The Washington Times

LIUNA Reformer Could Use Some Reform Himself

Ken Boehm

Chairman-National League and Policy Center

There they go again. The preposterous attack on your paper by Laborers' International Union of North America spokeswoman Linda Fisher was just another episode of Union spin ("LIUNA has worked hard to clean itself up," Letters, Nov. 16)

Miss Fisher says LIUNA's "internal reform program is not only working, but working well." The real issue is for whom, or what, is it really working?

The so-called LIUNA internal reform effort is led by the ethically challenged Robert D. Luskin. ON May 8, Mr. Luskin agreed to forfeit to the U.S. Justice Department $245,000 of $674,296 he received in "legal fees" from his client, Stephen A. Saccoccia. Saccoccia was a Rhode Island precious metals dealer convicted of money laundering for two South American drug cartels and La Cosa Nostra crime family in New England. Saccoccia was sentenced in 1993 to 660 years in federal prison, fined $15.8 million and ordered to forfeit all laundered money. Former U.S. Customs Commissioner Carol B. Hallett identified Saccoccia a "an associate" of the Raymond L.S. Patriarca crime family in Rhode Island and also as a "contract employee of the [La Cosa Nostra]."

LIUNA President Arthur A. Coia, from Rhode Island, is no stranger to the Patriarcas. In 1981, Mr. Coia was indicted on bribery and racketeering charges along with his father, the late Arthur E. Coia, and the late Raymond L.S. Patriarca. The charges were later dropped on a technicality. Additionally, this is what the Clinton Justice Department said about Mr. Coia in its 1994 draft anti-racketeering complaint: "LIUNA has been infiltrated at all levels by corrupt individuals and organized crime figures who have exploited their control and influence over the union for personal gain and to the detriment of the union. LIUNA union officers and employees at all levels, including the general presidency, have been chosen, subject to the approval of, had have been controlled by, various members and associates of organized crime."

The most troubling issue is Mr. Luskin's connection to all this and his virtual admission of guilt earlier this year. Mr. Luskin said he received 45 gold bars from Saccoccia valued at $505,125 and $169,171 in wire transfers from a Swiss bank account. The Justice Department, led by former U.S. Attorney Sheldon Whitehouse, went after Mr. Luskin and four other Saccoccia attorneys for the money paid to them out of profits laundered by Saccoccia. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that attorneys cannot be paid with funds acquired as the result of the crime. Mr. Whitehouse charged Mr. Luskin with "willfull blindness" in accepting the gold bars and wired funds. After all, Mr. Whitehouse noted , what Mr. Saccoccia received involved precious metals (including gold) and Swiss bank accounts. Mr. Whitehouse further stated, "Luskin had reasonable cause to know that these fund were the proceeds of Saccoccia's money-laundering activities. Luskin, however, chose not to know the true origin of these funds."

According to Mr. Whitehouse, the $169,171 in wire transfers from Switzerland were made between Dec. 4, 1994, and Feb. 23, 1995. Nov. 4, 1994 , was the day the Justice Department delivered the 212 page draft anti-racketeering complaint to LIUNA, which included allegations that Mr. Coia had colluded with organized crime for a long time. The agreement by which LIUNA averted a government takeover, and for which Mr. Coia was able to keep his job, was signed Feb. 13, 1995. It was during this period that Mr. Coia hired Mr. Luskin to negotiate LIUNA's case with the Justice Department. The confluence of these dates, this money and these individuals should at the very least raise serious questions about Mr. Luskin and the trust the Justice Department has placed in him to run an honest LIUNA internal reform effort.

Miss Fisher's spin of LIUNA is far too rosy. Many LIUNA dissidents from all over the country know first-hand that their corrupt union has improved little, if any, under the reform efforts of Mr. Coia and Mr. Luskin. Mr. Luskin's suspicious dealings raise more concerns, and the only answer is a full-fledged government takeover of LIUNA before its court-recognized authority to do so lapses on Jan. 31, 1999.


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