By Les Coleman
with Robert Pedemonti
LTD Hartford, CT.
In Hartford, Dominick Lopreato stands in
the doorway of Charlie Tolisano's South End gambling club at 692
Maple Avenue, sipping a Coke. Tolisano and his partner, Joseph
"Joe Carp" Carpino have been operating their gambling
and bookmaking operation out of the long, white, one-story building
and the phone booth across the street from it since 1978. Earlier.
they ran their operations out of the "Greek Club" on
Capitol Avenue, just around the corner from the federal building.
Lopreato is boss of Local #230 of the Laborers International Union
of North America, the union that represents 10,000 construction
workers around the state. Lopreato counts among his friends, Bill
Grasso, the latest mobster to be initiated into the inner circle
of the Raymond Patriarca crime family. He also has been seen with
Grasso's associate, Louie Failla, who is under indictment for
attempting to bribe East Hartford Police Chief, Clarence Drumm.
Lopreato controls the most powerful construction local in Connecticut,
and according to federal documents, the union is closely linked
to organized crime figures in New England and other regions of
Federal Strike Force reports describe the
union as "being the subject of organized crime control."
International President Angelo Fosco, of Chicago, succeeded to
the office after the death of his father, Peter Fosco. The elder
Fosco's ties to organized crime go back to Al Capone and the younger
Fosco has followed in his father's footsteps. Fosco comes under
the influence of Vincent Solano, a member of the Anthony Accardo
crime family. Solano is also a local LIU president.
The union's strangle-hold on construction
projects became obvious in Connecticut in April. 1981. 10,000
LIU members walked off their jobs on publicly financed road and
sewer projects in the state. including the widening of Interstate
86 through Vernon and northern Manchester. The walkout won the
union a forty percent wage increase over a three-year period.
The new skyscrapers and hotels built in downtown Hartford in the
last 10 years were also done by LIU labor. And anyone wanting
to build anythinp within
their area of influence will have to deal
with Lopreato and his associates.
Lopreato has the rough good looks of an ex-prizefighter,
enjoys expensive suits and a dark blue Cadillac leased from Viking
Cadillac in Newport, Rhode Island, the same automobile company
that Rhode Island police say provides cars to members of the Raymond
Patriarca crime family. Besides his frequent visits to the gambling
clubs along Franklin Avenue, Lopreato has been seen dining with
known organized crime figures in downtown Hartford. He is obviously
a man who possesses a lot of power and has a number of friends.
Lopreato's LIU local in Hartford not only
controls highway and building construction contracts in Connecticut,
it also decides who works on a job and in some cases who gets
on a construction project payroll and who does not. Over the last
decade the Department of Labor has documented hundreds of cases
where people have been placed on the union payroll but have never
appeared on the job site. Many of them have been individuals with
known organized crime backgrounds. The Hartford LIU Local #230
is apparently no exception.
For example, there was the union's involvement
in building the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.
Back in 1967. developers from U-Conn had thought they could build
a medical complex in Storrs for as little as $10 million. Politics
and escalating construction costs boosted those projections to
$52 million; and by the time the complex was finished in 1972.
raw construction costs had soared to $67 million. Engineering
fees cost taxpayers another $33 million. The health center that
U-Conn thinkers dreamed of in $10 million terms became a $100
RICHIE: My friend. Butch Rufino. was the foreman on the job. He was the guy I would collect the numbers bets from for Danny. Every guy on that job had to play at least a buck on a number every day of the week. Most guys played more. Butch had his kid working on the job. His nephew was the timekeeper. Guys would make seven, eight bucks an hour and kick-back two! If you needed anything for your house you could get it from the job site. Tony Volpe was doing his cottage in New Hartford over so he would go up to the health center and order all the pipe he needed.
The tile they were using out there ended up in a lot of guys' bathrooms. The hanging ceiling in my rec-room
Wholesale pilferage was just a small portion of the union graft at U-Conn's Health Center. One scheme concocted by construction workers cost the contractor untold thousands of dollars in fraudulent overtime.
came from the U-Conn Health Center. I know guys who were stealing $2,OOO worth of copper tubing a week off that job. You know those big exhaust fans? The guys were stealing a dozen of them a week. I know one guy who had one in every room in his house down at Old Saybrook. Nobody ever said a word. Hell. the guards on the site were in on it too.
New Haven FBI files disclose that in May, 1978. Ronnie La Conche, a known East Hartford bookmaker was given a "no show" job by the LIU and was paid $350 a week. La Conche. a regular at Vinnie Fraggino's club on Franklin Avenue was bragging about his "position" during a poker game in the summer of 1978. But handing out "no show" jobs to bookmakers is a small matter compared to other activities of the LIU that are now under investigation by the Justice Department in five states.
RICHIE: The guys would make up three-man teams. One guy would go on the eight-to-four shift another was scheduled for the four-to-twelve shift. and the third guy was supposed to come on the midnight-to-eight a.m. shift. How it worked. was one guy would just stay and work the other two guys' shifts and punch their cards It was easy work at night anyway. All you had to do was watch the heaters they used to keep the fresh cement from freezing before it dried. So. every other week each guy would only work two or three days and everybody would get paid for a full week. Plus, Saturdays were double time and Sundays were double-time-and-a-half At the end of the pay period the guys would have to kick back a little to the job foreman.
Dominick Lopreato reports to LIU vice president.
Arthur Coia of Providence, Rhode Island. a top national union
leader with close ties to organized crime. Coia appeared as an
unindicted co-conspirator in an indictment returned in late 1981
in the Southern District Court in Florida. The racketeering charges
emerged after a three-year investigation into an effort to funnel
LIU insurance funds into a fraudulent company set up by organized
The elaborate scheme involved FBI informant
Joseph Hauser, a California con man who agreed to buy Farmer's
National Insurance Company of Florida and to pay illegal kickbacks
to Coia; LIU president Paul Fosco; Florida organized crime boss
Santo Trafficante; Chicago crime boss Anthony Accardo and others
from money in the LIU trust fund.
The federal indictment details how Hauser
met with the group in San Francisco, in 1973. where Hauser was
urged to buy the company in which all the parties involved would
be partners. The company would, in turn, take over all the business
for the union. Trafficante told the men at the meeting they could
take over Farmer's National because, "we control the Insurance
Commissioner in Florida."
Early the following year, Hauser met again
with several union leaders and Trafficante. The meeting, bugged
by FBI wiretaps, recorded Trafficante telling Hauser, "when
you get the company, then the family and the LIU hierarchy were
going to be partners." At another meeting in 1975, Chicago
syndicate boss Tony Accardo explained to Hauser that Trafficante
would control the southern United States. Accardo the midwest,
and the northeast would go to Raymond Patriarca. Toward the end
of the conversation, Accardo explained to Hauser. "when we
get this company. Santo will have to get a bigger share 'cause
he's not pleased with his current take." Hauser was apparently
able to meet with the union and syndicate leaders because he,
at the time, had the blessing of the man who has been labeled
by the FBI as the nation's number one crime boss, Carlos Marcello
of New Orleans.
Marcello, known as the "Little Man,"
exerts his national power from his Town and Country Motel in Jefferson
Parish, Louisiana. Twice in the last thirty years federal authorities
have tried to deport the convicted mobster, twice Marcello has
managed to return and stay out of jail.
New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission
Director Aaron Kohn has been a Marcello watcher for twenty-five
years. His files on Marcello occupy an entire room.
KOHN: Joseph Hauser met Marcello through a Washington lobbyist. Irving Davidson. Davidson represented a number of labor interests in Washington and he is a long-time friend of Marcello's. Back in the early seventies Hauser obtained a loan from the Teamsters to buy the National American Life Insurance Company of Baton Rouge. The company was once owned by another Marcello associate, Louis J. Roussel a self-made financier of
Marcello received consecutive ten year prison terms in April 1982 for his role in "Bri-Lab" and another seven-year term for attempting to bribe a California federal judge.
Cajun descent. Hauser needed another $200,000 to close the deal and Davidson introduced him to Marcello. Marcello lent Hauser the needed funding and the loan was processed through a bank in New Orleans. The takeover and the ensuing investigation of kickbacks came to be known as "Bri-Lab," leading to a racketeering conviction for Marcello and a job as a federal informer for Joseph Hauser. Irving Davidson also was convicted, and if his sentence is not overturned on appeal, will be doing his lobbying in the corridors of a federal penitentiary.
Former U.S. Attorney General in the Nixon
Administration, Richard Kleindienst, was suspended from practicing
law in Arizona for a year on April 23, 1982 for lying under oath
about his role in the scandal. The State Bar Association was investigating
his role in connection with the siphoning off of about $7 million
from the Teamsters Union Health and Welfare Fund in 1976. Kleindienst's
client was Joseph Hauser. The Arizona Supreme Court found "clear
and convincing evidence" of two allegations that Kleindienst
gave untruthful testimony concerning conversations with his client's
agents about a State Department of Insurance order. Kleindienst
told newspeople that if he was suspended he would "look for
This illustrates the natural power of the
LIU and its link with the ruling council of organized crime in
America. That power, and its link, touches every city in New England,
whenever a road, an office building or an apartment house is constructed
in any corner of the state.
Labor corruption directly drives up the cost
of construction. Other corrupt actions may reduce the costs for
builders, but at the expense of workers whose pension funds are
cheated, and minority groups whose efforts to get jobs are undermined.
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company
of Springfield, Massachusetts, had a horror-ridden experience
when it tried to renovate the Chrysler Building in New York.
The monument of art deco architecture towering
over Lexington Avenue had taken on a shabby air in the late seventies.
so Mass Mutual, the building's owner, decided to give it a $31
million facelift. But, as company senior vice-president Edward
J. Kulik found, there were a lot of hidden costs the company had
not bargained for.
The practice of keeping scrap metal is known as "mungo" in the trade and is widely viewed by demolition workers as a perquisite of the job. At the Chrysler Building the scrap metal being hauled off included valuable art deco fixtures, such as copper pipes and radiators installed in 1930. fixtures the developers wanted to keep.
KULIK: We ran into more than we expected. Building supplies disappeared from the site. Wiring was installed in the daytime and vanished after dark. There was an awful lot of padding on overtime, double-billing by suppliers and absentee workers. Construction workers carried off cartloads of scrap metal from the interior of the building.
One technique often used by racketeers is
to establish a labor consultant firm as a conduit for payoffs.
The employer hires the consultant to handle labor problems and
pays a fixed amount. The consultant uses the money. after deducting
his fee, to pay off union officials or others to allow a job to
proceed uninterrupted. Payoffs are also made to arrange what is
known as "coverage" on a job site. Union bosses are
paid to look the other way while the employer hires workers at
less than union scale or without union benefits.
To penetrate the world of kickback consultants
in the Northeast, the FBI established its own consulting business.
Showing its dry sense of humor, the Bureau named their company
James Rico Construction Consultants. Rico is an acronym for the
Federal Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act,
one of the most powerful federal laws against organized crime.
A burly FBI agent, James Abbott, using the
name Jimmy O'Brien, posed as one of the labor consultants for
the firm. Abbott was able to gain access to the inner circle of
construction industry corruption, leading to indictments of several
major labor figures including the president of the district Council
of Carpenters in New York. Abbot later testified how factions
of organized crime had fought over the spoils of a construction
job. The dispute had to be resolved by a "sit down"
between two major crime leaders, Tony "Ducks" Corallo,
the head of the Luchese crime family and Frank Tieri of the Genovese
The Genovese family agreed to "honor"
the agreement that the Luchese family had made to "cover"
the job for $50,000. Abbott, in his labor consultant role, agreed
to make the $50,000 in payoffs to the Luchese family.
Another union implicated in Justice Department
files is the
Operating Engineers, the union that represents
heavy machine operators on construction job sites.
In Connecticut, the Operating Engineers is
headed by Elwood "Sonny" Metz, Jr., business agent for
Local #478. It was Metz's workers who operated the bulldozers
that demolished the Hartford Civic Center after the roof collapsed
in 1978. The demolition contract went to Manafort Brothers Contractors,
a New Britain firm tied closely to Paul Manafort, the town's former
Mayor and former State Public Works Commissioner. For minority
purposes, another co-contractor was listed, "Sonny"
Fredericks, a Hartford ex-con. Manafort and Metz were mentioned
in the Bridgeport jai alai scandal in 1975.
Even a tragedy like the collapse of the roof
at the Hartford Civic Center became a bonanza for mobster profiteers.