DATELINE: PROVIDENCE, R.I.
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
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.