By DAN STETS
Journal-Bulletin Washington Bureau
March 7, 1986
--- Arthur E. Coia, a major force in the Rhode Island labor movement
and international secretary-treasurer of the Laborers International
Union of North America, has direct ties to the Mafia, the President'
s Commission on Organized Crime alleged yesterday.
The commission said that Coia used his mob
links to maintain control of the Laborers, which has 400,000 members
in the United States and Canada, including about 8,000 members
in Rhode Island. Coia also used union money to protect himself
and his son from federal prosecutors, the commission charged.
The commission recommended that federal law-enforcement
agencies " give high priority" to investigating the
Laborers union and its locals to rid them of organized-crime influence.
Coia spent $200,000 of the members' money
to pay a private investigative company "to keep track"
of a federal investigation of the Laborers, although the company
never provided the union with details of what it did for the money,
according to a commission report issued yesterday.
Coia also helped his son, Arthur A. Coia,
the Laborers business manager in Rhode Island and a Rhode Island
lawyer, to get the union to pay $40,000 in legal fees resulting
from a federal probe of the Laborers, the commission said.
Neither Coia could be reached yesterday for
comment. Entitled "The Edge: Organized Crime,
Business and Labor Unions," the commission's report charges
that the federal government is doing a miserable job of combating
organized crime. It said the effort was "fragmented and lacks
It found that four large international unions
are extensively controlled by organized crime - the Laborers,
the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Hotel Employees
and Restaurant Employees International Union and the International
Longshoremen's Association. It said that the Mafia, including the Providence-based
organization of the late Raymond L.S. Patriarca, exerts a powerful
and pervasive influence on private businesses through its control
of labor unions.
The commission found that the Mafia has "a
documented relationship" with at least 26 locals of the Laborers
and three of the union's district councils, as well as the international
union itself. In Rhode Island, the Laborers' presence is
pervasive in both the public and private sector. The union represents
municipal workers, such as those in Providence, as well as state
workers, hospital employees and construction workers.
The commission also said that organized crime
has used the Laborers union "to gain access in the political
arena." It cites the case of John Serpico, international
vice president and president of Local 8, in Chicago, who admitted
to the commission that he is a friend or personal acquaintance
of every mob leader in Chicago. Serpico told the commission of having direct
and frequent access to former Chicago Mayors Richard J. Daley
and Jane Byrne, as well as former Illinois Gov. Daniel Walker
and Gov. James R. Thompson, the Republican incumbent.
In Rhode Island, both Coias are supporters
of Governor DiPrete and were contributors to his 1984 election
The commission said that the senior Coia
used his Mafia connections to prevent Robert Powell, a black,
from running for the international presidency of the union, whose
membership is 50 to 65 percent nonwhite. Powell testified under oath that Coia told
him that the "Italians" had organized the Laborers union
and that no one outside that group could ever take control.
"Powell understood this to mean that
Coia was referring to a traditional organized-crime group, not
the ethnic Italians in the union's rank and file," the commission
reported. Powell received numerous death threats, including
one from general president Angelo Fosco, and decided not to run,
the commission reported.
The commission's report also includes a brief
part of the transcript of a wiretapped telephone conversation
on April 2, 1979, in which Joseph A. Hauser, a convicted California
insurance swindler also accused of looting the Laborers' health
and welfare funds, discussed the importance of the senior Coia
with Carlos Marcello, the powerful local head of the Mafia in
"The conversation implies that Coia
is a trusted associate," the commission concluded. "Carlos, listen to me. I'm meeting with
Arthur tomorrow. I don't know if you know about it," Hauser
"Who?" Marcello asked.
"Arthur Coia, and I'm meeting with him.
Listen to me carefully, he' s going to give me some money tomorrow.
These guys have been supporting me. Theirs is blood; blood's thicker
than water, you know," Hauser said.
The two Coias, Patriarca and two other men
were indicted in Miami in 1981 on federal racketeering charges
stemming from an alleged conspiracy to skim money intended for
union members' insurance benefits through the use of kickbacks,
payoffs and improper personal expenses.
The case was dismissed because the indictment
was filed after the statute of limitations expired. Prosecutors
based most of their case on Hauser's testimony.
Copyright © 1986 The Providence