Federal authorities yesterday disclosed the indicment of a New York meat wholesaler and trucking contractor on charges of running a sophisticated hijacking ring out of his warehouse in the South Bronx.
The indictment accused William P. Masselli, 54, and eight other men of responsibility for the hijackings at gunpoint of truckloads of meat, shrimp, lobster and other consignments, including some supposedly owned by members of organized crime.
Masselli, whom the FBI has described as "an alleged self-admitted soldier" in the Genovese crime family, was mentioned prominently at Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year for Secretary of Labor Raymond J. Donovan.
FBI officials testified that their New York office had developed but had not been able to corroborate information that the Schiavone Construction Co. of Secaucus, N.J., where Donovan was executive vice president, was "mobbed up."
The FBI its information came from three separate, usually reliable, sources, one of whom told them that Schiavone's ties to organized crime stemmed from its contacts with Jopel Construction and Trucking Co., another company that Masselli ran out of the South Bronx warehouse. Jopel, established 4 1/2 years ago through a takeover of a company that was going broke, is now a multimillion-dollar-a-year business, primarily as a subcontractor on New York City subway projects for Schiavone Construction and several allied contractors.
Jopel's operations did not figure in the indictment. Donovan has steadfastly denied any ties to organized crime and said he has spoken to Masselli no more than three times over the years, about business matters.
According to the FBI and federal prosecutors, Masselli, his Pellegrino & Masselli Meats Inc., and individual confederates used the South Bronx plant "as the headquarters and nerve center for a sophisticated and highly organized hijacking and stolen property ring."
According to the indictment, Masselli and another defendant, Joseph Bugliarelli, 55, were once over heard talking in Masselli's private office about the need for special care in disposing of a load of hijacked fish. The company that owned the fish belonged to "wise guys," a street term for members of organized crime, the indictment quoted the men as saying.
Masselli and all other defendants, except for one man listed as a fugitive, pleaded not guilty at their arraignment yesterday in downtown Manhattan and were released on bonds ranging from $5,000 to a high of $250,000 for Masselli.