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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Union president visits jailed Genovese associate

A breakaway union that dubs itself the “clean” alternative to the corruption-plagued District Council of Carpenters apparently didn’t get the memo about avoiding ties to the mob.
Joseph Firth, who’s listed as president of the upstart Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners, confirmed to the Daily News he recently visited a federal prison in New Jersey to chat with Joe Olivieri, a Genovese crime family associate.
Olivieri, tagged by the feds as an underworld liaison to two of the city’s most powerful construction unions, is serving 18 months for perjury after his conviction in 2010. A jury found he lied about his Mafia connections.
Firth called Olivieri a “friend” on a form submitted in February to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, allowing officials to put the union president on a list of approved visitors.
Reached by The News Friday, Firth admitted that he had recently visited Olivieri at the prison, but he wouldn’t say precisely when or how many times.
“I always thought he was a fair man,” Firth said, insisting that anything he knows about Olivieri’s mob ties “he read in the papers.”
“It’s a problem if it’s the truth, but I heard it was just hearsay,” he said.
Firth and several other former members of the District Council of Carpenters broke away to form the Amalgamated union, claiming they want to offer a blemish-free option to its 20,000 members.
The District Council is currently being monitored by a court-appointed review officer, whose mission is to clean up the historically dirty union.
The last District Council president, Michael Forde, is now serving 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to a stunning list of corruption charges; he met frequently with Olivieri.
Despite Amalgamated’s claims, The News reported Sunday that several organizers of the splinter group were actually kicked out of the District Council and its locals for using union funds for personal perks.
And one Amalgamated member, Eric Gundersen, who has been acting as the outfit’s spokesman, has a criminal past, including time served for severely beating an off-duty transit officer.
Further, the court-appointed review officer keeping tabs on the District Council is investigating whether Amalgamated appears to be a ruse to escape federal oversight.
Firth admits he’s known Olivieri for “seven to eight years” through the union, and said he met with the convicted felon in prison to discuss “a couple of companies I might want to go speak with, to see if they’re on the up and up.”
He said he was searching for new contracts.
“I know he has a lot of information,” Firth added of Olivieri.
During Olivieri’s 2010 trial, an official from another union, Operating Engineers Local 14, recalled how he once balked at a request to promote a low-level union official favored by the mob.
In response, he said Olivieri told him: “If you don’t, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
Firth contended he never had any Godfather-like moments with his pal.
“When I dealt with him, there was never any strong-arming or cheating that I saw,” he said. “I mean that and I would say that in court.”


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