Official & Economic Crime
The Rackets Bureau prosecutes organized crime, official corruption, crimes committed in correctional facilities and excessive use of force by police and correction officers. The Arson/Economic Crime Bureau prosecutes arson, auto theft and various frauds. Both bureaus are part of the Investigations Division of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office.
Staff members work closely with other investigative units within the Office, particularly the Detective Investigators and the Office’s Detective Squad. They also collaborate with various city, state and federal agencies.
In 2005, there were over 4,000 complaints of grand larceny involving automobiles in the Bronx, 8% fewer than in 2004 and 82% fewer than in 1990. Nonetheless, there were still 301 such thefts per 100,000 population.
Thieves generally steal cars to sell intact or as parts. When a car is stolen to be sold later, it is often stored in a parking garage (to insulate the thief if the car is armed with Lojack). Eventually, the car is “revinned,” which means the vehicle identification number (VIN) is changed and new paperwork is produced to make the stolen car appear legitimately available for sale. Many vehicles that are too “hot” to sell locally, or for which there is no local market, are shipped overseas to foreign markets.
Vehicles stolen for parts are also frequently stored in parking garages prior to being transported to local "chop shops." At these shops, vehicles that are not "altered" for resale are dismantled and sold in pieces.
The Office of the Bronx District Attorney has operated the Bronx Anti-Auto Theft Program since 1995. The program, which is supported by state grants, was designed to increase the number of successful prosecutions of defendants charged with grand larceny of a motor vehicle, criminal possession of stolen property, illegal possession of a vehicle identification number, auto stripping and/or unauthorized use of a vehicle. It was also expected to result in an increased number of stolen cars recovered pursuant to arrests being made and/or search warrants being executed. Although the program has been very successful, in 2003 (the most recent year for which statewide statistics are available) auto theft in Bronx County remained at the highest rate per 100,000 registered vehicles in the state and second highest rate per 100,000 population.
In the last six years, the program has been expanded to include document fraud and insurance fraud. In 1999, we expanded our effort to include night‑time surveillance and investigations of auto‑related crimes. This expansion was made possible through a series of grants from the New York State Motor Vehicle Theft and Insurance Fraud Prevention Board, which provide funds for equipment, investigators and prosecutors.
The sophisticated technology acquired through these grants is used by trained investigators, who work with assistant district attorneys skilled in and dedicated to prosecuting these cases.
The Detective Investigators (DIs) have collaborated for several years with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in an operation aimed at recovering stolen vehicles stored in public parking garages. In 1999, the DIs began to target additional garages on their own. In 2005, these garage searches resulted in the recovery of 234 vehicles valued at $2,853,500.
In addition to these activities, detectives have worked at night with NYPD officers from various Bronx precincts at auto theft/safety checkpoints. They also searched garages at night. In 2005, these garage searches resulted in the recovery of an additional 20 vehicles valued at $360,660.
Individuals in the business of dismantling stolen cars and selling the parts often run highly sophisticated and lucrative businesses. To apprehend these thieves and close down their businesses requires a combination of specialized equipment and detective work. The anti-auto theft grants have provided the resources necessary to put the two together.
While insurance fraud is a serious problem that is reflected in increased cost to consumers, many times the victim of fraud is one individual. Perpetrators of fraud usually target individuals who are unable or unwilling to complain because of personal circumstances (e.g., immigration status). Large corporations and municipalities are also common targets.
“Elder abuse” can take many forms, including neglect or abuse of a physical, financial, psychological, emotional or sexual nature. Although anyone can be a victim of crime, age may render victims physically weak, physically or emotionally isolated or mentally disabled. These conditions increase the trauma of victimization and make the criminal justice system more difficult to negotiate. The Bronx District Attorney’s Office hired an Elder Abuse Coordinator in 2000 to serve as a liaison among the bureaus and units of the Office, obtain services from outside agencies and serve as a resource for educating the community. The Coordinator handled 240 calls in 2005 regarding suspected elder abuse and neglect and is often the first point of contact for elder abuse inquiries.
In 1998, the Bronx District Attorney formed an elder abuse committee to develop strategies to enhance prosecution in elder abuse cases and to increase the coordination of services to elderly victims. As an outgrowth of this committee, an Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Task Force was created in 2001. The complexities of elder mistreatment and neglect necessitate a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach. The Task Force is co-chaired by the Elder Abuse Coordinator at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the Assistant Director of ElderServe Licensed Home Care Services Agency of the Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale and the Bronx Borough Director of Adult Protective Services. This bimonthly gathering of law enforcement, social service, healthcare, financial, business, governmental and private agencies enables the sharing of expertise and facilitates the coordination of efforts to prevent, investigate and remedy the abuse of our most vulnerable seniors.
In 2005, staff from the District Attorney’s Office participated in the New York City Council Aging Committee’s hearing on Elder Abuse-Financial Crimes. Staff also participated in elder abuse training seminars for case workers at Bronx Adult Protective Services that covered such issues as how to maximize cooperation in an effort to eliminate abusive situations. Office staff also led a workshop at the annual Adult Abuse Conference of New York State titled, “How to Make an Elder Abuse Referral to a District Attorney’s Office: Elements Needed for a Successful Prosecution.”
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office was recently selected to become a CASE Model Site (Communities Against Senior Exploitation). The CASE partnership is an elder fraud prevention and intervention program. It links the Bronx District Attorney’s Office with over 20 sites across the country that are working with faith-based communities to combat elder fraud and exploitation. As part of this program, staff from the District Attorney’s Office conduct training in the community using CASE resource materials. This program is staffed by volunteers from the Office.
|Case: Loanshark, 75, gets 9-year sentence
New York Daily News, 1/9/2006
Clarence “Duke” McGann is a career criminal whose criminal history dates back to at least 1954, when he robbed the First National Bank of Southern Maryland on Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and two additional banks in New York.
McGann served time in a variety of federal prisons including Alcatraz and Leavenworth, but in 1966 he was paroled from the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. He had over eight years remaining on his sentence to serve on supervision. In 1968, McGann was arrested on stolen property and weapons charges. He fled to Jamaica but was extradited back to the U.S. and sentenced to prison for a federal parole violation.
In 1981, McGann was indicted on drug and weapons charges. In 1982, during jury selection for his trial, he fled to Florida, where he was arrested and convicted on two separate gun charges. After serving his sentences in Florida, McGann was extradited back to the Bronx where he had been convicted in absentia for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. He was sentenced in the Bronx to 8 1/3-to-25 years imprisonment.
Upon release from prison in 1996, McGann moved into 900 Grand Concourse, a building which is primarily a residence for senior citizens.
On August 1, 2003, McGann’s 36-year-old stepson came to his apartment to repay a small debt. The two men argued over how much interest was owed. As the stepson tried to take a $20 bill off the table, McGann pulled out a .22 caliber revolver and fired. The bullet missed his stepson and lodged in the wall. The stepson fled, but returned with the police. The officers recovered the firearm and the bullet from the wall and obtained a search warrant.
During the search of the premises, investigators recovered $20,000 cash, $24,000 in checks, thousands of betting slips and several logbooks of detailed loansharking records. They also found a stun gun and a starter pistol.
Investigators uncovered detailed records showing a profitable loansharking and numbers operation. McGann would loan money to fellow elderly residents (and others) at an interest rate of 25% per week. When a loan was not paid off in full as agreed, the interest would be added to the principal and a new loan would be generated, thus compounding the amount owed. As a result, McGann’s customers would quickly owe much larger sums than the original amount borrowed.
Henry (pseudonym), an 81-year-old, retired candy maker, testified at trial that he lived on a small fixed income consisting of a pension and social security. He borrowed $500 from McGann but could not pay it back. The debt quickly grew until Henry was forced to pay $600 a month for over a year to satisfy the debt. Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that McGann similarly victimized dozens of other people, many of whom were elderly neighbors.
McGann represented himself at trial, but his legal adviser presented a summation on his behalf when he voluntarily absented himself from the court after the prosecution finished its case. On October 7, 2005, a jury found McGann guilty of attempted assault in the first degree, criminal usury in the first degree, and possession of gambling records in the first degree. He was sentenced on January 6, 2006, to nine years in prison.