WEST ORANGE, NJ - Vincent Aulisi, 82, of West Orange, a former International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) Union official, has admitted to conspiring to extort ILA Local 1235 longshoremen for Christmas tribute payments. Aulisi, along with Thomas Leonardis, 56, of Glen Gardner, NJ, and Robert Ruiz, 55, of Watchung, all former Presidents of ILA Local 1235, pleaded guilty today "to conspiring to extort Christmastime tributes from ILA Local 1235 members – count three of the second superseding indictment against them," in Newark Federal Court.
The announcement came from New Jersey US Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Eastern District of New York US Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.
The three admitted to "compelling tribute payments from ILA union members," utilizing threatened force, violence and fear. The extortions appear to have coincided with ILA members' receipt of "Container Royalty Fund" checks, a type of year-end compensation.
Leonardis and Ruiz were removed from their positions in January, 2011. Aulisi had previously retired. According to the US Attorney's office, "The charge to which Aulisi, Leonardis and Ruiz pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Sept. 4, 2014, for Ruiz and Sept. 9, 2014, for Aulisi and Leonardis".
Eight additional defendants have charges still pending against them, including a rackeetering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 58, of Kenilworth, NJ, a soldier in the Genovese organized crime family. Depiro has purportedly managed the Genovese family's control over the NJ waterfront, including the extortion of ILA Locals 1, 1235, and 1478.
Two of the remaining ILA union officials: Albert Cernadas, 78, of Union, NJ, Nunzio LaGrasso, 63, of Florham Park, N.J., are also considered Genovese associates.
The third, Richard Dehmer, 78, of Springfield, N.J., is charged with illegal gambling conduct unrelated to the waterfront extortions.