There’s nothing like an early morning roundup to serve as a reminder that Mafia control over labor unions isn’t quite history yet. And lately many people in the New York City area are breathing a bit more freely. On May 31, FBI agents and NYPD cops arrested 19 members and associates of the Lucchese crime family on federal charges for crimes including wire fraud, racketeering, drug trafficking and murder committed over a 17-year period. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, 15 of the defendants were taken into custody and the four others already were in custody on other charges. Two arrestees, underboss Steven Crea (in left photo) Sr. and consigliere Joseph DiNapoli, had been involved with construction union extortion and bid-rigging conspiracies.
The Lucchese (also spelled Luchese) crime syndicate is one of the five New York City-based “families” of La Cosa Nostra (i.e., the Mafia) that for decades have ruled their respective turfs with ruthless force. Lucchese members have run mail fraud, drug trafficking, extortion, cigarette contraband smuggling and other scams. The Lucchese family allegedly masterminded the nearly $6 million Lufthansa cargo terminal heist at JFK Airport in December 1978 that inspired the book Wiseguys and the movie Goodfellas, a crime that to this day has gone unsolved. Lucchese street soldiers have colorful nicknames like Paul “Paulie Roast Beef” Cassano, Joey “Glasses” Datello and James “Jimmy the Jew” Maffucci. But in their world, “colorful” is a nice way of saying “violent,” “predatory” and “thieving.” That’s why the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been on to them.
According to the 30-page indictment, the 19 individuals arrested last Wednesday represented the core of the Lucchese family. They included 80-year-old street boss Matthew Madonna (in center photo, now serving time in Trenton, N.J. state prison on gambling charges) and underboss Steven Crea Sr.; captains Steven Crea Jr., Dominic Truscello (in right photo), John “Big John” Catelucci and Tindaro “Tino” Corso; and various soldiers and business associates. On occasion, this crew killed when a difficult business matter arose. Several members were behind the 2013 murder of Purple Gang mobster Michael Meldish. Lucchese personnel also are accused of attempting to kill an unnamed member of the Bonanno crime family in 2012, Bonanno family soldier Enzo “the Baker” Stagno in 2013, and an unnamed former witness last year. Other listed charges include robbery, extortion, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and drug trafficking.
Labor racketeering was a big part of this crime web. And it was the elder Steven Crea who made it happen. During January 1991-October 1998, brothers Giuseppe and Fred Scalamandre, owners of several Long Island construction companies, paid Lucchese crime family boss Alphonse D’Arco and underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso about $40,000 a year to avoid making scheduled union benefit contributions, as specified in collective bargaining agreements. The Lucchese organization then paid off bosses and agents of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 66, Blasters, Miners & Drill Runners Local 29 (a LIUNA affiliate), and International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 1 in exchange for assurances of “labor peace.” Federal officials eventually caught on to the scheme, and indicted the Scalamandres. The brothers pleaded guilty to skimming about $5 million from benefit plans plus another $1 million in tax fraud. Crea was sentenced to 34 months in federal prison in January 2004 for extortion. Two months later, he was sentenced to two to six years in prison, to be served concurrently with his 34-month sentence, for price fixing at three New York City construction sites and for imposing a “mob tax” on unions and contractors. As the New York construction industry long has been mobbed up, none of this should come as shocking.
The connection between family consigliere (counselor) Joseph DiNapoli and union corruption is less overt, but significant notwithstanding. In 1999, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ government-appointed overseer, the Independent Review Board (IRB), permanently barred John Ferrara, an officer of Teamsters Local 522, at the time based in Jamaica (Queens), N.Y., from union activity, for associating with DiNapoli and the elder Crea. The IRB document (August 20, 2002), which focused on local principal officer Michael Ianniello, stated:
According to admitted Luchese Family member Alphonse D’Arco, Crea was at one time the acting consigliere of the Luchese Family and once controlled the Luchese Family. The FBI considered DiNapoli a member of the Luchese LCN (La Cosa Nostra) Family who reported to Crea…During 1993 and 1994, surveillance by the Organized Crime Control Bureau of the New York City Police Department, in the course of an investigation of illegal activities in the construction industry by members and associates of the Luchese and Gambino LCN families, revealed that Ferrara, while Local 522 Secretary-Treasurer, on least four occasions met with Luchese and Gambino members and associates, including Crea and DiNapoli.
On the surface, the arrests of Steven Crea Sr. and Joseph DiNapoli on May 31 would seem to have little relevance today. After all, their union-related offenses took place during the Nineties; the crimes cited in the indictment date from 2000 onward. Yet these are dangerous people. And as long as they are out on the streets enforcing their own brand of justice, they will remain a danger to those with whom they do business, including labor unions. Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim explained: “As today’s charges demonstrate, La Cosa Nostra remains alive and active in New York City, but so does our commitment to eradicate the mob’s parasitic presence. The defendants allegedly used violence and threats of violence, as the mob always has, to make illegal money to enforce discipline in the ranks and to silence witnesses.”