By TRACY BRETON
Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer
Dec. 8, 1984
After seven weeks of trial, a federal judge
in Miami has dismissed labor racketeering charges against three
men from Rhode Island and Massachusetts because the prosecution
failed to prove a conspiracy existed between the defendants and
an informant during the five years before their indictment in
The dismissal of the case against Arthur
E. Coia of Providence, national secretary-treasurer of the Laborers
International Union of North America; former Providence Rep. Albert
J. Lepore and Joseph J. Vaccaro Jr. of Winchester, Mass., a former
trustee of a union training school, cannot be appealed by the
government, according to prosecution and defense lawyers.
The dismissal by U.S. District Judge James
L. King because the statute of limitations had expired does not
technically affect a fourth defendant in the case, Providence
lawyer Arthur A. Coia, Arthur E. Coia's son and a law partner
of Lepore who is business agent for the Laborers' Rhode Island
But unless the government uncovers other
evidence it did not have at the trial, which ended two days ago,
Judge King's ruling would appear to apply to the younger Coia
as well. A lawyer from the Justice Department's Organized Crime
Strike Force said no decision had been made whether to continue
to press the prosecution of Arthur A. Coia, who is scheduled for
a new trial in January.
The younger Coia originally was a defendant
along with the other three men, but at the request of his Boston
lawyer, Earl Cooley, Judge King declared a mistrial in his case
in the midst of the prosecution's case.
COOLEY SAID last night that he asked for
the mistrial after eight or nine days of testimony in the jury
trial because he became ill from a diabetic condition. He said
he became so sleepy "I couldn't keep my eyes open" in
court, a condition he attributed to a high blood- sugar content.
Because of this, Cooley said, he told King
that he could not adequately represent his client and the judge
accepted that and without requiring any doctor's corroboration,
ordered a mistrial as to the son.
Cooley said "I no longer represent"
Arthur A. Coia but said "I'm sure other counsel" will
file a motion in the younger Coia's behalf asking that his case
be dismissed in light of King's ruling.
THE COIAS, Lepore, Vaccaro and then-New England
crime boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca (now deceased) were indicted
on Sept.23, 1981, for violating the federal Racketeer Influenced
and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in connection with alleged
misuse of funds from the 900, 000-member Laborers International
Union of North America, one of the nation's largest unions.
The charges stemmed from a joint grand jury
investigation in Miami and Boston and followed by about three
months the indictment of 16 men, including underworld kingpin
Santo Trafficante Jr. and Laborers union president Angelo Fosco
for an alleged conspiracy to split $2 million in kickbacks on
union trust funds.
THE INDICTMENT charges that the Coias, Lepore,
Patriarca and Vaccaro conspired to skim money intended for union
members' insurance benefits through the use of kickbacks, payoffs
and improper personal expenses.
It was alleged that the elder Coia met several
times during the 1970s with Joseph A. Hauser, a convicted California
insurance swindler, and others to discuss splitting up the union's
insurance business to make money for themselves.
Patriarca, it was alleged, was slated to
"control" the business for the Northeast. No evidence
against him for his part in the alleged conspiracy was presented
in the trial that ended earlier this week, lawyers said, because
Patriarca was not on trial at the time.
But the indictment says that in 1976, Patriarca
told Hauser that the insurance business of the Laborers Union
would be controlled by "The Family." Patriarca would
control business in the Northeast, Trafficante in the South and
Anthony "Big Tuna" Accardo in the Midwest.
A jury acquitted Fosco and Accardo in 1982,
and Trafficante, reputed mob boss in Miami, had his case severed
from the rest, as Patriarca had before his death last summer,
because of illness.
The younger Coia and Lepore, according to
their indictment, set up the Northeast Insurance Agency in Rhode
Island, which "puportedly engaged in the sale of insurance,
but . . . in fact, served as a conduit for kickbacks."
THE INDICTMENT also said that Lepore and
the elder Coia received " two checks totaling $50,000 from
Joseph Hauser." The defendants got numerous other smaller
payments from Hauser in the 1970s, it was alleged.
It was also alleged that the younger Coia
and Lepore appeared before the Securities and Exchange Commission
in Washington and testified falsely in an attempt to thwart that
The indictment also said that the elder Coia
and Hauser "caused $1 million to be transferred" out
of a bank account that held insurance premiums for the Massachusetts
In March, 1976, the indictment says, the
elder Coia met with Gilbert H. Hawkins, then a senior loan officer
at Citizens Bank in Providence, "and offered to use his influence
to divert union funds" to Citizens if the bank would lend
the money to buy a New Jersey insurance company. The loan application
Thursday's action the second time Judge King
had dismissed the case against the Coais, Lepore and Vaccaro on
grounds the statute of limitations had expired. Under federal
law, indictments must be obtained within five years after crimes
were committed, except in capital cases such as murder.
King ruled during pretrial motions in 1982
that the government brought the charges too long after the crimes
were allegedly committed because it could not prove at least one
"overt act" (a physical act that furthered the conspiracy)
during the five years before the defendants' indictment.
BUT THAT ruling, appealed by the government,
was reversed by a federal appeals court in Atlanta, which said
that proof of an "overt act" is not required to convict
someone of conspiracy under the RICO act.
James Jay Hogan, the elder Coia's Miami lawyer,
told the Journal-Bulletin yesterday that at the defendants' request,
King granted a judgment of acquittal on Thursday because "the
government couldn't establish through their traveling witness,
Joseph Hauser, that there was a conspiracy" that continued
after Sept. 23, 1976 until Sept. 23, 1981 when the indictments
were handed up.
Hogan said the only testimony presented from
Hauser during that time concerned "an alleged phone call"
between Hauser and the elder Coia "where Hauser said he was
going to Europe to get a re-insurance company" to insure
his insurance company so he could get business from the Canadian
However, Hogan defense investigators had
found papers in another court case in New York in which prosecutors
had stipulated that the reason Hauser was going "was to smuggle
money of his own out of the United States."
Hauser was indicted for insurance swindling
on Oct. 28, 1976 and served 18 months of a 30-month sentence.
He turned informant in February, 1979, and has been "testifying
under government immunity for last six years," according
to Hogan. Based on his testimony, 11 people thus far
have been convicted by a jury on federal racketeering charges
in Miami. Three have been acquitted by a jury.
A STRIKE FORCE prosecutor said that because
of the stipulation filed in the New York case, King found the
phone conversation between Hauser and the elder Coia "could
not not have been about continuing the conspiracy . . . and that
therefore the conspiracy had ended" prior to Sept. 23, 1976.
"Most of what we showed concerning crimes
occurred in 1975 and 1976, before Sept. 23," the prosecutor
He said a 1979 tape-recorded conversation
between Hauser and the elder Coia was played to the jury in which
they "discussed a previous $3, 000 kickback." But that
was "after the conspiracy had ended," he said.
Copyright © 1984 The Providence