The New York Times


April 23, 1985

The president of the laborers' union today refused to answer questions from the President's Commission on Organized Crime at a hearing in which a union local's president was linked to a botched attempt to kill an organized crime gambling leader.

Angelo Fosco, president of the 625,000-member Laborers' International union for the last 10 years, was asked to explain why 156 Federal indictments were returned against members of his union from 1980 to 1984. He declined to respond, citing his Constitutional right to avoid self incrimination.

Mr. Fosco invoked the Fifth Amendment six more times, in response to questions about organized crime members in the union, about organized crime's influence in union locals and even whether he was aware that A.F.L.-C.I.O. ethics discourage reliance on the Fifth Amendment.

Earlier, Robert Powell, a retired vice president of the laborer's union, testified that he had been threatened when he expressed interest in running against Mr. Fosco in 1981. Mr. Powell said he moved his family out of Washington and began carrying a gun and wearing a bullet-proof vest.

The 13-member panel, which is hearing three days of testimony on labor racketeering, refused to delay a scheduled appearance Tuesday by Jackie Presser, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Mr. Presser's attorney asked for the delay, citing a recommendation from a Justice Department strike force that he be indicted on charges related to ghost employee payments. The lawyer said he recommended that Mr. Presser take the Fifth Amendment before the panel.

In another development, an attorney for Roy L. Williams, the former teamster president, said Mr. Williams had been subpoenaed to appear before the commission. The lawyer, Thomas Wadden, made the announcement as a Federal district judge heard arguments on whether Mr. Williams, 70 years old and ailing, was fit enough to begin serving a prison term for a bribery conviction.

Mr. Wadden said Mr. Williams, who suffers from emphysema, would die in prison if he was forced to serve the sentence. He also said Mr. Williams would be a "sitting duck" in Federal prison if someone decided to silence him.

Mr. Wadden did not say whether Mr, Williams, convicted in 1982 of conspiring to bribe a senator for help in defeating trucking deregulation legislation, would testify before the commission.

Testifying before the panel, a former organized crime gambling leader in Chicago, Ken Eto, who is in the Government's witness protection program, said that a 1983 attempt on his life was ordered by Vincent Solano, president of Laborers' union Local 1 in Chicago.

Mr. Solano was one of three Local 1 officers who invoked the Fifth Amendment in the hearing. He has never been charged with a crime in connection with the Eto assassination attempt.

Mr. Eto, wearing a black hood and robe, said that on Feb. 10, 1983, he met two men, Jasper Campise and John Gattuso, who were supposed to take him to meet Solano for dinner.

Instead, he testified, they drove to a parking lot and "as soon as I parked, bang! I got shot in the head." Mr. Eto was shot twice more, but lived.

Mr. Campise and Mr. Gattuso were charged with attempted murder. Their bodies were later found in a car trunk.

Mr. Eto said he had pleaded guilty earlier to a Federal gambling charge and met with Mr. Solano, to whom he had been reporting for nearly a decade, a few weeks before the shooting to talk about his options. According to Mr. Eto, Mr. Solano said he could serve time, appeal or flee.

"I just felt there was something wrong," Mr. Eto said. "He no longer trusted me."

Commissioner Thomas McBride said law-enforcement experts believe organized crime exerts substantial control over the 1.4 million-member teamsters union, the laborers union, the 400,000-member Hotel and Restaurant Employees union, and the 200,000- member International Longshoremen's Association.

"Membership of the 'big four' internationals in large part embraces some of the poorest, hardest-working, most under privileged members of our society," he said. "In too many cases their unions have become a vicious and vital part of the machinery of exploitation."


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