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Shot hits home of ex-labor leader's father Others strike vehicles outside Falls residence after Ch. 4 promotes series on Laborers Local 91

Gunshots were fired into the home and vehicles of the father of former Laborers Local 91 President Mark S. Congi, just hours after a local television station promoted a two-part series about past union-related violence.

Charles D. Congi Sr. will be featured prominently in the stories, scheduled to air today and Friday on Channel 4.

His son was convicted last year on racketeering conspiracy charges and sentenced in December to 15 years in federal prison, the longest term handed down to more than a dozen former Local 91 members indicted on federal criminal counts.

Late Tuesday and early Wednesday -- a few hours after a promotional piece aired about the series and featured footage of the elder Congi -- shots rang out on 59th Street.

The first hit Congi's house; the others struck his two vehicles.

"Who knows who did this, but it's awful funny that this segment came on about the interviews and then that same night this [shooting] happens," Charles Congi said Wednesday afternoon.

Niagara Falls police said they have no suspects in the shooting but had interviewed family members and done forensic work on the vehicles.
Police Superintendent John R. Chella said his department contacted the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Buffalo.

The elder Congi said he was watching television news at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday when he heard the first shot -- a zinging sound, probably the bullet ricocheting off the siding.

The bullet hit the front of the house, near Congi's bedroom, and lodged in the wall.

At about 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, two more shots were fired. One damaged the front windshield of Congi's pickup truck; the other, the side of his car.

Congi said no one was injured but added that his 4 1/2 -year-old granddaughter and his son Charles Jr., who also live in the house, were home at the time of both shootings.

Rob Connolly, the current business manager for Local 91, said the union doesn't condone what happened and has no reason to be involved with an attack on Congi's home.

"We have close to 700 members [current and retired], and they just want to work," Connolly said. "We don't care about the past. We are the future. To attack [Congi] would be a stupid thing to do.

"I think someone is trying to put the heat on us. We brought this union out of the darkness and are succeeding, but people with a loyalty to the past are trying to give us a black eye. When's it going to end?"

For four years, past strong-arm tactics of Local 91 have been on display in U.S. District Court in Buffalo and in the media.

Eighteen members have been prosecuted on labor racketeering counts, and 17 have been sentenced so far.

"I don't know why they would come after me," said Charles Congi Sr., a former member of Local 91. "I even defended the union" -- as well as Michael "Butch" Quarcini, the union business manager at the time of the federal crackdown -- in interviews with Channel 4, he said.

Quarcini was charged but died in 2003 before he could go on trial.

FBI agents and federal prosecutors called him one of the most powerful figures in Niagara County.

"Butch helped people," the elder Congi said. "He got them hospitalization, dental, sub pay. They never had that before Butch. But this union controlled the building industry, and that was true. Certain people went too far, and they became bad, really bad, throwing bombs in people's houses. And they didn't catch half the people."

Mark Congi received one of the toughest sentences for leading what Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. called a vicious group of union henchmen responsible for death threats, beatings, large scale vandalism and a firebombing.

In accepting his sentence, Congi admitted 17 incidents of violence and extortion.

The elder Congi sought leniency and continues to support his son, calling him a "fall guy" who was "just following orders."

He said he hasn't spoken to his son since 1983. Charles Congi Sr. said he was disabled with cyanide poisoning that year at a work site and filed a lawsuit against the union for back pay. He said his son was forbidden to speak to him after that.

"Butch told my son, and any other member of the union, that if they talked to me, they'd be out of the union," the elder Congi said. "You did what Butch told you or you were out. Mark's kind of hard-headed. Maybe he should have talked to me."

Charles Congi, who was on the prosecution's witness list but never called to testify, said in a letter to District Judge Richard J. Arcara that he, too, "did Quarcini's dirty work" from 1960 to 1983.

"I was told by Butch to burn cars, burn construction equipment and shoot holes in water pipes to make non-union contractors sign a union contract with Local 91," Congi said in the letter, which he said he wrote to defend his son and explain the complete control Quarcini exercised over members.

The letter, he added, never was intended to be made public.

A neighbor across the street from the Congi house said he never suspected a shooting in the quiet area of one- and two-story homes and had attributed the noise to firecrackers.

News Staff Reporter Dan Herbeck contributed to this report.


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