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N.J. Waterfront Commission holds first hearing on mob influence at docks

N.J. Waterfront Commission holds first hearing on mob influence at docks

Published: Thursday, October 14, 2010, 9:38 PM Updated: Friday, October 15, 2010, 6:10 PM

Steve Strunsky/The Star-Ledger

. . .

Today’s otherwise sober proceedings at the commission’s lower Manhattan headquarters took an almost comic turn at one point, as former longshoreman Edward “Eddie” Aulisi, repeatedly and by rote, invoked his 5th Amendment right in response to question after question from a commission lawyer. The lawyer, Michelle Demeri, had played a taped phone conversation that, a commission detective testified, captured Aulisi talking to Michael “Mikey Cigars” Coppola, a capo in the Genovese crime family, about extortion from dock workers and other form of waterfront racketeering in March 2007. Coppola was then a fugitive from a murder investigation.

Aulisi is the son of a former International Longshoreman’s Association Local 1235 president, Vincent Aulisi, who commission officials say installed his son in a no-show job as a checker, or dockside clerk, at the APM terminal in Elizabeth. On a projection screen in the crowded hearing room, commission officials showed photographs of the son barbecuing and riding a lawnmower while he was scheduled to work. The commission eventually barred Aulisi from working on the waterfront for associating with Coppola.

“Isn’t it true that you had a no-show job at APM?” Demeri asked Aulisi.

“”On advice from my counsel, I hereby assert my privilege against self-incrimination,” he replied, repeating that same response, word-for-word a half dozen times in response to a half-dozen questions.

Testimony from Joseph Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association, a trade group, detailed labor practices codified in bargaining agreements between stevedoring companies and the longshoremen’s union. The commission officials say the practices allow for and even encourage excessive pay for little or no work, depending on the position.

For example, a relief checker, Eddie Aulisi’s typical job title, is paid whether or not he is providing relief, and is not required to be on-site even during the loading or unloading job he is assigned to.

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Read the complete article.

Frankie DePaula, Boxer killed by the Mob – Book – Author – Stories

Wed June 16 between 1 and 3 pm EST author Ade Makinde will be at
The Hudson County Facts Frankie DePaula Page
from London to exchange Frankie DePaula stories with us.

Mr Makinde has recently published a well researched book about the shooting of Hudson County boxer Frankie DePaula. Bring your own stories and talk to friends and family of the late Jersey City cult hero.

‘Entirely too comfortable’ with the Jersey Mafia

‘Entirely too comfortable’ with the Jersey Mafia
By CHRIS BAUD / The Trentonian

On Feb. 17, 1970, Frank Sinatra flew into Trenton to testify before the New Jersey State Investigative Commission as part of an ongoing investigation of organized crime.

Rumors of Sinatra and the Mafia had floated around since 1947, when Sinatra accompanied Joseph “Joey Fish” Fischetti to Havana as part of a meeting of American mobsters with deported boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano.

National gossip columnist Walter Winchell “dimed” on Sinatra, describing his relationships with underworld characters. Sinatra was also associated with Chicago mobster Sam “Mom” Giancana, and in a show of loyalty gave up his gaming license after it was learned he allowed Giancana to stay at his lodge in Lake Tahoe. He also had ties to New York’s Carlo Gambino, and Raymond Patriarca of New England.

Mario Puzo’s character Johnny Fontane, the heartthrob singer-actor of “The Godfather” who got his big break when Vito Corleone made a movie producer “an offer he can’t refuse,” was a thinly veiled representation of Sinatra. Although there are many variations on the story, it was believed Sinatra was helped early in his career when North Jersey gangster Willie Moretti “convinced” bandleader Tommy Dorsey to let Sinatra out of his contract by shoving a revolver in his mouth.

“Sinatra was what I call a ‘mob groupie,’ ” said mob historian Carl Sifakis of Queens, N.Y. “In Las Vegas, he was partner with Sam Giancana, one of the top Mafia figures in America. When he made his movie comeback, he used his mob contacts to get him the role in ‘From Here to Eternity.’ ”

But throughout his life, Sinatra fought (sometime with his fists) to keep people from talking about his underworld buddies, saying, “I wouldn’t have had so many problems if my last name didn’t end in a vowel.”

His appearance at SIC headquarters at 218 W. State St. happened only after the singer fought a subpoena for months. Sinatra had faced contempt charges for noncompliance and called the SIC “a three-ring circus.”

Details of Sinatra’s testimony were kept secret, although members of the SIC told reporters that Sinatra had been a helpful witness and answered all their questions.

But after Sinatra’s death on May 15, 1998, one member of the SIC told The Trentonian that the legendary singer from Hoboken had been evasive and flatly denied any association with organized crime figures.

“He was not very cooperative,” said Glen Miller of Princeton, the panel member. “He called our commission a ‘circus’ when we just wanted to know what he knew about organized crime.”

The FBI had a file of 1,275 pages on Sinatra, charting everything from Mafia ties to his relationship with President John F. Kennedy to his indulgence in high-priced call girls with Rat Pack buddies Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford.

Sinatra was merely the most famous New Jerseyan linked to organized crime in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A year earlier, associations with mobsters ruined the careers of two Mercer County politicians.

On Dec. 11, 1968, Assistant Attorney General William J. Brennan 3rd told the state chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, a journalistic society, that three members of the New Jersey Legislature were “entirely too comfortable with organized crime.”

Brennan, the son of Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., was directing a Mercer County grand jury investigating organized crime and corruption in local government.

Saying that crooks had infiltrated numerous industries and labor unions, Brennan added: “Too many local governments are responsive more to the mob than to the electorate that put them in office.”

Brennan’s statements came on the heels of a series of Life magazine articles about organized crime, charging that the Mafia wielded great influence in New Jersey, specifically linking Hudson County’s Congressman Cornelius Gallagher, as well as a retired state trooper, to the mob.

In 1957, cops had disrupted a meeting of La Cosa Nostra in Apalachin, N.Y., bringing the existence of a national crime syndicate into the spotlight and forcing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to acknowledge the existence of the Mafia.

But by 1968, little was known about the inner workings of the mob. Francis Ford Coppola’s Hollywood version of “The Godfather” was still four years away, and the public had rarely heard such insider language as “consigliere” or “capo.” Additionally, Watergate had not yet destroyed the public’s trust in elected officials.

Brennan’s accusations struck like a thunderbolt, shaking the legislative body to the core, and touching off weeks of raging controversy. Brennan wouldn’t reveal the names of the three politicians, but he added fuel to the fire a day later, saying there were three other state officials with close connections to the mob.

Gov. Richard Hughes, in a meeting with Democratic Party leaders and Attorney General Arthur Sills, asked Brennan to disclose the names. Brennan refused, stating that the meeting of party leaders did not constitute a political body and his disclosures could make him vulnerable to defamation suits.

Brennan was, however, willing to turn over confidential files on the legislators. Hughes, fearful of jeopardizing informants named in the files, declined.

Frank McDermott, R-Union, was president-elect of the state Senate and demanded public disclosure of Brennan’s six.

The day after Christmas, the Evening News of Newark, citing “unimpeachable and completely authentic” sources, printed the names of Brennan’s three pols who were too comfortable with organized crime. On the list were two assemblymen, Republican John Selecky of East Windsor and Democrat David Friedland of Hudson County.

Most shockingly, Sido Ridolfi, Mercer’s prominent Democratic state senator, was also named. Ridolfi, who had served in the Senate representing Trenton since 1954, was a former president of the upper house and served as acting governor briefly in 1967.

Although Selecky and Ridolfi both denied any wrongdoing, they told reporters they had an inkling of the associations Brennan had in mind.

Ridolfi had helped John Simone, a k a Johnny Keyes, in the purchase of a house at 710 President Ave. in Lawrence. Simone was a cousin of Angelo Bruno, Philadelphia’s boss of bosses. Simone had been sentenced to two years for bootlegging by a federal court in 1944 and had a long record of other offenses, including assault and robbery. In 1980 he would himself fall victim to a mob rubout.

It was also learned that Ridolfi had represented the Bralynski brothers, Edward and Raymond, in a number of real estate deals, and the three jointly owned land in Hamilton that was in the path of an extension of Interstate 295 between Nottingham Way and East State Street Extension. Edward Bralynski had received notoriety when he was seen accompanying Simone to a city trial for Bruno in a motor-vehicle violation case.

Selecky had testified as a character witness for Salvatore Profaci, owner of the Hightstown restaurant Ming Room, who had been charged with abusive language toward a trooper in a traffic violation case. Profaci’s uncle, Joe Profaci, had ruled one of the fearsome Five Families of the New York Mafia from 1930 until his death in 1962. Salvatore Profaci had also been caught by state police digging what was believed to be a grave in Millstone Township in 1968.

Friedland, meanwhile, had been involved in a loan sharking deal. Woodbridge Township car-wash owner Julius Pereria filed a complaint against reputed Mafia figure John DiGilio, who had extorted Pereria for $6,000 interest on a $3,000 loan.

On Dec. 30, Brennan appeared before a committee to investigate the Legislature and confirmed that Selecky, Ridolfi and Friedland were indeed the men who were “entirely too comfortable” with the Mafia.

Brennan, saying that a man need not be convicted of a crime to be considered a member of a crime ring, insisted that the three had exercised poor judgment in their actions, and that legislators should not represent clients in criminal cases. Brennan then came under fire, as a lawyer for the committee, Sidney McCord, called Brennan’s testimony “flimsy” and “all innuendo.”

In mid-January 1969, Brennan was relieved of his charge of investigating corruption as a new state anti-crime probe was formed.

“If the testimony concerning the other three names is as flimsy as this,” McCord said, “I see no reason to make any more names public so that people can say, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ ”

But the Brennan incident undoubtedly helped raise public awareness of the problem of corruption.

Within a month of his speech before Sigma Delta Chi, the State Investigative Commission, which later questioned Sinatra, was formed. At the same time, the federal government launched an anti-Mafia strike force consisting of officials from seven federal agencies. Based in Newark, the team conducted raids and gathered intelligence on Mafia families believed to be raking in $1 billion a year in the state.

Although Gov. William Cahill was premature when he announced a complete victory over organized crime late in 1970, as the Philadelphia and New York families continued to exert influence in the state, the Mafia did take a major hit in the early 1970s.

A dozen high-ranking mobsters went to jail rather than break omerta — the Mafia’s code of silence, enforced by murder — and U.S. Attorney Ken Lacey brought indictments against 122 state officials. Lacey most notably won a conviction against Newark Mayor Hugh Addonizio for extortion and conspiracy.

Perhaps most importantly, Brennan’s charges helped pave the way for tougher standards of ethics for elected officials and a zero tolerance for association with crime figures.

A committee led by Sen. Alfred Beadleston, R-Monmouth, sharply criticized Ridolfi, Selecky and Friedland.

Of Ridolfi, they said: “Senator Ridolfi has had undesirable business associates and clients of questionable character.

“He failed to exercise sound judgment when he learned that there was question as to the character and reputation of his business associates.”

Its report said Selecky had “brought the Legislature under a cloud of disapproval,” adding that he should have refused to appear as a character witness for Profaci and severed his relationship with him.

Selecky was outraged.

“How did I bring this house under public disapproval?” Selecky asked. “I stood up for a man who had committed no crime, who happens to have an Italian name and who happens to have an uncle who has been dead for five years.”

Ridolfi, who claimed he had no knowledge of Simone’s involvement in organized crime, steadfastly maintained he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Just last year, Ridolfi said: “It was not fair, and the coverage of [The Trentonian] was not fair.”

The committee exonerated Brennan’s second trio of politicians: John Horn and Lee Laskin, both assemblymen from Camden County, as well as Sen. Frank Farley of Atlantic County, saying there was no evidence any of the three could be linked to organized crime. Brennan himself had said the evidence against them did not match those of Ridolfi, Friedland and Selecky.

Since the committee had found Ridolfi, Selecky and Friedland had broken no laws, it did not recommend any action against them. Still, the damage was done. Ridolfi chose not to run for re-election. Selecky, who vowed to run again, was nonetheless pressured out by GOP leaders.

Of course, Sinatra, the man who invented cool and lived like a rock star before rock ’n roll existed, could never go out of style. He continued to play to adoring audiences until the late 1990s.

“When you become an icon, you can get away with a lot of things,” mob historian Sifakis said.

Ridolfi and Selecky, merely politicians, weren’t so lucky.

Fuel bootlegging, La Cosa Nostra and the Russian Mafia

Immigrant Presence and The “Mob Tax”

Fuel bootlegging, La Cosa Nostra and the Russian Mafia

. . .

Jermyn described a significant presence of immi­grants involved in the motor fuel tax evasion cases:

There was a large number of Turkish immigrants at the retail levels and there were eastern bloc immigrants who became involved all the way up the chain of distribution to the point where they were actually acquiring gasoline terminals as a result of bootlegging activities.

. . . .

There was a language barrier to begin with. Conspiratorial conversations were often in a foreign language. There weren’t many agents that could speak Rumanian, unfortunately, or Russian. There was inability to infiltrate the closely-knit groups by way of informants or police agents and, in addition to that, these individuals were well-educated and oftentimes smarter than law enforcement agencies.

Q. Did you also find the presence or involve­ment of traditional organized crime groups in the motor fuel tax evasion cases?

A. Yes. Just as with any other industry, where there is an opportunity to make money, illegiti­mate traditional organized crime groups infil­trate that industry. In this case, that occurred very early on…

…the immigrants who became involved in businesses were bright enough to realize that they had to pay tribute to traditional organ­ized crime families in order to operate in certain areas, and there was usually a one or two cents per gallon levy by the mob families imposed upon the sale of bootlegged gasoline.

Q. Is that called the “mob tax”?

A. Yes… amounted to millions and millions of dollars.

Jermyn said the investigation revealed the in­volvement of three traditional organized crime fami­lies in the early period of bootlegging between 1981 and 1988 – the Lucchese, Genovese and the Colombo organized crime families. “And later on in the schemes the Gambino family also became involved,” he said.

Jermyn characterized the relationship between traditional organized crime and the eastern bloc immigrants as “very cooperative.”

[O]ne of the abilities of the organizational skills of the principals involved in these schemes was that they were able to forge a very close working relationship. It became almost like a cartel between the traditional organized crime fami­lies and the eastern bloc people, and they were able to monopolize and control the price of unbranded gasoline in the Long Island area for many, many years.

He recalled a surveillance that revealed a “sum­mit meeting” between the bootleggers, the organized crime figures and the eastern bloc people, “sitting at a large conference table in a meeting room in Long Island.”

Q. Who was the most significant organized crime figure you prosecuted?

A. [O]ne of the defendants in the racketeering case, which was prosecuted federally, was a captain in the Colombo organized crime family by the name of Michael Franzese. There were also many organized crime associates who were prosecuted and convicted and were serving lengthy jail terms.

Jermyn described one motor fuels case in which Franzese was involved:

The amount that was actually evaded was in excess of $30 million dollars and it involved a company where a bond was actually obtained for the payment of the taxes and Mr. Franzese bribed the official in the bonding company to issue the bond. The bonding company actually ended up losing additional moneys, so that there were many victims other than just the state and the federal government.

The Violent Side of Fuel Tax Evasion

Testimony was heard from various witnesses about a darker side of fuel tax evasion and an underlying fear among those in the business.

Rackets Chief Jermyn testified:

Where necessary, violent means have been used to expand a particular bootlegger’s sphere of influence. We’ve estimated as many as a dozen murders have taken place in the last seven years as a result of the bad guys infiltrating the mar­ketplace.

Jermyn described the murders of Michael Markowitz and Phillip Moskowitz. Markowitz, he said, was “one of the bigger bootleggers in the New York area.” He was an eastern bloc immigrant who came to this country with virtually no money in 1979 but at the time of his death had “upwards of 30 million dollars just in assets… not even counting various bank accounts over in Austria and Lichtenstein.” Markowitz was shot in the head while sitting in his Rolls Royce in Brooklyn in 1989.

Phillip Moskowitz was murdered after he was indicted and “certain tapes were released in which he compromised the positions of various organized crime families and identified them as being active in the bootlegging business. His body was found in New Jersey,” Jermyn said.

SCI Special Agent Diszler gave testimony based on the Commission’s own investigation.


Q. Agent Diszler, have you sensed a fear among the witnesses to whom you have spoken?

A. In most instances we have. Most of them are aware, through the media, of course, that there have been violent homicides which have oc­curred in New York and New Jersey concerning this industry.

Witnesses have told me that they can discern certain accents over the telephone quite easily and many times have felt intimidated and threat­ened by the sales pitch which they get. Even bank officers have expressed an underlying fear to me.

Many times these individuals attempt to open bank accounts in New Jersey at local banks and when they fill out the bank applications it is learned that they have no roots to the community whatsoever. If the accounts are opened, within days and sometimes within hours there are wire transfers moving through their accounts which number in the thousands of dollars. These banking people who are not familiar with the businesses involved often become highly suspi­cious and concerned enough to usually contact the local police departments.


Q. Are you comfortable identifying the type of accents that you referred to before when people got those anonymous calls?

A. Yes, I would be comfortable in saying that itwas definitely a Soviet, Eastern European ac­cent.

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From a NJ SCI report