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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Connecticut housing agency is aware of developer's past mafia links

The state Department of Housing said Friday it was aware of the link between the developer of Ponemah Mill in Taftville and a man who has pleaded guilty in an organized crime case involving union corruption when it awarded the firm with taxpayer dollars to help finance the project.
Onekey LLC Director of Operations Finbar O’Neill, husband of Onekey and Ponemah Riverbank LLC owner Paula O’Neill, pleaded guilty to New York state charges 13 years ago, and federal charges seven years ago, connected to a carpenters union corruption case. The Bulletin first reported the federal pleas, on counts of making unlawful payments to labor representatives and conspiracy to make such payments, in September 2009.
Finbar O’Neill, as an officer of Terra Firma Construction Management and General Contracting LLC, was one of 38 people indicted in 2000 as members of a criminal enterprise dubbed the Lucchese Construction Group, which engaged in labor bribery, bid rigging and “other anticompetitive schemes that systematically siphoned millions of dollars from both public and private construction projects” between 1997 and 1999, according to the New York indictment.
Groundbreaking for phase one of the Lofts at Ponemah Mills, the planned $30 million housing complex of 116 units at the massive former textile mill site along the Shetucket River, took place last May and is scheduled to continue through October. Phase two of the project will create 121 new units of mixed-income family housing.
In March 2015, state leaders announced a $14 million financing package for Ponemah Riverbank. That deal included an allotment of $6.1 million from Competitive Housing Assistance for Multifamily Properties, a program of the housing department, as well as $8.25 million from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority in the form of tax-exempt bonds.
“Ponemah Riverbank LLC submitted an application in response to a competitive request for proposal,” state Department of Housing spokesman Dan Arsenault said. “Paula O’Neill is the managing member and sole owner of this company and, as such, she was the applicant for these funds.”
Arsenault said Paula O’Neill’s proposal was ranked among the highest of all the applications reviewed by the department.
“Details of her husband’s background were known during the approval process,” he said. “To be clear, Finbar O’Neill was neither the applicant, nor is he an owner, of Ponemah Riverbank LLC.”
The department has in place procedures to prevent fraud, waste and abuse of state funds, Arsenault said. These include regular written reports and on-site inspections. Requests for disbursement of funds include all relevant invoices, progress certifications and appropriate lien waivers.
Arsenault said during the application process, housing department officials had a “frank discussion” of Finbar O’Neill’s past convictions.
The legal troubles were also known by Norwich officials several years ago, former mayor and City Council President Pro Tempore Peter Nystrom said.
“I was aware of his problems back then,” he said. “That was something that was around even before I was mayor. But it was known and there didn’t seem to be a lot of concern. The state has all those checks and balances in place.”
Records show Finbar O’Neill helped deliver illegal cash payments to Michael Forde, the then head of the 25,000-member Carpenters Union District Council in New York City, according to information from the FBI. In return for the money, certain contractors would be able to pay union members below-union rates without benefits, and hire illegal immigrants and nonunion workers.
Contractors, who were required to use union labor and pay prevailing wages, instead used nonunion labor and did not pay prevailing wages. However, they billed the public agencies and private developers as if they had complied with the law.
The difference between what was billed and the contractor’s actual labor cost financed bribes to allow the use of nonunion labor and payments to organized crime officials of a “mob tax” of at least 5 percent of the contract’s value. In addition to the “mob tax” imposed on them, the contractors were also required to employ made members of the Lucchese crime family as “no show” or “no work” employees, according to the indictment.
O’Neill pleaded guilty to state charges of falsifying business records in 2004. He was placed on probation and government monitoring for five years and fined $50,000.



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