ELIZABETH – A reputed organized crime associate made political campaign contributions to Assemblyman Joe Cryan, whose legislative partner, state Sen. Ray Lesniak, wants to disband the commission created to drive the mob out of the waterfront in the Port of New York-New Jersey.
At least one alleged organized crime figure arrested by federal authorities as part of a nationwide round up was repeatedly among Cryan’s campaign contributors, Albert Cernadas Sr. of Union.
Cryan accepted $750 from Cernadas Sr. in 2004 and another $150 in 2005, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). Cernadas Sr. is a former president of International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) Local 1235, which from 2001 to 2009, gave $18,725 to New Jersey politicians.
The alleged mobster’s son, Albert Cernadas Jr., is the first assistant to Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow and a friend of Jon Deutsch, who obtained a Waterfront Commission job through political influence and was later fired for inappropriate conduct.
As the agency’s General Counsel, Deutsch leaked information to Cernadas Jr. concerning an investigation and fashioned a scheme to allow a convicted felon to operate a business in violation of the Waterfront Commission Act.
After Deutsch was fired, Lesniak introduced a controversial bill to remove the docks from the oversight of the Waterfront Commission and give that authority instead to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Thomas Leonardis, the president of ILA Local 1235 and one of those indicted last week, testified in support of Lesniak’s bill last fall. Leonardis called the Waterfront Commission one of the biggest obstacles to growth in the port business and said it had “outdone its usefulness.”
On Jan. 10, three people were indicted on charges of loansharking and money laundering following a Waterfront Commission investigation into the shakedown of longshoremen on Newark and Elizabeth piers.
Then on Jan. 20, nearly 800 FBI and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers pulled off the biggest one-day Mafia roundup in history, bringing in 127 suspected members and associates from all five of New York’s Mafia families as well as New Jersey’s DeCavalcante family pursuant to 16 indictments in four federal jurisdictions.
Among the 18 New Jerseyans arrested and indicted were six from the legislative district represented by Lesniak and Cryan: Cernadas Sr., 75; Anthony Alfano, 76, of Union; Stephen Depiro, 55, of Kenilworth; Tonino Colantonio, 32, of Kenilworth; John Hartmann, 41, of Kenilworth, and Guiseppe Pugliese, 32, of Kenilworth.
Five years ago Cernadas Sr. was sentenced to only two years probation after pleading guilty to funneling thousands of dollars in union funds to a pharmaceutical company controlled by organized crime.
In that case U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser received from the NJ political establishment “292 letters asking for leniency” as reported by Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure in their book The Soprano State: New Jersey’s Culture of Corruption.
“Our battle against organized crime enterprises is far from over,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Members and associates of La Cosa Nostra are among the most dangerous criminals in our country.”
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