The Mafia no longer has any influence on the waterfront according to officials from the International Longshoremen’s Association.
But the Waterfront Commission continues to bring forth cases against ILA members with alleged ties to organized crime. According to the commission in just the past year, they have uncovered longshoremen with connections to the Colombo crime family and the Genovese crime family of the New York Mafia. In the most recent case, the commission took action against longshoreman Frank Ferrara costing him his $355,000 a year job on the New Jersey docks. After a three year investigation, the commission found that Ferrara had longtime ties to the Genovese family.
According to their findings, Ferrara had a personal connection with Andrew Gigante the son of late New York Mafia boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante and Genovese mobster Pasquale (Patty) Falcetti. The feds have long considered Andrew to be an associate of the Genovese family. He was convicted along with his father back in 2002 in a Waterfront labor racketeering case. Administrative law judge Michael Zidonik noted that ILA members were barred from associating with Andrew Gigante.
Judge Zidonik said “A reasonable objective observer could believe that the association with Gigante, and his blood ties to the crime family and its’ waterfront criminal domain, could influence (Ferrara) in his capacity as a registered longshoreman. Circumstantial and direct evidence shows that he knew very well that his friends Pasquale Falcetti, Sr. and Andrew Gigante were tied to organized crime and waterfront corruption. He chose to remain associated with them.”
Falcetti was convicted of embezzling ILA funds back in 2003 and has also done time for loansharking. The judge then noted that FBI-tapped phone calls between Falcetti and Ferrara, coupled with tape-recorded jailhouse calls between Falcetti and his son about Frankie Cheech, reveals two men with sincere regard to each other. Saying this further warranted Ferrara’s removal from the piers. He added that because Ferrara “remained good friends with this soldier of organized crime, a reasonable objective person may question (Ferrara’s) loyalty to his work as opposed to Falcetti, a made member of the mafia family closely associate with waterfront corruption.”
Ferrara’s attorney claimed in a written response that the Waterfront Commission had been overzealous in its charge. He said that at no time has his client ever been accused of any sort of wrongdoing saying “In Frank Ferrara’s nearly forty-year career, there has never been a single report of cargo missing from any of the thousands of containers that Frank Ferrara has come into contact.” He called the allegations of Ferrara’s association to Cosa Nostra irresponsible and is challenging the Commission’s findings via appeals court.
The International Longshoremen’s Association has also attacked the Waterfront Commission recently calling it an outdated agency that manufactures fantasy crime and treats decent working people like criminals. The ILA union lobbied elected officials in New York and New Jersey to do away with the Commission saying it had outlived its purpose. The New Jersey legislature even voted last year to withdraw from the agency but the Commission took them to court over the decision. A U.S. District Judge issued an injunction preventing the state from acting pending more hearings citing continued Mafia influence and a need to reform corrupt hiring practices at the port.
While many of the recent cases haven’t targeted any known mobsters it seems clear to the Commission that the mob’s influence remains through carefully placed associations. The former head of the federal Organized Crime Task Force in New Jersey Robert Stewart agrees with the Commission saying “You’re not seeing anything. There’s no bodies. But that suggests a higher level of ability to work.” Waterfront Commission director Walter Arsenault volunteered a 15-page list of ‘made’ men from the seven Mafia families in New York and New Jersey, who he said all had relatives at the port during a June legislative committee hearing.
He said “You can’t throw a stone at the port without hitting the son, the daughter, the son-in-law, the nephew, the cousin, the godson of a ‘made’ guy” according to the NJcom report. “It’s like Whack-a-Mole,” he said, the arcade game that players seldom beat.