Crime Files Network

Archive for May, 2012

Timeless Message

The young survivor’s account emerged as Russia continued to blame Syrian troops and opposition militias for the weekend rampage in the town that left at least 116 people dead – including women and children – and prompted fresh condemnation & outrage against the regime’s crackdown.

It comes on the eve of Kofi Annan’s scheduled meeting on Tuesday in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad, which is seen as the last hope of salvaging the UN special envoy to Syria’s failed peace plan.

Speaking to The Guardian, the young survivor said government troops arrived in his district about 3pm on Friday, several hours after shells started reining down on Houla.

“They came in armoured vehicles and there were some tanks,” said the boy. “They shot five bullets through the door of our house. They said they wanted Aref and Shawki, my father and my brother. They then asked about my uncle, Abu Haidar. They also knew his name.”

Shivering with fear, the terrified boy stood towards the back of the entrance to his family home as gunmen then shot dead every family member in front of him.

“My mum yelled at them,” said the boy. “She asked: ‘What do you want from my husband and son?’

“Then they shot my brother Nader in the head and in the back. I saw his soul leave his body in front of me.

They shot at me, but the bullet passed me and I wasn’t hit. I was shaking so much I thought they would notice me.

“I put blood on my face to make them think I was dead.”

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Apparently convinced their work was finished, the gunmen moved on to other areas of the house, from which they proceeded to loot the family’s possessions, the boy said.

“They stole three televisions and a computer,” he said. “And then they got ready to leave.”

On the way out of the house, the boy said the gunmen found the three men they had been looking for. They killed them all.

“They shot my father and uncle. And then they found Aref, my oldest brother, near the door. They shot him dead too.”

The Guardian was unable to independently verify the account and has chosen not to name the boy.

The boy said he waited until the armoured personnel carriers had moved from his street, then ran to his uncle’s house nearby where he hid. He said the same militiamen knocked on the door minutes later, asking his uncle if he knew who lived in the house that they just rampaged through.
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“They didn’t know he was my relative and when they were talking to him they were describing six people dead in my house. They included me. They thought I was dead.”

Throughout a 11-20-minute conversation, the boy remained calm and detached until he was pressed on how he knew the gunmen were pro-regime militia men, known as the shabbiha.

The irregular forces have been widely accused by residents of Houla of entering homes and slaughtering families. At least 32 of the dead are children and many of them appear to have been killed at close range.

“They got out of tanks and they had guns and knives,” he repeated. “Some of them were wearing civilian clothes, some army clothes.

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“Why are you asking me who they were? I know who they were. We all know it. They were the regime army and people who fight with them. That is true.”

Damascus has denied its forces were responsible for the massacre, and again blamed terrorist groups.

Houla is a stronghold of the Free Syria Army in Homs province. Many military defectors have returned there to live with their families.

Damascus yesterday suggested a UN inquiry should be established to verify what took place in Houla.

Guardian News & Media

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THE long slippery slope towards a life sentence began for Pasquale Barbaro in June 2007, when customs officials on Melbourne’s docks singled out a container of what was branded as Italian tinned tomatoes.

When X-rays showed ”image anomalies”, the customs officers opened them, uncovering 15 million ecstasy tablets weighing a massive 4.4 tonnes – Australia’s biggest ever drug bust and the world’s largest ecstasy haul.

From then, the fates of Barbaro, his cousin, Saverio Zirilli, and four other men were sealed.

The Age.  NEWS.  Supplied.  23RD JUNE 2003.  Pasquale Barbaro - murder victim.  Taken from Il Globo obituaries page 23rd June 2003. qdp030623.004.002
Pasquale Barbaro.

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The downfall of Barbaro and Zirilli is a reminder of the reach of the ‘Ndrangheta, an Italian organised crime group with ties to the region around Griffith district in NSW Australia.Barbaro’s father, Francesco ”Little Trees” Barbaro, was named by the 1979 Woodward royal commission as a member of a secretive clique of Calabrians who lived in the Griffith region and who were linked to the organised italian crime group’Ndrangheta. There is no suggestion he is involved in the Melbourne drug  importation.

Barbaro, 50, and Zirilli, 55, pleaded guilty last year in Victoria’s Supreme Court to charges of trafficking ecstasy and attempting to possess cocaine, but their pleas remained secret until yesterday, when the other four men were convicted.

The final nail in the group’s coffin, in July 2008, was an attempt to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine, hidden in bags of Colombian coffee beans, into Australia. Officials had X-rayed the cargo and found the stash of drugs.


Less than a fortnight after the discovery, police raided properties all over south-eastern Australia, arresting syndicate members and others.

The China Inventory


A farmer has been arrested for murder in a southern Chinese village where 17 people, almost all teenagers, have vanished in recent years.

When children started disappearing in Nanmen, near the city of Kunming, their distraught parents believed they had been kidnapped to work in illegal brick factories.

The parents of one missing teenager said nobody thought that Zhang Yongming, a quiet, chess-playing, 56-year-old farmer who lived in a shack on the edge of the village, might be responsible.

On May 9, police investigating the disappearance of Han Yao, 19, found his bank and telephone cards inside Zhang’s home. They later arrested the farmer.

The teenager, who disappeared in April, was last seen near a cold storage unit a few hundred yards from Zhang’s house. As his family asked around the village, they discovered that at least eight other youths had gone missing in the same area in the past five years. Six of them vanished in the last 15 months.

There are suspicions that Zhang may be linked to as many as 17 deaths. As the families of the missing children gathered outside his house earlier this month, they saw policemen removing several green plastic bags of evidence, including one that appeared to contain a bone.

“I know Zhang,” said Li Yudong, 42, whose 12-year-old son Hanxiong disappeared on May 1, 2007. “Zhang never spoke to anyone, not even the people who lived next to him.

“We used to see him every day but we never paid any attention to him. Now, like everyone else, I think he may be responsible for my son’s disappearance. We are all worried in the village and the children are being escorted to and from school these days.”

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Mr Li said he had been working on the farm the day his son disappeared. He was surprised not to find him at home for lunch. When he did not return by 5pm, he reported the case to the police.

“We searched for him for months,” Mr Li said. “We thought he must have been sent to work in a sweatshop or brick kiln. We spent all of our savings, some 80,000 yuan searching for him.”

The local police have now admitted that Zhang was sentenced to life for murder in 1978, after dismembering a victim. He was released in 1997.

Then, last December, he was found trying to strangle Zhang Jianyuan, 17, with a belt outside his house. At the time, the villagers called the police, but Zhang laughed off the episode, saying that he was just fooling with the boy.

“We reported to the police that Zhang had tried to strangle this boy, but they simply told us he was mentally ill,” said Xie Shunsheng, 39, whose son Haijun, 16, disappeared in January 2011.

“We are now going to the police station every day but they are not releasing any news, so we have no idea how the investigation is going,” he added.

A special team has been sent from the ministry of public security in Beijing to carry out the investigation, while the local police chief, Da Qiming, and another police official, Zhao Huiyun, have been dismissed for failing to act on so many disappearances. The police declined to comment on the case.

Cai Wen, 40, whose son Cai Yunwei, 17, disappeared in February, said the village was tense for the investigation. “People are nervous,” he said. “We are begging the government to find our son for us.
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Forty-nine decapitated and mutilated bodies have been found dumped on a highway connecting the northern Mexican metropolis of Monterrey to the US border in what is the latest outburst in an escalating war of terror among drug gangs.

Mexico’s organised crime groups often abandon multiple bodies in public places as warnings to their rivals, though Nuevo Leon state Attorney-General Adrian de la Garza said he did not rule out the possibility that the victims were US-bound migrants.

The bodies of the 43 men and six women were found in the town of San Juan on the highway to the border city of Reynosa about 4am on Sunday, forcing police and troops to close off the highway. Reports said the bodies were stuffed into plastic bags.

A federal policeman guards the area where dozens of bodies, some of them mutilated, were found on a highway.
A federal policeman guards the area where dozens of slaughtered & mutilated bodies,were found on a highway. Photo: AP

Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene said at a news conference that a banner left at the site bore a message with the Zetas drug cartel taking responsibility for the massacre.

Domene said the fact the bodies were found with the heads, hands and feet cut off will make identification difficult. The bodies were being taken to Monterrey for DNA tests.

Mexican drug cartels have been waging an increasingly bloody war to control smuggling routes, the local drug market and extortion rackets, including shakedowns of migrants seeking to reach the United States.

A drug gang allied with the Sinaloa cartel left 35 bodies at a freeway overpass in the city of Veracruz in September, and police found 32 other bodies, apparently killed by the same gang, a few days after that. The goal apparently was to take over territory that had been dominated by the Zetas. Twenty-six bodies were found in November in Guadalajara, another territory being disputed by the Zetas and the Sinaloa group.

So far this month, 23 bodies were found dumped or hanging in the city of Nuevo Laredo and 18 were found along a highway south of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city.

In April, police found the mutilated bodies of 14 men in a minivan abandoned in downtown Nuevo Laredo, along with a message from an undisclosed drug gang. Also in April, the tortured and bound bodies of seven men were dumped in the Pacific port city of Lazaro Cardenas along with messages signed by allies of the Sinaloa drug gang.

Officials last year found 183 bodies in mass graves in San Fernando, in the Tamaulipas state. They were believed to have been migrants killed by the Zetas drug cartel. Another 72 migrants, many of them from Central America, were found slain in San Fernando in 2010.





(Reuters) – Two Harvard teaching hospitals and a prominent Alzheimer’s disease researcher accused of using falsified data to obtain a government research grant are set to stand trial after a federal appeals court said this week that a lower court erred when it dismissed the case.

The lawsuit accuses Marilyn Albert, a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), where she was conducting research, of submitting a grant application based on manipulated data.

The data showed results from a trial were scientifically significant when in fact they were not, according to the lawsuit.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which collaborated on the research, is also a defendant in the case. The lawsuit was brought in 2006 under the False Claims Act, a 150-year-old federal law designed to recover government funds appropriated through fraud.

This is the first time a lawsuit dealing with alleged scientific fraud has been allowed to progress to trial under the False Claims Act, according to Michael Kohn, a lawyer with Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto in Washington, D.C.

Kohn represents the whistle-blower in the case, Kenneth Jones, a former statistician at Massachusetts General Hospital, who filed suit in 2006 claiming the defendants violated the act by including false statements in a $15 million grant application to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The case was dismissed in the lower court three days before it was due to go to trial. Barring settlement, a new trial could begin later this year in U.S. District Court in Boston, Kohn said.

If the defendants are found guilty, they could pay as much as $45 million to the U.S. government. By law, whistle-blowers in such cases receive 15 percent to 30 percent of funds recovered.

Albert, who is now director of the Division of Cognitive Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, declined to comment except to say in an email: “I am confident that there was no misconduct involved.”

Both hospitals said they are confident the researchers acted appropriately and according to the highest standards of scientific integrity.

“While it is disappointing that additional time and resources will have to be devoted to defending the institution and its investigators, the MGH remains confident that the resolution of the case will show that the allegations are without merit,” Massachusetts General said in a statement.

Brigham and Women’s responded with an identical statement.


Albert’s research was part of an ongoing investigation into the structure of the brain as it progresses toward Alzheimer’s disease. She specifically hoped to show that it might be possible to predict, years in advance, who might be destined to develop the disease, based on measurements taken over time of certain regions of the brain.

The results of the trial were published in the scientific journal Annals of Neurology in April 2000 and, according to Jones, proved extremely influential.

“The data appeared to confirm what had been suspected by some very prominent scientists, which is that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with decreased blood flow to the brain,” Jones said in an interview on Thursday. “The MRIs showed the volume of certain parts of the brain was decreasing in the people who were sick.”

There are multiple theories about the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

In March 2001, Jones discovered what he believed to be anomalies in the research, specifically in data produced by one of the researchers, Ronald Killiany. The lawsuit alleges that Killiany revised his initial MRI measurements to prove the hypothesis of the trial.

Killiany, now an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine, did not return a phone call or email seeking comment. Kohn said he was not named as a defendant. In retrospect, Kohn said, “He probably should have been.”

Jones took his concerns to Albert, who authorized an investigation into the matter by Killiany’s boss, Mark Moss. She declined to appoint an independent investigator, as requested by Jones, according to the lawsuit.

Moss concluded that Killiany’s second set of measurements was more accurate than the initial set. Albert accepted Moss’s conclusion and proceeded to apply for an NIH grant in November 2001, according to the lawsuit.

The defense argued before the appeals court that it would not have been unusual or inappropriate for Killiany to re-measure patient brain scans as long as he remained blind to the clinical status of the participants, and that this was a matter for scientific debate.

This argument was accepted when the case was initially heard by the lower court in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. On that basis, it dismissed the case in October 2010. Kohn said the court ruled that scientific fraud could not be brought under the False Claims Act, since the case related to a scientific dispute, not fraud.

The appeals court, however, rejected the argument, saying, “We disagree that the creation of the data in question was necessarily a matter of scientific judgment.”

The court noted that the lower court’s determination “misses the point that the various results produced in this case were obtained by one scientist purportedly using the same protocol.”

The government’s Office of Research Integrity declined to say whether it is investigating the case.

Jones said he hopes the trial will shed light on the issue of scientific misconduct.

“My interest is in correcting the science and bringing this academic cheating to light,” he said, “and maybe sending a message saying, ‘You’re being watched, and you shouldn’t do it.'”

The case is: U.S. ex rel. Jones v. Brigham and Women’s Hospital, et al, 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No: 10-2301.

(Editing by Michele Gershberg and Douglas Royalty)


A virus infecting Macintosh computers is picking Google’s pocket by hijacking advertising “clicks”, tallying as much as $10,000 daily, according to internet security firm Symantec.

A component of the widespread Flashback virus targets Google search queries made using Chrome, Safari, or Firefox browsers and directs people to pages dictated by the hackers, Symantec said Tuesday in a blog post.

Those clicking online ads can be re-routed to websites of different merchants or publishers, with hackers getting paid the eight cents or so that would have been paid to Google for the referral, analysis of the virus showed.

“Google never receives the intended ad click,” Symantec researchers said.

“This ultimately results in lost revenue for Google and untold sums of money for the Flashback gang.”

Based on the hundreds of thousands of Macintosh computers believed to be infected with the Flashback virus, the amount of money raked in by hackers could climb to about $10,000 daily, Symantec estimated.

Apple last month released a Macintosh software update with a tool to purge Flashback from computers.

“If the Flashback malware is found, a dialog will be presented notifying the user that malware was removed,” California-based Apple said at a support website.

Apple has also said it has patched the weakness exploited by the virus and is working to disrupt the command network being used by hackers behind the infections.

The virus took advantage of a weakness in Java programs, according to Apple.

The malicious software does its dirty work with directions received from computer servers “hosted by malware authors” and Apple is collaborating with internet service providers to “disable this command and control network.”

Computer security specialists have warned that more than 600,000 Macintosh computers may have been infected with a virus targeting Apple machines.

Hackers tricked Mac users into downloading the virus by disguising it as an update to Adobe Flash video viewing software.

Flashback Trojan malware tailored to slip past Mac defenses is a variation on viruses typically aimed at personal computers (PCs) powered by Microsoft’s Windows operating systems.

“All the stuff the bad guys have learned for doing attacks in the PC world is now starting to transition to the Mac world,” McAfee Labs director of threat intelligence Dave Marcus told AFP.

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