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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Brooklyn DA and feds smoke out mob influences in LIUNA union

Brooklyn District Attorney Preet Bharara and feds are trying to shake down LIUNA, a union with longstanding mob ties.
Brooklyn District Attorney Preet Bharara and feds are trying to shake down LIUNA, a union with longstanding mob ties.
Fresh from a record mob takedown, the feds have targeted one of the city's most important construction unions for some Mafia housecleaning, sources said.
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's investigators have begun plotting strategies to break the Gambino crime family's 50-year stranglehold on the Pavers and Road Builders District Council, the sources said.
Sources said prosecutors have been meeting with the union's international - the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) - to find a way to force its long-entrenched mob controllers out the door. "They are trying to find a way to participate more actively," one LIUNA investigator said. "They understand what the stakes are."
The move comes on the heels of the FBI's January arrest of 127 reputed mobsters, including officials in unions representing longshoremen and concrete workers.
For the past 15 years, LIUNA has tried to boot Gambino gangsters who control the workers who pave the region's roads.
The mob, the FBI says, has controlled the pavers since the early '60s. Year after year, LIUNA has shuttered corrupt locals and fired mobbed-up officials. The mob always seems to bounce back.
"When we started trying to clean things up in 1996, we naively thought we were fighting the Six-Day War," said Robert Luskin, LIUNA's corruption buster. "It turns out to be the Thirty Years' War, and we haven't won it yet."
The mob has pocketed kickbacks from contractors trying to ignore safety standards, use nonunion labor and dodge payments into welfare plans, Luskin said.
LIUNA thought it made real progress 1998, when it booted Pavers District Council boss Salvatore Franco. Mob snitch Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano identified Franco, who also ran Pavers Local 1018 in Flushing, as a Gambino member since the 1970s.Gravano testified that one Christmas, Franco handed mob boss John Gotti a $30,000 "present" - kickbacks he had extorted from contractors.
Franco's departure from the union barely made a dent. His son Anthony, a reputed mob associate and vice president of his dad's local since he was 19, simply stepped up.
Most important was Anthony Franco's job as administrator of the district council's benefit plans - a position that controls millions of rank-and-file dollars.
"When you control the benefit funds ... you [can] give pensions to people who aren't entitled to them and provide no-show jobs. ... We have seen this with the pavers," Luskin said.
In 2003, LIUNA revoked Anthony Franco's union membership after accusing him of extorting $25,000 from a contractor. It cited his mob ties and a "suspiciously large accumulation of wealth," said to include two $1 million houses on Long Island.
LIUNA couldn't immediately bounce him from the pension fund because the plans are controlled by a board with Franco loyalists.
When LIUNA demanded Franco's removal, trustees loyal to him instead gave him a six-year contract starting at $144,572.
In 2006, Franco was eventually pried from the benefit funds. Kicked out of his union, Franco shifted gears.
He joined with Fred Clemenza, who had been bounced from another mobbed-up union after being accused of moving union money into his personal accounts, to create United Plant & Production Workers Local 175.In this new local, which is not subject to LIUNA scrutiny, Franco runs the benefits plan and Clemenza is an organizer.
As LIUNA tried to take over corrupt Local 1018, its top brass resigned, moved to Franco's new union and persuaded more than 100 of the local's rank and file to join them.
Franco did not respond to requests for comment.



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