New Jersey Bosses/Mobsters Accused of Racketeering & Extortion

Seven individuals identified as either reputed associates of the N.Y.-based Genovese organized crime family and/or current and former bosses of the Int’l Longshoreman’s Ass’n Local 1588 in Bayonne, N.J., were arrested Mar. 7 by state and local law enforcement on charges related to a “money for work” shake-down of dock workers at Jersey City’s Global Terminal, a large Chinese-owned center where cargo containers of imported merchandise, including appliances, perfume, televisions, and liquor, are unloaded.  The early morning arrests reportedly signal the “opening salvo of a sweeping investigation” targeting union corruption and organized crime influence on the N.J. waterfront.

The probe, called “Operation Shout,” focuses on allegations that union bosses and Genovese associates demanded kickbacks from dozens of union members in return for prime job assignments, training for higher paying jobs, and overtime assignments.  Prime jobs, earning $100,000 or more, include operating cranes or stackers that hoist containers aboard ships. Officials have not disclosed any details about any payments that workers may have made. The defendants were arrested at their residences and other previously identified locations without significant incident.

“Today, the Division of Criminal Justice and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor have uncovered evidence that corruption, organized crime influence and other illegal activity has attempted to control the way business is done at Hudson River shipping terminals. . . . [W]e intend to end these practices and to return fair employment opportunities and dignity to dockworkers,” said N.J. First Asst. Atty. Gen. Peter C. Harvey. Waterfront Comm’n of N.Y. Harbor Executive Director Thomas DeMaria added, “These arrests mark the latest and continuing effort of the Waterfront Commission to rid the waterfront . . . from the influence of criminality and economic terrorism.”

Each defendant was charged with racketeering, theft by extortion, commercial bribery, and conspiracy. They are: Nicholas Furina, hiring agent for P&O Ports of N. Am., Inc. in Jersey City; Ralph Esposito, Local 1588 shop steward; Anthony D’Errico, local field boss; Aniello “Sonny” Bello, hiring agent at the Global Terminal; John Timpanaro, local president, Carlo Bilancione, ex-local field boss; and Nicholas Romano, ex-local shop steward. Each was also identified as a reputed Genovese waterfront faction associate. Furina was further identified as the reputed “boss of the criminal enterprise” and has been charged with a fifth criminal count of being a “leader of organized crime.” To view photos of the accused, see http://www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/releases/2002/operation_shout.pdf.

Note that the Waterfront Comm’n previously revoked Bilancione and Romano’s employment registrations and removed Romano from his union-related post. Both pled guilty in Sept. 2000 for their role in the theft of a $2 million perfume shipment at the Global Terminal.

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Kevin G. Callahan released Furina on $250,000 bail. His attorney, Samuel DeLuca, said his client had no link to the Genovese crime family and had not been involved in any extortion. Callahan entered not guilty pleas for the other six before releasing them on bail of $150,000 each.

The probe began in Oct. 2000 and is ongoing. It has used undercover investigative techniques, video surveillance, and other sophisticated investigative procedures as state investigators worked to uncover the various illegal schemes and activities. Esposito’s attorney Howard Brownstein disclosed at the bail hearings that the investigation ended prematurely a few months ago after repairmen at the local’s office discovered wires for the state’s video surveillance camera hidden above ceiling panels. The next phase of the case is to present the allegations and charges to the state grand jury for possible indictment. [N.J. State Atty. Gen.’s Office 3/7/02; N.Y. Times, Daily News (N.Y.) 3/8/02]