James A. DiForti, reputed organized crime lieutenant and ex-boss of Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am. Local 5 in Chicago Hts., died June 6 of undisclosed causes while awaiting trial in a 1988 murder case. He was accused of killing William Benham, the owner of B&S Pallet Co., after Benham refused to repay a $100,000 loan and threatened to tell authorities about DiForti’s alleged mob ties and loan-sharking activities.
A DNA test matched DiForti’s blood to a blood trail that was found leading away from the crime scene in 1988, and DiForti was charged with murder in July 1997. The case was stymied until an FBI informant implicated DiForti in the last few years.
At the time of his arrest, DiForti was secretary-treasurer of Local 5. He was one of about a dozen union bosses targeted by a separate federal probe of LIUNA’s alleged ties to organized crime. Prosecutors believed the ex $94,000-a-year secretary-treasurer was in charge of handling loans on the street during the 1980s. After resigning from Local 5 in 1997, DiForti was involved in horse-racing while awaiting trial. [Chi. Trib. 6/24/00]