An Irish contractor delivered a detailed account of the Italian mafia's involvement in New York's construction industry in a Manhattan courtroom last month.
James Murray, the immigrant builder, told the court how he climbed the ranks to success with help from the mob before crashing and losing everything. Murray addressed the court in a low voice as federal prosecutor Lisa Zornberg questioned him according to the Village Voice.
Murray had immigrated from Ireland in the prime of his youth twenty years ago.
"I was looking for work. I had an argument with my father, and I came to the States."
He dropped out of school at 13 the reason being, he told the court he had a difficulty reading. When he got to New York he started work as a carpenter before he started up his own business renovating homes. A fellow Irish man then helped him develop his modest business into a bigger operation.
To get the bigger jobs he signed up with the New York City District Council of Carpenters, pledging to build his projects with the union labor: "You can't work unless you're union," he reminded the court.
Things were going well for Murray, who called his company “On Par Contracting” and soon had 700 workers on the pay roll courtesy of the union and some shady background figures . Their extensive list of projects included the Times Square Tower, high-rises, hospitals and university projects.
We were everywhere," he said. "We were all over the city, all over the tri-state area." And money was rolling in for the Irish firm.
By ignoring union agreements he had signed he increased profits by employing fellow Irish men illegally, who were just off the boat. He payed these young men $25 to $40 an hour as opposed to the $75 demanded by union workers. "We didn't pay the benefits," he said. "We paid the guys in cash."
This gave the company the upper hand when pricing jobs. “You could be the low bidder," he said. Construction expenses, he said, run roughly "one-third materials, two-thirds labor." It was "a big cost savings."
Murray also bribed every union official he could, shop stewards for leaving workers off the books, business agents were paid not to come snooping and the top union leaders were paid to keep everyone in line.
More than $100,000 was given to District Council chief Michael Forde."He would help me get the shop stewards," explained Murray.
The president of the Local 608 union, John Greaney got cash and tickets to the Super Bowl.
All the corruption and bribery took place under the eyes of the Genovese crime family. Which has had a significant stronghold over the city's building trade for decades.
One of the mob's biggest liaison to the construction business Joseph Rudy Olivieri proved to be Murray's right hand man. Olivieri worked as the head of the Association of Wall-Ceiling and Carpentry Industries of New York. The court heard that the pair looked after each other.
Murray loaned Olivieri hundreds of thousands of dollars but in return he ran interference when a court-appointed investigator of the union Walter Mack started raising questions about Murray's success.
In 2005 the same court official subpoenaed Murry to testify. When Mack ordered for the company to be shut down, Murray called Olivieri immediately:"I called Joe Olivieri right away," said Murray. "He said, 'Give me a couple minutes."
He cobbled together a rescue plan to appease Mack and the company stayed in business. When Murray was asked if he continues to cheat he simply replied “Yes”
The sordid relationships between Murray, the union and the Italian mafia handlers were a long kept secret. But Walter Mack's persistence and the follow up investigation by prosecutor Zornberg nailed Murray.
Murray's first indictment came in 2006 on fraud and money-laundering charges. He proceeded to flee to Ireland. Two years later after he was persuaded to return to the U.S. after the feds seized his extensive farm and other properties. He plead guilty and agreed to provide the evidence that led to the conviction of Olivieri, Forde, Greaney and seven others.
Olivieri was found guilty of perjury. He is currently out on a $500,000 bond and is facing up to five years in prison plus future prosecution for conspiracy and fraud.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk explained the necessity of the case. "Olivieri attempted, but failed, to mask his association with the Genovese Organized Crime Family and a dishonorable union contractor," she said. "The guilty verdict represents a dual victory: weeding out corruption in the New York City Carpenters Union and removing a crooked trustee of the benefit funds."
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