(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘crime

“There are only two different types of companies in the world: those that have been breached and know it and those that have been breached and don’t know it.”*…

Enrique Mendoza Tincopa (and here) with a visualization of what’s on offer on the dark web and what it costs…

Did you know that the internet you’re familiar with is only 10% of the total data that makes up the World Wide Web?

The rest of the web is hidden from plain sight, and requires special access to view. It’s known as the Deep Web, and nestled far down in the depths of it is a dark, sometimes dangerous place, known as the darknet, or Dark Web

Visual Capitalist

For a larger version, click here

And for a look at the research that underlies the graphic, click here.

What’s your personal information worth? “The Dark Web Price Index 2022,” from @DatavizAdventuR via @VisualCap.

(Image at top: source)

Ted Schlein

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As we harden our defenses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that arguments began in the case of United States vs. David LaMacchia, in which David LaMacchia stood accused of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud. He had allegedly operated the “Cynosure” bulletin board system (BBS) for six weeks, to hosting pirated software on Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) servers. Federal prosecutors didn’t directly charge LaMacchia with violating copyright statutes; rather they chose to charge him under a federal wire fraud statute that had been enacted in 1952 to prevent the use of telephone systems for interstate fraud. But the court ruled that as he had no commercial motive (he was not charging for the shared software), copyright violation could not be prosecuted under the wire fraud statute; LaMacchia was found not guilty– giving rise to what became known as “the LaMacchia loophole”… and spurring legislative action to try to close that gap.

Background documents from the case are here.

The MIT student paper, covering the case (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 18, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Things gained through unjust fraud are never secure”*…

Mischief is cyclical—it is bred in good times and uncovered in bad times…

The bad news just keeps coming. Ten months after America’s stock market peaked, its big technology companies have suffered another rout. Hopes that the Federal Reserve might change course have been dashed; interest rates are set to rise by more than previously thought. The bond market is screaming recession. Could things get any worse? The answer is yes. Stock market booms of the sort that crested in January tend to engender fraud. Bad times like those that lie ahead reveal it.

“There is an inverse relationship between interest rates and dishonesty,” says Carson Block, a short-seller. Quite so. A decade of ultra-low borrowing costs has encouraged companies to load up on cheap debt. And debt can hide a lot of misdeeds. They are uncovered when credit dries up. The global financial crisis of 2007-09 exposed fraud and negligence in mortgage lending. The stockmarket bust of the early 2000s unmasked the deceptions of the dotcom bonanza and the book-cooking at Enron, Worldcom and Global Crossing. Those with longer memories in Britain will recall the Polly Peck and Maxwell scandals at the end of the go-go 1980s.

The next downturn seems likely to uncover a similar wave of corporate fraud…

The archetypal sin revealed by recession is accounting fraud. The big scandals play out like tragic dramas: when the plot twist arrives, it seems both surprising and inevitable. No simple formula exists to sort the number-fiddlers from the rest. But the field can be narrowed by searching within the “fraud triangle” of financial pressure, opportunity and rationalization…

As Warren Buffett has noted, “you don’t find out who’s been swimming naked until the tide goes out.” Read on for more from @TheEconomist, “A sleuth’s guide to the coming wave of corporate fraud” (a gift article: no paywall).

* Sophocles

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As we contemplate criminality, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that MCI and Worldcom announced what was then the largest merger in history, valued at $37 Billion, creating the second largest telecom company in the U.S. (after ATT).

Worldcom, the acquirer, completed the deal in 1998, then continued to grow via acquisition. MCI Worldcom (as then it was) filed for bankruptcy in 2002 (the Dot Com Bust) after an accounting scandal (as referenced above), in which several executives, including CEO Bernard Ebbers, were convicted of a scheme to inflate the company’s assets… which were ultimately acquired by Verizon.

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 10, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Would you like your money starched, sir? Box or hanger?”*…

Xizhi Li pioneered a new method of money laundering that enriched Latin American drug lords and China’s elite; Sebastian Rotella and Kirsten Berg explain…

In 2017, Drug Enforcement Administration agents following the money from cocaine deals in Memphis, Tennessee, identified a mysterious figure in Mexico entrusted by drug lords with their millions: a Chinese American gangster named Xizhi Li.

As the agents tracked Li’s activity across the Americas and Asia, they realized he wasn’t just another money launderer. He was a pioneer. Operating with the acumen of a financier and the tradecraft of a spy, he had helped devise an innovative system that revolutionized the drug underworld and fortified the cartels.

Li hit on a better way to address a problem that has long bedeviled the world’s drug lords: how to turn the mountains of grimy twenties and hundreds amassed on U.S. streets into legitimate fortunes they can spend on yachts, mansions, weapons, technology and bribes to police and politicians.

For years, the Mexican cartels that supply the U.S. market with cocaine, heroin and fentanyl smuggled truckloads of bulk cash to Mexico, where they used banks and exchange houses to move the money into the financial system. And they also hired middlemen — often Colombian or Lebanese specialists who charged as much as 18 cents on the dollar — to launder their billions.

Those methods were costly, took weeks or even months to complete and exposed the stockpiled cash to risks — damage, robbery, confiscation.

Enter Li. About six years ago, federal antidrug agents in Chicago saw early signs of what would become a tectonic change. They trailed cartel operatives transporting drug cash to a new destination: Chinatown, an immigrant enclave in the flatlands about 2 miles south of the city’s rampart of lakefront skyscrapers.

Agents on stakeout watched as cartel operatives delivered suitcases full of cash to Chinese couriers directed by Li. Furtive exchanges took place in motels and parking lots. The couriers didn’t have criminal records or carry guns; they were students, waiters, drivers. Neither side spoke much English, so they used a prearranged signal: a photo of a serial number on a dollar bill.

After the handoff, the couriers alerted their Chinese bosses in Mexico, who quickly sent pesos to the bank accounts or safe houses of Mexican drug lords. Li then executed a chain of transactions through China, the United States and Latin America to launder the dollars. His powerful international connections made his service cheap, fast and efficient; he even guaranteed free replacement of cartel cash lost in transit. Li and his fellow Chinese money launderers married market forces: drug lords wanting to get rid of dollars and a Chinese elite desperate to acquire dollars. The new model blew away the competition.

“At no time in the history of organized crime is there an example where a revenue stream has been taken over like this, and without a shot being fired,” said retired DEA agent Thomas Cindric, a veteran of the elite Special Operations Division. “This has enriched the Mexican cartels beyond their wildest dreams.”…

The fascinating– and chilling– story in full: “How a Chinese American Gangster Transformed Money Laundering for Drug Cartels,” Part 1 of a series in @propublica; Part 2: “The Globetrotting Con Man and Suspected Spy Who Met With President Trump,” a portrait of Li’s colleague Tao Liu and his separate (but related) crimes.

* Mohsin Hamid, Moth Smoke

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As we clean currency, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Mike Todd’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic Around the World in 80 Days was released. Directed by Michael Anderson from a screenplay by James Poe, John Farrow and S. J. Perelman, the movie starred David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton, and featured cameos from Cesar Romero, Charles Coburn, Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton and Glynis Johns. Its six-minute-long animated title sequence, shown at the end of the film, was created by award-winning designer Saul Bass.

The film was shot in just 75 days, in England, France, India, Spain, Thailand and Japan, using 680,000 feet of film that was edited down to 25,734. The cast included 68,894 people (wearing 74,685 costumes and 36,092 trinkets) and 7,959 animals.

The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won five: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Music and Best Screenplay-Adapted.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 17, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do”*…

US Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, lead investigator in finding looted treasures from the Baghdad Archeological Museum, directs a presentation to the press in Baghdad, 16 May 2003. Bogdanos now heads the New York District Attorney’s antiquities theft task force.

On the trail of looted antiquities…

The best photos to come out of the Met Gala every year are always the ones where you feel like a voyeur. It’s a weird combination of intimacy, celebrity, modernity, and antiquity that’s hard to replicate and harder, I think, to ignore. A shot of Kim Kardashian leaning against an Egyptian coffin at the 2018 Met Gala by Landon Nordeman exposes his subject in a flash of light—though perhaps not the subject anyone expected.

Out of the thousands upon thousands who saw the shot, one happened to be more interested in the gold coffin than Kim’s (heavenly) body in gold Versace. He had looted the coffin seven years earlier but was never paid for his spoils. And it was now sitting in the Met. Angry and in possession of receipts, he fired off an anonymous email to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to tip them off about the buxom gold figure in the photo next to the Kardashian. 

A year later, the DA’s Office proudly announced that after being stolen during the revolution in 2011, the coffin of Nedjemankh was finally returning home to Egypt. Scorned criminals, ancient art, and the social event of the season—you can’t make this shit up

But aside from that star-studded sabotage, the coffin of Nedjemankh isn’t actually an outlier. And neither is the other antiquities scandal still surrounding Kim K (she purchased an allegedly looted ancient Roman sculpture with Kanye back in 2016). 

Stolen antiquities end up in museums, galleries, and private collections surprisingly often. It happens like this: Looters dig up artifacts, smuggle them to dealers, who then bounce them from port to port. Eventually, someone higher up the chain sells these artifacts to museums like the Met and wealthy collectors like Kim who are all too willing to overlook those pesky legal details.

And usually, they stay there, because most jurisdictions just aren’t interested in going after antiquities theft. But most jurisdictions don’t have an ADA like Matthew Bogdanos.

Bogdanos has been working with antiquities since 2003, when he led a mission to recover the thousands of antiquities lost after the sacking of the National Museum of Iraq. On the heels of a National Humanities Medal for his work in Iraq, Bogdanos returned to Manhattan in order to head the city’s first antiquities theft task force. It would take another 12 years of Bogdanos tackling antiquities theft largely on his own before the city established an official unit. Since its official inception, under Cyrus Vance, and now under new DA Alvin Bragg, the team has helped return something like 2,000 antiquities to their countries of origin.

Besides Bogdanos, who’s still regularly staffed on homicide cases, the small, tenacious team relies on the wide-ranging skills of three other assistant DAs, five specialists in art and archeology, two detectives, and a handful of Homeland Security agents. If you can’t find them in their office downtown, you can probably assume they’re knocking on the ornate doors of the Upper East Side. To paraphrase the man behind the raids, underneath the genteel patina of the upper-class art world is a solid core of criminal activity. The seized art actually occupies so much space that the DA’s storage facilities have been dubbed Manhattan’s best antiquities museum

Read on as Bogdanos guides Hannah Barbosa Cesnik (@HBCesnik) through his murky milieu: “Inside the Mind-Boggling World of the Antiquities Theft Task Force,” in Anne Helen Petersen‘s (@annehelen) wonderful newsletter, Culture Study.

* Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), The Wide Window

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As we pursue provenance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1873 that Jesse James and his gang staged the first train robbery (the world’s first robbery of a moving train), a mile and a half west of Adair, Iowa… the site of which is now commemorated as a county park.

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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”*…

For a century, the idea of truth has been deflated, becoming terrain from which philosophers fled. Crispin Sartwell argues that they must return – urgently…

It is often said, rather casually, that truth is dissolving, that we live in the ‘post-truth era’. But truth is one of our central concepts – perhaps our most central concept – and I don’t think we can do without it. To believe that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to take it to be true that they do. To assert it is to claim that it is true. Truth is, plausibly, central to thought and communication in every case. And, of course, it’s often at stake in practical political debates and policy decisions, with regard to climate change or vaccines, for example, or who really won the election, or whom we should listen to about what.

One might have hoped to turn to philosophy for a clarification of the nature of truth, and maybe even a celebration of it. But philosophy of pragmatist, analytic and continental varieties lurched into the post-truth era a century ago. If truth is a problem now for everyone, if the idea seems empty or useless in ‘the era of social media’, ‘science denialism’, ‘conspiracy theories’ and suchlike, maybe that just means that ‘everyone’ has caught up to where philosophy was in 1922…

[Sartwell sketches the last 100 years of philosophy, and it’s undermining of the very idea of truth.]

I don’t think, despite all the attacks on the notion by all sorts of philosophers for a good century, that we’re going to be able to do without truth. In a way, I don’t think all those attacks touched truth at all, which (we’re finding) is necessary, still the only possible cure…

As a first step… we might broaden the focus from the philosophical question of what makes a sentence or proposition true or false to focus on some of the rich ways the concept of truth functions in our discourse. That love is true does not mean that it is a representation that matches up to reality. It does not mean that the love hangs together with all the rest of the lover or lovee’s belief system. It doesn’t mean that the hypothesis that my love is true helps us resolve our problems (it might introduce more problems). It means that the love is intense and authentic, or, as I’d like to put it, that it is actual, real. That my aim is true does not indicate that my aim accurately pictures the external world, but that it thumps the actual world right in the centre, as it were.

Perhaps what is true or false isn’t only, or even primarily, propositions, but loves and aims, and the world itself. That is, I would like to start out by thinking of ‘true’ as a semi-synonym of ‘real’. If I were formulating in parallel to Aristotle, I might say that ‘What is, is true.’ And perhaps there’s something to be said for Heidegger’s ‘comportment’ after all: to know and speak the real requires a certain sort of commitment: a commitment to face reality. Failures of truth are, often, failures to face up. Now, I’m not sure how much that will help with mathematics, but maths needs to understand that it is only one among the many forms of human knowledge. We, or at any rate I, might hope that an account that addresses the traditional questions about propositional truth might emerge from this broader structure of understanding. That is speculative, I admit.

Truth may not be the eternal unchanging Form that Plato thought it was, but that doesn’t mean it can be destroyed by a few malevolent politicians, tech moguls or linguistic philosophers, though the tech moguls and some of the philosophers (David Chalmers, for instance) might be trying to undermine or invent reality, as well. Until they manage it, the question of truth is as urgent, or more urgent, than ever, and I would say that despite the difficulties, philosophers need to take another crack. Perhaps not at aletheia as a joy forever, but at truth as we find it, and need it, now…

On why philosophy needs to return of the question of truth: “Truth Is Real,” from @CrispinSartwell in @aeonmag.

Source of the image above, also relevant: “The difference between ‘Truth’ and ‘truth’.”

* Oscar Wilde

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As we wrestle with reality, we might recall that it was on this date in 1986 that Geraldo Rivera opened “Al Capone’s Vault”…

Notorious and “most wanted” gangster, Al Capone, began his life of crime in Chicago in 1919 and had his headquarters set up at the Lexington Hotel until his arrest in 1931. Years later, renovations were being made at the hotel when a team of workers discovered a shooting-range and series of connected tunnels that led to taverns and brothels making for an easy escape should there be a police raid. Rumors were spread that Capone had a secret vault hidden under the hotel as well. In 1985, news reporter Geraldo Rivera had been fired from ABC after he criticized the network for canceling his report made about an alleged relationship between John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. It seemed like a good time for Rivera to scoop a new story to repair his reputation. It was on this day in 1986 that his live, two-hour, syndicated TV special, The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vault aired. After lots of backstory, the time finally came to reveal what was in that vault. It turned out to be empty. After the show, Rivera was quoted as saying “Seems like we struck out.”

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 21, 2022 at 1:00 am

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