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Prominent Union Leader Has ‘Deep Ties' to Mafia, Serbian Gangs, Feds Allege

Prosecutors allege union leader James Cahill accepted bribes to favor non-union employers

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A union leader who Gov. Andrew Cuomo once called "a good friend to me and my entire family" has extensive ties to organized crime and should not be granted lighter bail conditions, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Cuomo's office called the new allegations against James Cahill "ugly" and "disturbing" and said anyone who breaks the law should be held responsible. Cahill's lawyer firmly denied the allegations.

Cahill, president of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents more than 200,000 unionized construction workers, was among 11 labor officials indicted in October on charges including racketeering and fraud.

Federal prosecutors allege Cahill accepted bribes to act in favor of non-union employers and to exercise "corrupt influence within the construction trade." In one instance, prosecutors claim, Cahill specifically urged a non-union employer not to unionize after an alleged bribe.

He is currently on home detention with electronic monitoring, but sought to ease those conditions to a simple curfew instead. Prosecutors, in a memo Monday, vehemently opposed it.

"(The) defendant has extensive ties to members of organized crime, which is more than sufficient to justify the current bail restrictions in order to protect the public and the safety of potential witnesses in this case," prosecutors wrote to Colleen McMahon, the chief federal judge in Manhattan.

Among other factors, the government said it had recordings of Cahill bragging about being the last of the "Westies," a notorious organized crime group. He is also captured on tape, feds say, bragging about his relationships with alleged Serbian organized crime figures and with convicted leaders of the Gambino crime family. (They allege he has met with those figures in person as well.)

"As made clear in these recordings, Cahill has deep ties to leading members of organized crime who are known to engage in acts of violence and intimidation, which poses a threat to potential witnesses in this case, especially were Cahill able to go anywhere and meet with anyone without any real ability by Pretrial Services to monitor his movements," prosecutors wrote.

Cahill's lawyer firmly refuted the government's allegations.

"Mr. Cahill denies that he has any ties to any organized crime, and the allegations in the letter are either decades old or internally inconsistent," attorney Sanford Talkin told News 4 New York.

Cahill has been a prominent and powerful figure in the New York labor movement for years - enough so to earn the public thanks of Gov. Cuomo, who went all the way to Florida in March 2017 just to address the trades council's winter conference.

"Jimmy Cahill, who is such a good friend to me and my entire family for so long let’s give Jimmy a round of applause," the governor said in his opening remarks, according to a transcript posted on his website.

The governor's office was quick to respond to the new claims against Cahill Monday.

“These allegations are ugly, disturbing and a slap in the face to the hardworking men and women who are part of the union movement. Anyone who breaks the law needs to be held responsible for their actions," a spokesman for Cuomo said in a statement.

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