Massive New York Probe Nabs 11 Union Bosses

The Manhattan Dist. Atty. charged 38 union bosses, contractors and reputed mobsters with bribery, bid-rigging or other racketeering schemes Sept. 6 that allegedly siphoned millions from construction projects in the last two years. Reputed boss of the Luchese crime family, Steven L. Crea, was the leading figure named in the 57-count indictment. Allegedly, he has played a role in construction racketeering schemes for decades.

The indictment charged 11 union bosses, including Michael Forde, who heads the Dist. Council of Carpenters in N.Y.C. and the United Bhd. of Carpenters Local 608. Both organizations have a history of mob influence. Forde’s father ran the local and was convicted of taking bribes in 1990. Forde and Local 608 business agent Martin Deveraux were charged with taking bribes to allow contract violations. Also, Gerald Woods, the secretary-treasurer and business manager of UBC’s N. N.J. Reg’l Council, was indicted for taking bribes to allow contract violations and improperly signing agreements to let N.J. contractors work on N.Y.C. job sites without having to sign contracts with Local 608.

D.A. Robert M. Morgenthau said the racketeering diverted millions to the Luchese family and its partners, corrupt union officials and contractors. Morgenthau said the victims included union workers deprived of jobs by their union bosses; nonunion workers who replaced them and were paid far below union wage and received no benefits; and honest contractors frozen out of the bidding by the mob’s corrupt alliance. He explained the scheme as a 5% “mob tax.”

Others accused included Santo Lanzafame, the president of Builders & Allied Craftsmen Local 1, which represents bricklayers. He is charged with appointing union stewards at job sites knowing that they would file false union documents to cover up contract violation. Three Local 1 business agents and three shop stewards were also indicted.

Also indicted was Giuseppe Palmieri, a shop steward with Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am. Local 20, known as the Cement & Concrete Workers. He allegedly participated in a bid-rigging scheme and falsifying union reports on a public school construction project.

Also charged was Joseph Martinelli and his company, the N. Berry Corp. Martinelli has been involved in the construction business for more than three decades, and has been identified as an associate of the Luchese family and of Crea’s since 1990, according to FBI reports. The documents show that 10 years ago, Martinelli, a successful contractor, received medical benefits through a Teamsters union local controlled by Crea. Prosecutors also said that in the current case, six organized crime figures or associates were collecting benefits as part of the current schemes. Martinelli was charged with 16 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, a felony, in the filing of false reports to the Cement & Concrete Workers Dist. Council Benefit Funds.

Strangely, an hour before the crusading Morganthau (who has adeptly prosecuted the AFSCME Dist. Council 37 scandal) announced the sweeping indictments, U.S. Atty. for Manhattan Mary Jo White (who has botched the prosecution of AFL-CIO boss Richard L. Trumka and others connected to the 1996 Teamsters money-laundering scandal) made a similar, but weaker, announcement. Both Morganthau and White tapped Luchese phones for two years and built separate but nearly identical cases of corrupt construction dealings. This is the latest incident in what has been dubbed “The War of the Prosecutors.”The two have reportedly been rivals since White took office in 1993. Morgenthau admitted surprise when he heard of White’s indictments, which were voted by a federal grand jury Aug. 30 but kept sealed until Sept. 6. Morgenthau found out only when White’s media release was waved in the air by one of the scores of reporters he’d summoned to his office.

The rival offices declined to comment on the dueling announcements, but there was a reported flurry of behind-the-scenes finger-pointing. Law-enforcement sources sympathetic to Morgenthau’s camp were quick to point out that the D.A.’s indictment package was far more comprehensive with powerful charges that White’s probe apparently couldn’t substantiate. Compared to Morganthau’s 38, White could only muster charges against six, lower-level mobsters and no union bosses.  Another reported source of tension was the use of a key informant. [N.Y. Times, N.Y. Post, Daily News 9/7/00, BNA 9/8/00]

Cleveland Staffer Charged with $194,000 Theft
Federal prosecutors charged Leslie S. King, an ex-clerical employee of the United Bhd. of Carpenters group in Cleveland, Aug. 31 with stealing $194,138 from a union hospitalization fund. King allegedly submitted a series of false medical claims for reimbursement and received payment on checks drawn from the fund between July 1999 and Apr. 2000. [Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 9/1/00]