Chicago Tribune

2 1/2-year Sentence For Ex-Labor Boss

Union funds used in loan scheme

By Matt O'Connor
Tribune staff reporter
March 16, 2002

John Serpico, a powerful former labor boss with reputed ties to organized crime, was sentenced Friday to 2 1/2 years in prison for sharing in more than $330,000 in kickbacks and using his influence over millions of dollars in union funds to obtain lucrative personal loans from corrupt banks.

Serpico's longtime mistress, Maria Busillo, who succeeded him in several key union posts, was sentenced to 15 months in prison; another close associate, Gilbert Cataldo, received a 21-month prison term.

U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning also fined Serpico and Busillo $100,000 each and ordered Serpico to pay an additional $30,000 in restitution.

"All three of these defendants have held themselves out for years and even throughout this trial as champions of labor and workers and pillars of the community," said Assistant U.S. Atty. David Glockner, who led the prosecution. "The evidence in this case shows that they're simply crooks."

Serpico, 71, of Lincolnwood was ordered to surrender to prison June 28, but his lawyer, Matthias Lydon, said he will seek his continued release pending appeal because of upcoming spinal surgery and an expected six-month recuperation period.

After sentencing, Serpico, his hand raised to shield his face, ran into traffic outside the Dirksen Federal Building in an attempt to shake free from photographers.

Last summer a federal jury convicted Serpico and Busillo, 56, of Glenview of obtaining more than $5 million in favorable personal loans from banks that in turn received millions of dollars in union pension and welfare fund plans.

Glockner said Serpico and Busillo frequently flew together in a union jet to "frolic" at Busillo's Florida beachfront condo, "financed in part with a loan obtained by dumping workers' money into a corrupt bank."

The jury also convicted Serpico of splitting kickbacks of $333,000 with Cataldo, 62, of Elmwood Park in return for investing $6.5 million in union money in what prosecutors called an extraordinarily risky hotel construction project.

Serpico was ousted in 1995 as an international vice president of the Laborers Union as part of a move to purge the union of mob influence. For many years, he also was president of the Central States Joint Board, an amalgam of Chicago unions representing about 20,000 factory workers.


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