Unorganized Crime: Condoms, Hitmen and Flying Squirrels
Winged-mammal smuggling, used condoms, reattached hands, darknet ‘hitmen’ and the mob on TikTok - OCCRP’s Daily News team here with your monthly round up of the weirdest stories in transnational organized crime.
- Authorities in California have reportedly charged a Nevada woman for transferring US$5,000 in Bitcoin for a hitman she found on the darkweb to murder her ex-husband.
At least that is what prosecutors allege Kristy Lynn Felkins believed she had paid for, according to CoinDesk. Agents with Homeland Security reportedly received the tip from an unnamed foreign hacker who scraped chat data from the murder-for-hire site.
The exchange between Felkins and the would-be assassin is understood to suggest that the recipient of the payment was likely a scammer.
- Meanwhile in Vietnam, local police have seized more than 320,000 used condoms that were allegedly intended to be resold to unsuspecting consumers.
The BBC reported that a woman who owned the warehouse at which the ‘preloved’ goods were found had been arrested after the raid.
Items found at the site indicated that the condoms were being washed, reshaped with wooden dildos and then repackaged before being resold.
- A case in Slovenia that has captured widespread public attention came to a close when a woman was sentenced to two years for attempted insurance fraud after deliberately cutting off her own hand in hopes of a payout of more than 1 million euros (US$1.56 million).
As the verdict was read out, 22-year-old Julija Adlesic kept her hand, which has since been reattached, concealed under a blanket, according to Global News.
Her boyfriend also received a three-year sentence for his role in the scheme, while his father was handed a one-year suspended sentence.
- Wildlife officials in Florida claim that every year, thousands of flying squirrels are smuggled out of the state to be sold to buyers both abroad and elsewhere in the U.S.
National Geographic’s report follows after the arrest earlier last month of Rodney Crendell Knox, owner of a wildlife farm, on charges of racketeering, scheming to defraud and dealing in stolen property, related to an alleged scheme to acquire, breed and sell the flying mammals.
Currently in jail awaiting trial, if convicted, Knox faces up to 30 years in prison.
An unconventional choice for a household pet, the squirrels are largely nocturnal and use their ‘wings’ to glide up to 160 feet between trees while executing loop-the-loops in pursuit of food.
- A U.S. electric-vehicle manufacturer has been accused of fraudulently promoting its products after a report by a short-selling investment firm alleged the company had deceived investors about the functionality of its electric trucks.
The report by Hindenburg Research claims that Nikola Motor Company in 2017 misled investors by posting a video on YouTube showing its ‘Nikola One’ truck seemingly travelling at speed along a two-lane desert highway.
The firm says that in reality, employees at the company had simply towed the truck to the top of a shallow hill and allowed it to roll down, tilting the angle of the camera so as to suggest it was moving along a flat stretch of ground.
- And finally, a recent report by VICE has shown how members of the younger generation of the Naples-based Camorra organized crime group have taken to TikTok to broadcast their mafiosi lifestyles.
The outlet speculates that this may be part of an effort by newer recruits to make a name for themselves among more senior figures, in the hopes of longer term promotion within the organisation’s structure.
Many of the videos show the mafiosi bragging about weapons, tattoos, cars and other luxury items to music tracks produced by local rap artists.