"Look, we're reasonable men here..." The Godfather's Don Barzini wasn't kidding. Mob crime is looking less like the duct tape and baseball bats of old, and more, well, "organized." Authorities now say that members of the Gambino crime family raked in more than $200 million by "cramming" additional charges on unsuspecting customers' phone bills. We considered the possibility of other high-tech mob ventures:
Supercomputer Powers Gambling Ring
Blacksburg, VA — Investigators charged yesterday that three members of the Giuseppe crime family had hacked into Virginia Tech's System X, the world's third fastest supercomputer, to run numbers and power an international online gambling ring. Montgomery County prosecutor Andrew Cole revealed that the illegal use of System X — known as Big Mac, comprised of 1,100 Power Mac G5s — was discovered in recent months as the University's Terascale Computing Facility team dismantled the computer. "Some of our software engineers noticed irregularities while they reconfigured the G5s for resale," said Jeffrey Stobbs, the professor who directed the several-month project. "One of our techs was able to track the piggybacking back to sites like www.GamblingLouie.com."
Biotech Firm Unveiled as Mafia Front
Washington, D.C — Officers raided the headquarters of Calabria Biotech Research yesterday, seizing computers and arresting four men reputedly linked to organized crime. According to investigators, Calabria collected millions in grants and research funding since 1999 from a variety of legitimate organizations, promising outlandish findings. "Calabria was claiming to be everything to everybody," said FBI spokesman Mark Bulthaup. Recovered documents indicate that Calabria had promoted a "groundbreaking anthropological study" disproving Darwin's theory of evolution and a project "proving gasoline is more environmentally friendly than hydrogen-fuel." Authorities were tipped off when representatives of conservative Christian groups and auto industry lobbyists complained that Calabria had not delivered long-promised progress updates.
Security Provider Linked to Organized Crime
Palo Alto, CA — Executives from Omerta Securities Corporation were taken into custody today on charges that their firm intimidated multiple Silicon Valley technology companies into hiring Omerta to provide Internet and network security services. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one executive at Illusion Softworks described Omerta's tactics as "something out of a mafia movie." Ironically, Illusion produces a video game called "Mafia." Documents indicate representatives of Omerta approached companies offering network security services at very high rates; if turned down, they would make oblique warnings about "downtime." "It was criminal," said Justin Langness, CTO for Black Tie Software. "Even after we hired them, they didn't provide any technical security at all — they just went to our competitors and threatened to hack their lights out."
Organized Crime Rode E-Zpass for Millions
Bayonne, NJ — The US Attorney's office has indicted seven individuals associated with the Lucchese organized-crime family in connection with a multi-million dollar E-Zpass scam. According to Tricia Tuupanen, spokeswoman for the New Jersey division of E-Zpass, members of Lucchese family or their associates siphoned some $150 million from E-Zpass customers over two years. Beginning in February of 2002, says Tuupanen, a shell corporation known as NJ Commuter Inc. tacked on spurious charges to E-Zpass bills, which showed up on statements as "NJ Commuter — Tolling Charge." It is not yet determined how NJ Commuter Inc. gained access to the E-Zpass customer manifold.
A version of this article appeared in the Table of Contents - May 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.