A construction union in Queens was squeezed by alleged mobsters who demanded monthly payments from a health fund tied to the union, according to an indictment unsealed in a Brooklyn federal court.
Prosecutors allege that defendants, including Andrew Russo, the reputed boss of the Colombo crime family, made threats to take control of the health fund and demanded $10,000-plus monthly payments beginning in 2019. The union wasn’t named in the indictment, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A senior labor official also allegedly faced threats and extortion demands from the defendants, though that person also hasn’t been named.
Through recordings and wiretaps, a federal investigation was able to catch defendants allegedly talking about the kickbacks, as well as personnel decisions involved in the union and health fund. One defendant, reputed Colombo captain Vincent Ricciardo, allegedly threatened to kill the labor official in June.
“I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Ricciardo allegedly said.
Additional allegations include selling fake Department of Labor cards for $500 each saying construction workers completed certain courses and falsifying paperwork at occupational safety training schools. Those schools allegedly served as a storage space for illegal drugs and fireworks, according to the indictment.
Fourteen people were arrested on Tuesday on fraud and racketeering charges that allegedly took place over the past two decades. The fourteen have been charged in connection to the alleged crimes and arrests took place in three states: New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.
Russo pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment on Tuesday, for which he appeared via video conference from a hospital where he was being treated.
Mob involvement in New York construction unions has been a longstanding issue. In November, the city’s largest construction union, the New York City District Council of Carpenters, announced it was taking steps to root out possible organized-crime ties within its membership. This January, a former HFZ Capital Group executive pleaded guilty in connection to a construction bribery scheme that skimmed funds from the developer’s projects.
[WSJ] — Holden Walter-Warner