James B. Jacobs


On his book Breaking the Devil’s Pact: The Battle to Free the Teamsters From the Mob

Cover Interview of October 30, 2011

The wide angle

Throughout my career, my specialty has been criminal law, criminal procedure, and criminology.

My interest in labor racketeering began in the mid 1980s when I served as a consultant for the NYS Organized Crime Task Force’s investigation of corruption and racketeering in the NYC construction industry. OCTF’s multi-year investigation showed that organized crime controlled or influenced many of the construction union locals in the NYC area, including Teamsters locals. (The Teamsters represent the drivers who deliver supplies to construction sites.)

I learned a great deal about the Cosa Nostra crime families, especially that what distinguished them from other organized crime groups was their position in the legitimate economy.  Moreover, their position in the legitimate economy was built on their influence in a number of labor unions—Teamsters, Longshoremen, Laborers, Hotel and Restaurant Workers.

In 1994, NYU Press published my book, Busting the Mob, which documented half a dozen of the most important organized crime cases of the 1980s. One of these cases was Rudy Giuliani’s U.S. v. IBT civil RICO lawsuit.  I did not imagine that the case would still be going on 15 years later. But I kept an eye on U.S. v. IBT and wrote some articles on various aspects of the case. In 2006, NYU Press published my Mobsters, Unions and Feds, a book that deals with labor racketeering generally. A couple of years after that, I realized that U.S. v. IBT was important for so many reasons that it warranted a book of its own.