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Feds: Construction Bigwig a Longtime Labor Racketeer

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Even if you've never heard of Joseph Olivieri, after a quick glance, you get the idea that he's a pretty important guy in the construction industry. He's the executive director of the city's largest organization of contractors, the Association of Wall Ceiling & Carpentry Industries, which is more than 200 strong. He's also the lead columnist for the WC&C house organ, Off The Wall.

But when you look below the surface, according to the feds, Olivieri is even more powerful than he seems at first blush. And, they say, he has quietly wielded that clout since the 1990s, working for himself, the powerful Genovese crime family and corrupt union leaders who represent 20,000 carpenters in 11 different locals.

Meet Joe Rudy Olivieri, the guy at the center of a huge labor racketeering scheme that enriched him and his mob cohorts by some $10 million they stole from union carpenters from 1994 to last year, according to a racketeering indictment filed in Manhattan Federal Court. So far, nine codefendants have copped plea deals.

Olivieri had been set for trial on numerous charges on September 7, but last week Judge Vincent Marrero put his trial off until October because Olivieri was injured in a boating accident last weekend.

Since 1995, according to court papers, Olivieri has lined his pockets as a liaison between corrupt union officials and Genovese wiseguys who have controlled the carpentry and drywall industries for decades. Guys like former acting capo Louis Moscatiello, who died last year while serving a 78-month prison term.

Joe Rudy's longtime ties to Moscatiello and other deceased mobsters - including Ralph Coppola, who was murdered in 1998 and whose body has never been recovered - are detailed in court papers submitted by prosecutors Lisa Zornberg and Mark Lanpher.

In the papers, the prosecutors wrote that Artie Johansen - a former WC&C board member who worked for his late father-in-law Thomas Nastasi and took over his "prominent" drywall company in the mid 1990s when Nastasi developed cancer - "came to personally know Olivieri in the late 1990s" and spoke to him several times about Coppola and Moscatiello back then.

On two occasions in 1999 or 2000, Johansen saw Olivieri meet Moscatiello in the coffee shop of the College Point, Queens building that housed his company, the prosecutors wrote, noting that Johansen "was not pleased" that the men were meeting in his company's building "because of the organized crime implications."

Johansen's planned testimony is only the tip of the government's proof linking Joe Rudy to Moscatiello and years of corrupt dealing, say the prosecutors.

They also plan to call numerous other witnesses, including a pair of turncoat Irish-born contractors, James Murray and Finbar O'Neill, who were at the center of the scams. Also taking the stand will be a union business agent who will testify about Olivieri's mob ties and his allegedly corrupt dealings. All of them, the feds say, will put the lie to Oliveri's statements under oath in 2007 when he denied meeting and dealing with Murray, Moscatiello and corrupt union officials over the years.

Prosecutors will also introduce some old-fashioned over-hear testimony. FBI agent Dan Conlon will tell how he was working undercover in a Bronx bar back on July 24, 2000, when he overheard Moscatiello ordering Olivieri to move quickly on a problem that union leader Michael Forde had. "Ford[e] wants somebody," the agent heard Moscatiello instructing Joe Rudy. "Get it done as fast as possible."

They also plan to introduce an FBI surveillance photo of the two men meeting and play a 2004 tape recording in which an elderly Genovese wiseguy and two associates discuss Joe Rudy Olivieri's connections to Louie Moscatiello.

Defense attorney Brian Gardner has asked Judge Marrero to prohibit the government from introducing any evidence of Olivieri's reputed ties to organized crime because his client is not specifically charged with racketeering. It's a good Hail Mary pass, but it seems like a very long shot to us. Gang Land wanted to talk to Gardner about his court papers, and his client's condition, but the attorney did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Olivieri, 55, is charged with being an integral part of a 10-year-long conspiracy (1998 to 2008) to steal untold millions from the benefit funds of union carpenters by taking, along with top union officials, more than $1 million in payoffs from contractor Murray, the key turncoat against Olivieri and his cronies.

Joe Rudy was a chatty fellow. Between 2003 and 2005, prosecutors say, Olivieri spoke "over the telephone" more than 200 times with Murray, who was allowed to use non-union labor, and pay carpenters in cash, below union wage and off-the-books - and permitted to engage in other scams - all designed to cheat the workers and their benefit funds, of which Olivieri was a trustee.

During the scheme, prosecutors say, Murray fronted Olivieri $730,000 so he could buy two properties and flip them for a nice profit, and he also told another contractor to use Olivieri's excavating firm on his jobs. Murray also awarded Joe Rudy's construction company a non-union building project in The Bronx that earned Olivieri "in excess of $1 million."

All the contractors in the WC&C, as Olivieri noted in this year's "Happy New Year" column that called for increased cooperation between management and labor, are "loyal union contractors" who know full well that "union labor is safer and of better quality than non-union labor."

Olivieri is also charged with giving illegal payoffs to union leaders, including District Council of Carpenters President Forde - who has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing - and with wire fraud in the scheme that enabled Murray to shortchange the Council's benefit funds.

Forde is the fourth consecutive council chief to be charged with corruption, and the third to be convicted of federal crimes. Olivieri is the second consecutive WC&C director to be investigated for corrupt activities, but only the first leader of the 92-year-old organization to be hit with labor racketeering charges. His predecessor, longtime mentor Michael Crimi, "sort of" retired to Florida after he managed to evade any criminal charges when the Manhattan District Attorney's office was on his case.

Maybe, instead of taking Crimi's spot at the WC&C, Joe Rudy should have followed him to the Sunshine State.