A top International Longshoremen's Association official lost his $256,000 annual salary this year when he was arrested for committing crimes on the waterfront. But the suspended ILA vice president, Nunzio LaGrasso, still has a dozen family members earning a very nice living as waterfront workers, Gang Land has learned.
Until April, when he was charged with shaking down his own union members for extortion payoffs, the tarnished union leader and his brood were running neck-and-neck with family members of the late Mafia boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante whose soaring waterfront earnings were revealed in recent hearings by the newly re-energized Waterfront Commission of New York and New Jersey.
The top earners in the Gigante clan, as Gang Land disclosed two weeks ago, are Chin's nephew Ralph Gigante who pulls in $405,000 a year, and the late Genovese chieftain's son-in-law, Joseph Colonna, who gets about the same from his lucrative waterfront tasks. All told the family of the once bathrobe-wearing mob boss are paid a staggering total of $1.9 million a year
The LaGrasso family, newly released records show, is running a strong second as top waterfront-earners.
Last year, for example, the ten LaGrasso family members whose salaries Gang Land could obtain earned $1,562,704 in a variety of jobs, including longshoremen, checkers, and timekeepers. The total does not include what LaGrasso's sister Lisa made as a secretary for Local 1478, where LaGrasso was secretary treasurer, or the salary his daughter earned working at the ILA Welfare Fund. If you add in $256,000 that LaGrasso lost due to his arrest, and a conservative $90,000 estimate for the combined salaries of his sister and daughter, the LaGrassos are in the same $1.9 million plateau as the Gigantes.
Following his arrest, the ILA's Ethical Practices Counselor, former New York judge Milton Mollen suspended LaGrasso from his Local union post as well as his ILA vice president slot when he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights rather than answer questions from Mollen about the charges against him.
According to New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow, LaGrasso, 60, extorted cash payoffs from dock workers as "tribute" money in return for better paying jobs.
"Longshoremen were between a rock and a hard place when it came to paying tribute," said Dow. "They could either pay up or they could forget about better assignments, higher pay, and overtime," adding that "LaGrasso, as a top union official, was at the center of the scheme."
Authorities say that after receiving the payoffs, sometimes in person but more often through another allegedly corrupt union dockworker, LaGrasso would funnel most of the cash to members of the Genovese family who have long controlled the action on the New Jersey piers.
Early this year, according to federal court records, LaGrasso met with convicted labor racketeer Steven Depiro, the Genovese soldier who has handled the gambling, loansharking and payoff schemes for the crime family since 2005, when his predecessor, Larry Ricci, was killed. The powerful capo who controlled the rackets and allegedly ordered Ricci's murder, Tino Fiumara, died of natural causes in September.
Authorities say that mob associate Rocco Ferrandino, an ILA timekeeper with an annual salary of $374,801, often served as LaGrasso's bagman. Ferrandino, 68, who was busted along with LaGrasso and two former waterfront workers, was suspended from his job by the Waterfront Commission.
Another defendant, former longshoreman Joseph Queli, 64, is married to LaGrasso's cousin. Queli's longshoreman's license was suspended by the Waterfront Commission in the 1990s, after he was arrested for gambling and loansharking. Queli, as you might suspect, is currently charged with running a loansharking operation that catered to longshoremen and other dock workers. His son, Joseph Jr., who is not implicated in any wrongdoing, is a checker. He earned $187,413 last year.
Also arrested with LaGrasso was a nephew, Alan Marfia, a former longshoreman who became a Newark police officer in 1999. Marfia, 39, was charged with felony misconduct charges for using official police databases to check out undercover police vehicles that were staked out in front of Local 1478's offices for his uncle Nunzio. All the defendants were released on bail ranging from $75,000 to $100,000.
Like the waterfront workers, Marfia was initially suspended without pay. But unlike his codefendants, Marfia is back on the police department payroll, although sources say that his gun has been taken away and he is doing "rubber room" work in a station house.
Lawyers for LaGrasso declined to comment. Attorneys for Ferrandino and Queli could not be reached. Contacted by Gang Land, police officer Marfia's lawyer, Samuel DeLuca, said: "There is no question in my mind that he did nothing illegal."