Anthony “Tony Muscles” Guardino was a pretty imposing fellow. But when it came to New York’s Genovese crime family, not to mention the opposite sex, he more than met his match. On February 6, the boss of New York City’s Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local 8 was sentenced in Manhattan State Supreme Court for a variety of offenses following his conviction of a dozen labor racketeering-related offenses by a jury in December. He was handed prison terms ranging from 28 months to seven years for most of his convictions. Over an 18-month period, Guardino ran a labor protection racket on behalf of the Genoveses at various area construction sites, shaking down contractors for more than $2 million. Testimony at the trial provided a close look at the Mafia, in love and in war.
At Guardino’s two-month labor racketeering trial last fall, prosecutors argued, convincingly, that the union’s close relations with the New York underworld went back decades. During the Seventies, Local 8 was headed by Michael Crimi, who was married to a niece of Genovese street boss Frank “Funzi” Tieri. Crimi led a charmed life. Charged with loan sharking and murder, observed meeting with Tieri’s successors, and captured on wiretaps discussing union payoffs, he somehow managed to avoid a conviction in the face of it all. When last heard from in 2003, he was enjoying a comfortable Florida retirement. His successor, Tony Guardino, on the other hand, will enjoy no such luck.
Guardino had been married to Connie Billotti, a niece of Gambino crime family underboss Tommy Billotti. Mr. Billotti had been rubbed out at Midtown Manhattan’s Sparks Steak House in December 1985 along with Gambino boss Paul Castellano, an infamous double hit that put John Gotti in full control of the family business. By this decade the couple had split, and was going through a bitter divorce. A tape-recorded December 3, 2002 conversation between Guardino and his new girlfriend, Donna Catalano, revealed the pair had discussed ways to hide his assets from his estranged wife. At one point, Catalano noted that he had to make a decision soon because the longer things dragged out, “the more she gets.” Tony Muscles at that point offered a solution: “I know. I’ll kill her. And then she’ll get nothing. And that’ll be the end of that.” Such plans never went beyond the talking stage. But there were several incidents of physical violence – inflicted by Guardino against Ms. Catalano; that relationship, too, ended badly. And that prompted Catalano to take the witness stand against her former boyfriend.
Guardino’s aggressive way with women didn’t constitute evidence in and of itself of labor racketeering, but it did lend credibility to the prosecution’s case. The jury heard extensive audio and videotaped conversations of meetings between Guardino and John “Johnny Sausage” Barbato, a longtime Genovese capo. In September, prior to the trial, Barbato copped a plea, agreeing to a two- to six-year prison sentence plus forfeiture of $200,000. Johnny Sausage testified for the prosecution at the trial that he was a member in good standing of a crime family, though he declined to identify the family. He admitted: “This criminal organization was part of a nationwide criminal organization that operated through entities called families. During the relevant period, I was a member and high-ranking official of one such family. I influenced and controlled the Local 8 labor officials, and Local 8, and benefited financially from the criminal activities of the Local 8 group.” Further evidence indicated that Guardino and his associates extorted an average of more than $110,000 a month from 20 victims during much of 2002 and 2003. It was hard to beat the rap with that kind of testimony.
Other dominoes fell, too. Before the trial, the union’s business agent, Sabatino Russo, pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption, and agreed to serve a one- to three-year prison term and forfeit $50,000. Another business agent, John Esposito, stood trial and was found guilty of taking a bribe. Barbato’s bodyguard-chauffeur, Michael Verdi, pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property and accepted a nine-month sentence. It wasn’t a total wipeout for the union. Two Local 8 officers, Michael Errante and Joseph Garito, were acquitted of all charges.
The Brooklyn-based Local 8, which represents about 700 roofing and waterproofing workers in the New York City area, became the nation’s first labor union to plead guilty to racketeering and corruption charges based on the actions of its leaders. The union, in fact, entered the plea in the same courtroom only a few hours after John Barbato pled guilty. Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson and a court-appointed trustee agreed to a plea bargain in which the local would forfeit $200,000 and pay for a monitor. If the union remains clean for five years, it will be permitted to withdraw its guilty plea. (New York Sun, 1/18/07).