Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Judge says Irish contractor who stole millions “a hero”

By Brian Fitzpatrick

Corrupt Irish contractor James Murray (45), who turned government witness against one of New York’s biggest unions, was freed on Thursday with a judge praising him as “a genuine hero” and sentencing him to time served. Under sentencing guidelines he could have faced a nine-year jail term.

Co. Meath man Murray, who had fled to Ireland in 2006 after being indicted on money laundering, fraud and embezzlement charges, had bribed union officials to avoid paying millions in contractual benefits to workers. He eventually returned to the U.S. to help prosecutors to convict a host of top officials at the New York City District Council of Carpenters.

"You made a decision to return to this country to fight the corruption by breaking the wall of silence," Murray was told by Manhattan Federal Judge Kimba Wood. "You and your family should be proud. The government says you were a unique cooperator. What you have done for all New Yorkers makes you a genuine hero."

Giving evidence in the trial of Joseph “Rudy” Olivieri last year, Murray told how the mafia remains rooted within New York’s construction industry. He said he came to the U.S. from Ireland some 20 years ago in search of work and steadily built a large firm, On Par Contracting, by co-operating with underworld figures including those associated with the Genovese crime family. With 700 people on its payroll at the height of its powers, On Par was “everywhere,” Murray said.

Olivieri, ex-executive director of the Long Island-based Association of Wall, Ceiling and Carpentry Industries was convicted of perjury. He had long been suspected as the primary link between construction unions and the Genovese crime family. As part of the probe, nine other defendants, including former Carpenters and Joiners District boss Michael Forde and former head of the Local 608 union John Greaney also pleaded guilty and were convicted.

Greaney, a once-prominent member of the Irish American community in New York, pleaded guilty in July 2010 to thirteen felony charges including corruption, racketeering, embezzlement, bribery and perjury, and agreed to testify against his former boss Forde and others. Forde is now serving an 11-year sentence, with Greaney due to be sentenced on June 17th.

In his testimony, Murray told of paying Olivieri over $1 million as a sub-contractor on two Riverdale apartment houses which he (Murray) was constructing with non-union labor. In return, Olivieri and Forde steered Murray out of trouble when investigator Walter Mack subpoenaed him to testify in March 2005. Murray said Forde received more than $100,000, with Greaney given sums of cash and Super Bowl tickets.

As part of the sentencing, Judge Wood ordered Murray to pay $5.6 million to the IRS. Records also show that On Par Contracting recently paid $4.5 million into the carpenters union benefit fund.

Speculation in the Co. Meath media indicates that Murray, who is thought to have invested millions in property and land near his family home in the county, may have been offered a place on the FBI’s witness protection program. Seeming almost embarrassed by the judge’s plaudits as he left the court, he said simply: “I’m not a hero.”

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