U.S. Attorney's Office
District of New Jersey
(973) 645-2888
October 22, 2014

Former Longshoreman Sentenced to Prison for Extortion Conspiracy Involving Christmastime Tribute Payments

NEWARK, NJ—A former longshoreman was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison for conspiring to extort others in Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) for Christmastime tribute payments, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch announced.

Julio Porrao, 72, of Palm Coast, Florida, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to conspiring to extort Christmastime tributes from the union members—count three of the second superseding indictment against him. Judge Cecchi imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

During his guilty plea proceeding, Porrao admitted that he conspired with others to compel tribute payments from ILA union members, who made the payments based on actual and threatened force, violence and fear. The timing of the extortions typically coincided with the receipt by certain ILA members of “Container Royalty Fund” checks, a form of year-end compensation. Porrao had already retired from his employment on the New Jersey piers at the time of his arrest.

Charges are still pending against three defendants in the superseding indictment, including a racketeering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 59, of Kenilworth, New Jersey—a soldier in the Genovese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra. Since at least 2005, Depiro has managed the Genovese family’s control over the New Jersey waterfront—including the nearly three-decades-long extortion of port workers in ILA Local 1, ILA Local 1235, and ILA Local 1478. Members of the Genovese family, including Depiro, are charged with conspiring to collect tribute payments from New Jersey port workers at Christmastime each year through their corrupt influence over union officials, including the last three presidents of Local 1235.

Two other Genovese family associates charged in the case are former union officials: Albert Cernadas, 79, of Union, New Jersey, the president of ILA Local 1235 from approximately 1981 to 2006 and former ILA executive vice president; and Nunzio LaGrasso, 63, of Florham Park, New Jersey, the former vice president of ILA Local 1478 and former ILA representative.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Cecchi sentenced Porrao to serve two years of supervised release and pay a fine of $5,000. LaGrasso and Nicolosi still await sentencing.

U.S. Attorneys Fishman and Lynch credited the FBI in New Jersey, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, and in New York, under the direction of Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos, as well as the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Garcia, with the investigation. They also thanked the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor for its cooperation and assistance in the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mahajan, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey.

The charges and allegations against the remaining defendants are merely accusations and they are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defense counsel: Julio Porrao: Erik Hassing Esq., Flanders, New Jersey

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