The Mob Was the City's Watchdog

During Giuliani Cleanup, a Mafia Associate Watched the Money

As long as its investigation into construction corruption was under way, the D.A.'s office had good reason not to tell the city about any shadowy vendors that turned up during its probe. To do so could have jeopardized the secrecy of ongoing, fruitful wiretaps. But the construction probe ended in July 2000 with indictments of 13 people, including top contractors in the roofing business and union officials. All of the D.A.'s secret wiretap information was turned over to defendants and their lawyers. Even Negri would have been notified that he had been overheard on them. But no one remembers doing anything about the fact that a Genovese crime family associate was guarding the city's revenue offices.

"There is no cut-and-dried policy on this," said one official in Morgenthau's office. "You don't disclose things during an investigation unless there is imminent harm. Whether you do later is decided on an ad hoc basis." In this case, the official added, "we saw no crimes relating to the guard company."

Negri's mob ties, however, are well known to other law enforcement authorities as well. After federal prosecutors in Brooklyn indicted a group of high-level Genovese gangsters last year, they put Negri's name on a list of mob-tied people the defendants were prohibited from contacting.

Under surveillance: Explorer Investigation's West Side office
photo: Sylvia Plachy
Under surveillance: Explorer Investigation's West Side office

Nor does law enforcement have any doubts about the security firm owner's mob pedigree. "We believed Negri had more juice than Crimi," said one prosecutor. "It's our understanding that if they ever open the [mob membership] books again, he will be one of the first ones inducted."

That level of law enforcement intelligence provided the basis for many of the decisions made by city licensing officials during the Giuliani administration's push to chase wiseguys out of the Fulton Fish Market, the private carting business, and later, the San Gennaro festival. Giuliani's aides, many of them ex-prosecutors themselves, confronted license seekers with city, state, and federal evidence of any contacts with organized crime, often in the form of wiretaps and surveillance photos.

"God forbid anyone in the fish market should have shown up in a social club somewhere," said Gerald McMahon, an attorney who represented more than two dozen fish wholesalers and loading firms that were denied licenses under the system. "That was it for their license."

Let alone having been spotted meeting regularly with the acting boss of the Genovese crime family.

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