DOJ & LIUNA Take Over Chicago District Council

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To better to dismantle organized crime's alleged control over the Chicago Laborers' Dist. Council, an unusual consent decree was jointly filed Aug. 12 by the Dep't of Justice and LIUNA in U.S. Dist. Court. Stating that LIUNA's failed "internal reform process" has suffered many problems removing La Cosa Nostra's long-standing control over the CLDC, the consent decree establishes an unprecedented supervisory process.

It includes the appointment of a special monitor to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing. Thankfully, the monitor will be appointed by a U.S. Dist. Judge and not the failed "internal reform effort" -- an unusually good sign. CLDC delegates voted 34-11 on Aug. 11 to accept the consent decree. CLDC oversees 21 locals, as well as pension, training and health-welfare funds valued at over $1.5 billion.

U.S. Atty. Scott Lassar said that the two-year consent decree is unusual in the context of DOJ's four-year-old effort to erase organized crime's influence over LIUNA because it marks the first time DOJ has taken over a LIUNA entity -- something it should have done to the entire union a long time ago.

The decree, which still requires the approval of a federal judge, follows a lawsuit filed jointly Aug. 11 by DOJ and LIUNA via its ethically-challenged "in-house prosecutor" Robert D. Luskin. It alleged CLDC had been infiltrated by corrupt individuals and organized crime figures who have exploited CLDC for their own gain and the benefit of organized crime for three decades.

The decree alleges that not a single contested election had been held and 21 of the CLDC's bosses had been either members or associates of the organized crime in Chicago -- commonly called the "Outfit." The suit states that four mobsters held CLDC offices when a trusteeship took over last year: vice president John Matassa, Jr., reputed boss of the Outfit's North Side crew; president Bruno Caruso, son of the late Frank Caruso, boss of the 26th Street crew; secretary-treasurer Joseph A. Lombardo, Jr., son of Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Sr., an ex-mob boss; and sergeant-at-arms Leo Caruso, an alleged mob associate and Bruno Caruso's cousin. Also listed as influential in CLDC were alleged mobsters Tony Accardo, Joey Aiuppa and Joseph Lombardo, Sr.

Another suit allegation was that Fred Roti, an ex-Chicago alderman who was convicted of racketeering and extortion in 1993, is a full-fledged member of the mob. In Roti's 1993 trial, prosecutors had alleged the 1st Ward alderman worked closely with Pat Marcy, a mob powerbroker who died before he could be brought to trial. But no one accused Roti of being a "made" member of the mob -- until now. Roti was sentenced to 4 years in prison. He was released in 1997. The suit says Roti was a patronage boss for the Outfit.

The suit also alleged that ex-LIUNA boss John Serpico was a longtime organized crime associate. Near the end of his union duties, the suit alleged, Serpico, "transferred" 85% of Local 8 membership to Central States Joint Board, which authorities described as organized-crime influenced.

The decree also establishes a trustee-supervisory officer, who would oversee CLDC daily activities and elected officials. Unfortunately, Lassar said DOJ would ask the court to maintain Robert E. Bloch as CLDC's trustee. Bloch is an attorney at the tiny Chicago firm of Dowd & Bloch. LIUNA dissidents have criticized Bloch for allegedly naming his partner, J. Peter Dowd, to the lucrative position of counsel to the Chicago Laborers' Pension Fund. Dissidents say it's a conflict of interest that raises questions about Bloch's integrity.

Jim McGough, leader of a dissident group called Laborers for Justice, said the success of the decree would depend on the person chosen as monitor. "It remains to be seen who the monitor will be," said McGough. "A lot depends on the aggressiveness of the court monitor and his willingness to inform the members of past corrupt policies and procedures." [BNA & Chicago Tribune 8/13/99]