Luthmann: At Brooklyn MDC, I Was a ‘Jailhouse Lawyer’ For Gangsters Paid in Fish

By Richard Luthmann

Everybody in prison has a story. My story is I set up a “Law Office” in the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC).

I literally went from being a “Lincoln Lawyer” on the street to being a “Jailhouse Lawyer” while in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

I set up shop as soon as I walked into the MDC. I happened to meet a guy who was a reformed Russian mob enforcer. His name was Ruslan Reizin. He lived in Brighton Beach before his extended stay with the Feds. Rus is a Jew, born in the old Soviet Union. His family escaped to Israel, where he served in the army, and eventually found his way to Brooklyn. He spent a couple of decades being a general badass with a rap sheet to match, but he had since calmed down.

In Brooklyn, Rus had an awning cleaning business. He was on the straight and narrow until an employee he treated like a son abruptly left his company and began stealing Rus’ clients. Rus and his cousin took the former employee for a ride and tried to “scare” him into paying Rus “compensation.” They met each week, and Rus collected installments for what he believed he owed. The only problem was that the Feds had the former employee wired up. The Feds closed in. Rus kept his mouth shut, but his cousin sang like a canary.

"I have a very particular set of skills..."
“I have a very particular set of skills…”

So Rus landed in the MDC Brooklyn, and we became the best of friends. I recognized his “particular set of skills.” I said, “Listen, I’m a lawyer on the street. And you do collections. It’s a match made in heaven.”

Rus agreed, and the “Brooklyn MDC Law Offices” were formed. The division of labor was straightforward. l did the legal work; Rus did collections, crowd control, and protection. We split everything down the middle.

Once we got started, it was a challenge to get paid. Prisoners only got $170 every couple of weeks on the commissary. So our “clients” either had commissary to pay with or would want to send you money “on your books,” meaning on your prison commissary account.

The BOP monitors these accounts. Other inmates would have people on the outside put Western Union or cash onto their prison commissary for “products” or “services rendered,” which could range from gambling debts, drug purchases, protection, additional food and commissary items, and the like. If you get caught receiving money from someone who sent money to another prisoner, you can get a “shot” – a prison disciplinary ticket – and prompt an investigation. Rus would take money on his books. He ended up getting a couple of shots. They took away his Trulincs prison email a few times. It didn’t matter. Rus had me doing all his writing for him anyway.

Mackerelpouches are a basic unit of prison currency. Each pouch is worth $1.00.

The two forms of payment I took for my services were mackerel and postal stamps. Mackerel pouches or “mack” are the fundamental denomination of prison currency. Mackerel are basically bait fish for those on the outside. For prisoners, they are a staple protein. Macks come in little pouches and cost $1.00. I would also take books of forever stamps, which always have appreciable value.

I soon had a locker full of mackerels and began using the second locker in my cell to store my macks. When I got a cellie, I would pay them off in “rent” to store my fish in the locker. The stamps I sent home in birthday cards. Everyone seemed to have a birthday every month.

Things were running smoothly. Rus and I provided a valuable service to the prison community. Then, one day, things exploded.

You play a lot of cards in jail. Rus, the Russian, was my spades partner.  We were playing against a couple of inmates who happened to be members of the Bloods gang. One of them, Gutter, said, “Yeah Rich, I got my plea deal. Could you take a look?”

I said, “Sure, bring it by. I’ll take a look at it for you as a professional courtesy.”

Gutter was shocked. “You’ll really help me like that?”

I said, “Yeah, no problem, just bring it by after we play cards.”

This was when Geoffrey Berman was the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Former US Attorney for the SDNY Geoffrey Berman.
Former US Attorney for the SDNY Geoffrey Berman.

Gutter showed me the plea agreement his public defender sent to him.

I told him, “This is a ‘Dummy Plea.’ “

“Like what you mean?”

I said, “ ‘Like what I mean’ is you would be a dummy if you sign this. Berman’s trying to screw you.”

Gutter’s case was a drug case. I told him about Trump’s First Step Act. He was amazed that Trump’s new law reduced mandatory minimums and adjusted drug weight to account for the powder-crack cocaine disparity under the old law.

While President, Donald Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act, the most significant criminal justice legislation in a generation.
While President, Donald Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act, the most significant criminal justice legislation in a generation.

I told Gutter, “This plea says you will be sentenced AS IF the First Step Act never happened. That means that your drug weight and the mandatory minimums will put you in about a 15-year range for prison. With the First Step Act, you’ll only have to do about five if you get sentenced under the Trump amendments. The US Attorney is trying to screw you into ten additional years in prison.”

Gutter wanted to know why he had not heard about this from his Public Defender, and why his lawyer was pressuring him so hard to take the deal.

I said, “Because he’s a ‘Public Pretender.’ His job is: ‘Meet ’em. Greet ’em. And Plead ‘em.’ Fire him. He doesn’t give two shits about you.”

Gutter and I devised a plan to get somebody better, blow up the deal, and ensure the First Step Act amendments were respected in his Plea Agreement.

Gutter went to court a couple of days later, and he blew the deal. Using his best “Angry Black Man” tone, he told the Judge he knew he was entitled to the First Step Act, but the Government and his lawyer didn’t tell him.

“Why am I being railroaded?” Gutter asked the US District Court judge.

“Only a dummy would agree to this deal instead of rolling the dice. There’s not much worse than it can get than fifteen years, and are no bodies on my case,” Gutter said.

He said, “Is this some conspiracy to keep the black man down? I don’t want this guy. He’s fired. I want somebody who tells me what’s going on. I’m not getting fooled by these people. I’m not taking a deal from these people,” – meaning the US Government.

Gutter got another lawyer. They gave him a new plea agreement for a sentence of five years.

The reality is this is how the US Attorney transacts business with the Defender’s Office. For every Gutter, there are one hundred others who are rotting in prison because they were hoodwinked out of the rights the law affords them.  Long live the legal fiction of effective assistance of counsel.

When Gutter returned from court, he was the happiest man on the face of the planet. From that day forward, I had the Bloods as my clients. I was basically general counsel for the Bloods at the Brooklyn MDC.

The Bloods are a street gang and a prison gang. When you’re on the inside, certain gangs run things. You often have to affiliate with a group for the benefits of protection – in prison lingo, you join a “car.” The gangs were their own prison “cars” and shot callers in jail.

Members of the Bloods street gang.
Members of the Bloods street gang.

The Bloods and the Crips are the main gangs for blacks. They ‘ran together’ as allies at the MDC with smaller gangs like the YGz (Young Gunnaz).

You also have Italians, and unless there is a specific beef, all the Italian Mafia families affiliate in prison. Strength in numbers.

The “haters” also do their own thing: Aryan Brotherhood, Aryan Resistance, and other similar names. I stayed away from them, and they stayed away from me. It probably helped because they thought since I was a lawyer, I was a Jew. I got along with most in prison, but those guys were repulsive. It is hard enough in prison to get along with the harsh conditions. To have a group of people seething with hatred, literally hating a majority of the inmates – who were black and brown – created a certain tension – in an already tense enough place. So I sought to avoid them.

You also had the Latin gangs, the most significant being MS-13 and the Latin Kings. Also, there were one or two Russians and Albanian gangsters. While formidable on the street, in jail, they weren’t enough of them to be a force. So they freelanced, much like Big Rus.

Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, NY.

The Bloods were the biggest gang in the MDC. If you are in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Northern Manhattan, and other areas with drug dealing and street crime, you have the Bloods. They run the show.

Once I had the Bloods as my clients, I had all the protection I needed. I also had a steady flow of work. I did not charge the Bloods or anyone the ‘shot-caller,’ Richard Michel aka ‘G-Light’ asked me to take care of. It was professional courtesy. For that, I received many benefits.

There was never a collection issue after that. My cell became single occupancy because it was now the “law office.” The Bloods told the head orderly that my room was the last room to get a cellmate. I lived alone in the MDC most of the time because I was doing legal work for the ‘right’ people.

If I had problems with anyone in the general population, they knew the Bloods had my back. Anything that Big Rus couldn’t take care of, any ‘beefs’ that might happen, were quashed immediately.

I would charge the Latin guys: MS-13s, the Latin Kings, and Puerto Rican drug dealers, and the white-collar guys that came through (but never any CHOMOs). That’s where I had a lot of fun, as much fun as you can on the inside.

But I must confess, since I’ve been back on the outside, I have not been able to look at, let alone eat, a single mouthful of mackerel. In fact, I won’t even use them for bait on my Floridan fishing excursions.


A former attorney and former federal prisoner. Richard Luthmann is a writer and contributor for the Frank Report. He recently appeared on Peter Mingils and Scott Johnson’s radio show from whence some topics discussed in this post were amply discussed and enhanced by questions and comments.

Radio personality, Peter Minglis

Former Amway distributor, Scott Johnson

About the author

Richard Luthmann

Richard Luthmann is a writer, commentator, satirist, and investigative journalist with degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami. Once a fixture in New York City and State politics, Luthmann is a recovering attorney who lives in Southwest Florida and a proud member of the National Writers Union. 

For Article Ideas, Tips, or Help: or call 239-287-6352.

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10 months ago

Good article.

10 months ago

The most terrifying “ gang “ in the world is the Gov.

10 months ago

Over the years I encountered a number of hoodlums.

Regardless of how Mr. Luthmann feels about these people, they have made many American cities unlivable.
Many American cities are literal hellholes because of mobsters.
There is nothing romantic about criminal lifestyles.

Perhaps the biggest gangster I have ever encountered was one named Lenny Patrick.
Patrick was a boyhood friend of Jack Ruby, also known as Jack Rubenstein.
Jack Ruby was relocated by the mob to run a nightclub in Dallas known as the Carousel Club.
To history Ruby is known as the man who silenced Lee Harvey Oswald for the Mob.
Dead Men Tell No Tales.

About as month before Ruby shot Oswald to silence him Ruby had a long, long phone call with Lenny Patrick.
Patrick has never told the Feds about the killing of Oswald or John F. Kennedy.
Like a good mobster Patrick knew to keep his “fucking mouth shut.”

About thirty-five years ago Lenny Patrick was finally nailed after a sixty year plus career in crime.
Patrick admitted to many killings over a sixty year career as a mob enforcer.
I know of other murders which were verboten for Patrick to admit to.
Patrick’s first murder was in 1932 when Lenny shot and killed a man named Herman Glick on the steps of a Chicago synagogue. Note Lenny Patrick was supposedly a devout Jew but he would still kill a fellow Jew on the steps of a synagogue.

Decades later Patrick was a rat in a trap.
A dirty sniveling rat.
This grandfatherly figure would just as soon kill me as look at me.
When push came to shove Lenny Patrick was crying, “I don’t want to die in prison.”
Lenny Patrick ratted enough to avoid dying in prison.
If it were up to me Lenny Patrick would still be rotting in prison.

There is nothing noble or romantic about a sniveling scumbag like Lenny Patrick.

Here is a snippet from Lenny Patrick’s long life of crime.

Lenny Patrick was born in Chicago in 1913, one of four sons of Morris and Ester Patrick, Jewish immigrants from England who ended up in the Lawndale neighborhood.

Lenny’s mother died when he was 5, and with his father unable to care for the boys by himself, Lenny and one of his brothers were taken to an orphanage. After dropping out of seventh grade, Lenny learned to hustle. While still a teenager, he began running a regular dice game on the sidewalk at West Roosevelt Road and South Kedzie Avenue, in the heart of Lawndale.

Fights over territory and control of gambling profits often erupted into bombings and bloodshed. In April 1932, 21-year-old Herman Glick was shot in the neck outside a Lawndale synagogue. Glick “made a dying declaration that one Leonard Patrick was the man who shot him,” an officer wrote in his report.

Police issued an alert for Patrick, describing him as 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds, “dark comp[lexion], wears heavy rimmed glasses, brown suit, dark hat, has a slight limp in one leg, Jewish.”

When they finally tracked Patrick down a couple weeks later, he refused to open his apartment door, until officers fired shots through it. He was taken to Cook County Jail but wasn’t locked up long. After Glick died, a grand jury determined prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to indict Patrick. The murder charges were dropped.

Patrick returned to Lawndale and went to work for a group of men who ran most of the neighborhood’s gambling operations. He crossed paths with such powerful Outfit figures as Sam Giancana; they would become his mentors and employers.

By 1948, Patrick had served seven years in prison for a bank robbery and was a suspect in at least three unsolved murders. That September, after three more men tied to Lawndale gambling were killed, FBI agents asked Patrick to come in for an interview. He told them that he had been friends with the slain men but didn’t know anything about their deaths. He said he was the father of two girls, ages 6 and 3, and insisted his only political connection was his father, a 24th Ward precinct captain.

The conversation was the first documented contact between Patrick and federal authorities.
Over the next several years, FBI agents kept close tabs on Patrick. For a time, agents even logged Patrick’s phone calls and monitored his new home in West Rogers Park.

But Patrick still oversaw businesses in Lawndale, including illegal gambling rooms that were allowed to operate by police and political leaders on his payroll. In February 1956, a confidential informant told FBI agents that Patrick controlled all gambling in the 24th Ward with backing from Elrod, the ward boss; in return, Elrod received cash payments. A different FBI source said Patrick had “strong police protection.”

In 1960, after more than a decade of gathering information on Patrick and his operations, federal agents charged him with conspiracy to gamble. But the evidence was deemed too weak, and the charges were dropped. Once again, Patrick escaped trouble.

Patrick’s position grew even stronger once Lewis was named the 24th Ward committeeman in 1961. FBI sources said Outfit leaders had been working to ensure that someone they could trust would get the post. And an informant told agents that Patrick was close to Lewis — so much so that the alderman was considered Patrick’s “boy.” As an agent summed up the conversation in his report: “Lewis does not do anything without Patrick’s okay.”

In April 1964, a little more than a year after Lewis was killed, the FBI received a tip that, for the first time, explicitly linked Patrick to the unsolved case.

“Informant further stated that Leonard Patrick and Dave Yaras control the ward in which Alderman Ben Lewis was slain,” an agent wrote in a report. “Source heard that Alderman Lewis, before his assassination, was not cooperating with the criminal element in Chicago.”

In essence, the informant was telling the FBI that Patrick was involved in what happened to Lewis. At the very least, he had to know something about it.

The records released by the FBI offer no evidence that agents ever followed up.

Here is what defense attorney Sam Adam said about an interview with Lenny Patrick:

Patrick again admitted his involvement in six murders.

Sam Adam, a defense attorney for Alex, responded by portraying Patrick as a sociopath and noting he had admitted to lying under oath before.

“Who else did you kill?” Adam asked.

“That’s about it,” Patrick said.

“Well, anybody — anybody you can think of you haven’t told us about yet?”

“No, I haven’t,” Patrick told him. “I run out of cemeteries.”

These criminals have murdered so many people that they have run out of cemeteries to bury them all.
The Murder Chicago Didn’t Want To Solve
In 1963, a Black politician named Ben Lewis was shot to death in Chicago. Clues suggest the murder was a professional hit. Decades later, it remains no accident authorities never solved the crime.

Mick Dumke, ProPublica
4:01 AM CST on Feb 25, 2021

10 months ago

Shadow state , let’s hear more!

10 months ago

“The gangs were their own prison “cars” and shot callers in jail.”

They shot callers in jail? Huh?

10 months ago

I want to say thank you for humanizing Scott Johnson by featuring his photo but I don’t know whether the photo is one of Frank’s jokes.

10 months ago
Reply to  Natashka

Scott Johnson’s hat impressed me. I want to have a hat like that.

10 months ago
Reply to  Natashka

I agree with Natashka. But, I’m not sure which is funnier – the pix being real or a joke. Either way, the captions for Peter and Scott are hysterical in their own right.

10 months ago
Reply to  Natashka

I’ve decided this is one of Frank’s photo pranks. Just look at the hands holding the Amway product with a fake thumb.

10 months ago
Reply to  Natashka

Interesting. I’m still not sure. I need to upgrade to a premium membership so my comments will show and we can interact on this entertaining topic.

10 months ago
Reply to  Natashka

I don’t think it’s a fake thumb. I think his left hand is deformed. It also would help explain his inferiority complex. He’s the FR version of Jordan from The Challenge.

10 months ago
Reply to  Nutjob

What is that grossly oversized hat hiding? More soap?

Frank Parlato
10 months ago
Reply to  Natashka

The photo possibly is not actually Scott, but it is what he should look like if it is not actually him.

10 months ago
Reply to  Frank Parlato

🤣 Frank. I pictured him having ginger hair and a different coloured mustache. I guess it could be a younger version, his Amway days. Do Amway sell black hair dye?

10 months ago
Reply to  Natashka

I also have him with ginger hair. And a big bushy mustache that has pieces of food stuck in it. With Flowers draped on his left arm.

10 months ago

Mackerel is gross anyways.

I knew a guy who was in prison for punching his wife in the vagina. He got raped his second week in because he has no valuable skills to barter. He ended up joining the A.B. and did petty tasks for them: they protected him from being raped a second time. Ironically the guy who raped him was A.B. as well. But once he joined, he was protected from additional ass-rapings. He even had the SS tattoo on his hand.

I always thought cigarettes were currency in prison? When did that change?

10 months ago

Oh, that sucks.

Wake up wake up wake up wake up
Wake up wake up wake up wake up
10 months ago

At least animals were not tortured by injections, isolation, unnecessary confinement, probing, physical assault, torture and eventual murder.
After a stint behind the wire, I vowed NEVER to eat or were any animal that was viscously forced to live in a cage.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083


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