U.S. Attorney's Office
District of New Jersey
(973) 645-2888
December 9, 2014

Former Union President Sentenced to 22 Months in Prison for Extortion Conspiracy Involving Christmastime Tribute Payments

NEWARK, NJ—The former president of International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) was sentenced today to 22 months in prison for conspiring to extort ILA Local 1235 longshoremen on the New Jersey piers 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.

Thomas Leonardis, 57, of Glen Gardner, New Jersey, the president of the union from 2008 through 2011, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to Count Three of a second superseding indictment charging him with conspiring to extort Christmastime tributes from ILA Local 1235 members. Judge Cecchi imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

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

During their guilty plea proceedings, Leonardis—along with Vincent Aulisi, 82, of West Orange, New Jersey, the president of ILA Local 1235 from approximately 2006 through 2007; and Robert Ruiz, 56, of Watchung, New Jersey, the delegate of the union from approximately 2007 through 2010 and former ILA representative—admitted that they conspired with each other and 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. Leonardis and Ruiz were suspended from their positions following their arrest in January 2011. Aulisi 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.

In addition to the prison term Judge Cecchi sentenced Leonardis to serve three years of supervised release.

Aulisi and Ruiz previously pleaded guilty before Judge Cecchi to conspiring to extort Christmastime tributes from ILA Local 1235 members. In October 2014, Aulisi and Ruiz were sentenced to 18 months and 20 months in prison, respectively.

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 leading to today’s sentencing. 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.

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