Albert Cernadas, former executive vice president of the International Longshoremen’s Association, has been charged with extortion and conspiracy in a spreading federal investigation of waterfront corruption at the Port of New York and New Jersey.
Cernadas, 75, is the latest in a string of current and former ILA officials accused of what prosecutors say was a long-running scheme to shake down ILA members for annual “Christmas tribute” payments that were kicked back to Genovese family mobsters. He pleaded not guilty.
His indictment comes as federal prosecutors and investigators in New York and New Jersey have joined forces in a broad offensive against waterfront racketeering.
ILA news from JOC:
War on the Waterfront.
An indictment unsealed this week in U.S. District Court in Newark accuses Cernadas of using “actual and threatened force, violence and fear” to extract holiday-season payoffs from his members. The indictment claims Cernadas was involved in the scheme while president of Local 1235 in Newark from 1982 until 2006, when he was forced to resign after pleading guilty in a racketeering case.
This month Robert Ruiz, a delegate at Local 1235, was charged in U.S. District Court in New York with collecting similar payoffs in 2008 and 2009. Federal agents say they dug up $51,900 buried in the backyard of a dockworker whom Ruiz had asked to hold the money until it could be forwarded to the mob.
Last April, New Jersey authorities charged Nunzio LaGrasso, secretary-treasurer of warehouse Local 1478 in Newark and a vice president of the ILA’s Atlantic Coast District, with extracting Christmas payments from dockworkers. LaGrasso was removed from office after refusing to answer questions from the ILA’s ethical-practices counsel. He and three current or former ILA officials have pleaded not guilty.
In an affidavit filed earlier this year, an FBI agent stated that LaGrasso had met with convicted waterfront racketeer Steven Depiro, who “handled the Genovese crime family’s extortion scheme in recent years.” Depiro was charged with harboring fugitive Genovese mobster Michael “Mikey Cigars” Coppola, who spent 11 years as a fugitive.
Three days before Coppola’s arrest on the fugitive warrant, FBI wiretaps caught the son of Vincent Aulisi, Cernadas’ successor at Local 1235, reassuring Coppola that the Christmas payoffs had continued and increased since Cernadas left office. Aulisi was removed from office and his son, Eddie, was expelled from the ILA. Coppola was convicted last year of extorting Local 1235 members.
-- Contact Joseph Bonney at firstname.lastname@example.org.