Buffalo News




Dec 2, 1999

Buffalo, N.YOrganized crime has so dominated Laborers Local 210 over the past four decades that a federal judge should name an overseer to run the labor union for the next five years, according to a racketeering complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

The request for long-term oversight, made by the U.S. Justice Department and Local 210's parent union, includes a lengthy history of local organized crime and its alleged corruption of Local 210. The court papers name the two owners of La Nova Pizzeria as Buffalo's mob bosses.

Joseph E. Todaro Sr. and his son, Joseph A. Todaro Jr., were named as organized-crime boss and underboss, respectively, by prosecutors for the Justice Department and lawyers for the union.

The Todaros have been described as mobsters before -- by investigators with the Laborers International Union of North America and by FBI agents in past cases.

But the request Wednesday marks the first time in the Local 210 proceedings that federal prosecutors have made the accusation.

It comes as La Nova has grown into one of the area's most successful pizzerias, has made numerous contributions to local charities and military units overseas and has taken on a high-level profile.

When President Clinton and Vice President Gore and their wives came to Buffalo last year, for example, huges boxes of La Nova pizzas and chicken wings were loaded onto Air Force One for the presidential party.

U.S. Attorney Denise E. O'Donnell, the Justice Department's Organized Crime Division in Washington, D.C., and the international union accuse the Todaros and others of eight violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, known as RICO. They said they controlled every aspect of Local 210, from naming mobsters as officers and stewards to hiring relatives and other cronies for construction jobs. "This is something that has been charged for many years but yet to be proven," attorney Paul J. Cambria, who has represented the Todaros, said of the organized-crime allegations.

Cambria also noted the charges are based on testimony by Ronald M.Fino, a former business manager of Local 210 who became an FBI witness, and informants who have been convicted of crimes. "There's been a great controversy as to the credibility of these individuals and whether their statements can be taken with any grain of salt," Cambria said. "It would not be warranted to make these allegations based on those sources."

The Todaros are named as two of 16 co-conspirators in the civil racketeering lawsuit. Federal prosecutors and the international union say the 16 are La Cosa Nostra members of the local mob or their associates who have kept Local 210 under mob control through the years by various racketeering acts. "As a result of the strong and pervasive ties to organized crime, numerous Local 210 union officers and employees have been chosen by, subject to the approval of, and have been controlled by various members and associates of organized crime," the complaint alleged.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara scheduled a hearing for 2 p.m. today on the request to name a "court liaison officer" who would effectively run Local 210 for the next 60 months.

The government also is asking the court to make Local 210 pay for the court-appointed supervisor as well as the costs of the lawsuit and any other expenses the government incurs to keep Local 210 free of organized crime.

It's unclear whether anyone will have legal standing to oppose today's request.

The defendant in the case, Laborers Local 210, is unlikely to object because it has been under the supervision of its parent, the international union, since Feb. 22, 1996. And the parent union, along with the Justice Department, is making the request for a court liaison officer.

That does not mean, however, that today's action will be accepted by all of Local 210's membership. The union claims 1,200 members who work on local construction, demolition and hazardous-waste projects. "Our representatives now are mainly from Washington. They don't understand our needs," said Local 210 member Samuel Capitano.

Capitano and his brother Peter were part of a dissident group that seized control of the union hall on Franklin Street in March 1996 and initially kept the international's representatives from doing their job.

As a penalty for the takeover, both brothers agreed to a year's suspension from union membership and a five-year ban from holding office. Their father, Peter Capitano Sr., was removed as a trustee of a union fund by the international. "They say the dissident members are aligned with the old guard, which is B.S.," Samuel Capitano said. "What we stand for are labor rights. I want all of us to stand together and fight nonunion contractors."

Many of the allegations contained in the RICO suit were part of an initial suit the Justice Department filed in 1995 in Chicago against the Laborers International Union of America.

The complaint was shelved, however, after federal prosecutors and the parent union reached an agreement to rid the union and its locals of organized crime and agreed to a number of internal reforms.

Local 210 was one of the local unions targeted for cleanup, and in June 1996 the parent union said that 28 members of Local 210 were either mobsters or people associated with the mob. A hearing officer later said there was insufficient proof to include six members as mob associates.

The government and parent union, noting that the agreement to have Local 210 overseen by the international union expires in January 2000, say there is a need for a court-appointed supervisor to continue ridding the union of mob influence.

Included in the alleged mob infiltration, the government and the union say in the complaint that traces organized crime back to the days of Stefano Magaddino, are:

Todaro Sr., named as mob boss; never belonged to Local 210, yet, according to the complaint, controlled the union and got jobs for mob members and their relatives.

Todaro Jr., the alleged underboss, who is accused of ensuring that the mob's wishes for Local 210 were carried out. He resigned as Local 210 business manager in 1990, but the complaint alleges he intended to stay active:

"During the same time period, Todaro Jr. told an individual in the meat cooler in the basement of his pizzeria that there was a lot of heat on Local 210 and that, although he was stepping down, he could keep his foot in the door and keep control of what he wanted to keep control of because his people, Peter Gerace and Peter Capitano, were in place."

(Peter Capitano Sr., former business manager, secretary- treasurer, business agent and executive board member, was found to be a mob associate by an international union appeals officer. Gerace, former Local 210 president, business manager and business agent, was also found to be a mob associate.)

Leonard Falzone, named in the complaint as the local mob's counselor, was a Local 210 business agent and then its pension fund administrator. Falzone was convicted of racketeering to collect unlawful debts, served a prison term and is now on supervised release.

John Catanzaro, a "made," or identified, mob member since 1985, according to the complaint, was a Local 210 steward convicted of having a no-show job and sentenced to 27 months in prison in 1990.

Joseph Rosato, like Catanzaro a made mob member since 1985, the complaint alleged, and also convicted of having a Local 210 no-show job.

Daniel Sansanese Jr., an alleged mob member since 1970 and secretary-treasurer of Local 210 until his retirement in 1994.

Victor Sansanese, Daniel's brother, an alleged mob member since the mid-'70s and administrator of Local 210's training fund.

Other alleged mob members who held Local 210 offices, the complaint alleged, were John and Joseph Pieri, brothers who served as business representatives until the international union removed them in 1996, and Frank "Butchie" Bifulco, assistant administrator of the pension fund, who served until 1998.

John M. Curran, who served as local legal counsel to the International Laborers Union, also filed a lengthy affidavit alleging Local 210's mob influence and attempts to clean up the union.

Curran urged Arcara to approve the continued oversight and appointment of a court liaison officer as "the surest guarantee that democracy in Local 210 will be established promptly and will flourish."

Copyright Buffalo News Dec 2, 1999

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