Tag Archives: Crime

Retirees Face $1.3 Billion Loss in Wall Street Fraud

It was supposed to be a safe investment.

In small offices across the country, brokers sold a security called L Bonds. The bonds were backed by life insurance policies and were supposed to provide a steady stream of income.

Many buyers were elderly. Now they’re facing catastrophic losses of up to $1.3 billion.

From a report that broke this morning in The Wall Street Journal:

What many of these retail investors didn’t know was that [bond issuer] GWG’s founders and a board director would each use the money to fund and launch their own startup ventures, then move them out of the investors’ reach, according to people familiar with the matter. The roughly 27,000 individuals who bought GWG’s unique debt securities, known as L Bonds, are now facing huge potential losses – for many, their retirement nest eggs.


Get the blog before anyone else…subscribe!


The original business buying life insurance policies quickly ran into trouble. So, bond issuer GWG Holdings cast about for another strategy.

It settled on backing speculative startups run by the company’s founders.

That would be reckless enough a thing to do with small savers’ money. But worse yet, the miscreants running GWG quickly moved those assets out of reach of the L Bond buyers.

Once the top executives had taken the assets, they drove GWG into bankruptcy.

The judge overseeing the court proceedings in Houston said he had never before seen a company give up control of everything it owns before seeking chapter 11 protection.

GWG appears to have operated like a Ponzi scheme. Of the $1.26 billion in L Bonds the company sold, nearly two-thirds went to paying off prior bonds.

Meanwhile, the top executives siphoned off tens of millions of dollars in dividends for themselves.

The SEC began investigating GWG as early as 2020. GWG didn’t disclose the investigation to its investors for a year.

In the mean time, it sold another $200 million in toxic L Bonds.

The law generally prohibits the SEC from disclosing investigations. I think it’s high time to change those laws.

Many elderly put their life’s savings into these bonds.

They should’ve known the company was under federal investigation. The government they pay taxes to should never have kept that a secret from them.

It doesn’t help for the SEC to blow the whistle once the money is already gone.

What do you think of this case and how the SEC handled it? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know.

See you on Monday!

More on markets:

Hedge Fund Tiger Global Losing $136 Million a Day, Down 52%

Hedge Fund Giant D1 Loses $7 Billion in 2022

Shadowy Hedge Fund Cash Bankrolls Fight Against Regulation

Get the blog before anyone else…subscribe!

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Photo: SEC building seal

Hedge Fund Ponzi Scheme Steals $39 Million from Investors

Another day, another hedge fund scandal. The SEC announced charges this week against a Detroit hedge fund for bilking investors of tens of millions of dollars.

From Financial Advisor magazine:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges against Detroit-based EIA All Weather Alpha Fund Partners I LLC (EIA) and its sole owner, RIA Andrew M. Middlebrooks, for an alleged multiyear Ponzi scheme that the agency said included the misappropriation and loss of nearly $39 million in investor funds.


The commission said in its complaint that from at least mid-2017 to April 2022, EIA and Middlebrooks deceived investors in their hedge fund, the EIA All Weather Alpha Fund I LP, by making false and misleading statements that “wildly” misstated the fund’s performance and total assets. The SEC also said in the complaint that the fund and Middlebrooks provided falsified investor account statements, misrepresented that the fund had an auditor and created and disseminated a fake audit opinion to investors.


In addition to being a rotten trader, Middlebrooks had a taste for the finer things in life. He paid for them with investor money:

Middlebrooks also misappropriated investor funds for personal use, allegedly transferring at least $470,000 to his wife’s business, making more than $750,000 in transfers to his personal bank account and using $64,000 in investor money to pay for jewelry, the agency said.

It seems likely that his victims will lose their entire investment:

“Middlebrook’s losing trading strategy coupled with his misappropriation has resulted in near total loss of investor funds,” the SEC said.


Never miss a post…subscribe!


The hedge fund describes itself rather differently on its website:

We are active investors, not closet indexers, and we have structured an investment process and environment that enables us to be disciplined, to be patient and to exercise good judgment.

It turns out investors would have been far better off with that boring index fund. Indeed, they form the core of my portfolio.

The fund’s LinkedIn profile comes closer to telling the truth:

This intellectual framework allows the Portfolio Manager to manage the Fund unencumbered by emotions or inherent bias.

Emotions definitely didn’t stop Middlebrooks and his cronies from bilking unsuspecting investors.

I was able to find what appears to be the actual slide deck that Middlebrooks used to pitch investors. The scariest part about it is that the pitch seems fairly plausible, proposing a long/short strategy that combines value and momentum.

In addition to their thieving, it appears that EIA partners were paid well. Glassdoor records total compensation of $254,000.

I guess that wasn’t quite enough to cover their expensive tastes.

We see one case of shady behavior after another in the hedge fund world. The SEC and DOJ need to step up and start seriously scrutinizing these funds.

I’m as pro-free enterprise as anyone you’re likely to meet. But fraud doesn’t qualify.

As Memorial Day approaches for those of us in the United States, one of the more patriotic things we can do is to safeguard that free-enterprise system by purging its bad actors.

What do you think will be the next hedge fund to fall? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

There will be no blog on Monday for the holiday. Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone! 🥳🇺🇸

More on markets:

$6B Hedge Fund Cut Off from Trading As Investigation Looms

Hedge Fund Giant Tiger Global Losing $28 Million an Hour

Citadel Adds Millions to AMC Options Bet

Never miss a post…subscribe!

Photo: EIA Alpha Partners CEO Andrew Middlebrooks

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Feds Charge Stock Manipulators Who Stole $194 Million

The federal government has charged a fraud ring that manipulated numerous US stocks. The group netted $194 million in ill-gotten gains over several years.

From Compliance Week:

The SEC’s charges, contained in three separate complaints filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, allege that the defendants secretly held large, controlling positions in so-called “penny stocks” issued by microcap companies.

From 2013 through at least 2018, defendants’ goal was to secretly gain control of thinly traded microcap companies, hire stock promoters to generate demand for their shares, and then profit by selling those shares illegally to unsuspecting investors,” stated one SEC complaint.

The criminals hid behind a variety of shell companies and offshore accounts. They employed various schemes such as “painting the tape,” or trading shares between each other at inflated prices to make the stock seem more valuable then it was, according to the DOJ press release.

This is a common strategy. Once the price has risen artificially, the shares are then dumped on an unsuspecting bag holder who thinks he’s bought a “hot stock.”


Never miss a post…subscribe!


The defendants are charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and other charges. They could face up to 20 years in prison, per count.

The key point to remember is that this type of manipulation happens in securities markets every day. And it’s not confined to small stocks.

As investors, we have to be on the lookout for it.

And just as there are conspiracy to pump stocks, there are conspiracies to crash them.

Short selling hedge funds Melvin Capital and Citron Research are being investigated by the FBI for possibly conspiring with research firms to publish false reports on stocks. Sabrepoint Capital paid a researcher to publish false, negative information about Farmland Partners on Seeking Alpha, a recent court case uncovered.

Here are a few guidelines to avoid being caught up in these schemes:

1) Don’t believe everything you read.
2) Don’t buy a stock just because it’s going up.
3) If someone you don’t know calls you to promote an investment, hang up.

I hope the DOJ prosecutes this fraud ring vigorously. I also hope they uncover the many more that are still in operation.

What do you think about this massive fraud? What other frauds do you think may be lurking in financial markets?

Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 👋

More on markets:

AMC Fails to Deliver Pass 1.3 Million in Latest Report

NYSE Investigating Shopify Stock Plunge; Citadel Involved

AMC Now #4 Most Shorted Stock

Never miss a post…subscribe!

Photo: “Day 12 Occupy Wall Street September 28 2011 Shankbone 30” by david_shankbone is marked with CC PDM 1.0.

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

$1 Billion Still Missing from Bitfinex Hack

Never miss a post…subscribe!

Last week, the U.S. government made its largest asset seizure ever: $3.6 billion worth of bitcoin.

The money came from the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex exchange. The culprits: Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan, a young couple from New York City.

Perhaps the most interesting detail in this story is that approximately 24,000 bitcoins are still missing from this hack. They would be worth over $1.1 billion at current prices.

So where are they? Perhaps percolating around the same places where Lichtenstein and Morgan laundered theirs.

The criminal complaint alleges that the couple laundered some of their stolen coins using non-fungible tokens (NFT’s). This could explain why people will pay hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for an image of an ape.

If two criminals work together, trading the NFT between various accounts they control at ever-increasing prices, all they need is one bagholder to come in and make the illusion real. They take his money, give him the little jpeg, and laugh all the way to the bank.

Another fascinating aspect of this story is how they were caught:

The authorities said they traced the flow of funds through the unhosted wallets and across exchanges, according to the complaint, finding transactions that landed in accounts on exchanges that the two alleged launderers had in their real names. In one instance, according to the complaint, two of these accounts shared a login from the same location in New York.

This is a common mistake: mixing anonymous and real identities. Ross Ulbricht, creator of the Silk Road, did this by logging into his private VPN and his personal Gmail account from the same cafe in San Francisco.

If authorities find a pattern that when an anonymous account is used, your account also tends to be used from the same IP address, you’re going down.

In all, I think this case is good for the crypto industry. The less it seems like a free-for-all, the more legitimate it becomes.

The more legitimate it becomes, the broader adoption will be.

Never miss a post…subscribe!

More on tech:

Tech Plunge Hits Early Stage Startups

How Solana Could Wipe Out Visa and MasterCard

Hedge Funds Pull Back from Tech Amid Big Losses

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.

Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.

I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

How New York Winters Helped Put Gotti in Prison

No one could touch John Gotti. Prosecutors went after the Gambino crime family boss repeatedly, only to see him acquitted.

Rather than give up, they went after Gotti in his inner sanctum: the Ravenite Social Club.

As the Gambinos eventually learned, an FBI surveillance team, over Thanksgiving weekend 1989, had secreted bugs throughout the apartment two floors above the Ravenite Social Club at 247 Mulberry Street. The Gambinos had been using the apartment, which was owned by Nettie Cirelli, the widow of Gambino wiseguy Michael Cirelli (Nettie was away on vacation that Thanksgiving holiday), for years. In fact, Gambino underboss Aniello (Neil) Dellacroce also had used that apartment for secret meetings.

Gravano also is asked whether the Gambino bosses ever considered going outside to discuss topics like murder in order to avoid possible bugs.

“We had most of (those discussions) outdoors,” but it was “impossible to have them all outdoors.” This was because, as he said, sometimes the weather didn’t permit it and sometimes they were too tired.

I was struck by how something as simple as a cold night foiled this wily mafia boss.

It shows me how when we lose our discipline and lower our standards, we open ourselves up to catastrophe. This is a valuable lesson for those of us on the right side of the law, even if it comes from a notorious gangster.

This story comes from the excellent Cosa Nostra News blog. I’ve been speaking with the author lately, and he has some outstanding content on organized crime.

If you’re interested in the mafia, I strongly recommend checking out his site. Another great post: a fictional account of a mysterious mob hit.

It begins with a body floating in the Hackensack River.

Enjoy!

More on the mafia:

The Mafia’s Hoboken Fortress

Paul Castellano’s Last Day

A Notorious Mob Informant’s Hoboken Headquarters

Photo: John Gotti

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Paul Castellano’s Last Day

Salvatore Gravano, a made member of the Gambino crime family, walked into a room with a heart shaped bed. The sheets were red velvet. Mirrors lined the ceiling.

This was no romantic getaway. Gravano had just murdered the most powerful mob boss in the country. Now he was on the run.

In an engrossing episode of the Our Thing podcast, Sammy the Bull describes the murder of Paul Castellano and its aftermath.

The love nest Sammy found himself in belonged to Joe Watts, a fellow soldier. Sammy and his crew hid there after the hit, bracing for the war they were sure was coming.

Gravano, exhausted, took the couch instead. His fatigue after the hit is a strange parallel to Irish mobster Whitey Bulger, who often slept after his many murders.

This is the biggest hit of all time.

Frankie DeCicco

The war never came. The Castellano hit had been conducted brazenly amid the crowds in Midtown Manhattan. Anyone who had a problem with Gotti and Gravano kept their mouths shut, afraid to meet to same fate.

John Gotti was made boss of the Gambino family in the basement of a school. A fellow mobster had a connection there.

I picture the children who came the next day, never knowing what happened.

More on the mafia:

‘THEY GOTTA GO’: GRAVANO ON THE CASTELLANO HIT

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

HOFFA MURDER SUSPECT TONY PRO’S UNION HALL

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

‘They Gotta Go’: Gravano on the Castellano Hit

Gambino family boss Paul Castellano had a problem: he couldn’t get hot water in his shower. The mansion he had built on Staten Island’s Todt Hill was so large that water cooled in the pipes before it could reach the bathroom.

The contractor he got to help him was a rising star in the Gambino family: Salvatore Gravano. Gravano had his men wrap heating coils around the pipes, and the problem was fixed.

Castellano couldn’t have known that the man who fixed his shower would one day murder him.

On this fascinating episode of the Our Thing podcast, Gravano breaks down how the notorious murder of Castellano, the most high profile crime boss in the country, happened. Castellano would be killed outside the exclusive Sparks Steakhouse on Manhattan’s 46th Street. The hit was planned meticulously for months and the shooters even obtained walkie talkies to communicate outside Sparks.

As the day of the murder approached, Gravano and Gambino consigliere Frankie DeCicco hid in the maid’s quarters of an associate’s home in Staten Island, practically under Castellano’s nose. And their scheming went beyond killing Castellano. Should John Gotti, who would become boss after the hit, not cooperate with them, they would kill him as well.

“This is a do or die hit.”

Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano

On December 16, 1985, a group of men in white jackets and distinctive fur hats began to approach Sparks. Castellano and his driver, Tommy Bilotti, pulled within a few feet of Gotti and Gravano on the narrow Manhattan streets. But they never noticed Gotti or Gravano, who directed the hit and was also there as a backup shooter.

Uniforms, radio communications, reserve forces: the hit had a military precision. Castellano and Bilotti were quickly shot to death, making John Gotti the boss of the Gambino family.

In this podcast, Gravano portrays Gotti as a reckless loudmouth, even as the late Gotti no longer has any chance to defend himself. It’s hard to know how accurate his account is, but it’s certainly entertaining!

More on the mafia:

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

HOFFA MURDER SUSPECT TONY PRO’S UNION HALL

A NOTORIOUS MOB INFORMANT’S HOBOKEN HEADQUARTERS

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Hoffa Murder Suspect Tony Pro’s Union Hall

On July 30, 1975, James R. Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, disappeared without a trace. In 1982, he was declared dead. No body has ever been found.

A prime suspect in that disappearance was Teamsters Local 560 President Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano. In fact, Hoffa was actually on the way to meet Tony Pro when he disappeared.

Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano

A member of the Genovese crime family, Tony Pro ruled Local 560 with an iron fist. Anyone who opposed him had a way of winding up dead.

Tony Pro’s union hall

Hoffa and Provenzano’s beef seems to date from prison. Whether Tony Pro had other reasons for wanting Hoffa dead isn’t known.

Today, I went in search of the remains of this history. Tony Pro’s Local 560 Union Hall is in Union City, NJ, a town that was once heavily Italian but is now mostly Hispanic. Though it has changed since Tony Pro’s day, its working class roots are very much intact. Nearby are Tonnelle Avenue and the Lincoln Tunnel, where many of Local 560’s members drive their trucks every day.

Looking at the door to the union hall, I imagined a small, bespectacled man leaving at the end of the day with a sheaf of papers. Who would think he had the power that he did?

Tony Pro’s habit of disappearing anyone who got in his way eventually caught up with him when he had the local’s treasurer, Anthony Castellito, murdered at his country home in the Catskills. Like Hoffa’s, his body was never found. But years later, an informant tipped the FBI to Tony Pro’s involvement, and Tony went to federal prison, where he died in 1988 of heart failure.

More on the mafia in New Jersey:

THE MAFIA’S HOBOKEN FORTRESS

BADA BING’S REAL-LIFE MOB CONNECTIONS

A NOTORIOUS MOB INFORMANT’S HOBOKEN HEADQUARTERS

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Hoboken’s Most Powerful Gangster

Inside a low-slung building surrounded by trees in southern Minnesota, there is an old man. Now ailing and in his 90’s, he was once one of the most powerful members of the American mafia. This building is Federal Medical Center Rochester. This man is Louis “Bobby” Manna.

Genovese family consigliere Louis “Bobby” Manna, right

Manna was born in Hoboken in 1929 and, by the 80’s, he had reached the pinnacle of the underworld: consigliere in the Genovese crime family. Of the family’s 14 capos, 4 operated in New Jersey and reported to Manna directly. His empire included a $20 million a year gambling ring, the largest port on the east coast, garbage contracts, and union corruption that netted millions more in ill-gotten gains.

Manna ran this empire from Casella’s Restaurant in Hoboken, a bunker-like structure with almost no legitimate clientele. There, he met with his capos and ruled on disputes. Even corrupt police officers came there to pay their respects.

But despite Manna’s power, all was not well for the Genovese family’s vast operations in the Garden State. John Gotti, leader of the larger Gambino family, wanted a piece. After the Bruno/Scarfo family of Philadelphia fell on hard times, Gotti insisted on taking their lucrative South Jersey rackets, leaving only the less profitable territory in the north to Manna and the Genovese.

Manna couldn’t accept this. He was also incensed by Gotti’s murder of the prior Gambino boss, Paul Castellano, in blatant violation of Cosa Nostra’s rules. As the summer of 1987 faded into fall, Manna began to plan Gotti’s murder.

With lookouts everywhere and his own soldier as the owner, Manna felt comfortable at Casella’s. Perhaps a little too comfortable. He spoke openly of killing Gotti, even using Gotti’s full name and instructing his lieutenants in detail how to murder the Gambino boss.

Perhaps so used to power, Manna destroyed himself by his brazeness. An FBI bug picked up the conversation, along with many others. Manna was convicted of multiple murder plots and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989 under the RICO Act.

Manna’s story has an intriguing postscript: in his 90’s and facing the coronavirus pandemic, he petitioned the court to release him to live out his last days with his stepson in Bayonne, NJ. A Change.org petition even circulated to spring the elderly convict from prison.

Federal Judge Peter Sheridan ruled against Manna in December 2020, likely consigning him to death behind bars.

Shortly therafter, his former headquarters was demolished to make way for a park.

More interesting spots in New Jersey:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

The Church Tony Soprano’s Grandfather Built

“See that church? Your great grandfather helped build that almost 80 years ago. He was a stonemason, the old man. Came over from Avellino with four dollars in his pocket.”

Tony Soprano

The camera pans down to show a beautiful church made of grey stone. Alongside it: a red Tahoe. A father wants to show his teenage son the family’s history.

I always loved this scene in season 4: the beautiful backdrop, the connection to the Italian immigrants that form my family and Tony’s, and AJ’s apathetic response to it all. So yesterday, I went in search of this venerable parish.

The church in season 4
How it looked yesterday

The church is in Newark in the series, but the real shooting location was St. Patrick’s Church in Jersey City, NJ. Completed in 1877, it was built largely by Irish, not Italian immigrants. But how it was built closely parallels Tony’s story:

Most families could contribute only pennies. But the men of the parish, most of them day laborers and unskilled workmen, contributed something perhaps more important, their raw labor, acquiring in the process a sweat equity in the great project and a commitment to its success beyond what religious fervor alone might have produced.

We see St. Patrick’s numerous times in the series: in the pilot, when Tony visits the church with Meadow, in seasons 3 and 4, and finally in season 6 when it is home to the Feast of St. Elzear. The zeppole stand, sausage vendors, and rides were lined up on Bramhall Avenue, alongside the church.

The beautiful garden in season 1
The church garden yesterday

Tony describes the neighborhood as “falling down to the ground,” and indeed I saw a number of condemned buildings. But nonetheless, I found myself wishing I could walk the Feast of St. Elzear with a bag of zeppoles in the shadow of this majestic church.

The Feast of St. Elzear, season 6
On the stairs, seen in season 3

Just don’t ride the teacup ride!

More on The Sopranos:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.