New York Construction Locals Probed

A three-year inquiry, dubbed Operation Textbook, by the Manhattan Dist. Atty. and the N.Y. Police Dep’t Organized Crime Control Bureau has reportedly found evidence that the Gambino and Luchese crime families forged corrupt alliances with bosses of N.Y.C.’s laborers, carpenters and bricklayers unions that reaped tens of millions of dollars in recent years. Allegedly, several construction companies routinely pay bribes to bosses to enjoy lucrative benefits such as evading hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to union pension funds. A N.Y. grand jury is reportedly reviewing evidence, including secretly recorded conversations between suspected mobsters, union bosses and company officials. Indictments on racketeering charges may be unsealed this fall.

Investigators raided more than 50 sites in the city, N.J. and Conn. in Jun. They removed records from the offices of LIUNA Local 79, United Bhd. of Carpenters Local 608, Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Union Local 1. Over two truckloads of documents and computers were impounded from the unions and construction companies. Investigators also searched the homes of a dozen union bosses and of reputed Luchese figures, Steven L. Crea and Joseph J. Datello. Datello is an ex-LIUNA Local 20 boss. Over $250,000 in cash was found including over $20,000 at Crea’s home, investigators said. The money was seized as possible evidence of bribes.

Investigators identified S&S Contractors of Linden, N.J., as one of the construction companies suspected of violating union contracts. S&S is owned by Sara Riggi, the daughter of John Riggi, who is allegedly the DeCalvacante crime family boss for N.J. and who is in prison on a racketeering conviction. [N.Y. Times 8/8/99]

In a separate report, investigators said ex-LIUNA Local 95 boss Christine McKenna is the target of a federal criminal investigation. In 1993, Local 95 business manager Michael Donnelly was convicted of extorting kickbacks from a union vendor. Soon after his conviction Christine McKenna, a relative of another ousted union boss, was named business manager and president. She increased her salary to $120,000 a year, and leased a new Buick Riviera. She gave a second leased Riviera to Anthony Tarantino, whom she had appointed business agent. Tarantino was an ex-convict and later identified by investigators as a Bonanno crime family associate.

When LIUNA later placed the local in trusteeship, Local 95 was $400,000 in debt, including money owed to former members who had successfully sued the local for depriving them of their rights. Upon McKenna’s departure, checks totaling over $10,000 made out to “cash” had been drawn on the local’s bank account, leaving a balance of $45. Tarantino was found shot dead in the leased Buick days after the local was taken over. [Daily News 7/29/99]