High Value Target
Thomas Calabrese –If you wanted to get rich in a hurry and did not have any marketable skills or talents and wasn’t too honest, politics might be a good selection. You start off by making campaign promises that everything is somebody else’s fault and you can solve it all with your superior intelligence and unquestionable integrity. Gullible and uninformed people will believe you, because they think they’re going to get something for free. Don’t forget to play the victimization and entitlement cards every chance you get. As your esteemed campaign picks up steam, remember the words of famous circus owner and showman, P.T. Vargas who often said, ‘You’ll never go broke under-estimating the stupidity of the American voter and consumer.’
If by some cruel twist of fate you are elected, then your personal cash register is officially open for business. All denominations are accepted including cryptocurrency when you can sell your vote to lobbyists and benefactors. The inside information that you come across will be of vital importance when making timely investments that reap hefty rewards. You will find out the secrets that congressmen, senators, political appointees and even the President use to become multi-millionaires during their time in public service. They even continue to fill their bank accounts after leaving government service because of their connections. There is some good news…not all corrupt politicians escape punishment. Like Al Capone said, ‘Organized Crime could learn a lot from the federal government.’ Now if you believe this assessments is possible, then the following story will seem more plausible. Here we go…
Anthony Costello was born on March 27, 1894, in the town of Cassano in the province of Cosenza in the Calabria region of Italy. In 1898, he boarded a ship to the United States with his mother and older brother Frank. His father, Pietro had died two years earlier from a virus.
Frank Costello met Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, the Sicilian leader of Manhattan’s Lower East Side gang and they became friends and partners. While Frank was building a criminal empire with Lucky, Meyer Lansky and Benny ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, little brother took a slightly different route.
Tony became friends with Vito Corleone and Joe Kennedy and together they made a large fortune as stock market and commodity investors. The trio reinvested in real estate and various business industries that included steel, shipyards, banks and a stock brokerage firm. The trio became experts dealing in the unregulated stock market, engaging in tactics that were later considered to be inside trading and market manipulation.
The trio of Anthony Costello, Vito Corleone and Joe Kennedy often found occasions to work with Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, and Benny Siegel. Millions of dollars were laundered through legitimate business enterprises including dozen of hotels, golf courses and resorts around the country. They also invested in a Hollywood studio, a chain of movie theaters and significant part of downtown Kansas City, Missouri in partnership with the Tom Pendergast political machine and the DiGiovanni crime family. Over the years they bought large parcels of property from San Diego to San Francisco, focusing heavily in Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista, California.
Since Joe Kennedy was the only one that was born on U.S. soil, it was decided that he should use his influence with Franklin Roosevelt to get prestigious positions in the government. He became Chairman of Maritime Commission not long after Tony and Vito were involved in the shipping industry. After Joe became Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Prohibition ended, Costello, Corleone and Kennedy founded Gallant Importers and began importing scotch and gin. With those profits they bought the Hialeah and Santa Anita racetracks.
Joe Kennedy used his considerable influence including his connections with organized crime to get his son John elected 35th President of the United States. Votes were bought in West Virginia and in Chicago, Mayor Daley used his corrupt political machine to help swing the tide of the 1960 election. Daley’s motto was, ‘Vote early and vote often.’
As crime empires grow they tend to become more legitimate or less blatantly criminal because once they have accumulated enough wealth and power, they can manipulate the system legally. Tony Costello passed away on May16th, 1968, and his sons, Nicolas and Carl and Don assumed equal control of the massive family empire. There was no sibling rivalry between the brothers and their father’s final decree was undisputable. Tony knew his sons’ strengths and weaknesses and his decision was made objectively with the best interest of the family as his top priority.
Don assumed control of the hotels, resorts and golf courses because he was an avid golfer, the best athlete and most adventurous of the three boys. Nick took charge of the shipping and import business because he was a shrewd negotiator and knowledgeable about other cultures. Carl was the oldest and most pragmatic so he handled the manufacturing. All profits were equally shared.
The Costello Empire was a global entity and it was natural progression that they would expand into the internet and arms dealings. Being part of a multi-billionaire global empire included access to mansions, exclusive resorts, private jets, expensive cars, yachts and being able to go anywhere in the world. It’s a lifestyle that 99.999 per cent of the world can only fantasize about.
Joe was the third child of Nick’s and was ambivalent about being mega-rich. He preferred a simple lifestyle which was much different than everybody else in the immediate and extended families. Joe’s older sisters, Bianca and Cristina, who would fly to Milan, Italy for the fashion shows one week then be in Dubai the next and stop by Monaco where the family superyacht was anchored. Joe’s father, uncles, and cousins lived without much regard to money and this was even after the Costello Family Charity gave 500 million dollars a year to various charities and scholarship funds.
Don Costello owned a 25-room mansion in Rancho Santa Fe. It was situated on 33 acres of finely manicured grounds that included stables, corrals, and a massive swimming pool with a 50- foot waterfall and curved water slide that ran through, under and around it . There were several greenhouses onsite that produced organic fruits and vegetables, beehives for honey and rows of orange, lemons and avocados trees. There were spacious and well-decorated servants’ quarters. One of Don’s hobbies was vintage automobiles and a large 20,000 square foot building that housed 40 perfectly maintained cars. He was often exchanging or adding to his list of classic vehicles.
For extra privacy and protection, Don bought the three adjoining properties for a total of $96 million dollars. Don wanted Eddie Garrison, his head of security, to be nearby so he moved him into one of the mansions with his wife and two children. The second mansion was for the other security personnel to stay and relax when they weren’t on duty. Don was extremely pro-military and pro- law enforcement so everyone on his security team was either a former special operator or a member of SWAT. In some cases the men and women were both. Don paid extremely well and kept more personnel on staff than he really needed because he wanted them to always be well rested and alert when they were on duty. He made it to a point to show his appreciation to his protection team with a sincere thank you or generous financial bonuses. An indoor range was constructed so security personnel could maintain their high level of marksmanship. Eddie was extremely loyal to the Costello family and he made sure that each member of his team had the mindset that they were willing to sacrifice their own lives to protect the family. Every man was required to maintain the highest level proficiency in all forms of personal security. No family member of the family never left the property or traveled without their two personal bodyguards. Bianca and Cristina had former female Israeli Mossad agents as their bodyguards. Eddie always accompanied Don and Joe primary’s guards were Jim Hardesty and Marty McLane.
Don emphasized to his children. “Take your work seriously, but not yourself. Just because we have more money than those that work for us doesn’t mean we are any better. You treat them with respect and dignity because they’ve earned it. I won’t tolerate an attitude of entitlement from you!”
Under this philosophy, everybody from the gardeners to the stable boys were called by their first names. Don and Joe had a habit of riding through the property on an electric golf cart in the morning. It was their time visit with the workers and talk about anything that was on their minds. Joe really enjoyed these times with his father. There was a mutual respect between them and it wasn’t just the usual father son dynamics.
It was a clear Saturday morning and the dew was glistening on the grass and foliage from the sun’s amber rays. Don looked over at his son as they drove along the asphalt path of the property, stopping often to exchange greetings with the employees. Fifty feet in front of them was a golf cart with two armed guards. Same distance behind was another cart and two more guards.
Don called out to Basilio, one of the gardeners. “Good morning!”
Basilio stopped what he was doing and flashed a big smile and responded. “Bueno dias como estas?” (Good morning, how are you)
As they drove on, Don commented. “I’m proud of you son, I don’t think I tell you that often enough.”
“Thanks Dad, I feel the same way about you.”
Don advised. “If you are true to yourself, you won’t be easily deceived.”
“I’ll remember that.” Joe promised.
Joe enjoyed hanging out with the security team. He would often go to the firing range to do some shooting or engage in sparring at the fitness center. After one spirited session in which Eddie showed Joe some new moves, they sat down on the patio and had an impromptu conversation. Joe made a thoughtful comment. “It doesn’t seem right that the lives of my family should be more important than yours and the other men.”
“It may seem that way to you, but I have a different perspective.”
“How so?” Joe asked.
Eddie explained. “I like what I do, I’m pretty good at it and I like who I’m doing it for. Your father treats me more like a son than an employee. He has provided my family with a better life than I thought I could have ever given them. I risked my life for a lot less when I was in the service. I would willingly do almost anything for your family and the few things that I wouldn’t do, your father would never ask of me.”
“Do you think I could make it in the military, even become a special operator?” Joe asked.
“I believe so, but it would be a very bad idea so forget it.”
Joe became immediately became defensive and responded angrily. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Eddie sighed. “I’m not used to doing this much explaining…even to my wife, but here goes…A lot of people join up because they want to fight for their country and the military is the only game in town. I’ve served with some great warriors, but… and this is the problem, there are also people in our government who have been entrusted with millions of dollars and the lives of others that I wouldn’t trust them to pick up dog droppings. That’s the nature of the beast called bureaucracy. I have been part of an elite group of men where we all knew that the mission was our first priority, not our survival. We accepted that fact and did our best and let God do the rest. With you, the rules of engagement would be different.”
Joe started to speak and Eddie cut him off. “I’m not finished. Your father is a very powerful and influential man who has some strong alliances and very evil enemies. Some would use you as a pawn to get close to him and others would hurt or kill you to punish him. Even if you were willing to take that kind of risk to serve, what about the welfare of the men you’re serving with? They want to live, you don’t want to make them collateral damage just to prove a point…do you? It is not out of the realm of possibilities that someone would shoot down a plane that you’re on or send you on a suicide mission just because of your family…I can give you a whole list of bad scenarios if you want me to?”
Joe knew that Eddie was right and sighed in resignation. “You made your point.”
Eddie put his arm around Joe’s shoulder to console the dejected young boy. “It’s not all bad news. There’s other’s ways to serve your country and help the military in the process. I’ll be happy to point them out when the time is right.”
As Joe grew into a young man, he was eager to learn as much as he could because like his father said, ‘With privilege comes responsibility and with responsibility comes accountability.’ Joe never forgot that truth and facts are non-negotiable, no matter how much he might wish they were otherwise at times. He trained and disciplined himself to be a critical and objective thinker and an increasingly valuable asset in the Costello Empire.
In 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine. Brothers, Don, Carl and Nick Costello met to discuss the situation affected their businesses. They found out from their numerous contacts and paid informants that the current administration was receiving millions in kickbacks from the military aid that they were sending to Ukraine. Oil shipments were hijacked and sold on the black market at the inflated price of $115 dollars a barrel.
Don suggested to his brothers. “Why don’t we send Joe and see what he can put together?”
Both brothers quickly agreed and Joe was on the company jet with his security detail to meet with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine at a secret location outside the port city of Odessa. Joe got right to the point upon his arrival “We are prepared to offer you all the weapons and ammunition that you need as well as technical support.”
President Zelenskyy asked. “In return for what?”
“When this is over, you’re going to need help to rebuild your country. The Costello Corporation has everything you need to accomplish that task as quickly and efficiently as possible.” Joe answered.
“Once again, I ask why would you do that?”
Joe explained. “Ukraine has extremely rich and complementary mineral resources in high concentrations and close proximity to each other. You have abundant reserves of coal, iron ore, natural gas, manganese, salt, oil, graphite, sulfur, kaolin, titanium, nickel, magnesium, timber, and mercury. Ukraine is also known as ‘the breadbasket of Europe’ and home to around a quarter of the world’s super-fertile chernozem or black soil. You haven’t been able to fully capitalize on these agricultural riches during the thirty years since the country gained independence. The untapped potential is staggering. Your country boasts around 90 million acres of usable farm land. Ukraine is one of the main world exporters of grains as well as vegetable oils. Your main agriculture export products are corn, wheat and sunflower products. In 2021 Ukraine was the second largest supplier of grains for the European Union (EU) and a large food supplier for low and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa. We will responsibly maximize your output for all of the above. Our payment for helping you rebuild your country will come from your own resources. Basically, if Ukraine isn’t making money, the Costello Corporation won’t either. We’ll take 25 per cent and you take seventy-five. My family has a reputation to maintain and we won’t break our word or deceive you for any amount of money. Agree to this deal and I’ll set the wheels in motion.”
President Zelenskyy responded with a smile. “I know of your father…I trust him. Is there something I need to sign?”
“For the time being a handshake will do. When the fighting is done, we’ll do the paperwork.” Joe extended his right hand and President Zelenskyy shook it. Joe pulled out his cellphone and made a call. “It’s done…send them.”
Two large freighters filled with weapons and humanitarian aid were anchored in the Black Sea and a group of smaller armed escort ships. They began moving toward Odessa when they got the word.
A CIA surveillance team was watching the meeting area from a distant location. One of the men made a phone call to the State Department in Washington. “You’ll never guess who just had a meeting with Zelenskyy.”
The high ranking bureaucrats snapped back. “I don’t have time for guessing games.”
“I just recognized Joe Costello…and I’m betting he made a deal with Zelenskyy.”
“Follow and await further instructions.” Came the order.
Twenty minutes later, the CIA team received their orders. “Terminate.”
There was no response and the order was repeated. “Terminate…confirm last transmission.”
“Confirmed.” Came the reply.
Joe and his security team were ambushed as they drove toward the Polish border. Joe made a quick call. “We’re under attack.”
Eddie was a shrewd strategist and had a back-up team in reserve just in case something like this happened. “Take defensive positions, help is on the way.”
Joe and his personal bodyguards exited their vehicle moments before a rocket propelled grenade hit it. The armed guards in the front and rear vehicles did likewise. Moments later, their vehicles were hit. Eddie made sure that all security personnel trained for every scenario. The group of men found cover along the road and got into a 360 defensive perimeter and returned fire. Joe could handle a weapon as well as his bodyguards and he fought right alongside his team. Machine gun fire peppered the area and Marty pushed Joe down and covered his body with his to protect him. “Eddie will have my head if I let anything happen you.” Several rounds hit Marty in the back and Joe caught one in the shoulder. Just as the attackers were ready to advance, two helicopters swooped in, firing rockets at the attackers. Two dozen men fast-roped out of the helicopter and killed the attackers.
Dave ran over to where Joe was and saw that Marty was badly wounded and called out. Medic!” He looked at Joe and asked. “How bad?”
Joe grimaced. “They nicked me a little.”
Dave pulled out his phone and called Eddie who was back at the Rancho Santa Fe compound with Don. The speaker was on. “We’ve got Joe, he’s got a minor wound, but Marty is pretty bad.”
Joe held out his hand and Dave handed him the phone. “I’m fine…I’m worried about Marty.”
Don responded. “I’m on my way.”
“Use your facial recognition software on the attackers. We’ll be in the air in less than an hour. Call me when you get something.” Eddie ordered.
“Roger that.” Dave responded.
Joe slowly awakened from surgery in a private hospital in Monaco. He looked over and saw his father dozing in the chair next to the bed and said. “Dad.”
Don quickly opened his eyes and smiled. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling a little nauseous…probably from the anesthesia.”
Don walked over to the door and called out to the nurse. “My son is feeling nauseous…can you give him something?
In under a minute a nurse added Zofran (anti-nausea medication) through an IV and Joe quickly felt better. “Thank you.”
The nurse responded. “If you need anything, just press the call button. I’m Danielle and I am your private nurse. I’ll be right outside.”
After the nurse left, Joe asked. “How’s Marty?”
Don replied. “He was in surgery for five hours. I flew in the best surgeon in the European Union for the operation. He was just upgraded from critical to serious and the doctor is cautiously optimistic.”
“Was it the Russians that hit us?” Joe asked.
“CIA contractors.” Don answered. “I’ll be staying here until you’re ready to travel. I’ve taken the entire wing. I don’t want your mother or sisters to worry…if you know what I mean?”
“They won’t hear a word from me. If they notice that I look a little stiff, I’ll tell ‘em that I hurt it playing Pickleball.” Joe joked.
Don said. “I need to talk to Eddie…I’ll see you in a little while.”
In the lobby, Eddie was talking to several members of the security team. When he saw Don he walked over to him.
“We need to send an unmistakable and extremely strong message about the repercussions of coming after the family.” Don said.
“My sentiments exactly…the wheels are already in motion.” Eddie stated matter of factly.
“Keep me posted.”
“Roger that.” Eddie smiled.
Eddie used all his skills and contacts to identify those that authorized the attack against Joe and his team. He kept Don informed as the men mysteriously disappeared. The conspiracy went all the way to the top…the very top. It was time to go after the head of the snake. This would require a different strategy.
Don and Joe were sitting in the office at the compound in Rancho Santa Fe when Eddie entered. “You wanted to see me?”
Don explained. “There’s a former Army Ranger officer who is currently the Congressman of Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District. He’s on his third term, pro– law enforcement, pro-military and has a good and respectable voting record. His name is Spencer Hawthorne.”
Joe added. “Dad’s likes this guy…a lot. He believes that he has potential. Do you mind going up there to see if he would interested in running for President?”
“We’ll fund his entire campaign if he agrees.” Don said.
Eddie replied. “Roger that,” and was gone.
“Ever wonder how Eddie is never surprised by anything we ask him to do?” Joe asked.
“That is because he knows us so well. I often have the feeling that he’s one step ahead and he’s just waiting for me to catch up.” Don surmised.
Congressman Hawthorne agreed and he gave a press conference to declare his candidacy. President Raymond Shaw and his re-election team wasted little time going after the veteran, fabricating stories and distorting facts about his military and congressional records. The media were willing accomplice to the smear strategy.
Don hired astute and savvy individuals to advise Hawthorne. Their strategy was simple; the best defense was a strong offense. Every time a false accusation came out, Hawthorne quickly debunked it with irrefutable evidence. It got to the point where the Shaw campaign had no other choice, but to run solely on the issues and defend their dismal record. The polls showed that Shaw was down by double-digits with less than a month to go and two weeks before the election.
Now is the time to remember what was written in the beginning of this story. President Raymond Shaw had been in politics for 35 years and defined the term, ‘entrenched bureaucrat.’ It was hard to determine how wealthy he was because so much of his money was hidden in offshore accounts and family members’ businesses. He died peacefully in his sleep and the doctors said that the stress of the campaign was probably too much for the elderly President who had several pre-existing medical conditions, including early onset Alzheimer ’s disease. That was one explanation, but medicine isn’t an exact science. There could have been another cause of death…we may never know for sure.
Joe commented. “It’s a real shame about Shaw?”
Eddie smiled deviously. “I’m broken-hearted about it…can’t you tell?”
As Eddie walked off, Don came up behind his son and placed his hand on his shoulder. “Like I said, he’s always one step ahead.”
Joe thought about something and was prepared to speak before his father reminded him of their lifelong philosophy. “Let’s put it this way, President Shaw forgot the cardinal rule of survival; maintain a low profile philosophy and never become a high profile target.”
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance
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