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organized crime

5/24/13 1:44pm

LA Mobster Indicted in International Drug Ring

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Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto Photo via

In a scene straight out of Martin Scorsese's most fevered fantasies, suspected mafia drug trafficker Alessandro Taloni pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn courtroom Thursday to charges of trafficking cocaine for the infamous Montreal-based Rizzuto crime family.After a five year investigation, the DEA claim that Taloni and several others—including French Canadian drug kingpin Jimmy “Cosmo” Cournoyer—were involved in a vast cross border smuggling ring that funneled Canadian ecstasy and weed to New York before converting the profits into Mexican cocaine which was shipped back to Canada. During a search of Taloni’s two Beverly Hills mansions, authorities turned up $1 million and a staggering 49 kilograms of cocaine. Additional searches of other locations linked to the operation have turned up a further $1.6 million and 34 more kilos of cocaine. “Taloni was a major narcotics distributor who used his connections to powerful international organized crime groups to obtain and distribute tens of millions of dollars worth of deadly narcotics,” said Eastern New York US Attorney Loretta Lynch.

Prosecutors allege that Taloni, 39, who has duel Canadian and Italian citizenship, was one of 10 members of a Montreal-based drug ring that linked members of the Rizzuto and Bonanno crime families, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, Native American smugglers from the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation and Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. According to the indictment, the operation would move ecstasy and hydroponic weed from Canada into the US to sell on the East Coast. The crop was then sold in New York, and huge sums of cash from the sales were routinely flown to Los Angeles aboard private chartered planes. On Oct. 13, 2010, U.S. drug agents intercepted one of the planes and reportedly found US$5.5-million in cash. Taloni is alleged to have flown from Montreal to Los Angeles to collect the money, which he then used to buy cocaine from Joaquin Guzmán Loera, the notorious leader of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, and one of the world's most wanted criminals. The cocaine would then be shipped to Canada to be sold and the profits used to underwrite the marijuana pipeline into the US. If convicted, Taloni could face 10 years to life in prison.

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By Tony O’Neill

drinking buddies

5/24/13 12:42pm

Stalin Got Wasted With Churchill in Wartime

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BFF Photo via

Despite being allied against Germany during World War II, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and England's Prime Minister Winston Churchill didn't always see eye to eye. But it was nothing that a little a lot of booze couldn't remedy. According to files released by Britain's National Archives, tensions were eased between the two leaders when they once shared an alcohol-fueled all-nighter in 1942, at the height of World War II. Evidently, Churchill arranged for the two to meet up, with the help of interpreters, over a boozy banquet that lasted until 3 in the morning. In the previously secret files, Sir Alexander Cadogan, a British diplomat and under-secretary of Foreign Affairs, wrote that the two leaders shared "a heavily laden board between them: food of all kinds, crowned by a suckling pig and innumerable bottles." He described the mood of the evening as "merry as a marriage-bell." And though the British PM did complain of a "slight headache" at 1 in the morning, he was able to rein in the drinking after that, and "wisely" limited himself to "a comparatively innocuous effervescent Caucasian red wine." The two leaders largely avoided military chat, but Churchill did ask the dictator what was going on with the "kulaks"—the farming class Stalin had announced plans to exterminate. Stalin apparently responded "with great frankness" saying that the kulaks were "very unpopular with the rest of the people!"' But the two apparently breezed past past this topic and ultimately got along chummily. "Certainly Winston was impressed [with Stalin]," wrote Cardegan, "and I think the feeling was reciprocated."

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By May Wilkerson

amanda bynes

5/24/13 11:00am

Amanda Bynes Arrested After Bong Toss

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What's next for Amanda Bynes? Photo via

Former actress and current notorious public shit-disturber Amanda Bynes was arrested on Thursday evening after allegedly smoking pot in the lobby of her NYC apartment building and then throwing a bong out her window. Police have confirmed a 911 call alerted them that the star was smoking marijuana in the lobby, and when authorities arrived at her apartment, she let them inside. "There was a heavy smell of marijuana,” says an NYPD spokesman, “[Then] she took the bong and threw it out the window.” Bynes was charged with reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence and unlawful possession of marijuana, and was sent to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation before spending the night in jail. She was expected to appear before a judge this morning. The 27-year-old former Nickelodeon star has been grabbing headlines in the last year with her public personal troubles. She recently disclosed on Twitter that she has an eating disorder, and has since provoked attention by tweeting nude photos, and allegedly smoking pot at the gym. In 2012 after a series of hit-and-run auto-accidents, she was charged with a DUI which she infamously asked President Obama to appeal, demanding that the cop who pulled her over be fired.

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By May Wilkerson

headlines

5/24/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: May 24, 2013

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Tutor charged for meth (left), Walter White
(right) Photo via

By Victoria Kim

drugs and crime

5/23/13 5:43pm

Drug Czar Pushes Criminal Justice Reform

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"We're not going to arrest our way out of this
problem" Photo via

Outlining Obama's "science-based" approach to drug policy today, US Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske cited the results of a new study that confirms links between drug use and crime. He called for an expansion of criminal justice reforms, such as drug courts, aimed at addressing the underlying causes of crime.

Kerlikowske's Office of National Drug Control Policy presented new data from the 2012 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report (ADAM II): Of the five cities observed—Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, New York and Sacramento—an average 75% of arrested adult males tested positive for at least one illegal drug, up from 71% in last year's ADAM II. Marijuana remained the drug most often detected; in three of the five cities over half of arrestees tested positive for pot. Cocaine use has continued to drop, though it's still the second most commonly detected drug. The percentage of arrestees testing positive for opiates, however, rose in three of the five cities. "This study contributes significantly to our understanding of links between drug use and crime in America," says Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute think tank. "These high rates of drug use among arrestees indicate that we must work to support effective approaches like prevention and treatment that address the root cause of criminal involvement, and not just the symptoms."

"Seeing the drug problem through this public health lens is a sensible and effective way to approach criminal justice reform," Kerlikowske said at the Urban Institute's "21st Century Drug Policy Reform" event today. He says the government will follow a strategy emphasizing prevention, treatment and "smart on crime" policies, in order to break the cycle of addiction, crime and mass incarceration. Referring to the US prison population—the largest in the world—Kerlikowske said, "Research has shown that expanding access to treatment, especially among incarcerated individuals, can dramatically reduce the rate of repeat offenses, resulting in reincarceration." 

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By Victoria Kim

Drunk Driving

5/23/13 4:33pm

Guy Tweeting DUI Checkpoints Makes MADD Mad

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Superhero or supervillain? Photo via

The founder of MrCheckpoint—a Twitter account and app service alerting drivers to DUI checkpoints throughout Southern California—deems himself "the people's Batman on the roads." But Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) doesn't find his efforts so heroic. Police are required by law must post their inspection locations online, so 25-year-old Sennett Devermont sifts through information from the LA Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies, and sends out alerts every night after dark. The operation began as tweets to friends, but MrCheckpoint now has 42,000 Twitter followers, 20,000 text subscribers and thousands of app users. Advocate groups like MADD are up in arms, claiming that his alerts help drunk drivers avoid penalties. "While we support the publication of checkpoints as a deterrent to drunk driving, sites like MrCheckpoint alert drunk drivers so they can evade arrest,” says Pat Rillera, executive director of MADD's LA office, “It's not meant as a positive."

But Devermont insists that he's using his power for good—his alerts encourage drinkers to stay home, find a designated driver, or call a cab. His Twitter and Facebook accounts receive numerous thankful messages from people who chose these alternatives, and many post photos of themselves enjoying an evening in. "I want to make MrCheckpoint the next-generation MADD,” Devermont explains. “Since August of last year, we have sent out more than 1 million text messages helping identify these checkpoints. Here's one of the things I tweet all the time: 'If you can't afford a $40 cab ride, you can't afford a $10,000 DUI.'" And even some law enforcement officials are on his side. Lt. Shan Davis, Beverly Hills Traffic Bureau commander, says MrCheckpoint "is a great thing...If we can get people thinking about these checkpoints so they're not driving drunk, then it's good. Take a cab, or give your keys to a friend."

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By Chrisanne Grise

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