The Daily Telegraph

New York family charged over ‘Sopranos’ scheme to take over constructi­on union

- By Our Foreign Staff

A NEW YORK crime family threatened violence and pocketed falsified “pension” payments in a two-decade plot to control a city constructi­on union and its health insurance programme, prosecutor­s alleged on Tuesday.

Ten of the Colombo family, including boss Andrew “Mush” Russo, 87, were charged over the scheme, which “had all the trappings of mafia shakedowns in shows like The Sopranos”.

Prosecutor­s said the family pressured the union to steer health plan business to friends, sought at least $10,000 (£7,000) per month in kickbacks and threatened to kill a union official if he did not comply. One family member told an associate in a recorded phone call in June: “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids.”

Jacquelyn Kasulis, a US attorney, said the charges “describe a long-standing, ruthless pattern” by Colombo leaders and underlings to exert control over the union, which was not identified in the indictment or by prosecutor­s.

Four other people were also charged, including a Bonanno family soldier accused of falsifying government workplace-safety certificat­ions for hundreds of constructi­on workers. Several were accused of other crimes, including loan sharking and conspiring to distribute large amounts of marijuana.

They each face up to 20 years in prison. Russo appeared at his video arraignmen­t from a hospital bed, with an FBI agent by his side. He pleaded not guilty as medical equipment beeped.

According to prosecutor­s, the scheme to infiltrate the union dated to 2001, when Colombo mobster Vincent Ricciardo, known as “Vinny Unions”, started squeezing a union official to hand over a portion of his salary as a “pension”.

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