Reputed mob bookie and Teamster member Nick LoCoco, already charged with personally abusing a Chicago hired truck program, is now under federal investigation along with other union members for allegedly shaking down people who wanted full-time city jobs or to improve the city jobs they already have, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
LoCoco and other members of Local 726 were also under investigation by an internal Teamster anti-corruption team that disbanded last spring after accusing the administration of Intl. Bhd. of Teamsters president James P. Hoffa of blocking a widespread probe of alleged Teamster misdeeds — much of it in Chicago. Hoffa has heatedly denied taking such steps.
The Sun-Times has obtained letters between the former federal prosecutor who headed the investigation, Ed Stier, and Teamsters lawyer Patrick J. Szymanski. One letter notes investigators were looking into allegations that “supervisors demanded kickbacks from members of the local for receiving full-time jobs with the City of Chicago.” The letter also says the investigation was examining whether seven members of Local 726 “are associates of organized crime.” One of them is LoCoco, an alleged mob bookie, sources said. Szymanski blasted the allegations against Local 726 as “unsubstantiated,” and questioned the reliability of Stier’s informants, saying they had “axes to grind.”
A former city transportation foreman, LoCoco was charged last week with sneaking his own truck into the scandal-plagued Hired Truck program while he had the power to pick which trucks got city work. LoCoco is also suspected of taking bribes to give out work in the Hired Truck program but has not been charged, sources said. The city hires privately owned dump trucks to go to city work sites, but a Sun-Times series uncovered waste and corruption in the program.
If the allegations against LoCoco are true, the onetime Teamster official was squeezing city union workers from both ends. On the one hand, he is suspected of putting more hired trucks on the road for bribes — trucks driven by non-union workers — effectively diluting the power of his fellow union members. On the other, he is one of several city officials under investigation for allegedly shaking down union members if they wanted to improve their jobs — or individuals who wanted to get a city job at all. City drivers were allegedly extorted for bribes by unionized city officials if they wanted desirable driving routes.
Stier declined to comment on the letters or his report. But he pointed to the recent scandal and criminal charges involving the Hired Truck Program as an affirmation of his work. “Doesn’t what’s going on in Chicago [with the Hired Truck disclosures] tend to confirm what I’ve said?” Stier said. [Chicago Sun Times, 10/15/04]