Disclosures Boost Pirro's Shot at Senate Seat:
New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
took mob cash
By GREG B. SMITH
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, August 12th, 2005
Jeanine Pirro declared "I have taken on the mob" when she announced her run for U.S. Senate this week, but she could have said "I have taken from the mob."
The Westchester District Attorney pocketed nearly $12,000 in campaign checks from firms and associates with alleged links to organized crime, the Daily News has found.
A review of campaign and court records shows at least six donors with ties to mob families who've contributed to Pirro since 2003. That casts a shadow on Pirro, who's basing her run against Sen. Hillary Clinton in part on her reputation as a tough prosecutor.
Pirro has been especially sensitive about the mob since The News revealed a gangster was caught on FBI tape last year claiming her husband, Albert, had discussed one of her pending cases with a Gambino associate.
Albert Pirro denied the allegation, although he admitted that the mob associate, a contractor, hired him as a lobbyist to resolve a payment dispute with the state.
"Jeanine Pirro has prosecuted more than 100 made members and associates of the mob and has been a leader in the fight against organized crime," said her campaign spokesman, Mike McKeon. "Any suggestion to the contrary is just ridiculous."
Since 2003, the following contributors with alleged mob ties have written checks for Pirro:
# Worth Construction of Connecticut gave $1,000 to Pirro's campaign in the past year.
In 2003, an FBI agent testified that Worth Construction owner Joseph Pontoriero is an associate of the Genovese crime family and that Worth had tried to bribe a local official.
Pontoriero did not return calls seeking comment.
# Yonkers Contracting wrote Pirro a $500 check in July 2004. Prosecutors say Yonkers paid $50,000 a year to a corrupt union official of Operating Engineers Local 15, a union allegedly infiltrated by Colombo mobsters.
Yonkers has not been charged with a crime. Owner Carl Petrillo did not return calls seeking comment.
# Byram Concrete owner Leonard Luiso helped co-chair a recent fund-raiser for Pirro at Mayor Bloomberg's Manhattan townhouse. The White Plains-based Byram has given Pirro $4,000 since October 2003, records show.
On FBI tapes, gangster Greg DePalma discussed the Gambino family's plans to get "tribute" payment from Byram after it purchased a mob-controlled concrete firm, Action Redi-Mix.
Byram's owner, Luiso, admitted talking "in passing" to Richard Vetter of Action Redi-Mix, who has been identified by the FBI as a Gambino associate. He insisted he never talked to DePalma. Luiso said his company has no mob ties and that he donated to Pirro because he has known her "for years."
# Bergassi Group LLC, an upstate bond firm, gave Pirro $500 in June. In 1996, a mob associate was recorded asking Edmond Bergassi to use his political connections to quash a pending investigation.
Bergassi denied any mob ties and said he donated to Pirro at the request of a colleague who was raising money for her.
# Richard Nasti and his wife gave Pirro $5,000 in October 2003. Bonanno crime family gangsters were recorded discussing the involvement of Nasti, a former New York Post executive, in a scheme to place gangsters in no-show jobs at the Post.
Nasti pleaded guilty to misdemeanor violations of the state labor law in 1992. He did not return calls seeking comment.
# Soft Drink Workers Local 812 gave Pirro $250 in July. On FBI tapes, Gambino capo DePalma claims the mob controls this union.
John O'Neill, political director for Local 812, said DePalma's claims were "news to me" and denied any mob involvement.