Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'crime'

A Family Affair

October 9th, 2013 · No Comments

The exploits of the various Indian sand mafias has long been a topic of fascination ’round these parts. As the subcontinent’s construction boom has lead to an escalation in sand prices, miners have become eager to accumulate the granular material by any means necessary. In practice, that means excavating any strip of land they wish, […]

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The Rise and Fall of R.I.S.E.

May 3rd, 2013 · 3 Comments

The two young men above once dreamed of committing a truly dreadful act: poisoning Chicago’s water supply, in order to kill millions and further the ambitions of their revolutionary organization, R.I.S.E. Mainstream press accounts of their failed caper describe them as incompetent fools, but this case study gives them credit for developing some biological agents […]

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The Narcissism of Scoundrels

April 29th, 2013 · 10 Comments

After six years on the run, con man David Scott Srail was finally nabbed at a San Antonio airport last week. His capture was due in part to the efforts of a Florida woman, Jacira Paolino, whose daughter was swindled by Srail. Since virtually the moment that Srail went on the lam, Paolino has maintained […]

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A Rule Made to be Broken

April 24th, 2013 · No Comments

Over on the ol’ microblog, I probably link to a half-dozen intriguing tales per day, most of which I forget about a few moments after posting. But every so often, one of the stories I toss into the flotsam sticks with me for days, even weeks, to the point that I need to sit down […]

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A Koan for Our Times

April 10th, 2013 · No Comments

Apologies for the sporadic posting these last couple of weeks. I’m neck deep in a million things as the book nears publication, including those all-important updates on Skyjacker of the Day. Fear not, though, this enterprise still lives, and posts shall be issuing at more traditional rate starting early next week. For the moment, though, […]

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The Specialist, Cont’d

March 21st, 2013 · 2 Comments

Non-fiction storytelling is ridiculously time-consuming. My latest Wired story, which began life as a Microkhan post in January 2012, has been in the works for nearly a year. Granted, much of that time was wasted on tasks that didn’t pan out—I’m still waiting for a certain FOIA request to come through, for example, not to […]

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The Talented Mr. Quan

January 22nd, 2013 · 1 Comment

The Phocea is one of the world’s largest superyachts, checking in at an impressive 75-meters in length. It has also proven to be a monkey’s paw of sorts, as great misfortune has befallen its ultra-successful owners: The Phocea was built in Toulon in 1976 for yachtsman Alain Colas who called her Club Mediterranee. She competed […]

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A Serious Approach

January 17th, 2013 · No Comments

If you pay the slightest bit of attention to high-profile criminal cases, you have doubtless encountered the sketches of Harvey Pratt. The Oklahoma-based forensic artist is one of the masters of his craft, and thus a frequent attendee at trials where cameras are verboten. He is also a pioneer of post-mortem reconstruction techniques, which allow […]

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Espionage Made Easy

January 9th, 2013 · No Comments

The Department of Justice rarely indicts people it has no genuine hope of prosecuting, but an exception was recently made in the case of two Chinese nationals, Wan Li Yuan and “Jason Jiang” (true name unknown). The men, who will surely not be foolish enough to travel to these shores again, are alleged to have […]

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Incarceration is the Mother of Invention

November 26th, 2012 · 13 Comments

There are two things to marvel at in the Texas Prison Gangs Dictionary, which comes to us via the good folks over at Public Intelligence. The first is the incredible effort it took to document 168-pages worth of vocabulary that is expressly designed to be as indecipherable as possible. The second is the sheer linguistic […]

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The Garments of Egg Smugglers

October 22nd, 2012 · No Comments

The fear of detection begets some of the most admirable innovation around, a technological truism proved by the photographic records of Australian Customs. These galleries are chock full of devices that smugglers have used to route around law enforcement, mostly in order to convey drugs from Southeast Asia. But there are also several wearable inventions […]

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The Jueteng Economy, Cont’d

September 18th, 2012 · No Comments

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about the Philippines’ futile efforts to stamp out jueteng, an illegal lottery analogous to the mob-run numbers games of yore. At that time, the government was about to launch legal lotteries that would offer higher payouts than their underground counterparts—the same strategy that states in the U.S. used to […]

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Sly Like a Roach

August 20th, 2012 · 2 Comments

A terrific little crime yarn out of southern Colorado, where an exterminator has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for burglary. That punishment may sound harsh, but Charles Edward Trogdon was no run-of-the-mill breaking-and-entering specialist. He allegedly spent three decades nicking precious items from the homes of clients, a vocation that allowed him to […]

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The Curious Case of Bobby Lee Hunter

August 6th, 2012 · 7 Comments

Per the usual, the Olympic boxing tournament has been something of a farce, with scoring scandals predictably aplenty. Every four years, such controversy reminds me of the tale of Bobby Lee Hunter, a once-celebrated boxer I have been trying to locate for the better part of a decade. Hunter was a world-beating American flyweight who […]

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Firefighters, Firebugs

August 2nd, 2012 · No Comments

If I so desired, I could probably make this blog all about firefighters-turned-arsonists and still have enough material to post at least once a week. The latest example comes from Opp, Alabama, where a firefighter allegedly set a mobile home ablaze for no discernible reason. The problem has been serious enough in years past for […]

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The Perils of Going Legit

July 25th, 2012 · No Comments

I’m one of those blokes who will argue ’til the end of time that The Godfather: Part II far surpasses the original. That’s largely because of the whole Vito Corelone backstory, which includes the single greatest flawed gangster of all time. But I also dig the quiet tension created by Michael Corleone’s vacillation over his […]

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Caught in the Act

July 24th, 2012 · No Comments

A day late on this month’s deadline for my Wired column, so you’ll have to wait twenty-four hours for my cogent thoughts on either human cannonballs or gang entrepreneurship. (Sorry, haven’t decided yet.) In the meantime, occupy your spare moments by delving into this salacious collection of trial pamphlets, which provided true-crime buffs with plenty […]

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The Roles We Must Play

July 13th, 2012 · No Comments

Like many a non-fiction nerd whose tastes run toward the sinister, I was enraptured by Richard Lloyd Parry’s People Who Eat Darkness. The book’s central narrative was compelling enough—a young British woman’s disappearance set against the backdrop of Japan’s hostess-club industry. But what really makes the work sing is Parry’s exploration of media drama, and […]

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The Slip-and-Fall Queen

May 24th, 2012 · 2 Comments

If the good folks at the National Insurance Crime Bureau are to be believed, the ol’ slip-and-fall con is thriving anew these days. Yet today’s practitioners of this tried-and-true scam are rank amateurs compared to Patricia Latham, who became a wealthy woman by perfecting the art of slip-and-fall. Her dedication to her craft was as […]

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The Corsican Glass is Half Full

May 22nd, 2012 · 2 Comments

As a tremendous fan of the French movie A Prophet—I defy you to find a flick with a better razor-attack scene—I was naturally drawn to this recent account of Corsica’s organized-crime problem. The French-run island sounds like it’s run like the Brooklyn docks circa 1952, with men of violence calling the shots at all levels. […]

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The Economics of Bird Theft

May 18th, 2012 · No Comments

I must confess to an undue fascination with bird theft, a crime too-seldom explored in the annals of popular literature. Though there is no shortage of stories about purloined finches, reporters never seem to explain how much the crooks stand to earn—or, more important, the mechanics of fencing illegally obtained birds. I was thus pleased […]

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Biblical Wisdom

April 19th, 2012 · 1 Comment

I highly recommend this set of Papua New Guinea images, by the Australian photographer Ben Bohane. The one posted above (larger version here) is a personal favorite for the way it juxtaposes the firearm with the quote from Psalms. I read that quote as so sinister in this context, but alternate translations give quite the […]

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The Lord of Chonda-Za

April 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

For those of us who lack law degrees, reading judicial opinions can often be a major slog. Those who occupy the bench favor a prose style that is, to be charitable, a bit on the dry side; yarn-spinning is not their forte. Yet every once in a while, I stumble upon a ruling that crackles […]

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Bending the Rules

February 21st, 2012 · No Comments

Far be it from me to shed a tear for a murderous scoundrel whose various scams increased the price of everything in my adopted hometown. But did John Gotti get a raw deal when the Catholic Church denied him a funeral mass? A scholar makes the case here (PDF), arguing that the Church broke its […]

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The Specialist

January 18th, 2012 · 10 Comments

By now you may have heard of the landmark federal conviction of Alfred Anaya, who played a key role in a drug trafficking ring that moved product from Mexico to the Midwest. What makes Anaya’s downfall so interesting is that fact that, by the government’s own admission, he never touched any drugs himself; his role […]

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Seizing the Narrative

December 21st, 2011 · 2 Comments

It’s fair to say this has been a momentous week for Willie Gault, the former Chicago Bears wideout who was also a track star of great renown. Things started off great when police in Los Angeles found his stolen Super Bowl ring, but then took a turn for the worse—the much, much worse—after news emerged […]

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The Evolution of Bomb-Squad Armor

December 1st, 2011 · 6 Comments

One thing my book research has taught me is that America used to have a serious problem with bombs. Every time I delve into the news archives from the early 1970s, I come away amazed at number of stories involving homemade explosive devices going off a nightclubs, bus depots, and Mafia social clubs. And I’m […]

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The Best-Laid Plans

November 10th, 2011 · 1 Comment

The section of the book I’m working on today is basically a brief history of terrible kidnapping plots. They’re not all necessarily dumb crimes from the get-go—many of the cases I cover involved months of careful planning by above-average crooks. But they inevitably make one key error that unspools the entire enterprise. And more often […]

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Where Do We Go Now?

November 1st, 2011 · 4 Comments

With roughly six months to go ’til my first book is due, you can expect plenty more research extras in the coming weeks. A lot of those posts will be designed to help me think through some of the slippery issues I’m encountering as I shape the central narrative—I’m still struggling to understand the mindsets […]

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Everything Counts in Large Amounts

October 14th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Buried in this alarming account of crooked Brooklyn cops is a brief aside about how New York City is settling up with the scandal’s victims. Dozens, if not hundreds of men were falsely imprisoned after having drugs planted on them by police striving to hit their monthly arrest quotas. How much money do those men […]

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