- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge put the relocation plans of the nation’s largest wholesale fish market on ice yesterday after hearing claims that it could be vulnerable to Mafia infiltration when it moves to its new site.

State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead extended a restraining order blocking fishmongers from taking over unloading duties at the Fulton Fish Market, which is moving to the Bronx after more than 180 years on the Lower Manhattan waterfront.

Sellers insist they cannot pay the costs associated with the new, more sanitary market unless they take over the unloading business. They say they can operate faster and cheaper than current unloader Laro Service Systems Inc.

Laro was installed by former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in 1995 to take over the historically mob-tainted business of unloading fish trucks. The mob had been using the unloading service to extort payments from sellers dependent on quick service in the highly time-sensitive, $1 billion-a-year fish market.

Judge Edmead appeared receptive to claims that a change in how fish are unloaded could give the mob a toehold in the new location.

“The appearance of impropriety is so overwhelming,” she said. “I hate to use this analogy but the fish is smelling.”

As the market prepared to move this year, the city said Laro was no longer needed because the wholesalers, vetted by a decade of city monitoring, were ready to unload fish themselves.

Laro, represented by former Giuliani chief of staff, Randy Mastro, tried to protect its business by filing a lawsuit this month saying that some of the wholesalers have ties to Mafia figures.

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