Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fugitive Contractor Returns From Hiding to Testify Against Carpenter Boss Michael Forde

by Brian Kates

Michael Forde may not be so pleased when he finds out that James Murray may be coming back to testify in a case involving him.

Contractor James Murray went on the lam in Ireland after he was indicted on federal fraud and embezzlement charges in 2006.

Sources said he has returned and is believed to be helping the feds prosecute Michael Forde, head of the politically powerful District Council of Carpenters.

Murray, owner of On Par Contracting, slipped into the country late last year and turned himself in.

Court records show he was freed on $8 million bond in November and began plea bargain negotiations with Assistant Manhattan U.S. Attorney Lisa Zornberg, who is prosecuting Forde.

Indicted with Forde in the 29-count bribery and racketeering indictment is contractor Finbar O'Neill, a reputed Luchese crime family associate; Joseph Olivieri, a reputed Genovese crime family associate, and Carpenters Local 608 chief John Greaney.

Also indicted were shop stewards Michael Brennan, Brian Carson, Joseph Ruocco, John Stamberger and Michael Vivenzio.

Prosecutors refused to say if Murray is cooperating; his lawyer did not return calls for comment.

Prosecutors also would not confirm that On Par is one of six unnamed companies that paid bribes to Forde and his cohorts.

It appears Murray may be Contractor No. 1, the unindicted co-conspirator with the deepest involvement in the bribery scheme.

Contractor No. 1 is identified in the indictment as a major drywall company, as was On Par.

Among the numerous accusations linked to Contractor No. 1 is skulduggery at 63 Wall St., where On Par was a key player, and 3536 Cambridge Ave., a Bronx building in which Murray reportedly was a major investor.

Olivieri, the reputed Genovese mob soldier, is charged with perjury for lying about illicit finagling to get his excavation company a $1 million job at the Cambridge Ave. building and other Bronx job sites.

Contractor No. 1 was so enmeshed in the scheme that when he began to worry that Greaney might rat them out, Brennan, the indicted shop steward, assured him that would never happen.

Then, he added menacingly, if it did, "We'd f---in' have to kill him," the indictment said.

Brennan turned himself in to prosecutors Thursday.

Murray skipped to Ireland after he was indicted on charges similar to those leveled against Forde.

Prosecutors say he pocketed $10 million by paying workers off the books, hiring nonunion workers and claiming them as union members and misrepresenting the number of union workers on his work sites.

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