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BY RON SINGER


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(NEW YORK, May 20, 2000) In a City Hall press conference marked by repeated harangues and heated exchanges, the Mayor once again defended the controversial new Suite Crimes Task Force program. With a grim-faced Chief of Police standing stoically at his shoulder, the Mayor responded to reporters' questions concerning the second incident this month involving the beleaguered unit.

"These are some of our finest officers," he said. "No other major American city even has a Suite Crimes Task Force."

The Mayor summarized the latest incident as follows: "At 4:56 p.m. last Friday afternoon, a purported options trader of Italian extraction was struck on the head once with a nightstick by an SCTF officer at the water cooler of a small Wall Street concern. The officer was doing routine surveillance as part of an ongoing investigation of mob infiltration into the securities industry. The officer explained, 'The guy didn't look like a real options trader. And he wasn't even drinking water, he was just standing there.' "

The Mayor went on to describe both the facial expression and body language of the accused as 'confrontational.' "We've ascertained that the suspect had a poor record in high school," he reluctantly added. "He had several C's and D's, one in Algebra. How could a man like this have been a legitimate options trader?"

Several representatives of the media noted a pattern of overzealousness and suggested that the Suite Crimes unit may have been inadequately trained. "Not that it's a bad idea," commented one reporter, "but what training do they get? Like, two, three hours with an Assistant Editor from one of the financial papers?"

The Mayor, as usual, went on the offensive: "You can never do anything right in this town. The Suite Crimes unit is barely a month old, so you're bound to have a few growing pains. I mean, what about those money-launderers we took to the cleaners last Tuesday? And the confidence men who were preying on the elderly in Brighton Beach, we taught them a trick or two, didn't we? Heck, we've probably saved the public millions of dollars already, but no one mentions that."

"What's more, every single officer in the SCTF is squeaky clean. An operation like this is fraught with temptation, so in setting up the unit we were careful to choose only men who had never even been accused of taking a bribe, not even a stale sandwich! Furthermore, not a single member of the unit lives in the wealthy suburbs or silk-stocking city neighborhoods that the people under investigation tend to inhabit."

In the earlier incident, which occurred twenty days ago (and, coincidentally, in another suite in the same building as the nightsticking mishap), a twenty-one year-old man suspected of insider-trading was confronted by an SCTF officer and pistol-whipped as he reached for his wallet. His computer was then confiscated, and all his files accidentally deleted.

"The guy was a Hard Body, very big," a police spokesperson explained at the time. "Apparently," the spokesperson added, "the officer was alarmed by the man's sudden movements."

Explaining why he had reached for the wallet, the trader said: "I was just trying to settle this amicably."

No charges were subsequently filed against the trader, who suffered a fractured skull. The officer has been temporarily re-assigned to street duty in the Bronx.

As usual, the Mayor tried to have the last word: "They're saying these men are overly zealous? Baloney! Don't forget, I'm an expert at white-collar crime. You have to be zealous. Remember how many white-collar cases I prosecuted when I worked for the Justice Department?"

A short man in a dirty raincoat claiming to represent the 'alternative' press was heard to mutter, "Yeah, and most of them were thrown out." Unable to produce his press credential, he, too, was thrown out.






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