By Anna Merlan
By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
Outside Guido's windows it is deep Sopranos country. His Portwide Cargo Securing Company, a division of his family's A.G. Ship Maintenance Corporation, is surrounded by mountains of rusting steel shipping containers. Ranging from 20 to 40 feet long and eight feet high, they are stacked six and seven to a tower. Beginning in the 1960s, these containers revolutionized the maritime industry. Instead of requiring gangs of 27 men to haul freight piece by piece, the cargo was stowed inside the huge boxes, lifted on and off ships by giant cranes and derricks, and placed atop tractor trailers or freight trains.
The ILA leadership and its mob associates initially resisted containerization but eventually gave way and signed contracts that guaranteed annual wages for its declining membership and created new trades for those maintaining the containers. Guido's father, Bert Guido, and his grandfather, Albert Guido, founded one of the first and largest container repair firms, starting in Brooklyn and then expanding to New Jersey.
By the 1970s, Waterfront Commission investigators claimed, Bert Guido had a near monopoly on the harbor's container repair business. He was also president of the trade association of the growing industry, a group of some two dozen businesses organized as the Metropolitan Marine Maintenance Contractors Association. Known as Metro in the industry, the trade group handles all the collective bargaining with the ILA, and its officers sit on the pension and benefit fundsworth hundreds of millions of dollarsalong with ILA officials.
Prosecutors insist Metro is little more than a mob-created front, a joint enterprise of the Genovese crime family and the Gambino mob designed to "augment" their control of the ILA.
In any event, Bert Guido landed in trouble when he and three other trustees of the Metro-ILA benefit funds pleaded guilty in 1990 to criminal conspiracy stemming from their mishandling of the funds. Guido served no jail time, but he was forced to relinquish ownership of his companies.
Prosecutors call Bert Guido a Genovese associate and allege that while Andrew Gigante may work for the Guidos on paper, in reality Gigante's the one running the show. In one recent instance, authorities say, Bert Guido handed over a $50,000 extortion payment to a Genovese soldier. In a bail hearing for Gigante last month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Weinstein told the court, "The business that this defendant purportedly works for is actually controlled by him on behalf of the Genovese family." The Guidos scoff at all of these assertions. "It's not true," says Christopher Guido.
What is clear, however, is that Andrew Gigante has done better than the average dockworker. At the bail hearing his lawyers said he owned property in New Jersey worth $4.2 million, as well as interests in two waterfront companies. At his home in leafy Old Tappan in northern New Jersey, he keeps legally registered 9mm and .357 Magnum pistols.
The fulcrum for the mob's continuing influence on the waterfront, prosecutors allege, is the trade group, Metro. Two current Metro employees and one former aide were among the group indicted last month, charged with shaking down business owners, trying to loot benefit funds, and money laundering. Alleged Genovese soldier Michael "Mickey" Ragusa, 36, who formerly worked in another mob-tied association representing drywall contractors, held a "sham" no-show job at Metro, prosecutors say. His lawyers deny it.
Another defendant, Thomas Cafaro, 43, was best man at Andrew Gigante's wedding and worked at Metro for 12 years until the mid 1990s, when he quit and moved to Florida with a $120,000 annuity from the association. Cafaro carries heavy mob baggage. His father, Vincent "the Fish" Cafaro, a top Genovese lieutenant, was a well-schooled gangster from East Harlem who later became one of the first mobsters to enter the witness protection program, spilling mob secrets that helped send several of his former colleagues to prison. To win back the family honor, Tommy Cafaro allegedly wiretapped his own mother and sister, officials say. But he has never been admitted to mob membership, allegedly because of his father's status.
Cafaro's lawyer disputes the allegations. "He's not an associate of anything nefarious; he's a good husband, a good father," said Mike Rosen. "All this about his father, it's just window dressing."
The biggest target in the contractor's association was Metro's longtime, $100,000-a-year vice president, Pasquale "Patty" Falcetti. Described by the FBI as a soldier in the Genovese crime family, Falcetti's job put him in charge of bargaining with the ILA's Local 1804-1, based in North Bergen, New Jersey, and Local 1814 in Brooklyn. The contracts are some of the biggest in the industry, covering 1300 workers, according to Department of Labor figures.
Falcetti, 42, has no previous criminal record, and Metro's counsel submitted a letter to the court calling him "a good and valuable employee." Falcetti's lawyer, George Santangelo, pointed out that his client has survived at Metro for 19 years without interference from the Waterfront Commission or the 1990 civil racketeering case.
But on tapes made over a three-year period by a mob informer for the FBI, Falcetti sounds like a very different kind of business executive. According to the government, shipping industry executive Falcetti is heard proclaiming on subjects ranging from the problem of dealing with Albanians to handling negotiations with the top echelons of the Genovese family.