Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mob’s Waterfront Extortion: A Christmas Tradition

The indictment filed against more than 100 alleged mobsters arrested in a three-state sweep Thursday morning describes a scam used on the New York and New Jersey waterfront.
Three accused Cosa Nostra members would turn up before Christmas, when workers from the International Longshoreman’s Association receive a check from the “container royalty fund”–a sort of year-end bonus for union members. According to the indictment, workers’ payments to the alleged mobster were “induced by wrongful use of actual and threatened force, violence and fear.”
In other words: extortion. The indictment cites incidents going back to 1982, making this scheme a holiday fixture over nearly three decades.
“It’s tradition on the waterfront,” said Ronald Goldstock, a member of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, which is tasked with countering the influence of organized crime on the docks. “If you want to work there — if you want the good assignments or overtime — you kick back the Christmas check to the people who allow you to work there.”
The Christmas checks in recent years ranged from $6,000 to $20,000 for each worker, according to Walter Arsenault, executive director of the commission. Actual violence is rare, he says, but the extortion scheme doesn’t require bodily harm–just a reputation.

“The people on the waterfront know who they are dealing with,” Arsenault said.
Recent decades have seen organized crime significantly curtailed in many of the major industries it once controlled. Goldstock points to carting, construction and the now-closed Fulton Fish Market as areas that were once heavily influenced by the mob. Outside the Northeast, Cosa Nostra has virtually vanished, he says.
“The waterfront is really the last remaining bastion where they exert real influence,” said Goldstock. “The structure of the [Cosa Nostra] families has changed. They are far less cohesive now.”
But the mobsters’ continued presence in New York and New Jersey harbor, as underscored by Thursday’s arrests, shows that organized crime has a real economic impact. “New York becomes less competitive compared to other ports on the eastern seaboard,” Goldstock said. “To the extent that racketeering implements a ‘mob tax,’ it raises the cost of shipping in New York. Shippers can take their material elsewhere.”
Cosa Nostra has never been the only face of organized crime in and around New York City, and today crime cartels of Asian and Eastern European origin have been active in human trafficking, the drug trade, fraud and extortion. “But you don’t see them with the breadth and depth of involvement that the mob had,” Goldstock said. “They don’t control unions, for example. They are not dominant in industries.”



Post a Comment