October , 2010 -- Ponzis and casinos: The transformation of America into a kleptocracy, state by state...
From the "Heart of Dixie," Alabama, to the "North Star State," Minnesota, unscrupulous federal and local prosecutors, attorneys, judges, and businessmen are fleecing taxpayers and investors. The corruption that has permeated state and local government, courthouses, and business councils is turning America into a Nigerian-style kleptocracy where corruption pays off and whistleblowing results in continuous retaliation from those who hold positions of trust....
Lake Wobegon's mafia
In 2008, before the Bernard Madoff super-Ponzi scheme made headlines, there was another, less-publicized Ponzi scheme based in Minnesota that was run by the politically-connected business scam artist Thomas J. Petters. Petters's Ponzi scheme cost investors in and creditors for such Petters Group Worldwide-controlled companies as Polaroid, Sun Country Airlines, and Fingerhut some $3.65 billion. Before Madoff, the Petters scam was the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of the United States.
In what defrauded Petters investors and creditors see as a corruption of justice, Petters's defense attorney, Douglas Kelley, was named both a receiver and a federal trustee for Petters's bankrupt financial empire by US District Court judge for Minnesota Ann Montgomery.
Petters received 50 years in prison after his December 2, 2009 conviction on 20 counts of wire and mail fraud, but his "receptionist," Deanna Coleman, who was promoted to his vice president after she decided to hop in bed with Petters, received only a year and a day in prison. Coleman, who received $8 million in bonuses from Petters, was hailed by U.S. Attorney Todd Jones, a Barack Obama appointee, and other federal prosecutors as one of the greatest federal witness in history. There is some question about how much of Petters's bonuses Coleman was allowed to keep, which is another bone of contention for Petters's defrauded investors and creditors.
Asset forfeiture chicanery in bankruptcy cases, such as that seen in the Petters case with federal prosecutors, court-appointed trustees, and lawyers feeding off the carcass of failed firms has been repeated in cases across the country, including in the bankruptcies of Enron and the Stanford Financial Group.
Kelley proceeded to sell even solvent Petters assets, such as Polaroid, to investors at cut-rate prices, forfeited $20 million in Petters assets to federal prosecutors, and paid his own law firm and his lawyer and bankruptcy cronies $30 million in fees from Petters's assets. The only people who came up short in the machinations of Kelley, Montgomery, and Petters were the investors and creditors who saw everything Petters owned being sucked up by federal prosecutors and Kelley and his cronies.
Petters victims organizing but not seeing any help from Minnesota's elected politicians.
Attempts by Petters's defrauded investors and creditors to have Minnesota's Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and then-Republican Senator Norm Coleman (no relation to Petters's "receptionist") to take up their cause came up short. It turns out that Klobuchar and Coleman were both recipients of generous campaign donations from Petters. When allegations about fraud first surfaced about Petters, Klobuchar was Hennepin County Attorney. She took no legal action against Petters. Klobucha had earlier been a partner at the law firm Dorsey and Whitney, where former Vice President Walter Mondale also hung his shingle. As it turns out, Mondale's son, former state senator Ted Mondale and a failed candidate for governor of Minnesota, saw his technology venture capital firm, Nazca Solutions, Inc., receive investment money in 2003 from Petters.
Any hope that Norm Coleman's successor, Al Franken, might take up the plight of the defrauded Petters investors and creditors has been dashed by stony silence from Franken.
The plight of the Petters investors and creditors has been largely ignored by the corporate Minnesota media. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune rejected paid advertisements by Petters's Ponzi scheme victims. Klobuchar's father, it turns out, is Jim Klobuchar, a long-time columnist and sports reporter for the Star Tribune.
The Dixie mafia's casino fetish
Heading south from the land of the Lake Woebegone mafia to Alabama and the haunts of the Dixie mafia, the news as of late has been about the federal indictments and arrests of the major influences behind the attempt to introduce casino gambling into Alabama. When former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman pushed for a state lottery over casinos in the state, he was subjected to a politically-motivated prosecution by key members of the Dixie Mafia, including U.S. Judge Mark Fuller, Siegelman's trial judge who sentenced him to seven years, which Siegelman began in solitary confinement before his release pending an appeal of his conviction; US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama Leura Canary; Canary's husband, Bill Canary, a close friend of Karl Rove and the head of the Alabama Business Council; and Alabama Republican Governor Bob Riley, who has made no secret about his desire to be the GOP presidential candidate in 2012.
Siegelman wanted a state lottery, with state proceeds primarily earmarked for education, but the GOP machine, which had ties to Jack Abramoff, the convicted GOP lobbyist for Indian casinos nationwide, was pushing for casinos in the state that would see little, if any, real financial benefits for the people of Alabama.
On October 4, Alabama electronic bingo tycoon Milton McGregor, who has been described to WMR by two Alabama political insiders as a head honcho for the Dixie mafia in Alabama; his business partner, Ronald Gilley; four Alabama state senators; and four lobbyists were arrested after an indictment for conspiracy, extortion, bribery, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering was handed down on October 1 by a federal grand jury in Montgomery. It is noteworthy that Laura Canary, the Bush-appointed US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, has recused herself from the case. Not only does Canary have a conflict-of-interest in the case but her and her husband's political friend, Governor Riley, has his own links to the subterfuge involved in casino gambling in the state. Bill Canary also has reported business ties, through his former links to Abramoff, to Alabama's Poarch Creek Indian reservation casino and a Choctaw casino in Mississippi.
In January of this year, Riley ordered raids of McGregor's and Gilley's e-bingo casinos, VictoryLand in Macon County, Greenetrack in Greene County, and Country Crossing in Dothan. Riley's move was supported by the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling headed up by John Tyson, the District Attorney for Mobile County. In the shifting sands of Alabama's two-party politics, Riley appointed Tyson, a one-time Democratic candidate for Alabama Attorney General, to the gambling task force to counteract Alabama Republican Attorney General Troy King. King, a political ally of and recipient of campaign funds from McGregor, was seen as attempting to counteract law enforcement interference with the e-bingo operations. However, Tyson's raids on McGregor's and Gilley's bingo parlors were seen as an act of betrayal by McGregor who had pumped $200,000 into Tyson's campaign for Attorney General, according to informed Alabama sources. King charged that Tyson's authorization from Riley to raid the e-bingo casinos gave him powers reserved for the Attorney General.
In 2004, Riley appointed King as Attorney General to fill out the vacancy created when Republican Bill Pryor, Jr. was nominated to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. In 2006, King defeated Tyson in the election for Attorney General.
Just a week before his arrest by the FBI, Gilley dared the FBI to arrest him. On October 4, Gilley finally got his wish.
As for Tyson, Riley reportedly lured him into the job as gambling task force chef in return for a seat on the Alabama Court of Appeals should a vacancy occur.
The four Alabama state senators arrested in the federal bust were Harri Ann Smith, Larry Means, James Prueitt, and Quinton Ross. Smith, a Republican, who is a political adversary of Riley. Means and Ross are Democrats and Preuitt is a Democrat-turned-Republican.
Alabama sources report to WMR that Riley was intent on seeing McGregor indicted and jailed in order to welsh on a $13 million debt he owed to McGregor for a political slush fund set up for Riley's 2006 re-election campaign against the favored Democratic candidate, Siegelman. Siegelman's indictment before the election took the former governor out of the race but Riley had already had at his disposal some $15 million in a sluch fund, $13 million of which was contributed by McGregor. McGregor was lured into the financial deal when he was told it was for an investment in a lucrative contract to provide machines for the Russian State Lottery. The pass--through company that was bidding for the supposed Rusian State Lottery contract was Paragon Gaming, Inc., an entity that was involved in four Indian casinos in Canada and which also had a relationship with the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas.
The principals involved in the Paragon Gaming deal with Russia included a member of Riley's immediate family and the family member's best friend who both operated out of an office in Oxford, Alabama. WMR's sources report that the Paragon Gaming "deal" with Russia also involved Dan Gans, the Chief of Staff to Governor-elect and then-Representative Riley, who was also a senior adviser to Riley's 2002 gubernatorial campaign against Siegelman, won by Riley amid charges of election fraud. Gans was also a lobbyist with the Abramoff scandal-plagued Alexander Strategies Group founded by former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's one-time chief of staff Ed Buckham. In addition, Michael Scanlon, Riley's former congressional press secretary and Capitol Campaign Strategies lobbyist partner of Abramoff who was convicted in the Abramoff scandal, was also reportedly involved in the Russian lottery contract.
However, there never was any Russian State Lottery contract and our sources report it was merely a cover for the creation of Riley's 2006 slush fund to finance his re-election campaign against Siegelman. Bill Canary was Riley's campaign manager in 2006. In 2007, when McGregor asked people close to Riley where his $13 million had gone, he was told "The KGB is looking for it." The KGB had not existed in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The claim that the money had been stolen by Russia was false.
Eventually, Riley attempted to make good on his $13 million debt to McGregor when a female friend of Riley's created a firm called Paragon Corporation, which had no employees, listed a cell phone as corporate contact, and essentially operated out of the trunk of Riley's friend's car. Paragon Corporation, according to our sources, was to receive a $13 million contract from Riley that was to be quietly transferred over to Paragon Gaming and back into McGregor's accounts. However, a leak about Paragon Corporation caused the conspirators in the money laundering operation to abandon the deal and McGregor ended up short of his $13 million investment.
Riley, instead, opted to see McGregor indicted and sent to prison in order to ensure that the $13 million would never have to be paid back to the casino mogul. Riley's gambling task force operation was a way to force the federal government's hand to indict McGregor with the added bonus of seeing indictments brought against other Riley enemies in the state, including the four members of the Alabama Senate indicted along with McGregor.
Suicide is painless
No story on the magnitude of the corruption in Alabama would be complete without a dead body and Riley's and Bill Canary's conspiracies in Alabama do not disappoint.
In 1999, Alabama businessman Ralph Stacy formed the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama (CCAA), which grew to some 60,000 dues-paying members in the state and dwarfed Bill Canary's smaller Business Council of Alabama (BCA), which had some 5,000 members. In 2003, Stacy and Canary agreed to merge their operations in an entity known as "The Partnership." Later, Stacy became a senior vice president of the BCA under Canary. However, Stacy seemed reluctant to enter into the full merger, which would give Canary and his GOP friends, including Riley, access to 60,000 CCAA member companies, and the first joint meeting of the merged group was not held until 2009 when US Chamber of Commerce President keynoted the first annual joint meeting of the BCA and CCAA in Birmingham.
On September 14, Stacy entered the BCA offices in the Business Center of Alabama Building in Montgomery and allegedly committed suicide using a shotgun. Those who are familiar with Stacy claim that his religious beliefs would have deterred him from suicide and that Stacy may have been using the shotgun to threaten Canary with a demand for the end to the business alliance between the BCA and CCAA. The circumstances surrounding Stacy's death are sketchy and the Montgomery Police have not been anxious to provide further information on the alleged suicide. Some informed sources are convinced that Stacy became aware of a conspiracy by Canary, Donohue, and Rove to use Rove's new non-profit group, "American Crossroads," to launder Indian casino proceeds into the coffers of Republican Party candidates nationwide prior to the mid-term election and that Stacy wanted out of the partnership.
A pox on both their houses
The corruption in Minnesota and Alabama is certainly not limited to these two states and it involves both Republicans and Democrats who hold elective office across the country. Voters have shown their distaste for both parties and polls indicate that anti-incumbency anger will see a number of office holders fall in the November 2 election.
The postscript to Stacy's "suicide" links to other suicides in which a murky but well-funded network of George Soros-funded operatives, web "journalists," and cognitive infiltrators glommed onto stories with the intent of controlling the reporting. These include the "suicide" deaths of Florida Department of Transportation investigator Ray Lemme, who was investigating contract and election fraud in the state's 2002-2004 elections, and "DC Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey, as well as the suspicious aircraft crash death of GOP information technology guru Mike Connell. As with the Connell case, a mysterious anonymous letter concerning Donohue's operations at the US Chamber has been "leaked." In Connell's case, another "anonymous" letter, sent after Connell's death, claimed he was murdered....by the infamous White House Murder INC,....