Was Armenian Tough Guy, Joe McLean, At Wonderland That Night?

Foreign-born gangsters and mafia guys often anglicize their real names, as in this case, Hovsep Mikaelian is now “Joe McLean”. It’s the same with Eddie Nash (Adel Nasrallah). I remember that during the 80s in Houston, there was even a Vietnamese mafia guy or gang leader with the street name “Tony Playboy”. The list goes on…

Back to Joe McLean.

Since we are here to investigate Wonderland and to speculate on evidence, then we must consider who Nash sent to the Wonderland house to commit the murders. Now, if the police are correct in assuming it was Greg Diles, his brother Samuel, Holmes and another person or two. Maybe that other person was Joe McLean?

You see in 1981, he would have been a young street tough, newly arrived in L.A. from Armenia with his brother, Hrant, and hoping to make a name for himself. He is also old friends with Eddie Nash and he knew him in 1981.

They are best remembered for their role in the Wonderland murders and their ties to Abdel Gharib Nasrallah aka Eddie Nash.

–crimefile web site

There was not much blood around the doorway nook inside the house after the murders. So, if Billy Deverell unknowingly let the killers inside the gate, maybe they put a gun in his face when he opened the door and forced him to go upstairs and get the loot, while Barbara and the others were being killed. As this is going down, Joy is screaming her heard off. In the ensuing struggle, we know from the autopsy reports that Billy had a broken upper rib, right below the armpit.

Stay tuned… I am tracking down more info. There was allegedly a jailhouse audio interview with McLean. I will keep you posted.


Ties with local Palestinian operation. 
Conventional wisdom says Jews and Palestinians are mortal enemies. By and large this is true except when applied to criminal dealings. As noted above, investigators noted the Israeli criminals headquartered in Calexico were involved in buying a selling records to a number of groups around the globe. The most curious of their dealings just might have been the transfers of military weaponry to Lebanese groups. The acknowledged leader of a Palestinian operation in Los Angeles was a clean shaven tough known as Joe McClean. McClean was in reality Hovsep Mikaelian who coincidentally made his home in North Hollywood. Mikaelian and his brother Hrant, involved themselves in a number of criminal ventures including drug smuggling, porn, tax fraud, extortion, murder and illicit fuel sales.

They are best remembered for their role in the Wonderland murders and their ties to Abdel Gharib Nasrallah aka Eddie Nash. Nasrallah immigrated to the U.S., in the 1950s and landed in Los Angeles where he opened several tony restaurants and clubs in the Hollywood area. Nasrallah became a household name when his drug operation orchestrated the murders of four people in a Laurel Canyon drug house on Wonderland Avenue. Remarkable for its ties to Hollywood’s semi-elite and porns reigning king John Holmes, and the lengthy unsuccessful attempts to prosecute those involved.

Joe McLean having dinner with his family.

Joe McLean having dinner with his family.

Nash ditched and dodged the efforts of local and federal prosecutors for years his understudy or associate Mikaelian wasn’t quite as lucky. Mikaelian was convicted of fuel excise tax evasion, narcotics trafficking and wire fraud. The legal cocktail earned him a 14 year prison term handed down in 1998. Nash himself entered a guilty plea in connection with Laurel Canyon murders in 2001 and received 34 months in prison. Little effort was expended in stating the obvious ties between Nash’s Palestinian operation and the Israeli mob.

The first acknowledgement that an Israeli crime syndicate was known to be operating in Los Angeles came as early as the mid-70s. By 1980 the LAPD, California State investigators and the FBI all had files open on selected targets. All began to work in concert with key members of Israel’s parliament exchanging intelligence which gave the first intimation that something big was in the works. One of those working the operation from the Israeli side was current Israeli President Ehud Olmert.

Olmert noted in a document sent to the U.S., known as the “Eleven report,” that Israel noted a sizeable number of crooks fleeing Israeli starting about 1975. Olmert noted the criminals began to fan out to every major European city some to the U.S., on the order of 11 biggies who called the shots from Israel. It was noted that one of the biggies or 11 made several trips to Los Angeles between 1975 and 1979. The California State Department of Justice produced a report detailing the origins of the Israeli mob and its ties to its U.S., Italian counterpart.


You can read more here about their sales tax scam. The “new mafia” guys in L.A. have prospered for a long time doing this type of ripoff and many other scams.

Read on…

L.A.’s New Mobsters
By Troy Anderson, Staff Writer

Russian, Armenian, Colombian, African-American, Latino, and Asian-American sinister operations fill vacuum left by absence of Italian Mafia in Los Angeles.

Long proud that the Italian-American Mafia, held little sway in Los Angeles, law enforcement officials say they now face a fast-growing and serious challenge from organized crime syndicates rooted in the county’s booming ethnic communities.

The massive trade in illegal drugs transformed some street gangs in African-American and Latino communities into more sinister operations and Asian-American criminal syndicates have grown increasingly active in recent years as their populations have grown.

But the fastest-growing crime syndicates in Southern California involve Russians, Armenians and people from Eastern European countries who came to Los Angeles in the decade since the fall of the Soviet Union, officials said.

“When you think of organized crime, you think of more ‘The Sopranos’ kinds of stuff,” said Joe Scott, spokesman for District Attorney Steve Cooley. “This is a more subtle, insidious form that has crept into the criminal culture.”

Local law enforcement has taken so little notice of the problem that the District Attorney’s Office previously had only one part-time prosecutor assigned to organized crime.

But Cooley plans to create an Organized Crime Division with a large team of investigators and prosecutors to focus on ethnic syndicates and hate groups.

For law enforcement, the advent of sophisticated organizations often preying on their own ethnic groups poses new and difficult problems. In part, the matter is compounded by the international nature of the syndicates and their criminal activity.

Extortion, insurance and medical fraud, auto theft, counterfeiting, credit card forgery, fuel tax fraud, money laundering, and murder are among the crimes local and federal officials say are rising as these syndicates become entrenched.

Cooley raised the issue at a recent FBI law enforcement conference, saying: “They have become a very serious concern in our county. As they gain power they will become corrupting influences.”

Growing problem

Law enforcement authorities at various levels of government agreed that the problem is increasing in Southern California, although they offered no breakdown statistically, an indication that the problem is only now getting increased attention.

“It is considered to be one of the fastest-growing organized crime problems in California,” said Sgt. Steve Voors of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau.

It was only in the last five years that the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office set up special organized crime task forces in Southern California.

“It’s been increasing both in terms of the amount of crime and in terms of its transnational aspects,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Saunders with the Organized Crime Strike Force. “We’ve seen more crimes committed and ones more international in scope.”

Law enforcement officials estimate there are 600 to 800 Russian crime figures in the Los Angeles area, home to the second-largest number of Russian immigrants in the United States. Many of those crime figures live in the North Hollywood and West Hollywood areas, Saunders said.

In Glendale and Hollywood, officials estimate, there are more than 450 Armenian-American crime members and associates. Los Angeles County has roughly 300,000 Armenians, including more than 60,000 in the Glendale area, according to Alex Sardar, executive director of the Glendale chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America.

Sardar said the majority of Armenian-Americans are “thriving, law-abiding and involved citizens of their communities.”

“Anything the District Attorney’s Office can do to reduce crime in this community, particularly hate crimes since that affects the community especially, is worth looking into,” he said.

Stephen Wiley, the FBI Criminal Division’s special agent in charge, said Russian and Armenian organized crime syndicates are flourishing in the county and focusing their efforts on lucrative white-collar crime.

In particular, these syndicates are heavily involved in identity theft and various types of related immigration, insurance, medical and credit card fraud.

“It’s exploding in Los Angeles County,” said Allen Sawyer, chief deputy director of the California Office of Criminal Justice Planning. “The number of instances has gone from infrequent to commonplace.”

International influence

Saunders in the U.S. Attorney’s Office said organized crime syndicates from the Eastern Bloc have become a significant problem in the county.

“The most significant aspect is the transnational aspect of it. We see a lot of organized criminal activity here in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States with links to countries around the world. That is a new law enforcement challenge that state and federal law enforcement prosecutors are trying very hard to keep up with.”

A 1999 California Department of Justice report on Russian organized crime found syndicates in the United States have formed alliances… (and that) the syndicates are known for their brutality and ruthlessness.

“Many Russian organized crime figures do not fear our judicial system and are becoming increasingly more violent towards law enforcement,” according to the report.

In one case, Russian organized crime figures attempted to sell a submarine to Colombian drug cartel figures to help them smuggle drugs. In another case, Russian organized crime figures attempted to smuggle nuclear-related materials from the former Soviet Union.

“One of the most alarming trends we’ve seen in respect to Euro-Asian syndicates is their willingness to form strategic alliances with other groups,” Saunders said.

“Several years ago we prosecuted several individuals for a diesel fuel tax evasion scheme and in that case there was a taking control of truck stops and gas stations.”

In a September 1995 series of arrests, an FBI-led task force arrested 13 Russian-Armenians in the Burbank area and accused them of running a black market diesel fuel network that supplied gas stations and truck stops throughout the region, according to the Justice Department report.

The group — called the Mikaelian Organization after the group’s leader and self-professed “godfather” of the Russian Mafia, North Hollywood resident Hovsep Mikaelian — ran a black market diesel fuel network that supplied gas stations and truck stops throughout Southern California, authorities said.

Prosecutors say the group managed to avoid paying $3.6 million in taxes in one year. Investigators confiscated more than $2 million in cash and property from Mikaelian, including a BMW, Jaguar, two Rolls-Royces and a boat in Marina del Rey.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley said Mikaelian is serving a federal sentence in Oklahoma and is due to get out in 2009.

“The players quite often change,” said Glendale police Lt. Lief Nicolaisen. “While you might clearly know who is in charge of a crime family in Chicago, it’s not as easily understood by law enforcement dealing with this type of crime.”

Said Sawyer, “It can take years to infiltrate, gather information, track the laundering of money, transactions and travel of suspects.”

A Los Angeles Newspaper Group Newspaper