The Labor Fixer

An aging but innovative racketeer who ran three powerful unions

So it was that when state police threw a wiretap on Moscatiello's phones in the late 1980s, they heard him discussing political and personal matters with state senators Efrain Gonzalez and Guy Velella, and then assemblyman and now congressman Eliot Engel, among others.

When veteran Bronx congressman Mario Biaggi became vulnerable after his indictment for bribery in 1987, both Biaggi and challenger Engel eagerly sought Moscatiello's support.

"If he [Biaggi] gets convicted, I think he'd be a loser," Moscatiello was heard advising Engel in a June 14, 1988, tape. "I think if he don't get convicted I think he'll be a winner."

Labor rackets was his game: Genovese crime family mobster Louis Moscatiello
photo: United States District Court, Southern District of NY
Labor rackets was his game: Genovese crime family mobster Louis Moscatiello

"I agree with you. I agree with you," Engel responded before putting the arm on Moscatiello for campaign contributions.

"That's really where I'm looking for help. Anything on the sly—I'd never embarrass you; you know that," said the candidate.

Engel long ago acknowledged his discussions with Moscatiello, insisting that he had no idea he was dealing with an organized-crime figure at the time, and that he never took improper contributions.

That investigation resulted in an earlier prison sentence for Moscatiello, who was convicted of labor bribery. He served 45 months at Sing Sing, and then was bounced back inside again when he was spotted violating parole rules by meeting with underworld associates.

After his release, however, Moscatiello returned to his old Bronx haunts, and police detectives and investigators watched as top figures in both the construction industry and the Genovese family consulted with him.

When federal and state organized-crime investigators combined to examine rampant and hugely expensive no-show jobs in the operating engineers' union, wiretaps quickly showed that Moscatiello was the hub of that wheel. He was arrested in February 2003, along with 40 others, including top operating engineers' union officials (see "The Mob's Engineers," December 14, 2004). At the time, prosecutors urged that Moscatiello be remanded to prison, insisting that he was a threat if allowed to remain free. But Moscatiello's longtime attorney, Lawrence Hochheiser, argued convincingly that his client had no prior record of violence or threats and he was released on $500,000 bond.

Six months later, however, agents watched as Moscatiello took payoffs in exchange for his assurances of "labor peace" at a major, city-subsidized new construction project at West 56th Street and Tenth Avenue. The veteran racketeer collected one payment of $5,000, then stopped back a month later for another $5,000 envelope.

Arrested again last April, Moscatiello was finally charged with the now two-decades-old swindle that was Local 530. "For more than 25 years, the drywall industry has been a cash cow for the Genovese crime family," said FBI assistant director Pasquale D'Amuro at a press conference with Manhattan U.S. Attorney David Kelley and state attorney general Eliot Spitzer.

Hochheiser, Moscatiello's attorney, said that despite his client's guilty plea, he was no one's image of a mobster. "I can tell you that he was a man of modest means. He lived in a modest house, and drove a modest car."

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