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Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Mafia's Organized Crime vs. OCA's Disorganized Crime

Stuck on the mafia's highways
Part One of Three
The New York Daily News by Greg B. Smith - Originally published on September 25, 2005

Today, the Daily News begins a three-part series exposing how real-life Tony Sopranos and mobbed-up contractors steal your tax dollars, put workers' lives in danger and even screw up traffic at rush hour. The next time you're stuck in traffic caused by highway construction that appears to involve no actual work, you can thank the Gambino crime family. While you're sitting there, burning up $3 per gallon gasoline, chew on the fact that mob-connected contractors are creating highway traffic jams all over New York — on the BQE, the Bruckner, the Van Wyck, the Cross Bronx, the Long Island Expressway, as well as up and down the New York Thruway. The mob isn't ripping off taxpayers just on highway construction jobs, either. A four-month Daily News investigation has found that New York's organized crime families — supposedly banned from all such construction projects — are back in public works big time — at city schools, playgrounds, bridges and parks. Since 1995, dozens of contractors barred from doing government work because of mob ties, corruption or serious safety violations have been able to win more than 100 public contracts worth more than $1.2 billion.
Take the massive $138 million Brooklyn-Queens Expressway repair that is currently mucking up traffic near Flushing Ave. It's the work of Defoe Construction, a firm the FBI says has been controlled by organized crime for years. Earlier this month, The News found traffic backed up for a mile at the Defoe site, but no workers were seen working. Four men chatted inside an air-conditioned van while a backhoe and several dump trucks sat idle nearby. Defoe was hired in May by the State of New York for the BQE job, just weeks after its president was indicted on charges of bribing a mob-infected union. The FBI has gathered evidence over the last few years that Defoe president John Amicucci has regularly paid off mob-connected unions to use cheaper nonunion help. On government jobs, prosecutors say, that means Defoe billed the taxpayer for union scale, hired nonunion help and pocketed the difference as profit. Last year, Amicucci was repeatedly caught on tape delivering payoff cash and discussing corrupt practices with Gambino gangster Greg DePalma, according to FBI documents obtained by The News. DePalma, who frequently talked in mob code-speak, often referred to Amicucci as "Daffy." On Nov. 15, DePalma told a subordinate: "We got to meet Daffy this week and pick up the fazzulas," which the FBI says meant payoff cash.

The day before Thanksgiving, the FBI watched Amicucci meet DePalma in the Leewood Country Club parking lot in Eastchester. DePalma offered to get Amicucci "straightened out" — that is, arrange for him to become a made member of the Gambino family. "I could do it for you," DePalma said. According to the FBI, Amicucci said he "would consider DePalma's offer." Later that day, DePalma boasted about the "size of rubber band" he got from Amicucci, which FBI documents said referred "to the thickness of the cash payment Amicucci had just made to DePalma." DePalma described his receipt of tribute payments from Amicucci: "I did it in the rain with an umbrella." Two weeks later, Amicucci was charged with making illegal payoffs to a corrupt union infiltrated by the mob. He pleaded not guilty and faces trial. None of the evidence stopped Defoe Construction from bidding on two New York highway jobs. Amicucci promised bureaucrats that if his company won the contracts, he would have nothing to do with the projects. In March, the state Transportation Department took him at his word. Despite the pending labor corruption indictment and a thick FBI file regarding its marriage to the mob, the Defoe firm was awarded two taxpayer-funded contracts totalling $143 million. Incredibly, state DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post said this arrangement was acceptable because Amicucci — who says he owns 99.4% of the company — "has recused himself from any involvement" in the contracts. In response to questions from The News, however, Post admitted the agency was unaware of the FBI evidence regarding Amicucci's involvement with the mob. Amicucci's lawyer, Gerald Shargel, declined to address the mob allegations, but insisted Defoe did the job it was hired to do: "Regarding those projects, they saved the state a fantastic amount of money. That's why they get these jobs."

The New York State Thruway Authority hired Persico Construction of Westchester County in April 2000 to fix an I-95 bridge in New Rochelle. For the next two and a half years, lane closures and traffic stops at the Potter Ave. location became as routine as kids in the backseat whining, "Are we there yet?" The firm is owned by Robert Persico, who was indicted in March on mob racketeering charges. Persico has been publicly identified as a mob associate since 1998. Prosecutors said in court then that Persico consulted the Gambino family to get a mob-controlled union to let him use nonunion help. In exchange, he got a Gambino soldier a no-show job, they alleged. The disclosures didn't stop Persico from being hired on the I-95 bridge job, which was supposed to be completed in September 2001 and cost $6 million. In fact, the job took an extra year and came in at $9 million.

Records obtained by The News under the Freedom of Information Law show that in March 2002, with complaints escalating about the competency of Persico's work, he hired lobbyist Albert Pirro, husband of U.S. Senate candidate Jeanine Pirro. By the time the I-95 project was half completed, Persico had already closed traffic lanes at the site on 101 occasions — far more than expected. Often, warning signs were not in place, and workers were left unprotected. Again and again, traffic was backed up 2, 3 — even 5 — miles, sometimes in rush hour, other times in the middle of the night, according to the documents, which include internal Thruway E-mails. Though the firm was under strict orders to clear all lane closures by rush hour, delays caused "significant traffic backups throughout the Tuesday morning rush hour," wrote an official from Berger Lehman, the project's engineering firm. One Thruway official was so concerned, he wrote: "If stopping traffic for approximately 10 minutes when a 5-plus-mile backup already exists (which was not properly signed and protected), please let me know in writing to remove myself from any liability." Persico was ordered banned from the site in 2001 after he cursed over a radio about a female inspector trying to cite the firm for yet another lane-closure problem. The Thruway ordered Persico off the site, but Persico kept showing up. Mid-level state officials blasted Persico for deliberately ignoring orders and threatened to bar the firm from future work with the agency. Memos from the engineering firm alleged that pilings that were to take five days to install took four weeks and that concrete footings scheduled to be in place in two weeks took six months. Persico, in turn, blamed Thruway officials for the excessive lane closings, claiming that the agency was oblivious to the road layout in designing road closure patterns. The construction company sought additional funds and said actions by Thruway officials were to blame for keeping workers on the sidelines.

On April 29, 2002, with Pirro now representing Persico, an internal Thruway E-mail showed that midlevel inspectors wanted to impose sanctions on the firm for failure to complete the job on time, "but per the director we are deferring these assessments until a later date." There were more lane closing disputes during the summer of 2002. In one case, the state police had to intervene to undo what it considered to be an unsafe lane closure during the July 4 holiday week. The final sign-off on the contract took place on Oct. 25, 2002 — 13 months behind schedule. All the proposed sanctions had disappeared, and Persico was paid an extra $3 million he had asked for. Persico's lawyer, Barry Levin, said Pirro "was hired to help my client collect outstanding monies owed to him. Pirro was successful in that endeavor." In a written statement to The News, Pirro would only say he was retained by Persico "to help resolve its payment dispute with the Thruway authority over the reconstruction of a bridge in New Rochelle." Pirro refused to answer other questions about the nature of the representation. However, Thruway authority spokesman Daniel Gilbert said Pirro's firm "did not play a role in the resolution of the payment dispute, but did make a couple of inquiries about the process and the status of the dispute." Regarding the increase in the payments, Gilbert said after careful review, the agency determined that "various delays and payment for certain documented extra expenses were justified. Ultimately, there were many reasons for the delays, including numerous design issues which additionally made the contract more expensive." Since the I-95 job, the thruway hired Persico for two more jobs worth a total of $17.5 million. In the midst of those projects, the FBI taped Persico meeting repeatedly with Gambino gangster Greg DePalma and discussing construction corruption, according to FBI transcripts.


made member said...

I'd rather have the mafia back in full force!

Anonymous said...

The mafia never left, they just went to law school and took over things at OCA and the state and federal courts.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

maybe not so "old news" when looking at how to connect the dots in New York. Al Pirro was apparently big with Pataki.

Pataki's Second Dept only "suspended" him and the Second and Third Dept took no action when federal felony convicted and "suspended" Al was "negotiating contracts", a very lawyer like activity, with the NYS Thruway and NYS DOT.

Jeanine Pirro of course had Pataki's backing to run for NYAG and also that of now convicted federal felon Joe Bruno. Pataki and Bruno of course had a virtual lock up of many State Judgeships as Pataki would appoint and Bruno's Senate would often have to confirm.

Pataki and Bruno of course along with Silver all had Appointees on the Oversight body known as the Commision on Judicial Conduct which has been exposed at two recent hearings before the NYS Senate Judiciary and at this blog for corrupt acts, neglect of duty and more.

Testimony at the federal Bruno trial involved among other topics a former Senate lawyer close to Bruno who got a NYS Court of Claims Judgeship recommended by Bruno to Pataki.

One source says Pataki's now former NYS DEC Commissioner Zagata was under the hook of Al Pirro. That is very interesting if true but only alleged from reliable source currently from Westchester by the way where the RECENT federal indictments have now become public.

Now Jeanine Pirro of course was alleged to be under federal investigation while running for NYS Attorney General against Andrew Cuomo for employing now Convicted federal felon Bernard Kerik to spy on Al Pirro. Kerik has apparently been singing like some of the birds Zagata was supposed to protect at the DEC. Many wonder if now convicted former Senator Bruno has developed his singing voice as well.

Former NYAG and former Governor Spitzer who left office apparently backed Cuomo in the NYAG race against Pirro and somewhere after all of that emerged "Troopergate" and "Choppergate" involving use of the State Police Helicopter and more.

So if you start connecting the dots like that, this does not look like old news at all.

Anonymous said...

So considering all of this above, the question really is whether the OCA is "disorganized" crime or whether the OCA itself is part of a very well oiled crime machine, at least many parts of it that is??

Anonymous said...

I don't know how may cable stations have been running shows on organized crime and the mob, but what is really interesting is that nothing has changed.

Tamnmany Hall is alive and well, and as a previous posted noted, they have now gone to law school.

Anonymous said...

Al Pirro did well a long time with the Westchester County Medical Center Parking Facility and the $13 million of IDA bond financing. A partnership (APCOA) with Louis & Luca Cappelli also did the Westchester Airport Parking Garage with $35 million in IDA bond financing. How many people remember all this?

Anonymous said...

is that why there are stories the low lifes of Niagara County call the Senator, Maziarz, with their insanity and he helps them to harm others.........
because he can call up the judges and the CJC will do nothing....

Anonymous said...

there are stories the companies that receive IDA money, in turn give money to certain political people....
there are also stories, IDA companies, are Harris Beach Law Firm clients and they then give to political candidates of their choice across the state........
so with free tax breaks from the state, they use that money to back their political candidates......

Anonymous said...

we want JOE'S LAW!

Anonymous said...

This brings back old stories - the Leewood CC wonder who that allegedly belongs to? Carl Petrillo, Nick Spano (and his father) and Al Pirro go way back.

Anonymous said...

With regards to the NYCLA Fee Dispute Program, if you are a Jewish Attorney or from a Big Law Firm, you get to keep your fees earned. If not, or you are a Minority Attorney or from a Small Law Firm, you don't get to keep the money you earned through billing. It's the same problem with the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, First Department.

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