December 18, 1988
Charging that the largest construction union
on Long Island has been controlled by the Mafia for more than
20 years, Federal prosecutors have obtained racketeering indictments
against the union's three principal officials.
The officials of Local 66 of the Laborers
International Union of North America were indicted on Thursday
after a two-year investigation that included the planting of concealed
microphones in the union's offices and the videotaping of purported
illegal payoffs, law-enforcement officials said.
All three union officials have pleaded not
In announcing the charges, prosecutors identified
the head of the union, Peter Vario, as a "soldier,"
or an initiated member in the Lucchese organized-crime family.
Mr. Vario and two other officials were accused of obtaining $113,800
in payoffs between 1979 and 1987 from contractors and of running
the union as a criminal enterprise.
'Tip of the Iceberg'
"This union is owned lock, stock and
barrel by the Lucchese crime family," Edward A. McDonald,
the head of the Federal Organized Crime Strike Force for the Eastern
District of New York State, said in an interview. He asserted
that union officials and top members of the Lucchese crime family
"systematically bled thousands of dollars in illegal payoffs
from construction contractors" on Long Island.
The United States Attorney in the Eastern
District, Andrew J. Maloney, said that while the amounts of money
documented in the indictment were relatively small, the payoffs
"were just the tip of the iceberg."
The union leaders were indicted under provisions
of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations
Act, known as RICO. Mr. Maloney said that the investigation was
continuing and that more indictments under civil provisions of
the RICO law were expected.
Local 66 represents more than 1,200 workers
employed in the construction of foundations and other jobs at
commercial and residential buildings in Nassau County and Suffolk
Mr. Vario, who is 44 years old and who lives
in Dix Hills, L.I., was the lead defendant in the 51-count indictment.
He is the vice president of Local 66 and the administrator of
its $40 million retirement and fringe-benefits fund.
Also indicted were Michael LaBarbara Jr.,
51, of Holtsville, L.I., the business manager of Local 66, and
James G. Abbatiello, of Westbury, L.I., the assistant business
All Plead Not Guilty
The officers pleaded not guilty at arraignments
in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, and each was released on
$250,000 bail for a hearing in Federal District Court on Thursday.
All three union officials have unpublished
phone numbers and could not be reached at home. Calls to the union's
offices were not returned.
Samuel H. Dawson, a lawyer representing Mr.
LaBarbara, said he expected his client to be found not guilty.
"Each day brings us one day closer to
a finding that these charges are very flimsy and are built on
bought and paid-for testimony," said Mr. Dawson, of Gallop
Dawson & Clayman of Manhattan. "What will ultimately
be revealed is that the government made a pact with a number of
people caught doing all kinds of things who decided they would
bargain for their freedom."
The reputed former boss of the Lucchese family,
Salvatore (Tony Ducks) Corallo, and the reputed underboss or number
two leader of the family, Salvatore Santoro, were named as unindicted
co-conspirators. They were said in the indictment to have shared
in the payoffs and resolved disputes over the distribution of
Both were sentenced to long prison terms
after being convicted in 1986 on Federal charges that they were
members of the Mafia's ruling body in the New York metropolitan
A concrete-company owner, Silvestro Spilabotte,
55, of Old Westbury, L.I., who is the head of the DeSantis Construction
Corporation in Hauppauge, L.I., was also charged with racketeering
and serving as a middleman in funneling payoffs from other contractors
to Local 66 officials. Mr. Spilabotte pleaded not guilty.