The New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) back in the late 90s thought it was getting a steal of a deal on the construction of its new headquarters at 2 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. And in an unintended way, it was. An unholy alliance between a major developer, the Gambino crime family, a host of contractors, and at least three unions led to thefts in excess of $10 million, and contributed toward a total project cost overrun of more than $300 million. A 43-count federal indictment unveiled last September alleged that Gambino influence led to fraud, extortion and kickbacks in at least 10 separate contracts. This August 2 one of the syndicate’s key players, Mario Garafola, learned he would have to do some prison time. But his wrongdoing has to be seen in the context of a far broader conspiracy uncovered by the FBI and the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS).
Garafola was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, to three years imprisonment, and ordered to pay $30,000 in forfeiture to the U.S. government, plus $1.9 million in restitution. He’d earlier pled guilty to mail fraud, money laundering, embezzlement and obstruction of justice. He was in good company. Developer Frederick Contini, who pled guilty to fraud in July 2004, hired employees from Local 1 of the International Union of Elevator Constructors and Local 14 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. The problem was that the “workers” existed only on paper. He billed the MTA for $14.3 million, nearly $10 million above actual labor costs, laundering the balance through shell companies. As tribute money to the Gambinos, Contini paid Mario Garafola’s father, Edward Garafola, $12,500 a week. The elder Garafola spread the wealth around, giving to his son, representatives of IUEC Local 1 and IUOE Local 14, and other associates. Edward Garafola long has been a soldier in the Gambino organization. He already was under indictment for the 1989 murder of a Staten Island businessman, Fred Weiss (a murder to which longtime Gambino captain Louis Vallario eventually pled guilty in April 2004), and an aborted plot a decade later to kill Salvatore “Sammy Bull” Gravano, the infamous ex-Gambino underboss whose testimony put his employer, the late John Gotti, behind bars for life. Small world – Garafola happens to be Gravano’s brother-in-law.
A separate scam involved the use of manual laborers from Local 79 of the Laborers International Union of North America. Several companies controlled by Mario Garafola claimed to have hired union workers, but in fact used non-union workers or obtained union workers through extortion of two other contractors. In return for looking the other way, Junior Campbell, then a shop steward and later Local 79’s business agent, received weekly payments of $1,000 from Garafola. Campbell on June 20 of this year was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to making false statements.
The feds also charged the Garafolas with conspiring to extort money and services from two contractors, Building Matrix and Building Core. Edward Garafola in 1999 allegedly extorted the proceeds of a check of more than $200,000 payable to Building Matrix, while his son extorted funds from Building Core for use on other projects. This June 20, Richard Calabro was sentenced to five years and ordered to pay $8,626 in restitution for giving false testimony to a grand jury regarding a no-show job obtained by Mario Garafola through Building Core. Calabro is a brother-in-law of Garafola, yet another reason why this truly is a family affair. (OLMS, 9/14/05; other sources).