Rhode Island Organizer Indicted for Role in Kickback Probe

Nicholas Manocchio hasn’t quite come full circle to his former life of crime, but he’s too close for comfort. Back in 1980, while as a microbiology student at the University of Washington, he was arrested for killing a nightclub owner in North Providence, R.I. and eventually was convicted of manslaughter. Following his release from prison, he ran a sports memorabilia store and then landed a job with the Laborers International Union of North America, eventually becoming director of the union’s New England Region Organizing Fund. He’s not likely to hold that position much longer. On November 24, federal agents in Providence unsealed a grand jury indictment against him for labor racketeering conspiracy. Manocchio allegedly accepted cash payments and other things of value from an undercover FBI agent posing as a building contractor looking for work on a redevelopment project.   


Manocchio, 55, a native of Cranston, is a nephew of reputed Patriarca family crime boss Louis “Baby Shacks” Manocchio. That plus the fact that an organizer for LIUNA Local 271 in Providence, Harold Tillinghast Jr., had Patriarca enforcers for a father and an uncle, had gotten the FBI’s attention by 2002. Tillinghast and a local contractor, Gerald Diodati, were indicted on similar charges this past October 28 after a long investigation. The centerpiece of the probe was a sting operation in which the FBI opened a fictitious company, Hemphill Construction, in a retail plaza in Johnston, R.I. purporting to seek work in the area. A few months later, an agent posing as a Hemphill co-owner, worked out an agreement with Tillinghast and Diodati to give the pair cash payments. The agent then signed a collective bargaining agreement. In April 2003, Tillinghast allegedly told Diodati and the agent that he’d try to arrange a demolition contract for Hemphill on the Rising Sun Mills project in the Olneyville section of Providence. Diodati prepared a $977,000 bid. A few weeks later, he and the agent discussed making a $2,000 kickback to Tillinghast to get Hemphill the work. The kickback was made and the contract was awarded. The indictment of Manocchio alleges that in November 2003 Hemphill paid $500 to a union official to cover a rental car bill in Florida and that in December 2003 Tillinghast accepted $2,000 from a Hemphill representative and gave it to Manocchio. 


By all appearances, the FBI’s operation practically screams “entrapment.” And the crooks here are definitely small-timers. But there is context to consider. The Patriarca crime family had infiltrated legitimate businesses and unions in New England for decades, and enforced their regime with a pattern of extortion, assault and murder. While the court should lean toward leniency for the three indicted co-conspirators, investigations such as this are essential to keeping unions in Rhode Island and elsewhere honest.  (Providence Journal-Bulletin, 11/25/08).