March 13, 1999
Arthur A. Coia, a national labor leader and
fund-raiser for President Clinton, has been cleared of organized
crime allegations made by former Laborers Local 210 business manager
Ronald M. Fino.
Officials of the Laborers International Union
of North America announced in Washington Tuesday that Coia will
be allowed to continue as president of the 750,000-member union.
Tuesday's decision by a hearing officer hired
by the laborers international followed a lengthy in-house investigation
into claims -- made by Fino and others -- that Coia was controlled
by the mob.
The organized crime charges were not sustained,
said Hearing Officer Peter Vaira, but he did fine Coia $ 100,000
for some questionable dealings involving a $ 450,000 Ferrari sports
"The investigation was thorough, and
the prosecution was able and aggressive," said Robert Luskin,
an attorney who presented the mob charges before the hearing officer.
"We left no stone unturned."
Fino, who abruptly left his Local 210 job
10 years ago and disappeared from Buffalo to become a paid FBI
witness, was a key figure in the case against Coia.
Wearing a black hood over his face during
a 1996 appearance at a congressional hearing, Fino publicly accused
Coia of being controlled by mobsters. Fino claimed that Coia once
told him he needed to get permission from Buffalo Mafia leaders
before Fino could run for vice president of the international.
Testimony from Fino and others who claimed
Coia was tied to the mob was rejected by Vaira.
Luskin said he continues to believe Fino
testified truthfully before Vaira.
"I wouldn't have presented a witness
if I felt he was being untruthful," Luskin said.
Fino could not be reached to comment late
Luskin said it is his understanding that
the U.S. Justice Department is continuing its own investigation
into the allegations about Coia.
"We shared the information. The information
is on their desk, for them to do with as they please," Luskin
U.S. Attorney Denise E. O'Donnell said the
federal government "continues to closely monitor all developments
involving Local 210 and the laborers international." She
declined to comment further.
Vaira's decision to clear Coia of mob allegations
was the latest step in a controversial organized crime cleanup
that has been under way for four years. The U.S. Justice Department
is working closely with lawyers for the international to keep
mob influences out of the international and its locals.
The international, which claims Local 210
had some of the worst organized crime problems of any local in
the nation, has been supervising the Buffalo local since 1996.
More than 200 union leaders, including about
30 from Local 210, have been forced out of their jobs because
they were accused of having organized crime connections.
Fino and other critics testified about Coia
in July 1996, before the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime.
Tuesday's action was greeted with skepticism
by Robert H. Perk, a Buffalo attorney who has represented Local
210 members who are unhappy with the mob cleanup.