It’s been more than 2 yrs. since more than a doz. union bosses and their servants were indicted for violent racketeering in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area. In that time, one of the alleged ringleaders has died. But after a federal court hearing on Sept. 17, those trials have finally been scheduled, reports David Staba of the Niagara Falls Reporter.
U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara (W.D. NY, Reagan] will preside over three separate trials involving Local 91 of the Laborers Intl. Union of N. Amer. Jury selection for the first begins Nov. 4, with opening arguments slated to start on Nov. 18. James McEwen and Mark LoStracco are each slated to be tried on a single felony count stemming from an alleged attack on a delivery truck at a job site. Jury selection for the second scheduled trial begins Dec. 7, again with two defendants — Anthony Cerrone and Steven Markel — facing a single count. In this case, the defendants are charged in the attack on members of a tile-setters union after a dispute over jurisdiction at a construction project on Sept. 16, 1998.
The main event starts on Feb. 15, 2005. That’s when the rest of the Local 91 defendants — former union presidents Mark Congi and Dominick Dellaccio, ex-VPs Salvatore Bertino, Albert Celeste, Andrew Shomers, Salvatore Spatorico, Andrew Tomascik Jr., Paul Bellreng and Joel Cicero — face multiple counts, including a conspiracy charge that doesn’t involve the first four union members to go to trial. Longtime union kingpin Michael “Butch” Quarcini died last year, while another defendant, Brian Perry, agreed to a plea deal in June.
Separating the trials and scheduling trials for the four less-indicted union members first could also be part of a prosecution strategy to encourage more plea deals in exchange for testimony against the bigger fish. Asst. U.S. Attny. William Hochul returned to the Local 91 case after securing guilty pleas from each defendant in the case of six Lackawanna men who admitted to attending a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks. Hochul used similar tactics in a massive prosecution in the 1990s that broke up one of Buffalo‘s largest drug rings and again in destroying a cigarette-smuggling ring last year. [Niagara Falls Reporter, 9/21/04]