April 23, 1985
The president of the laborers' union today
refused to answer questions from the President's Commission on
Organized Crime at a hearing in which a union local's president
was linked to a botched attempt to kill an organized crime gambling
Angelo Fosco, president of the 625,000-member
Laborers' International union for the last 10 years, was asked
to explain why 156 Federal indictments were returned against members
of his union from 1980 to 1984. He declined to respond, citing
his Constitutional right to avoid self incrimination.
Mr. Fosco invoked the Fifth Amendment six
more times, in response to questions about organized crime members
in the union, about organized crime's influence in union locals
and even whether he was aware that A.F.L.-C.I.O. ethics discourage
reliance on the Fifth Amendment.
Earlier, Robert Powell, a retired vice president
of the laborer's union, testified that he had been threatened
when he expressed interest in running against Mr. Fosco in 1981.
Mr. Powell said he moved his family out of Washington and began
carrying a gun and wearing a bullet-proof vest.
The 13-member panel, which is hearing three
days of testimony on labor racketeering, refused to delay a scheduled
appearance Tuesday by Jackie Presser, president of the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters. Mr. Presser's attorney asked for the
delay, citing a recommendation from a Justice Department strike
force that he be indicted on charges related to ghost employee
payments. The lawyer said he recommended that Mr. Presser take
the Fifth Amendment before the panel.
In another development, an attorney for Roy
L. Williams, the former teamster president, said Mr. Williams
had been subpoenaed to appear before the commission. The lawyer,
Thomas Wadden, made the announcement as a Federal district judge
heard arguments on whether Mr. Williams, 70 years old and ailing,
was fit enough to begin serving a prison term for a bribery conviction.
Mr. Wadden said Mr. Williams, who suffers
from emphysema, would die in prison if he was forced to serve
the sentence. He also said Mr. Williams would be a "sitting
duck" in Federal prison if someone decided to silence him.
Mr. Wadden did not say whether Mr, Williams,
convicted in 1982 of conspiring to bribe a senator for help in
defeating trucking deregulation legislation, would testify before
Testifying before the panel, a former organized
crime gambling leader in Chicago, Ken Eto, who is in the Government's
witness protection program, said that a 1983 attempt on his life
was ordered by Vincent Solano, president of Laborers' union Local
1 in Chicago.
Mr. Solano was one of three Local 1 officers
who invoked the Fifth Amendment in the hearing. He has never been
charged with a crime in connection with the Eto assassination
Mr. Eto, wearing a black hood and robe, said
that on Feb. 10, 1983, he met two men, Jasper Campise and John
Gattuso, who were supposed to take him to meet Solano for dinner.
Instead, he testified, they drove to a parking
lot and "as soon as I parked, bang! I got shot in the head."
Mr. Eto was shot twice more, but lived.
Mr. Campise and Mr. Gattuso were charged
with attempted murder. Their bodies were later found in a car
Mr. Eto said he had pleaded guilty earlier
to a Federal gambling charge and met with Mr. Solano, to whom
he had been reporting for nearly a decade, a few weeks before
the shooting to talk about his options. According to Mr. Eto,
Mr. Solano said he could serve time, appeal or flee.
"I just felt there was something wrong,"
Mr. Eto said. "He no longer trusted me."
Commissioner Thomas McBride said law-enforcement
experts believe organized crime exerts substantial control over
the 1.4 million-member teamsters union, the laborers union, the
400,000-member Hotel and Restaurant Employees union, and the 200,000-
member International Longshoremen's Association.
"Membership of the 'big four' internationals
in large part embraces some of the poorest, hardest-working, most
under privileged members of our society," he said. "In
too many cases their unions have become a vicious and vital part
of the machinery of exploitation."