Chicago Tribune


By Ronald Koziol and John O`Brien.

April 23, 1985

Wearing a hood to protect what was said to be a new identity, Ken Eto, a former gambling boss who survived a mob assassination attempt in 1983, told the President`s Commission on Organized Crime Monday that Vincent Solano, an official of the Laborers` International Union of North America, ordered him killed. Solano, who sat nonchalantly in the hearing room in the Dirksen Federal Building as Eto testified, invoked his 5th Amendment protection against self- incrimination, declining to answer questions when he was called to the witness stand.

Eto, 64, identified Solano as a North Side crime syndicate rackets boss as well as president of Local 1 of the mob-linked Laborers` Union. Asked to identify the mob`s "ultimate source of power," Eto said, "Being able to corrupt and bribe city officials, politicians and policemen and instill fear in the general public by threats, intimidation and murder." In other testimony, a former vice president of the Laborers` Union said that the Elmwood Park man who heads the union threatened to kill him at a union dinner in 1981. "You`re dead, you`re dead," Robert E. Powell quoted Angelo Fosco, union president, as telling him in the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The commission began three days of hearings on mob penetration of unions and businesses with testimony on the 625,000-member Laborers` Union. Fosco joined Solano and several others in declining to testify. Fosco`s lawyer handed out a 10-page statement criticizing the hearings and accusing the government of subjecting Fosco to illegal electronic evesdropping.

Another union official who refused to testify was Salvatore Gruttadauro. The commission sought to question him about his ties to AAA Chemical Toilet Co., which holds city and Chicago Park District contracts to supply portable toilets for outdoor events.

At the start of the hearings, commission member Thomas McBride said the federal government has determined that four labor organizations are controlled by organized crime: the Laborers` Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Union of Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders and the International Longshoremen`s Association.

The commission will focus Tuesday on the 1.4 million-member Teamsters union. Jackie Presser, Teamsters president, is scheduled to appear. Presser`s lawyer asked that Presser be allowed to appear at a later date. The request was denied by Samuel Skinner, commission vice chairman and a former U.S. attorney in Chicago who was presiding in the absence of the chairman, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Irving Kaufman of New York.

Powell said that Fosco threatened him shortly before a Laborers` Union election as rumors circulated that Powell would seek the union presidency. Powell, then the union`s first vice president, said Fosco aapparently didn`t believe his denials. Powell said that as aides pulled Fosco away, he was overheard telling them, "I`ll break his (Powell`s) legs." Powell said he took the threats seriously and often carried a gun and wore a bulletproof vest. He said he was aware that Fosco, who succeeded his father, Peter Fosco, as union president in 1975, was connected to mob interests in Chicago.

Eto indicated that Solano ordered him killed for fear that he would spill mob secrets. Eto said he had been indicted by a federal grand jury on gambling charges and faced a prison term if convicted. During about 45 minutes of testimony, Eto provided a rundown of crime syndicate business deals from the 30 years he operated in the mob.

Among his disclosures:

-- Anthony Accardo is still the "boss of bosses" in the Chicgo crime syndicate, but Joey Aiuppa and Jackie Cerone run the day-to-day operations.

-- Eto once sought mob permission to open a strip joint in suburban Lyons but was turned down because Lyons "was considered sacred territory by Aiuppa." Aiuppa reportedly controls Lyons` "sin strip."

-- At one time on behalf of the mob, he owned a nightspot called Bourbon Street at 936 N. Rush St. Eto added that he was ordered to sign over the bar to Solano`s son. Though promised "compensation" for giving up the business, he said he never received any.

Eto was not the only witness to wear a hood. A former official of the Laborers` Union in New York, now a building contractor, also hid his identity. While Eto gave his name, the former union official remained anonymous and kept his voice secret by whispering testimony to another hooded witness who relayed it to the commission. The witness said that corrupt union officials regularly allowed mobsters onto construction sites to operate betting games and engage in loan sharking. As the witness testified, all that could be seen of him were his eyes and his hands. He wore a gold pinkie ring on each hand.

A deposition from another former Laborers` Union official contended that organized-crime families in New York control all construction contracts there worth $500,000 to $100 million.

Copyright 1998, The Tribune Company.

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