The Man Who Got Away

A Well-Connected Mob Fixer Slips Through the D.A.'s Net

According to the version in the wiretap affidavit, it was the kind of discussion most people don't easily forget.

"What's happening, buck? You're not paying this guy his fucking money?" was Crimi's opening conversational gambit.

Perlbinder said that he hadn't made the payments to someone named "Steve" because he didn't like his attitude. "I'm not going to pay him out of pocket, advance him, like he's a contractor entitled to the money," said Perlbinder. "He's gonna have to wait."

illustration: Viktor Koen

Crimi strongly disagreed. "Mark, let me tell you a little story, OK? Very seriously. My ass is in trouble. Alright? . . . I told you I'll make your job go non-union, it'll cost you seventy, eighty thousand. For me! OK?"

"Alright, alright, Mike, I get—," Perlbinder began before Crimi interrupted, saying something forceful, but unintelligible. Whatever it was, Perlbinder quickly backed down. "Alright Mike, I hear you, OK," said Perlbinder. "I guess what I was turned off by was their attitude—"

"Please!" said Crimi, cutting him off again. He agreed with the developer that the men demanding payment were "cocksuckers" but, nevertheless, had to be paid.

"OK, buddy, I want to be your friend, alright?" Crimi added. "I just want you to honor the commitment you made with me. Fuck them, they're not worth it."

The discussion ended with a considerably meeker Perlbinder pledging to pay up. "I'll take care of it next week," he promised.

"Thank you very much," said Mike Crimi. "I really appreciate your cooperation."

Real estate magnate Leonard Litwin, who received at least four calls at his home number in Great Neck, and another nine to his office, according to wiretap affidavits, also didn't want to discuss Crimi, failing to respond to repeated messages.

The two-year-long secret phase of the roofers' investigation ended in early November 1999, when search warrants were executed at 22 locations, including a dozen construction firms and the office of Local 8 of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers on Dean Street in Brooklyn.

The indictments came down a few months later, in July 2000, and defense attorneys were provided with two large boxes of records from the investigation, as required by law. A trial for several of the defendants is expected to begin next month. Crimi's attorney, Lawrence Hochheiser, the same man who successfully defended him back in the early 1980s on murder and loan-sharking charges, said the records were never disclosed to him or his client. "So why wasn't he indicted?" asked Hochheiser, going on to answer his own question. "It's because he is a consultant. He takes fees. Just as I take fees for what I do. It's perfectly legal."

Maybe so. "A labor consultant is the functional equivalent of a building expediter," said one prosecutor. "When you catch them passing on the money to officials, that's illegal."

Some of those arrested in the case also scratched their heads about why Crimi wasn't rounded up as well, particularly after they got a look at the paperwork in the case. Law enforcement officials insist it wasn't because Crimi was helping them in any way. "We just didn't have the evidence," said one.

Not long after the case was wrapped up, Crimi and his wife sold their home in Hauppauge, Long Island, and bought a new one in Boynton Beach, in Palm Beach County, Florida. He describes himself as retired, although people on the union and construction-industry dinner circuit say he remains a steady presence. Crimi was in Florida last week when he was reached on his cell phone, a new number acquired after the probe.

"You're going to run something on me? A retired guy in Florida?" he said. "I was painted unfairly as a target. That I wasn't indicted shows I had nothing to do with it. With all the years they chased me, they never found anything. If I had done anything I would be someplace else now, not sitting here talking to you."

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