BY JERRY DeMARCO “This is how they do business,” Andreas Stephens, a brilliant FBI agent, once told me. “They don’t think it’s wrong.” Like the driver who does 40 in the left lane of the Parkway, or the beach bunny who claims half an acre of sand with a blanket, chair, towel, and umbrella, certain New Jersey pols think they’re entitled to peddle influence. Been that way ever since God created the envelope.
BY JERRY DeMARCO A former federal prosecutor who admitted running an exclusive Manhattan whorehouse with the man who later hired Eliot Spitzer‘s favorite hooker was arrested by government agents today and charged with running a ring that murdered a witness in a drug case, tried to hire a hitman in another case, and laundering money. A federal indictment returned in Newark accuses Paul Bergrin, 53, of protecting criminal clients by ordering hits on witnesses and pulling other stunts to keep them out of jail.
BY JERRY DeMARCO Take a map of New Jersey and color in the areas where convicted sex offenders aren’t allowed to live. Soon, it looks like the only space left is in Pennsylvania. “What’s wrong with that?” you ask. “Don’t our kids have a right to protection?” Of course they do. It’s just that sometimes one solution leads to a worse problem.
By JERRY DeMARCO Authorities say a couple believed to be the serial robbers nicknamed “Bonnie and Clyde” have been caught and confessed to several North Jersey holdups, after being spotted by a young cop who’s been on the job less than a year. The couple, sitting in an SUV at a stop light last night, seemed to match the description of the local holdup artists. So Officer Ryan Maloney called in to headquarters and followed the couple until marked patrol units pulled them over. Inside the vehicle police said they found a gun, a ski mask, duct tape and a lots of lottery tickets believed to have been taken at gunpoint from local groceries. Maria Cruz, 29, and Leon Rene, 32, both of Clifton copped to seven robberies in Paterson, Clifton, Garfield and Woodland Park (formerly known as West Paterson), Clifton Detective Capt. Robert Rowan said during a news conference this afternoon. Although they were barely a miniature version of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow—the Clifton couple are characterized as a pair of hopheads with expensive smack habits—they were dangerous. Rene is believed to have pistol-whipped one victim before fleeing with hundreds of dollars. Other victims were also assaulted—and in some cases bound, police said. Cruz was the wheelwoman, they said. Clifton police, who took the booking photos, charged them with the two local holdups, along with weapons counts. Other municipal departments are gathering their records to present charges of their own. Veteran crime reporter Jerry DeMarco has covered crime [...]
By JERRY DeMARCO Police are calling a couple who held up two North Jersey bodegas last week “Bonnie and Clyde.” Nice try, but a stretch. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow roamed the Central U.S., robbing banks and killing at least nine cops, among several murders, in the early 1930s. Barrow did most of the work, the legend goes, with Parker more or less going along for the ride. Although they were outlaws, their “Romeo and Juliet with Tommy Guns” story turned them into folk heroes. Both were gunned down outside a Louisiana hideout by a posse of cops from two states. Despite guards posted at the site to await the medical examiner, souvenir hunters clipped bloodied locks of Parker’s hair and dress — and one almost made off with Barrow’s finger. Several took shards of shattered windshield glass from the couple’s famous Ford “Dandy.” Our local bumpkins, meanwhile, are a gunman wearing a ski mask who demands money in Spanish and a wheel-woman who waits outside. Combined, both holdups have netted the “outlaws” a few hundred in cash, after which the Clifton couple tore off in a tan Chevy Blazer. (“Billy the Kid” is rolling over in his grave.) I’ll concede some comparisons: Both the original Bonnie and Clyde and these two hopheads struck during harsh economic times. Barrow preferred gas stations and grocery stores to banks. But the connection pretty much ends there. The best description cops could offer:White female with blond or light brown hair. Light-skinned Hispanic male [...]
By Jerry DeMarco If you believe Terence Lawton, he’s no longer an artful dodger who made millions by heading a burglary ring dubbed the “James Bond Gang.” Now a self-described hard-working laborer, he’s the government’s key witnesses in a federal trial against a high school buddy who helped him commit the crimes. David Kirkland, like Lawton, served his time in prison after the crew was nailed nearly 15 years ago by a special team of agents from FBI in New Jersey and New York, along with investigators in Bergen County. Neither Lawton nor Kirkland were shaken in stir. Time spent together as cellmates only helped the Teaneck High School pals refine their approach. No sooner had they been released than they were back at it—and back in custody. Enough was enough, Lawton told federal jurors in Newark yesterday. He’s come clean, he said, and is willing to do whatever it takes to help prosecutors put away members of his hand-picked crew. The big fish is Kirkland, 41, who is on trial for conspiracy and transporting stolen jewelry across state lines—similar to the tactic that worked for investigators against the “Bond Gang” the very first time around. Kirkland’s trial resumes Tuesday in Newark. Until then, jurors have plenty to chew on, courtesy of Lawton. Now a construction worker, Lawton, 39, said he and Kirkland devised some new moves behind bars. For one thing, they agreed to tighten their target area. No longer would they venture into the tonier communities in upper [...]
Veteran crime reporter Jerry DeMarco has covered crime for more than two decades as a reporter and editor. He writes a true crime blog for examiner.com. BY JERRY DeMARCO Even wiseguys got hinky around Richard Kuklinski. By his own account, “The Iceman” shot, stabbed, strangled, and poisoned many of his victims. One was blown to bits by a grenade; another was stuffed into a barrel of quick-drying cement in a garage right next to my grandparents’ house. Then there was the corpse Kuklinski kept frozen for two years in a Mister Softee warehouse down the hill from us in Hudson County to mask the time of death. It’s how he got his nickname. State investigators were stumped, though. They couldn’t even raise an assault charge against the Bergen County hit man. So they turned to Dominick Polifrone. My longtime friend knew a thing or two about coldblooded killers. With his chiseled Italianate features, bandido mustache, and speech peppered with unprintable adjectives, Polifrone had convinced countless made guys that he was one of them, while he taped conversations that sent many of them up the river. He also had the one thing ya can’t teach at the academy: a huge set o’ stones. “I used to think it was a game,” Dom told me soon after we’d met nearly two decades ago. “But as you get older, you get wiser. A guy could blow your [expletive] brains out, just like that. “This isn’t a tennis match,” he said, during a formal [...]
Veteran crime reporter Jerry DeMarco has covered crime for more than two decades as a reporter and editor. He is Publisher and Editor of Cliff View Pilot. By Jerry DeMarco The repercussions of a report that says Megan’s Laws haven’t reduced either the number of child victims or the likelihood that tagged predators will strike again may stretch wider than the measures’ popularity. “Despite widespread community support for these laws, there is virtually no evidence to support their effectiveness in reducing either new first-time sex offenses or sex re-offenses,” a report released this week by the National Institute of Justice says. But here comes the kicker: “Given the lack of demonstrated effect of Megan’s Law on sexual offenses, the growing costs may not be justifiable,” it adds, ominously. The study by the state Department of Corrections and Rutgers University found that it costs nearly $4 million a year to notify the public about convicted sex offenders living in their communities. What makes the study unique is that it also relies on crime data—and not anecdotes—to analyze the effect of the approach. What it couldn’t do, of course, was take into account the measures that could genuinely help rein in predators. That includes a coordinated approach among agencies that focuses on more intense treatment, followed by closer supervision, of previous offenders. Put simply: You have to keep an eye on these guys whether or not you believe you have rehabilitated them. One hopes the report will get people thinking this way. [...]
From massive fraud schemes to dime-store holdups, extreme behavior is accelerating. One of the more horrifying examples occurred just this week in California, where a man despondent over losing his job killed his wife and five kids, then turned the gun on himself, after losing his job.
True Stories of Law & Order series authors Kevin Dwyer and Juré Fiorillo weigh in on crime, justice, and their favorite television show.