By Michael Bologna and Brian Lockett
Sept. 30, 1999
A. Coia, president of the Laborers' International Union of North
America, will likely resign next month from his position as leader
of the 500,000-member international union under the terms of a
plea agreement with federal prosecutors, sources told BNA.
A government source familiar with the agreement
told BNA Sept. 29 Coia is expected to announce his resignation
from LIUNA by Oct. 15. Coia's resignation would be followed a
few weeks later by a guilty plea on a single felony count pertaining
to his purchase of an expensive sports car from a dealer who was also a vendor to Coia's
union, the source said. The plea agreement was negotiated by Department
of Justice prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for
the District of Rhode Island.
Under the plea deal, Coia would likely avoid
a prison sentence, the source said. He would, however, be barred
from any future interaction with the union he and his father,
Arthur E. Coia, served for so many years.
Other sources in Washington, D.C., confirmed
the basic outlines of the plea agreement, but declined to comment
A LIUNA official had no comment on the report,
other than to say, "From time to time these rumors come up.
There is no change in President Coia's status or plans."
A spokesman for the Justice Department in
Washington, D.C., had no comment on the matter.
The agreement would in many respects allow
the government to achieve objectives that eluded LIUNA's own internal
disciplinary process earlier this year. In a decision dated March
8, LIUNA's independent hearing officer Peter F. Vaira cleared
Coia of nearly all charges involving violations of the union's
ethical practices code (46 DLR AA-1, E-1, 3/10/99. Many of the
charges involved allegations that Coia closely associated with
organized crime figures and reflected the Department of Justice's
long-held contention that LIUNA has been a mob-controlled union.
The internal investigation and prosecution
of Coia completed earlier this year was conducted as part of a
unique consent decree negotiated in 1995 between LIUNA and the
Justice Department that allowed the international union to root
out corrupt practices and organized crime affiliations through
a range of internal reforms. The Justice Department has always
reserved the right to file an already prepared 212-page civil
complaint under the federal racketeering statute and take over
the union at any time if the union fails to achieve significant
In the Coia disciplinary case, Vaira ruled
that the Office of the General Executive Board Attorney, LIUNA's
internal prosecutor, failed to demonstrate mob associations by
a preponderance of the evidence. Vaira's decision was recently
sustained on appeal to LIUNA's appellate hearing officer Neil
Eggleston (153 DLR A-11, 8/10/99).
The sole charge of which Coia was found guilty
in the decision issued by Vaira involved his purchase of a Ferrari
F 40 automobile from Viking Oldsmobile in Providence, R.I., in
1991. Robert Luskin, LIUNA's in-house prosecutor and GEB attorney,
maintained that the transaction should be regarded as a direct
conflict of interest because Coia personally received something
of value from a union vendor. Coia was fined $100,000 for the
violation, payable over two years.
Coia, who also could have appealed the portion
of the decision levying a fine against him for a conflict-of-interest
violation, decided earlier this year not to appeal. The government source said that under the
plea agreement the single felony count to which Coia will plead
guilty relates to the conflict of interest charge involving Viking
The Justice Department expressed disappointment
with Vaira's decision when it was issued six months ago. James
K. Robinson, assistant attorney general for the department's criminal
division, and Scott Lassar, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District
of Illinois, released a joint statement at the time asserting
Vaira's decision was filled with "serious factual and legal
A Justice Department official said Vaira,
in several instances, failed to apply legal precedents established
by Eggleston in previous appellate decisions. He said the department
also questioned several of Vaira's factual findings. Several of
those findings pertained to the credibility of witnesses (57 DLR
Copyright © 1999 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C