A federal jury convicted ex-FBI informant William A. Russell on May 13 on two counts of perjury and one count of obstructing justice for staging a recorded conversation in Sep. 1991 to make it appear as if he passed a $10,000 bribe to IBEW boss Jeremiah J. O’Connor. Investigators initially thought O’Connor took the bribe and began a major union corruption investigation code-named Operation Chi-Lite. The probe cost taxpayers $173,000 and Russell received nearly $113,000. He faces two years in prison. The scheme unraveled when O’Connor produced records showing that he attended a union meeting five hours from Chicago, in Eau Claire, Wis., on the night the alleged payoff on Chicago’s Westside. [Chicago Tribune 5/14/99]… Read More ➡
A fourth union boss of the Am. Fed. of State, County & Employees’s Dist. Council 37 pled guilty to criminal charges May 19. Nine others have been indicted. John McCabe, an ex-$100,000-a-year boss of the white-collar division of DC37, admitted to ballot stuffing the union’s 1995 contract vote with N.Y. City. He changed “no” votes to “yes” votes. He faces four years in prison. [Daily News 5/20/99]… Read More ➡
Cleveland’s grocery chain, Tops, has filed suit accusing Laborers’ Int’l Union of No. Am. Local 310 of “harassing and threatening to use physical violence” against a nonunion construction crew working on a new Tops store. Tops won a temporary restraining order against Local 310. In response, Local 310 is pondering a boycott. But, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 880 which represents 4,000 Tops employees, has vowed to stay out of the feud.
The suit says the pickets sought to prevent work on the construction site by blocking the entry to the site and assaulting several workers. The alleged abuse was detailed by workers in sworn affidavits. “They surrounded me and one of them taunted me, yelling remarks like ‘What are you gonna do, call your mommy?” recalled Richard Robinson. “As I turned around, [they] assaulted me, punching me squarely in the face, cutting my lip open.” When the pickets … Read More ➡
A federal jury in Las Vegas convicted two reputed Buffalo mafia figures May 21 of extortion. Stephen Cino and Robert Panaro, Sr., conspired to extort Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein, a once-powerful mob loan shark. Prosecutors claimed the extortion was part of scam to take over Blitzstein’s loan-sharking and insurance-fraud operations. Blitzstein was the right-hand man of Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro, who was the subject of the movie Casino. Blitzstein was fatally shot in Jan. 1997. Prosecutors believe that Cino and Panaro’s extortion at least led to Blitzstein’s shooting.
Reportedly, Cino and Panaro were prominent members of a group of Buffalo mafia figures who moved to Las Vegas. Both have been in Las Vegas for at least a decade. In 1996, Panaro was one of seventeen bosses ousted from LIUNA Local 210 for allegedly associating with organized crime figures, as part of LIUNA’s “internal reform effort.” When he was indicted … Read More ➡
LIUNA’s “in-house” judge Peter F. Vaira permanently barred Local 2 boss John Matassa May 12 from LIUNA. Allegedly, Matassa has admitted under oath to a pattern of close associations with organized crime for more than 25 years. Vaira claims Matassa extorted money on behalf of the mob, supervised mob-sponsored gambling operations in Chicago and was extensively involved in managing the mob’s pornography operations. [BNA 5/19/99] There was no report of criminal charges be brought against Matassa. Curiously, despite this appearing to be a slam-dunk case, DOJ has not taken any action against Local 2 or Matassa — neither was cited in DOJ’s 1994 draft racketeering complaint against LIUNA.
Ohio Boss Gets Two Years for Theft
William S. Demboski, Jr., ex-secretary-treasurer of United Steelworkers of Am. Local 01-2-L in Akron, was sentenced to two years in jail May 20 for embezzling $316,273 of union funds. He must pay restitution of $332,727. … Read More ➡
In an effort to unionize hospital employees, a Service Employees Int’l Union organizer, Theodore D. Kraig, apparently stole a binder containing personnel information from Beloit (Wis.) Mem. Hospital. Kraig of SEIU Local 150 in Milwaukee was charged May 6 on one count of misdemeanor theft and faces nine months in prison. Reportedly, a hospital receptionist said a couple came into the lobby Feb. 23, walked around and sat down for an hour. The receptionist left, and a large binder was gone when she returned. The binder contained surgery schedules, confidential numbers of hospital personnel and medical van transportation schedules. When the receptionist couldn’t find the binder, officials reviewed security tapes and saw the man take the binder and run. Currently, the hospital’s non-medical employees are represented by the Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees. Reportedly, several employees were contacted by SEIU shortly after the theft. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel … Read More ➡
Ex-Nat. Maritime Union Employee Pension & Welfare Plan boss Thomas LaForgia was charged May 11 with receiving $237,000 in kickbacks for referring members to a Mass. school for training mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard. LaForgia is responsible for where and when members receive training. According to prosecutors, LaForgia contacted the Northeast Maritime Inst. in New Bedford and arranged for NMU members to attend classes at the school in 1996. LaForgia then began demanding the school purchase items for him. The items reportedly included airline tickets, electronic equipment, jewelry and liquor. In Nov. 1998, the school said it would stop purchasing the items, he then cancelled previously scheduled classes and ceased sending members to the school. He faces three years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and a restitution order. [BNA 5/12/99]… Read More ➡
LIUNA’s “internal reform effort” and its ethically-challenged “in-house prosecutor” Robert D. Luskin filed “disciplinary charges” against four Chicago bosses for allegedly associating with organized crime and allowing their locals to be controlled by criminal elements. Luskin targeted Bruno Caruso, Local 1001 boss and Chicago Laborers’ Dist. Council ex-president. The Dist. Council was placed under a trusteeship in Feb. 1998. Note that Caruso opposed Arthur A. Coia for LIUNA general president at the 1996 convention. Others charged: Caruso’s brother and ex-Local 1006 boss Frank Caruso, his cousin and Local 1006 boss Leo Caruso and Local 5 boss James DiForti. A recent report said Luskin charged the four Mar. 3 with having a “knowing association with members and associates of organized crime and for permitting organized crime to exercise control over the affairs of the union.” The report also claimed that DiForti and the Carusos played a, “significant role in a breakdown … Read More ➡
The ethically-challenged Luskin also recently charged ex-bosses of LIUNA Local 703 in Urbana, Ill., including ex-business agent Edward “Gene” Johnson, his son and Jamie Johnson, who was the business agent when Local 703 was placed in trusteeship in 1998, Jim Felkner, Dennis Gleason and L.T. Robertson. The recently released Mar. 4 charges state that the five established a “sham consulting contract” that paid Edward Johnson $154,000, converted union funds to their own personal use and violated union election rules.
Local 703’s attorney for the trusteeship process, Doug Roller, questioned Luskin’s charges. Roller suggested the charges were designed to derail the desires of the membership during the upcoming officer elections. “It seems to me this is an effort to ban these people so they can’t run against the international’s slate of candidates,” [BNA 4/29/99]
Roller’s concerns about the trusteeship were echoed by ex-Local 703 employee Donna H. Keleher who has voiced … Read More ➡
Ex-secretary Gail M. Brown-Ral and ex-treasurer Dax C. Heramis of the L.A. Airport Police Officers Ass’n must stand trial on grand theft charges of stealing over $100,000 from union coffers, a Municipal Court Judge Glennette Blackwell ruled Apr. 23. Both bosses are currently in jail for not posting $110,000 bail and face 4 years in prison if convicted. The case resulted from Nov. 1996 union request to the Dist. Atty.’s Office to investigate the alleged embezzlement of funds and equipment. Expenditures of $68,000 in 1993 and $62,000 in 1994 were questioned. Prosecutors reportedly found a number of checks made out to Brown-Ral, and others made out to ”cash” and cashed by Heramis. [City News Service 4/23/99]
Dissident Infighting in New York
A recently-empowered dissident in AFSCME’s scandal-ridden Dist. Council 37 in N.Y. has allegedly engaged in the sort of behavior that led to the ouster of the old-guard leadership in … Read More ➡