November 6, 1997
Filed at 6:34 p.m. EST
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former federal prosecutor
hired to fight corruption within the Laborers union accused the
union's president of having ties to organized crime and receiving
kickbacks from a vendor.The allegations were filed with another
former prosecutor who serves as the union's disciplinary officer
under a deal the Laborers signed with the Justice Department to
avoid racketeering charges in 1995.
In a written statement, Robert Luskin said
he had accused Arthur Coia of knowingly associating with members
of the mafia, permitting mob members to influence union affairs,
and accepting benefits from an unnamed vendor.
Luskin said the activities in question occurred
between 1986 and 1993, and that he had decided against suspending
Coia pending a hearing ``because all of the most serious allegations
concern historical misconduct.''
Officially, Coia was accused of violating
the union's ethical practices code and the charges were filed
before Peter Vaira, the union's independent hearing officer. A
hearing date had not been set.But Luskin coordinated his investigation
with federal prosecutors, who retained the right to prosecute
union officers and seize control of the union if the government
is unsatisfied with the internal cleanup efforts.
A federal grand jury in Boston is also weighing
evidence against Coia. Late last month, Coia promised to fight
union disciplinary charges rather than resign.``When all the evidence
is presented, when the truth is brought forward, I will be totally,
completely and finally vindicated,'' he said in a letter to union
Congressional Republicans have criticized
the Justice Department's decision to allow the union to sweep
its own ranks before filing racketeering charges, noting that
the Laborers' were big donors to Democrats.
Coia cultivated a personal relationship with
President Clinton and was a top supporter of the administration's
failed health care reform effort.But Luskin has argued that the
internal cleanup is working. Proof, he suggested last month, lay
in his aggressive investigation of Coia.``We have said for three
years that a central part of the reform process is pursuing aggressively
every credible allegation against Coia, and he has said as much
himself,'' Luskin said.
Coia's father was a top Laborers' official
reputed to have close ties to Raymond Patriarca, the former head
of the New England mob.When Coia sought to replace his father
on the union's board, he was steered by another officer into a
meeting at a Chicago airport to receive the blessing of an ranking
mafia figure. Coia refused to discuss the incident in an interview
last year, but people familiar with his sworn statements say he
testified that the meeting surprised him.
Labor officials say Coia, an attorney known
for his expensive suits and flashy cars, underwent a transformation
after overcoming Hodgkin's disease and signing the deal with the
He forced out ranking union members accused
of corruption and cooperated with Luskin's investigation.In recent
years, he dedicated substantial resources to organizing new members
and seeking better cooperation between labor and employers.
But more recently, Laborers sources say, personal problems and the continuing investigation have left him detached from the day-to-day operations of the union.He skipped the AFL-CIO convention in October to travel in Europe.