Ledger - May 1, 2005:
Tale of docks and mobsters gets new life
Crime figure’s vivid testimony fuels U.S. case
BY TED SHERMAN STAR-LEDGER STAFF The meeting was a setup.
John Bowers, the aging president of the International Longshoremen’s
Association, had gone to meet a local union official at the Smith & Wollensky
in Miami Beach. Inside, he was surprised to discover George Barone
seated amid the polished brass and dark wood decor of the pricey waterfront
Barone was no stranger. A Genovese family member, he once controlled
ILA locals in New Jersey and Miami. He also had coldly killed at least
10 people, by his own count, as a mob enforcer.
In a sworn deposition, Bowers recounted the conversation:
‘‘You’re doing a wonderful job,’’ Barone
told him. ‘‘We hope you stay forever. But if you ever leave,
I would like to see Harold Daggett become president.’’
Later asked by investigators how he responded, Bowers did not mince
words. ‘‘I am alone: one-on-one. I know of his reputation.
I am not going to ask a lot of questions. I am figuring now how the
hell to get out of the place.’’
More than a half-century after Marlon Brando starred in the film ‘‘On
the Waterfront,’’ law enforcement officials are still battling
the mob’s dark influence at New York Harbor, and the 1999 meeting
between Bowers and Barone is at the heart of the federal government’s
In a series of indictments, a reputed Genovese mob captain from New
Jersey and three top ILA officials are charged with conspiracy to commit
extortion and fraud. Prosecutors say the scheme was aimed at taking
control of the 35,000-member dockworkers union — which represents
4,000 workers in the metropolitan area alone — while steering
lucrative union-benefits contracts to companies that paid kickbacks
to the mob.
A U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn will set a trial date later
Those charged include Daggett, 58, of Sparta, the union’s assistant
general organizer and president of ILA Local 1804-1 in North Bergen;
Albert Cernadas, 69, of Union, the ILA’s executive vice president
and head of Local 1235 in Newark; Arthur Coffey, the union’s
top official in Miami; and Lawrence Ricci, a little-known New Jersey
mobster convicted two decades ago of extortion with one-time waterfront
crime boss Tino Fiumara.
All have denied the charges.
Separately, New Jersey has its own criminal case pending against ILA
Local 1588 in Bayonne. It involves allegations that union members,
to get better-paying work assignments, were forced to kick back money
to mob associates who controlled the local. Four of those indicted
pleaded guilty to downgraded charges a week ago; among the four was
Nicholas Furina, 73, a hiring agent described by the state as an associate
of the Genovese crime family.
Taken together, the two cases have convinced many that the mob remains
in firm control of a waterfront that stretches from the container ports
in Newark and Elizabeth to the terminals in Brooklyn and Staten Island,
with supporting maintenance facilities throughout the region.
‘‘We have to get rid of the wiseguys and encourage the
good people to stand up,’’ said former New York Police
Commissioner Robert McGuire, who for the past two years has served
as the court-appointed monitor of the Bayonne local, a long-corrupt
union once controlled by Joseph Lore, a Genovese member convicted of
Edwin H. Stier, former director of criminal justice in New Jersey,
said there is little doubt the traditional crime families continue
to hold sway within the port.
‘‘The ILA cases are very, very powerful evidence of the
continuing role of organized crime in organized labor,’’ he
TOIL AND SILENCE
Port Newark is a busy place.
Convoys of trailer trucks rumble down pocked streets with names like
Tripoli and Calcutta, Neptune and Starboard, while long strings of
rail cars shunt past warehouses and terminals.
S h i p s c a l l f r o m S i n g a p o r e , South America, Rotterdam
and China. Long freighters with ruststained hulls and weathered paint
hug their berths as they are loaded and unloaded in a synchronized
ballet of hulking cranes and ungainly wheeled dockside carriers. Heavy
steel shipping containers are stacked and unstacked like giant toy
blocks, choreographed by dozens of longshoremen.
Last year, 4.5 million cargo containers moved through the international
seaport that spans New York and New Jersey, aboard more than 5,280
ships. The region’s marine terminals handled everything from
perfume to new cars made in Japan — cargo valued at $114.5 billion,
a 14 percent increase over 2003. More than 9,000 people work there,
according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
J. Kevin McGowan, acting police chief of the Waterfront Commission
of New York Harbor, said the port has long been used to funnel money
to the mob.
‘‘It is a good place to nurture no-show jobs,’’ he
Crime on the waterfront once was primarily outright theft of cargo
and loansharking, but now it more often involves outwardly legitimate
businesses, he said.
‘‘Snow removal, for example. Those contracts went out
to organized crime associates,’’ McGowan said. ‘‘Trucking.
There’s big money there.’’
The commission’s old, downtown offices overlook Lower Manhattan.
Inside, where framed lithographs of clipper ships line the walls, Executive
Director Thomas De Maria says mob businesses exact a real economic
toll. The shipping lines that operate the seaport terminals get hit
with higher labor and maintenance costs, but they pay it to keep the
‘‘The businesses don’t absorb that. They pass it
on,’’ he said. ‘‘Essentially it’s a mob
T h e n a t u r e o f c r i m e t h e r e makes it extremely difficult
to investigate, he said.
‘‘The overwhelming majority of dockworkers are honest,
law-abiding people, but they are in fear of saying anything because
they are worrying about their lives, their health and the health of
their families. They are deathly afraid of these guys.’’
In the federal government’s pending criminal case, Assistant
U.S. Attorneys Paul Weinstein and Taryn A. Merkl say in court papers
that organized crime tightly controls both the ILA locals and the companies
that do business at the port.
Beginning in the 1960s — when shipping companies began handling
cargo in trailer-size containers that could be loaded directly onto
ships, reducing the labor needed at dockside — the Genovese crime
family set up new ILA locals to control the workers needed to repair
and move those cargo containers.
‘‘In exchange for the limit on competition and general
assistance of the Genovese family and the ILA locals that it controlled,
these companies . . . were required to hire the friends and relatives
of organized crime members and associates, and often pay them exorbitant
wages,’’ the prosecutors wrote.
Among them were relatives of Vincent ‘‘the Chin’’ Gigante,
the imprisoned former head of the Genovese crime family, court documents
said. Until his arrest, Gigante’s son, Andrew, who has a h o
m e i n t h e a f f l u e n t B e r g e n County town of Norwood, was
getting $350,000 a year working for Bay Container and Portwide Cargo
Securing Companies in Port Newark. Company officials did not return
repeated calls for comment.
The younger Gigante pleaded guilty in 2003 to extorting money from
the company. Serving a twoyear prison term, he has been barred for
life from any activity on the New York, New Jersey or South Florida
THE GRANDFATHERLY KILLER
T h e o n g o i n g f e d e r a l c a s e , brought by the U.S. attorney
for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, is a complicated
mob soap opera involving an internal struggle between factions for
some of the most lucrative waterfront rackets.
The government’s key witness will be Barone, 81, who apparently
began cooperating with authorities after concluding he had been marked
for death by Gigante following a dispute with Gigante’s son,
according to law enforcement sources. Now frail and ill, Barone is
reportedly living somewhere in Florida under the federal witness protection
program. His attorney said he is not talking to the media.
McGowan, who has met with Barone, said the elderly gangster with the
long history of violence comes across as grandfatherly — soft-spoken
with a deep voice, and unerringly polite.
While these days Barone is hard of hearing, there is nothing wrong
with his memory, McGowan said.
Testifying two years ago during the waterfront racketeering trial
of Peter Gotti, Barone acknowledged committing a multitude of murders. ‘‘I
didn’t keep a scorecard, but it was probably 10 or 12,’’ he
In testimony, Barone has expressed bitterness over being ‘‘put
on the shelf,’’ his words for the forced retirement that
kept him away from the Jersey docks after his imprisonment for shaking
down port businesses in the 1980s.
Yet even in retirement, Barone held considerable influence on the
waterfront and said he was delegated to tell Bowers that the Genovese
family wanted to see Daggett become president of the ILA.
Barone said of the preference for Daggett: ‘‘He was with
me and I’m with the Family. That means we are in control because
we have our man as president.’’
The federal indictments in the pending case say Daggett, Cernadas
and Coffey were all Genovese family associates who ‘‘did
what they were told,’’ including securing jobs for scores
of organized crime relatives at the New Jersey piers.
Cernadas, it is charged, became president of his local as a result
of his association with Ricci, Fiumeri and other Genovese crew members.
The indictment charges that Daggett and Coffey, an ILA international
vice president and the highest-ranking union official in Miami, conspired
in the scheme to make Daggett president.
Coffey is the nephew of Douglas Rado, identified by the Justice Department
as another member of the Genovese family and a longtime associate of
The indictment says Cernadas and Daggett, at Barone’s behest,
steered the union’s prescription drug contract to a company controlled
by the Genovese family. The company, according to the indictment, was
GPP/VIP, located on Lafayette Street in Newark’s Ironbound section.
In prior testimony, Barone testified he had sent word to Daggett to
support the company. Asked if Daggett had any choice in the matter,
Barone said no.
‘‘Because I told him to do it,’’ Barone responded. ‘‘I
put him there, and I would have taken him out of there if he hadn’t
done what he was supposed to do from a request from me.’’
T h e g o v e r n m e n t m a i n t a i n s both the Genovese and
Gambino crime families expected kickbacks from the $400,000 contract.
According to state records, the company’s principals include
Vincent Nasso and Joel Grodman. Nasso, who is from Long Island, has
pleaded guilty to a single charge of wire fraud in connection with
the ILA contract with GPP/ VIP and is in prison.
Grodman, who lives in Millburn, was never charged in the matter.
‘‘It’s not my company,’’ Grodman said
in a brief phone interview regarding GPP/VIP. ‘‘Basically
I was acting as a subcontractor.’’
Lawyers for Cernadas and Daggett said the government is manufacturing
a case based on innuendo and the public’s appetite for a mob
tale. They would not permit their clients to talk with a reporter.
Attorney George Daggett, who represents his cousin Harold, said there
is no evidence of a criminal conspiracy — even within the meeting
between Bowers and Barone.
‘‘There’s no guns. There’s no clubs. It’s
not what the public usually thinks of as far as an extortion,’’ George
Daggett, the former Sussex County prosecutor, said with a shrug. ‘‘Harold
was 1,500 miles away at the time and John Bowers is still the president
of the International Longshoremen’s Association. Where’s
Harold Daggett, who is suspended from the union with pay, makes $480,607
from his jobs as president of the local and general organizer.
Attorney Jack Arseneult, who represents Cernadas, said allegations
that his client was able to influence the awarding of benefits contracts
ignores the fact that no one individual approved those contracts, which
were voted on by a group of trustees.
He said the government’s entire case is based on ‘‘the
thirdhand recollections of a guy who has killed more than a dozen people.’’
Cernadas is also suspended with pay. He receives $508,755 as local
president and executive vice president.
‘THINGS ARE CHANGING’
McGuire, the court-appointed monitor of the Bayonne local, believes
the criminal cases are having an impact on the union.
‘‘These guys were thought of as untouchable,’’ he
said of those alleged to have ties to organized crime. ‘‘Now
these guys are going to trial. They may be going to jail. That tells
people things are changing.’’
ILA officials would not comment on the criminal cases.
‘‘There is no mob influence in the union,’’ said
ILA spokesman James McNamara, noting that the union believes the Justice
Department’s efforts are part of a wider government plan to take
over the international union.
‘‘There have been unfortunate instances in the past,’’ McNamara
said. ‘‘The ILA is doing the best it can to make sure officers
serve honestly and members ’ rights are guaranteed.’’
M. KATHLEEN KELLY/FOR THE STAR-LEDGER A longshoreman
walks in Port Newark. ‘‘The overwhelming majority
of dockworkers are honest, law-abiding people,’’ says
the Waterfront Commission’s J. Kevin McGowan, ‘‘but
they are in fear of saying anything because they are worrying
about their lives, their health and the health of their families. ’’
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