January 12, 2001
Three reputed mobsters from Bridgeport's notorious 26th Street Crew have been bounced from the Laborers Union in an effort to end what authorities describe as the Chicago Outfit's longtime hold on the union.
Bruno Caruso, brother Frank Caruso and cousin Leo Caruso are barred from membership in the union for participating in organized crime and engineering elections to ensure Outfit control, according to a ruling by the union's independent hearing officer released Thursday.
Peter F. Vaira reviewed 2,000 pages of transcripts, including testimony from 28 witnesses and more than 100 exhibits, before making his decision. Vaira wrote that organized crime was rampant in the union for more than 30 years.
The Carusos have 10 days to appeal. They could not be reached for comment.
The Justice Department has been overseeing attempts to root out mob influence in the Laborers Union in Chicago since 1995. In 1999, the 21 locals of the Chicago district council voted to cooperate with the Justice Department and the international union.
"I think it's a major victory for the internal reform of the union," Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Oswald said.
Jim McGough of Laborers for Justice, a small dissident group, said he was happy with Vaira's decision, but thinks reforms to eliminate corruption and install democracy need to accelerate.
Bruno Caruso, a former official on the district council, has been business manager of Local 1001, which represents some of the city's Streets and Sanitation workers, according to court records.
His brother Frank "Toots" Caruso was formerly involved in running Local 1006 and was a director of the union's more than $775 million pension fund. He is the father of Frank Caruso Jr., who was sentenced to eight years in prison for the 1997 racially motivated beating of 13-year-old Lenard Clark.
The younger Caruso and other white teens were accused of attacking the African-American teen when he rode his bike into Armour Square, a predominantly white neighborhood next to Bridgeport.
Leo Caruso is president and business manager of Local 1006, according to court records.
Frank "Skids" Caruso, the father of Bruno and Frank Caruso, allegedly was the boss of the 26th Street Crew from the 1950s to about 1980. He was involved in bookmaking and other activities, witnesses said.
Key testimony in the Carusos' disciplinary hearing came from Chicago police detective Ellwood Egan, who said he witnessed Frank and Bruno Caruso meeting with John Monteleone, the reputed head of the 26th Street Crew, and two other men for three hours on March 2, 1994, at Palermo's restaurant in Oak Lawn.
"This was not a chance meeting," Vaira concluded. "One does not have dinner with the head of the Chicago Outfit and his lieutenants as a casual chance occurrence. No one sits at that table without the specific approval of the head man."
Egan also testified he saw reputed mobster Ronnie Jarrett enter the Blackhawk cigar store at 31st and Canal on Dec. 8, 1998, with a white envelope and exit with Bruno Caruso and Frank Caruso, who was holding a white envelope. Jarrett was gunned down in front of his home in Bridgeport on Dec. 24, 1999.
Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) was among the witnesses to testify on behalf of Bruno Caruso. Caruso was a "hard guy to deal with because he was always fighting for his union members," Stone said.