York Times - June 30, 2005:
U.S. Said to Plan Rackets Lawsuit On Dock
By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM (NYT) 981 words
Federal authorities are preparing to file a sweeping civil racketeering lawsuit
against the International Longshoremen's Association, officials who were briefed
on the case said yesterday. It would be the government's most aggressive attempt
ever to wrest the nation's Atlantic and Gulf Coast docks and the union that
represents their workers from what prosecutors say is a half-century of control
by two powerful New York mob clans.
Over several decades, the union, which is based in New York and represents
50,000 dockworkers and other employees at three dozen ports from Maine to Texas,
came to symbolize organized crime's grip on labor and its exploitation of union
members. The 1954 film ''On the Waterfront'' was based on the union, which
over the years has evaded some of the most savvy prosecutors, even as some
local union officials were indicted and convicted in the plundering of union
funds and related businesses.
The union has also been the subject of a range of inquiries, including Senate
hearings in the 1950's, the President's Commission on Organized Crime in
the 1980's and lawsuits focusing on individual locals.
But prosecutors in Brooklyn, with evidence developed in a recent series of
criminal cases aimed at organized crime on the piers, and with the cooperation
of a major waterfront mob figure, hope to succeed where others have failed,
according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because
the lawsuit has not yet been filed. Using the federal civil racketeering law
known as RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act, the
government will seek to take over the union and several union benefit plans,
one official said.
Prosecutors will also ask a federal judge to permanently bar five top union
leaders, including the president, John Bowers; the secretary-treasurer, Robert
E. Gleason; and the executive vice president, Albert Cernadas, from playing
any role in the union or any of its pension benefit or welfare funds, the officials
said. They will also seek to bar several reputed mob figures from the Gambino
and Genovese families, the two groups prosecutors have said controlled the
union for decades, from involvement with the union or any of its funds, the
''This is the culmination of years and years of investigations and other actions
brought in connection with organized crime's connection to the I.L.A.,'' one
of the officials said. ''From the 50's all the way through the 90's, with the
focus on the locals and bringing cases against many, many people over the years,
there is a long history of effort that forms the bedrock of this case.''
The lawsuit is being brought by the office of the United States attorney in
Brooklyn, Roslynn R. Mauskopf. It will say that Mr. Bowers, Mr. Gleason, Mr.
Cernadas and two other union officials conspired with Gambino and Genovese
mobsters to rig the 2000 election of high-ranking association leaders to ensure
that a longtime Genovese associate would be in a position to succeed Mr. Bowers
upon his eventual retirement, several officials said.
It will also say that the three top officials, along with Harold J. Daggett,
a longtime Genovese associate and the union's assistant general organizer,
and a union vice president, Arthur Coffey, conspired with members and associates
of the two mob families to award union welfare and pension benefit fund contracts
to companies tied to the mob.
Mr. Cernadas, Mr. Daggett and Mr. Coffey were charged last year in federal
court in Brooklyn with extortion and conspiracy to control business on the
docks in New York, New Jersey and Florida. They pleaded not guilty and are
on paid leave from their union posts.
The union, in a statement released by its special counsel, Joseph D. McCann,
said it had cooperated with the investigation and carried out substantial reforms,
creating a code of conduct, instituting a hot line to report corruption and
hiring a former judge and a former prosecutor to oversee its ethical practices.
Milton Mollen, who is retired from the Appellate Division of State Supreme
Court, will watch over the union, and Andrew J. Maloney, a former Brooklyn
United States attorney, will oversee the benefit funds.
''We are disappointed that the government has leaked its intention to bring
a civil RICO complaint even as we are engaging in negotiations with them,''
the statement said. ''The government's action is likely to have a devastating
economic impact on I.L.A. members and the shipping industry.''
Efforts yesterday to reach the five I.L.A. officials through the union were
One official said that 26 members of the association's executive council would
also be named in the lawsuit.
The United States' attorney's office, along with the Waterfront Commission
of New York Harbor, the F.B.I. and the United States Department of Labor Inspector
General's office, conducted the investigation over several years, one official
Among the criminal cases that helped develop the evidence on which the civil
RICO suit is based were two that resulted in a dozen convictions of reputed
Genovese and Gambino crime family figures, one of the officials said. One case
was the 2003 racketeering conviction of Peter Gotti, then the acting boss of
the Gambino family, on conspiracy and money laundering charges that included
accusations that the family controlled the main longshoremen's local in New
York. A former I.L.A. official, Anthony Ciccone, whom prosecutors identified
as a Gambino captain, and Jerome Brancato, who they said was a Gambino soldier,
were also convicted in that case.
In the second case, Liborio S. Bellomo, the former acting boss of the Genovese
family, and another man were indicted on charges arising from what prosecutors
said were their efforts to launder money they siphoned from I.L.A. benefit
funds between 1996 and 1997.
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