crime

Business as usual. In. Out. Hello. Goodbye.

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Profits from organized crime are typically passed through legitimate businesses, often exchanging hands several times and crossing borders, until there is no clear trail back to its source—a process known as money laundering.

But with many businesses closed, or seeing smaller revenue streams than usual, hiding money in plain sight by mimicking everyday financial activity became harder. “The money is still coming in but there’s nowhere to put it,” says Isabella Chase, who works on financial crime at RUSI, a UK-based defense and security think tank.

The pandemic has forced criminal gangs to come up with new ways to move money around. In turn, this has upped the stakes for anti-money laundering (AML) teams tasked with detecting suspicious financial transactions and following them back to their source. […]

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, between 2% and 5% of global GDP—between $800 billion and $2 trillion at current figures—is laundered every year. Most goes undetected. Estimates suggest that only around 1% of profits earned by criminals is seized. […] The problem for criminals is that many of the best businesses for laundering money were also those hit hardest by the pandemic. Small shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs are favored because they are cash-heavy, which makes it easier to mix up ill-gotten gains with legal income. […]

Older systems rely on hand-crafted rules, such as that transactions over a certain amount should raise an alert. But these rules lead to many false flags and real criminal transactions get lost in the noise. More recently, machine-learning based approaches try to identify patterns of normal activity and raise flags only when outliers are detected. These are then assessed by humans, who reject or approve the alert.

This feedback can be used to tweak the AI model so that it adjusts itself over time. Some firms, including Featurespace, a firm based in the US and UK that uses machine learning to detect suspicious financial activity, and Napier, another firm that builds machine learning tools for AML, are developing hybrid approaches in which correct alerts generated by an AI can be turned into new rules that shape the overall model.  

{ Technology Review | Continue reading }

ills and ells with loffs of toffs and pleures of bells

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With about a dozen trucks an hour setting off from the avocado belt in Mexico’s western state of Michoacán for the U.S., armed robbers are zeroing in on the fast-growing, multibillion-dollar industry. The rise in avocado-related crime has turned parts of the state into no-go areas even for the police. […]

Until recently, Mexico’s organized crime groups’ main source of revenues from avocados centred around extortion — demands for protection money from farmers. But the sharp fall in the price of Mexican opium paste has forced them to diversify, according to analysts.

Increasingly they have started hijacking truckloads of fruit for export. […] The rise in avocado crime is thus indirectly linked to America’s opioid crisis. Americans’ increased use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used for pain relief, pushed down the price of heroin, which in turn slashed the price of Mexican opium. […]

Demand for avocados jumps ahead of the Super Bowl, America’s biggest sporting event, with Mexico shipping a record 127,000 tonnes to the U.S. for the occasion. Overall production is rising, hitting 1.09 million tonnes in the 2018-19 season, up nearly 4 per cent from the 1.05 million produced in 2017-18. Exports last season rose 5.4 per cent. Sales to the U.S., the largest importer of Mexican avocados, bring in almost US$2 billion a year, much of it going to smallholders.

{ Financial Post | Continue reading }

art { Evan Roth, Landscapes, 2016-ongoing }

The largest set of matryoshka dolls in the world is a 51-piece set hand-painted by Youlia Bereznitskaia of Russia, completed in 2003

Chinese businessman Tan Youhui was looking for a hitman to take out a competitor, Wei Mou, and was willing to pay 2 million yuan (£218,000) to get the job done. The hitman that Mr Youhui hired decided to offer the job to another hitman for half the original price. The second hitman then subcontracted to another hitman, who then subcontracted to a fourth, who gave the job to a fifth. However, hitman number five was so incensed at how much the value of the contract had fallen, that he told the target to fake his own death, which eventually led to the police finding out about the plot, Beijing News reported.

{ Metro | Continue reading }

‘Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.’ — Confucius

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The mainstream sciences are experiencing a revolution of methodology. This revolution was inspired, in part, by the realization that a surprising number of findings in the bioscientific literature could not be replicated or reproduced by independent laboratories and were likely false discoveries.

In response – as reflected in a 2018 report of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – scientific norms and practices are rapidly moving towards openness. These reforms promise many enhancements to the scientific process, notably improved efficiency and reliability of findings.

Changes are also underway in the forensic sciences (although they have recently hit substantial political roadblocks). After years of legal-scientific criticism and several reports from peak scientific bodies, efforts are underway to establish the validity of several forensic practices and ensure forensic scientists perform and present their work in a scientifically valid way.

In this article, the authors suggest that open science reforms are distinctively suited to addressing the problems faced by forensic science. Openness comports with legal and criminal justice values, helping ensure expert forensic evidence is more reliable and susceptible to rational evaluation by the trier of fact.

{ LawArXiv | Continue reading }

transparency in lightbox { Jeff Wall, A Sunflower, 1995 }

Into the eternal darkness, into fire and into ice

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US actor Ashton Kutcher testified in an LA courtroom that he called on a young woman’s home for a date in 2001, not realising she lay dead inside.

When the woman, Ashley Ellerin, did not answer the door, Mr Kutcher said he looked in her window and saw what he thought were wine stains on the floor. […]

Prosecutors allege Ellerin was slain by “Hollywood Ripper”, Michael Gargiulo.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photo { Stephen Shore, Grand Canyon, June 1972 }

“The White House called me to advise to help change the system of clemency,” Kim Kardashian-West said. “And I’m sitting in the Roosevelt Room with, like, a judge who had sentenced criminals and a lot of really powerful people and I just sat there, like, Oh, shit. I need to know more.”

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A man who had just bought an $8 million island off of Key West was arrested Saturday for participating in what police described as a scheme to steal $300 in household items from Kmart.

Officials at Kmart called Key West police April 5 after they say Andrew Francis Lippi, 59, had purchased several items, including a Keurig coffee maker and light bulbs, and returned the original boxes for a refund. But police say the boxes were stuffed with other items. For example, store officials said a basketball was inside the Keurig box. […]

The Miami Herald reports Lippi bought Thompson Island, which had been the home to the family of philanthropist Edward B. Knight. Lippi also owns the “Real World” house in Key West, where MTV shot its 17th season in 2006. […]

Lippi told the Herald the theft allegation is “complicated” and he’d rather not talk about it.

{ CBS News | Continue reading }

images { Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930 | Dexter, Episode 7, Season 6 }

I got a letter from the government, the other day, I opened and read it, it said they were suckers

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An April 2016 Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) report advocated raising the minimum wage to deter crime. […]

Our results provide no evidence that minimum wage increases reduce crime. Instead, we find that raising the minimum wage increases property crime arrests among those ages 16-to-24, with an estimated elasticity of 0.2. This result is strongest in counties with over 100,000 residents and persists when we use longitudinal data to isolate workers for whom minimum wages bind.

Our estimates suggest that a $15 Federal minimum wage could generate criminal externality costs of nearly $2.4 billion.

{ National Bureau of Economic Research | Continue reading }

still { Death Wish, 1974 }

Who’ll search for Find Me Colours now on the hillydroops of Vikloefells?

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The problems of darknet markets have triggered an evolution in online black markets. […]

Instead of using websites on the darknet, merchants are now operating invite-only channels on widely available mobile messaging systems like Telegram. This allows the merchant to control the reach of their communication better and be less vulnerable to system take-downs. To further stabilize the connection between merchant and customer, repeat customers are given unique messaging contacts that are independent of shared channels and thus even less likely to be found and taken down. Channels are often operated by automated bots that allow customers to inquire about offers and initiate the purchase, often even allowing a fully bot-driven experience without human intervention on the merchant’s side. […]

The other major change is the use of “dead drops” instead of the postal system which has proven vulnerable to tracking and interception. Now, goods are hidden in publicly accessible places like parks and the location is given to the customer on purchase. The customer then goes to the location and picks up the goods. This means that delivery becomes asynchronous for the merchant, he can hide a lot of product in different locations for future, not yet known, purchases. For the client the time to delivery is significantly shorter than waiting for a letter or parcel shipped by traditional means - he has the product in his hands in a matter of hours instead of days. Furthermore this method does not require for the customer to give any personally identifiable information to the merchant, which in turn doesn’t have to safeguard it anymore. Less data means less risk for everyone.

{ Opaque | Continue reading }

photo { Weegee }

‘If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun.’ –Shakespeare

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As an advanced research topic in forensics science, automatic shoe-print identification has been extensively studied in the last two decades, since shoe marks are the clues most frequently left in a crime scene. […] A large variety of handcrafted features have been used for automatic shoe-print identification. These features have shown good performance in limited and controlled scenarios. Unfortunately, they fail when they are dealing with large intra-class variations caused by the noise, oc- clusions, rotation and various scale distortions. A good alternative to these conventional features are the learned ones, e.g. deep learning, which have more generalization ability in more complicated scenarios. To be effective, these models need to be trained on a large amount of data.

{ arXiv | PDF }

Can I tell them that I never really had a gun?

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From 1427 to 1435, Gilles de Rais (1405 – 1440) served as a commander in the Royal Army, and fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years’ War.

In 1434/1435, he retired from military life, depleted his wealth by staging an extravagant theatrical spectacle of his own composition, and was accused of dabbling in the occult.

After 1432, he was accused of engaging in a series of child murders, with victims possibly numbering in the hundreds. The killings came to an end in 1440, when a violent dispute with a clergyman led to an ecclesiastical investigation which brought the crimes to light, and attributed them to Gilles. He was condemned to death and hanged at Nantes on 26 October 1440.

Gilles de Rais is believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale “Bluebeard” (”Barbe bleue”) by Charles Perrault.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading | Watch: Georges Méliès, Barbe Bleue, 1901 }

bellissima gente, musica spettacolare, emozioni indelebili

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The Beast of Gévaudan is the historical name associated with the man-eating gray wolf, dog or wolfdog that terrorized the former province of Gévaudan, in south-central France between 1764 and 1767.

The attacks, which covered an area stretching 90 by 80 kilometres (56 by 50 mi), were said to have been committed by a beast or beasts that had formidable teeth and immense tails according to contemporary eyewitnesses.

Victims were often killed by having their throats torn out. The Kingdom of France used a considerable amount of manpower and money to hunt the animals, including the resources of several nobles, soldiers, civilians, and a number of royal huntsmen.

The number of victims differs according to sources. In 1987, one study estimated there had been 210 attacks; resulting in 113 deaths and 49 injuries; 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten. However, other sources claim it killed between 60 and 100 adults and children, as well as injuring more than 30.

According to modern scholars, public hysteria at the time of the attacks contributed to widespread myths that supernatural beasts roamed Gévaudan, but deaths attributed to a beast were more likely the work of a number of wolves or packs of wolves.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

The Beast preyed almost entirely on women and children living in isolated cottages and hamlets, often as they tended animals or gathered crops in open fields. Men and cattle were not to its liking. Nor, it seemed, were sheep and goats. […]

Sometimes La Bête attacked several times in one day or on successive days, often leaving the victim uneaten. Some witnesses said that it wore an armoured hide, perhaps that of a boar. One surviving victim claimed the beast walked on two legs. Several witnesses saw a man with La Bête.

{ History Today | Continue reading }

The king sent his own gun-bearer and bodyguard, François Antoine. Along with his son and a detachment of men, Antoine traipsed around the forested countryside in search of the beast. In September 1765, he shot and killed a large wolf. He had the body sent to the court at Versailles, received a reward from Louis XV, and accepted the villagers’ gratitude

Two brief months later the attacks recommenced.

For another 18 months, something continued to stalk the villagers of Gévaudan, with a reported 30 to 35 fatalities in that period. […]

Jean Chastel was a local farmer involved in a previous hunt, and thrown in prison [with his son Antoine Chastel] by François Antoine for misleading his men into a bog.

{ Smithsonian | Continue reading }

There were no killings when Jean and Antoine Chastel were in prison. The attacks resumed when they were liberated, and stopped only when Jean Chastel killed the animal.

{ Loren Coleman/FATE | Continue reading }

A 2009 investigation uncovered a potential culprit, Jean Chastel, the man said to have killed the second beast in June 1767. The investigators wondered how Chastel, a farmer, shot La Bête dead when the region’s finest wolf hunters could not. They concluded that La Bête must have been still for sometime, when Chastel shot it. It did not run from, or at, Chastel. Was La Bête tethered? Was this man its keeper?

As for motive, some have suggested that Chastel, or one of his sons, was a serial killer, and La Bête their way of covering up the crimes. Others claim that Chastel’s son had a hyena in his menagerie and a huge red mastiff that sired the monstrous offspring with a female wolf. […]

The body of the animal Chastel shot was taken to Versailles. By the time it reached the king the carcass had rotted and was ordered to be destroyed.

{ History Today | Continue reading }

Jean Chastel’s son Antoine was said to have lived as a hermit on Mount Mouchet, with a menagerie of beasts, including a hyena. Cryptozoologists have speculated that Antoine Chastel might have used this animal to attack the young boys and girls.

{ Loren Coleman/FATE | Continue reading | Note: “Fate is a U.S. magazine about paranormal phenomena” }

acrylic, oilstick and paper collage on canvas { Jean-Michel Basquia, Peter and the Wolf, 1985 }

And it must follow, as the night the day

The paper is called Prolonged apnea and the sudden infant death syndrome: clinical and laboratory observations and it was written in 1972 by Dr Alfred Steinschneider of Syracuse, New York. In this paper, Steinschneider described the case of a woman, “Mrs H”, who had already lost three children, ostensibly to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Dr Steinschneider describes how two additional children from the “H” family were studied in his sleep laboratory in an effort to determine whether sleep apnea was a risk factor for SIDS. Both children did show apnea in the lab, and both died shortly after being discharged from the clinic back home with Mrs H.

Steinschneider concluded that apnea was “part of the final pathway” leading to infant death in SIDS.

But over twenty years later, “Mrs H” – her real name Waneta Hoyt – was convicted of murdering her children by smothering.

A forensic pathologist, Linda Norton, had formed suspicions about “Mrs H” after reading Steinschneider’s paper, and she brought them to the attention of a prosecutor in Syracuse. In 1992, the prosecutor opened a case against Hoyt.

Under police interrogation, Hoyt confessed to killing each of her five children by smothering. She later retracted her confession and denied the charges, pointing to Steinschneider’s paper as evidence of her innocence. It didn’t work: Hoyt was convicted of murder in 1994. She died in jail four years later.

{ Neuroskeptic | Continue reading }