Union exec blasts `witch-hunt'

November 16, 1997


For years the mob ran his union. His uncle is a mob lieutenant now in prison. He wanted to buy the home of a top Chicago mob boss.

But John Galioto, an official at Laborers' Local 225, says he has nothing to do with organized crime.

Pushed by the Justice Department, the Laborers' International union is purging its leadership of organized crime. Its investigations here and around the country have driven more than 100 organized crime figures from the union.

Now the international is focused on Local 225, based in Des Plaines, and its leadership, including business manager Galioto.

On Friday the international served notice on Local 225 that it plans to place it in trusteeship, Galioto said.

Galioto, 37, a former forklift operator, is the first Chicago laborers' official to talk about the international's campaign against individuals and locals it believes are influenced by the mob.

``It's a conspiracy,'' Galioto said of the probe.

He said investigators, many of them with Irish surnames and formerly employed in law enforcement, are biased against him because of his Italian ancestry.

``They think all Italians are genetically encoded with crime. For them to justify their existence, they have to make us look bad.''

Investigators for the international declined to comment about Local 225, but one described Galioto's allegation of Irish and law enforcement prejudice against Italians as ``laughable.''

Earlier this month, the international questioned Galioto about his personal finances. Three times this year, the international audited the books of Local 225, which represents more than 2,500 workers in the Chicago area. If a hearing officer agrees, the international can expel Galioto and take over the local.

Galioto emphatically denies any connection to organized crime.

He said the international is following up bogus charges against him, including complaints that he and other officers:

* Prevented an executive board member from speaking out about a $1,000 bribe she was allegedly offered to quit the union. Galioto denies trying to silence or bribe anyone.

* Spent large sums of union money on themselves. Galioto, for example, bought a $1,000 briefcase with union money. He said the union's board approved the purchase.

* Associated with members of organized crime, a violation of union rules.

Galioto said the international accuses him of mob associations because of his relatives, not because of anything he has done.

His uncle, James Marcello, was an organized crime lieutenant who answered to top mob boss Sam Carlisi. The late Carlisi's street crew ran West Side bookmaking, juice loan and extortion operations for 30 years.

Marcello and Carlisi were convicted of racketeering in 1993 and sentenced to long terms in prison. Marcello's indictment accused him of plotting murder and arson, including an instance in which a mob associate hurled military fragmentation and phosphorus grenades into an empty suburban theater.

Galioto likes to remind people that he is not his uncle.

``The Lord has not given me a special dispensation to choose my family,'' he said. ``James Marcello is in prison--I don't care. He is not me.''

Galioto said he was never close to his uncle, and as for Carlisi, he said: ``I never met the man. Their world is not my world.''

It was only by chance that he almost bought Carlisi's home, Galioto said.

Carlisi put his suburban Bartlett home up for sale in the early 1990s, asking $400,000. He and Marcello were indicted a short time later.

Galioto said Marcello suggested that he bid on the home, but never mentioned that Carlisi owned it. He said he learned later that it was Carlisi's home, and the sale was never consummated.

Nor is he responsible for the rest of his family, Galioto said.

In 1995, his father, William, his mother, Ann, and his brother, Sam, were denied a $5.5 million city loan to build a video and movie production center. City officials said they killed the loan because they feared the family might have organized crime ties. William Galioto, a former Cook County police officer, was acquitted of bookmaking in 1993.

John Galioto, who had nothing to do with the loan or video production business, says he also has nothing to do with his family.

``I am estranged from all of them,'' he said. ``I don't speak with them. We have different ideals.''

As evidence, Galioto notes that Local 225 once had its offices in a building owned by his parents. When he became business manager early this year, he moved the local to a building not owned by relatives.

``It was a conflict of interest,'' Galioto said. ``I broke the lease.''

The president of Local 225 is Joseph Abate, who is awaiting trial on charges of syndicate bookmaking. He was suspended from the union with pay in April shortly after his indictment.

``They have accused me of being with Joe Abate,'' Galioto said of the international. ``They said he and I are together in a conspiracy.''

Galioto denies conspiring with anyone. Abate's attorney did not return repeated phone calls.

Galioto said the international is overlooking his accomplishments.

He said he recruited a black organizer, one of only a handful in the union's history. When he was hired in 1993, he said, the local was broke. Now it is solvent and membership is up 25 percent.

Local 225 has become more democratic under his leadership, Galioto said. ``When I started we couldn't draw a quorum at meetings,'' he said, but members now crowd union meetings.

And unlike many Laborers' union officials, Galioto draws only one salary from the union, albeit more than $80,000 a year. Some union officials who are suspected of mob ties claim to work three jobs, collecting a check from each.

``I'm the victim of a witch-hunt,'' Galioto said.

Return to

All original work Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.