Descendent of Mob-Tied Laborers’ Union Bosses Predicts ‘No Change

IPSN July 16, 1997

ANTHONY ESPOSITO, the 26-year-old descendent of the mainline Mafia family that ran Chicago’s politically connected Laborers’ Union for some 30 years, believes the current trusteeship action against the “Bruno Caruso Crew” will result in “no change” in attempts to end Mob control of that long-tainted union.

Esposito, author of a soon-to-be-published family history that details Mafia ties to the Laborers’ Union going back to the Capone era, says he understands that Bruno Caruso and at least 20 other Laborers’ officials with ties to the Mob “are not real concerned” that they face imminent expulsion—and possible criminal charges—as the result of a Trusteeship Complaint that the Laborers’ International Union of North America has lodged against its mobbed-up Chicago affiliates.

The Chicago District Council of the Laborer’s Union, which represents some 21,000 members in 19 separate locals, has been issued a Trusteeship Complaint by the Laborers’ International Union which is expected to result in a takeover of all the Chicago area locals and the dumping of about two dozen union officials who are known to have Mafia ties.

Overall, the Laborers’ International Union has about 750,000 dues-paying members and is one of the largest and most politically connected unions in the country. But young Anthony Esposito sees the current Trusteeship action as simply a case of the East Coast Mafia guys who run the Laborers’ International staging a sacrificial bloodletting on the Chicago Mafia guys who run the Laborers’ Union here. His reasoning is that if the Mob-tied International doesn’t make an effort to clean up the Mob-tied Chicago group, the U.S. Justice Department will drop its other shoe on the International.

Since the Trusteeship Complaint was issued in late June, James DiForte, the Secretary-Treasurer of Laborers’ Local 5 based in South Suburban Chicago Heights, was arrested and charged with the 1988 murder of William Benhan, a Chicago businessman who apparently owed money to the Mob.

ESPOSITO, author of an inside view of both the Laborers’ Union and the Mafia entitled Union Boss, is the great-nephew of the late Mafia figure Frank (Frankie the X) Esposito. During his 29-year reign as head of the Chicago Laborers’ Union, Frankie the X survived a 1952 assassination attempt.

The would-be killers were “taken care of” after they blew their chance to kill Frankie the X and his brother, the late Anthony Esposito, who was then the union’s second in command, the younger Esposito told Illinois Police and Sheriff’s News.

Then, ten years later, Frankie the X escaped another murder plot when the late Mob-busting FBI agent Bill Roemer learned from an electronic bug that Mafia Don Sam Giancana had ordered the Florida slayings of both Frankie the X and Chicago’s then-1st Ward Democratic Committeeman John D’Arco. Roemer broke up that planned double murder by taking his information to both Tony Accardo and Paul (the Waiter) Ricca, who then pressured the murderous Giancana to withdraw his contract.

Subsequently, Frankie the X enjoyed even more power and influence in the Laborers’ Union, the Mafia and Chicago Democratic Party circles because his reputation as a Mob boss who could not be killed made him “untouchable,” the younger Esposito reports. At the time Frankie the X was “boss of bosses” in the Laborers’ Union, he was also a political fixer of the first rank.

Frankie the X, along with the late Murray (the Camel) Humphries, was regularly consulted by the original Mayor Richard Daley on both labor matters and political problems. Daley, in his capacity as the chief executive officer of Chicago government, had near-constant contact with Frankie the X because the Laborers’ Union in those years had more members on City payrolls than any other labor organization that Daley dealt with. Also, Frankie the X and the first Mayor Daley were close personal friends, young Tony Esposito says.

THE LABORERS’ UNION, both Chicago and nationally, were under the control of the Esposito family through 1971, the younger Esposito reports. In 1969, Frankie the X died. Although he had heart disease at the time, his family has always maintained that he died “mysteriously.” Then, six months later, Frankie the X’s brother Anthony, also a power in the union, died only weeks before he was to appear in U.S. District Court on charges of misuse of union funds and other criminal allegations.

The last Esposito to hold power in the Laborers’ Union, young Anthony’s uncle, also named Anthony, was ousted from the union in 1971, apparently on orders from the then-reigning Mafia bosses. Then, 21 years later, Frank Esposito, Sr., father of young Anthony, was killed in a “mysterious” auto crash.

In that incident, the younger Esposito recalls that the driver of the other car was represented in court by Teamsters Union lawyers, and then vanished immediately after the court hearing was concluded.

Today, the Chicago District Council of the Laborers’ Union and all its various Chicago-area locals are under the control of Bruno Caruso, Frank Caruso , Leo Caruso and about 20 other men who are either made Mafia members themselves of relatives or close personal associates of key Mob figures. The Laborers’ International Trusteeship Complaint specifically lists 23 men it calls “members of the Chicago Outfit, associates of the Chicago Outfit or relatives of Outfit members.”

The Trusteeship Complaint echoes what young Anthony Esposito maintains: that the Laborers’ Union has been a Mafia feifdom since the days of Al Capone. Officially, the Trusteeship Complaint cites the fact that there have been no contested elections in the Chicago Laborers’ various locals for at least 25 years, vast sums of union money has been spent with no accurate accounting systems in place, and Mob people are routinely given key union jobs without meeting the most minimal requirements of the union’s constitution.

FORMAL HEARINGS, similar to a court proceeding, will be held on the Trusteeship Complaint and the near-two-dozen Mob guys who have been running the Laborers’ Union for years. Then, if most observers of the local labor scene are correct, those named in the Trusteeship Complaint will be kicked out of the union. A number, as in the case of James DiForte, will also be charged with a variety of criminal actions, observers say.

BUT THEN, if young Anthony Esposito is correct, “nothing will change.” The Mob guys who are kicked out of the Laborers’ Union will simply be replaced by a new group of Mob guys.

ALSO, ARTHUR COIA, the principal Laborers’ International official who is bringing the current charges against the men who run his Chicago affiliates, has a long history of ties to East Coast Mafia organizations, including New York City’s Lucchese and Genovese families, Buffalo’s Todaro group and the Patriarca Mob from Boston.

Coia beat Chicago’s Bruno Caruso in a recent election for the Laborers’ International top spot and, some observers say, the current Trusteeship Complaint is as much a political vendetta as a serious attempt to clean up the union. Coia himself, however, enjoys the patronage of no less a prominent political figure that President Bill Clinton. Coia has given Clinton and his various campaign funds at least $400,000 in union money and, on a personal level, Coia gave Clinton an expensive set of golf clubs engraved with the Presidential Seal.

THE COIA ties to both the Mafia and prominent political figures are “all part of the same game,” young Anthony Esposito says.

“I am hopeful that nobody who is related by blood or by marriage to any organized crime figure should be allowed to hold office anywhere in this union,” said Jim McGough, Illinois Spokesman for Laborers for Justice and Democracy.

“We are scouring Illinois for honest members with no links to the mob who will be willing to hold office in the union.”