Reputed Mobster Joins 3 Top Bosses as Racketeering Defendant

A reputed Genovese mob captain from New Jersey has joined three top Longshoremen union bosses as a co-defendant in a federal racketeering indictment that claims the ILA is under Mafia influence, according to the Journal of Commerce.  The extortion and wire-fraud charges against Lawrence Ricci are the latest development in a case scheduled to go to trial May 31 in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.


Ricci is not a member of the Intl. Longshoremen Assn., but is accused of participating in a mob payoff scheme involving an ILA benefit contract. The charges against him were added to an indictment that already included Albert Cernadas, the ILA’s executive vice president and head of Newark Local 1235; Harold Daggett, ILA assistant general organizer and president of the ILA’s New York-New Jersey maintenance local; and Arthur Coffey, the union’s top Miami official. All 3 have pled not guilty.


The case against Ricci and the ILA trio has high stakes, not only for the defendants but for the ILA. Convictions could encourage prosecutors to pursue a civil lawsuit against the union under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations law and try to put the ILA under federal trusteeship – something neither the union bosses nor management want.


Since the first indictment was issued last July, prosecutors and defense lawyers have been sparring over the wording of the indictment, the amount of information the prosecutors should have to disclose, whether some defendants should be tried separately, and the admissibility of disputed tape recordings.  Coffey’s attorney, Ernest H. Hammer, said the indictment’s “amorphous allegations” are too vague to permit an adequate defense. Among other things, the ILA officials’ lawyers want prosecutors to provide more details about the alleged crimes; to define the term mob “associate;” to list members of mob “crews” cited in the indictment; to identify persons the mob allegedly put on union, company and benefit-fund payrolls; and to show how union members were victimized.


The ILA officials’ lawyers also objected to the indictment’s opening paragraphs, which outline the Genovese crime family’s structure and identify Cernadas, Daggett and Coffey as its associates. Hammer said the introduction was “an unnecessary historical characterization … calculated to prejudice and inflame a jury.”


Prosecutors said in court filings that they plan to offer testimony, wiretaps and other evidence to prove that Cernadas, Daggett and Coffey were under Genovese influence and used their union positions to carry out schemes to enrich themselves and the mob.


According to the indictment, those schemes included helping steer mental-health and prescription-benefit contracts from ILA benefit funds to firms that paid kickbacks to the mob. Prosecutors said the Gambino and Genovese families split a $400,000 payoff by prescription-drug provider GPP/VIP, and that a mental-health contract was awarded to Compsych Corp. after that company paid $5,000 a month to James Cashin, a former Local 1804-1 official whom prosecutors described in pretrial filings as “a long-time and well-known Genovese associate.”


Cashin has not been charged, but prosecutors told the court that at the trial, “recent recordings, among other things, will be offered to prove that Cashin continued in his role as a primary conduit between the Genovese family and the ILA during the time period of the indictment.”  The indictment said that by steering the benefit contracts to Compsych and GPP/VIP, Cernadas, Daggett and Coffey “intended to earn money for organized crime from the contracts, and to ensure the assistance of organized crime in maintaining their positions and salaries as officers of the ILA.”


Until their cases are settled, the three ILA officials are on paid leave. Filings with the Labor Department for 2003, the most recent year available, show that Cernadas was paid $508,755 from multiple ILA jobs, while Daggett received $480,607 and Coffey, $387,265.


Assistant U.S. attorneys Taryn A. Merkl and Paul Weinstein said in pre-trial filings that mobsters seized on containerization as an opportunity to expand a decades-old position in the ILA. They said the Genovese mob foresaw the leverage that it could gain by controlling the high-growth business of container maintenance and repair and the companies that contracted with the ILA for this work. The prosecutors said Genovese mobsters influenced the ILA to create new locals, including Daggett’s 1804-1 in New Jersey and Coffey’s 1922 in Miami.


Those locals “were created by Genovese soldiers and others to put the family in control of the new workers necessary for containerized shipping, and thus the ILA itself, as well as the companies that needed this new ILA labor,” the prosecutors wrote.  One of those soldiers, the government attorneys said, was George Barone, who is expected to be a key prosecution witness. Barone, 81, has a checkered past. He started on the docks in New York after World War II, was expelled for criminal activity by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, then organized and headed Miami Local 1922 and was an ILA international vice president until 1983, when he went to prison for shaking down port businesses and was succeeded by Coffey.


By his own account, Barone’s resume also includes an undetermined number of mob murders. “I didn’t keep a scorecard, but it was probably 10 or 12,” he testified at Gambino mob boss Peter Gotti’s 2003 trial. Gotti was convicted of labor racketeering along with several others, including Red Scollo, an ILA international vice president from Brooklyn, and Sonny Ciccone, a Gambino mobster convicted for his part in the prescription-benefit scheme.


Barone became a government witness after a second extortion conviction and a reported falling-out with Andrew Gigante, a New Jersey container repair executive who also was convicted of labor racketeering. Gigante’s father is imprisoned Genovese boss Vincent “Chin” Gigante. [Journal of Commerce, 2/28/05]