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Presser Had Charged Him With Links to New England Mob : Teamsters Chief Denies Ties to Mafia

Times Staff Writers

Teamster Union President William J. McCarthy, in a sworn statement to federal prosecutors, has denied that he had ties to the New England Mafia as once charged by his predecessor, the late Jackie Presser.

In a still-confidential deposition he has given in the government’s racketeering lawsuit against the giant labor organization, McCarthy contradicted statements by Presser as an FBI informant that McCarthy once claimed he needed permission from New England mob boss Raymond Patriarca to receive a promotion in the union.

It was Presser, not he, who suggested that he should clear his proposed promotion to Teamster secretary-treasurer with “the mob . . . the wise guys,” McCarthy insisted in his statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Times.

‘Speak to Wise Guys’

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“Did you ask Mr. Presser at that time why he had told you to speak to the wise guys?” inquired Randy Mastro, an assistant U.S. attorney in New York.

“I had the impression they had to approve it,” McCarthy replied. “I was disturbed, and I didn’t like it.”

However, McCarthy insisted elsewhere in his 205-page statement that he never had questioned Presser or any other Teamster official during his 50-year union career about charges that the labor organization was influenced by organized crime. McCarthy was not asked to explain why he failed to address this pivotal issue.

Presser, a confidential FBI informant for more than 10 years, told agents of McCarthy’s alleged links to organized crime in 1984, according to a secret FBI memorandum disclosed by The Times in July. According to Presser’s account, as outlined in the memo, McCarthy asked to be appointed national secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters but said that he needed permission from Patriarca before accepting the promotion.

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After relaying this conversation to the FBI, Presser ultimately chose another Teamster official, Weldon Mathis, as secretary-treasurer. Presser, who died of cancer last July while under indictment in a separate criminal case, was succeeded by McCarthy, who defeated Mathis in the union’s presidential election.

Heart of Lawsuit

The issue of Teamster links to organized crime is the heart of an unprecedented suit brought last June 28 by the federal government, which sought to oust the union’s senior leadership and obtain court appointment of a trustee to oversee new elections for the nation’s largest union.

The suit charged that the union’s leadership “has made a devil’s pact with La Cosa Nostra " to the point where organized crime deprives Teamster members of their rights through a pattern of racketeering--ranging from 20 murders to innumerable shootings, bombings and beatings--and a campaign of fear, bribes, extortion, theft and misuse of union funds.

In unusually swift action, U.S. District Judge David N. Edelstein has set trial for February in New York and is pressing attorneys to complete the extensive pretrial fact-gathering process, which includes the questioning of McCarthy.

McCarthy swore that he had never met or spoken with Patriarca or his son, Raymond Patriarca Jr. The elder Patriarca died in late 1984.

He also denied that he knew or had ever met Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, a twice-convicted New York crime boss now serving time in federal prison. He made a similar denial about reputed Florida mobster John (Peanuts) Tronolone.

Monitored Conversation

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An FBI transcript of an electronically monitored meeting in May, 1984, quotes Tronolone as telling Salerno that McCarthy might be worthy of Salerno’s support for the union’s secretary-treasurer, regarded as the second most powerful post in the Teamsters.

In denying that he had ever taken an interest in accusations that the Teamsters were close to the Mafia, McCarthy was asked if he had ever discussed with former union Vice President Anthony Provenzano his conviction for murdering a Teamster member in New Jersey.

“No way, no. None of my business,” McCarthy replied.

McCarthy said repeatedly that he had dismissed allegations that the Mafia had influenced the elections of Roy L. Williams and then of Presser as presidents of the union.

Under questioning by Mastro, McCarthy acknowledged hearing such an allegation by President Reagan’s Commission on Organized Crime, but said that he had never asked Williams, Presser or any other union board member whether there was any substance to the charge.

“No, because I didn’t believe it,” McCarthy said.

At another point, McCarthy said he did not know that Joe Trerotola, a Teamster vice president and member of the executive board, had been identified in a report by the New York State Organized Crime Commission last May as someone associated with the underworld syndicate.


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