Andrew Merola

New Jersey Gambino Mobsters, Associates Plead Not Guilty

For a mob whose heyday was at least 15 years ago, the Gambino crime family appears pretty confident.  But that may be a case of good acting.  On June 2, 23 persons, all of them New Jersey-based members and associates of the Gambinos, pleaded not guilty in Newark federal court.  They’d been arrested by FBI agents on May 8 following the handing down of an 82-page indictment listing a wide range of illegal activities dating back a half-dozen years.  The schemes, allegedly guided by Gambino capo Andrew Merola, 41, a resident of East Hanover, N.J., consisted of such offenses as extortion of receipts from construction site lunch trucks, operation of an illegal overseas gambling ring, and creation of phony barcode labels to acquire merchandise at deep discounts from major retailers.

Business Manager, Ex-President of New Jersey Local Indicted

Local 825 of the International Union of Operating Engineers has been a prime target of federal prosecutors as of late.  Last spring, more than two dozen officials, members and associates of the Springfield, N.J.-based union were arrested for a wide range of criminal acts.  Two more persons now can be added to the dragnet, Kenneth Campbell and Peter Strannemar, respectively, the union’s current business manager and former president.  On Tuesday, March 11, special agents with the FBI, IRS and Department of Labor unsealed a four-count indictment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Esther Salas charging the pair with receiving bribes in connection with two major construction projects in Jersey City.  The case, indirectly, is mob-connected.

New Jersey Mobsters Charged in No-Show Union Job Scam

To get a job on the massive Goethals Bridge reconstruction project, Andrew Merola was the man to see.  Whether one actually did any work was a separate issue.  Asking too many questions could get someone hurt – at least until late last month.  The FBI and various state and local authorities in New Jersey, starting on May 21, arrested a reported 25 suspects involved in a wide variety of criminal schemes, including labor racketeering.  A reputed Gambino crime family soldier with close connections to the Lucchese family, Merola, 40, allegedly ran a ghost-worker operation for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 (Springfield, N.J.) and Laborers International Union of North America Local 1153 (Jersey City) from a taxpayer-funded construction site in Elizabeth underneath the Goethals Bridge (the section of I-278 connecting New Jersey with northern Staten Island, N.Y.), where he had obtained a job through Local 825.  “Merola benefits from the activities of dozens of associates who report to him on their activities, which range from gambling to loan-sharking to a highly organized theft ring dealing in high-end merchandise,” said Union County (N.J.) Assistant Prosecutor Scott Kraus.

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