The Associated Press

January 31, 2000

Laborers-LIUNA Arthur A. Coia Pleads Guilty To Mail Fraud For Income Tax Evasion

BOSTON (AP) -- The former head of the Laborers' International Union of North America pleaded guilty Monday to a fraud charge in a scheme that prosecutors said allowed him to evade $100,000 in taxes on expensive sports cars.

Arthur A. Coia, 56, of Barrington, R.I., pleaded guilty to a federal mail fraud charge in evading state and local taxes in Rhode Island on a succession of Ferraris.

Coia and the government agreed on a sentence of two years probation, along with $100,000 in restitution to Rhode Island and the town of Barrington, and a $10,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge George O'Toole accepted the plea at a hearing Monday afternoon.

Coia's attorney, Howard Gutman of Washington, said Coia was the first person to be criminally prosecuted for evading state car taxes. "He clearly did the conduct, but was the first person ever to be so prosecuted. I draw no other conclusions," he said.

Coia retired as general president of the union at the beginning of the year. As part of the plea agreement, Coia also agreed to be barred from any future role in the union or its related entities and to be barred from being an employee of any other union for a period of five years.

The union has more than 800,000 members, mostly in the construction, environmental cleanup and maintenance industries.

In the 1980s, President Reagan's Commission on Organized Crime accused the union of having mob ties. In 1995, the union entered a formal agreement with the Justice Department, promising to remove alleged mob lieutenants from its ranks and hold direct elections of its officers.

Corruption investigations reached as high as Coia. But last year, Coia was cleared by an independent hearing officer of charges that he had ties to organized crime.

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