August 7, 1996
Fred Saia says he didn't know the first thing
about construction when he got a job in Laborers Local 210 in
But because he was friendly with a Buffalo
mob leader, he not only got a construction job, but he also was
made a foreman by Local 210.
And then, Saia says, one of his first assignments
was to work on a drainage job at the Lewiston home of a Mafia
don. While he was working on the don's home, he was getting paid
for a State Thruway construction project.
A longtime organized-crime insider and FBI
informant, Saia is creating a stir with his testimony about alleged
mob domination of Local 210 and other tales of crime history in
Western New York.
His critics call Saia -- a former union member,
gambler and rock band promoter -- a paid liar.
They say he is making up tall tales about
the mob in Buffalo because the FBI and other law enforcement agencies
paid him nearly $250,000 for information.
"He's a bought-and-paid-for witness,"
said Joseph V. Sedita, who represents one Local 210 officer on
trial in the hearing. "This guy (Saia) admits he is getting
$85 an hour, not only for his testimony, but for his travel time.
"If this was any kind of legitimate
court proceeding, his testimony would have been stricken by now."
Law enforcement officials describe Saia,
61, as an accurate witness and a virtual encyclopedia of Buffalo's
organized crime scene.
"Freddy Saia is a guy who knows a lot
and has seen a lot of mob activity over the past 40 years,"
said one veteran organized-crime investigator. "He's given
the feds a lot of solid information, and when he testified as
a witness in federal court, they got convictions."
During the past week, Saia has been testifying
at a union disciplinary hearing on allegations that 28 present
and former Local 210 members had mob ties.
Union officials said the hearing already
has had one major effect. Six of the accused men -- including
alleged organized-crime figures Joseph Todaro Jr. and Leonard
F. Falzone -- have submitted letters resigning from the local.
The letters claimed there is a lack of fairness in the way the
hearing is being conducted.
Although the disciplinary hearing is being
held in secret in a Clarence banquet hall, sources on both sides
have told The Buffalo News about Saia's testimony.
Among the allegations made so far:
Despite having no construction experience,
Saia was given a construction job and made a job foreman for the
local. He said he got the job after being told by a family friend
to visit a local Mafia leader at a restaurant.
He testified that he was glad there were
other people around who knew something about construction work,
because he did not.
While being paid by a contractor to work
on a State Thruway project, he and about a dozen other construction
employees spent much of their time "laying pipe" at
the Lewiston home of the late mob boss Stefano Magaddino.
While employed on the same Thruway job, Saia
testified, he and another worker spent many hours removing a large
boulder from the Angola home of another mob leader, Sam Frangiamore.
The Buffalo mob family took a 25 percent
cut from gambling tables Saia ran at hundreds of area stag parties
in the 1960s and 1970s and also had a piece of the action when
rock bands were booked at a popular nightclub in Cheektowaga.
Saia said he became a paid FBI informant
in the mid-1980s. He admitted he has received close to $250,000
for information he provided to the FBI and other agencies. He
moved out of Buffalo several years ago.
He said reputed mob leaders Joseph Todaro
and Joseph Todaro Jr. maintained a policy in the 1980s that they
did not want their people to be involved in narcotics dealing.
He said he was embarrassed and worried what the Todaros would
think when he was caught in a small cocaine deal in 1985.
Saia said that he was once proposed for membership
in the Mafia but that he lost his chance when he was involved
in a gun deal that went sour and upset some bosses in the Buffalo
Saia has been battered in cross- examination
by several top defense lawyers in the hearings, conducted by a
hearing officer for the inspector general of the Laborers International
Union of North America.
Sedita complained that the inspector general's
office has gotten access to FBI documents and tapes "that
nobody else would be able to get."
"No reporters, no lawyers, even the
subjects of investigations wouldn't be able to get these things,"
The lawyer said the proceedings are "outrageously
unfair." Daniel A. Braun and John Curran, attorneys for the
international, strongly disagreed.
"I think the credibility of Fred Saia
stands up very strongly. He's talking about 40 years of mob history,
and there was not one instance where it was proven that he is
wrong," Braun said. "As for him getting paid, unlike
other informants, he is not facing a federal indictment or jail
term. His payment doesn't depend on the outcome of this hearing."
Braun said Saia requested the tapes and documents
from the FBI, and his request was approved.
Sources said Saia may finish his testimony today and could be followed by former Local 210 Business Manager Ronald Fino.