How Colombos Beat Starbucks at the Coffee Racket


The Mafia once was synonymous with the toughest criminal organization in the world, powerful enough to sink its tentacles into so many aspects of American capitalism, it was deemed a second, shadow government.

But that was then, and this is now. The mob is certainly not as powerful and rich as it once was, but one thing it's still good at is finding ingenious ways to earn.
Dino Calabro and Ralph Scopo Jr., of the Colombo crime family developed the "coffee boys" racket
Dino Calabro (left) and Ralph Scopo Jr., who dreamed
up the scam of controlling the "coffee boys."


One of the more clever and profitable revenue generators was dreamed up by members of the Colombo crime family, according to published reports, who apparently realized that literally nothing is too small to steal -- not even coffee.

Since the 1980s, the mob has found a way to siphon off hundreds of thousands of dollars from all the cups of coffee bought at New York City's construction sites.

A newly converted mob informant confirmed the three-decade shakedown to the FBI and the international union overseeing the Queens-based concrete laborers Local 6A.

Dino Calabro, a longtime Colombo soldier, described how the mob pulled in $250 a week from every job site the union is working through its control of so-called "coffee boys."



He said it works this way:

Local 6A assigns a union-scale worker as a coffee boy at each site. His sole job is to handle coffee orders - a job that's written into its contracts.

Workers can't place their orders with anyone else, so the coffee boy job is effectively a monopoly.

The coffee boy gets discounted coffee from local delis or buys bulk cases of bottled water and juice, then sells to his fellow workers at a profit.

Before the mob showed up, coffee boys kept all their coffee profits. At times, that meant $1,000 a week.

Calabro told the FBI that in the early 1980s, Colombo soldier Ralph Scopo Jr. came up with the idea of making all Local 6A coffee boys cough up $250 a week to the mob.

Many of the coffee boys came to be trusted mob associates, including members of Calabro's crew. He forced his coffee boys to split their profits with him fifty-fifty.

The coffee boy scheme was detailed in a filing by the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) as it moved to put Local 6A into a trusteeship Dec. 21.

The international's filing makes clear that for some, the coffee boy arrangement appeared mutually beneficial.

Sitting at Farrell's bar in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, coffee boy Rick Suflay told his mob cohorts he had no problem making his weekly Mafia payment, bragging, "I'm making a killing at this coffee boy job."

Based on an internal probe by former FBI agent Bruce Mouw, LIUNA also alleged the Colombo family put numerous gangsters into no-show jobs in Local 6A and used the threat of job action to extort payments from contractors.

Control of Local 6A has been passed down through generations of the late mob soldier Ralph Scopo Sr.'s family, the international charged.

After Ralph Sr. was convicted of racketeering charges in the mid-1980s, his son, Ralph Jr., took over. When Ralph Jr. was kicked out in 1987, his son, also named Ralph, took over. The son remains in the union as business agent.

Authorities say Ralph Jr. dreamed up the coffee boy scheme, which proved quite lucrative. If the local had six jobs going, that could mean $6,000 a month or $72,000 a year to the Colombo family.

When a union monitor challenged Local 6A's practice of designating the same members as coffee boys, the union claimed only laborers with "the necessary experience" were qualified for the job.

"The reality is most laborers are not interested in the headaches and complaints involved in the job and, more importantly, most laborers are not qualified to properly take the coffee and lunch orders for what can be as little as five laborers but often can be for as many as 100 or more," the union said in its response.

The FBI-New York's Colombo squad is exploring criminal charges in the mob's control of Local 6A, sources told the Daily News.



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