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Businessman Accuses Union of Extortion

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A carpenter's union used mob-style intimidation to "extort money" from a construction company, Raineri Construction claims in a federal RICO complaint.

Raineri Construction LLC sued the Carpenters District Council of St. Louis and Vicinity and 10 of its officers and members.

It claims the union used threats of physical violence, property damage, stalking and harassment and filed frivolous complaints to the St. Louis City Building Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to try to coerce it into signing a labor contract.

"Plaintiff Raineri brings this action to vindicate its right to control and operate its business free from the extortionate and threatening conduct of the defendants," the complaint states.

"Motivated by a quest for power, greed and ill-will, the defendants conceived of and implemented a conspiracy to extort money and inflict substantial damages upon Raineri by, among other things, making numerous threats of physical violence and property damage, stalking and harassing the management and employees of Raineri, defamation, filing numerous frivolous and objectively baseless complaints to the St. Louis City Building Department and the U.S. Department of Labor-Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and unlawfully interfering with Raineri's existing and prospective business relations.

"Raineri brings this action for damages and injunctive relief pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. (RICO), and the common law, including defamation, tortious interference with existing and prospective business relations and civil conspiracy."

Raineri claims the harassed started in November 2011 and continues.

The union sent agents to tail Tony Raineri on at least 13 occasions, according to the complaint.

According to the 22-page complaint:

On Sept. 4, 2012, Raineri was tailed for a couple of hours by someone in a green Ford Ranger. Raineri stopped and asked the driver what he was doing and the driver told him the union hired him to "follow Raineri employees" until Raineri signs a labor contract with the union.

On Sept. 13, Raineri was tailed again by someone in a white Chevy Trailblazer, which was registered to Christopher Woods, a Carpenters Union agent. The driver pulled up to Raineri's vehicle and yelled out the window, "Watch your back, pussy," before driving off.

On Sept. 25, Raineri was tailed again by someone in the Trailblazer. The driver confronted Raineri as he entered a building for a meeting and told him, "You don't know who you are messing with, and if you don't sign a contract soon, you won't be around much longer."

Raineri says he called the police after the driver left. Later, as Raineri walked to meet a client for lunch, the driver approached him again and said, "The police are not going to do anything, the union owns the police."

On Oct. 24, a man parked a car to block Raineri's driveway at his home. When Raineri approached him, the driver said, "You should fear for your life, your life is in danger." When Raineri told him his home surveillance was recording their conversation, the man drove off and hit him in the process.

"On numerous occasions in this same time frame, including on August 29, 2012, individual defendants or individuals under the control of the defendants appeared at a Raineri jobsite known as the Harris House, videotaped Raineri employees and threatened bodily harm to Raineri employees and the employees of Raineri subcontractors," the complaint states.

"One of the agents of the defendants followed a Raineri employee who left for lunch and threatened the employee with bodily harm.

"On numerous occasions commencing in December 2011, defendant Keith Taylor threatened customers of Raineri, including St. Louis Housing Authority, Friendship Village, LoftWorks and St. Louis Board of Public Service, an 'adversarial' relationship with them, joinder in the CDC's dispute with Raineri and with interference with the ingress and egress to their property by the CDC and its agents.

"On or about September 7, 2012, defendant Scott Byrne told Steve Hill, a superintendent of Raineri, that the CDC was 'bringing guys in from out of town' and that the CDC was going to 'put Raineri out of business.'"

Raineri claims the Carpenters Union also made false statements to his customers, including that Raineri does not provide health insurance or retirement benefits to its employees, that Raineri's employees are not qualified, that Raineri was doing a job without the proper permits, and that its work did not conform to codes.

Raineri claims the Carpenters Union made two frivolous safety violation reports, to OSHA and the St. Louis City Building Department. In each case, Raineri says, the agencies found no violations after inspecting the work sites.

"On numerous occasions, the defendants have placed large banners with false and derogatory statements about Raineri's customers at the customers' places of business and agents of the defendants have orally chastised and harassed employees and invitees of Raineri's customers at their places of business," the complaint states. "On November 9, 2012 and continuing to date, defendants placed a large banner blocking ingress and egress to and from an office building owned by Raineri so that the tenants would be harassed, annoyed and damaged."

Raineri asks the court to enjoin the defendants from filing any more frivolous safety violation claims to OSHA or any other agencies, and from publishing any other false statements about the plaintiff. It also seeks consequential and punitive damages for RICO violations, tortious interference with business relations, civil conspiracy and injurious falsehood.

Raineri is represented by John Gazzoli, with Rosenblum, Goldenhersh, Silverstein & Zafft.

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