The pen is mightier than the mob
"The 'Sunshine State' is a hoodlum paradise." Ryan Quade Emerson isn't one to mince words. He's at war. And the enemy, in Florida and elsewhere, is what he calls "the second government" of the United States, "an $80 billion-a-year industry that doesn't pay taxes," a Hydra-headed foe that, he insists, takes a bite out of everyone's paycheck just as surely as inflation.
The enemy is organized crime or, less euphemistically, extortion, loan sharking, narcotics trafficing, arson, illegal gambling, labor racketeering, the corruption of public officials, and not a little murder. And Mr. Emerson is waging war on it with a magazine called "Organized Crime Review" (OCR), of which he is publisher and executive editor.
The former freelance photographer and investigative reporter launched the magazine last February. "There seemed to be a gap," he says. "When you look at the magnitude of the problem I felt there was a need for some kind of a journal."
In the inaugural issue (which featured a leering photograph of Chicago's Al Capone on the cover), Mr. Emerson reported on the battle against organized crime in Florida's Dade County. The edition also provided a comprehensive list of the so-called "Sunshine Mafia" -- Mafia dons and their lieutenants who live in Florida, vacation there, wield "influence" in the state, or visit it from time to time.
"It's the only publication of its kinds in the US," says Mr. Emerson who until 1976, "Worked in intelligence for various agencies of the US government," as he cautiously puts it, courteously declining to be more specific. His intelligence training would appear to have prepared him admirably for the task he has taken on: the magazine secures much of its information from a network of "informed sources" and paid informers. No little information comes from sources within organized crime itself and from "crackerjack investigative reporters," he says. The magazine consequently never has to cast around for something to write about. "We could publish 200 pages a month," exclaims Mr. Emerson. But anyone assuming that OCR is an FBI front would be wrong, he declares emphatically. "There's no connection with the bureau," he insists, adding with a laugh: "But I wish they would give me some money."
The magazine, which presently has a circulation of a little over 1,000 is produced in Reno, Nevada, by Mr. Emerson, his wife, Janet, two associate editors , and three part-time researchers. "I also have two former FBI agents assisting me," he says. A subscription to OCR, whose current reader-ship consists largely of law enforcement personnel and newspaper reporters, costs $50 per year "which isn't expensive when you consider the kind of things we probe into " says Mr. Emerson. Substantial payments have to be made to informants, he points out.
Has organized crime attempted to sabotage the magazine? "Not that we're aware of," says the executive editor. "It could occur. We're psychologically prepared." Is he worried about his personal safety? "You can't really protect yourself against assassination," he replies with an almost audible shrug.
When Chicago mobster Al Capone visited Miami in 1927 he declared: "I am going to build or buy a home here, and I believe many of my friends will also join me." They did.
"Right now Florida has the worst case of hoodlum-itis," says Mr. Emerson. The reason? About 80 percent of all the cocaine and marijuana used in the US enters the country via the Sunshine State he claims.
"By the end of the 1970s, Florida was the major American point of entry for the $50 billion-a-year cocaine and marijuana industry," declared Mr. Emerson in the magazine's first edition. "No legitimate corporation in the world comes even close to this level of income and the figure exceeds the yearly budget of many countries."
He went on to observe that "behind this vast and lucrative enterprise are not only members of organized crime from around the world, but also cabinet ministers and generals in many foreign countries and American business and profestional men and women. Many of the investors have never even seen an illegal narcotic but have made from thousands to millions by just financing the traffic." He claims that lawyers, doctors, accountants, and others in South Florida, lured by the prospect of quick profit, are investing in it. They might transform $10,000 into $60,000 in a matter of weeks, he says.
"In Dade County, the ownership of legitimate businesses and property purchased from drug profits boggles the imagination," he wrote in the magazine's first issue, claiming that, according to law enforcement agencies, the cash was used to but hotels, restaurants, apartment complexes, shopping centers, banks, beauty shops, jewelry stores, car dealerships, and tracts of vacant land. "One intelligence agent told us that for every known drug-financed acquisition, there could easily be ten more," Mr. Emerson added.
The Magazine's researchers have concluded "that there are so many native politicians, military and law enforcement officers in Central and South America and the Caribbean who are directly involved in narcotic trafficking themselves, that any real effort to halt the 'cocaine-marijuana' express is an exercise in futility." Mr. Emerson asserts that the flood of narcotics entering the US from Colombia could be reduced to a trickle if the authorities there chose to crack down. "But they've all got their hands in the pot," he observes.
In the first issue of the magazine, Mr. Emerson described the organized crime-busting campaign mounted by E. Wilson Purdy, Sheriff-Director of Public Safety for Florida's Dade County. No sooner had mr. Purdy created the county's Organized Crime Bureau (OCB) to tackle it, ssays Mr. Emerson, than organized crime counterattacked with attempted wire-taps, allegations of bribery, character assassination, and the use of private detectives to snoop into the private and professional lives of the bureau's personnel. "Those who visited OCB headquarters told us that they were reminded of a small unit surrounded by the enemy under combat conditions," he wrote. Mr. Purdy was fired last December when he began to probe allegations of bribery, conspiracy, and criminal misconduct against Dade County and other officials, says Mr. Emerson.
"The sheriff and the OCB were an obstacle in the efforts of organized crime and others to buy and control southern Florida for their own purposes," he alleged in the article, claiming that Mr. Purdy's successor as Director of the Public Safety Department, Bobby L. Jones, "ordered the budget of the Organized Crime Bureau cut by $750,000 and the staff reduced by 25 percent."
Assistant director Robert Dempsey concedes that the sum mentioned by Mr. Emerson is "probably accurate" but stresses the "operation is still top notch." He takes particular exception to Mr. Emerson's presentation of the staff cutback. "It's very misleading," he says, pointing out that although OCB personnel were cut back by 25 percent, the action was taken for pressing budgetary reasons and that "many other segments of the department" were similarly cut. "It was not aimed at lessening the impact on organized crime," he insists.He also disputes Mr. Emerson's claim that since Mr. Purdy's departure 25 agents have resigned from the OCB. He contends that no more than 12 left -- half of these to join the Florida Department of Law Enforcement where, he says, they could earn more money.
The inaugural issue of OCR included a bonus for mobwatchers: a large, glossy card listing Sicilian Mafia bosses in the United States. But, as Mr. Emerson concedes, the name of the representative from Lower Pennsylvania already needs deleting. Angelo Bruno, reputed don of organized crime in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey was shot dead at point-blank range on March 21 as he sat in a car outside his house in Philadelphia. His alleged heir apparent, Philip Testa, one of the "Sunshine Mafia," would also seem to have enemies. His car was set on fire the day after Bruno's murder, and on March 30 his son Salvatore was shot and wounded outside a Philadelphia restaurant.
Last month's issue of OCR, which examined organized crime in Atlantic City and its connection with the state's Casino Control Commission, provides a clue as to why the reputed Mafia don was hit: According to an article by Clint Pitman , Angelo Bruno talked too much to the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation about organized crime in the state. "He knew the facts," he wrote. "He sang loud enough to keep from getting locked up again." Mr. Bruno, who has testified in Trenton on racketeering in southern New Jersey, had been given immunity from prosecution.
April's issue of the magazine includes an article on Angelo Errichetti, two-term mayor of Camden, New Jersey, who is said to be linked to organized crime figures in the state. Another article examines what Mr. Emerson describes as "the unusual political contacts" between Gov. Hugh Carey of New York (along with other state officials) and Anthony Scotto, powerful New York leader of the International Longshoremen's Association who was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to five years in prison last January.
Mr. Emerson observes that New York City and New Jersey are just as riddled with organized crime as Florida. The five Mafia "families" in the Big Apple -- Genovese, Luchese, Bonanno, Colombo, and Gambino -- reap $5 billion a year from the numbers racket, he claims, adding that the Mafia has largely abandoned prostitution to blacks, finding more remunerative criminal activity in other fields.
OCR's executive editor notes that organized crime is no longer the exclusive preserve of Sicilian-Italians. "There are endless numbers of organized crime groups in the US," he says, citing as examples the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang , the so-called "Dixie Mafia," and "a Mexican group in Southern California."
It is Mr. Emerson's contention that organized crime cannot exist without corruption in public office, but he bewails the fact that in the last 20 years "only a handful of our elected and appointed 'servants' have been indicted and convicted for organized crime activity," while the mob "becomes more prosperous every day."
But he sees some cause for hope, pointing to the organized crime hearings shortly to be launched by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations under the chairmanship of Sam Nunn (D) of Gregoria. Describing the senator as "a new paladin" about to "challenge the dragon," he observes that "his investigative staff is one of the best ever assembled and all are experts in the field." The subcommittee began probing organized crime on April 18 with hearings into the violence that accompanies it. A subcommittee spokesman says it plans a "comprehensive" four-year investigation into the problem. It has already compiled lists of Florida Mafiosi: OCR's directory of the "Sunshine Mafia" was assembled with assistance from the senator's subcommittee, says Mr. Emerson.
Mr. Emerson declares the FBI had a "miserable record" in its battle against organized crime until William Webster assumed control of the bureau from Clarence Kelley in 1978. When J. Edgar Hoover ran the agency, he says, "nothing was done." But he feels the FBI is now making a "concerted effort" to attack the problem. Indeed, according to United Press International, the bureau has been waging a major offensive against organized crime figures: Grand juries are expected to bring indictments against several Mafia dons this summer, the press agency reports.
But as OCR has noted: "Being a federal judge in organized crime-related cases has become an increasingly hazardous position to be in. In 1976, the judge presiding over the 'Dawson Gang' trial in Columbia, South Carolina, had to be heavily protected by US marshals after one of the defendants (while in custody) was found in possession of a firearm and serious death threats were received.
"Last year there was the street shoot-down murder (still unsolved) of Judge [ John H.] Wood in Texas, and recently Judge James Lawrence King was targeted for assassination during the 'Black Tuna' gang trial in Miami, Florida."
Mr. Emerson regards organized crime as the third-biggest problem confronting the US, after energy and the economy. He feels it should be an issue in the primaries and says each candidate should be expected to have a "well-defined" program to root it out.
The publication of OCR is not Mr. Emerson's first venture into magazines. For the last two years he has produced a monthly journal called "International Intelligence Report" that specializes in imparting information on Soviet (and Soviet-inspired) subversion and international terrorism. It has a circulation of 13,000, and, says Mr. Emerson, a surprisingly high readership in Britain.
Last month's issue observed that "intelligence sources have identified Moussavi Khoimi as the chief agitator . . . outside the United States embassy in Iran. Khoimi received indoctrination in psychological warfare at the Moslem training center in Tashkent [USSR]."
The same issue carried an item on the alleged KBG forgery of US documents, such as diplomatic cables, designed "to keep Spain out of NATO, to limit Greece's role in the [Atlantic] alliance, to pressure the US into abandoning the neutron bomb and to frustrate generally American foreign policy objectives."
What are the prospects for a reduction of organized crime in the US? "I'm not hopeful at all," Mr. Emerson replies. He maintains there is no property coordinated and financed national campaign to attack it "on a really fruitful basis."
To eliminate organized crime in the US, he says, would take "many billions of dollars, thousands of investigators, and squads of special prosecutors." Compared to the $50 billion spent on the Vietnam war, he observes, "we spend a minute amount to fight organized crime and narcotics." If the US spent as much fighting crime as it did in Vietnam, Mr. Emerson feels "we would see a definite improvement, and very quickly."
In an attempt to learn more about organized crime in the US, he is about to inaugurate a "tip center" in Reno. Observing that the average citizen is often afraid to report on mob activities to law enforcement agencies, he invites those with information to write to: OCR-Tip Center, P.O. Box 20173, Reno, Nevada 89515 . "They can send a note . . . signed or unsigned with details on the matter, and we will see to it that it is put into the hands of a city, county, state, or federal law enforcement agency or newspaper who we know can be trusted to take proper action," he says.
Ryan Emerson's message is direct and stark: "The power, resources, and influence of the $80 billion-a-year organized crime empire is exceeded in the United States only by the federal government itself." The problem of organized crime and corruption in America, he says, "has reached the crisis level and for the very survival of the country must be attacked in the most effective and zealous manner."
Sam Nunn, he intimates, may be the country's savior. At any rate, he wishes him "God speed."