Niagara Local Rocked by Racketeering & Extortion Indictments

At dawn on May 17, federal agents arrested 14 men associated with Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am. Local 91 in Niagara Falls, N.Y.  Michael “Butch” Quarcini, Local 91’s business manager and long considered one of the most powerful people in Niagara County labor circles, was among those arrested.  Charges were filed by U.S. Atty. Michael A. Battle accusing Local 91 bosses of racketeering and “goon squad” tactics to intimidate contractors, workers, and developers. “These charges should have a positive effect on the way business is conducted in Niagara County, starting today,” said FBI agent Peter J. Ahearn. “I hope we can put an end to intimidation tactics that have suppressed development in Niagara County.”

In Aug. 2000, the Buffalo News reported that several the feds were probing labor racketeering at Local 91. It focused on extortion, beatings, and stomping attacks at work sites, a bombing at the home of a worker who had a dispute with Local 91, and a $100,000 vandalism incident. Court papers cite numerous alleged instances of  Local 91 president Mark Congi and other bosses making threats against nonunion workers and employers. For instance, vice president Salvatore Bertino allegedly told a contractor: “I’m not from this country. We know how to take care of people like you. The fun doesn’t begin until the feds leave.”

Amid concern about possible reprisals, none of the witnesses or victims, even the firms they worked for, were mentioned in the 43-page indictment. The suspects were described as “the goon squad, strong arms and thugs.” All pled not guilty in appearances before U.S. Magis. Judge Leslie G. Foschio (W.D.N.Y.). All were released without bail, except for Congi, Bertino, and Andrew Shomers, a Local 91 steward. They have been jailed since the indictments pending a May 22 hearing. [Buffalo News 5/17, 5/18, 5/21/02; N.Y. Times 5/18/02]

Michigan Boss Admits $32,700 Theft
Edward K. Wiebeck, Sr., ex-business manager of Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am. Local 503 in Jackson, Mich., pled guilty to one count of embezzling $32,790.82 from the local. He was charged on Apr. 9. [DOL 5/9/02]