New York Daily News
Check-mate: Wiseguy admits fleecing MTA
Sep 6, 2003.  pg. 8


Corrupt construction union officials laundered millions of dollars fleeced from the MTA through a mobbed-up check-cashing business, the feds said yesterday.

The money came from no-show work renovating the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's new headquarters at 2 Broadway downtown, a project infamous for financial boondoggles.

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 rates.

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 charges.

City Check Cashing, licensed by the New Jersey Banking Department, remains open for business, prosecutors said.

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



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