union officials laundered millions of dollars fleeced from the
MTA through a mobbed-up check-cashing business, the feds said
The money came from no-show work renovating
the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's new headquarters
at 2 Broadway downtown, a project infamous for financial
Genovese crime family associate Robert
Santoro, the co-owner of the largest check-cashing business in
New Jersey, pleaded guilty to his role in the money-laundering
scheme in federal court yesterday.
"[Santoro's] guilty plea reveals for the
first time the insidious connection between organized crime
and the massive fraud against the MTA at 2 Broadway," said
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf.
Santoro, 54, who operated City Check Cashing
in Jersey City, was convicted last year in an unrelated case
of laundering money for Genovese capo Salvatore (Sammy
Meatballs) Aparo's crew.
In the 2 Broadway scheme, the project's
developer conspired with representatives of Local 1 of the
International Union of Elevator Constructors and Local 14 of
the Operating Engineers to overcharge the MTA.
$100M over budget
The feds alleged that Santoro received a
percentage of the take for cashing millions of dollars worth
of checks the MTA paid for thousands of hours of work. The
work, if it was performed at all, was billed at inflated
The renovation project bloated to about $100
million over budget.
"I was aware that there was a high
probability that it was the proceeds of a crime," Santoro told
Federal Judge Leo Glasser. "I should have called the MTA, but
I turned my back to it."
Santoro faces eight years in prison when he
is sentenced next month. He also has agreed to forfeit
$125,000 and pay the MTA restitution of $210,000 for the
check-cashing fees he pocketed.
The project's developer, Fred Contini, and
six union officials also have pleaded guilty to various fraud
City Check Cashing, licensed by the New
Jersey Banking Department, remains open for business,
The fraud scheme at 2 Broadway remains under
investigation by Brooklyn federal prosecutors and the
Manhattan district attorney's office.
Originally published on September 6, 2003