Florida Teenagers Got Caught in a Snapchat-Fueled Robbery – This Week in Teens
Summer break sounds amazing in June, but by August the teens have grown restless. They’re broke, they’ve got all these hormones that they can’t properly act on, and Mom’s at work. Today’s teens are left at home with little more than technology and other teens to keep them company. It’s with this sense of boredom and the possibility of danger in mind that we turn to our top story This Week in Teens.
A 15-year-old boy in Florida got a Snapchat of his cousin holding a stack of cash, so he and four of his friends decided to rob his cousin’s house. They would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for his cousin’s pesky dogs, and the fact that the rest of his family was home. The teens ran from the house, taking a laptop with them, but were caught by police—because that’s what happens when your aunt sees you robbing her house. This story is truly a perfect encapsulation of the way teens live now. The traditional teen traits of confusion-fueled idiocy and responding to the pressures of capitalism with petty crime are compounded by technology. Snapchat, an app that’s wildly popular among young people, is being valued at around $10 billion. Teens are an instrumental part of the app’s success, so there’s a certain poetry in the idea that the app is inspiring them to commit crimes for cash.
Check out the rest of This Week in Teens
Family4Love Is the Facebook of Incest
The profile for TampaRob could be that of any dad. “I have two sons that are 13 and 10, and a daughter that is 11. We stay pretty busy with soccer, gymnastics, and music lessons.” But then there’s the pitch: “We are active and open-minded and enjoy each other and enjoy meeting others the same.”
Welcome to Family4love.com, the Facebook of incest. In the website’s lingo, an “active family” is one that embraces having sex with one another. “Enjoy meeting others the same” means “come join us.”
With 3,086 members, this is a relatively small community, but one that is part of a larger subculture that uses the internet to get extremely nasty with their relatives—both as role-playing and what appears to be the real thing. Click around and you’ll find groups devoted to “Wisconsin families that love each other,” a wealthy gentleman with far from paternalistic intentions looking for a surrogate to carry his children, and even a page devoted to filthy confessions like “I love the smell of my husband’s cock on my toddler’s face when I kiss her.”
Family4Love isn’t the only site of its kind. Incest forums are all over the web. There’s even asubreddit devoted to it. One competitor, Social-Incest.com, calls itself “The place that connects your family in more ways then [sic] one.” And you thought it was awkward when your mom added you on Facebook.
Family4Love flitted into the news last year, when Stephen Lewis, a marine at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, used the site to seek out sex with a father and his children. But the family’s profile was a set-up by Homeland Security and Lewis was arrested. He reportedly admitted to having sex with minors and owning child pornography on his phone. (Calls to the Department of Homeland Security in San Diego to check up on this case were not returned.)
This Guy Will Organize the Perfect Robbery for You
Fixers are the consultants of the criminal underworld. Paid to organize crimes without actually getting involved in any of the hands-on stuff, they’re capable of earning large sums of money purely for advising the bank robbers and smash-and-grabbers who employ them.
A couple of years ago, while trying to make a name for myself as a writer, I ghost-wrote a number of true crime autobiographies. One of the people I wrote for was a guy named Colin Blaney, a former member of a Manchester, UK gang called the Wide Awake Firm, who introduced to me a highly respected fixer. “Mr. C” was responsible for organizing a wide variety of crimes, and agreed to talk to me on the condition of anonymity.
VICE: What exactly is the role of a fixer?
Mr. C: A fixer is a person who can influence or set up a time and a place for the perfect robbery. He can organize a person or group of people so they get the job done, so it happens as planned, so it goes off to a tee. The term applies in the same way in the drug world; it’s somebody who’s behind the scenes, organizing the movement of drugs. Drug cartels will trust the fixer to plan how they move the drugs, how the money is laundered, when the product’s coming through, how much of it is coming through, which countries each bit’s going to, and so on.
Talk me through the process of fixing a robbery then. What does it entail?
Well, I’ll give you an example. I know of a job that was done where a load of expensive watches were stolen. The guys had a car and a motorbike stolen in advance. On the day of the robbery they went into the shop, took all of the high-priced watches out and bagged them up. They knew that they only had a certain length of time before the helicopters scrambled, so they did it quickly and then jumped into the car, knowing it would be spotted right away and the police would be looking for it. They then drove to a set of bollards. A motorcycle was positioned there. The police can’t go through bollards, so the robbers could escape that way.
Cry-Baby of the Week
It’s time, once again, to marvel at some idiots who don’t know how to handle the world:
Cry-Baby #1: Julius Lopowitz
The incident: A man was given a speeding ticket.
The appropriate response: Paying it. Or contesting it if you don’t think you deserve it.
The actual response: He dialed 911 and reported a fake murder in progress in the hopes of distracting the issuing officer.
Earlier this week, a West Melbourne, Florida man named Julius Lopowitz was pulled over for speeding.
As the officer who pulled him over was writing his ticket, 911 dispatchers received a call to report a possible murder in progress.
"There is a murder that’s going to happen, I swear," the caller said. "On Wingate and Hollywood. Definitely someone going to get shot. Please, please, Wingate and Hollywood. Please."
He then hung up the phone.
As every available officer was being dispatched to the intersection of Wingate and Hollywood, the man called back.
This time he said, “I swear, there’s going to be a murder any second. There’s a man and a gun. Please.”
When he hung up this time, 911 dispatchers looked in their records for the caller’s name. As he’d called 911 before, they had his name on record. The name was Julius Lopowitz.
The dispatcher said Julius’ name over the police radio, and the officer who’d pulled Jules over recognized it as the name he was writing on a speeding ticket.
“It almost worked,” Police Lt. Rich Cordeau told local news station WBTV. “The officer was trying to wrap up quickly to respond.”
Police believe that Julius made the fake calls when the officer’s back was turned to write the ticket.
Julius is now facing a felony charge that carries a five-year maximum prison term. Which is quite a bit worse than a $200 speeding ticket, so fuck knows what he’ll pull to try and get out of that one.
Meet Cry-Baby #2 and vote!
Why Is White Boy Rick Still Serving Life in Prison?
Rick Wershe is a former drug dealer and police informant who was convicted in 1988, at the age of 17, of possessing 17 pounds of cocaine. Now 46 and a father of three, Wershe is the only inmate in Michigan behind bars who was sentenced to life as a minor under a mandatory minimum that has since been repealed.
The Crack Smoking Crime Reporter Who Covered America’s Crack Epidemic
25 years ago, crack use was exploding across America. Cheap and readily accessible, the drug’s place in the national folklore was assured when President George H. W. Bush brandished a bag of crack rocks in an address from the Oval Office in 1989, opining: “It’s as innocent-looking as candy, but it’s turning our cities into battlezones, and it’s murdering our children.”
About four months later, Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry was busted by the feds. They caught him (on tape) smoking crack in a hotel room—where he famously muttered “Bitch set me up!” in reference to the former girlfriend who cooperated with the FBI to bring him down. That same night, Ruben Castaneda, a recently-hired crime reporter for the Washington Post who was lucky enough to be on the scene at the Vista Hotel, got high on crack in a room paid for by the newspaper. He was an addict, and with his blood racing from having seen the most popular politician in the city go down—and no one at the hotel giving up any dirt on the bust he could use for a story—the temptation was too great to resist.
Before his Post editors helped him get clean and kick the habit, Castaneda led a complicated existence—reporting stories on one hand and surreptitiously scoring crack on the other. His new book about those years, S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in DC, recalls David Simon’s beloved HBO show The Wire with its vivid, textured portrait of urban life and territorial gang warfare. The key difference, as Castaneda likes to point out, is that it’s all true (even if Simon’s own time as a crime reporter gave his show plenty of realism).
I called Castaneda up to ask him about experiencing the crack epidemic first hand, and how he pulled off such an incredible double life.
VICE: You were a reporter in your hometown of LA at the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner before being hired by the Post. Do you remember when you first heard about crack cocaine?
Ruben Castaneda: It’s hard to pinpoint, but I probably read an article in the LA Times or the New York Times about the impact crack was having in DC and in other cities around 1987 or 1988. Basically, that it was this incredibly powerful, addictive drug that was being sold in some of the tougher neighborhoods in the cities.
Tell me about your first experience with crack and what you think brought you to the drug.
I was on a reporting assignment on the western edge of downtown LA in a pretty tough neighborhood. This very, very attractive young woman caught my eye. She gestured for me to come over, so I put the reporting aside for a moment and went over to flirt with her. Now, I was already, at this time, drinking heavily. In fact, I had already gotten pretty toasted that afternoon at Corky’s—a dive bar—so I was pretty impaired in judgment. So when she offered me, very quickly into our conversation, a hit of crack, I was 27—old enough to know better but young enough to feel invincible. I was intrigued by the idea of experiencing something that I had read so much about. I’d read that crack cocaine produced this incredible high. In that moment, I dismissed any thoughts that this would throw me into addiction.
"Strawberry" was a term I hadn’t heard outside of rap lyrics before reading the book. Can you explain it to our readers?
A strawberry is a woman who trades sex for drugs. Crack usually, though I suppose it could be other drugs. I was introduced to crack by a young woman who turned out to be a strawberry—Raven—in Los Angeles. Getting a strawberry to make the buy for me very quickly became part of my addiction or compulsion. And it added to the excitement. At least initially, the sex was otherwordly. But there was another component to it in that by handing money to the strawberry—Raven in LA, Champagne or Carrie in DC—and letting them make the buy, I was insulating myself from any police activity. It was a way of protecting myself.
But by the last month or so, I didn’t even care about that. All I wanted was to get drugs—I made the buys directly. Didn’t care about strawberries, just needed more crack.
Sex was wrapped up in your crack use from the start, though. Did you have qualms about exploitation of these women working the street?
At the time that I was caught up in it, I did not reflect on that very much. The women who I was picking up for crack and sex seemed to be very much in control of their own destinies. We didn’t talk about our respective lives—these were transactional encounters. Now, later on, I did start to reflect on the fact that I was playing a role in their own addictions. I think it was June of 1991 when there was a story on the front-page of the Post about a group of women who had worked the streets. I saw a picture of a woman I had picked up to make crack buys for me. Up until that moment, I think I had mentally compartmentalized what I was doing as relatively benign.
Eric Garner and the Plague of Police Brutality Against Black Men
If you haven’t heard about Eric Garner yet, let me fill you in. He was a 43-year-old father of six who lived in Staten Island, and he died in the street on Thursday after as many as four New York police officers choked him and slammed his head on the ground. The NYPD told the Associated Press that they stopped Garner because he was selling untaxed cigarettes, something he’d been arrested for before. However, witnesses who spoke with local news website Staten Island Live have basically said that’s bullshit. Ramsey Orta, who was on the scene and shot a now infamous video that is making the rounds, can be heard in the clip saying that all Garner had done to get bothered by the police was break up a fight.
In the video, Garner denies any wrongdoing and asks why he’s being hassled. “Every time you see me you want to mess with me,” he says in an exasperated tone that most men of color across this country can relate to. Garner, who was 400 pounds and has been described by people who knew him as a “gentle giant,” suffered from chronic asthma and police claim his death was the result of a heart attack suffered during the arrest.
Police say that Garner made a “fighting stance” and resisted arrest. Which, based on the video clip, is complete nonsense, considering we can see him pleading to the officers, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!” before going completely silent as several officers pile on him.
The video of Garner’s death is disgusting, but I can’t say I was shocked or even outraged the first time I watched it. At this point, as someone who’s read and written about some of these stories time and time again—and who’s had firsthand experiences with the way cops treat black males—this kind of reprehensible shit is not surprising at all. After so many cases like Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, you start to feel desensitized by the seemingly insurmountable injustice that plagues communities of color.
Murderers Are the Best Restaurant Workers
When I started working with actual criminals, I realized that they were easier to get along with because they knew how bad things could get.
A Guide to Europe’s Secret Drug Capitals
If you’re not in Colorado or Washington, and you’ve ever spent more than $100 on weed at once, you’ve probably taken a relaxing vacation away from criminality in Amsterdam. That’s because smoking a joint legally in a beautiful European city, surrounded by both erudite Dutchmen and shit-drunk Scottish stag parties, is generally much more preferable to hot-boxing your friend’s car in a parking lot, slamming the music off and ducking behind the seats every time another car drives by.
But where are other Europeans supposed to go to snort, smoke or ingest in peace? Coke-heads used to have that Bolivian jail where you could buy fishscale direct from the prisoners, but that’s now banished to backpacker lore, ruined by swaths of international media attention and a warden who realized that presiding over a state-funded gak factory probably wouldn’t look great on his resume.
In 2013, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) conducted a study of 42 European cities, analyzing local waste-water (sewage, essentially) to determine which drug was most widely used in each area. Some of the results were as you’d expect, but there were a few in there that stuck out a little, and those are the ones we’ve laid out below in our guide to Europe’s secret drug capitals.
Photo via Jean-Pol Grandmont
Shockingly, Antwerp—a city full of diamond traders and fashion students—is also full of cocaine. In fact, Europe’s coke capital is so keen on the stuff that nefarious pigeon fanciers have started doping their racing birds with performance-enhancing gak.
One potential reason behind the Belgian capital’s fondness for blow is that almost 25 percent of the cocaine shipped to Europe from South America makes its way through the country, and a large chunk of that through the port of Antwerp. Conveniently—and kind of unbelievably—only two percent of the containers passing through the port each year are actually screened, meaning not a lot gets seized.
And lucky for the city’s residents, that bountiful supply translates into low, low prices; at an average of $68 a gram, it kind of makes sense that it’s so widely used.
Cannabis growing all over the hills of Lazarat. Photo by Axel Kronholm
The bucolic town of Lazarat is slightly different from many other pastoral Albanian towns, in that its green pastures are mostly made up of cannabis plants, which produce around 900 tons of bud every year. Families can survive off a harvest for a whole year—and growing really is a family business, which is probably why it’s not a good idea to fuck with the kush farmers of Lazarat.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, 800 police surrounded the town. Upon realizing they were boxed-in, residents decided to base their response on the archetypal Michael Bay drug dealer—by grabbing some RPGs and machine guns, and blasting the overwhelmed cops off their turf. Thousands of plants were destroyed, but in the end the police retreated.