Indictments Expected Soon for Western New York Local

A lengthy federal investigation into bombings, beatings, death threats and other incidents allegedly tied to a Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am Local 91 in Niagara Falls, N.Y., is reportedly nearing a conclusion. Although Local 91’s attorney, Paul J. Cambria, Jr., insists that there is no evidence of labor racketeering, other defense lawyers and law enforcement officials think that a series of felony charges will be filed — both against the local and individuals — possibly within the next two months.

The incidents under investigation include a 1997 bombing at a Town of Niagara home, which severely impaired the hearing of a construction worker; a 1998 beating and stomping attack on tile setters at a Wegmans supermarket construction site, a $100,000 vandalism incident at a Town of Niagara landfill as well as several other attacks. The sheriff and district attorney of Niagara County said intimidation by Local 91 has made some contractors and developers so fearful that they do not even bother trying to build projects in the county.

The Local 91 probe, which dates back at least two years, has gone on for so long that the U.S. Atty.’s Office for the W. Dist. of N.Y. began to present its evidence to a new grand jury in Nov. 2001. The term of the previous grand jury, which had been hearing evidence about Local 91 for well over a year, expired. Several well-known defense lawyers — including Cambria, Terrence M. Connors, Michael S. Taheri, Daniel J. Henry Jr., George V.C. Muscato and Peter J. Todoro, Jr., — have been hired to represent either the union or individual members. “I’ve heard there will be a number of indictments soon,” said a defense lawyer involved with the case. “I also believe the federal government may be trying to take over Local 91, like they did with Local 210.”

In 1995, LIUNA had a number of reputed mobsters leave leadership roles in Buffalo’s Local 210. LIUNA then took control of Local 210, with the federal government closely monitoring the arrangement. A court-appointed overseer still files regular reports on Local 210 to U.S. Dist. Judge Richard J. Arcara (W.D.N.Y., Reagan). Richard Greer, LIUNA’s Washington spokesman, said LIUNA has no plans, at this time, to take over Local 91. Greer said LIUNA is waiting to see what happens with the federal investigation.

Reportedly, Local 91 members seem to have been on their best behavior at Niagara County construction sites in the last two years, according to Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III and Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein. Murphy said the last time he heard about alleged intimidating conduct by Local 91 officials was at a Town of Wheatfield construction site last November. He said three Local 91 members were accused of harassing a state transportation official. The Local 91 members deny the allegations.

“Local 91 has been relatively quiet lately, but for years they caused great fear for developers and contractors all over Niagara County,” Murphy said. “I’ve had developers tell me they are watching this investigation very closely, hoping that it will end any kind of intimidation in the county.”

Murphy said police are also investigating allegations that three men associated with Local 91 attacked and broke the nose of Michael Hudson, the editor of a weekly Niagara Falls newspaper that has been extremely critical of the local. Hudson said the alleged assault took place in a men’s room at the Niagara Falls Convention Center on Oct. 9, 2001. Hudson said the men who attacked him had been criticizing him earlier in the evening about the Niagara Falls Reporter’s coverage of Local 91. He said he is sure that at least one of the men is a member of Local 91. [Buffalo News 3/18/02]