The Mob's Engineers

The underworld's reach into the men who build New York's skyscrapers

Official union positions were also allegedly bought and sold. Ruggiero, the former Local 15 business agent, told prosecutors that he was told by Murphy that Maguire had paid $80,000 to the president of his international union for the privilege of becoming an international vice president. In addition, Maguire regularly gave money to the international president in order to "influence his decisions regarding Local 15 matters."

If he did so, it would have been a profitable investment. Union financial-disclosure forms show that Maguire received $81,000 last year in salary and perks stemming from his international post. Along with $264,000 in compensation from the local union, it increased Maguire's annual pay to more than $345,000.

A spokesperson for national Operating Engineers president Frank Hanley, who has held office since 1989, said the union was unaware of the allegations. The contracting firms alleged to have paid bribes denied the charges, or simply declined to talk about them. "We have nothing to do with any of this," said a representative of Civetta Cousins. "Why are they dragging us into it?"

The third player in the city's construction ballet—the mob—has been only slightly, if grudgingly, more talkative. So far 21 defendants have pled guilty in the Brooklyn Operating Engineers case. Among them have been the underboss of the Colombo crime family, Jackie DeRoss, who held membership in the Operating Engineers union, and a half-dozen mob associates and soldiers, including DeRoss's sons John and Jamie, who also had their own union books and were occasionally placed at job sites where they did little work, prosecutors said. (The borough president of Staten Island, James Molinaro, was moved to write the judge in the sons' defense last year that "the reputation of these boys in the community was always a good one.")

In a twin case in Manhattan that focused on the Genovese crime family's sphere of influence in the Operating Engineers union, prosecutors have won 18 guilty pleas, including those of mob captain Ernie Muscarella and Louis Moscatiello, a soldier who oversaw his crime family's construction interests.

During the three-year investigation by federal, state, and city investigators, a now infamous bug was placed in a modular construction trailer outside where the sprawling new Museum of Modern Art was going up. Investigators also watched as Moscatiello twice traveled to Queens to meet with DeRoss's delegate, a Colombo soldier named Vincent Ricciardo—known as "Vinnie Unions" for his labor expertise—at Salerno's Italian Restaurant in Richmond Hill. "They were talking business," said one law enforcement official.

Maguire's supporters say he kept far away from the mob, and had no direct dealings with it. And while his lawyer, Michael Considine, declined to comment for the story, citing his client's pending sentencing, letters he filed in court before the guilty plea accuse the government of using the mob accusations as a way to gain a tactical advantage in the case.

But the informants claim that Maguire simply used a buffer in his dealings with the mob, delegating a member named Anthony Polito as a go-between with the wiseguys. Polito, now imprisoned, held an important and lucrative union post as a maintenance foreman, which meant that his work duties were light, but he was designated by Maguire to oversee each job site where members were assigned. Investigators managed to place a bug in the SUV Polito used to prowl the city, and picked him up in conversation with Ralph Garguilo, another longtime mob associate who had also served as a kind of buffer between the union officials and the mob. Garguilo, who later decided to cooperate with the government, was tape-recorded in a discussion in which Polito talked about how Maguire had made him a millionaire. In return, Polito "protected" Maguire from the mob.

But not always. Outside a union Christmas party in December 2001, someone slammed Maguire, who stands just five feet six, upside the head with a pipe, breaking his nose. The incident has still not been fully explained, but the FBI picked up a Christmas Eve conversation in which another mobbed-up union member, Carl Carrara, talked about the episode with glee: "I heard that little guy got a piping. . . . Huh, yeah, fuck him is right. . . . Yeah, that piece of shit."

At his sentencing in February, Maguire faces up to five years in prison.

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