Readers of Union Corruption Update know that the New York City District Council of Carpenters and member locals have been plagued by corruption – and prosecutions. So far at least nine defendants have copped a plea following a lengthy federal probe. Ousted District boss Michael Forde pleaded guilty late in July to racketeering and faces an 11-year sentence. A former Carpenters Local 608 steward, Michael Brennan, pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges that month, as did an ex-president of that local, John Greaney. Less known perhaps is that these and other Carpenters officials allegedly lined their pockets with key help from developer Joseph Olivieri. When Olivieri goes on trial in October for conspiracy, bribery and perjury, he’s sure to face tough questions about his reported go-between role for the union and the Genovese crime family.
Joseph Rudy Olivieri, now 55, is executive director of the Association of Wall, Ceiling & Carpentry Industries (WC&C), a Jericho, Long Island-based federation of more than 200 members. A high-profile industry advocate, he writes a regular column for the group’s newsletter. Federal prosecutors insist he’s something else: ringleader of a racketeering enterprise in the New York City area that for a decade and a half managed to fleece about $10 million from would-be contributions to United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners benefit funds. Not coincidentally, Olivieri serves as a trustee for any number of the funds. He’s charged, among other things, with delivering illegal cash payments to Forde and other union leaders.
According to court papers, Olivieri was the main conduit between union officials and mobsters who took their cut from carpentry and drywall workers’ benefits never paid. He was alleged to be close to former Genovese acting capo Louis Moscatiello, who died last year while serving a 78-month prison sentence for bribery and racketeering. A key player in the formation and/or operation of Carpenters, Operating Engineers and Plasterers locals, Moscatiello assigned union posts and jobs. He also decided which contractors could submit low bids on contracts by paying nonunion wages and benefits on supposedly union projects. Moscatiello worked with certain developers, such as Vincent DiNapoli; the pair had formed Local 530 of the Operative Plasterers & Cement Masons International Union. Another Genovese wise guy with whom Olivieri did business was Ralph Coppola, a made man. Coppola was murdered in 1998 on orders of family street boss Liborio Bellomo; his body was never found, but Genovese soldier Pasquale DeLuca pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in 2007.
The feds have lined up several people to take the witness stand against Olivieri. One of them is contractor and former WC&C board member Artie Johansen. Johansen reportedly “came to personally know Olivieri in the late 1990s” speaking to him on several occasions about Coppola and Moscatiello. Prosecutors allege that on two occasions, around 1999-2000, Johansen witnessed a meeting between Olivieri and Moscatiello in the College Point, Queens coffee shop whose building housed Johansen’s company. Court papers indicate that Johansen “was not pleased” that the meeting was taking place at that address “because of the organized crime implications.”
Other prosecution witnesses include two Irish-born contractors, James Murray and Finbar O’Neill. Murray, owner of On Par Contracting, paid about $100,000 in illegal bribes to now-convicted Carpenters Local 608 steward Michael Brennan so that On Par could hire illegal immigrants off the books. He also allegedly fronted Olivieri with $730,000 in cash so Olivieri could buy two properties and then flip them at a profit. Murray also awarded Olivieri’s own construction company a non-union building project in the Bronx, enabling Olivieri to gain what prosecutors say was “in excess of $1 million.” Between 2003 and 2005, say the feds, Olivieri spoke over the telephone more than 200 times with Murray. As for O’Neill, owner of the construction firm KAFCI, he pleaded guilty this May to helping to deliver more than $100,000 in illegal cash payments to District boss Michael Forde on behalf of On Par and KAFCI over a ten-year period.
Additionally set to testify is FBI agent Dan Conlon. Agent Conlon, while working undercover in a Bronx bar on July 24, 2000, overheard Moscatiello ordering Olivieri to resolve a problem for Michael Forde. Moscatiello allegedly said to Olivieri: “Forde wants somebody. Get it done as fast as possible.” Were that not enough, the feds plan to introduce a playback of a 2004 tape recording in which an unnamed elderly Genovese made man and two associates discuss Joe Olivieri’s connections to Louis Moscatiello.
Joe Olivieri’s attorney, Brian Gardner, believes his client has been unfairly targeted. He plans to ask U.S. District Judge Joseph Marrero to bar the government from introducing any evidence of Olivieri’s underworld ties because even though he has been named as a participant in a racketeering enterprise, he formally hasn’t been charged with racketeering. But evidence strongly suggests Olivieri was point man for a contractor-union-mob troika, an arrangement all too common in New York City-area construction projects. His longtime predecessor, Michael Crimi, somehow beat the rap after being slapped with labor racketeering charges and quietly retired to Florida. Olivieri might not wind up so lucky.