Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pittsburgh Brewing Investor is Son of Chicago Mob Boss

Friends of ours: John "Jackie the Lackey" Cerone, Tony Accardo

A Chicago attorney who owns a 20 percent interest in bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing is the son of former Chicago mafia underboss John "Jackie the Lackey" Cerone.

Attorney Jack P. Cerone's ownership was disclosed in papers filed by the brewery in federal bankruptcy court. Creditors believe that Mr. Cerone acquired a minority stake in 2003 by helping Pittsburgh Brewing pay off bank lenders. The Lawrenceville-based brewer, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December, previously disclosed that a bank accepted $500,000 as payment for a $5.1 million loan in 2003, forgiving the remaining balance of $4.6 million.

Court documents indicate Mr. Cerone is a secured lender with a $6 million claim against the company.

They list President Joseph Piccirilli as owning a 44 percent interest in the brewery. Two other investors, Thomas Gephart, of San Diego, and Steven Sands, of New York, are listed as owning less than 5 percent each. The other investor or investors, who own about 30 percent of the brewery, are not named.

Mr. Cerone did not return calls. Pittsburgh Brewing spokesman Jeff Vavro declined comment.Mr. Cerone's involvement has raised concerns among union workers, who said the attorney was the company's top negotiator in contract talks last spring. In Chicago, Mr. Cerone has represented unions in labor negotiations. His involvement also has attracted the interest of attorneys for other creditors. They have asked for copies of documents detailing terms of his loan to the brewery.

The Chicago media dubbed Mr. Cerone's father "The Lackey" because of his close association to his mentor, Anthony "Big Tuna" Accardo, according to former FBI agent William F. Roemer Jr., who wrote a book on the Chicago mob. The elder Mr. Cerone was sentenced in 1986 to 28 1/2 years for skimming $2 million in unreported gambling profits from Las Vegas casinos. He died in 1996 at the age of 82.

The year before, his son's law firm sued the federal government for discrimination. The firm was contesting a 1989 federal court decree prohibiting the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from associating with organized crime.

Mr. Cerone charged that the decree unfairly caused Teamsters union locals in Chicago to stop using his law firm, Erbacci Cerone & Moriarty. Mr. Cerone also said one of the locals stopped dealing with the insurance company he owned, Marble Insurance Agency. A federal judge upheld the Teamsters decision because the younger Mr. Cerone admitted associating with his father.

Pittsburgh Brewing's bankruptcy papers list Erbacci Cerone and Marble Insurance as unsecured creditors. They are owed a total of $43,700.

Creditor attorneys and others familiar with Mr. Cerone said he did not have a criminal record.

Mr. Cerone's stake in Pittsburgh Brewing has not been reported to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. PLCB spokeswoman Molly McGowan said breweries were supposed to report ownership changes involving stakes of 10 percent or more within 15 days. The last time Pittsburgh Brewing provided ownership information to the agency, Mr. Piccirilli and Mr. Gephart were the only owners listed. Each had the same amount of stock, Ms. McGowan said.

Thanks to Len Boselovic

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