New York State Says “No” to Genovese-Linked Contractor

tony-salernoThese past few years have been heady times for Worth Construction. The Bethel, Conn.-based contractor has become one of the largest in the New York City area. It’s been building roads, schools, hospitals, sewage treatment plants, and government buildings, generating $186 million in revenues in 2004 alone. Unfortunately, its president, Joseph Pontoriero, has been keeping the wrong kind of company – the Genovese crime family kind. For certain regulators and law enforcement agencies, these associations have raised red flags. There have been enough of them at any rate for New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi to deny the company the eligibility to compete for a $46 million Thruway Authority contract. An ongoing investigation of the contractor may implicate certain members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.


Joseph Pontoriero, documents recently filed in federal court in Connecticut indicate, is no mere associate of the Genovese clan; he’s a full-fledged member. He denies having any illicit contacts, and has not been charged with a crime. Yet during the 80s he maintained a close relationship with the late Genovese boss, Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno (in photo). The FBI caught the pair on tape on February 13, 1985 at Salerno’s Palma Boy Social Club in Manhattan. Salerno was skittish, noting that the feds had bugged the car of a fellow wise guy, capturing a whole bunch of mob secrets in the process. “Jesus Christ,” said Pontoriero. “You know you gotta be careful where you talk.” Salerno replied, “You can’t blame the guy…you talk in the car, I talk.” Salerno eventually would be convicted for racketeering and sentenced to 100 years in prison, where he would spend the rest of his life. When recently read the transcript by comptroller’s agents, Pontoriero could not recall what the conversation was about. That chat, along with Pontoriero’s alleged penchant for hiring mob-connected subcontractors, were of concern a decade later to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, after Worth had won a $154 million contract to build the new Atlantic City Convention Center.    


More recently, in 2001 then-Waterbury, Connecticut Mayor Philip Giordano (who later stepped down in the face of sex-abuse charges for which he later was convicted) told investigators that he’d received more than $5,000 in cash plus various non-cash gifts in return for preferential treatment for Worth Construction in contract bids. “We want to avoid vendors who are crooks,” said Hevesi, explaining why he turned thumbs-down on Worth’s bid to obtain a contract to build a New York Thruway interchange in Orange County, N.Y. He also was disturbed over Worth’s financial statements, which revealed a pattern of large sums of cash moving through various related companies for no apparent reason.


Worth’s connection with the Carpenters’ union is more than passing. For one thing, Joseph Pontoriero’s son, Michael, after briefly working for the New York State Office of General Services, was hired for an office job by the New York City District Council of Carpenters. The council at the time was headed by the mob-connected Frederick Devine, who in August 1998 received a four-year prison sentence for diverting about $175,000 in union funds toward personal expenses. State officials were investigating the union for putting scores of people on the payroll of Mafia-controlled contractors at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s West Side. The dots connected. Devine at the time was under criticism for appointing Anthony Fiorino to oversee Carpenters union workers at the Javits Center. Fiorino’s sister was married to Genovese capo (and at one time acting boss) Liborio “Barney” Bellomo. And Fiorino’s brother, Gerald, who owned several construction and carting companies, was a partner in one of those companies with Joe Pontoriero and a reputed Genovese soldier. In 1995 the elder Pontoriero stopped by the Javits Center in an attempt to persuade on-site state officials to drop an effort to remove Fiorino. “You could do me a big favor here,” he allegedly said. “This really means a lot to me.” But in the end, Fiorino and many other mobbed-up employees were removed.       

Michael Pontoriero’s connections with the Carpenters continue, even though he left the union in 1997 to work for his father’s company. In the midst of the Waterbury investigation, federal agents raided his home and found, underneath his bed, about $100,000 in checks made out to a New York City local. At the time, his girlfriend (whom he later married) was working in the local’s office. Though no charges have been filed, an investigation continues. At this point there’s no telling what might turn up. (Village Voice, 12/06).