Former Longshoremen Plead Guilty to Extortion Conspiracy Involving Christmastime Tribute Payments
NEWARK—Three former longshoremen admitted today that they conspired 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.
Salvatore LaGrasso, 58, of Edison, New Jersey; Michael Nicolosi, 45, of Staten Island, New York; and Julio Porrao, 71, of Palm Coast, Florida—all former supervisors on the New Jersey piers—pleaded guilty today to conspiring to extort Christmastime tributes from the union members—count three of the second superseding indictment against them. LaGrasso, Nicolosi and Porrao entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
During their guilty plea proceedings, LaGrasso, Nicolosi, and Porrao 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. LaGrasso and Nicolosi were suspended from their positions following their arrests in this case. Porrao had already retired from his employment on the New Jersey piers at the time of his arrest.
Charges are still pending against five defendants in the superseding indictment, including a racketeering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 58, of Kenilworth, New Jersey—a soldier in the Genovese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (Genovese family). 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.
The charge to which LaGrasso, Nicolosi, and Porrao pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is currently scheduled for September 17, 2014, for LaGrasso and Nicolosi and for September 24, 2014, for Porrao.
U.S. Attorneys Fishman and Lynch credited the FBI in Newark, 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 guilty pleas. 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.