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Mob Turncoat Eager to Talk About Construction Rackets 

September 8, 2000 New York Times 

By C. J. CHIVERS 

On a cold night last December, a white limousine stopped near Il  Boschetto restaurant in Yonkers. Two large men stepped out and  hurried through the restaurant's front door. 

Both men were suspected of being mob racketeers. One, Joseph  Datello, has been identified as an inducted member of the Lucchese  crime family. The other, Sean J. Richard, was the son-in-law of

John Riggi, the imprisoned boss of the New Jersey- based  DeCavalcantes. Mr. Richard had recently been in a car accident. He  wore a bandage on his left arm. 

In the restaurant, Steven L. Crea, who has been identified as the  Luccheses' acting boss, greeted them from the first stool at the  bar. For about an hour, the three men talked about bribery and

extortion, the authorities say. Mr. Richard now remembers that Mr.  Crea was angry. He speculated darkly about a man he thought might  be an informer. 

When the meeting ended, Mr. Richard dropped Mr. Datello off at his  home on Staten Island, as he had after many meetings before. Then  he broke from the routine. 

He directed his driver to a motel parking lot and switched cars,  taking a seat in a sedan with another group of men. Reaching into  his sweatsuit, he unrolled the bandage and removed a hidden recording device. 

Sean Richard had just betrayed the man he says was his Mafia boss.  Mr. Crea had guessed wrong. 

In the end, it was a fellow boss's son-in-law, worried that his  future held either jail time or a violent death, who had turned  against him. In the parlance of mobsters, Mr. Richard had become a rat. 

"These are not the kind of circumstances you want to gain fame and  notoriety for," Mr. Richard said in a recent interview. "But I  didn't have many options, and that's what I am." 

Mr. Richard, who agreed to several interviews while in hiding, is  the mob's latest embarrassing, tell-all turncoat. He is an eager  raconteur. 

On Wednesday, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district  attorney, unsealed racketeering indictments against Mr. Crea and 37  other defendants, accusing them of participating in a criminal

enterprise that drove up the prices of construction projects  throughout the city. The indictment identifies Mr. Crea as the   acting boss and Mr. Datello as a soldier in the Lucchese crime  family.  

As the prosecutions go forward, they will rely on years of  investigation and wiretaps by the New York Police Department. And  they will rely on Mr. Richard, who agreed to plead guilty to  attempted enterprise corruption in exchange for a new identity and  five years' probation. 

In return, he plans to testify with zeal about how the Luccheses,  through persistence and payoffs, maintained a grip on construction  projects at a time when the Mafia was supposedly in decline. Dozens

of contractors, union officials and mobsters are said to be  vulnerable to his testimony, which will recount, in detail, bribes  doled out in bars and restaurants, coercion at construction sites and the Mafia's aggressive, if somewhat bumbling, management of a  sprawling criminal scheme. 

"He is a godsend," said a lawyer who is familiar with the case. 

It is a remarkable reversal. As Mr. Riggi's son-in-law and the  father of two of the boss's granddaughters, Mr. Richard, 35, is  literally married to the mob. And he is displaying an almost  gloating disrespect. In interviews, he went beyond details of labor  corruption. He spoke with disdain for the mobsters he once served. 

He described Emmanuel Riggi, one of his brothers-in-law and a man prosecutors describe as a member of the DeCavalcante crime family,  as "so fat he breaks chairs at every family function." He said John Riggi, the feared crime boss, "ought to thank me for feeding his  useless kids." He said Mr. Datello, his 6-foot- 5 former partner, was "a big idiot, like Frankenstein." 

"I used to say, `Hey, Joey, I've got to take you in to get the bolts for your neck,' " Mr. Richard said. 

Some of Mr. Richard's former Mafia associates seem astounded at the breadth and tone of his confessions. A few, through lawyers or associates, declined to comment, including John Riggi, his sons and  Mr. Datello, who has eluded arrest so far.  

Others, through associates or lawyers, said Mr. Richard was little  more than a wild exaggerator and a serial manipulator who drew  attention to the Luccheses through a foolishly flamboyant style.

"This guy was a wannabe, and he conducted business that was not  authorized by organized crime," said a person who is familiar with  the Lucchese family. 

Mr. Richard is a gritty man and emanates the blunt, coarse  demeanor of a thug. He is utterly unlettered. He says "mob  fractions" when he means "mob factions." But he is also capable of  warmth and charm, and people who know him say he is very smart, a  man who passed easily through many roles until arriving at his  latest: prosecution witness. 

"He's a chameleon," said a friend of nearly 20 years who spoke  only on the condition of anonymity. "He became a gangster better  than one of them, and he thought circles around them while he did  it." 

For his first 30 years, Mr. Richard was an unknown, a laborer from the Bronx who trained as a union apprentice and, by his mid-20's, started a small subcontracting company in New Jersey. His insider's

tour of the mob did not begin until 1995, when he began dating Sara M. Riggi, the daughter of the DeCavalcantes' boss. 

The DeCavalcantes are the smallest of the region's Mafia families,  and considered by law enforcement to be the weakest, often relying on cooperation with the five families in New York. But they have

long specialized in labor rackets: extorting contractors in exchange for labor peace, or replacing unionized employees with nonunion workers and then spiriting away savings on wages or fringe benefits. 

Mr. Richard became fascinated with Mr. Riggi, whom he said he first visited in the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., in 1996, when the boss was serving a sentence for extortion. Mr. Riggi, 75, appeared in prison khakis, yet somehow managed, Mr. Richard said, "to have an almost presidential

bearing." He sat briefly with Mr. Richard and Ms. Riggi before sending his daughter to a vending machine. 

"As soon as she left, he looked at me and said: "Who you with? Who you indentured to?" Mr. Richard said. "I said: "Nobody. I don't answer to nobody.' And after we talked for a while, we hit it off." 

Mr. Richard and Ms. Riggi married on Sept. 13, 1996. "Friday the 13th," Mr. Richard now says. 

Unlike Mr. Riggi's three sons, who law enforcement officials say were unable to run the rackets (Mr. Richard calls them "goofballs, three guys you wouldn't take miniature golfing"), his son-in-law

seemed smart and aggressive. Soon, Mr. Richard's legitimate business was a sideline; labor rackets were his game. 

He and law enforcement officials said that in 1996 he began circulating his father-in-law's instructions to corrupt New Jersey locals and pursuing larger plans. "Sean was a significant player," said Robert T. Buccino, who retired last month as deputy chief of New Jersey's Organized Crime Bureau. "He was more trusted than the sons were." 

By 1997, Mr. Richard established a link with the Luccheses, working for Mr. Datello, who prosecutors say also specialized in labor rackets. In one of his schemes, Mr. Richard and prosecutors assert, he and an associate bribed Michael Forde, the president of Local 608 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, to help limit the number of unionized carpenters at a Park Central Hotel renovation project. 

He said the first payment ( $10,000 in cash ) was made over afternoon beers at a Hooters on West 56th Street. "I gave him the ten thousand, and he says, `You know, I really shouldn't be drinking beers while I'm working; the union is cracking down on that,' " Mr. Richard said. "I said: `You’re worried about the beers? What do you think your guys would think about that ten thousand you just took?' " 

Through his lawyer, Mr. Forde said the meeting with Mr. Richard never took place. 

As he worked for Mr. Datello, Mr. Richard lived a high roller's life, canvassing Manhattan and spending freely from wads of $100 bills. He bought pedigreed Rottweilers. He leased a new luxury car every few months. He bought a $320,000 home on two acres in Holmdel, N.J., putting $145,000 down. The house had a sauna, a Jacuzzi, an in-ground pool and separate yards: one for his two infant daughters, the other for his menacing-looking black dogs. 

By 1999, he had become a fixture at the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel, where the manager, Patrick Littlejohn, remembers that he sat in a corner booth and ordered heaping plates of chilled seafood and

seared prime rib, washing both down with 1982 Lafite-Rothschild. Sometimes he stood by the piano, singing Frank Sinatra or Perry Como songs. 

He also passed long hours at the Paradise Club, a nightclub near the Empire State Building, where he tipped the striptease dancer he fell in love with as much as $1,000 a night, he and the dancer both say. "If I dropped dead tomorrow, I lived, baby, I lived," Mr. Richard said. 

He and the authorities also say he attended the meetings of a secret three-member construction panel that the Luccheses used to plan rackets, mediate disputes and divide spoils. By his telling, these meetings illustrated the paradox that the latter-day Mafia has become.

 On one hand, the mob was resourceful enough to cheat the construction industry of millions of dollars. On the other, many members and associates were almost pathetic: grown men who groveled

to get jobs as flagmen at road crews, or who talked relentlessly on cellular phones about secret meetings, all while the detectives were listening. 

"This was supposed to be a secret society, but we'd get 20, 25, 30 guys turning up, all asking for something," Mr. Richard said. "It  was a joke." 

He recalled one panel meeting last year at Little Charlie's Clam Bar on Kenmare Street in Manhattan, for which, he said, two dozen mobsters and associates arrived in flashy cars, lining the block with Cadillacs and Lincolns. Later, he learned that the police had watched the entire show. "It was kind of comical," Mr. Richard said. "The detectives were right across the street." 

Mr. Richard's life began to unravel last June, when the police raided several dozen homes and offices in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, searching for records documenting the suspected rackets. One of the targets was the Linden, N.J., office of S & S Contracting, the business he had formed with his wife.

 The raids filled him with dread. "It was the beginning of the end," he said. "For them to get 40 warrants in three states? Come on. That's real."

 Over the next five months, he fell into a funk. He began to use cocaine, marijuana and heroin, he said, and drank more heavily than usual. He spent even more money, dipping into the weekly cash tribute he said he was supposed to pay Mr. Datello as a member of his crew.

 He also began to think about becoming the state's witness, in part because friction within the Luccheses rose after the raids, and he worried that Mr. Datello had been given orders to kill him. The fear, he said, intensified late last fall when he was told to wait outside the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, N.J., to meet Dominic Truscello, a Lucchese capo. Mr. Datello told him he would be picked up in a van.

  "I said, `What do you guys need a van for?' " Mr. Richard recalled. "A van is never a good sign in this business."

 He was so unnerved, he said, that he armed himself, carrying a pistol in his belt. The van ride passed without violence, but during the meeting that followed, he said, Mr. Truscello stared icily at him and said, "What are your sins?" Mr. Richard interpreted the question as a sign that he was marked for execution. He defected soon thereafter.

  Now that the case is public, lawyers and associates of the Luccheses say that the state's star witness is a traitor on many levels.

 Mr. Richard is now in hiding with his girlfriend, the stripper, who performed under the name Lola. His wife, Sara Riggi, has not seen him in months. She has been left in disarray, alone with their daughters and facing foreclosure proceedings against their home. She filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in July and for divorce in August. "It's very upsetting," she said in a brief interview, which she ended in tears. 

For his part, Mr. Richard looks like a man who has long been resting. He has lost weight and added tattoos. He has a rich tan. Now and then he talks about book or movie deals. He takes precautions, but they are almost comically half-hearted, like his tendency when venturing away from the police to wear a hat and sunglasses, or his request to a reporter not to describe his tattoos. 

The Luccheses' latest racketeering case, and his probation, will be over one day, he says. Then he will have a new life. "The last thing anybody wants to be is a rat," he said. "But you know something? I'll be a rat and I won't be in prison. I'll be a rat and I'll be alive."

 

 


NYT Archives Article

September 4, 2000, Monday

Metropolitan Desk

Mob's Shadow Still Falls Across Building Projects

 

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

Several months ago, the city suspended more than $80 million in contracts with a construction company that has a key role in closing the Fresh Kills landfill so that officials could investigate allegations that the company had ties to organized crime.

The city's action against the company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, which has also done work on the city's new $71 million stadium complex on Staten Island, attracted little attention. Yet it was hardly an isolated case. Last year, for example, two successive companies hired by the city to supply concrete for the renovation of City Hall Park were thrown off the job in two months because of similar suspicions. And during construction of his high-rise apartment complex on Manhattan's West Side in 1997, Donald J. Trump faced problems because one contractor -- who was indicted in 1987 in a mob-related bribery case -- provided substandard concrete that had to be replaced. Another company on the job was owned by a man whom the F.B.I. had long identified as a mob associate.

Despite state and federal racketeering cases over the last two decades that broke organized crime's monopoly in the construction business in the New York area, the mob has remained entrenched in the business, feeding off public works projects and private developments, law enforcement officials and industry experts say.

''There are still many industries, including the construction industry, that suffer from its insidious influence,'' said the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, who has investigated construction industry corruption since the 1980's. ''The effect of the mob's continued involvement in these industries is to impose a mob tax, which raises prices and makes New York City a less attractive place to do business.''

In the case of Interstate, a Sanitation Department spokesman said the investigation would have no effect on the scheduled closing of the landfill in December. But industry experts said rebidding the work could add tens of millions of dollars to the $500 million cost of closing Fresh Kills.

In March, the city halted work on $31 million in Department of Sanitation contracts with Interstate, which is based in Clifton, N.J. At least $30 million more in work that had been awarded to the company but not yet started was also suspended, city officials said. The company was hired to cap portions of the landfill and provide dirt for Fresh Kills. The city also suspended a $24 million contract with the company for road construction in Brooklyn.

Through its lawyer, Harold J. Ruvoldt Jr., Interstate adamantly denied that the company or its owners, Frank and Peter DiTommaso, had ties to organized crime. The DiTommasos are brothers. Mr. Ruvoldt said Interstate was cooperating with the city and expected to be cleared -- with the contracts reinstated.

Prosecutors and investigators said it was impossible to precisely gauge the extent of organized crime's continued role in the construction industry, given the shadowy nature of its influence. Christopher Prather, who oversees the organized-crime task force for State Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer, said corrupt labor unions or individual union officials were still central to organized crime's ability to make money in construction, a $29 billion industry that accounts for more than 7 percent of New York City's economy.

Common schemes generally involve bribing union officials so that a company can hire cheaper nonunion workers and forgo expensive payments into pension, benefit and health and welfare funds. The schemes violate prevailing-wage laws, which require contractors on public works projects and in some cases large private projects to pay workers a set wage.

''There are bound to be a few takers'' when a contractor can drastically reduce his payroll costs through bribery, Mr. Prather said. ''Once you get a few takers, it puts pressure on an industry. Pretty soon, people who want to play by the rules finally can't compete and it becomes a race to the bottom as far as who is going to cheat the most.''

Violations of the prevailing-wage laws are at the heart of an extensive labor-racketeering indictment expected to be unsealed in Manhattan soon that names about three dozen union officials, contractors and reputed mobsters, according to an investigator.

The indictment is based on a long investigation by Mr. Morgenthau's office and the New York Police Department's Organized Crime Investigative Division. It involves three different mob families in construction projects around the city, said the investigator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Among those charged in the case will be Steven Crea, 53, the acting boss of the Lucchese crime family, who the authorities have said played a direct role in many of the family's construction rackets, and two of his senior aides, Dominick Truscello, 66, and Joseph Tangorra, 51, who is known as Joey Flowers. Police detectives have dubbed the case Operation Textbook because they see it as a primer on labor racketeering.

The indictment outlines organized crime's involvement in the construction of city schools in the Bronx and Queens and in projects built for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city's Department of Transportation, the investigator said. In addition to the role of the Lucchese group, one of New York's five Mafia families, the indictment implicates associates of the DeCavalcante family, a smaller mob group based in New Jersey, and the Bonanno crime family.

A lawyer for Mr. Tangorra, who is already under indictment in Brooklyn on federal extortion charges, said yesterday that his client had never been convicted of a crime and denied that he had any times to organized crime.

Robert Leighton, who represents Mr. Truscello, would not discuss the pending charges, and Mr. Crea's lawyer could not be reached yesterday.

Prosecutors and industry analysts said that although it was difficult to estimate the cost of mob infiltration of the construction business, the price could be measured in some tangible ways. They pointed to the reduced number of school seats available in neighborhoods where organized-crime figures have hijacked school construction projects and the effect that higher building costs can have on the construction of public and low-cost housing.

In 1990, the city set up its Vendex database to screen contractors and suppliers in an effort to weed out those with histories of poor performance, corruption or ties to organized crime. But in many cases, such problem companies slip through. In the case of Interstate, there was nothing in the database that would have raised any flags.

Interstate's problems began in October 1996, when the company bought a transfer station for dirt and construction debris, Metropolitan Stone Corporation, which government documents say was owned by one reputed member of the Gambino crime family and controlled by another, Edward Garafola, 62, a larger-than-life figure in the construction industry for more than two decades. Mr. Garafola is married to the sister of Salvatore Gravano, the Mafia turncoat known as Sammy the Bull, whose testimony sent John J. Gotti to prison for life. Prosecutors say Mr. Garafola took over many of Mr. Gravano's construction rackets when Mr. Gravano became a government witness.

After the purchase, the city's Trade Waste Commission began reviewing Interstate's license application for the transfer station and subsequently opened a criminal investigation with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, investigators said.

Meanwhile, the authorities in New Jersey, who had been reviewing the company's application for a license to do construction work at casinos in Atlantic City, issued a report raising questions about possible ties to organized crime.

Although the report did not recommend denying the license, it called for a hearing to explore its concerns. Three days later, an official with Interstate, Lawrence Ray, 40, was indicted on stock fraud charges by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn after an unrelated investigation. Mr. Garafola was charged with extortion as a result of the same investigation.

The pressure intensified, and within weeks, the city suspended its contracts with Interstate. Mr. Ruvoldt contended that Interstate was being unfairly singled out, saying it was helping the city clean up the transfer station by buying Metropolitan Stone. ''The DiTommasos are getting tarred because they came to the table as good guys and bought out a transfer station, helping the city accomplish its goal, and this is simply unfair,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sunny Mindel, said, ''At this point, these are allegations which are being investigated, and final decisions will be made upon completion of the investigation.''

Since the early 1990's, Interstate has done hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of work in major private and public projects, including concrete work on the stadium complex in Staten Island. Michael G. Carey, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said Interstate had nearly completed $7 million in work at the complex. Mr. Carey said that at the time the company was selected, there was no reason to question its fitness.

The DiTommaso brothers are the sons of a New York City police officer, Anthony DiTomasso, who in the 1950's started L&T Contracting with his brother, a city firefighter, according to documents the brothers filed with the city. Among the jobs that Interstate has completed, the documents said, are the control tower at Kennedy Airport, the new federal office building in Lower Manhattan and the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Courthouse in Newark.

Like the city, New York State has spent millions on construction projects that have involved companies with ties to organized crime. In one case, Worth Construction Company was awarded a $20 million state contract to help build a hospital wing at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a state prison for women in Westchester County. The company, which also did $14.4 million in work at the Triborough Bridge for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is owned by Joseph Pontoriero, 60, who law enforcement authorities contend is tied to the Genovese crime family.

Caroline Quartararo, a spokeswoman for the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, would not discuss how the contract was awarded to Worth.

Mr. Pontoriero was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the so-called commission case, a key prosecution in 1986 that helped break the mob's stranglehold on the concrete industry. That trial, a 10-week glimpse at gangland lore, established the existence of a Mafia politburo, known as the commission, and resulted in the conviction of the city's top crime leaders.

He was a regular visitor to the Palma Boys Social Club in East Harlem in the 1980's, where, according to the F.B.I., he often met and talked with Anthony Salerno, then the crime family's boss.

In 1998, Worth, based in Bethel, Conn., was disqualified by the New York City School Construction Authority's inspector general from bidding on city school jobs because the company refused to answer questions about accusations that Mr. Pontoriero and his company were controlled by organized crime. The company did not return telephone calls seeking comment, but in the past it has denied any links to organized crime.

 


NYT Archives Article 

 

September 4, 2000, Monday

Metropolitan Desk

Mob's Shadow Still Falls Across Building Projects

 

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

Several months ago, the city suspended more than $80 million in contracts with a construction company that has a key role in closing the Fresh Kills landfill so that officials could investigate allegations that the company had ties to organized crime.

The city's action against the company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, which has also done work on the city's new $71 million stadium complex on Staten Island, attracted little attention. Yet it was hardly an isolated case. Last year, for example, two successive companies hired by the city to supply concrete for the renovation of City Hall Park were thrown off the job in two months because of similar suspicions. And during construction of his high-rise apartment complex on Manhattan's West Side in 1997, Donald J. Trump faced problems because one contractor -- who was indicted in 1987 in a mob-related bribery case -- provided substandard concrete that had to be replaced. Another company on the job was owned by a man whom the F.B.I. had long identified as a mob associate.  

Despite state and federal racketeering cases over the last two decades that broke organized crime's monopoly in the construction business in the New York area, the mob has remained entrenched in the business, feeding off public works projects and private developments, law enforcement officials and industry experts say.

''There are still many industries, including the construction industry, that suffer from its insidious influence,'' said the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, who has investigated construction industry corruption since the 1980's. ''The effect of the mob's continued involvement in these industries is to impose a mob tax, which raises prices and makes New York City a less attractive place to do business.''

In the case of Interstate, a Sanitation Department spokesman said the investigation would have no effect on the scheduled closing of the landfill in December. But industry experts said rebidding the work could add tens of millions of dollars to the $500 million cost of closing Fresh Kills.

In March, the city halted work on $31 million in Department of Sanitation contracts with Interstate, which is based in Clifton, N.J. At least $30 million more in work that had been awarded to the company but not yet started was also suspended, city officials said. The company was hired to cap portions of the landfill and provide dirt for Fresh Kills. The city also suspended a $24 million contract with the company for road construction in Brooklyn.

Through its lawyer, Harold J. Ruvoldt Jr., Interstate adamantly denied that the company or its owners, Frank and Peter DiTommaso, had ties to organized crime. The DiTommasos are brothers. Mr. Ruvoldt said Interstate was cooperating with the city and expected to be cleared -- with the contracts reinstated.

Prosecutors and investigators said it was impossible to precisely gauge the extent of organized crime's continued role in the construction industry, given the shadowy nature of its influence. Christopher Prather, who oversees the organized-crime task force for State Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer, said corrupt labor unions or individual union officials were still central to organized crime's ability to make money in construction, a $29 billion industry that accounts for more than 7 percent of New York City's economy.

Common schemes generally involve bribing union officials so that a company can hire cheaper nonunion workers and forgo expensive payments into pension, benefit and health and welfare funds. The schemes violate prevailing-wage laws, which require contractors on public works projects and in some cases large private projects to pay workers a set wage.

''There are bound to be a few takers'' when a contractor can drastically reduce his payroll costs through bribery, Mr. Prather said. ''Once you get a few takers, it puts pressure on an industry. Pretty soon, people who want to play by the rules finally can't compete and it becomes a race to the bottom as far as who is going to cheat the most.''

Violations of the prevailing-wage laws are at the heart of an extensive labor-racketeering indictment expected to be unsealed in Manhattan soon that names about three dozen union officials, contractors and reputed mobsters, according to an investigator.

The indictment is based on a long investigation by Mr. Morgenthau's office and the New York Police Department's Organized Crime Investigative Division. It involves three different mob families in construction projects around the city, said the investigator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Among those charged in the case will be Steven Crea, 53, the acting boss of the Lucchese crime family, who the authorities have said played a direct role in many of the family's construction rackets, and two of his senior aides, Dominick Truscello, 66, and Joseph Tangorra, 51, who is known as Joey Flowers. Police detectives have dubbed the case Operation Textbook because they see it as a primer on labor racketeering.

The indictment outlines organized crime's involvement in the construction of city schools in the Bronx and Queens and in projects built for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city's Department of Transportation, the investigator said. In addition to the role of the Lucchese group, one of New York's five Mafia families, the indictment implicates associates of the DeCavalcante family, a smaller mob group based in New Jersey, and the Bonanno crime family.

A lawyer for Mr. Tangorra, who is already under indictment in Brooklyn on federal extortion charges, said yesterday that his client had never been convicted of a crime and denied that he had any times to organized crime.

Robert Leighton, who represents Mr. Truscello, would not discuss the pending charges, and Mr. Crea's lawyer could not be reached yesterday.

Prosecutors and industry analysts said that although it was difficult to estimate the cost of mob infiltration of the construction business, the price could be measured in some tangible ways. They pointed to the reduced number of school seats available in neighborhoods where organized-crime figures have hijacked school construction projects and the effect that higher building costs can have on the construction of public and low-cost housing.

In 1990, the city set up its Vendex database to screen contractors and suppliers in an effort to weed out those with histories of poor performance, corruption or ties to organized crime. But in many cases, such problem companies slip through. In the case of Interstate, there was nothing in the database that would have raised any flags.

Interstate's problems began in October 1996, when the company bought a transfer station for dirt and construction debris, Metropolitan Stone Corporation, which government documents say was owned by one reputed member of the Gambino crime family and controlled by another, Edward Garafola, 62, a larger-than-life figure in the construction industry for more than two decades. Mr. Garafola is married to the sister of Salvatore Gravano, the Mafia turncoat known as Sammy the Bull, whose testimony sent John J. Gotti to prison for life. Prosecutors say Mr. Garafola took over many of Mr. Gravano's construction rackets when Mr. Gravano became a government witness.

After the purchase, the city's Trade Waste Commission began reviewing Interstate's license application for the transfer station and subsequently opened a criminal investigation with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, investigators said.

Meanwhile, the authorities in New Jersey, who had been reviewing the company's application for a license to do construction work at casinos in Atlantic City, issued a report raising questions about possible ties to organized crime.

Although the report did not recommend denying the license, it called for a hearing to explore its concerns. Three days later, an official with Interstate, Lawrence Ray, 40, was indicted on stock fraud charges by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn after an unrelated investigation. Mr. Garafola was charged with extortion as a result of the same investigation.

The pressure intensified, and within weeks, the city suspended its contracts with Interstate. Mr. Ruvoldt contended that Interstate was being unfairly singled out, saying it was helping the city clean up the transfer station by buying Metropolitan Stone. ''The DiTommasos are getting tarred because they came to the table as good guys and bought out a transfer station, helping the city accomplish its goal, and this is simply unfair,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Sunny Mindel, said, ''At this point, these are allegations which are being investigated, and final decisions will be made upon completion of the investigation.''

Since the early 1990's, Interstate has done hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of work in major private and public projects, including concrete work on the stadium complex in Staten Island. Michael G. Carey, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said Interstate had nearly completed $7 million in work at the complex. Mr. Carey said that at the time the company was selected, there was no reason to question its fitness.

The DiTommaso brothers are the sons of a New York City police officer, Anthony DiTomasso, who in the 1950's started L&T Contracting with his brother, a city firefighter, according to documents the brothers filed with the city. Among the jobs that Interstate has completed, the documents said, are the control tower at Kennedy Airport, the new federal office building in Lower Manhattan and the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Courthouse in Newark.

Like the city, New York State has spent millions on construction projects that have involved companies with ties to organized crime. In one case, Worth Construction Company was awarded a $20 million state contract to help build a hospital wing at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a state prison for women in Westchester County. The company, which also did $14.4 million in work at the Triborough Bridge for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is owned by Joseph Pontoriero, 60, who law enforcement authorities contend is tied to the Genovese crime family.

Caroline Quartararo, a spokeswoman for the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, would not discuss how the contract was awarded to Worth.

Mr. Pontoriero was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the so-called commission case, a key prosecution in 1986 that helped break the mob's stranglehold on the concrete industry. That trial, a 10-week glimpse at gangland lore, established the existence of a Mafia politburo, known as the commission, and resulted in the conviction of the city's top crime leaders.

He was a regular visitor to the Palma Boys Social Club in East Harlem in the 1980's, where, according to the F.B.I., he often met and talked with Anthony Salerno, then the crime family's boss.

In 1998, Worth, based in Bethel, Conn., was disqualified by the New York City School Construction Authority's inspector general from bidding on city school jobs because the company refused to answer questions about accusations that Mr. Pontoriero and his company were controlled by organized crime. The company did not return telephone calls seeking comment, but in the past it has denied any links to organized crime.

 

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/mobbust_000906.html

 

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Horacio Grana was a retired member of the Carpenters Local Union 1506 in Los Angeles.
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