On the Ground in Albania Chasing the Mob World

Amazing global investigation about Albanian mob by@kevinjayheldman #longreads http://bit.ly/ONyMGl

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The Week’s Best Longreads: The Daily Beast Picks for June 16, 2012

http://www.thedailybeast.com/…/the-week-s-best-longreads-the-dailybeast-…– longreads-sessions-120614-tease  Kevin Heldman, Capital New York An investigation into the heart of Albanian-American organized crime.

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Wow. Just finished piece on Albanian gangs in @capitalnewyork. Amazing. It’s GTA: Liberty City come alive. Read now: http://t.co/LbC3efeb
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     I feel, felt, a little like a low rent John McPhee on the cops and robbers beat — 50,000 words on how Albanians settle beefs and toss silencers —  but this is my final story in a long series on Albanian transnational crime in New York, in the US, and overseas.

This article, Part I, goes in very deep on a specific NY Albanian crew and takes you, took me, all over Albania reporting on this world.  I got as deep there as I could as a reporter — gave it my all — somebody in or of that crime world or some agent in IOC2, DEA, FBI or a lawyer, prosecutor out there who’s on these cases may know this world deeper, but I’m already punching way above the weight of a press pass, hey tell me your story, I don’t have a gun, money, subpoena power or a 5k letter to give you (that’s my shout out to all you  ridiculously hard working US prosecutors and defense attorneys on this and related cases — don’t know how you do it).

FBI NY Balkan Task Force: probably have a restraining order on me, this guy again, leave us alone already, be a normal reporter, go become a security guard or something if you want street action but you all would appreciate this account and especially Part II so if you see this check it out.

Part II, to be published pretty soon, will explain why all this matters, document the scope of this kind of crime — kind of say that this is not just arbitrary let’s write about Albanian crime because it’s novel — there is a shockingly established criminal subculture here that is very serious; I resisted believing it for the longest time because it seemed so unreal but it’s there, in mind numbing so many guns in mouths over and over again detail.

Here’e the link to the story on Capital New York.  I think it’s good, never sure on these things, you rewrite and reread and can’t read any more so much you lose perspective, but it is honest and I did work like mad on it.  If it’s not good I’m in trouble because I suck at life and I’m supposed to be good at this so… you know, there’s that. Ah, I always have to go too far.

On the Ground In Albania Chasing the Mob World

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Drug running, slang, and real talk on NYPD wires and gangs r us type sites

(May 18, 2012)

“A notorious drug dealer who got his start during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and was so good at hiding his whereabouts that he was known as “the ghost” has been arrested along with dozens of others on new charges, police and prosecutors said Thursday.

James Corley, 51, was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance and other drug charges after a 15-month undercover investigation that used wiretaps and surveillance, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. Forty-four other people were also charged with drug crimes in the dismantling of Corley’s operation, known as the Supreme Team, and another drug gang, authorities said.

Corley supplied cocaine to a second gang called the South Side Bloods, and low-level dealers grossed about $15,000 a week in drug sales, Kelly said. Burned by a wiretap before, Corley used at least eight different phones, authorities said.

The Supreme Team was run by legendary gang leader Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, who reputedly funneled drug money into rap music label Murder Inc. He’s now serving life without parole for a pair of murders after a 2007 conviction.

It was a brutal drug gang that came out of the same Queens streets where platinum rappers 50 Cent and Ja Rule emerged years later. At its peak, the Supreme Team’s network of dealers was making $200,000 a day, authorities said.

After McGriff did jail time on a drug conviction, he was released in 1997 and aligned himself with neighborhood friend and music mogul Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo. The one-time street thugs produced one film: “Crime Partners,” a straight-to-video affair that featured Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg and Ice-T.

NYPD’s Detective David Leonardi put the case together, noting in the charges that the gangs used Supreme Mathematics” and the “Supreme Alphabet,” the language system used by members of the Nation of Islam offshoot group Nation Of Gods and Earths (also known as “Five Percenters”). Leonardi was able to decipher the coded language…”

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I don’t know, I heard A is for Allah, B is for Born, etc in 1983, when I was 17 and three probated teens huddled together on a handball court reciting in a residential facility and I knew I couldn’t listen in, dog hair, Yacub, etc, but we were all buddies, really living together, so I did and they were cool, playfully pushing me away.  But slang terms for money, weed, and guns change every two months or so and with all the ridiculously complicated complex handshakes and hand signing thought up by bored in a cell teens all over NYC,  all also competing with raps to put together high level word play and metaphor after metaphor, neologisms every other line – – I think they and an old time veteran like Corley,  probably able to mix up something like 35 years of street talk, prison slang, institutional jargon, drug terms, and hip hop slang, could code deeper and more complex than something that’s all over urban dictionary and Wikipedia.  Something mixed up, nonsensical and easy, riffed without even really trying like:

Heads wearing Asolos violated in the bing ward playing the corner over static about Tony the Tiger (Blood repping ) on the cereal box lifted in the cafeteria and the program retreads shooting dope in the pocket because everywhere else collapsed and the dusties drinking cranberry juice to detox, and the Lincoln Hall irks kidding on the square, saying the only hardrocks are in graveyards in the money makin’ (mighty whitites racistly twisting it to monkey makin’,) in the burnt out, and the girls saying Lets prep in the clubs stepping all over his British Walkers, the 94Bs and masons fraternizing with the civilian dishwashers tricking on their lifer NCO husbands overseas and hit em cause they beat me freaks anyway — grown ass men long after the PINS petition expired like Bosket and the toothpaste on menthols wore off and the WAM ran out and the cologne strained through bread got him too sick worse than the antabuse and he was back on the juggle no struggle seeing how low your money can go (4-5-6) on c-74 with the crazy little ones nice with their hands, yo put me down on that right quick, that’s menthol right.

And some people would understand every word and many more people, grown people with careers and no time to waste would run it past the web sites and after no hits would call it a foolish waste of time, mock it (wait for the teenagers somewhere to sift through it all because they can care back then about all that) and just move on with regular living and regular talk, y’know, foxtrot uniform charlie kilo indigo tango.

Home From Albania, Finally Home — A Long Long Journey from a side street (Siri Kodra) in Tirana to a fourth floor walk-up in Manhattan, New York

I don’t know how the hell I really did it, just wanting to do it badly enough and showing up again and again, but I did do it — alone, but with the enormous, very very generous help of so many — a random Turkish man I met on an Air Train out of JFK Airport late at night, a random Albanian worker (who is now a friend, true friend for life, Drita) who looked out of windshields through tough, crazy Albanian city and highway traffic and near collisions; to hugging Ana (a mother and father sick, alone in a small office helping people who are angry about lost and found bags); to that working kid who said “that’s nice” in NY about peace and cupcakes and saying thanks to a fellow worker; to that present I got from the grandmother and the sick, but going to do well Mom in Selvia, Thimi’s folks (thank you for cooking for me and allowing me to talk too sentimental  about things that are serious and private, health, life and death)…

To do all this with no real big budget, no real organizational backing, no team, no big structure —  yeah, let’s be transparent, no family, no grandfather giving you blue chip stock, no mom worrying over your eyes,  your job, your worries, no Uncle to hook you up with a job after school — no complaints, I’m free — but still — from lugging your gear down to the street to jumping into vehicles on another continent — pure muscle and will and luck — thank you guys who helped.

Somebody told me don’t go overseas like a lamb, wandering around.  But why not, if you do it with confidence and courageously and decently, why not.  If you look them, if you look people in the eye and tell them what you want, if you make it that personal, I’m fine with that and most people are — they are, you just have to go and do it.  Haters, what did I call them before hip hop gave me that tired  tv language — they’ve always been around, I remember them since elementary school, but also people who looked out, were nice and I was nice back, they were always around,; there’s a lot of us out there.

Glad I get to do this, call myself a journalist.  If you believe it and you’re straight and you keep yourself humble and able, I think it’s all possible, no matter who you are, how difficult or unlikely — I’m just gonna keep on trying like all you try, hang and be nice to regular people, because I’m regular people, no matter what I’m doing, what sucesss failure means (Lek, plata, dinero, genama, cash — it’s possible to do it without all that, harder, but possible) — what good is a free press if journalism is a hobby like fly-fishing, just to do on the side and only a few privleged get to do it good and in -depth.

I can’t sing, dance, play ball or earn money hanging cabinets or show up every day to do something I don’t like or care about and nobody’s recruiting journalists who have a poet’s eye or heart like crazy, nobody’s recruiting anybody for money any more it seems.  But I only get 75, 90 years — why not try and be special and useful, see who comes to my funeral or who reads my articles.  Thank you guys, good looking. Really thanks.  Good night; I’m glad to be home in one piece, finally.

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