Providence Journal-Bulletin

Presidential Panel Ties Labor's Coia To The Mob


Journal-Bulletin Washington Bureau

March 7, 1986

WASHINGTON --- 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 adequate coordination."

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 campaign.

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 New Orleans.

"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 told Marcello.

"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 Journal Company

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