August 23, 1987
Twelve union officials, seven construction
contractors and a site supervisor were indicted last week on charges
of bribery, extortion and bid-rigging that prosecutors said had
imposed a "racketeering tax" for years on the construction
industry in Queens.
The indictment did not mention organized
crime, but Edward A. McDonald, the head of the Justice Department's
organized crime strike force in Brooklyn, said the case "presents
a problem of labor racketeering in its darkest form - an important
industry that is in a virtual stranglehold of segments of organized
crime and a group of labor racketeers and their willing business
accomplices." He added that the pattern of corruption outlined
in the indictment, amounting to a surcharge of millions of dollars
yearly on new residential and commercial properties, "goes
on all the time throughout the city of New York, throughout the
Chief among the defendants is a 75-year-old
former business agent of Mason Tenders Local 13 of the Laborers'
International Union of North America, Basil Robert Cervone, described
by Mr. McDonald as having "acted as a corrupt clearinghouse,
or an ombudsman if you will," for extortion by union officials
and bid-rigging among the contractors.
One scheme, according to the indictment,
involved an unsuccessful attempt in late 1985 to rig bids for
masonry work on luxury boxes at Shea Stadium. And some of those
indicted were charged with using "various minority worker
groups" to threaten, harass and impede contractors unless
they made payoffs to the unions.
One union official was still being sought;
the other defendants pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said that
about 90 convictions or guilty pleas had been obtained since the
strike force and the F.B.I. began their investigation of corruption
in the New York City building industry in 1978.