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Buffalo News (New York) February 24, 1996, Saturday, FINAL EDITION
 
Copyright 1996 The Buffalo News  
Buffalo News (New York)
February 24, 1996, Saturday, FINAL EDITION

SECTION: LOCAL, Pg. 1C

LENGTH: 1318 words

HEADLINE: CRIME PROBE TO FORCE OUT EIGHT LOCAL 210 OFFICIALS

BYLINE: DAN HERBECK; News Staff Reporter

BODY:
Two business agents and six Executive Board members of Local 210 found out Friday that they are losing their union positions because of an investigation into alleged organized crime influences in the local.

The next targets may be reputed Buffalo mob figures and Local 210 figures Joseph Todaro Jr., Leonard F. Falzone and Frank "Butchie Bifocals" BiFulco.

And if found guilty of disciplinary charges of consorting with organized crime figures, they may be bounced from the union altogether.

An attorney for the Laborers International Union of North America said at least 10 members of the local are under investigation and could face disciplinary charges and eventual expulsion from the union if found guilty of consorting.

That word came from Robert D. Luskin, attorney for the international's General Executive Board, several hours after a compromise was reached in a bitter dispute between the local and the international.

The voluntary resignation of union officers, which was announced Friday morning, is only one part of the plan, said Luskin, a former federal prosecutor who was hired by the international to remove mob influences from the union.

"There is another big shoe that has yet to drop here, and it's going to drop," Luskin said. "We're going to be back in Buffalo next month to file disciplinary charges against at least 10 members of the union. . . . We'll be working on drawing up the charges this very weekend.

"We are investigating charges that some members of the union knowingly associated with organized crime people. That conduct is specifically barred by the union's ethics code."

A union member found guilty of such conduct can be fined, deprived of some benefits or expelled from the union, he said.

He added that "the U.S. Justice Department is watching over our shoulder" to make sure the international does all it can to rid itself and its locals of organized crime influences.

Luskin would identify only two people who are subjects of the investigation -- outgoing business agents John and Joseph Pieri.

But other sources close to the probe disclosed that Todaro, Falzone, BiFulco and several other Local 210 members who have been long identified by police as organized crime figures also are under investigation.

Todaro retired several years ago as a business agent for the local, but he still is a member of the union. Falzone, now in federal prison on racketeering and loansharking convictions, is the former administrator of the local's $ 82 million pension fund. BiFulco is the deputy administrator and collection coordinator for the fund.

Todaro, Falzone, BiFulco, both Pieris and 29 other persons were named in court documents released by the international two months ago as organized crime figures who have influenced Local 210.

Everett Caci, secretary-treasurer of Local 210, said he was surprised to learn that the international is planning to file disciplinary charges.

Caci said he wonders how the international will determine whom to file charges against in such an investigation.
 
"Who knows if you are associating with

an organized crime figure?" Caci asked. "How are you supposed to know? They don't go around wearing badges. . . . Are you going to charge all 1,300 members of the union with engaging in barred conduct?"

Robert L. Boreanaz, an attorney for the union and the pension fund, said he could not comment on the disciplinary investigation.

Under the compromise announced Friday, the local's existing Executive Board members and two business agents will resign next month, and the local will be taken over by a supervisor appointed by the international.

Also under agreement, the Pieri brothers will resign from their business agent positions, retire from the union and will not seek union offices in the future.

"John and Joe (the Pieris) made that sacrifice for the benefit of the union," Boreanaz said. "They've been around longer than anyone else on the executive board, and the international was putting more heat on them than anyone else."

The Pieris could not be reached to comment Friday, but they told The Buffalo News in a December interview that they felt they were being singled out because their late uncle, Sam Pieri, was alleged by police to be a leader of the Buffalo mob.

Compromise talks began Wednesday, just as a hearing was about to start on allegations that Local 210 is dominated by the mob.

"It was very difficult to reach this settlement. We wanted to fight these charges," Caci said. "Bottom line, we did what we thought would be best for Local 210, all the members."

The legal fees involved in fighting the international were "very high," and "the international has at least a $ 154 million general fund to draw from," Caci said.

Local 210 counsel Paul J. Cambria Jr. said the purpose of the agreement "was to do what was best for the rank-and-file people in (Local) 210."

U.S. Attorney Patrick H. NeMoyer, who viewed a copy of the agreement, said it looks like a step in the right direction. But he said he is withholding his judgment until he sees how much cooperation Local 210 gives to the supervisor who will be appointed to oversee the local.

"On the face of it, it looks like a good faith effort to clean up the union," NeMoyer said. "But I want to see how this is progressing a year or 18 months from now. I want to see what kind of person they appoint as the supervisor, how much power they have. Or is this just a ruse by Local 210 to shift power over to the (Laborers) district council?"

NeMoyer said he is pleased that the international is pursuing disciplinary charges against persons in Local 210 with known mob ties.

"That, to me, seems like the union is taking steps to police themselves," he said.

NeMoyer added that the Justice Department is closely watching the proceedings because of an agreement reached last year with the international, which agreed to purge itself and all its locals of organized crime ties or be taken over by a trustee appointed by the federal government.

"We're definitely interested observers," he said.

"It sounds like a good deal for both sides," said another veteran law enforcement official who has been closely watching the situation. "I don't think either side really wanted to go ahead with that hearing. I don't think they wanted to wash their dirty laundry in public. There would have been recriminations on both sides.

"Local 210 really had nothing to gain from going ahead with that hearing. And the international is pretty much getting what it wanted, without the hearing."

Although the hearing itself would not have been open to the media or the public, Administrative Judge Peter Vaira who would have conducted the proceeding told The News he would have allowed reporters to view a full transcript afterward.

Luskin vehemently denied allegations that the international agreed to the compromise to spare its president, Arthur A. Coia, from being attacked with mob allegations by Local 210.

Luskin said he is investigating the allegations against Coia.

"I am not Arthur Coia's attorney. I represent the international, and we have to answer to the Justice Department for how we conduct this cleanup," he said. "If the Justice Department thought we were covering up for anybody, they'd turn out the lights in my office immediately."

Also on Friday, former drug dealer William "Cookie" Giglia contacted The News to deny that he planned to testify against Local 210 if the hearing were held. Giglia's name was included on a list of potential witnesses submitted by the international.

"I had no intention of testifying for the international, whatsoever," said Giglia, now working at a Buffalo-area grocery story. "I don't want a thousand guys (in Local 210) thinking I'm going to testify."

Luskin said he could not comment on why Giglia's name was included on the witness list.

 

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