Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Karmic Relief

Sadly, armies of YouTube fans have been unable to locate the channel, which seems likely to have been deleted.

"Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" is gonna be lit on Saturday with stories of hubris brought low.

For one thing, 53-year-old Italian Marc Feren Claude Biart, a made member of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, wanted in Italy for cocaine smuggling to the Netherlands, was living his best life in retirement with a fake identity in the Dominican Republic, but done in, they say, by his "love for Italian cuisine", or really by the temptations of the Internet, where he and his wife started a YouTube channel for cooking videos. He didn't show his face in the videos, but failed to hide his tattoos, which cooking-video fan Interpol agents recognized, and they busted him, along with 354 other defendants in an enormous 'Ndrangheta sweep. (NPR, but I'd like the record to show I got the story from Frankfurter Allgemeine Twitter.)

George Tanios on 6 January in his Sandwich University sweatshirt, via WCHS-TV.

Then there's George Pierre Tanios, the owner of Sandwich U. in Morgantown, West Virginia, universally hated by his current and former employees and the students who make up most of his customers, who happened to be carrying the bear spray used to attack Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer killed in the 6 January Republican coup attempt, and posted a photo of himself in the Capitol on Facebook; a couple of the ex-employees and a former business partner saw the picture and reported him to the FBI, which arrested him on 14 March.

He liked to use spray weapons in the restaurant too:

We always had a can of pepper spray behind the counter, and there's been several times he would pull it out and mace somebody," said former night shift manager Daniel Dantzler. "He would usually come out from behind the counter and, you know, be confrontational with them. Then he'd say to the register girl: 'Give me the mace.'" (Raw Story)

He was also known for starting fights in general, skimming his workers' tips, and owing the former business partner $435,000. Like an iconic representation of today's Republican party.

"I was laughing," [ex-employee Cory] Denkert told The Daily Beast. "This is exactly what George would do. He's always been angry, trying to start fights with people. It doesn't matter how wrong he is, he's going to be outspoken, in somebody's face, trying to start something." 

Photo by Erin Schaff/The New York Times.

And finally Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who could fill up an entire "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" all on his own, inspiring enough Schadenfreude to power a small city with what looks like (I'm afraid it will turn out not to be) an implosion of his repulsive career as legislative troll, through his association with yet another Republican piece of work, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, who was arrested last summer on

14 federal charges, including allegations that he stalked a political opponent, illegally used a state database to create fake IDs and sex trafficked a minor

suggesting a kind of Leonard Bernstein of criminality, equally at home in the classical, jazz, and popular worlds.

The stalking of the political opponent (a local teacher who is not named in the reporting) included spreading a false rape allegation against him, including sending it to the school where he worked, and amplifying it through robot social media accounts belonging to the Proud Boys association and the celebrated ratfucker Roger Stone, whom he seems to have known for a while, along with Rep. Gaetz.

Joel Greenberg, right, with friends in 2017.

He also appears to have set up a Bitcoin mining operation for himself in the tax collector's office, billing the county government $65,000 for the computers it ran on (which eventually caused a small fire and $6,700 in damage), and used discarded driver ID cards of residents to whom the county had issued new ones to create a bunch of fake IDs with his own photograph and those of others, for his personal (or interpersonal) use. Where Gaetz comes into it, though, is the sex trafficking charges, which involve

improperly accessing a state database to access personal information of people he was in “sugar daddy” relationships with, including a minor victim between the ages of 14 and 17. Greenberg allegedly made the fake IDs to help “facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts,” according to the indictment.

Which sounds less like a "sugar daddy" relationship to me than a pimp relationship, but let that pass for the moment. The minor is a female, according to the superseding indictment, just to be clear. Anyway, the Greenberg federal investigation has turned up evidence in which Gaetz figures, as having

had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

It's the Mann Act! And the young woman in question sounds an awful lot like Greenberg's Minor Victim, with whom Greenberg

did knowingly, in and affecting interstate commerce, recruit, entice, obtain, maintain, patronize, and solicit by any means the Minor Victim who had attained the age of 14 years but had not attained the age of 18years, having had a reasonable opportunity to observe the Minor Victim, and knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that the Minor Victim had not attained the age of 18 years and would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act as defined by 18 U.S.C. (e) ( 3).

Gaetz told The Times,

“I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
Meaning, as he later explained to Axios

"I have definitely, in my single days [i.e., before his recent engagement], provided for women I've dated. You know, I've paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not." 

Meaning, I guess, that he does indeed transport women across state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money but he would prefer that it not be described in such a crude way. (Here I'd been thinking his new fiancée was a beard for his "son" Nestor, but his life seems to be far more complicated than that.) 

And he wants us to know that he is actually the victim of an extortion plot, though he didn't commit the crime he's being blackmailed for, and his father is secretly investigating it on the FBI's behalf, though Matt doesn't mind publicizing that on Twitter...

Oh, and Gaetz—and his putatively wire-wearing father—have identified the would-be blackmailer as a former federal prosecutor now in private law practice:

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s father, Don, a former Florida Senate president, said he is working with the FBI, including wearing a wire on more than one occasion as part of an investigation into an alleged extortion plot that the pair said was organized by former federal prosecutor David McGee.

“The FBI asked me to try and get that information for Matt and an indication we would transfer money to Mr. David McGee,” Don Gaetz said in an interview late Tuesday, without specifying what information he was referring to.

(McGee has denied the story, and Don Gaetz's syntax has not been unpacked.)

As Steve M notes, it's practically criminal negligence on the part of Democrats not to have been howling about Joel Greenberg nonstop for the past year, but I'm starting to think with Gaetz the gods may be giving us another chance.

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