From White House to Streets of Chicago

Illinois Police and Sheriff's News, November 20,1997

JIM McGOUGH is a Chicago area member of a union whose murderous links to organized crime run from the Oval Office in the White House down to virtually any street paving project that ever tied up traffic anywhere in Illinois.

AS A MEMBER of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), McGough has watched with uncontrolled glee as a summer of Hearings into the affairs of his union's officials have disclosed one murderous outrage after another. The Hearings, held under threat of a Justice Department action that would put the entire union under a form of trusteeship by the Federal government, were originally aimed at purging the LIUNA Chicago District Council of a couple of dozen Mafia figures whose criminal excesses go back decades.

But the Trusteeship Hearings apparently won't end with a simple cleanup of homegrown Mob guys like the son of Chicago Mob boss Joey Lombardo or James DiForti, another heavy-duty hood currently under indictment for a 10-year-old murder.

"A LOT of local guys are going to lose their jobs," McGough says, "but the big catch will be Arthur Coia, President of the International and personal buddy of Bill Clinton."

The Hearings that have taken place in Chicago over the past several months featured a parade of witnesses with indisputable links to both the Laborers' and the Mob. Testimony included accounts of such famous killings as the Indiana cornfield slayings of the Spilotro brothers in 1986 and the 1977 courthouse fix of a murder carried out by Mob hitman Harry Aleman.

Although most of the summer's testimony concerned Chicago Mob figures and their decades-long control of the Laborers, Union, the words that McGough waited most intently to hear concerned the allegations of criminal activity that his union President, Arthur Coia, is said to have pulled off in New York, Buffalo and Boston. Testimony in the Chicago Hearings inextricably tied Coia to a variety of scams and frauds involving New England Mafia figures like the Raymond Patriarca family and Buffalo's Todaro Mob.

COIA, A LAWYER and son of a reputed Mob figure, was personally tied to a multimillion-dollar insurance scam as well as the looting of an East Coast Laborers' Union Federal training fund program. The irony of the Chicago Hearings was that Coia, in his position as International President, apparently believed that he would be too important to the conduct of the Chicago Mob purge for it to backfire and explode in his own face.

"BUT WHAT HAPPENED," McGough explains, "is the protection Coia thought he had bought from Bill Clinton didn't come through."

Even though Coia personally signed off on a plan to buy $157,000 worth of tickets to President Clinton's 1996 inaugural festivities, and separately oversaw the distribution of $2.6 million to the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, the fact is the cloutbuying spree was not enough to keep prosecutors off his back.

BILL AND ARTHUR are on a first-name basis. They gave each other golf clubs as some kind of sign that the one would always be loyal to the other. And, even though Clinton was personally advised that Coia was hopelessly Mobbed-up, Hillary went to a Florida Laborers' Union convention to tell anyone who would listen what a great guy Arthur was.

Coia even told Laborers' Union insiders that his Clinton "clout" would allow him to purge dozens of Mob figures without having the axe fall on his own neck. But as the Hearings revealed one monumental Mob-tied outrage after another in Chicago, word came out that Coia had personally visited the Clinton White House more than 100 times during the previous two years. Coia was apparently emboldened when the Justice Department dropped a 1995 plan to charge him personally in a civil racketeering complaint.

BUT ROBERT LUSKIN, the LIUNA's Harvard-educated General Executive Board attorney and the key guy who set up the Mob-purging Hearings, finally dropped the other shoe and named Coia in an internal union action alleging the union President has spent the last 20 years or so associating with organized crime people.

Before Coia was hit with Luskin's charges, the union President was required to give depositions about his Mob ties on no less than six separate occasions. At one such sitting for the lawyers and a court reporter, Coia told how he was summoned to Chicago to have an O'Hare Airport meeting with North Side Mob Boss Vince Solano and John Serpico, an industrial strength hood who pretty much ran things in Chicago's Calumet Harbor area.

Coia described the meeting as being Like something out of the movies" as Mafia Boss Solano told Serpico to take a walk, then told Coia that Serpico was the Mob's choice to be the union's new President. To that point, Coia had repeatedly claimed that he had No knowledge" that his union had any ties to organized crime.

Nevertheless, Coia named Serpico to a key Hearing Officer post that was specifically set up to rule on corruption cases within the union. Serpico, whose name still appears on a huge sign atop the massive grain elevators overlooking the Bishop Ford Freeway at 115th Street, was driven out of the union in 1995 during an earlier phase of Justice Department ordered Mob purging. Incidentally, the sign that so boldly carries Serpico's name also boasts the names of two of his long-time political allies: Mayor Richard M. Daley and Gov. Jim Edgar.

LABORERS' Union heavies are nothing if not political. Earlier this past summer, at almost precisely the time the Hearings on GEB Attorney Luskin's Trusteeship Complaint began, the Laborers' Bruno Caruso and a bunch of his questionable cronies put on a gala fundraiser for the financial benefit of the Cook County Democratic Party. In that event, held at Chicago's Plumbers Hall, Bruno Caruso, facing imminent expulsion from his own union, joined with Ed Hanley, head of another union operating under Federal clean-up orders, to honor Chicago Mayor Richie Daley and Tom Lyons, Chairman of the Cook County Democrats.

It's not known if Caruso, Joe Lombardo Jr., and the other Laborers' officials currently on the hot seat expected Daley or any other prominent Democrats to Intercede for them, but they fumed out for the fundraiser by the limo-load. Much of the work that Laborers' Union members do is politically controlled. They pave streets and work on government construction projects and, as a matter of course, need all the political help they can get. But as testimony at the Trusteeship Hearings disclosed, much of the political help the Laborers get is in the form of the fix and is used primarily to keep Laborers, officials like murder suspect James DiForti out of jail.

WITH THE Hearings now concluded, Hearing Officer Peter Viara and the crew of ex -FBI agents who have assisted him this past summer folded their tent and went back East. Viara, who is himself an ex-Mob buster who once headed the Chicago Organized Crime Strike Force, is expected to issue a package of Trusteeship decisions in the next month or so that will cause Bruno Caruso, Frank "Toots" Caruso, Joe Lombardo Jr., James DiForti and about 15 or 16 other Mob-tied Laborers' officials to seek other employment. In some cases, the excesses of the Laborers' crew disclosed in the Hearings will doubtless result in criminal charges.

Also, Jim McGough, Chicago spokesman for the Laborers for Justice & Democracy group, believes that the Hearings will result in mergers of several of the Laborers' 21 separate locals. Right now," McGough says, ``several of these Locals exist only to provide employment for the Mob guys who run them."

THE LABORERS' Chicago District Council represents some 14,500 construction workers, most of whom either work directly for government agencies or for companies under contract to City, County or State entities. McGough, a Laborers, member for the past 13 years, says he hopes the Hearings will result in more open communications between whoever is eventually appointed Trustee of the union and its members.

"THE BEST thing that can come out of these Hearings," McGough says, is that the members can begin to develop the skills needed for self-governance. It's up to us to take back our union from the Mob.',

McGOUGH can be reached at his Internet address at or by phone in the Chicago area at (773) 589-9469.

copyright© 1997 Illinois Police and Sheriffs News
Vol XIV, No. 13, Nov. 20, 1997

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