Rackets Remedy

Feds plan union takeover

Now that several of its top officials have pled guilty in a massive, mob-orchestrated no-show jobs scheme, the next stop for the city's powerful Operating Engineers union—whose 6,000 members run the heavy machinery used on all major construction jobs—is expected to be a federal trusteeship.

The Manhattan and Brooklyn U.S. Attorneys, who brought twin cases against officials of locals 14 and 15 of the engineers—and their mob allies—have made little secret of their intent to file civil racketeering charges against the union itself.

Talks on a possible civil RICO case are ongoing, union officials acknowledge. "Our lawyers are working with the feds; that's where it stands," said Joe Brady, a spokesperson for the national union in Washington.

A spokesperson for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf, who is expected to bring the civil case, declined comment. But several people knowledgeable about the case said the feds will soon move to place the union under federal receivership.

Although the mob has long had deep hooks into the city's construction industry, the indictments brought last year were the first to unveil the reach of organized crime into the Operating Engineers union, which exercises tremendous clout on work sites. So far, 39 individuals, including Thomas Maguire, former head of Local 15, and Joseph Rizzuto Sr., who was the leader of Local 14, have pled guilty. Rizzuto later agreed to cooperate with authorities, describing routine payoffs between major construction firms and mob-tied officials.

"This is one of the last bastions of the wiseguys," said one law enforcement source. "It is highly lucrative. There has been a lot of featherbedding, much of it because there has existed a general acceptance by contractors that this was a mobbed-up union and there wasn't much you could do about it."

 
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