Social Media Vigilante
Colonel Michael Luchesi was in the Marine Corps for 25 years before retiring and taking a position with Homeland Security. He met his wife during the early part of his military career while he was serving with his Special Operations unit and assigned to a multi-national drug interdiction team in Bueno Aires, Argentina. Valentina Vega was an intelligence officer with the General Directorate of International Counter-Terrorism and Complex Crimes (GDIC) Special Group One.
As a young first lieutenant, he never expected to see the beautiful South American woman once he left Argentina, but that didn’t mean that he forgot about her. She had made a lasting impression that was a combination of total infatuation and deep professional respect. The situation however, was not conducive to a romantic or even a social relationship. The stars eventually aligned when they reunited two years later on Camp Pendleton. Valentina had volunteered for specialized training with the 1st Recon Battalion and Mike had just returned from a Middle East deployment.
Six weeks passed so quickly that Mike couldn’t believe the time had come for Valentina or Val as he called her to return to Argentina. They had one evening left. While walking on Camp Pendleton’s Del Mar Beach, under a full moon and starlight canopy with the sounds of waves gently breaking in rhythm to the beating of their hearts, the couple savored their last moments together.
Mike knew that he couldn’t put off what he had been feeling any longer, “I’m in love with you.”
Val stopped in mid-step and looked at the young Marine officer. Her eyes spoke volumes and gave Mike the answer that he had hoped for, “I love you too.”
Three months after that life-changing moment, Mike took 30-days annual leave and traveled back to Argentina. The couple got married in a small ceremony in the town of Mendoza, in South America’s largest wine-producing region, and honeymooned on Claromeco Beach, south of Buenos Aires.
The young Marine had too much respect to ask his new wife to give up her career, but he didn’t have to. Val submitted her resignation and traveled back to America with her husband. Over the coming years, they had two children, a boy that they named Santino and a daughter, Elena.
When Mike would deploy for any significant amount of time, Val would often return to Argentina with her two children until her husband returned. Santino and Elena held dual citizenship, and even though Valentina had officially resigned years earlier, her supervisors still held her in such high regard, that she was often asked to assist in various investigations and covert missions while in her home country.
Santino followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Marine Corps. He became a military police officer, occupational specialty 5811, but unlike his father, the younger Luchesi decided against a military career. After six years of honorable service, he left the Marines. He traveled the world for two years, working on charter yachts in the Mediterranean for a portion of that time.
During her senior year at Carlsbad High School, Elena thought about applying to the U.S. Naval Academy, but changed her mind and accepted a scholarship to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Leaning toward a law degree, Elena majored in International Studies with a focus on Latin America. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she attended Dedman School of Law.
After leaving Europe, Santino went to Argentina and worked for his Uncle Nicholas’ mining enterprise that specialized in the extraction of borate, copper, magnesium, uranium and silver. What wasn’t used in the country was exported and Santino worked in the shipping part of the business. He had been gone for almost 8 years and was eager to return to the United States.
Uncle Nicholas said, “There will always be a job here waiting for you. Your mother and father should be proud. You are a good man.”
Santino extended his right hand and his uncle pulled him close and gave him a farewell embrace. His parents were now living in the community of Olivenhain, the easternmost community of Encinitas, bordering on the western portion of Rancho Santa Fe. His mother was retired, spending most of her time taking care her five horses and six dogs on their five acres of property and serving on the boards of several charities. Mike was going to retire three years earlier, but was convinced to accept a position as the regional director of FEMA.
Elena spoke four languages fluently, English, Spanish, Italian, French and was fairly proficient in Portuguese and Arabic. It didn’t take long after she passed the bar exam to become a very successful international lawyer. She handled all the legal matters for her relatives in Argentina and her reputation as a tenacious negotiator got her more work than she could handle. Elena purchased a three-bedroom, three-bath condo on the 32nd floor of the Pacific Gate residential tower for 3.4 million dollars. It was located across from the Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego and only two miles from Lindbergh International. Elena needed to be close to the airport in case she had to leave on short notice. Other times, a wealthy client would arrive by private jet and she would either meet them for a few hours inside their aircraft or they would conduct business at her condo and then they would fly out again. The young lawyer handled some very sensitive matters and her staff consisted of a highly skilled computer specialist, Jane Isles and an equally proficient paralegal, Nancy Huang.
While having Sunday dinner on the deck of the family home in Olivenhain, Santino made an announcement that surprised his father, mother and sister, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.”
Elena quipped, “That’s a good habit to develop.”
“And if I can finish.”
“Go ahead, son, we’re listening,” Valentina encouraged.
Santino continued, “I want to get a steady job, not just one where I punch a clock, but one where I can make a difference.”
“Anything in particular?” Mike inquired of his son.
Mike looked around the table before answering, “I’m thinking about becoming a police officer.”
Elena looked at her brother, “You sure about this?”
“As sure as anything else that I’ve done in my life,” Santino replied.
Mike raised his son to be an honorable man so he couldn’t fault him for wanting to be in public service, “If this is what you want to do, then you have my blessing.”
Valentina seconded her husband’s sentiment, “As always, we’re here for you.”
“I guess it’s unanimous,” Elena playfully threw a dinner roll at her brother.
Valentina scolded her grown children, “No throwing food at the table,” then picked up a roll and threw one at her husband who caught it just before it hit him in the face.
“Not bad, but I’m too fast for you,” Mike laughed.
Elena then bounced one of the rolls off her dad’s head, “Not that fast.”
Five years passed, Santino was now working with the Fugitive Task Force of the Los Angeles Police Department. The negative perception toward police officers had increased dramatically since he joined the force. District Attorney Fred Bascomb was no friend of the police. Since being elected, he instituted a blanket policy against prosecuting certain crimes that endangered law enforcement on the streets. Bascomb attended numerous anti-police rallies and was very influential in convincing the city council to defund the police department by 100 million dollars.
Many officers saw the writing on the wall and realized the risks far exceeded the rewards. Some left law enforcement completely, while others chose to move out of California, with the hope of finding pro-law enforcement departments and communities.
Sergeant Bill Seymour said, “I was hoping to make it to regular retirement, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. If I get sued, I’ll lose everything. I talked to my doctor and I’ve got enough mental and physical issues to go out on a medical. Take my advice, get out while you still can.”
Santino sighed, “I’ll think about it, I just hate to quit something while I can still do some good.”
“You know Dave Hack…right?”
Santino asked, “The one with North Hollywood Division?”
“That’s the one…he was on patrol and saw a fight between two homeless guys and broke it up. One of them was bleeding badly so Dave rendered first-aid. A group of people surrounded him and began yelling police brutality and the usual profanities. He was attacked and ended up in the hospital. The homeless guy died because he couldn’t get medical care. Dave is now on suspension while activists are demanding that he be fired and prosecuted. Like I said, the risks of doing our jobs in this city are getting worse every day.”
Santino tried to dismiss the warning, “That’s more the exception than the rule.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you…just hope that you’re not one of those growing exceptions.”
There should have been at least eight officers on this assignment, but defunding had taken its toll on the Task Force. Adam Detros was a career felon who served time in Folsom and San Quentin. He was suspected of at least five murders, but there wasn’t enough evidence to bring him to trial on any of them. He recently violated his parole by testing positive for heroin and a warrant was issued for his arrest
The three-man team consisted of team leader, Sergeant Neil Boostrum, Officer Randy Creasy and Santino. Sergeant Boostrum went over the instructions one last time, “Randy and me will go to the front door. We’ll identify ourselves three times to avoid any misunderstandings. Santino, you’ll cover the back.”
Randy Creasy looked at the house on Elmwood Avenue, in the rundown area of the city called Nevin, and got a bad feeling, “I don’t like this.”
“Let’s do our jobs and we’ll be alright,” Sergeant Boostrum reassured his team.
The wise move would have been to enter the structure without warning and surprise Detros, but ‘No Knock’ warrants were no longer allowed. Boostrum and Creasy stood on both sides of the front door, Sergeant Boostrum called out, “Los Angeles Police, open the door!” He never got the chance to repeat his statement as high-powered rounds pierced the walls and both officers went down.
Detros came running out the backdoor with an M-60 machine gun blasting away. Bullets riddled everything in sight, hitting nearby houses and parked vehicles.
Santino ducked for cover as rounds whizzed over his head. He yelled out, “Drop your weapon!”
Detros defiantly responded, “I’m not going back to prison!” and fired a long burst in the direction of the Los Angeles police officer.
Having been in the Marine Corps, Santino was familiar with machine guns, so when the shooting stopped, he figured he had some time before Detros could insert another belt. The M-60’s weight and the amount of ammunition it can consume when fired makes it difficult for a single man to operate. Even a highly trained Marine would have trouble handling the weapon by himself. Santino popped up from his concealed position and ordered, “Drop the weapon!”
Detros set the machine gun down and attempted to insert the ammo belt as Santino walked closer, “Don’t make me kill you.”
By the time the automatic weapon was ready to fire, Santino was only 10 feet away. He gave a final warning, “Don’t try it!
Detros was not going to be taken alive, that was obvious. He raised his weapon and Santino pumped six rounds into him. As he died, his index finger curled around the trigger and another 30 rounds sprayed through the neighborhood.
When the smoke had cleared and the damages were assessed, two police officers were badly wounded, three innocent residents in nearby houses were wounded. Detros was killed and a driver in a vehicle passing by caught a bullet in the throat and crashed into a pole and bled out before help could arrive.
Once the investigation started, the media twisted the facts to fit their anti-police narrative. The footage from the body cameras disappeared and the officers were accused of not turning them on. Even though Santino heard Sergeant Boostrum identify himself as law enforcement, they were accused of trying to enter the house without saying anything.
The two wounded officers were allowed to medically retire, but the politicians, anti- police groups and the district attorney needed someone to blame. The only one left was Santino Luchesi. He was arrested and initially charged with negligent manslaughter. However, the media pushed for 1st degree murder, stating that Santino had planned to kill Detros. They made up a story that Santino and the career felon knew each other and the killing was over a drug deal that had gone bad. There was no lie that was too outlandish or prejudicial to Santino that was not printed or broadcasted over the mainstream media.
This outraged the Luchesi family because they knew it was all falsified. Even though Elena wasn’t a criminal defense lawyer, she made herself her brother’s legal representation. The prosecution was reluctant to provide evidence to her, under rules of discovery and the politically motivated judge denied bail.
Elena was honest with her parents about the situation, “This is a hot mess….there’s corruption at every level of this case. Evidence is compromised, false witnesses, a corrupt judge and prosecutor and a biased media.”
“We’re not going to let Santino go to prison for something he didn’t do,” Mike vowed.
Valentina added, “It’s time to call in some favors.”
“I’ll start working on a plan. Just so that we’re all in agreement, we’re going be operating outside the law.”
“They drew first blood,” Mike responded angrily.
While meeting her brother, Elena was able to slip him two pills that caused an allergic reaction which manifested itself in severe sweating and a red rash. Later that night, Santino was taken from solitary confinement by stretcher and was on his way to USC Medical Center, when the armed transport was ambushed by a dozen vehicles. In a matter of minutes, the guards and drivers were restrained. Santino was given an antidote and got into one of the vehicles. He was quickly transported to Marina Del Rey, where a yacht was waiting. He boarded and the captain headed out to sea. Once they were outside the harbor, Mike and Valentina affectionately greeted their son.
Santino quipped, “I guess we were due for a family vacation?”
Valentina pointed toward the vanishing California coastline as the yacht moved further out to sea, “Take a look…it might be a while before you see California again.”
With Santino’s dual citizenship and his mother’s strong connections in the government, there was no way that Argentina was ever going to extradite the former police officer back to the United States. Santino went back to work for his uncle and started a new life.
This might have been the end of the story except that the Luchesi family wanted justice and revenge. Mike extended his employment with Homeland Security and Valentina came out of retirement to work with her daughter. They compiled a detailed list of everyone and every organization who went after Santino and began taking them down one by one, starting with District Attorney Fred Bascomb.
An American patriot who served his country with honor had been driven from his home by lies and deceit. There would have to be a steep price paid for this unforgivable transgression. The Luchesi family was going to collect with compound interest.
It didn’t take long for Mike Luchesi to become a target himself. He was ready to leave FEMA, and he wasn’t going compromise his integrity to stay in his position or become a stepping stone for some politically motivated sleazebags. When he received notification from Homeland Security that he was being demoted because of anonymous complaints about his abusive leadership skills and hostile work environment, Mike made his move. He contacted his family physician and told him that he was under great stress and needed time off from work. While on six months medical leave, it was impossible to institute disciplinary actions against him.
The next step was to identify those in his chain of command who were coming after him. Once that was accomplished, Elena filed a federal lawsuit against those people for the very same charges as they were using against her father. Jane Isles, the computer tech who created Wokester, began identifying individuals in the government who had violated their oath of service.
If they want to play dirty, let’s see how they like the taste of their own mud,” Elena said.
Jane asked her boss, “I can go as far as you want…I just need to know.”
“Despite all the media hype about diversity, there’s basically only two types of people in this world…good and bad. When we determine that they fall into the second category, I want you to go as far as you can…then go two steps further. Is that a problem?”
“No problem here.”
Fred Bascomb resigned from office after it was shown on video that he frequented massage parlors that were staffed by illegal aliens and runaways. The judge who denied Santino’s bail used several banks in the Cayman Islands to hide his bribes and illegal campaign contributions. When the list of those accounts were posted on the Wokester website, the so called ‘Honorable’ Judge Emmet Myers’ judicial career ended in disgrace.
Lawrence Cooper was a political pundit who couldn’t tell a story honestly if his life depended on it. Elena instructed Jane, “Dig up every story that this bozo has done, then find the correct facts and put them side by side on the internet, then people can see for themselves how bad it is.”
“Copy that,” Jane smiled.
The Wokester organization began soliciting donations from various radical organizations. Those that refused to contribute were accused on the website for the same offenses that they were accusing others of. Eventually large sums of money began coming in and to keep things legal, Elena re-distributed the funds, five per cent for liberal causes and ninety-five per cent to support conservative, pro-police and pro-military candidates and programs.
When Senator Charles Murtaugh came out with a series of passionate speeches against human trafficking, they aroused Elena’s suspicions. His record of public service showed a total disregard for the welfare of his constituents. Elena brought her concerns to her parents, “What do you think?”
Mike answered, “Murtaugh is a swamp creature. For years he’s been advocating for open borders and lower penalties for sex offenders. Now, all of a sudden he’s an advocate, I don’t buy it. People that are genuinely concerned about human trafficking want a system that works.”
“I agree with your father,” Valentina said, “In my opinion, it sounds like Murtaugh is trying to put as much distance between his actions and his rhetoric.”
Elena nodded, “Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he had an epiphany. It bears further investigation…agreed?”
“I’ll put a surveillance team together,” Mike suggested.
Elena added, “Jane is currently working on hacking into his itinerary. I’ll let you know when she’s in.”
Two days after making a political speech in front of a homeless shelter, Senator Murtaugh boarded a private jet with a dozen powerful and influential men in the political arena and business sector, and flew to Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The photos of him and the other men with under-aged girls were already posted on the internet before their return flight touched down at Reagan International Airport. The FBI received a copy of the photos and Senator Murtaugh resigned from Congress soon afterward.
Their next target was a corrupt Governor. Millions of signatures had been gathered for his recall because of the state’s incompetent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elena knew that the powerful career bureaucrat would do whatever it took to stay in office. She intended to keep a close eye on his behavior to make sure he didn’t illegally influence the outcome of the election. The people of the state deserved to have their votes accurately counted.
While having dinner with her parents at her downtown apartment and having Santino on Zoom. The South American resident asked, “When are you coming down to visit?”
Valentina replied, “Soon.”
“I’m looking forward to some time away,” Elena answered.
Santino smiled, “You guys have become a force to be reckoned with. I wish I could be there to help.”
“You were the inspiration and the catalyst,” Mike said, “We’re just following your lead.”
Elena came up with an idea, “When we get down there, why don’t we discuss expanding our influence beyond our national borders. It’s not like the United States has got a monopoly on corruption.”
Over the coming years, the Wokester website became a powerful social media vigilante that kept a watchful eye on those who dealt in hypocrisy and betrayed the public trust.