-- The former head of the Laborers' International Union of North
America pleaded guilty Monday to a fraud charge in a scheme that
prosecutors said allowed him to evade $100,000 in taxes on expensive
Arthur A. Coia, 56, of Barrington,
R.I., pleaded guilty to a federal mail fraud charge in evading
state and local taxes in Rhode Island on a succession of Ferraris.
Coia and the government agreed
on a sentence of two years probation, along with $100,000 in restitution
to Rhode Island and the town of Barrington, and a $10,000 fine.
U.S. District Judge George
O'Toole accepted the plea at a hearing Monday afternoon.
Coia's attorney, Howard Gutman
of Washington, said Coia was the first person to be criminally
prosecuted for evading state car taxes. "He clearly did the conduct,
but was the first person ever to be so prosecuted. I draw no other
conclusions," he said.
Coia retired as general president
of the union at the beginning of the year. As part of the plea
agreement, Coia also agreed to be barred from any future role
in the union or its related entities and to be barred from being
an employee of any other union for a period of five years.
The union has more than 800,000
members, mostly in the construction, environmental cleanup and
In the 1980s, President Reagan's
Commission on Organized Crime accused the union of having mob
ties. In 1995, the union entered a formal agreement with the Justice
Department, promising to remove alleged mob lieutenants from its
ranks and hold direct elections of its officers.
Corruption investigations reached as high as Coia. But last year, Coia was cleared by an independent hearing officer of charges that he had ties to organized crime.