Saturday, March 2, 2013

Horse Meat Scandal In Europe Distant Echo In 1950's Chicago

I have been hearing a lot about a scandal in Europe as it has been discovered that horse meat  was being relabeled and sold as beef product to unwary consumers. Here is a thumbnail of the story from Alternet.

Nestlé Recall and Mafia Connections: 5 Things You Should Know As Horse Meat Scandal Grows

by Tata Lohan "Getting to the bottom of how this came about has involved a lot of finger pointing. In Ireland, the ABP Food Group blamed supplies in Netherlands and Spain, and later Poland. “Five weeks into the scandal and the links in the Irish chain have still not been fully established,” writes the Guardian's Lawrence.” But this gets even more interesting in France, as she explains:
Comigel had subcontracted its ready meal production to a factory in Luxembourg, Tavola. It was supplied with meat by a company called Spanghero. Spanghero had bought meat from a Dutch fraudster already convicted of passing horse off as beef, Jan Fasen.
The Dutch trader ran a company called Draap, which spelled backwards is paard or Dutch for horse. It was registered in Cyprus in 2008, with an offshore vehicle in the British Virgin Islands. It emerged during Fasen's trial in Holland that he had supplied French companies with horsemeat imported from South America and Mexico fraudulently labelled as Dutch and German "beef" going back to 2007.
The horsemeat found in the recent tests on ready meals exported from France was said to have been sourced by Draap from Romania. The Romanian government has said its meat was legally exported correctly labeled as horse. The French government said Spanghero was the first agent to stamp the horse as beef; Spanghero has denied doing so deliberately. Fasen says Spanghero and French manufacturers were in on the deception from the beginning.
It turns out there may be a whole lot more criminal to this case."

  To read the entire story click here.

Capitalists are an amazingly creative bunch always looking for an angle to exploit in the quest for the bottom line. Over at the Business Insider they zero in on the Mafia.

  Europe's Horse Meat Problem Linked To The 'Mafia'

 "Bitish Tabloid the Daily Mirror seems to support the Romania-link, with an "exclusive investigation" pointing the finger at organized criminals who have earned themselves the nickname the "Horse Mafia." Poor farmers are paid for their horses by the criminals, who then fake the paperwork for the horses, the Mirror reports: In these rural areas of high deprivation, criminal gangs prey on poor farmers by offering cash for both wild and work horses farmers cannot afford to keep. They pay 50 to 100 Romanian Lei – as little as £10 to £20. Abattoirs will pay up to 27 times that for a horse with the right paperwork. A warm-blooded mare weighing 1,000lb can sell for around £270. 

 But one undercover source, based in Transylvania, who works as a vet and has intimate knowledge of the business, revealed the abattoirs often turn a blind eye to the illegal trade. According to the AP, however, two Romanian meat plants have denied any wrong-doing, arguing that the meat was labeled as horse and that the fraud must have happened at a different point in the supply chain. One of the slaughterhouses, Carmolimp, said it had not exported any beef at all in 2012, and suggested that an incompetent French meat processor must have mistaken the horse meat for beef. Meanwhile the Daily Mail reports that "mobsters from Italy and Poland" are just some of the criminal groups behind the multi-million dollar industry:" 

 In the age of international terrorism and wanton slaughter in many parts of the world it's almost refreshing to read an old fashioned crime story. And of course this isn't the first time the world has seen this kind of large scale fraud. While I was reading about this story it reminded me that in the early 1950's something like that happened here. So I did a little poking around and discovered that yes over a two year period almost five million pounds of horsemeat had been sold as beef in a mafia inspired scam. First I found this story on the WBEZ site.

Chicago horse butcher for the world?

 "The investigation had started with a packing plant in Lake Zurich. The feds claimed the “pure beef” shipped from there was actually 40 percent horse. The plant had processed more than 10,000 pounds of meat a week. Most of it wound up in Chicago. Simple economics was the reason. In 1952 beef sold for 59 cents a pound. A pound of horse meat went for 14 cents. The feds had shut down the Lake Zurich plant, but other area packers were still under suspicion. And the Chicago mob seemed to be behind everything." 

 Interesting but lacking in any real background so I dug a little deeper and found out nobody ever did time for this racket. But while researching I did come across a story on the Bookrags site about 1960's Outfit leader Sam Battaglia that seems to suggest the origins of the plot may have been in some teenage scams pulled by the notorious west side 42 Gang. "Most of the 42’s original members came from an area known as “the Patch”—an Italian section on the city’s West Side. At constant war with the Chicago police, gang members held up nightclubs, robbed cigar stores, stripped cars, and stole from peddlers. They also killed the horses that pulled peddlers’ carts, and sold their hind legs to businesses that purchased horse meat." To finish this story click here. 

 This was a group youths who became a satellite of the Capone mob and it's members went on to form the leadership structure of the the mob in the 1950's & 60's. Here is a roster from Wikipedia of some other names that were a part of this mob; Louis "Cockeyed Louie" Fratto (also known as Lew Farrell), Felix Alderisio ("Milwaukee Phil"), Samuel DeStefano ("Mad Sam"), Charles "Chuckie" NicolettiFiore "Fifi" BuccieriAlbert FrabottaWilliam "Smokes" AloisioFrank "Skids" CarusoWilliam Daddano ("Willie Potatoes"), Joe Caesar DiVarcoRocco PotenzaLeonard GianolaVincent Inserro and brothers Leonard andMarcello Giovanni Caifano ("John Marshall"). Also in the Battaglia story that I found on the Bookrags site I found this other nugget Sam also owned a horse farm. So that's the the lowdown on the horse meat scandal sweeping Europe and it's distant cousin here in Chicago and maybe an answer to who was behind that plot. On ChiTownView we have a series of videos about Chicago crime with a focus on the organization begun by Capone that held sway on the city for some fifty years. In the series we visit a location as it exists today and then tell the history of the spot. So far we've done about forty stories on this series. 
We have a couple of clips that relate to this story.   
 Here is a story about the neighborhood where the 42 Gang got it's start and an earlier gang that preyed on the area.
 And this video gives us a look at Sam Battaglia's Oak Park home and tells some of his story.  
 At ChiTownView we offer a couple of related playlists.

Chicago Crime Now & Then, An All Original Series

The Outfit, Chicago's Mafia From Big Al To Joey "The Clown"

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