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 ➡
Cynthia Szymanski was charged by the U.S. Atty’s Office in Detroit Apr. 22 with embezzling $70,672 from Am. Fed. of State, County & Municipal Employees “Local 2949.” But Local 2949 hasn’t existed since 1994. AFSCME terminated Local 2949’s charter after long-time president Szymanski stopped sending in union dues. Yet she collected dues from 1994 to 1998. During that period, misled workers didn’t have union cards, didn’t vote for officers, didn’t get newsletters, didn’t have union meetings, etc., but every year Szymanski took $169 from their paychecks. “In the back of my mind, I always thought there was something screwy about the whole thing,” said one member. Finally, a new member, Doreene Christie, contacted the Nat. Labor Relations Board, and the scam unraveled. Szymanski now faces five years in prison. “It’s as blatant as can be if you look at the records. She made checks out to Hudson’s to pay off … Read More ➡
An AFSCME judicial panel released its corruption findings Apr. 30 on ex-DC37 and Local 1549 boss Albert A. Diop. Here are the reported highlights: Diop had Local 1549 pay $617,398 to rent a Manhattan penthouse from 1991-99. He had the local pay between $1,200 and $1,600 a month for the penthouse’s maid service. Despite living in N.Y. City, Diop charged 446 hotel stays in the city (128 on weekends) totaling $162,431. Diop had the local pay almost $135,000 over three years (about $3,750 a month) to lease a Lincoln Town Car while at the same time DC37 paid Diop a monthly auto allowance of $665 a month. His union credit card had $82,269 for cameras and electronic equipment; $23,834 for clothing; $22,829 for jewelry; and $22,251 for pawnshop purchases. Reportedly, the Manhattan Dist. Atty.’s office is conducting further investigations. [N.Y. Times & Newsday 5/1/99] Disturbingly, Diop, also an AFSCME Int’l … Read More ➡
Expelled AFSCME Local 372 boss and prominent N.Y.C. politico, Charles Hughes, was indicted May 5 along with five others including son Martin Hughes and son-in-law James Rose. The crusading Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau charged the six with stealing over $2.7 million from union coffers. Now nine bosses of the scandal-ridden AFSCME Dist. Council 37 have been indicted in the current corruption wave. Three others have pled guilty.
Hughes reportedly embezzled $100,000 for a trip for himself and 14 friends to Egypt, Israel, Prague, Paris and London. He allegedly charged $340,000 on the local’s credit card for personal expenses, including some at Victoria’s Secret. He reportedly paid $97,000 to friends living in his home-state of Ga. for no-show union jobs; prosecutors declined to connect the payments to Hughes’ new $400,000 home in Millin, Ga. The indictment also stated that Hughes stole $700,000 in unearned overtime pay, $590,000 in unauthorized … Read More ➡
A pension fraud trial of an ex-boss of the Nat. Education Ass’n/Rhode Island (who also worked for the Washington office of the Laborers’ Int’l Union of No. Am.) began Apr. 27 in Providence. The key question of the case is whether boss Ronald L. DiOrio returned to NEA/RI as a consultant or a regular employee after a stint with ex-Gov. Edward D. DiPrete.
DiOrio was NEA/RI president from 1973-85. Then he was DiPrete’s top policy aide from 1985 -88. Then DiOrio was forced to resign because he placed the ex-wife of a reputed underboss of the Patriarca crime family on the DiPrete’s Justice Commission. He returned to NEA/RI from 1988-90 and seized on a lucrative pension law (passed in 1987 and repealed in 1988) allowing union employees to get state pension credits for union work and a state early retirement program to collect a state pension. NEA/RI boss, Donald C. … Read More ➡
In yet another example of the failure of LIUNA’s sham “internal reform effort,” the Daily News reported that N.Y. boss Gregg McCarthy “was savvy enough to see trouble coming two years ago when corruption investigators sent by the national union started probing his allegedly mob-tied Laborers local.”
To elude the limited reach of the “reform effort” and its ethically-challenged “in-house prosecutor” Robert D. Luskin, McCarthy swapped his $100,000-a-year job as Local 958 boss to become administrator of the local’s $14 million benefit funds. McCarty convinced the funds’ trustees to give a seven-year contract at $90,000-a-year with annual increases, a Christmas bonus and a fully-loaded 1999 Olds Aurora. When the “reform effort” finally took over the local, McCarthy had solidified his contract ensuring that he was safe. Thus, even if McCarthy was fired, as the local’s trustee is currently attempting, McCarthy’s contract protects him or entitles him to handsome damages.
McCarthy’s … 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 ➡