“Tony bag-of-doughnuts” is alive and well, beating people up in Buffalo

Buffalo, “Supranos” Style   U.S. ATTORNEY TERRANCE P. FLYNN: Racketeering is called bludgeon of Local 17’s regime; 12 union leaders face federal charges “They had a negative financial impact on almost every major construction project … over the past 10 years.” Posted on The Buffalo News By Dan Herbeck and Phil Fairbanks Updated: 04/09/08 9:11 AM     Leaders of a powerful construction union local are accused of a decade-long run of extortion and labor racketeering that federal authorities say added millions of dollars to the cost of projects throughout Western New York.     The allegations include death threats, stabbings, assaults and extreme acts of vandalism against construction company executives and their families.     Federal authorities made the accusations against Operating Engineers Local 17, a union that represents operators of heavy equipment and has been involved in some of the biggest construction projects in the area, including those at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Ralph Wilson Stadium.     “They victimized people at small construction sites and large sites, including many that were publicly funded,” U.S. Attorney Terrance P. Flynn said. “We believe they had a negative financial impact on almost every major construction project in Western New York over the past 10 years.”     The crimes ranged from throwing scalding coffee at non-union workers to destroying expensive machinery by pouring sand into the transmissions and gas tanks, according to Flynn.     Twelve union officials are accused of felony counts of labor racketeering and extortion. They were arrested at their homes by federal agents and state police, who began a roundup at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.     Authorities described union organizers Carl A. Larson, 43, and James L. Minter III, 36, and the local’s president and business manager, Mark N. Kirsch, 48, as the leaders of the “Local 17 Criminal Enterprise.”     Their alleged attacks were intended to force construction companies into hiring Local 17 workers and punishing those who refused.     The charges against Kirsch, who has been highly regarded in the region’s labor community, were especially surprising to some of his colleagues.     “I’m shocked,” said Michael H. Hoffert, president of the Buffalo AFL-CIO. “Those aren’t the [Local 17] guys I know.”     But an official at one of the companies that was allegedly targeted saw it differently.     “There is such a thing as justice,” said Norman R. Merriman, president of Tom Greenauer Development, whose company equipment was heavily damaged after the firm refused to hire Local 17 workers.     Officials at the 2,100-member union local, headquartered in Lake View in the Town of Hamburg, had no comment. Attorney Paul J. Cambria, whose law firm represents the local, also declined to comment.     Some of the language in a 62-page government indictment reads like a script for the former “Sopranos” television show.     According to prosecutor Charles B. Wydysh, Larson had a conversation in 2003 with an official of a construction firm, STS. The conversation took place about two months after a union member had stabbed the owner of STS in the neck in an Orchard Park bar.     The STS representative is quoted in court papers asking Larson what his company would gain by hiring members of the union.     “What are the positives?” the company official asked Larson. “You guys slash my tires, stab me in the neck, try to beat me up in a bar. What are the positives in signing? There are only negatives.”     Much of the activity took place at major publicly funded construction projects, including the expansion of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo State College and the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s treatment plant on Bird Island, prosecutors said.     One of the disturbing aspects to the case, in Flynn’s view, is that members of the local repeatedly used the Web site of the state Department of Motor Vehicles to find out the addresses of people they intended to harass.     Union members went to construction sites and took photos of the license plates of vehicles used by construction company executives or non-union workers, Flynn said.     “Then, they would use that information to find out where these people lived, and where their families lived,” Flynn said. “They would then make threats against people, mentioning their home addresses.”     Allegations of union thuggery Some of the federal charges filed against Operating Engineers Local 17:  Roswell Park Cancer Institute construction site: Owner of a company who declined to hire Local 17 workers for the project was stabbed in the neck by a union official in a local bar.  Ralph Wilson Stadium: Truck driver from a non- union company suffered facial cuts when a Local 17 member smashed a window in his vehicle in 1999. The company was later replaced by a union contractor.  Uniland Development office building, 285 Delaware Ave.: Pickets told a Uniland official they were going to go to his home and sexually assault his wife.  Town of Hamburg soccer fields: Sand was poured into engines of 18 pieces of construction equipment owned by non- union companies, causing $ 330,000 damage.     Source: Indictment filed by Assistant U. S. Attorney Charles B. Wydysh     mailto:dherbeck@buffnews.com and pfairbanks@buffnews.com     Read more.

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4 Responses to ““Tony bag-of-doughnuts” is alive and well, beating people up in Buffalo”

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