Wilmington Woman's Club Ch. 74byParis Waterman©
Marty Learns of the Marcolina/Gentner Meeting
"Marty..." K.C. said excitedly, "I think I'm on to something important."
"What is it, K.C.?"
"One of the girls works with me at Dockside Dolls named Star was telling me... well I should start with the fact that she's also dated Gentner. Anyway, Star's standing in line at the bank when she saw Gentner come in and sit down at Joe Marcolina's desk."
"Did he see her?"
"Um, I did ask her about that. She seemed positive he didn't recognize her. Said he knows her as a redhead. Um, she always wears a red wig when performing and making, um, house calls. Anyway, on this particular day I probably would have had trouble recognizing her because she was without most of her usual makeup, and she was wearing flats instead of the typical stiletto shoes that earmark our profession as erotic dancers."
"So, what did she see?"
"Um, by Star's account the meeting lasted about thirty minutes, and both men were smiling when it ended."
"She hung around that long? They might have spotted her, K.C."
"She said the lines were long and only two tellers working. Um, she didn't hang around gawking, or anything. She was waiting patiently in line like everyone else. She was still waiting when Gentner left."
"Jesus, are the bank's that slow these days?"
"It seems like they want everyone to use the ATM's, but hey, something's need a teller's help to get things done."
"Yeah..." He paused, and then said "That's great information, K.C."
"I knew you'd be pleased, Marty."
"He never called you back, did he?'
"No. I was sure he would, but he didn't."
"It's just as well, no sense in getting in harm's way unless it's absolutely necessary."
"Yeah, I'm kinda relieved that I don't have to spend any more time with him, he's too creepy for my money."
"What can you tell me about the banker?"
"Oh, Joe Marcolina... he's a native, high school football star. All the girls went nuts over him back then. He went off to North Carolina, didn't play football, though. It seems he took his studies seriously, he graduated with high honors. He met his wife when he was a senior. Rumor is he knocked her up, but she miscarried. Her name's Valerie and she's both good looking and a nice person. I met her once and couldn't believe how someone as wealthy as she was could be so down to earth. I mean she insisted on washing the dishes after this silly social thing ended."
"How do you know all this?"
"Well I was stacking the dishes and she..."
"I mean about Marcolina?"
"I mean... I'm sorry, I interrupted you, what I meant to ask was what else can you tell me about Marcolina? What's his position at the bank? Where does he live?"
"Um, I don't have all the answers, Marty, but I can find out."
"It's important, K.C. it might be the key to getting at Gentner."
"Yeah, I think. Listen, meet me at the motel on Market, you know the one?"
We'll have some fun and I'll give you an envelope for Star in appreciation for her help."
What he left unsaid was that another envelope would be waiting for her as well.
"I think you may have opened another door for me to explore about Mr. Gentner, baby, and I really appreciate it."
Marty worked the phone that afternoon and in the early evening reached a man known only as Otto.
"Hello, is this Otto?"
"Who wants to know?"
"Billy Burke, from Wilkes-Barre sold me your name."
"How do you know this Billy Burke?"
"From about thirty five previous calls around; I only talked to him the one time."
"I don't think we have anything to talk about," Otto said curtly.
"Wait!" Marty called out, "It's very important that I speak to you, or whoever you finally decide to pass me on to."
"I don't know you; you might be a fed, or something, wanting to incriminate me."
"How can I persuade you to talk to me?"
"Where are you from?"
"Jersey City, Bayonne... that area."
"You know Donnie Albertoni?"
"No, but we have mutual acquaintances' could maybe vouch for me."
"Call them. See if they can persuade Donnie to give you an approval. I'll be talkin' with him at ten, so you better get on it."
"Okay, I will... and Otto... thanks." . *****
It took five calls before Marty found a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy that would put him in touch with Donnie Albertoni.
"I know you from somewhere's?" Albertoni said.
"No. You may have heard of me though. My name's Marty Piatkowski, and...."
"Hold on... hey! Any of you assholes heard of a guy named Marty Piatkowski?"
The phone was silent for a minute, and then Marty heard a voice say, "Ask him he knows Ray-Ray Randino?"
Albertoni came back on the line and asked: "You know Ray-Ray Randino"?
"Yeah, me and Ray-Ray grew up together. He was killed in a heist we pulled together a few years back."
Marty heard a whispered conversation going on, but was unable to understand what was said.
Suddenly Albertoni returned and asked: What about Sammy Pardo?"
"What about Sammy?" Marty countered.
"You know him?"
"I know he was last seen on December 29, 1989; I know they found his car with several bullet holes in the trunk. I know they never found Sammy. Maybe he's in Bolivia or someplace like that. He liked warm climates."
"He was a mean mother-fucker," Albertoni said.
"He was," Marty agreed.
"I understand you want something from my associate, Otto."
"Tell you what, Mr. Albertoni, I'm looking for Conrad Gentner. He fucked me on that heist I did eight years for. He got my girl hooked on drugs when he said he'd look out for her. She's dead as a result of his care. I want him. I want to seriously hurt him first, before I take him down.
"Anybody around here you know might be willing to vouch for you, Marty?"
"Is Fat's Callahan still alive? He might vouch for me?" "Hold on," Albertoni said again, putting him on hold.
This time the wait was almost ten minutes, before Albertoni came back on the line.
"I'm still here," Marty said.
"The Fat man likes you, Marty, says you're all right. He thought Sammy Pardo was a prick too. Said the two of you were in a game at his place on the 29th. Say's Pardo lost a big hand and left, and you stayed late. That's what the man says."
"Fat's is a stand-up guy, Mr. Albertoni."
"He's willing to stick his neck out and vouch for you, Marty. My usual fee as intermediary is five grand. That okay with you?"
"Of course; I'll call Fat's, he'll front the money for me... let me call him and get back to you."
"I trust you, Marty. Call Otto around ten, ten-thirty. He'll be friendlier then."
"Thank you, Mr. Albertoni, I really appreciate this."
"Hey, the world will be a better place without that scumbag, Gentner, you want my opinion."
"I'll do my best to make the world a better place," Marty said as the connection ended.
Marty made the call to the fat man and got the name of a cracker along with a contact number from Otto at ten-fifteen that night.
He called Axle Dominefski the following morning.
"What you want seems to be for me to hack into this banks system and see who's got what, and where, that about right?"
Has it been done? I mean successfully?"
"Sure it has. People are making a nice profit from it. Some get caught. For example, there was a Russian, maybe 22-23 years old, hacked Citibank for $10 million. He left too many clues as to his person and is doing time after the Russians allowed him to be extradited. They didn't waste any time convicting him either. As you probably know money talks, he didn't stand a chance once they got hold of him."
"I don't recall reading about it," Marty said.
"This sort of thing happens a lot, but they tend to hush it up. No sense in telling everyone how vulnerable they really are. The feebi's require banks to report losses, but apparently the banks prefer avoiding potentially bad publicity by reporting losses as accounting efficiency errors. The losses are in the reports, but the Bureau doesn't get them. They only get reports of alleged crimes. The reports aren't specific enough to identify losses that could have come from hacking. In the case of larger losses, bank managers simply disregard the law for fear that customers would flee if the truth were known."
"Jesus... I had no idea it was so widespread," Marty said after a short pause while he contemplated what he had just heard.
"Can you do it?" he asked after absorbing the information just relayed to him.
"Got anybody inside the bank?"
"I'm not sure. I got a manager that's certainly crooked. I know he's working with one or more drug dealers... you know, laundering their money. I don't know how, not yet anyway."
"How big is this bank?"
"Not that big. It's certainly not the biggest one in town."
"What town, you don't mind my asking."
"I don't, I want you in on this. "It's Wilmington, um, North Carolina, not Delaware."
"Nice beaches in Wilmington."
"I guess," Marty agreed.
"Don't like the water?"
"Haven't had the time."
Dominefski laughed. "We pull this off; they'll be plenty of time for sun and surf."
"For sure," Marty said and both men laughed.
"This manager... he willing to work with you?"
"Not really. May have to twist his arm."
"Probably better getting someone else to open a door for us."
"You make it sound a lot like a robbery." "It is a robbery, after all, isn't it?"
"So, we get someone inside, then what?"
"Say it's a midsize bank, or smaller. They probably been aggressive moving into information technology and Internet banking. This has most likely caused them to get in over their heads, opening up security gaps. They rush in... don't comprehend it completely."
"We get someone inside... how long for the heist to take place?"
"Hmmm, say, six months."
"Too fucking long. The guy I want to rob may not be around that long. Or he may take his money out, put it elsewhere."
"I dunno, virtually all banks, and most midsize and large companies, have by now installed a combination of hardware and software firewalls that sit between the outside world and the main gateway to the internal network. Some firewalls are harder to defeat than others, but we won't really care because I won't want to go through the network's main gateway anyway. I would look for the digital equivalent of rickety back doors and unlocked or easily breakable windows."
Dominefski paused to think for a moment, then said, "There is one device often overlooked: multipurpose printer/fax machines, usually left in auto-answer mode to receive faxes, but connected to the network for printing purposes. Online banking servers should be "air-gapped" from the bank's main network, meaning that no physical connection should exist between them, which would help in foiling hackers. But small and midsize banks rushing into online banking don't always take this basic precaution. Even better, some banks are placing their Internet-based services on servers run by outside Web site-hosting companies--servers that may be shared by other, far less security-intensive Web businesses. We could break into one of these other sites, take control of the server, and then jump into the bank's main network. This is an example of the "weakest-link" approach to hacking.
"I'm starting to like your thought processes," Marty said. "It's quite similar to planning an armored robbery, like an armored car job. Know the route, know the personnel, find an insider who knows when the big money is being transported, and assemble the right people for the job."
"It's exactly like that," Dominefski said. "Say we get access to one of the bank's computers. Discovering the passwords isn't that difficult. People like simple, predictable passwords like. 'God' or 'bigkahuna.' Even better, servers are often shipped from the factory loaded with supposedly default "backdoor" passwords meant for use by vendor technicians; these are sometimes known within the hacker community."
They were quiet for a time, then Dominefski asked, so what's my cut, this works out?"
"How's 30% sound?"
"We talking millions or thousands?"
"I would think it's in the millions, Axle."
"Goodie, I want to retire early."
"And have a long life afterward too, I would hope."
"You got that right!"
"Why don't you check into the Wilmington Hilton... say tomorrow night? I'll set you up with a choice female and the following day we can evaluate the local situation."
"Sounds good to me, boss. I particularly like the companionship part."
***** Axle Dominefski settled into the Hilton the following night and was greeted soon after by none other than K.C. herself, who entertained him immeasurably for the remainder of the evening and into the early dawn.
Marty dropped in on Axle around four in the afternoon and found him raring to go.
"What I suspect the banker's doing for Gentner is helping him launder the drug money," Marty began as soon as he sat down.
"Sounds likely," Dominefski replied. They do it several ways. One of the more popular ways is to buy into a business, like a car wash, or strip club. The real money men own casinos. You can't beat a gambling establishment for turning money over. But from what you're telling me, it seems Gentner hasn't had time to get those things off the ground; at least not fully. So that leaves off-shore accounts... maybe the Cayman Islands, maybe some other island retreat. I'll ask around."
"Hold on, we want this quiet, no advertising our business," Marty said quickly.
"Not to worry, Marty, when I say ask around, I'm talkin' my associates in the hacking business. We share information freely, in order to keep abreast of the information age, you know? And by the way, I want to thank you for the lovely present that was waiting for me last night. You... or should I say she made me a very happy camper."
"You're welcome. You need more R&R let me know."
"Oh, I want more. The more the merrier."
"Axle, I want your concentration devoted to the problem at hand."
"Aw, you got it, man. Don't worry on that, but send her back for seconds, please?"
"All right, just keep your mind on our business and you'll have all the cooze you ever want."
"Okay, have you had any luck getting next to someone on the inside of the bank?"
"Not yet, but I'm working on it."
"Yeah, you do that, Marty. It's the easiest way in."
"Axle, you mentioned off-shore accounts. What can you tell me about wire transfers?"
"Wire transfers are encrypted... that is, scrambled into unintelligible text. It's not likely we'll break the encryption. Not that it's impossible; just ask cell phone manufacturers or any companies whose works are distributed on DVD. The banks were... well, some still are using the DES encryption scheme, formerly the standard for banks but now considered crackable with an inexpensive, custom-built computer. Any bank with enough money to make it worth hitting employs the vastly more secure, "Triple DES" scheme, which would require "as yet unknown technology" to break.
"Fortunately, we don't need to break it. We might be able to find a bank employee's 'pass phrase,' which is essentially a long password that unscrambles the information on his or her PC. We might be capable of hacking the wire transfer information before it's encrypted."
"Can you give me an example?" Marty asked.
"Sure, Axle replied. "There's a program called extended Trinu that dispatches tens of thousands of "slave" programs throughout the Internet to hide out. When the hacker triggers the "master" program, it in turn sends out commands that activate all the slaves to start sending out streams of system-crippling bogus data via the Internet. You can defend against 1 or 2 of these attacks, but not 10 or 20, let alone 10,000."
"Sure, it's relatively easy when using the right equipment. Then again, another approach might be to get our hands on a modified backup version of the software, typically stored in less well-protected facilities. Then all we'll have to do is shut down the working version − the easiest kind of hack − forcing the bank to fire up the secretly modified version. This approach exploits the common vulnerability known as 'default to insecure,' as when a store can't get through to the network to verify your credit card and approves the purchase rather than lose business."
"The more I think about it, stealing the money won't be the hard part."
"No? What will?" "Banks are known for sparing no expense to track down anyone taking money from them. That amounts to a lot of pressure from all sorts of places. It's like they go back in time and round up a posse after placing a bounty on our heads."
"So, we send the money to our own off-shore accounts," Marty offered.
"Not good enough," Axle replied. "The pressure mounted by the bank's reward puts even more pressure on the off-shore accounts from their own governments who rely on our banks for substantial amounts of business. It's like their all related.
"What we do is push the monies through a number of these off-shore banks to a final destination. Hopefully, and I say hopefully, by the time they catch up to the last bank, we'll have cashed in the dough and moved it to a safer place before they can coerce the last link of our off-shore banks."
"In other words, once it's moving, keep it moving until we think it's safe to pull out. Then get the hell out of Dodge."
"Essentially, yeah." Axle waited a moment then added, "The end of the year would be the best time to do this. You know, with all the transactions... they create vast rivers of cash from all the shoppers and also lots of employees... bank tellers, and the like, take vacation days then too."
"Unfortunately we don't have the luxury of waiting that long, Axle."
"Too bad. Well, we work with what we got, right?'
Later that afternoon, Marty received a call from K.C.
"Hey, I wanted to thank you for making Axle feel at home," Marty said genially.
"No problem. We whores are easy that way."
"Oh, K.C., don't be that way. I wasn't using you. Hell, I didn't ask you to fuck him!"
"It was certainly expected by him!" she said, and he knew her feelings were hurt by what had happened with Axle the night before.
"He's going to make us rich, babe, keep that in mind, will you?"
He heard a sniffle then, "He will, will he?"
"That's the plan."
"He's gonna hack us into Marcolina's bank."
"And how's he going to do this?"
"We're working that end right now."
"I may have something for you along those lines."
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe I shouldn't have opened my big mouth."
"C'mon, K.C. what is it?'
"Marcolina... you know he's a pussy hound, right?"
"So you tell me."
"His wife isn't crazy about it, that's all."
"Tell me more."
"Word is she caught him doing the secretary, you know?"
"And to keep her happy and remaining Mrs. Marcolina, he's been paying her a bunch every month."
"Why? Most guys get divorced... would it cost him more that way? Is that it?'
"I don't know about that. I hear... and mind you, its pure rumor... the guy's going to run for mayor next year. He's lining up his backers now, doesn't want anything to rattle them before he's locked in."
"You do get around, K.C."
"I try, Marty. I try."
"That you do; so what else?"
"Her name is Valerie, goes by Val. She's good looking, and from what I've heard she's into sex."
"And you know this... how?"
"Several of the girls at Dockside Dolls, me included, were just approached by a private eye looking to see if we were interested in making some serious money at a private show."
"Anything asked of us. That could be just that, anything. The thing is, she... I mean, Valerie Marcolina's paying the freight for the show."