On Man’s Journey From Savage Skulls to United Hispanic With AM-Job Site Gangs, Bjt
NEW YORK (AP) _ In the ’70s, David Rodriguez ran with street gangs called the Savage Skulls and the Dirty Dozen. In the ’80s, he founded an organization with a more sedate name, the United Hispanic Construction Coalition.
But authorities say Rodriguez never changed tactics; as a Bronx street punk and as head of a minority laborers group, they say, he has traded on violence and threats.
Investigators taped a phone conversation in which Rodriguez, referring to a slow-paying contractor, said, ″Eleven-thousand dollars worth killin’ for, brother.″ On another occasion he vowed to ″do a Rambo on the job.″
Five months ago, Rodriguez, 36, was charged with using United Hispanics’ muscle - it has about 700 members - for extortion. According to prosecutors, contractors knew that if they did not hire LM Security Services, Rodriguez would disrupt their projects.
Rodriguez allegedly received $300,000 a year from LM Security. But according to his lawyer, that was all salary for work as a security supervisor, not a kickback.
Rodriguez was one of 31 leaders of minority workers coalitions indicted in June, but his lawyer, Murray Richman, says Rodriguez is innocent. ″If white guys did this, you’d call it a union,″ he said. ″When minority guys do it, they call it a crime.″
A judge has restricted Rodriguez to his Bronx apartment until his trial, scheduled for March, except for visits to his lawyer, his church and his gym. He wears an electronic monitoring bracelet.
In an obscenity-laced phone conversation taped by investigators last year, Rodriguez spoke with Bernard Garrett, United Hispanics’ man in Queens, about how to ″shape up″ a construction site without getting hurt or arrested.
Garrett told Rodriguez his crew had brawled with members of Local 40 of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Ironworkers Union.
Rodriguez: ″Oh, yeah, they like to fight, bro’ 3/8 Didn’t I tell you that ... when you go (to a site) and it’s involvin’ the Ironworkers, you better outnumber them like 5 to 1 to convince them? Because they think they bad.″
Garrett: ″They said, ‘Nah, we ain’t stoppin’ nothin’.′ (An ironworker) wind up pushin’ A.D. (a United Hispanics member). They got a couple of them Ironworkers (injured) with ... pipes and hammers and ... crowbars.″
R: ″Nobody got locked up, right?″
G: ″No, we left before that happened.″
R: ″That’s what you gotta do, man. I tell you, when you gonna stop (a construction job) and they got Ironworkers, come, come heavy. It is a deterrent, you know? (Laughs)″