BOSTON – The top politicians of the Massachusetts Democratic party, most of whom are female, are adamantly refusing to denounce a Teamsters local union long tied to organized crime, even after five of its members were charged in a federal indictment last week with running their own personal War Against Women.
In Local 25’s latest brush with the law, five Teamsters are accused of trying to extort the Bravo Channel, including threats to disfigure the female star of “Top Chef” while uttering “racist and homophobic slurs” against her cable TV crew, according to court documents. But the state’s new attorney general, a lesbian named Maura Healey, says she will not return $500 she recently received from the International Brotherhood.
In a further irony, two local Democrat Congressmen who Friday declined to criticize Local 25 have both in the past either issued threats against opponents, or actually been arrested for assault. Rep. Steve Lynch of South Boston, a former Ironworkers union local president himself, was charged in 1979 with attacking Iranian students during the hostage crisis. Rep. Mike Capuano of Somerville once exhorted a union rally to “get out on the streets and get a little bloody” when confronting Tea Party members. Years earlier, as mayor of Somerville, Capuano threatened to kill a dog in a city park with a baseball bat.
The female U.S. attorney here in Boston, a Barack Obama appointee named Carmen Ortiz, accused the Teamsters of using “old-school thug tactics” in trying to extort the producers of the popular “Top Chef” show to hire their members. The star of the show is Padma Lakshmi, the former wife of author Salman Rushdie, who survived death threats from Muslim thugs.
According to last week’s indictment, in 2014 the five Teamsters confronted the TV production crew at a restaurant, assaulting some and calling Lakshmi “a bleepin’ whore.” They are also accused of threatening to “bash that pretty face in.” Several crew members also had the tires on their personal vehicles slashed.
The violence occurred in suburban Milton, after a hotel and a restaurant in Boston cancelled shoots after being warned by a “representative of City Hall” that Local 25 would throw up picket lines if they allowed filming on their properties. Mayor Marty Walsh, an official of the Laborers Union before becoming mayor, claimed to know nothing about the calls, or who made them. (They were made by a longtime Democrat hack who describes himself as the city’s “minister of fun.”) Walsh received $15,000 from Local 25 during his campaign and posed for a photo with the shaved-head president of Local 25.
Late last week the mayor hired a former federal prosecutor whom Walsh claims will investigate City Hall’s role in the alleged shakedowns.
Both Walsh and state Treasurer Deb Goldberg have refused to return contributions from Local 25. Two other high-ranking female politicians who take Local 25 cash, Auditor Suzanne Bump and Rep. Katherine Clark, have refused to comment on this latest Local 25 scandal.
Although AG Healey is keeping her most recent $500 gift from Local 25, earlier she returned $15,000 that was apparently illegally donated. The Teamsters gave her strong support in last year’s Democrat primary, when she was running against the brother of the president of the state AFL-CIO, who funneled hundreds of thousands of union dollars into his brother’s campaign. Both brothers were former state senators, like Billy Bulger, brother of infamous Boston gangster Whitey Bulger.
The reluctance of local Democrat politicians to speak out about their patrons’ misogyny and thuggery has not gone unnoticed. Donald Trump asks his friends to “look at” Carly Fiorina’s face – he’s a sexist pig. Democrat contributors threaten to “bash” in another woman’s face… crickets. One poster to a newspaper website paraphrased the old Standells song: “Well, I love that dirty money…. Boston you’re my home.”
Local 25 has deep ties to organized crime in Boston. Its current president is Sean O’Brien. His father William O’Brien was also a Local 25 official, and was named in a federal indictment as renting a car for a crew of seven Local 25 armored-car robbers who murdered two guards in a 1994 robbery in Hudson, N.H. The elder O’Brien was never charged, but FBI agents confiscated $50,000 cash from his home.
Sean O’Brien was suspended by the national Teamsters for two weeks in 2013 after he went to Rhode Island on behalf of another Jimmy Hoffa-allied local president and threatened union reformers: “Anybody who takes on my friend… they’ve got a major problem. They’ll never be our friends. They need to be punished.”
O’Brien later apologized for his “poor choice of words.”
O’Brien succeeded George Cashman, who had ties to local politicians of both parties. Cashman obtained a Teamsters job for a corrupt former sheriff appointed by ex-Gov. Mike Dukakis after the Democrat sheriff served a federal prison sentence for racketeering. Cashman himself was sent to prison in 2003 for, among other things, a ghost payroll scheme to get medical insurance for his friends. One of the beneficiaries was John “Mick” Murray, a Charlestown hoodlum and brother of one of Whitey Bulger’s top drug suppliers, the late Joe Murray, who also ran guns to the Irish Republican Army.
While Cashman ran Local 25, a plot was hatched to murder a female vendor who operated food trucks servicing Hollywood film crews on location in the area. Cashman nixed the murder, saying a beating would suffice. According to testimony later, the woman was attacked by Local 25 thugs and “dragged around by her hair, thrown against her truck, and slapped upside the head.”
A spokesman for the attorney general said of her ties to the Teamsters, “She’s pleased to have the support she does and to work collaboratively with Local 25.”
Rep. Lynch said of his union brothers, “They do a lot of great things.” Rep. Capuano said any Local 25 critic “who paints (with) that kind of broad brush is making a humongous mistake.” A Boston city councilor said, “They have turkey giveaways.” So did Al Capone, it was pointed out to him.
Local 25 has long been known for its shakedowns of Hollywood film companies on location in Boston. Its longtime “transportation coordinator” was Jimmy Flynn, whose mug shot appears on the organizational chart of the Winter Hill Gang. In 1984, Flynn was tried for the two murders committed on Northern Avenue in South Boston that make up one of the more memorable scenes in the new movie about Whitey Bulger, “Black Mass.” The murders were actually committed by Bulger, who was wearing an Afro wig, causing one of the victims to erroneously identify his killer as the curly-haired Flynn in a dying declaration.
After his acquittal, Flynn parlayed his Local 25 connections into bit parts in several movies, including Good Will Hunting (he played a judge) and Cider House Rules.
Three of the most recently indicted Teamsters worked on the set of Black Mass last year, about the time they were allegedly threatening to disfigure Padma Lakshmi’s face. Ironically, a fleeting reference is made in Black Mass to a gangster named “Suitcase” — a reference to Charlestown hitman Allen “Suitcase” Fidler.
One of those Teamsters charged this week with extortion is John Fidler, age 51. Neither he nor his lawyer have returned calls asking for confirmation of reports that he is Suitcase Fidler’s grandson. John Fidler is a convicted cocaine dealer and also pleaded guilty to supplying an M-1 to a Charlestown armored-car robbing crew. He has spent 16 years in prison.
In a Congressional report on FBI corruption in Boston, “Everything Secret Degenerates,” it was reported that in 1970, the local Mafia gave Suitcase Fidler a contract to murder Mob informant Joe “the Animal” Barboza, who was hiding in California. (The Animal was later slain by another Boston mobster, in San Francisco, in 1976.) According to the Congressional investigators, the other “hitman” sent to California with Suitcase in 1970 was Fat Harry Johnson.
Johnson was also a member of Local 25. A few years later, during filming of the well-regarded Boston mob movie, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” Fat Harry worked as the driver for Robert Mitchum, who played the title character. In the movie, Eddie Coyle’s job was obtaining guns for a crew of bank robbers led by the actor Alex Rocco, a former member of the Winter Hill gang who had changed his name from Bobo Petricone and moved to Hollywood.
In one scene, the informant Eddie Coyle is pleading with his federal handler for help in getting an upcoming sentence reduced.
“I need a good leaving-alone,” Mitchum says.
And now, until the heat dies down, that’s what the Democrat politician Friends of Local 25 are likewise looking for – a good leaving-alone.