Albany Laborers union business manager, 3 others paid $221G to outgoing administrator alleged to have mob ties


August 7, 1998

Albany Laborers union leader Samuel Fresina and three other members of the Laborers' state political action committee have resigned after a union appeals officer upheld findings against them for ethical violations.

Fresina, 53, a friend and ally of Mayor Jerry Jennings, quit Friday as PAC chairman, according to Robert Luskin, the disciplinary attorney for the Laborers International Union of North America. Fresina and the rest of the PAC board relinquished control of what is considered the wealthiest Laborers PAC fund in the nation.

Their ouster caps a case that dredged into the union's struggle with organized crime. While Fresina was not directly accused of mob ties in this case, the PAC was found to have given money to a mob associate. And with the case surfaced four-year-old federal allegations that Fresina was an associate of Buffalo's Todaro crime family, and played a role in a mob scheme to seize control over union locals throughout upstate New York.

Fresina also faces removal from the $83,000-a-year job he has held since 1983 as business manager of Laborers Local 190. Under the original disciplinary action against him before the appeal, he would be barred from holding union office for five years.

Neither Fresina nor his attorney, Eugene Devine, returned calls for comment. But in the past, Devine has denied his client did anything wrong or had mob ties.

Carmen Francella, who was opposing Fresina for business manager this year, said that by the time Fresina can run again for office, the influence he now holds over who gets called for work in the union will be gone. ``He'll be forgotten,'' said Francella.

The Laborers PAC, which last year made some $250,000 in political contributions to candidates around the state, was accused of paying $221,000 to its former administrator, Salvatore Lanza, who had lost his union membership in New York City for associating with Genovese crime family members Anthony ``Fat Tony'' Salerno and Liborio ``Barney'' Bellomo, according to the union.

Mob association is the most severe charge in the Laborers, which has been operating under a special agreement with the U.S. Justice Department since 1995. The agreement came after federal attorneys in 1994 presented union leaders with a 212 page draft complaint detailing the mob's control of the union nationally. Under the agreement, the union set up an internal investigatory and review process, independently run by former federal officials, to root out corruption.

Luskin told the New York PAC board members in November 1996 to fire Lanza as PAC administrator, according to union documents. Luskin, the documents say, also told the board not to pay Lanza any golden parachute, severance or other benefits. But the board agreed in a Dec. 30 meeting in the kitchen of its New York City office to settle for $221,000, the union said.

The union's hearing officer, Peter Vaira, earlier this year supported Luskin's assertions that the board intentionally defied him and tried to conceal the payment. In a copy of the decision obtained Thursday, Vaira also did not dismiss the possibility that the contract -- which suddenly appeared a year after it was dated -- had been fabricated.

``I find the timing of the appearance of the contact between Lanza and the PAC to be highly irregular,'' Vaira wrote.

Vaira concluded that the late 1996 settlement meeting was ``a ruse,'' and that the PAC board had already worked out a secret agreement with Lanza. ``All of their arguments to the contrary were made to mask that arrangement,'' Vaira wrote. Vaira found the board members violated their duty of loyalty and the Laborers constitution and ethical practices code. The board also includes Charles Dolcimascolo of the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council in New York City; Dario Bocarossa of Local 235 in Elmsford; and Joseph D'Amato of Local 731 in New York City.

The board appealed, but the union appellate officer, W. Neil Eggleston, rejected their arguments last week, Luskin said.

Luskin said new committee members should be appointed shortly.

Copyright 1998, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y

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