Monday, February 16, 2015

Why Did The Beltway Media Completely Miss The Entire Michael Grimm Career In Crime Story?


It boggled my mind that the Beltway media adamantly refused to give Michael Grimm's criminal career any serious coverage for years, even while one of the most respected investigative journalists in the country, the NYTimes' William Rashbaum, was already blowing the whistle on him. It wasn't until he threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony that reporters started imagining Grimm might actually be a criminal type. God forbid they actually look into his past. The guy was a member of the Gambino Crime Family who has been involved with not just criminal, but grotesquely thuggish activities for many years. Did they think "Fat Tony" Morelli was the name of his neighborhood baker? Is that too hard for Beltway journalists to grapple with? Well, the answer is "yes."

Grimm's criminal activities-- from New York to Florida and Texas and out to Cyprus and Israel-- are beyond the ken of DC wanna-be reporter kids whose idea of covering a crime is Aaron Schock's office paint and belt color. It didn't seem to matter inside the Beltway that long before he was a sleazy congressman from Staten Island, Grimm was a Mafia thug who got tangentially involved in a hushed up case of New York mobster/real estate developer Tom "Gus" Kontogiannis giving Randy "Duke" Cunningham $400,000 to try to buy a pardon from then President George W. Bush. Kontogiannis, a Long Island Republican real estate developer, could have his picture in a dictionary next to the definition of "sleaze." And he knew just where to turn for a presidential pardon after pleading guilty in a serious bribery, kickback and contract-rigging scandal that cheated Queens school students out of $5 million dollars worth of computers: Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Kontogiannis' partner in crime-- who also plead guilty, was the District School Superintendent and a failed Republican candidate for Congress (financed, of course, by Kontogiannis), Celestine Miller who wound up with 4 houses (worth approximately $1 million) + $80,000 in campaign contributions for her participation in the felony. Kontogiannis bought a boat, now abandoned and worthless, from ole "Duke," the "Kelly C." for at least $400,000 more than it was worth, to obtain Duke's help in getting Bush to pardon him. More recently, Grimm tried getting Kontogiannis off the hook for a life that was basically, like his own, an unending crime spree.

And none of this seemed to the Beltway media like it was worth investigating? Something this outside the DC box is just too unfathomable to this sad crew of unserious, self-congratulating novices. Thursday, reporting for the New York Daily News, Dan Friedman, an actual reporter, broke the news that Grimm had received $100,000 in under-the-table payments from a secret ownership stake he maintained in Healthalicious after his election to Congress, an election that was largely paid for with a combination of foreign and Organized Crime money. When Grimm, cornered and offered a sweet deal that lets him off the hook by 95% of his criminal behavior, pled guilty to filing false tax returns, he swore that all his illegal conduct occurred before he was elected to Congress in 2010.
But in the December 2013 affidavit unsealed by a Brooklyn federal judge, an FBI agent claimed Grimm had maintained a secret stake in Healthalicious during his 2010 campaign and after his election.

Grimm received payments into 2011, after he joined Congress, the FBI asserted.

Stuart Kaplan, a lawyer for Grimm, called the claims "completely false." Kaplan said prosecutors had been confused by the eatery's complicated accounting.

In the affidavit, part of a request for a warrant to access Grimm's emails, FBI Special Agent Geoffrey Ford wrote that Grimm pocketed undeclared payments that started at $10,000 a month through the secret deal.

The payments came from a business partner recruited to act as the public face of the eatery. Sources said that person was Bennett Orfaly, an Israeli with close ties to reputed Gambino crime family Capo Anthony "Fat Tony" Morelli.

Ford wrote that Grimm hid his involvement in the business, removing his name from legal documents, because of the "illegal business practices" he engaged in there.

A cooperating witness told investigators Grimm received approximately $100,000 in cash from 2010-2011 through this arrangement, the affidavit states.

Grimm did not disclose those payments in financial disclosure forms covering that period that he filed as a congressman.
Meanwhile, the DCCC can't even recruit a plausible candidate to run for the open seat. The former congressman Grimm first beat, Michael McMahon, has told friends that a Democrat can't win the seat while Obama is president. Then Assemblyman Michael Cusick dropped out. The DCCC is likely to wind up with Brooklyn Councilman and ex-state Senator Vincent Gentile (Bay Ridge). No one thinks he can beat Republican Dan Donovan.
“Vinnie Gentile couldn’t raise enough money to buy all of the four-leaf clovers and lucky rabbits feet to help him win this race,” one Staten Island Democratic operative told the Observer.  “I don’t know what messaging Vinnie Gentile is going to use to run against Dan Donovan, and Vinnie Gentile doesn’t have an accomplished legislative record for somebody who has been in office for more than 20 years.”

The operative said it was telling that Mr. Cusick presumably saw he did not have a path to victory, particularly after seeing a DCCC poll on the race. But the run could be a way for Mr. Gentile, who is term-limited, to raise his profile for a judgeship in the future.

Some suggested running Mr. Gentile would be a sign that the Staten Island Democratic establishment have given up on winning the seat this year.

“If the Democrats run a Brooklyn candidate in the congressional special, it signals that they aren’t serious about the race. At that point, the Democratic nomination is a fire sale: no offer will be refused. Fog a mirror, and we’ll run you,” said Gerry O’Brien, a Brooklyn-based political consultant who recently worked on the campaign of Republican Joseph Tirone, Mr. Cusick’s opponent for his Assembly seat.

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At 4:38 PM, Blogger Un Known said...

Great post!

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Daro said...

The guy actually has the face of a pit bull. I've never seen anything like it. A mobster right out of Central Casting. You called it years ago.


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