News & Politics

City Electric Big Jolted in Bribe Rap


It took a while, but federal prosecutors have finally zapped veteran electrical contractor Santo Petrocelli, whose company had a decades-long hold on lucrative city street lighting contracts.

How lucrative? Say about $400 million over the past 15 years.

Petrocelli, 74, is charged with taking bribes from an unnamed official of Local 3 of the IBEW — i.e. the electrical workers union. The lucky union rep was even given the keys to a brand new Crown Vic in 2004.

No big guess as to who the mystery man is. As The News’ Tom Zambito reports today, it’s former electrical workers big and ex-Queens assemblyman Brian McLaughlin who pled guilty last year in his own massive bribery and racketeering indictment.

McLaughlin — who later became president of the city’s Central Labor Council — was the longtime head of Local 3’s J Division, which oversees street lighting contracts. As The Voice reported in December, 2006,  Petrocelli — “Sandy” to his pals — was McLaughlin’s biggest political fundraiser. “Petrocelli may not have had the title, but he was Brian’s campaign-fundraising chairman,” one of McLaughlin’s former advisers told us back then.

McLaughlin often dined out with the older man, and even invested in a telecom venture Petrocelli launched. Come to think of it, McLaughlin also liked to have dinner a lot with Queens Assemblyman Tony Seminerio, who is facing his own pending federal charges, thanks to his old pal McLaughin. Just last month, the feds added a slew of new counts to Seminerio’s indictment.

The investigation has been a full-time chore for several agencies, including the FBI, and the city’s Department of Investigation, which has done yeoman’s work since the McLaughlin probe began several years ago. Also on the case is the often unheralded Office of Labor Racketeering, the investigative arm of the federal labor department.

We note also that Petrocelli’s case has been assigned to assistant U.S. attorney Lisa Zornberg, whose ongoing labor racketeering cases have been giving conniptions to crooked city contractors and union bigs alike.

Among the crimes McLaughlin confessed to during his hour-long courtroom mea culpa last year, you may recall, was stealing from his own union, an immigrant assistance unit he created at the labor council, and of course the local little league. The ex-labor big had agreed to a sentence of 97 to 121 months before the overhead light (wired by Petrocelli Electric?) suddenly went on and he decided to cooperate with the feds.

You’ve got to figure he’s got a ways to go yet. Look out Queens Boulevard!

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