The Chicago Syndicate: Arthur Coffey

Showing posts with label Arthur Coffey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arthur Coffey. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pier Pressure

Friends of ours: Alex "The Ox" DeBrizzi, Anthony Scotto, Gambino Family, Genovese Family, George Barone, Tommy Cafaro
Friends of mine: Al Cernadas

Mob domination of the dock workers' union is the stuff of legend in New York. For more than half a century, the International Longshoremen's Association has provided a haven for a rogues' gallery of hoodlums, ranging from Alex "The Ox" DeBrizzi, who kept his local union's treasury in a jar at home, to the urbane Anthony Scotto, the ex-Mafia capo who called mayors and governors his friends. With leadership like that, the ILA had a decades-long losing streak in the city's courtrooms, as scores of officials were convicted of extortion, racketeering, and worse crimes perpetrated from their waterfront roosts. But that streak ended dramatically this month when a pair of high-salaried ILA officials won acquittal on fraud and conspiracy charges in Brooklyn federal court. "This case is about the Mafia's stranglehold on the ILA," prosecutors promised jurors when the case got under way in late September. But eight weeks later, the jury found Harold Daggett, the head of New Jersey's most powerful local union, and Arthur Coffey, the leader of its growing Florida chapters, not guilty on all counts. Jurors even voted to acquit a third defendant, an alleged captain in the Genovese crime family who disappeared and was believed to have been murdered midway through the trial. "The jury was so disgusted they acquitted an empty chair," said Gerald McMahon, a defense attorney in the case.

The only conviction was of a man named Al Cernadas, the former leader of a large Newark local union who had the bad luck to have pled guilty before the trial began, admitting that he knew about, but failed to prevent, a mob plot to foist an expensive medical plan upon the members.

Immediately after the acquittals on November 8, the union issued a press release hailing the verdict. "Today is a wonderful day for our ILA," said international union president John Bowers, whose father and uncle once ruled the "pistol local" on Manhattan's West Side docks, so named because that weapon settled all disputes.

Two days later, Bowers's office announced that the union had taken additional cleanup steps. A new code of ethics that bars officials from associating with organized crime figures, among other prohibitions, was made a permanent part of the ILA constitution; an outside investigator - former state appellate judge Milton Mollen - was given an expanded, three-year term to look into corruption allegations, and a former top federal judge, George C. Pratt, was named to serve as a final arbiter on ethical matters. "It is a checks-and-balances system to show that the ILA is serious about reform and protecting members' rights," said union spokesman James McNamara.

The union's other acknowledged goal is to short-circuit a civil racketeering case against the ILA filed in Brooklyn by the U.S. Department of Justice this summer. The lawsuit alleges that the union has long been controlled by the Gambino and Genovese crime families and calls for a court-im posed trusteeship and the ouster of Bowers and other top officials. When the lawsuit was filed in July, Bowers accused the government of perpetuating "an outdated stereotype" of the union and focusing on "stale allegations of wrongdoing." Bowers said the feds had ignored its efforts to turn itself around, including adopting the ethics code and hiring Judge Mollen.

"The ILA's commitment to honest trade unionism and vigorous representation of its members' interests is second to none," said Bowers. But not everyone's been convinced. Tony Perlstein, co-chairman of a group called the Longshore Workers' Coalition which has members at ports around the country, said the union has much further to go. "I don't believe having an ethics counsel is sufficient," he said. The coalition is demanding direct elections for members of the union's executive council and salary caps for officers. (At the Brooklyn trial, prosecutors made a point of introducing evidence of the high salaries paid Coffey, who took in $353,000 in 2003, and Daggett, who topped out at $475,000 the same year.)

Part of the government's problem was that the defendants were not accused of violent crimes, while its own witnesses had murder and mayhem on their resumes.

The prosecution's most compelling testimony came from George Barone, an ailing 81-year-old former top ILA leader and Genovese mobster. Barone, whose testimony helped convict a group of Gambino mobsters at an earlier trial, said he had committed more hits than he had counted. "I didn't keep a scorecard, y'know," he barked at one point. His tool of choice was a gun, and his deadly m.o., defense attorney McMahon pointed out, was one shot to the chest to stun the victim, followed by a kill shot to the head.

At some point in the early 1980s Barone had threatened to kill Daggett, then a young union official. Barone told the story in a matter-of-fact manner, acknowledging that Daggett's demise was discussed and that someone had pegged a shot in his direction during the confrontation. But then an unusual thing happened. Guided by George Daggett, his attorney (and cousin), Harold Daggett took the stand and gave his own account of the incident.

He was in the midst of making plans to build a new headquarters for his union, Local 1804-1, moving it from the lower West Side docks to northern New Jersey, where the jobs had already migrated, when a mob messenger named Tommy Cafaro told him that Barone wanted to see him. Daggett said he agreed to get in the car, and it raced up the FDR Drive to East 115th Street. There, he was escorted into a large fruit and vegetable store, through a steel door to a darkened room at the rear. "It was dark, boxes all around, no windows," said Daggett. A single lightbulb illuminated Barone, who sat with his back to him. Two other men stood at the door. On the floor was a large, empty canvas bag with an open zipper. All of a sudden, Barone threw down the paper he'd been reading and snarled at Daggett: "You motherfucker, who the fuck are you to take this local away from me? I'm going to fuckin' kill you." Daggett broke down sobbing as he told the story ("blubbering," as the Daily News' John Marzulli reported it). Judge Leo Glasser told him to relax and take a drink of water. Daggett soldiered on. " 'This is my fuckin' local; I built this local,' " he said Barone screamed. " 'I'll kill you, your wife, and children.' He pulled out a gun and shoved it in my head. I said, 'Please, don't do this to me,' and he cocked back the trigger, and he said, 'I will blow your brains all over the fuckin' room. I'm going to kill you.' "

Barone didn't shoot. Instead, after some more growling, he told Daggett he could leave. But he couldn't. "I was so nervous I urinated all over myself," Daggett testified. "I couldn't walk. I said, 'I can't move.' I thought one of them was going to shoot me in the back of the head, and I opened the door, and I could hardly walk. I walked and I kept thinking, 'They're going to shoot me.' " At the door, Barone dismissed the staggering Daggett. "Take this guy back to his local," Barone instructed his emissary.

Pending the outcome of the trial, Daggett and Coffey were both suspended from their posts, albeit with pay. Since their acquittal, "they're unsuspended," an ILA spokesman said. But Judge Mollen, the union's ethical-practices counsel, still has jurisdiction over any violations he finds. "I have obtained the transcript of the trial and I have a big stack of it on the floor," he said. "I am reading."

Thanks to Tom Robbins - Village Voice

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Acquittal for Union Execs and Mafia Capo

Friends of ours: Larry Ricci, Genovese Crime Family
Friends of mine:
Harold Daggett, Arthur Coffey

Two longshoremen's union executives and a Mafia capo were acquitted Tuesday of charges that they tried to help the mob keep its grip on the New York waterfront. The verdict may be little consolation for defendant Larry Ricci, a Genovese family captain who remains missing after disappearing in the middle of the trial _ the possible target of a mob hit.

"I hope it brings some solace to the family. You know, at least that a jury saw innocence here," said Ricci attorney Martin Schmukler, who finished the trial with his client absent. "He's either been abducted _ that is unlikely because he'd be far too difficult a person to keep hostage _ or killed."

Either way, defense attorneys said, the acquittals of International Longshoremen's Association officials Harold Daggett and Arthur Coffey could cripple a federal lawsuit seeking to shake the mob's grasp on the ILA by taking control of the powerful union. Supporters and relatives gasped and burst into tears as Coffey and Daggett were declared not guilty of extortion and mail fraud conspiracy charges. Daggett, 59, and Coffey, 62, were charged with conspiring with the Genovese family to install Daggett as the mob-controlled puppet president of the ILA. They had faced 20-year maximum sentences if convicted.

Brooklyn prosecutors have moved for a trustee to oversee the New York-based union, which inspired the 1954 film "On the Waterfront." The union represents 45,000 dockworkers and other employees at three dozen ports from Maine to Texas. "Today is a wonderful day for the ILA," president John Bowers said in a statement. "We rejoice in the happy outcome."

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf did not comment on the civil lawsuit but said her office would continue to prosecute union corruption. "We respect the jury's verdict in this case and will continue our vigorous efforts," the spokesman said.

A law-enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said authorities remain unconvinced that Ricci disappeared because he was murdered. A failure to show up now that he has been acquitted would be more convincing, the official said.

Ricci, 60, who had faced a maximum five-year sentence if convicted, had been free on $500,000 bond on a mail and wire fraud conspiracy charge for allegedly trying to steer a lucrative union health care contract to a mob-linked firm. He was last seen in Carteret, N.J., on Oct. 7, three weeks into the trial. He switched from one borrowed car to another as if he thought he was being followed, but he was not being tracked by police or federal agents, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

If he reappears he could face a possible five-year sentence for skipping bail mid-trial. If Ricci was killed by the mob, it could have been for a reason unrelated to the trial, the official said. A hit would be evidence that a decades-long effort to uproot the mob has not completely robbed it of the power and money derived from gambling, loan-sharking and labor corruption.

"When people disappear like that from the Mafia they usually don't turn up alive," said Selwyn Raab, author of "Five Families," a history of organized crime in New York. "There's always somebody circulating who knows how to do these things. ... They've been doing it for a long time and they think they can get away with it."

Daggett, who had been suspended as the ILA International's assistant general organizer, alternated between relief and anger as he left the courthouse a free man. "The truth'll set you free," he said. "Where do I go to get my reputation back now?"

Thanks to Michael Weissenstein

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lawyer: Cleared mobster may be dead

Friends of ours: Lawrence Ricci, Genovese Crime Family
Friends of mine: Harold Daggett, Arthur Coffey

Two executives of the International Longshoremen's Association and a reputed mobster who went missing mid-trial were acquitted Tuesday of charges that they helped the Mafia keep its grip on the New York waterfront. Supporters gasped and burst into tears as a federal jury in Brooklyn found union officials Harold Daggett and Arthur Coffey not guilty of extortion and fraud charges.

The jury also acquitted Lawrence Ricci, an alleged Genovese crime family associate who had been accused of wire and mail fraud. But the victory may turn out to be empty for Ricci, who vanished in the middle of the trial and is suspected to have been slain by the mob. His attorney said after the verdict that he believed Ricci had been killed, but he hoped the verdict gave his family solace. This reminds me of a scene in the movie Casino. All the mob bosses are sitting around discussing the big trial that is coming up and talking about who they can trust. They get to one guy in particular and as they go around the table, everyone agrees that this guy is a good man and can be trusted. Finally one of them goes: "Eh, why take the chance?" Bam, the guy is whacked. Same thing here with Ricci. The guy gets acquitted, but the mob thought, Eh, why take the chance?

Prosecutors had accused Ricci of working to award a lucrative union contract to a mob-tied pharmaceutical company. Daggett and Coffey were charged with conspiring with the Genovese crime family to install Daggett as the mob-controlled puppet president of the ILA.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Mafia case that matters

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Gambino Crime Family, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Peter Gotti, George Barone, Lawrence Ricci
Friends of mine: Harold Daggett, Arthur Coffey

Harold Daggett, of Sparta, will likely find out in the next few days which story a federal jury in Brooklyn believes: that he is a hardworking mechanic who worked his way up the ranks of the waterfront union, or — as the U.S. government says — that he is a "longtime associate" of organized crime. If the jury opts for the latter, Daggett, a 59-year-old father of three, could be headed to prison for up to 20 years.

After hearing the case for seven weeks in U.S. District Court, jurors spent all day Thursday deliberating and will return Monday morning to continue. Lawyers in the case hope they will reach a verdict by midweek. Daggett, the assistant general organizer of the International Longshoreman's Association, was indicted last year along with fellow executive Arthur Coffey, of Florida. Both are charged with extortion conspiracy and fraud for allegedly steering lucrative union contracts to mob-controlled businesses.

It's the latest offensive aimed at rooting out Mafia corruption on the docks — something the government has been trying to do for decades, since Marlon Brando starred in the 1954 film "On the Waterfront." Only now, the goal might be in sight.

Control of the docks has historically been shared by two of the "five families" of the New York Mafia — with the Genovese family in Manhattan, New Jersey and South Florida, and the Gambino family in Brooklyn and Staten Island. With the bosses of both families, Vincent "Chin" Gigante and Peter Gotti, along with other prominent mobsters, now in prison, prosecutors have turned to the allegedly corrupt officials who did their bidding for decades. "This is a big case," a well-known mob expert said Friday. "They've got all the gangsters, (and) this is a particularly important follow-up or complement to that."

On the heels of the current criminal case, the government also has filed a civil lawsuit against the ILA seeking to have just about every current executive permanently barred from union activity. Court-appointed monitors would then oversee new union elections.

Roslynn Mauskopf, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the lawsuit "seeks — once and for all — to end mob domination of this important labor union and put its future back into the hands of the rank-and-file members it was designed to serve."

The mob expert, who agreed to be quoted in this article on the condition that his name not be used, said the outcome of the Daggett-Coffey case may determine how the government will fare in the civil case — often called a "civil RICO" after the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. "Once (the feds) can convict these honchos, it'll go a long way toward establishing their civil case," the expert said. "This'll be like icing on the cake."

Coffey's defense attorney, Gerald McMahon — who in his opening statement called the case a politically-motivated attempt by the Justice Department to take over the union — said essentially the same thing. "Everybody knows that if they get a criminal conviction, it makes the civil RICO a slam dunk," McMahon said.

The core of the government's case is a meeting six years ago at a Miami Beach steakhouse between ILA president John Bowers and Genovese soldier George Barone. Coffey allegedly brought Bowers to the meeting. Bowers later recalled the encounter in a sworn deposition before the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. "You're doing a wonderful job," he said Barone told him. "We hope you stay forever. But if you ever leave, I would like to see Harold Daggett become president."

Bowers had been backing a Texas man not controlled by the Genovese family to be his successor, and Barone was there to let him know that was not a good idea, the government says. When asked by investigators how he responded, Bowers was matter-of-fact: "I am alone, one-on-one. I know of his reputation; I am not going to ask a lot of questions. I am figuring now how the hell to get out of the place."

Barone, 81, who has admitted murdering at least 10 people in his decades as a mobster, became an informant to avoid prison after a 2001 arrest, and is now the star witness for the prosecution. How reliable the jurors found Barone, and several other turncoats who testified in the trial, could be the deciding factor in their verdict.

The case may also rest on how reliable they found Daggett himself, who took the stand in his own defense during the trial's final week and denied that he even knows any mobsters — except, of course, for George Barone, who he said once held a gun to his head when he was trying to move his local out of Manhattan. "There is no mob in my local," Daggett testified.

Daggett, a third-generation dockworker who now earns almost a half-million dollars between his two jobs as the ILA assistant general organizer and president of the North Bergen local, lives in a gated mansion set back from a neighborhood of small-by-comparison three-garage homes on Green Road in Sparta. He is a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church and has been portrayed in his defense as an upstanding member of the community who fights for the rights of his laborers.

Daggett's lawyer, George Daggett — his cousin and the former Sussex County prosecutor — called the government's case an "anti-union prosecution" in his three-hour closing argument last week. "I'm pleased with the way the case went in," George Daggett said Friday. He added that he was pleased with what he saw as positive reactions, from some jurors, to his impassioned summation.

The case has had its unexpected twists. In the past two months, for instance, the number of defendants has dwindled from four to two. Or, if you will, 2 1/2.

A third ILA executive, Albert Cernadas — who also headed the union local in Port Newark — was named in a superseding indictment earlier this year but pleaded guilty a week before the trial began to a reduced conspiracy charge. Under the plea deal, he agreed to sever all ties with the union and will likely avoid significant prison time. Then, halfway through the trial, another defendant, a reputed Genovese captain named Lawrence Ricci, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Published reports cited investigative sources as saying they believed he had been killed by his fellow gangsters. However, Ricci remains merely "missing" in the eyes of the law, and he is still technically a defendant in the case. The judge in the case has instructed the jury not to draw any "negative inference" from his absence.

Thanks to BRENDAN BERLS

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