Why the mob still holds sway at the port

Why the mob still holds sway at the port

07 Temmuz 2018 - 02:00

The death of Ricci marked the last known mob hit tied to the waterfront, say investigators, and the murder has never been solved.

But more than a decade later, law enforcement officials say organized crime still stalks the docks.

Since January 2017, records show at least 10 dockworkers have had their registrations revoked, or had their applications denied by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor because of friendships or associations with those deemed to have organized crime connections.

Another four applications for registration were withdrawn or surrendered without an administrative hearing, and one individual seeking a restoration of his registration was denied.

Among those cases included a $350,000-a-year longshoreman barred over his alleged friendship with an admitted loan shark who authorities say was connected to a Colombo crime family bribery scheme involving debris removal from the World Trade Center site.

Just last month, another longshoreman who supervised the delivery and maintenance of refrigerated containers was banned from the port by the Waterfront Commission, citing his alleged ties to Pasquale “Patty” Falcetti, Sr., a reputed member of the Genovese crime family.

Falcetti was convicted of defrauding the employee pension and welfare fund for longshoremen, noted the commission, which also concluded that the banned supervisor had a friendship with Andrew Gigante, the son of the late crime boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante.


Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan's 1954 film On the Waterfront. (Columbia Pictures | AP file photo)

The influence remains

The movie classic On the Waterfront told a story of crime and corruption on the docks of New York and New Jersey. It followed a series of Pulitzer Prize winning stories by reporter Malcolm Johnson in The New York Sun that exposed the racketeering and violence endemic on the piers, and led to major reforms aimed at ridding the port of mob influence.

More than 60 years later, Jan Gilhooly, a former special agent in charge of the Secret Service in New Jersey who served on the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, said the mob’s influence remains, despite a litany of criminal cases in recent years.

“The port is a perfect setting for organized crime and it always has been,” said Gilhooly. “There’s so much money involved.”

He added the influence remains even after prosecutors make arrests.

“That’s the way organized crime works. One part goes away, and another tentacle takes its place,” he said.


A man identified by law enforcement officials as Stephen Depiro leaves the federal courthouse in Newark in 2011, after at least 15 people were arrested in New Jersey in connection with a waterfront corruption scheme involving the collection of "Christmas tribute" money exacted from dockworkers. (Star-Ledger file photo)

Kickbacks and racketeering

According to court filings, Ricci had reported to the late New Jersey mobster Tino Fiumara, a feared Genovese member with a ruthless reputation, who had long controlled the rackets on the waterfront. After Ricci turned up dead, he was replaced by Stephen Depiro, said the FBI in a 2010 affidavit.

The affidavit said Depiro “took over handling for Fiumara and the Genovese crime family extortion payments at Christmas from port union members, loansharking at the ports, illegal gambling at the ports, kickbacks for giving union-related jobs to individuals, and kickbacks from vendors for favorable treatment by port unions.”

Depiro ultimately pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges for his role in a decades-long scheme to extort Christmastime tribute payments from ILA members. He was charged with taking a cut out of the annual year-end bonuses longshoremen receive based on the number of containers moved through the Port of New York and New Jersey, and sentenced in 2015 to three years in prison.

But his arrest and conviction did not represent a knockout blow to the mob on the waterfront, said former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, whose office prosecuted Depiro and two others tied to the shakedown scheme.

“You always hope that every case makes an incremental improvement, but guys like that don’t get wiped out in a day,” said Fishman, who said he believes organized crime still wields “considerable influence” at the port.


Nighttime on the waterfront. (Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)


A similar assessment came from Robert Stewart, former head of the federal Organized Crime Strike Force in New Jersey, who traces the entrenchment of organized crime at the port to the 1940s, first with the Irish gangs and then with the Mafia.

The operations at the port are less violent, and far more lucrative, and it has only gotten more sophisticated, he said.

“You’re not seeing anything. There’s no bodies. But that suggests a higher level of ability to work,” observed Stewart.

"You're not seeing anything. There's no bodies..."

— Robert Stewart, former head of the Organized Crime Strike Force in N.J.

Tossing down a series of dossiers one-by-one onto a table as he read the names of close relatives of known organized crime figures with high-paying port jobs, Walter Arsenault, the executive director of the Waterfront Commission, asserted that “the mob is very much a presence at the port.”

At a hearing before a New York legislative committee in June, Arsenault volunteered a 15-page list of ‘made’ men from the seven Mafia families in New York and New Jersey, who he said all had relatives at the port. “You can't throw a stone at the port without hitting the son, the daughter, the son-in-law, the nephew, the cousin, the godson of a ‘made’ guy,” he told the committee.

Whenever someone is removed for having mob ties, he complained the spot is immediately filled by another family member. “It’s like Whack-a-Mole,” he said, the arcade game that players seldom beat.



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