By Diane E. Lewis, Globe
January 27, 2000
Arthur A. Coia, former president
of one of the nation's biggest construction unions, yesterday
agreed in a Boston federal court to plead guilty next week to
mail fraud in connection with a scheme to avoid payment of $100,000
Coia, a Providence-born attorney
and former president of the Laborers International Union of North
America, had served as an adviser to President Clinton, chosen
for his fund-raising ability and strong labor ties. Coia, of
Barrington, R.I., is scheduled to appear Monday before US District
Judge George A. O'Toole for sentencing. The court will determine
at that time whether to approve the plea bargain.
Under the arrangement announced
yesterday, Coia will be required to pay a $10,000 fine and $100,000
in restitution for evading taxes in Rhode Island. The US attorney's
office is expected to recommend Coia serve two years probation.
The plea bargain also bars
Coia from being a member, employee, or leader of the laborers
union or any of its satellites. It further bars him from being
an employee of any other union for five years.
Some union members and observers
were disappointed that Coia, 56, was not stripped of the title
of general president emeritus, which guarantees a $250,000 annual
salary and pension. In January, Coia resigned as president of
the 500,000-member union. "Although it is legal
for him to be general president emeritus, it is not ethical,"
said Jim McGough, a member of Local 5 of the laborers union in
Chicago. "Why? Because he will be paid for doing nothing."
A one-count information filed
in federal court by US Attorney Donald K. Stern alleges that over
six years, Coia bought several luxury Ferraris valued at $215,000
to $1 million from Viking Inc., a major union car dealership.
The government alleges that,
from 1991 to 1997, Coia illegally registered the vehicles to the
firm's address in Middletown to avoid paying taxes. Rhode Island
imposes a 7 percent tax on the purchase of all automobiles.
"While holding important
leadership positions at LIUNA, including the office of general
president, Mr. Coia engaged in an extensive scheme to cheat Rhode
Island and the town of Barrington of approximately $100,000 in
taxes," Stern said in a statement. "He spent well over
a million dollars on Ferrari automobiles, but repeatedly found
ways to shirk his duty to pay his taxes."
The government alleges Coia
used a fraudulent invoice from Viking that falsely stated he had
purchased a $215,000 GTB4 for $2,160. The invoice was then presented
in Rhode Island, where Coia allegedly paid $151 in taxes rather
than the $15,000 he actually owed.