Allegations of sex abuse that began with Harvey Weinstein on the West Coast have incrementally shifted towards facets of the political, economic and media spheres of the U.S. Eastern seaboard. A surge in public willingness to come to terms with the stark reality of abuse perpetrated by members of the establishment suggests that it is time to re-examine the testimony of survivors who have previously come forward with allegations.
Disobedient Media spoke with Greg Bucceroni, a survivor of sex trafficking, who described his experiences in an alleged child sex ring in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that primarily targeted troubled young boys on the East Coast. The network was said to be comprised of known human traffickers, abusers and producers of child pornography with ties to organized crime who openly associated with prominent political figures, including some who have been accused of indiscretions in the past.
While Bucceroni has been attacked by certain media outlets for his statements in 2012, Disobedient Media’s investigation into his claims found them to be highly credible. Bucceroni’s assertions are corroborated by media reports, emails published by Wikileaks, FBI documentation of mafia activity and testimony from a congressional committee hearing obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Despite Bucceroni’s previous press interviews regarding his claims of abuse, a large portion of what Disobedient Media learned from him has never before been made public. Bucceroni’s story is particularly significant because his allegations reveal the intersection of political clout, organized crime and a systematic abuse of children that transcends political affiliation.
Mr. Bucceroni’s statements to Disobedient Media and other outlets ultimately provide a narrative of vulnerable youth who were sexually targeted by wealthy philanthropists, politicians and organized crime networks, often through charitable institutions.
Disobedient Media is the first outlet to confirm a connection between Bucceroni’s testimony and a nationwide criminal enterprise that trafficked underage sex workers and produced child pornography. This particular network was documented in 1982 by the New York State Select Committee On Crime. The committee’s report covers the time period in which Bucceroni describes being trafficked. After reviewing additional FBI documents, Disobedient Media can validate significant claims made by Bucceroni, and raise serious questions regarding currently active members of the political establishment.
Bucceroni initially gained public attention after his testimony was published by the New York Daily News, in 2012. The outlet’s report describes Bucceroni’s claims that he was a “child prostitute” associated with a pedophile ring that included former Philadelphia businessman, Ed Savitz, philanthropist Samuel Rappaport, former Penn State coach, Jerry Sandusky, Coach Phil Foglietta, and former Wharton School of Business professor, Lawrence Scott Ward. Ward is currently serving a prison sentence for trafficking in child porn and smuggling photos and videos of himself having sex with a teenage Brazilian boy. Others involved with the abuse, according to Bucceroni, included Dennis Hastert, Lawrence King, and even former DNC Chair, Ed Rendell among others.
The Philadelphia native told Disobedient Media that he was initially motivated to come forward with his experiences in 2011, after the Sandusky pedophilia scandal emerged, because a friend of his had been raped by Sandusky as a minor. Bucceroni told us that his friend later committed suicide.
As Bucceroni told Disobedient Media, that he, himself, had been used as a child prostitute by infamous alleged pedophile Eddy Savitz. Bucceroni alleges that Savitz operated in conjunction with philanthropist Sam Rappaport, abusing a large number of troubled boys who were easily accessible through the South Philadelphia Boys Club.
In the wake of abuse allegations leveled at Sandusky, Reuters described the Coach’s use of a charity he founded to procure specifically at-risk children, stating, “The Second Mile, [is] a charity for disadvantaged youth that prosecutors say founder Jerry Sandusky used to find his child sex abuse victims.” Reuters’ observation provides a sobering parallel to Bucceroni’s description of the South Philadelphia Boys Club as a pool of particularly vulnerable boys who Savitz easily accessed and victimized.
Bucceroni explained that he was a ‘juvenile delinquent,’ and that he was one of many other ‘troubled’ young boys prostituted by Savitz to influential pedophiles like Sandusky and Dennis Hastert in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Bucceroni’s statements to Disobedient Media indicated that influential pedophiles would typically target children who were financially and emotionally vulnerable to create a dependence on drugs or financial support, and that this often took place under the guise of philanthropy.
Bucceroni told Pundit Press that he was first introduced to Ed Savitz through social campaign events on behalf of prominent Democrat Ed Rendell during his bid for Philadelphia District Attorney.
Although Savitz was eventually arrested for alleged sexual abuse of minors, The Daily News reported that Savitz died of AIDS just before the beginning of his trial in 1993. The New York Times wrote that authorities recovered 5,000 images of child pornography from Savitz’ residence. Additional reports stated that 200 bags of dirty underwear and socks were also recovered, along with 100 photographs taken at a “storage facility.”
The New York Times added that Savitz had first been arrested on charges of sexual abuse of minors in 1978, but that Savitz’ record was expunged after completing a brief stint in rehab. The Savitz case recalls the infamous Belgian Dutroux scandal. Like Marc Dutroux, Savitz appeared to be a middleman amongst an extensive ring of child abusers, rather than a lone predator. Bucceroni claims that as a result of being trafficked by Ed Savitz, he interacted with a number of prominent figures ranging from Dennis Hastert and Tom Foglietta to Lawrence King, all of whom engaged in pedophilia. Bucceroni told Disobedient Media that these interactions often took place at official political events. Bucceroni recounted that children were exploited for sexual acts in after-parties once the political event ended.
Bucceroni told Disobedient Media that Lawrence King, central figure in the Nebraska Credit Union scandal, would host trips to “take kids from the South Philly Boys Club to Washington D.C.” Bucceroni explained that he was never tortured by Savitz or Lawrence King and was not personally aware of others being tortured but that Savitz used the “honey approach rather than vinegar.”
The victims in Savitz’s ring were moved between multiple cities. Bucceroni described one incident in 1979, at an after-party following a fundraiser on behalf of Ronald Reagan: “[It took place] in a townhouse somewhere in Washington DC. When we got there, there were kids from other areas. There was food, watching porn and alcohol and marijuana. We were introduced to guys, like a meet and greet. Afterwards, there was a post-party. Certain people were there… we negotiated a price, did whatever we did, then would go back in and do other sexual deviant acts.”
Bucceroni clarified that Ronald Reagan did not attend the after-party where children were prostituted, and that the after-party’s illegal activities were separate from the official event.
The attendants at the after-party included high ranking politicians who have since been accused of abuse in other cases. Bucceroni recounted the presence of infamous pedophile and former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert during the Ronald Reagan fundraising after-party: “Eddy Savitz gave me $40, for Denny. That was the interaction with Denny, who was Dennis Hastert. He was mingling with known adult sex traffickers, inside this after-party in Washington DC.” Bucceroni stated to Disobedient Media that Dennis Hastert was ‘hanging out with Eddy Savitz and Lawrence King.’
Salon reported that Hastert was eventually convicted due to his part in an “elaborate hush money scheme to cover up his years long molestation of teenage boys while he was an Illinois high school wrestling coach from 1965 until 1981.” The Republican was also characterized by the presiding judge as a serial sex offender.
Despite the severity of the allegations against Hastert, a surprisingly large number of prominent political figures called for leniency on his behalf. The support Hastert received from colleagues is incredibly disturbing because it suggests that some elected leaders would publicly defend such a person without fear of electoral reprisal. This speaks to a pervasive culture of permissiveness towards sexual abuse among elected leaders that has come to the forefront of public awareness in recent months, as numerous sex abuse allegations were made against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Mark Helperin and many others. Bucceroni’s testimony illustrates that ambivalence towards sex abuse crosses the boundaries of political ideology.
Reports that Congressional sexual assault settlements were often billed to taxpayers further reveals an endemic tolerance towards sexual abusers in positions of power. In November 2017, Fox News revealed that between 1997 and 2014, hundreds of women were paid $15.2 million in total in awards and settlements for Capitol Hill workplace violations. This recent episode provides a small glimpse into the ongoing attitude of leniency surrounding unchecked sexual abuses.
Bucceroni told Disobedient Media that his primary abuser, Ed Savitz, was connected to well-known figures in Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York. Savitz was joined, Bucceroni explained by “another philanthropist by the name of Sam Rappaport.”
In addition to Bucceroni’s allegation that Sam Rappaport engaged in pedophilia through his charity work with Savitz, Rappaport was a well-known slum-lord and a business partner of pornography mogul Richard Basciano. Bucceroni told Disobedient Media that Basciano’s documented pornography empire would facilitate the production of child pornography and snuff films for certain clientele.
Documents and media reports from the 1970’s and 80’s appear to corroborate this claim.
Basciano was reported to have partnered with mafia notable Robert DiBernado, who The New York Times lists as a captain in the Gambino crime family that was under federal investigation for child pornography at the time of his murder. The New York Times reported that “Mr. DiBernardo and Mr. Rothstein are officers of Star Distributors, a company that Federal prosecutors are investigating for involvement in child pornography.” The New York Daily News also confirms that in the 1980’s, Robert DiBernardo and Ted Rothstein were partners of Richard Basciano. FBI documents state outright that Basciano oversaw Star Distributors, which was referred to as an outlet well known for distributing child pornography.
Disobedient Media‘s publication of a report, gained through a Freedom of Information Act request, supports the timetable of connection between organized crime, producers of child pornography and sex trafficking. The 102-page report was the result of a New York State Select Committee On Crime. The report described an investigation into child pornography and human trafficking by two detectives from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police. The findings were presented to officials on July 26, 1982.
The Select Committee On Crime’s proceedings included a statement by detectives referring to the Basciano-connected Star Distributors as one of the hubs of child pornography and part of the wider criminal network. Detectives noted that the production of child pornography was virtually always associated with child sex trafficking for the purposes of prostitution.
This statement and the direct connection to figures named in Bucceroni’s testimony corroborates the manner in which Bucceroni alleges to have been sexually exploited along with other underage boys.
Basciano’s numerous mafia ties and association with political figures provides an important nexus between the production of child pornography, organized crime, human trafficking and elected leaders.
Basciano had a well-documented friendship with Ed Rendell, a former District Attorney for Philadelphia, former Governor of Pennsylvania and former DNC Chair. Some press reports go so far as to suggest that Rendell shielded Basciano in the aftermath of a 2013 building collapse. An editorial by the Philadelphia Inquirer lamented that “It was disheartening to hear a former mayor, Ed Rendell, defend Richard Basciano,” during the ensuing scandal. The editorial appears to have since been removed from the Inquirer’s site.
In a report by the Inquirer, Basciano said that he regarded Rendell as a “good friend.” Another 2013 report by the Inquirer also referred to Rendell as a longtime friend of Basciano’s, who had accepted campaign donations from corporations and family members of the pornography magnate. The article has since been removed from the Inquirer’s website but was located using a newspaper archive service.
This raises strong questions regarding Rendell’s longstanding friendship with Basciano in light of Bucceroni’s claim that prominent Democrat Ed Rendell engaged in pedophilia as well as his assertion that Basciano’s pornography outlets produced child abuse and snuff films. Michael Zaffarano was also mentioned in the Select Committee hearing, and acted as a mentor to Robert DiBernardo, adding further weight to the connection between Bucceroni’s claims and child exploitation as discussed on government record.
Samuel Rappaport is also reported to have contributed financially to Rendell. The financial and personal connection between Richard Basciano, Samuel Rappaport and the former DNC Chair clearly ties the former Governor to a documented mafia associate involved with the production of child pornography.
The Washington Post has described Rendell’s former Chief of Staff, David L Cohen, as ‘Comcast’s secret weapon.’ Bucceroni has also accused Cohen of wrongdoing. Cohen, now a Senior Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation and the Company’s Chief Diversity Officer, served as Chief of Staff to Mayor Ed Rendell from 1991 to 1992.
The Washington Post described Cohen as: “One of the highest-paid corporate figures operating in Washington.” Cohen also serves as Chairman of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and its Executive Committee, according to the Aspen Institute. Cohen is also Executive Vice President of NBCUniversal Media. NBC has been in the recent media spotlight after allegations emerged regarding sexual assault by host Matt Lauer against a number of female colleagues. The media company also came under fire for its unwillingness to publish an early story covering the Weinstein scandal, with the New York Times publishing an article titled ‘How Did NBC Miss Out on a Harvey Weinstein Exposé?’
Bucceroni also told Disobedient Media that lobbyist Tony Podesta was known to be friends of figures such as Eddie Savitz and Richard Basciano, stating that he had seem them mixing at various philanthropic and social events in Philadelphia and New Jersey. He was careful to clarify that he had never personally witnessed Podesta interacting with minors in an untoward manner.
The Washington Post characterized the relationship between Rendell and Tony Podesta as ‘close,’ writing that Podesta was a top strategist for Rendell’s 2006 reelection campaign. Philadelphia press reports indicate that Rendell’s ex wife Midge, was appointed to the position of federal judge by President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Rendell was also reported to have been involved with a child trafficking incident in Haiti just after the 2010 earthquake. The Telegraph wrote that Rendell was instrumental in pushing for the illegal removal of dozens of children out of Haiti in the days following the massive quake: “A crucial intervention was made by Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, who worked his high-powered contacts in the White House, State Department and Department of Homeland Security.”
Wikileaks emails sent during the crisis reveal that in behind-the-scenes discussion of Rendell’s Haitian efforts, Hillary Clinton’s aides characterized Rendell as extremely motivated to remove the children from Haiti as quickly as possible. The discussion included statements by Clinton aides showing an awareness that the children Rendell sought to fly from the earthquake-ravaged island nation included 12 minors who were not involved in any adoption process.
In fact, Rendell was so eager to fly the children out as quickly as possible that Clinton’s aides indicated that only the then-Secretary of State herself would be capable of reining Rendell in. An internal email in the chain published by Wikileaks states: “The only person who may be able to back Rendell off is Secretary Clinton. Has anyone looped Cheryl Mills in on this issue?”
Press reports related that final arrangements for the flight were negotiated by the U.S. State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the military, according to Rendell’s spokesman, Gary Tuma. Tuma said Rendell was on the plane because the Haitian ambassador thought it was important to have “someone of his stature on the plane so if the mission ran into difficulty, he might be able to break down some of the barriers.” According to an additional email chain published by Wikileaks, the successful removal of the children relied specifically on the intervention of Patrick F. Kennedy, U.S. State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Management. Kennedy also played a role in helping to stifle investigations into a number of State Department scandals which occurred around the globe.
Even CNN anchor Anderson Cooper expressed concern with Rendell’s actions, asking why a Democratic governor could accomplish the evacuation of healthy children to the U.S. when “so many injured and dying people were suffering in Port-Au-Prince.” That Clinton insiders and CNN anchors would raise such concern in response to Rendell’s actions fuels questions as to the propriety of the children’s removal from Haiti. As CNN noted in November 2017, Haiti became a hot spot for human trafficking during the 2010 earthquake and orphanages in the country continue to facilitate forced labor and sex slavery today. Disobedient Media has previously exposed the involvement of the Clintons and U.S. Department of State in the Laura Silsby Haitian child trafficking scandal, first reported by William Craddick.
Rendell’s intervention in Haiti was not the only human trafficking scandal tied to the former DNC Chair. Bloomberg reported on allegations of “systemic human smuggling” of forced laborers and money laundering documented in relation to a Saipan casino project by Hong Kong-based Imperial Pacific, controlled by Chinese billionaire Cui Lijie. The New York Times wrote that Rendell served on the company’s Advisory Committee. Bloomberg reported that others involved with Imperial Pacific included former Directors of the FBI and CIA, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and a former executive in President Donald Trump’s Atlantic City casino business.
In the wake of the money laundering and human trafficking scandal, Rendell stepped down from his role with Imperial Pacific, saying that the casino operation was “too far away” for him to “monitor effectively.”
Rendell has previously denied Bucceroni’s claims that he ignored information about Savitz’s abuse in the 70’s and 80’s while serving as a prosecutor. But the former governor’s proximity to the scandals in Haiti and Saipan is greatly alarming and raises questions about Bucceroni’s testimony.
Bucceroni has been criticized by media in his home town of Philadelphia, most notably by the Philadelphia Daily News, now consolidated with the Philadelphia Inquirer at Philly.com. The Daily News questioned why Bucceroni’s story changed as he remembered additional details about individuals he interacted with, citing an anonymous “federal law-enforcement source familiar with Bucceroni” who stated that Bucceroni was not credible. They also quoted John Veasey, a Philadelphia mob figure doing an 11-year sentence for ordering two murders, as disputing claims Bucceroni made that he was briefly affiliated with the mob as a teenager. It’s not clear why the Daily News thought that a convicted murderer affiliated with a criminal culture notorious for misleading the media and law enforcement was a reliable source.
Also curious is the Daily News’ skepticism over the change in Bucceroni’s story, reflecting new details as he remembered them. (Fragmented memories and amnesia are well-known symptoms of legitimate victims of trauma and abuse.) Mr. Bucceroni told Disobedient Media that, because many of the individuals he encountered operated on a first name only basis or used nicknames, it was sometimes only possible for him to identify them after their photos appeared in news reports. He further stated to Disobedient Media that the Daily News’ piece was published after Ed Rendell and Daily News co-owner Lewis Katz became upset that he had spoken to federal authorities and was taking his testimony to the media.
Despite the attempt to discredit his testimony, investigation into the details provided by Bucceroni reveals that the Daily News did not attempt to exercise due diligence in efforts to determine the credibility of the existence of a human trafficking ring operating in Philadelphia and the East Coast at the time that Bucceroni alleges to have been abused by Savitz and Savitz’s associates. As has been previously noted, there is ample documentation and media reports indicating that one such network did exist in the timeframe Bucceroni describes, and that it was tied to a number of the same figures Bucceroni named.
The American trafficking network described in the FOIA was reported to have had connections to various parts of the East Coast and cities across the United States such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. In addition to its stated ties to organized crime, the trafficking networks were also said to be connected to British, Israeli, and Soviet intelligence services. Intelligence agencies have a documented history of seeking sexual blackmail to exert control over public figures and government assets.
It’s still not entirely clear how many others were associated with or acted as clients of these rings. The individuals named by Bucceroni were solely connected to East Coast locations of the nationwide network. This raises questions as to other high profile figures in states such as California might also be connected by association to such a horrific trade.
With the flood of abuse allegations emerging daily in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, abuse must be investigated tenaciously. Survivors like Greg Bucceroni must be taken seriously if any new consciousness surrounding sexual abuse is to emerge. The Huffington Post recently wrote of the Weinstein scandal: “Since Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, we as a society have apparently decided to try this radical new idea called “believing women.” We propose that as a society we also try the radical idea of believing the children.
This article was co-authored by Elizabeth Vos and William Craddick.