Bureau Of National Affairs
Hearing Officer Ousts Chicago Laborers
After Finding They Were Mob Associates
By Michael Bologna
January 16, 2001
CHICAGO--A hearing officer of the Laborers' International Union of North America has permanently barred three Chicago labor officials, finding that the men were trusted members of organized crime and used their union positions to achieve Mafia objectives.
The Jan. 10 ruling by Independent Hearing Officer Peter F. Vaira ends the Caruso family's long-standing control over two union locals and the Chicago District Council of LIUNA, which administers the pension, training, and health-welfare funds of 21 union locals in Chicago.
The ruling permanently ousts: Bruno Caruso, the business manager of Local 1001 and the former president and business manager of the CDC; Frank "Toots" Caruso Jr., a member of Local 1006 and the former president and business manager of the local; and Leo Caruso, the president and business manager of Local 1006. Bruno and Frank Caruso are brothers and Leo is their first cousin.
Testimony from federal and local law enforcement officials, former mob associates, and organized crime informants in the witness protection program helped Vaira conclude that the three men were "associates" of the Mafia, which is known in Chicago as the "Outfit."
"The totality of the circumstances of this record present a closely intertwined body of corroborative evidence that proves by a preponderance of the evidence that Frank Caruso, Leo Caruso and Bruno Caruso are trusted associates of the Chicago Outfit," Vaira wrote in his 122-page decision.
The ruling represents an ungraceful end to the union career of Bruno Caruso, who once aspired to the general presidency of the Laborers. In the union's first direct election of union officers in 1996, Bruno Caruso ran a campaign against then General President Arthur Coia. Coia beat Bruno Caruso by garnering 67 percent of the votes.
His career suffered another set back in 1998 when the international union slapped a trusteeship on the CDC because of mob control of the council. The trusteeship removed Bruno Caruso as the CDC's president and business manager (27 DLR A-9, 2/10/98).
The ruling was a shutout for the Office of the General Executive Board Attorney, the internal union mechanism set up at the direction of the Department of Justice to prosecute misconduct by union members. Robert D. Luskin, LIUNA's General Executive Board attorney and in-house prosecutor, brought 15 separate disciplinary charges against the three men on March 3, 1999 (86 DLR A-8, 5/5/99).
Vaira affirmed the GEB's allegations on all 15 charges. Charges had also been leveled at James DiForti, the former secretary-treasurer of Local 5. Luskin, however, requested that charges against DiForti be dismissed after he died in jail last year while awaiting trial for murder.
Luskin said he was pleased that all recommended charges were adopted by the independent hearing officer. "We've been working hard for six years to rid LIUNA of organized crime corruption. This is a major accomplishment in that process," he said.
Vaira found the Carusos each violated five elements of the union's constitution and Ethics and Disciplinary Procedure. Vaira specifically found that the GEB attorney had demonstrated by a preponderance of evidence that the Carusos:
are associates of organized crime;
knowingly associated with members of organized crime and this association related to the affairs of the union;
violated their duty of loyalty to the union by failing to investigate or eradicate organized crime's influence;
permitted members and associates of organized crime to exercise control and influence over union entities resulting in a failure of the democratic process;
and, failed in their constitutional duties to ensure that the union's affairs and business are properly conducted.
The ruling lays out the three men's long association with known organized crime figures in Chicago for more than 40 years, beginning with Frank "Skids" Caruso Sr.--the father of Bruno and Frank Caruso and uncle of Leo Caruso. The senior Caruso was the boss of the Outfit's so-called "26th Street Crew."
Hearing testimony also brought out witnesses who testified that the Carusos not only associated with the upper echelons of the Outfit, but they participated in the mob's illegal gambling, burglary, and loan sharking schemes.
Vaira's opinion permanently revokes the Carusos membership in the union, and he barred the men from holding any office or employment with the union or any of its affiliated entities or funds.
Allan A. Ackerman, the Chicago attorney who represented Bruno Caruso in the matter, called the ruling "unfair, unflattering, and flat out wrong." He said Bruno Caruso intends to appeal the ruling to LIUNA's appellate officer W. Neil Eggleston. Ackerman said all three Carusos were victims of ethnic stereotypes.
"It is truly remarkable in this day and age that just because you have an Italian-American heritage and you come from a certain neighborhood in Chicago that may have spawned some unsavory individuals, you can be painted or tarnished with that information," Ackerman said.
By Michael Bologna
Copyright © 2001 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.