The Buffalo News



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 the 1950s.

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 crime family.

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," Sedita said.

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.


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