The New York Times

3 Officials of L.I. Construction Union Are Indicted

December 18, 1988

Charging that the largest construction union on Long Island has been controlled by the Mafia for more than 20 years, Federal prosecutors have obtained racketeering indictments against the union's three principal officials.

The officials of Local 66 of the Laborers International Union of North America were indicted on Thursday after a two-year investigation that included the planting of concealed microphones in the union's offices and the videotaping of purported illegal payoffs, law-enforcement officials said.

All three union officials have pleaded not guilty.

In announcing the charges, prosecutors identified the head of the union, Peter Vario, as a "soldier," or an initiated member in the Lucchese organized-crime family. Mr. Vario and two other officials were accused of obtaining $113,800 in payoffs between 1979 and 1987 from contractors and of running the union as a criminal enterprise.

'Tip of the Iceberg'

"This union is owned lock, stock and barrel by the Lucchese crime family," Edward A. McDonald, the head of the Federal Organized Crime Strike Force for the Eastern District of New York State, said in an interview. He asserted that union officials and top members of the Lucchese crime family "systematically bled thousands of dollars in illegal payoffs from construction contractors" on Long Island.

The United States Attorney in the Eastern District, Andrew J. Maloney, said that while the amounts of money documented in the indictment were relatively small, the payoffs "were just the tip of the iceberg."

The union leaders were indicted under provisions of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act, known as RICO. Mr. Maloney said that the investigation was continuing and that more indictments under civil provisions of the RICO law were expected.

Local 66 represents more than 1,200 workers employed in the construction of foundations and other jobs at commercial and residential buildings in Nassau County and Suffolk County.

Mr. Vario, who is 44 years old and who lives in Dix Hills, L.I., was the lead defendant in the 51-count indictment. He is the vice president of Local 66 and the administrator of its $40 million retirement and fringe-benefits fund.

Also indicted were Michael LaBarbara Jr., 51, of Holtsville, L.I., the business manager of Local 66, and James G. Abbatiello, of Westbury, L.I., the assistant business manager.

All Plead Not Guilty

The officers pleaded not guilty at arraignments in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, and each was released on $250,000 bail for a hearing in Federal District Court on Thursday.

All three union officials have unpublished phone numbers and could not be reached at home. Calls to the union's offices were not returned.

Samuel H. Dawson, a lawyer representing Mr. LaBarbara, said he expected his client to be found not guilty.

"Each day brings us one day closer to a finding that these charges are very flimsy and are built on bought and paid-for testimony," said Mr. Dawson, of Gallop Dawson & Clayman of Manhattan. "What will ultimately be revealed is that the government made a pact with a number of people caught doing all kinds of things who decided they would bargain for their freedom."

The reputed former boss of the Lucchese family, Salvatore (Tony Ducks) Corallo, and the reputed underboss or number two leader of the family, Salvatore Santoro, were named as unindicted co-conspirators. They were said in the indictment to have shared in the payoffs and resolved disputes over the distribution of the money.

Both were sentenced to long prison terms after being convicted in 1986 on Federal charges that they were members of the Mafia's ruling body in the New York metropolitan area.

A concrete-company owner, Silvestro Spilabotte, 55, of Old Westbury, L.I., who is the head of the DeSantis Construction Corporation in Hauppauge, L.I., was also charged with racketeering and serving as a middleman in funneling payoffs from other contractors to Local 66 officials. Mr. Spilabotte pleaded not guilty.


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