NEWARK, N.J. — U.S. Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh on Wednesday announced a sweeping federal anti-racketeering suit seeking a government takeover of a 22,000-member casino hotel workers' union based in Atlantic City. The union allegedly is controlled by a reputed Mafia crime boss who operates from his federal prison cell.
The suit charges that the Bruno-Scarfo mob family has dominated the union for more than two decades and that the current family boss, Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo, continues to direct activities even though he is serving a life sentence in an Illinois prison for a 1988 murder and extortion conviction.
The government's complaint, a 77-page, double-spaced document filed in federal district court in Newark, claims that the Bruno-Scarfo family has used murder, intimidation, extortion, embezzlement and bribery to control Local 54 of the Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees International Union.
A total of 19 union officials and reputed mobsters are named as defendants in the suit, which seeks the ouster of the local union executive board and its replacement by a court-appointed trustee.
Scarfo, who is among the named defendants, allegedly communicates his wishes regarding the union and other family operations through his son, Nicodemo (Nicky) Scarfo Jr., a frequent prison visitor. The son and the reputed "acting" family boss, Anthony (Tony Buck) Piccolo, also are co-defendants in the suit.
Local 54 represents bartenders, hotel employees and restaurant workers in 10 counties in southern New Jersey. Most members work in Atlantic City's casino hotels.
At the local's Atlantic City headquarters, union officials were conferring with their attorneys after announcement of the suit and declined any immediate comment on the case.
The government's suit is the latest in a string of crackdowns by federal prosecutors aimed at ridding organized labor of mob influence.
Last February, a similar suit was filed against six locals of the International Longshoremen's Assn. in an effort to end decades of organized crime control of the New York-New Jersey waterfront. Last year, the Justice Department also announced a landmark settlement with the Teamsters Union to remove mob influence.
"Our recent successful efforts against traditional organized crime families has given our investigators and prosecutors the necessary information to begin prying loose legitimate businesses that have operated under the heavy hand of organized crime too long," said Thornburgh, who flew to Newark to announce the suit.
The suit, which is a civil rather than a criminal complaint, climaxes a 10-year investigation by federal authorities into Local 54's activities. Thornburgh said that no arrests would be made because of the civil nature of the case but that summons would be served simultaneously on the defendants in several states.
The suit seeks the removal of Local 54 President William Roy Silbert of Somers Point, N.J., and five other officials. Silbert allegedly was hand-picked by Scarfo to replace Francis Gerace of Scullville, N.J., after Gerace was forced to step down by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.