Bureau of National Affairs

Daily Labor Report -October 24, 1997

Witness Describes Mob Connections To Laborers Chicago District Council

CHICAGO--A corrupt former police officer who served as a foot soldier for Chicago mobsters for 22 years drew direct connections between organized crime chieftains and the leadership of the Chicago District Council of the Laborers' International Union of North America.

During a trusteeship hearing that will decide the fate of the Chicago council, Michael Corbitt--who is serving a 20-year prison sentence at a federal correctional facility--pointed to links between organized crime and at least a dozen LIUNA officials including Bruno Caruso, president of the district council and a candidate for international president last year.

While Corbitt was often unclear about the union officials' roles in the Mafia in Chicago, which is known as the ''Outfit,'' he asserted that they attained their positions at the direction of the mob and owed their primary allegiance to the mob. According to a transcript of the testimony obtained by BNA, Corbitt described their positions within the district council as launching pads for mob activity.

In one exchange between Corbitt and Dwight Bostwick, the LIUNA General Executive Board attorney prosecuting the case, Corbitt said there is no way an Outfit-affiliated union official could avoid the objectives of organized crime.

''Would it be possible from your experience for some of these individuals, like Vince Solano (former president of Local 1), who were in the mob or associated with the mob, to fail to do the mob's bidding in their union positions,'' Bostwick asked.

''Absolutely not,'' answered Corbitt. ''There's no way they could get away with it. Who put them in there? Why are they there to start with?''

Hearing to Determine Council's Fate

Corbitt's testimony came during a closed-door hearing, which will determine whether the district council will be placed under the control of a trustee. Peter F. Vaira, the former executive director of the President's Commission on Organized Crime, is acting as the independent hearing officer in the proceedings against the Chicago council, which represents the interests of 19,000 members of LIUNA from several Chicago area locals. The hearing is tentatively scheduled to conclude Oct. 24 and Vaira is expected to issue his decision within six weeks.

Such disciplinary proceedings are being orchestrated under a unique 1995 agreement between the international union and the U.S. Department of Justice. The agreement requires LIUNA to root out corrupt practices through internal reforms. The Justice Department has threatened to file a complaint under federal racketeering statutes if LIUNA fails to achieve real reform.

Sherman Carmell, who is representing the district council, has said he will not comment on allegations made during the hearings. Carmell, a partner in the Chicago firm of Carmell, Charone, Widmer, Mathews & Moss Ltd., was expected to solicit testimony this week on behalf of the district council from Caruso and Joseph Lombardo Jr., the district council's secretary-treasurer.

Corbitt, 53, offered his testimony on Aug. 13 from Coleman Federal Correctional Institution in Bushnell, Fla., where he is serving a sentence for racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.

In his testimony, Corbitt said he became acquainted with organized crime figures in the 1960s while operating a gas station in south suburban Chicago. In 1965, Sam Giancana, who was the ultimate boss of organized crime in Chicago at the time, suggested that Corbitt become a police officer and help the mob on certain occasions. The meeting lead to a 22-year career as a police officer, including a stint as police chief of Willow Springs, Ill.

Was Henchman for Mob

During this entire period and until he entered prison in 1987, Corbitt said he was essentially a henchman of the Outfit. Among other things, Corbitt said, he alerted the mob to various law enforcement initiatives and helped the mob operate a string of brothels, casinos and after-hours bars in Willow Springs, and collected ''street taxes'' for himself and others. As various mob chieftains gained confidence in Corbitt, he was given additional duties. Among other things, Corbitt described collecting bundles of cash skimmed from Las Vegas casinos and brothels and then distributing it in 30-gallon garbage sacks to various mob bosses in Chicago.

Such duties put Corbitt in contact with a number of affiliates of the mob who also held positions within LIUNA. Corbitt pointed to Caruso and his brother, Frank who are the sons of Frank ''Skids'' Caruso, reputed by federal authorities to be the boss of Chicago's Chinatown.

Corbitt described Frank Caruso, who is a trustee of the district council's pension and welfare funds and a former LIUNA international representative, as a ''juice man.''

''He loaned money and collected money and, you know, he was in the juice business,'' Corbitt said. ''I did know that he had some affiliation with the union, but I wasn't aware of what union it was.''

Corbitt said he often saw Bruno Caruso in the company of high power Outfit crime bosses, including Angelo LaPietra, whom the Chicago Crime Commission describes as a top adviser to Chicago's current chief of organized crime, John ''No Nose'' DiFronzo. He also described at least two incidents in which he saw Bruno Caruso give envelopes containing street tax money to Pat Marcy, who was a political operative who acted as the mob's city hall and court house fixer.

Of Al Pilotto, a former district council vice president and president of Local 5, Corbitt said, ''he was a--the boss of the Chicago Heights crew. That's what he did for a living, as far as I knew, other than his union (affiliation).'' Pilotto recently served time in prison for racketeering.

Served Time in Prison

Corbitt also spoke of criminal activity by Joseph ''Joey the Clown'' Lombardo Sr., who is the father of Joseph Lombardo Jr., the district council's secretary-treasurer. The elder Lombardo is reputed to be a top adviser to DiFronzo and served time in federal prison for racketeering.

Of the senior Lombardo, Corbitt said, ''He was an enforcer. In my estimation, I believe that he filled up a cemetery or two. I believe that had things gone in a different direction for him, he probably would have ended up being the boss, the ultimate boss of Chicago. I think now, my opinion now is, he's still running the show in some fashion.''

James McGough, a spokesman for a group of union members seeking reform called Laborers for Justice and Democracy, said Corbitt's testimony demonstrates organized crime's intimate control over the affairs of the district council.

''Among other things, the testimony puts Bruno Caruso in the company of people like Angelo LaPietra--that's a pretty serious guy,'' McGough said. ''These are his friends, he grew up with them. He aids and abets their activity. He may not be a murderer, but he looks the other way and lets things go on.''

Copyright © 1997 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.

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