Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, January 11, 2016

Kristin Cavallari's brother/ "Police chief refuses to blink in face of death threats"

Dec. 8, 2015 Kristin Cavallari's missing brother Michael: Kristin is a reality TV star on Lauguna Beach and The Hills.  Her brother Michael is missing.  I'm not really a fan of hers or like the shows that much.  However, I did have to look at him
in case I see him.

He has passed away:

Dec. 15 "Alleged plot rocks cash for gold rivalry": I cut out this article by Christie Blatchford in the Globe and Mail on Aug. 5, 2010:

Toronto Police have charged a 71-year-old woman in connection with a bizarre plot to put an alleged hit on a prominent jeweller.

The cast of characters is as unlikely as could be imagined, including, of course, the alleged elderly mastermind herself, two Orthodox Jews and an ex-mixed martial arts fighter, hit man with a conscience, who purportedly confessed all to the intended target and subsequently gave police a lengthy videotaped statement.

The fantastic plot allegedly revolves around two rivals in the increasingly cutthroat and lucrative "cash-for-gold" business where, with gold hovering at $1,200 per Troy ounce, potential profits are so huge that even the venerable Canadian jewellery retailer Birks last year entered the business with its web-only Birks Gold Exchange.

Well-known Toronto jeweller Jack Berkovits, of Omni Jewelcrafters, was the alleged intended target.

The 58-year-old Mr. Berkovits owns a chain of stores in Toronto and environs and got into the cash-for-gold end in a big way only, his website says, to provide an alternative to shady operators when the recent economic downturn saw customers buying less high-end jewellery, but the cash-for-gold end of the market simultaneously exploded.

The cash-for-gold business is considered part of the pawn shop business, and is certainly a growth niche. For instance, the law requires operators to hold onto the jewellery people sell for two weeks, ostensibly for police to determine if it is stolen.

But in practical terms, insiders say, police rarely visit.
The other man, Harold (famously known in his television commercials as Harold the Jewellery Buyer) Gerstel, employs the woman who is now facing five serious offences and allegedly also employed the hit man, though Mr. Gerstel denies that.

Mr. Gerstel himself isn't charged or alleged to have been involved in the plot.
It is his long-time employee, Maria Konstan, who is charged with threatening damage (to Mr. Berkovits's Jewels and Java main location on Bathurst Street, across the street from Mr. Gerstel's store), threatening bodily harm, counselling to commit an indictable offence (assault bodily harm), threatening death and counselling to commit an indictable offence (murder).

The alleged intended victim of all the other offences but the property offence was Mr. Berkovits.

The purported hit man was an Iranian-born tae kwon do champion and former extreme fighter whom a Toronto Police source has described as Mr. Gerstel's security head and body guard.

"He's not an employee," Mr. Gerstel told The Globe and Mail Wednesday during a prickly interview at his store, during which he paced frequently to the front windows that offer a view of Mr. Berkovits's main location. "He never was."

"That is an absolute lie," the ex-fighter told The Globe in a telephone interview. "What was I doing for six hours a day in his store - standing there?" He said he had worked for Mr. Gerstel, collecting debts though never hurting anyone, since 1998.

Told that police described the 32-year-old man as an employee, Mr. Gerstel snapped, "Who do you think would know?" He certainly seemed to know him, however, dismissively saying of him, "it's one person's word, who's a wrestler and ultimate fighter. But it has to go through the process."

The man's fame in the world of ultimate fighting would hardly get him known. He appears to have had only one match as a professional, which he lost in a minute, 23 seconds to a former decorated U.S. Marine.

Mr. Gerstel dismissed the alleged plot as "a frame up. It's not to be believed. All I can say is that it has no merit, no basis, it's a total frame-up."

Asked who was behind the frame-up, Mr. Gerstel said, "I know you want a story, but nothing happened. It's absurd. It has no merit. I'm not really involved, she [Mrs. Konstan]is simply an employee."

Mrs. Konstan wasn't at the store Wednesday and couldn't be reached at her North York home.

Mr. Gerstel repeatedly described the purported plot as unbelievable, calling it "kind of bizarre" and "ridiculous".

But Mr. Berkovits, The Globe has learned, was sufficiently shaken up by his encounter with the ex-fighter - during which the man allegedly told him "I've been hired to kill you" and then reassured him, "Don't worry, I'm not going to" - that he went directly to the 13 Division station near his main store after their meeting about two weeks ago.

The two met, at the ex-fighter's request, at the King David Pizza, which is just up the street from both stores, with the man apparently telling Mr. Berkovits he was Mr. Gerstel's "enforcer".

At the police station, Murphy's Law being what it is, the station was both busy and short-staffed and Mr. Berkovits was left cooling his heels. After waiting two hours, he left, then came back later the same day, waited again, leaving his name and address and the details of his complaint when he finally departed for home.

That evening about midnight, officers were pounding urgently on his door. They left after taking a statement.

The ex-fighter, about the same time or shortly after, also had gone to Toronto Police to make a clean breast of it.

Within days, Mrs. Konstan was arrested and charged. She was released on bail, and put on a restraining order keeping her 10 metres away from Mr. Berkovits's store (a more sweeping order apparently would have precluded her seeing her doctor, whose office is just up the street).

Police believe the catalyst for the alleged plot may have been Mr. Berkovits recently opening a new location, dedicated to cash-for-gold, a little further north on Bathurst Street.

Unbeknownst to him. Mr. Gerstel had leased new quarters four doors down in the same strip plaza from Mr. Berkovits's Easy Cash for Gold location.

But the dispute - police consider that Mr. Gerstel was "the regular aggressor"- has been simmering since Mr. Berkovits first hung up his "cash-for-gold" sign in May of 2009.

Until then, the two stores had catered to different clientele, Mr. Berkovits to high-end buyers looking for good prices, Mr. Gerstel to impecunious, sometimes desperate, folk looking for fast cash.

Even today, the two stores reflect those differences. Omni's Jewels and Java location, for instance, is divided into a restaurant and store, with friendly staff greeting customers.

To even enter Mr. Gerstel's store, one has to be buzzed in, and there is no actual jewellery on display, only pictures - and even these are behind bars.

"Police chief refuses to blink in face of death threats": I cut out this article by Richard Marosi in the Edmonton Journal on Dec. 22, 2009: 

Reporting from Tijuana — Since he took over one of the most troubled police departments in Mexico, Julian Leyzaola has slapped the face of a corpse, led shoot-'em-ups on the street and ordered suspected crooked cops to stick close to his office in downtown Tijuana -- he wanted them as human shields.

"I told them, if they try to attack me in my office, you'll be right outside," Leyzaola said. "The first ones they kill will be you."

He's not being paranoid. Since he launched a crackdown on organized crime and police corruption two years ago, Leyzaola has survived at least four assassination plots, including the latest threat to blow up his headquarters. On police radio frequencies, crime bosses taunt Leyzaola, saying there's one easy way to stop the mayhem: Resign.

"Of course I won't," Leyzaola, who was a lieutenant colonel on leave from the army when he became Tijuana's secretary of public security, said in a recent interview. "If I quit under that type of pressure, I'll feel like a part of them, an accomplice of organized crime."

Leyzaola is credited by U.S. and Mexican officials with making gains in cleaning up the department, driving out many drug traffickers and, for much of this year, returning a semblance of normality to a crime-weary city.

But last week's surge in gang violence -- decapitations, dismemberments, hangings and shootouts that claimed the lives of more than 50 people -- showed the tenuousness of Leyzaola's gains.

And some say the security chief's offensive comes at a heavy price. Human rights activists accuse Leyzaola of involvement in the torture and beating of suspects, including suspected rogue officers.

Even the clean cops under him are anxious.

"I respect him," said one veteran officer, "but for him to succeed, we have to die."

Since Leyzaola's purge began, 43 police officers have been killed on the streets, most of them honest officers targeted by gangs. About 330 police officers have left the force, some fearing for their lives. And 130 officers have been arrested on corruption charges, some of them veterans personally detained by Leyzaola.

A Mexican police officer whose actions match his tough talk, Leyzaola in many ways is the model for the kind of law enforcement muscle the Mexican government needs to battle organized crime.

But critics see a little too much muscle: People arrested by Leyzaola's police officers have turned up bloodied and bruised in mug shots. And some officers suspected of corruption allege that he played a role in their torture this year.

When Mayor Jorge Ramos gave his state of the city address last month, a small group of protesters held up signs denouncing the public security secretary. But their boos were drowned out by loud applause from hundreds of people, including some widows of fallen police officers, who packed the glittery City Hall event.

To his supporters, Leyzaola, despite the controversies, is a worthy adversary of the gangs that have long controlled the city. He patrols the streets, wages gun battles and sneeringly calls criminals filthy and shiftless.

"We need an iron hand. Bravo!" read one e-mail comment in response to a recent newspaper article about Leyzaola.

Others take a more wary view. "Society doesn't care if he tortures," said Victor Clark Alfaro, director of Tijuana's Binational Center for Human Rights. "They just want results."

A long battle

Leyzaola, 49, battled drug traffickers long before arriving in Tijuana.
The son and grandson of military officers, he attended the Heroico Colegio Militar, Mexico's West Point, and spent many years raiding marijuana and poppy fields in rural operations that he said often led to shootouts with traffickers.

That confrontational approach didn't exist when Leyzaola was hired in 2007 to be the director of the Tijuana police department. A year later, Leyzaola was promoted to secretary of public security, which expanded his authority.

Many officers in the 2,100-member Tijuana police force had long functioned as an arm of the hometown Arellano Felix drug cartel, acting as lookouts, drivers and providing protection for traffickers on their criminal rounds across the city.

Police often avoided shootouts or pursuits, Leyzaola said. They also refused to sign the criminal complaints necessary to prosecute suspects. Leyzaola took to the streets daily with his bodyguards and engaged in high-speed chases and gun battles that sometimes ended in bloodshed. He also personally signed more than 200 criminal complaints, he said.

"Organized crime groups were the owners of the city," Leyzaola said. "They weren't used to someone defying their orders."

Officers who defy Leyzaola don't last long. Several high-ranking officers with alleged links to organized crime have been arrested, including the longtime police liaison to U.S. law enforcement, Javier Cardenas, who was a friend of the mayor.

Dec. 24: I have been decluttering a lot by putting up all these articles on my email/ blog post. 

I had gotten articles in my Professional Writing class.  Today I was going through them and trying to find the articles on the internet, but they weren't there.  Most of it was from 2007 so it may not still be on the internet.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home