August 19, 1987
Twenty people, including six officers of
four unions, were indicted yesterday in a continuing investigation
into labor racketeering and corruption in the billion-dollar construction
industry in New York City.
Law-enforcement authorities said the union
officials, whose members are employed in the concrete, masonry
and carpentry fields, had systematically "bled" the
construction industry in Queens through a pattern of extortion,
labor bribery, collusion and fraud. The defendants also included
eight contractors and six union shop stewards.
Edward A. McDonald, the head of the Justice
Department's organized-crime strike force in Brooklyn, said corruption
in the construction industry is systemic and pervasive, adding:
"It goes on all the time throughout the city of New York,
throughout the metropolitan area. It affects every one of us."
The authorities said the illegal schemes
meant that people renting or buying new residential or commercial
properties in Queens paid, in effect, a "surcharge"
or "racketeering tax" that greatly inflated their costs.
They cited earlier estimates that 1 percent
of the total amount generally spent on construction in the city
went for bribes and extortion and indicated that the illegal "surchage"
had to total many millions of dollars. The indictment, however,
specifically mentioned about $300,000 in reported bribes and extortion
Several defendants were charged with taking
part in schemes to rig bids and manipulate the award of construction
One such scheme, which proved unsuccessful,
involved an attempt in late 1985 to rig bids for masonry work
on luxury boxes being renovated at Shea Stadium, the indictment
The 97-count, 81-page Federal indictment,
which was returned Monday and unsealed yesterday, was announced
at strike force offices at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn.
Mr. McDonald said the case "presents
a problem of labor racketeering in its darkest form - an important
industry that is in a virtual stranglehold of segments of organized
crime and a group of labor racketeers and their willing business
accomplices." He did not elaborate on the organized-crime
"The victims are the rank and file,
the union members who all too often are cheated out of their jobs
and cheated out of a decent wage," Mr. McDonald said. "Most
importantly, the victims are you and me - all of us who must pay
the price of enormous costs in the construction industry that
are always passed along to the ultimate consumers."
Although the indictment made no mention of
organized crime, Andrew J. Maloney, the United States Attorney
for the Eastern District of New York, who attended the news conference,
said, "It is widely recognized that organized crime has a
pervasive influence in the construction industry."
The unions mentioned in the indictment were
Mason Tenders Locals 13 and 46 of the Laborers' International
Union of North America, Local 531 of the United Brotherhood of
Carpenters and Joiners of America and Local 20 of the Cement and
Concrete Workers Union of the Laborers' International Union.
The lead defendant is Basil Robert Cervone,
75 years old, of North Woodmere, N.Y., for many years an officer
and business agent of Mason Tenders Local 13.
"For years he has acted as a corrupt
clearinghouse, or an ombudsman if you will, for labor racketeering
in the construction industry in Queens," Mr. McDonald said.
If convicted of racketeering conspiracy,
8 counts of extortion, 56 counts of bribery and 10 other charges,
he would face a total of 368 years in prison and fines of about
$1 million. He would also have to forfeit $215,000 that he is
accused of obtaining through illegal activities, as well as four
autombiles - three Cadillacs and a Lincoln - that he was accused
of taking as payoffs over the years.
Pattern of Corruption
Also charged with racketeering conspiracy
were his two sons, Joseph Cervone, 50, of Douglaston, Queens,
and Basil Robert Cervone Jr., 39, of Long Beach, N.Y., the president
and vice president, respectively, of Local 13, and Peter A. Vario,
42, of Howard Beach, Queens. Mr. Vario, the business manager of
Mason Tenders Local 46, is a nephew of Paul Vario, a reputed captain
of the Lucchese organized crime family, but Mr. McDonald said
the indictment does not cite any Mafia involvement in the scheme.
The indictment described a pattern of corruption
by the union officials that involved, in some instances, accepting
or extorting payoffs from contractors in return for labor peace,
and, in other cases, rigging bids on projects to reward the companies
that paid the bribes and to punish those that did not.
To pressure contractors to give bribes, the
indictment charged, the union officials threatened to put unproductive
workers on the payrolls and to strictly enforce union contracts
to harass employers. Some of the defendants were also charged
with using "various minority worker groups" to threaten,
harass and impede contractors unless they made payoffs to the
unions. Mr. McDonald and other the authorities would not identify
Although the senior Mr. Cervone failed in
his effort to fix bids on the masonry contract for the renovation
of luxury box seats at Shea Stadium, the indictment said, he and
others did succeed in rigging bids on two other Queens projects
- the development of 96 new homes in Howard Beach and an eight
story commercial building on Prince Street in Flushing.
Also attending the news conference yesterday
were Police Commisioner Benjamin Ward; Thomas L. Sheer, the assistant
director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is in charge
of the New York Office, and Ronald Goldstock, the head of the
state's Organized Crime Task Force.
The city and state authorities are participating
in the investigation into the construction industry, which was
started almost four years ago by the F.B.I. and the Brooklyn based
strike force and has previously resulted in a number of indictments
and convictions. The investigation is being supervised by Anthony
J. Siano, a special attorney with the Federal strike force.
These were the other defendants named in
the indictment: Henry Walaski, 67, 199-42 24th Avenue, Bayside,
Queens, business agent for Local 531 of the United Brotherhood
of Carpenters and Joiners. Joseph Frangipane, 62, of 18 Wiley
Place, Staten Island, business agent of Local 20 of the Cement
and Concrete Workers Union. Michael Belvedere, 59, of 78-34 85th
Street, Glendale, Queens, shop steward, Mason Tenders Local 13.
John Cerasuolo, 52, of 6740B 193d Lane, Flushing, Queens, shop
steward, Mason Tenders Local 13. Eltore DiSanto, 64, of Coram,
N.Y., shop steward, Mason Tenders Local 13. Vincent DiMarcantonio,
52, of 134-48 58th Avenue, Flushing, Queens, shop steward, Mason
Tenders Local 13. Nicola Ranieri, 53, of 200-35 45th Road, Bayside,
Queens, shop steward, Mason Tenders Local 13. Vincent Vanacore,
60, of Plainview, N.Y., shop steward, Mason Tenders Local 13.
George Barba, 45, of Palisades, N. Y., president and owner of
Brix Inc., masonry contractor. George Bernesser, 55, of Northport,
N.Y., president and owner of Bernesser Masonry Corp. Edward Cummings,
37, of Hicksville, N. Y., a site supervisor for Benjamin Contracting
Corp, developer and builder of residential properties in the New
Albert Joseph DiBernardo, president of Cadin
Contracting Corp. and an owner of A. J. DiBernardo and Sons Inc.
Richard Fiorenze, 55, of Westbury, N.Y., a builder in the New
Ralph Morea, 53, of 164-45 92d Street, Howard
Beach, Queens, president and owner of Ralp Morea Inc., masonry
contractor. Anthony Perna, 54, of 29-16 147th Street, Flushing,
Queens, owner and operator of Perna Contracting Co. Angelo Pironi,
33, of Elmont, N.Y., president and owner of Pironi Custom = Homes