November 2, 1988
The 39-year-old son of a construction union
official, testifying as a prosecution witness, said yesterday
that he collected and cashed paychecks from contractors made out
to "ghost" employees and turned the money over to his
As his father, Basil Robert Cervone, 76,
watched from the defendants' table without any show of emotion,
the witness, Basil Robert Cervone Jr., described his duties for
his father, "I picked up ghost checks, I chauffered my father
around and I provided protection."
Mr. Cervone Sr., for many years the business
agent and controlling figure in Mason Tenders Local 13 of the
Laborers International Union of North America, is a defendant
in a Federal labor racketeering case accusing him of receiving
more than $300,000 in bribes and extortion.
Taking the stand as a major witness for the
Government, Mr. Cervone Jr. said that each Friday over a two-
or three-year period, he collected on behalf of his father four
paychecks made out to no-show employees. Each check was for about
$380 or $400. #14 Other Defendants The witness, who worked as
a laborer on construction jobs and served as an unpaid vice president
of the Mason Tenders local, which has its office in Flushing,
Queens, said seven other people also collected "envelopes"
for his father, There are 14 other defendants on trial in Federal
District Court in Brooklyn, including another son of Mr. Cervone,
Joseph, 50, who is the salaried president of the local and the
witness's half brother. Nine of the defendants are or were officials
of unions in the concrete, masrony or carpentry trades.
In his opening statement when the trial began
six weeks ago, Anthony Siano, a prosecutor, told the jury that
Mr. Cervone Sr. and his co-defendants used "fear, violence
and force" to induce payoffs from building contractors.
Under questioning yesterday by Patrick J.
Cotter, the other prosecutor on the case, Mr. Cervone Jr. said
he had begun cooperating with the Government after he was arrested
along with the other defendants. He said he decided to pleaded
guilty to a racketeering count in exchange for a promise that
the prosecution would recommend a maximum prison sentence of 10
years, half of what he could get otherwise.
In addition to making out checks to "ghosts,"
Mr. Cervone Jr. said that many contractors, as well as union delegates,
gave his father gifts and envelopes at parties held on his birthday