During the reign of former President Jorge Aponte-Figueroa, International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1740 in Puerto Rico was a lucrative racket for the well-connected. By the time federal prosecutors filed a series of charges in 2005, top union leaders and business associates had illegally diverted an estimated $10 million from its coffers to their own personal use. Moreover, union officials underreported another $1.5 million in dues collections. The result was a rash of guilty pleas. Aponte, now well into his 70s, chose, unwisely, to go to trial. Having been convicted by federal jury trial in April, he learned on August 31 the price of his ways: five years in prison, plus another three years of supervised release.
As Union Corruption Update previously reported, Aponte was the ringleader, directing his subordinates to divert 62 percent of all union dues to businesses owned by friends. “He was very clever,” said prosecutor Jose Ruiz. “He created a scheme in which he didn’t have to get directly involved.” The jury eventually convicted Aponte on 12 counts of embezzlement, and five counts of conspiracy, money-laundering and false record-keeping. The sentencing follows a joint investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. (OLMS, 9/21/07; other sources).