A former shipping terminal operator in Newark and Brooklyn is suing the International Longshoremen’s Association for $160 million, charging that leaders of the 65,000-member dockworkers’ union are organized crime associates who forced the company out of business after it refused to go along with their racketeering schemes.
The suit names ILA President Harold Daggett, union subordinates, and several other members of the local shipping community as defendants in the case, asserting that they formed a “Waterfront Group,” that was linked to organized crime, and engaged in extortion, bribery, fraud, embezzlement, and other forms of racketeering.
“Defendant Daggett is and at all relevant times has been, associated with organized crime,” the suit states.
One of the allegations in the suit by American Stevedoring Inc., is that ILA leaders told the company’s chairman, Sabato Catucci, in August 2011 that if he refused to pull up stakes and leave the port he would be carried out “in a box.”
Charges that the ILA is a corrupt, mob-influenced organization are not.
Dozens of ILA officials have been convicted or pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, many of those cases cited as examples in the suit by American Stevedoring. The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor was created in the 1950s to keep the mob off the docks, following revelations dramatized in the Marlon Brando film, “On the Waterfont.” The commission is still active, and among several law enforcement agencies, along with the U.S. Attorneys offices in New Jersey and New York, that continue to bring criminal and civil cases against ILA officials and others in recent years.
Harold Daggett himself was indicted on racketeering charges along with two fellow longshoremen and a reputed Genovese Crime Family capo in 2005. Daggett and two others were acquitted, after he broke down on the witness stand and insisted he himself had been the target of mob threats. But a fellow ILA official, Albert Cernadas, pleaded guilty in the case. The reputed mobster, Lawrence Ricci, was acquitted in absentia, before his body was found in the trunk of a car.
The suit by American Stevedoring says Daggett, 66, of Sparta, began pressuring Catucci at least as far back as 2005, while Daggett was still president of ILA Local 1804-1 in North Bergen, six year before he was elected the ILA’s international president.
“In or about March 2005, Defendant Daggett began to openly express his desire for American to cease operations in Waterfront Commerce,” the suit states. “He wanted to see Sabato thrown out of the port sector, as he regarded Sabato to be a ‘troublemaker’ who ‘did not know how to give the ILA what it wanted.’”
A spokesman for the union, Jim McNamara, declined to comment on that or any other assertion in the suit, which was filed Feb. 7 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan under federal anti-racketeering law.
American Stevedoring did eventually leave the port and the terminal operating business, signing “concession agreement” on Sept. 26, 2011, which turned over control of its Port Newark and Red Hook, Brooklyn terminals to a company known as Red Hook Container Terminal LLC. But the suit said the agreement was only signed under pressure from the ILA, which had staged a walk-out against the company three days earlier, and vowed to continue the strike until American bowed to its demands.
The suit, which was first reported by the Journal of Commerce, charges that Red Hook Container Terminal was acceptable to the ILA as a successor because it was open to the kind of no-show jobs and other corrupt practices the union demanded. The president of Brooklyn-based RHCT, Michael Stamatis, declined to comment on the allegation.
“I have not seen the complaint,” Stamatis said when reached by phone.
American Stevedoring is no longer in the terminal operating business, though it still exists and has plans to launch another venture soon, said Matt Yates, a company official. Yates said it took the company and its lawyers 17 months to file the suit after signing away its terminal operations because of the complexity of the case. He said company officials did not fear retaliation for finally taking the union to court.
“Obviously, we’re mindful that we’ve taken a significant action,” Yates said. “But we cannot and will not be deterred from the appropriate course of action because of concerns like that.”