslist killing, the Globe references the wedding Web site of Philip Markoff and Megan McAllister. Yet there is no link given to the Web site.

It takes awhile to load, but can be found here.

Oh, and they’re also registered at Macy’s.

If it’s (almost) April….

Posted March 29th, 2009 in Boston, Crime by Muhammad84G

…then Gary Zerola must be on trial for something.

Learn with me

Posted March 13th, 2009 in Crime, Economics, Teaching by Muhammad84G

Bridgewater State College has this wonderful seminar program where students take writing- and/or speaking intensive seminars in their first and second years. I mean, the students complain about it and don’t think it’s all that wonderful, but instructors love them because they get to design courses to indulge in their interests.

So heres the course description of what I’ll be teaching as a first-year, writing-intensive seminar in the fall:

Gangsters, Meltdowns and Greed: Social Deviance in American Society
Why can some people so easily break the law while most of us choose to obey it? The goal of this writing-intensive course is to understand behavior that goes against accepted social norms. We’ll look at career criminals, kidnappers and scam artists and show what social situations prompted them to make life choices most of us would never consider. A key focus of the class will be the current economic recession and the greed-fueled decisions that partially caused it. The instructor will draw on his work as a journalist who has covered financial wrongdoing, corruption and organized crime and will include some unlikely guest speakers.

In other words, this is a look at how Bernie Madoff and Robert Allen Stanford aren’t all that different from Ron Gonen and Henry Hill. I think I may have a potential hit, as many of the freshman I have been working with this semester are upset it won’t be offered as a second-year seminar.

A reading list is in the works and being developed here (very limited at the moment).

Government reading

Posted February 25th, 2009 in Boston, Crime, Pittsburgh by Muhammad84G

George A. Reissfelder, a deceased suspect in the Gardner Art Museum heist, is back in the news this week, and it just so happens that earlier this month the FBI delivered his file to me. Reissfelder died of a cocaine overdoes in 1991, but now an inmate says Reissfelder fessed up to stashing some of the stolen artwork in a house in Maine.

Both the FBI and the museum have downplayed the significance of the tip, although the FBI did go as far as searching a house in Lewiston last year.

Reissfelder’s FBI, based on a quick skim, seems even less compelling than the bum tip. The FBI released 250 of the 292 pages it has on file to me, and most of those seemed to deal with penny-hood stuff: writing bad checks in Houston in the 1970′s.

Of course the big appeal of reading FBI files is speculating and wondering what the government doesn’t want you to see. It’s almost agonizing to wonder what was in those 42 pages that were withheld.

Over the years I have collected FBI files for well-known and not-so-well-known criminals, including most of the deceased suspects in the Gardner art museum heist (to date I haven’t read them all, and one of my oft-delayed, back burner projects is scanning them in and finding a way to upload them online for people to search — if anyone can help, please contact me). And, incidentally, the best source for info on Gardner — including profiles of the suspects — is the Boston Herald’s site on the subject.

Incidentally, my all-time favorite FBI file was the one I pulled for Anthony Lagatutta, AKA Ninny the Torch, a Pittsburgh mafioso and arsonist. The file read like a novel and included all sorts of telling details, including his penchant for manicures and quoting Shakespeare. I really need to find a way to do something with that — seems like a solid character who history should not forget.

It was the best of times…

Posted December 22nd, 2008 in Boston, Crime by Muhammad84G

At least someone is signing book deals in this economy (or so he says):

That People maggie’s ex-Most Eligible Bachelor Gary Zerola is telling pals that he’s got a deal to write a book about his two rape trials – both of which ended in acquittals. A third sexual assault case, in Florida, was dropped after Zerola was found not guilty in the Massachusetts assaults.

The question is, does anyone care?

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