Saturday, June 28, 2008

With Great Power Come Great Bribes

Los Angeles, CA

Whatever side of the immigration debate you happen to be on, there's one thing everybody agrees on. The system is fucked up. Case in point, ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Constantine Peter Kallas, 38, and wife Maria Kallas, 39. They were picked up yesterday for allegedly taking money from immigrants, up to $20K a pop, to speed through their paperwork.

Seems Mrs. Kallas then laundered the money, about a million bucks, through bank accounts in her mother's name before depositing it in their own accounts. And it looks as thought they've been running this little scam since 2000.

And people wonder why we don't trust the government.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Wire: Los Angeles Edition

Los Angeles, CA

The Avenues is a Latino gang in north-east Los Angeles that covers Highland Park, parts of Cypress Park, Glassell Park and Eagle Rock. They pretty much control the drug trade up there. They have ties to the Mexican Mafia (who doesn't these days?), have been known to engage in racketeering, drug and weapons trafficking, the occasional murder or two.

As of yesterday they got stomped on a little.

Twenty-eight members were rounded up yesterday by DEA and LAPD officers after a 6-month investigation and nailed with an 88-count, 158 page indictment. Some of the highlights:
* Participated in a series of homicides, attempted homicides and homicide conspiracies from 2003 to this year involving street gang rivals and victims who ventured onto the gang's turf. Members operated under the authority of the Mexican Mafia.

* Maintained a ready supply of stolen and unregistered machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and automatic handguns, as well as body armor, used for attacks and intimidation against enemies, police, outsiders and or anyone posing a threat to the gang's illegal activities.
It's nice to see the Feds getting more involved in gang crime recently.

California's prison system is by no means Club Med, but in a lot of cases these guys are going somewhere that already has a support structure in place for them. They have friends and associates waiting. Makes doing time a little easier and gives gangs a chance to hone their recruits.  It's like a training facility on the state dime.

If they get brought up on Federal charges, though, these guys don't go to a state facility.  They get shipped off to Beaumont, Lewisburg, Terra Haute.

And the idea of going to a prison where you have none of your support system in place is a lot more frightening than sharing a bunk with your cousin. State prison has proved to be not much of a deterrent. Maybe more Federal time will.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Because That's Where The Money Is

Placentia, CA

Refrigerator dolly? Check. Wire cutters? Check. Balls of steel? Check.

A man wandered into a Circle K in Placentia this morning around 4am and carted off a free-standing ATM. Just walked in, snipped some wires and tossed the whole thing onto a dolly. Probably whistling while he did it, too. Security cameras caught him, but he was wearing a paintball mask.

Two and a half minutes to cart away a full ATM. Not a bad hourly rate that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Deceived by Brett Battles

Brett Battles' second spy thriller, The Deceived is out today.
Anonymity. Trust. Professionalism. In his world, Jonathan Quinn has a few rules. He?ll get rid of bodies that have to disappear; nothing ever gets traced back to him. But when Quinn is called to a busy Los Angeles port where a shipping container has just come in from the sea, it?s clear his rules have been violated. Inside the crate is a dead man?a man who once saved Quinn?s life. And while no one knows how CIA agent Steven Markoff died, Quinn has to do more than clean. He has to find Markoff?s girlfriend, Jenny. To tell her that Markoff is dead. To find out why?and why someone sent Markoff?s body to him.

Until a week ago, Jenny Fuentes was an assistant to an ambitious congressman. Now Jenny is missing, too, and a lot of man power is making sure she isn?t found. But Quinn has his own man power. He has tools that can pry into secrets held anywhere in the world. He has the skill to trade blows with killers and spies. And he has covert weapons: his eager and smart apprentice, Nate, and brilliant Orlando, his closest friend, who?s saved his life more than once.

Racing from the corridors of power in Washington to the bustling streets of Singapore, Quinn won?t stop until he uncovers the truth behind his friend?s violent death, the astounding reason Jenny has vanished?and what she knows about the most explosive deception of all.

I was lucky enough to snag a copy at his launch on Saturday at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood and burned through it the next day.  It's a great follow up to The Cleaner but stands well on its own.  The pacing is tight, the action is fierce and it really keeps you turning the pages.  He's created a fascinating protagonist in Jonathon Quinn and his supporting characters are true to life and engaging.

Boy keeps this up he'll be pulling Lee Child numbers in no time.

So, go pick up a copy today.  Hell, buy two.  I did.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Running Man Can Slit A Thousand Throats In One Night

La Palma, CA

Or knock over a couple convenience stores in half an hour.

An AM/PM was hit last night around 10:30 in Hawaiian Gardens by an armed gunman, netting him about a thousand bucks. About thirty minutes later a 7-11 was hit in La Palma for $300. Seems he grabbed a Coke at the AM/PM, took it to the counter and then waved the gun around. Same procedure at the 7-11 only he used a Pepsi. Coke?  Pepsi?  What could it mean? That's fiendish!

I really just wanted to use "fiendish" in a sentence.  I mean, how often do you get a chance to do that?

Anyway, after leaving the 7-11 the bandit stuck up a man in an SUV, but when the victim said he didn't have any money, he was left alone.

That works?  Really?  I should totally try that on the IRS.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Father's Day Tale

Sunland, CA

So, Father's Day was yesterday. That's one of those holidays I just don't get. Celebrating the fact that somebody's got a high sperm count? I mean, seriously, how is that a feat? And what do the dads get out of this, anyway? A tie, a coffee mug, an Amber Alert.

Jose Luis Ortega, 26, is being sought by police after shooting his estranged wife at least a dozen times and driving off with their two sons, 3-year-old Luis Gonzalo Ortega and 5-year-old Diego Fabian Ortega. The unidentified woman is in critical condition in the hospital.

The truck Ortega was in was found last night in Lancaster. Seems Mr. Ortega has ties in Las Vegas and Mexico.

Let's see. He heads north to Lancaster. So, head out to Vegas to grab some shut eye next?  Swipe some cash and swap cars from a buddy before hightailing it down through Arizona into Mexico? What do you think, Nogales?

Either way, they'll grab him somewhere along the route, I'm sure. Can't be easy to run with two toddlers in the back screaming for juice boxes and wondering what happened to mommy. Maybe stash the kids with a relative in Vegas and keep on running.  Hell, maybe he's still stuck in Lancaster.

Ortega is 5 feet 6 and 180 pounds. Diego was wearing a blue and green checkered shirt, blue jeans and white shoes. Luis was wearing a red checkered shirt and white shoes. If you see them you know what to do.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Very Cool Weekend

The Missus and I hit Duane Swierczynski's signing on Saturday at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood.

Late, so I'm sure we missed a slew of cool people (were you there, Aldo?), but we snagged a copy of Severance Package (among many other wonderful books to go on to the ever increasing pile of wonderful books - seriously, we've run out of room - they're stacked on the floor in front of the fireplace for chrissake) and grabbed some lunch with Ms Money Shot herself, Christa Faust. Much fun was had amidst talk of writing, dead bodies, genital surgery and Persian food.

On another note, the Spring issue of Demolition is out with a story by yours truly, not to mention some great stuff by Justin Porter, William Dylan Powell, and John Kenyon. Check it out.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sexual Predators 101

All Across The Southland

Remember all those "back in my day" comments your dad would tell you about walking to school? Uphill? Both ways? In the snow? At least he didn't have to deal with pedophiles.

Birmingham High School basketball coach Kevin Lamont Thomas was charged yesterday with 12 felony counts in the sexual assault of a minor. The same day three more cropped up and said he'd done the same to them. Two came forward and the third the cops found out about when they perused Mr. Thomas' video collection. Yeah, he's a real winner.
Thomas was charged with one count each of committing a lewd act on a child and possession of child pornography, and five counts each of sexual penetration with a foreign object while the victim was unconscious, and sexual penetration with a foreign object on a child under 18.
Not to be outdone by a jock we have Mr. Alex Diaz, 36, a teacher at Bell High School in Compton, who was caught in flagrante delicto in the backseat of a car with a 17-year-old female student and faces four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse, three counts of oral copulation of a person under 18 and two counts of sodomy of a person under 18. Paradise by the dashboard light, indeed. Aren't you glad your kid's not in his class?

But it's not just coaches and teachers. Oh no. Batting for the administration, we have Principal Randolph Barnett Cornfield (yes, that's really his name), 60, of Del Rey Continuation School in Westchester, who was picked up on suspicion of possessing child pornography on his home computer. The story's sketchy on how the LAPD became involved in this one, but I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more on this one over the next several days.

So this is the world that the children of today get to live in. Ain't it grand? Me, I'll take the good old days when all I had to do was gut a moose with a Pee Chee folder.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Now That Takes Skill

North Hills, CA

Shooting a person is easy. You point the gun at them and you pull the trigger. Any idiot can do it. But it takes an extraordinary idiot to shoot your own finger.

A suspect was picked up on Sunday in the shooting death of a man in a North Hills parking lot. At the station police noticed that he had shot himself in the finger.

How do you do that? Seriously. And how do you get "shot in the finger", as opposed to "shooting off the finger". I mean, how big are this guy's fingers?

And according to the paper, "His condition was not available." Really? You can't infer? How about "Stupid"?

More To Blame On GTA

Lakewood, CA

So you're standing in line at Best Buy with your pal Rico going, "Ya know, it'd be a lot easier to pick up Mario Kart if we just broke into someone's house and stole it." And Rico says, "Hey, that's a good idea."

Three people were watching the Lakers game last night at their home in Lakewood when two armed men waltzed in, tied them up and ransacked the place, only to leave with a videogame. Damn. And that copy of Rock Band really tied the room together.

You know me, I don't trust anybody. So I have to wonder why they were really there and what they were really looking for. And what they really walked off with.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Because Guns Make Everything Better

And I mean everything. Yes, even that. Don't believe me? Check this out. Plots With Guns #2 is up and it's an ass-kicker.

Jimmy Callaway, Patti Abbott, Bryon Quertermous, Todd Robinson, Jason Duke, David Montgomery, Josh Converse and Frederick Zackel. Can't beat that line-up. Stories that kick you in the nuts and take all your money. Like that Thai hooker that gave you the clap last year?

Yeah, just like that.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

At Least Wait 'Til They're Old Enough To Drive You

Long Beach, CA

Mothers have it rough. With the constant juggle of career and child, and daycare tough to come by, can you blame a mom for taking her kids with her to sell black tar heroin?

Enedina Cardona Rodriguez, 35, is being held on $100,000.00 bail on suspicion of felony drug dealing and cruelty to a child. Seems the police have been watching her the last couple of weeks as she dealt from her SUV with two of her boys, 3 and 6 years old, alongside.

Ms Rodriguez has a total of eight children. The youngest seven are in protective custody. Seems to me that if anyone should stop reproducing it's her.

Congratulations, madame, your uterus works. Now please stop using it.

Buy This Book

My dear friend and closest thing to a Samoan lawyer I will ever know, J.D. Rhoades has had his novel, Safe And Sound released in mass market paperback today. It kicks all kinds of ass. Here's what PW said about it when the hardcover came out.
Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Rhoades's solid third mystery to feature rugged bounty hunter Jack Keller (after 2006's Good Day in Hell) wastes no words. Keller loves his work: it keeps him from dwelling on the past. When a young girl goes missing, his suspicion first falls upon the child's father, David Lundgren, a member of Delta Force. Keller wades through military bureaucracy?dealing as best he can with his own ineradicable memories of what he saw during the first Gulf War and the way the army treated him afterward?to learn that Lundgren has also disappeared; Keller quickly begins to suspect that the actual story is more complicated than it first seemed. Soon he's proven horribly right. Crisp dialogue and the author's deft use of local color support a narrative driven as effectively by characters as by events.
Fun stuff.

And to plug other Rhoades-ian sorts of things, his new novel, Breaking Cover drops July 22nd. You can listen to the first chapter here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Some Days The Bear Eats You

Los Angeles, CA

It's turned into a common refrain. First there's "Where you from?" Then there's gunfire. Most times the questioner leaves a corpse behind. But sometimes the prey fights back.

Anthony DeLa Cruz, 23, who says he isn't a gang member (I'll wait to see if that's true) was confronted by two gentlemen, Rosalio DeLa Rosa, 22, and a 17-year-old boy, who supposedly are. After asking the hundred dollar question and pointing a gun at Anthony, Rosalio got a bit of a surprise.

Anthony shot him.

When the 17-year-old picked up the gun and tried to return fire, only to find the gun jammed, Anthony shot him, too.

Now, only two people know the truth here, because Rosalio's cooling his heels in a morgue drawer, but I'm inclined to believe Anthony's story only for the fact that he flagged down a cop and turned himself in. Thinking the cops are leaning the same way because he's being held on manslaughter charges while the young'un is being held on murder. I'm hoping he's telling the truth.

Considering L.A.'s strict concealed carry laws, it's unlikely that Anthony had a CCW or that he was transporting his weapon legally (ammo and weapon have to be kept in separate vehicle compartments - e.g cab and trunk). If that's the case, had he been carrying legally, he might very well be dead right now. I'm willing to bet that Rosalio wasn't up on his license.

I think you can see the way I lean on concealed carry.