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Mobbed-Up LIUNA Official
Linked to1988 Murder


James DiForti Charged With “Pallet Man” Hit

It is no secret within the labor movement and law enforcement of this country that two of the largest unions, historically, have, for many decades, been under the thumb of organized crime.

In recent years, the federal government has shifted its investigative resources from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to the mob-influenced Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). The 94-year-old union represents 700,000 workers at the lower rungs of the employment spectrum - ditch diggers, seasonal road builders, waste haulers, and in recent years food industry workers and mail handlers.

The men and women who toil in these physically demanding and less than glamourous professions are represented at the highest levels by union officials under mob control. Twenty-three current or former officials within the Chicago District Council and the affiliated pension and welfare funds have been linked to the Chicago outfit including Joseph Lombardo, Jr., son of the Joey “the Clown” Lombardo, Bruno Caruso, Local 1001 president and business manager, and James DiForti, of Chicago Heights who is the number two man in Laborer’s Local 5 drawing a salary of $90,000 a year.

In July, a Cook County Grand Jury returned a murder indictment against DiForti, who has been described as a lieutenant of Johnny “Apes” Monteleone, based on testimony of retired FBI Agent and Chicago Crime Commission member John O’Rourke, who recently appeared before the Laborers’ International Union of North America Trusteeship Hearing.

O’Rourke disclosed to the hearing officer and attorneys present at the hearing, that DiForti became secretary-treasurer of Local 5 after having previously served as a business agent in Local 1006. O’Rourke learned from an informant that DiForti’s mob ties were deep and pervasive.

“Jimmy DiForti was a lieutenant reporting to John Monteleone.... that he was in charge of gambling and juice and street tax collections for the 26th Street Chinatown Crew, a long-time member of that crew, and also involved with the Cicero Crew, that both had been placed under John Monteleone and that DiForti being a trusted lieutenant had been dispatched on orders of John Monteleone out to Chicago Heights to take over Local 5 and to conduct organized crime operations in the south suburban Chicago Heights area.”

Until he was arrested and charged with the nine-year-old murder of William Benham, owner of the B & S Pallet Company on West Root Street in Canaryville, DiForti had never been indicted on a criminal charge in Chicago, though he has long been identified as a “made” member of the outfit linked to Monteleone, West Side boss Anthony Centracchio and others.

Benham was killed in his office on Valentine’s Day, 1988. He was shot numerous times and a small hand gun was found under the desk, which indicated that he may have fired on his assailant before collapsing to the floor.

The “Pallet Man” case remained an unsolved mystery until 1995 when a federal informant put the FBI on the trail of DiForti who allegedly was trying to collect on a $100,000 juice loan given to the victim. Benham, identified as a horse player who knew DiForti from the racing circuit, refused to pay back his loan and threatened to go to the feds with his story when he was shot six times.

The FBI developed the information on DiForti through an informant warehoused in a federal prison, then passed it on to the Chicago Police Department. “The FBI not only went back and re-interviewed the Chicago Police Department’s witnesses, but a third party surfaced after the murder was committed,” explained Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Dorner who is working the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Scully. Deadbeat borrowers unable to make good on their usurious loans were often forced to join a burglary ring.

This burglary ring, according to statements made to the Hearing Board by Agent O’Rourke, was run by DiForte, and two other men, Wally Zischke, and John Robert Evans, who were indicted by a Florida grand jury for racketeering and interstate transportation of stolen property.

It was Zischke who advised agents of the FBI that Evans and DiForti were his partners in the series of burglaries. “In fact, he bragged that Jimmy DiForti used his union car, Laborers’ Union car, to go on these scores which were commercial burglaries - in the suburbs of Chicago,” O’Rourke stated. Evans later became a fugitive from justice and was reportedly hiding out in Cicero until O’Rourke and his partner, Special Agent Michael A. Cole, arrested him in 1993.

After de-briefing all witnesses, a joint investigation involving the Chicago P.D. and the FBI - one based on DNA testing - commenced. DiForti was arrested at 22nd Street and Wolf Road in the south suburbs by members of the Chicago P.D. Area 1, Organized Crime Task Force. In his pocket investigators found $6,000 in cash.

James DiForti was detained in the Cook County Jail and held on a $1 million bond. According to our sources, DiForti made bail and is presently free on bond. The case was transferred to State’s Attorney Dick Devine for prosecution, but a trial date has not yet been set.

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