Until seven years ago, Locals 14 and 15 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) had been virtually synonymous with organized crime. Union bosses, working in tandem with the Genovese and Colombo crime families, diverted millions of dollars in labor payments associated with major New York City-area construction projects into their own pockets. Now another participant in that racket has had a date with justice. On January 29, Joseph “Joey” Coriasco, a former IUOE Local 14 business agent, was sentenced to three years probation in Brooklyn federal court for his role in facilitating unlawful labor payments and mail fraud.
The turning point in the labor-underworld alliance occurred back on February 26, 2003, when U.S. Attorneys from the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York announced the indictments of dozens of Mafia members and associates. The 70-count Eastern District indictment implicated numerous bosses, members and associates of the Colombo crime family in labor racketeering and other offenses; the 61-count Southern District indictment likewise alleged that Genovese crime family bosses, soldiers and associates controlled the labor for various construction projects. In each case, Operating Engineers Locals 14 and 15 were deeply enmeshed in the web of corruption. Joseph Coriasco, now 79, a resident of Staten Island, N.Y., belonged to the first batch of indicted co-defendants.
According to federal prosecutors, Coriasco, Local 14 member Nicholas Lupari (his son-in-law), and several other individuals violated Taft-Hartley statutes by defrauding contractors, property owners, and developers in connection with the large-scale renovation of the Brooklyn General Post Office. The defendants allegedly submitted false information to contractors at the job site by inflating the number of hours worked by certain Local 14 and Local 15 members. In this manner, they extracted project wages and benefit plan contributions.
This wasn’t the only case of Coriasco creating false labor reports to inflate union revenues. Coriasco, together with Local 15 delegate Thomas McNamara and Local 15 member Anthony Polito, milked labor costs from Staten Island Yankee Stadium. He also pulled the same scam with Local 15 member Anthony Quaranta at Coney Island Mets Stadium, and with Local 14 member Richard Troy at Staten Island University Hospital. Coriasco also siphoned off labor payments from Gateway Estates (Oceanside, N.Y.) and from a job site on Muldoon Avenue in Staten Island. He also worked with McNamara, Polito and Troy to divert labor costs associated with the renovation of P.S. 58 in Staten Island. Additionally, at three separate work sites – Marine Park Bridge (Brooklyn), Queens Place (Queens), and Beach 53rd Street (Queens) – Coriasco and Local 14 member James Coyle diverted labor payments. Joey Coriasco was a busy man.
Fortunately, investigators and prosecutors were busy as well. “Today’s indictments are the product of our continuing efforts to rid labor unions of the corrupting influence of organized crime,” remarked Roslynn Mauskopf, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York at the time of the indictments. “With corruption on the job sites comes increased costs, which inevitably, albeit indirectly, get passed onto the public. This prosecution follows a series of assaults by law enforcement on the hierarchy of organized crime groups in the New York City metropolitan area and further demonstrates that such prosecutions are a priority of this office.” Joseph Foy, IRS Special Agent and Public Information Officer, noted the importance of tracking the money trail. “Union corruption schemes are all about greed and normally create complex financial transactions to cover the crimes,” he said. “IRS Special Agents play a unique role assisting our law enforcement partners to trace the money trail and help bring those who abuse the system to justice.”