United Press International

Labor Leader Denies Any Wrongdoing


September 27, 1981

Arthur E. Coia, the No. 2 man in the 900,000-member Laborers International Union of North America, in a published interview denied Sunday he plotted to divert more than $1 million in union funds to organized crime.

Coia, of North Providence, also told the Providence Sunday Journal he considers reputed New England crime boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca a "friend" and "a decent man."

Patriarca, Coia and three other New England men were indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami last week. They are accused in an elaborate scheme to divide union insurance funds between three organized crime families. Sixteen other people were indicted in the case in June.

Also charged were Coia's son, Arthur A. Coia, 38, of Barrington, R.I., business agent for the union's Rhode Island General Council; former state Rep. Albert J. Lepore, 40, of Tiverton, a law partner of the younger Coia; and Joseph J. Vaccaro Jr., 51, of Winchester, Mass., trustee of the New England Laborers International Training Trust Fund and president of the National Group Insurance Agency.

All surrended Thursday in U.S. District Courts in Providence and Boston. Removal hearings are scheduled next month.

The indictment alleges Patriarca told convicted insurance swindler Joseph A. Hauser in 1976 that the insurance business of the Laborers Union would be controlled by "the family." Patriarca would control the Northeast, Santo Trafficante Jr. would handle the South and Anthony "Big Tuna" Accardo of Chicago, the Midwest.

Trafficante and Accardo were among the 16 men indicted in Miami in June for allegedly conspiring to split $2 million in kickbacks in connection with union trust funds.

Hauser is the star witness in the three-year racketeering probe.

The elder Coia said he was acquainted with Patriarca, 73, but denied any plot to funnel union money into Patriarca's alleged New England crime syndicate. "Of course I know him. I know him for 45 years. A decent man," Coia, 68, said of Patriarca. "As far as tying us in with any of his faults, that's a figment of one man's imagination, a fellow by the name of Joseph Hauser," Coia said.

Lawyer Martin K. Leppo of Boston, who is representing the Coias and Lepore, said he resented a reference in the indictment to the union insurance business being controlled by "the family."

He said jurors will conjure up "an aura (of) 50 Italian guys with pointy shoes and squashed noses and cauliflower ears" when they read the indictment.

The Coias and Lepore conceded to the interview because they said they wanted to reassure union members of their innocence.

All said they would be cleared of the charges because of Hauser's poor track record as a government witness. "When this case goes to trial, the scales will weigh. And we will be acquitted," the elder Coia said.

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