FBI Raid Shows New York Unions Are Still Mob Targets

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Genovese soldier Salvester ZarzanaThe Genovese crime family has a well-earned reputation as the most feared of New York City's five Mafia organizations. An FBI bust this spring may weaken that standing. Local unions are hoping so. On April 18, an 18-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging 11 arrestees with racketeering, embezzlement, extortion and other offenses. At least eight are Genovese soldiers or associates, including capo Conrad Ianniello, nephew of recently-deceased onetime acting boss Matthew Ianniello. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, Eastern District of New York, stated: "This indictment is the most recent chapter in this office's continued fight against organized crime's efforts to infiltrate unions and businesses operating in New York City." All defendants, save for one, have pleaded not guilty. Her spokesman told NLPC this week that all other cases are still pending. 

New York's La Cosa Nostra families in recent years have seen attrition in their ranks as a result of aggressive law enforcement. Two cases stand out. In February 2008, federal agents arrested some 60 Gambino made men and associates (including Genovese and Bonanno members) for crimes including murder, racketeering, theft, and loan sharking. By the end of that September, virtually all defendants pleaded guilty; about three dozen were sentenced. The bust was part of a sweep, called Operation Old Bridge, coordinated with Italian authorities. Three years later, in January 2011, hundreds of FBI agents, U.S. marshals, and New York State and New York City cops arrested nearly 120 persons named in an 82-page, 16-count indictment for murder, racketeering, money-laundering, extortion and other offenses. It was the largest Mafia bust in American history. Nearly three dozen of those arrested were full-fledged members of the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese or Lucchese crime syndicates; others belonged to the DeCavalcante (Northern New Jersey) and Patriarca (New England) families. The entire Colombo leadership, for the time being, was taken out of commission. Dozens of other defendants were associates of various mobs.

Labor unions figured in each case. Nabbed in Operation Old Bridge was Louis Mosca, business manager for Laborers International Union of North America Local 325. He eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud conspiracy for buying a book containing the names of union members on behalf of the brother of Gambino captain Lenny Dimaria. And Michael King, former contractor project supervisor-shop steward for Laborers Local 731, pleaded guilty to extortion. In the 2011 mob takedown, which has taken longer to prosecute, New York Mafia families controlled various operations of Cement and Concrete Workers Local 6A (a Laborers affiliate), International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282, and International Longshoremen Association Local 1235.

Conrad Ianniello is a logical starting point for connecting the dots in this latest round of arrests and indictments. If nothing else, he's got an impressive mob pedigree. His uncle, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, who died of health problems at age 92 this August, served as acting boss for the Genovese family after godfather Vincent "the Chin" Gigante was sent packing to federal prison in 1997, the latter's "crazy man" act revealed as just that -- an act. The elder Ianniello controlled the Queens, N.Y.-based Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 until he pleaded guilty in 2006 to two separate federal charges, the first for arranging payoffs from bus companies to Local 1181 officials and the second for extorting payments from trash hauling companies in Connecticut. He received respective prison sentences of 18 months and (concurrently) two years. His nephew, Conrad, picked up a few lessons during his youth. He was convicted for grand larceny in 1972 and gun possession in 1986. These brushes with the law apparently didn't put him on a straight and narrow path.

According to federal prosecutors, the younger Ianniello in 2008 shook down contractors and extorted payments from street vendors operating at the Feast of San Gennaro in Lower Manhattan's Little Italy. The annual festival had a reputation for mob infiltration until 1996 when then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed a special aide, Mort Berkowitz, to oversee the event. Ianniello also allegedly engaged in racketeering conspiracy to facilitate illegal gambling. More apropos, he had his handprints on organized labor. During April and May 2008, noted the indictment, Ianniello conspired with two other defendants, Robert Scalza and Ryan Ellis, each a Genovese associate, to extort payments from an unnamed labor union so its leaders would refrain from further organizing at a Long Island work site. In this way, the defendants could reserve organizing for International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades (IUJAT) Local 713, where Scalza served as secretary-treasurer.

Local 713 isn't the only mobbed-up Journeymen and Allied Trades affiliate. Two other defendants, James Bernardone, secretary-treasurer of the Bronx-based IUJAT Local 124, and Paul Gasparrini, were charged with racketeering conspiracy. The pair allegedly extorted payments from a subcontractor during approximately 2006-09 at various construction sites in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. The indictment cited Bernardone as a Genovese crime soldier and Gasparrini as a Genovese associate. Another indicted co-conspirator, Salvester Zarzana (see photo), previously had been president of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 926 until his ouster for his alleged abuse of his union-issued credit card. Zarzana now stands accused of extortion in connection with a Local 124 project site. The indictment identified him as a made man in the Genovese syndicate.

Union corruption in this round of indictments also involved persons not necessarily involved with the Genoveses. That would include John Squitieri, who in 2008 allegedly embezzled funds from employee pension and annuity plans of Local 7-Tile, Marble, and Terrazzo, an affiliate of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC). He provided nonunion tile workers for the renovation of the Paramount Hotel near Manhattan's Times Square. In this way, he could pocket union retirement plan contributions. Another individual, Rodney Johnson, a project manager at the Paramount Hotel site, was charged with obstruction of justice for impeding a grand jury investigation.

The three remaining defendants weren't involved in union activity, but they're significant notwithstanding. A Genovese family associate, William Panzera, and Robert Fiorello, were charged with loan-sharking and extortion. And the final defendant, Felice Masullo, a Genovese associate who had been considered for elevation to made man, was indicted on running an illegal sports gambling operation. This wasn't his first dust-up with the law. Several years ago he ran a restaurant with two brothers, Anthony and Angelo Masullo, until all three were charged with racketeering. Each pleaded guilty in November 2009. Felice Masullo received a prison sentence of 41 months for cocaine distribution, extortion and sports gambling. This case was part of a probe that secured racketeering pleas from former Genovese acting boss Daniel Leo and his nephew, Joseph Leo, for illegal gambling and loan-sharking; several other Genovese personnel were among the dozen charged. For Masullo, the story didn't end there. This April, with 15 months remaining in his sentence, he was hit with new gambling charges. He pleaded not guilty at first but then changed his plea to guilty, and was sentenced in October in Manhattan federal court to eight months in prison.

Like previous mob busts and indictments, this latest round underscores the still-pervasive power of the Mafia and the Genovese family in particular. And if there is a New York Mafia outfit whose ranks could use some thinning, it's the Genoveses, with an estimated 250 to 300 made men and another thousand or more associates. Federal authorities cite the need for continued vigilance even while acknowledging the blow they have struck against the mob's operations. FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice Fedarcyk explained in announcing the indictments: "Even as mob families seek and discover new ways to make money by illegitimate means, they continue to rely on tried-and-true schemes like extortion and gambling. The mob's purpose is making money, and how is less important than how much." And Robert Panella, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, stated: "The Office of Inspector General will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate labor racketeering in the nation's unions."

Related:

Feds' Mob Takedown Includes Union Crooks

Sixty Gambino Mobsters, Associates Plead Guilty

Independent Counsel Report Concludes NYC Local Was Corrupt

International Union Puts Corrupt NYC Local into Trusteeship

Genovese Boss Gigante Dies; Corrupt, But Was He Crazy?