and Policy Center
There they go again. The preposterous
attack on your paper by Laborers' International Union of North
America spokeswoman Linda Fisher was just another episode of Union
spin ("LIUNA has worked hard to clean itself up," Letters,
Miss Fisher says LIUNA's "internal
reform program is not only working, but working well." The
real issue is for whom, or what, is it really working?
The so-called LIUNA internal
reform effort is led by the ethically challenged Robert D. Luskin.
ON May 8, Mr. Luskin agreed to forfeit to the U.S. Justice Department
$245,000 of $674,296 he received in "legal fees" from
his client, Stephen A. Saccoccia. Saccoccia was a Rhode Island
precious metals dealer convicted of money laundering for two South
American drug cartels and La Cosa Nostra crime family in New England.
Saccoccia was sentenced in 1993 to 660 years in federal prison,
fined $15.8 million and ordered to forfeit all laundered money.
Former U.S. Customs Commissioner Carol B. Hallett identified Saccoccia
a "an associate" of the Raymond L.S. Patriarca crime
family in Rhode Island and also as a "contract employee of
the [La Cosa Nostra]."
LIUNA President Arthur A. Coia,
from Rhode Island, is no stranger to the Patriarcas. In 1981,
Mr. Coia was indicted on bribery and racketeering charges along
with his father, the late Arthur E. Coia, and the late Raymond
L.S. Patriarca. The charges were later dropped on a technicality.
Additionally, this is what the Clinton Justice Department said
about Mr. Coia in its 1994 draft anti-racketeering complaint:
"LIUNA has been infiltrated at all levels by corrupt individuals
and organized crime figures who have exploited their control and
influence over the union for personal gain and to the detriment
of the union. LIUNA union officers and employees at all levels,
including the general presidency, have been chosen, subject to
the approval of, had have been controlled by, various members
and associates of organized crime."
The most troubling issue is
Mr. Luskin's connection to all this and his virtual admission
of guilt earlier this year. Mr. Luskin said he received 45 gold
bars from Saccoccia valued at $505,125 and $169,171 in wire transfers
from a Swiss bank account. The Justice Department, led by former
U.S. Attorney Sheldon Whitehouse, went after Mr. Luskin and four
other Saccoccia attorneys for the money paid to them out of profits
laundered by Saccoccia. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that attorneys
cannot be paid with funds acquired as the result of the crime.
Mr. Whitehouse charged Mr. Luskin with "willfull blindness"
in accepting the gold bars and wired funds. After all, Mr. Whitehouse
noted , what Mr. Saccoccia received involved precious metals (including
gold) and Swiss bank accounts. Mr. Whitehouse further stated,
"Luskin had reasonable cause to know that these fund were
the proceeds of Saccoccia's money-laundering activities. Luskin,
however, chose not to know the true origin of these funds."
According to Mr. Whitehouse,
the $169,171 in wire transfers from Switzerland were made between
Dec. 4, 1994, and Feb. 23, 1995. Nov. 4, 1994 , was the day the
Justice Department delivered the 212 page draft anti-racketeering
complaint to LIUNA, which included allegations that Mr. Coia had
colluded with organized crime for a long time. The agreement by
which LIUNA averted a government takeover, and for which Mr. Coia
was able to keep his job, was signed Feb. 13, 1995. It was during
this period that Mr. Coia hired Mr. Luskin to negotiate LIUNA's
case with the Justice Department. The confluence of these dates,
this money and these individuals should at the very least raise
serious questions about Mr. Luskin and the trust the Justice Department
has placed in him to run an honest LIUNA internal reform effort.
Miss Fisher's spin of LIUNA
is far too rosy. Many LIUNA dissidents from all over the country
know first-hand that their corrupt union has improved little,
if any, under the reform efforts of Mr. Coia and Mr. Luskin. Mr.
Luskin's suspicious dealings raise more concerns, and the only
answer is a full-fledged government takeover of LIUNA before its
court-recognized authority to do so lapses on Jan. 31, 1999.