NEW YORK TIMES
38 Charged in Control of Building Projects by Mafia and Unions
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
September 7, 2000
The Manhattan district attorney charged 38 union officials, contractors and reputed mobsters yesterday with bribery, bid rigging or other racketeering schemes that he said siphoned millions of dollars from public and private building projects in the last two years.
It is the most significant case focusing on organized crime's role in the construction industry in a decade, the authorities said.
Among those named in a 57-count indictment unsealed yesterday were the acting boss of the Lucchese crime family, Steven L. Crea, 53, who prosecutors say has played a role in construction racketeering schemes for decades, and two of his senior aides, identified as Lucchese captains. All were charged with enterprise corruption, restraint of trade and other crimes.
The indictment also charged 11 union officials, including Michael Forde, who heads both the District Council of Carpenters in New York City and the carpenters' union Local 608, organizations long tainted by mob influence. Mr. Forde's father headed the local and was convicted of taking bribes in 1990.
Robert M. Morgenthau, Manhattan district attorney, said the racketeering systematically siphoned millions of dollars from construction projects throughout the city and diverted it to the Lucchese family and its partners, corrupt union officials and contractors.
"Despite law enforcement successes over the years, today's indictment demonstrates that the fight against organized is far from over," Mr. Morgenthau said. "The mob's influence in construction industry, although not as pervasive as it once was, still exacts a tremendous cost from the city."
Mr. Morgenthau said the victims included union trade workers deprived of jobs by their union leaders; nonunion workers who replaced them and were paid far below union wage and received no benefits; and honest contractors frozen out of the bidding by the mob's corrupt alliance, which allowed their chosen companies to underbid other firms.
Because the Lucchese family insinuated itself into the construction of three schools and several road and bridge repair projects, taxpayers fell victim to the schemes as well, which levied a 5 percent "mob tax" on construction jobs around the city. One prosecutor said that the money stolen from the $32 million that went to build modular classrooms in two schools in Queens and new construction at a school in the Bronx could have paid for more classrooms.
The indictment, the result of a three-year investigation by detectives from the Police Department's Organized Crime Investigative Division and Mr. Morgenthau's office, was announced at a news conference with Mr. Morgenthau and Bernard B. Kerik, the new police commissioner.
The investigation used court-ordered wiretaps on 38 telephones and 24 pagers, and police detectives and the district attorney's investigators executed 46 search warrants, poring over thousands of documents detailing the finances of the companies and local unions.
It focused on two Lucchese crews and their representatives on a special crime family panel devoted to dividing the spoils of the construction industry. Mr. Morgenthau called the panel the Lucchese Construction Group, and yesterday, his aides declared it dead.
"The Lucchese Construction Group no longer exists," said Daniel J. Castleman, the chief of Mr. Morgenthau's Investigation Division, who oversaw the case. "To the extent that they no longer exist, it has put a pretty big dent in organized crime's ability to control these types of job sites."
In addition to Mr. Crea and two men named as captains, Dominic Truscello, 66, and Joseph Tangorra, 51, five named as Lucchese soldiers, including Joseph Datello, 49, and three as associates were also charged.
Union officials accused included Santo Lanzafame, 68, the president of
Local 1 of the Builders and Allied Craftsmen, which represents New York area bricklayers; and three business agents and three shop stewards from the union. It also named officials from Laborers International Union Local 20, which represents cement and concrete workers.
"I think this sends a message to the legitimate construction people out there that want to compete in the bidding process, that want to compete on different projects, that somebody is there looking out for your interests," Mr. Kerik said.
The indictment also charges 11 companies and 16 people who owned or worked for them, including Lawrence Wecker, who prosecutors identified as a Lucchese family associate and construction racketeer.
Mr. Wecker, who was an unindicted co-conspirator in a 1986 case that struck at the mob's role in the concrete industry, was called "a walking A.T.M. machine" by one mob boss for his money-laundering prowess.
Mr. Wecker, who was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1997 in connection with one of the companies named in yesterday's indictment, is one of three defendants in the current case who have not yet been arrested. He is on parole and prosecutors said they thought he had fled to Malta, in the Mediterranean.
Also charged in the case was Joseph Martinelli and his company, the North Berry Corporation, which did work on the Trump South development on the Upper West Side and on several other major projects.
Mr. Martinelli has been involved in the construction business for more than three decades, and has been identified as an associate of the Lucchese family and of Mr. Crea's since 1990, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation reports.
The documents show that 10 years ago, Mr. Martinelli, a wealthy, successful contractor, received medical benefits through a Teamsters union local controlled by Mr. Crea.
Prosecutors also said that in the current case, six organized crime figures or associates were collecting benefits as part of the current schemes.
Mr. Martinelli was charged with 16 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, a felony, in the filing of false reports to the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council Benefit Funds.
One man was named as a Lucchese associate but not charged. Investigators said the man, Sean Richard, 35, had cooperated with the authorities since late last year and was under police protection.
All of the men taken into custody yesterday were arraigned at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, where they were herded into the jury box to await their appearance before Justice Jeffrey Atlas. Mr. Crea, his lips pursed, stood with his hands clasped behind him and uttered only two words, "Not guilty."
Mr. Tangorra, in a brown sweat suit with his hair slicked back, was unshaven and looked tired. His wife tried to hand him a piece of chewing gum, but was stopped by a court officer. "Oh my God, I need a smoke," she said, as the prosecutors rolled in boxes of documents outlining the case against the men.
Justice Atlas freed all but two of the men, Mr. Crea and Mr. Tuscello, on bail, which he set at $20,000 to $200,000. As the released defendants left the courtroom, many said they were angered by the authorities' decision to arrest them in raids rather than simply ordering them to report for court appearances.
In an unusual move, federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed indictments yesterday charging six Lucchese soldiers and associates, five of whom were charged in the state case, with conspiracy. Marvin Smilon, a spokesman for the United States attorney, Mary Jo White, said federal prosecutors were aware of Mr. Morgenthau's investigation, and the F.B.I. assisted in the arrests.
Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company