NEWARK – Three former longshoremen acted more like the Grinch than Santa when they conspired with the mob to extort Christmastime tribute payments from fellow port workers with the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1235.
The three admitted roles in the holiday scheme, which involved a reputed member of the Genovese crime family, and could face up to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced, the U.S. attorneys for New Jersey and the Eastern District of New York said Wednesday.
Salvatore LaGrasso, 58, of Edison; Michael Nicolosi, 45, of Staten Island; and Julio Porrao, 71, of Palm Coast, Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiring to extort Christmastime tributes from the union members. They entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark.
Charges are still pending against five defendants, including a racketeering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 58, of Kenilworth — a reputed soldier in the Genovese organized crime family. Since at least 2005, Depiro has managed the Genovese family’s control over the New Jersey waterfront, including the nearly three-decades-long extortion of port workers in Local 1, Local 1235 and Local 1478, authorities said.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, LaGrasso, Nicolosi and Porrao admitted that they conspired with each other and others to compel tribute payments from ILA union members, who made the payments based on actual and threatened force, violence and fear, Fishman said. The timing of the extortons typically coincided with the receipt by some ILA members of “container royalty fund” checks, a form of year-end compensation.
LaGrasso and Nicolosi were suspended from their positions after their arrests. Porrao already had retired at the time of his arrest.
Members of the Genovese family, including Depiro, are charged with conspiring to collect tribute payments from New Jersey port workers at Christmastime each year through their corrupt influence over union officials, including the last three presidents of Local 1235, Fishman said.
LaGrasso, Nicolosi, and Porrao face up to 20 years in prison an a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 17 for LaGrasso and Nicolosi and for Sept. 24 for Porrao.
U.S. Attorneys Paul Fishman of New Jersey and Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York credited the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Office of Inspector General, the Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas. They also thanked the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor for its cooperation and assistance in the investigation.