Thursday, August 6, 2009

Carpenter Bigs Nailed for Bribes

The city's top carpenters union official and nine others - including two mob associates - were charged Wednesday with taking $1 million in bribes to let contractors cheat workers of wages and benefits.

Michael Forde, head of the District Council of Carpenters and a major Democratic Party fund-raiser, took bribes for nearly 15 years to let contractors hire undocumented workers and pay some of them below the union rate, prosecutors said. He faces 20 years behind bars, if convicted.

The charges came just six weeks after Mayor Bloomberg hugged Forde at a rally where the 21,000-member district council endorsed him for a third term.

Bloomberg said the indictment was a "surprise" to him.

"It's sad and I don't know whether it's true, but you know, it's the men and women of the carpenters union that have endorsed me, and I'm thrilled to have it. We'll see what the courts say," he said.

Forde delivered the district council's endorsement to Hillary Clinton in her 2000 Senate run, four months before he was indicted for taking bribes from mobsters. He was acquitted in a retrial last year after his earlier conviction was tossed.

Also indicted was Finbar O'Neill, 44, of Paramus, N.J, is accused of delivering the cash payments to Forde, 54, of Queens. O'Neill, a reputed Luchese crime family associate who was sentenced to probation in a money-laundering scheme that led to the conviction of ex-state Sen. Guy Velella (R-Bronx) in 2004.

Joseph Olivieri, director of the Association of Wall-Ceiling and Carpentry Industries, also was charged. Olivieri reputedly has ties to the Genovese crime family.

Also charged were John Greaney, president of Carpenters Local 608; Brian Hayes, Local 608 business agent, and shop stewards Michael Brennan, Brian Carson, Joseph Ruocco, John Stamberger and Michael Vivenzio.

Forde was released on $750,000 bond and ordered to undergo drug testing after testing positive for cocaine and marijuana. Eight other defendants arraigned yesterday were released on bond.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin said the indictment shows "continuing corrupting at the highest ranks of the union's leadership."

The scheme involved five unnamed crooked contractors. The corrupt union officials let contractors pay carpenters in cash and off the books at below union rates, prosecutors said. The schemers were not above threats of violence. When a contractor worried Greaney might rat them out, prosecutors said, Brennan told him that wouldn't happen.

If it did, Brennan said, "We'd ... have to kill him," according to the indictment.

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