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If you remember the hit television show The Shield, it followed the efforts of Vic Mackey and his “strike team” which was used exclusively for highly dangerous raids and anti-gang and drug efforts. Mackey ran the streets like a crime lord, however, making deals with some gangs while squeezing out others. In the process, he broke just about every law on the books, killed several people, and eventually admitted to everything in a plea bargain.

Real-life Victor Mackeys do exist and one of them, Sgt. Ronald Watts operated right here in Chicago. Watts is alleged to have extorted drug dealers, stolen drug cash, and coerced confessions from suspects using torture tactics. In 2012, Watts and another officer were convicted of federal theft of public services and extortion in a housing project. 

Since Watts has been in prison, the States Attorney’s office has agreed to the exonerations of 87 criminal defendants who were facing time on Watts-related allegations. Nonetheless, there are hundreds more who claim that they were convicted on coerced confessions, planted evidence, and more.

Chicago PD announced a new team that will target straw purchasers for guns. Essentially, felons or others who would otherwise be prevented from applying for a gun permit pay someone else to perform the transaction for them. The straw buyer then gives the weapon to the felon who now has a gun. According to Chicago police, this is how a large number of weapons sold outside of Chicago end up on Chicago streets. 

The federal-local team will consist of Chicago P.D. and the ATF. Investigators are focusing on gun traffickers, straw purchasers, and unscrupulous gun store owners who do less than the legal requirement to ensure their buyers are legitimate.

Illegal Gun Sales at Legal Gun Stores

Back in the old days, they made you burn a saint to prove your loyalty to the gang was above all other considerations. Today, it appears that carjackings are fulfilling the same role. Carjackings are on the rise in Chicago with a healthy cross-section of defendants under the age of 18.

Recently, a group of 14-year-olds carjacked an off-duty police officer. They are facing charges. One of the teens was on home monitoring at the time of the carjacking, leaving everyone to wonder how he was allowed out of his home to commit a crime. 

In another case, a Chicago 18-year-old is facing charges related to the carjacking of a rideshare driver. He is facing charges related to carjacking, armed violence, and causing a death while committing a violent crime. Meanwhile, many of these perpetrators are being charged under federal law, and federal authorities aid Chicago police in tamping down violent crime, gang violence, and weapons crimes. The same boy was arrested for another carjacking in March.

A Trump associate was convicted in Manhattan after he enabled Paul Manafort to get $16 million in loans in exchange for an interview for a job with the Trump Administration. Stephen Calk was convicted of financial institution bribery and conspiracy. Calk insisted that he had broken no law nor done anything wrong.

Calk insisted that although he was given an interview for the job, he was not hired. Hence, there was no quid pro quo. However, Calk enabled Paul Manafort to get $16 million in loans related to his real estate ventures. This was money that would not have been offered to him had he used above-board channels. 

Testimony

A Bloomington man was awarded a stiff 13-year prison sentence after he drove his motorcycle into protesters. One woman suffered abdominal injuries while another man sustained a swollen arm. The defendant, Marshall Blanchard, was given seven years for failing to give information following a traffic accident, and another six years on the hate crime charge. The sentences will run concurrently, however, meaning he will only have to serve, at most, seven years. He will also be given credit for time served. Several charges were dismissed as a part of the plea bargain, which on its face, makes little sense. Below, we will discuss why.

Failing to Give Information After an Accident

Failing to give information after an accident is generally charged as a class-A misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail. He was given six years, probably due to his negotiated plea to run concurrently (at the same time) with a more severe hate crime charge. The maximum penalty for the most serious types of hate crimes is seven years.

While The Donald himself is not facing charges related to what authorities call an “audacious” tax fraud scheme, his company and his Chief Financial Officer are facing accusations that they failed to report over $1.7 million in earnings. It is unclear whether or not Trump will be charged, but investigators noted that he signed some of the questionable checks. Nonetheless, that comes short of proving fraud, which requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant knowingly deceived the federal government by hiding income streams. It is much more likely that the company’s CFO will take the fall for this.

As part of the scheme, the CFO paid himself and other executives off the books by utilizing lucrative fringe benefits, hence reducing their payroll taxes. Meanwhile, Trump is employing his usual strategy of demonizing the investigation as a “witch hunt” perpetrated by “radical democrats.”

Is This a Witch Hunt?

Two employees of a Chicago-area nursing home are facing criminal charges after a 96-year-old woman froze to death inside of a van on a cold Chicago night. Prosecutors contend that the woman was being transported to a nearby hospital for medical attention but never made it home. The driver of the bus parked the van without checking to see if the woman was still in the back. She was left there overnight and discovered the next morning after having frozen to death. Afterward, the bus driver made a fake entry into a logbook that the woman was returned to her facility on time. 

Other employees are also facing charges related to their failure to account for the woman over the course of an entire night. According to the complaint, the facility’s resident care manager was notified that the woman was not accounted for, but allegedly made no effort to find her. The next morning, staff began conducting a search for her and she was found still on the bus.

Two are facing charges related to the woman’s death, the driver of the bus who forgot the woman, and the resident care manager who failed to conduct a search until the next morning. Both are charged with criminal neglect of a long-term resident resulting in death, while the resident care manager is facing an additional lesser charge.

Chicago Alderman Carrie Austin and her chief of staff are facing federal criminal charges alleging bribery. According to the charges, Austin brokered a deal for a multi-unit real estate development contract. Federal authorities believe that the developer offered Austin home improvements to grease her wheels. Her chief of staff was also offered home improvements. Between them, they acquired new kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, bathroom tiling, new sump pumps, and a brand new HVAC system.

The federal government looks unkindly on businesses offering free services to elected officials, especially when that business went on to win a major contract that was granted with the help of the gift receiver. Austin is the third Chicago alderman to face indictment and the second charged this year. 

On what basis are these charges filed?

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently issued an update on its PSN program (Project Safe Neighborhoods). PSN is, according to the government, an evidence-based program that has been proven effective against violent crime. 

PSN is a collection of strategies that brings together state, local, and federal law enforcement to target the worst criminals and violent crime. While this language is fairly opaque, the undertone is gangs. The initiative seeks to hold organized crime accountable for the numerous deaths it causes each year. 

While authorities say that there has been progress, they also admit that the “number of violent crimes in Chicago remains stubbornly high.” Chicago remains a major target for federal authorities whose focus remains on weapons trafficking and drug trafficking. Several federal agencies are partnering with Cook County law enforcement to help better bring violent criminals to justice.

Authorities have made a reported $22 million cannabis bust after pursuing a vehicle at high speeds. The defendant, Jesser Oaxaca, 32, will face one count of trafficking cannabis, numerous weapons charges, and one charge of delivering cannabis. 

According to police, they spotted the van exiting a warehouse they suspected of drug activity. Two suspects emerged from this. One was Oaxaca and the other was an accomplice, Nicholas Valentino. 

Authorities followed the van while Valentino and Oaxaca conspired on Facetime to ambush the pursuing agents. At one point, Valentino fired two shots into the officers’ car. No one, however, was injured. Afterward, a high-speed chase ensued. The two vehicles piloted by each suspect fled in opposite directions. The Volkswagen, driven by Valentino eventually crashed into a squad card, thus ending the chase. 

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