If you were a contractor doing business with United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9, there was a good way to avoid financial problems: Write checks to Peter LoMauro and don’t ask questions. Now LoMauro is finding himself having to answer a few questions from federal prosecutors. LoMauro, a business agent for the Englishtown, N.J. (Monmouth County) union, was arrested this Wednesday, October 5, for demanding and receiving bribes from New Jersey contractors. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has taken statements from two cooperating witnesses detailing how LoMauro solicited payments and deposited them into an account he controlled.
Prosecutors say that LoMauro, 42, a resident of Monroe Township, N.J. (Middlesex County), extracted payoffs from two area contractors under the guise of making union “trouble” disappear. The details provided by surveillance and witness statements suggest a union official primarily interested in lining his own pockets.
Cooperating Witness One (CW1). LoMauro in 2006 approached CW1, the owner of a plumbing company (“Company One”) in Passaic, N.J., after Local 9 had determined through an audit that the company owed about $12,000 to union benefit funds. CW1 told federal agents that LoMauro approached him at a Middlesex County worksite; the latter stated that an uncle with the initials “A.C.” was sick and that the union was raising funds on his behalf. LoMauro allegedly further claimed that Company One’s liabilities to the union could “disappear” if the witness paid “A.C.” $6,000. On October 31, 2006, the witness wrote a company check to A.C. for $6,000, telling prosecutors that LoMauro had stated this check would be deposited in a union trust fund and used as a gift. The investigation, however, showed that the check was deposited into a bank account controlled by LoMauro and A.C. (the “A.C./LoMauro account”). CW1 asserted that A.C. never performed any work or related services for him or his company.
Cooperating Witness Two (CW2). LoMauro approached this person, the owner of a Middlesex County plumbing company (“Company Two”), requesting that he hire a retired Local 9 plumber to do work at a construction site subject to a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). A PLA commits a contractor in advance to paying union-determined wages and making benefit contributions. LoMauro allegedly told CW2 that rather than pay into the benefit fund, he (CW2) should remit periodic payments to “A.C.” Subsequently, the contractor issued four checks totaling $7,000 during February 18, 2010-July 28, 2011, each of which was deposited into the A.C./LoMauro account. A solicitation of a fifth check proved to be LoMauro’s undoing. According to CW2, on or around July 28, 2011, LoMauro called, requesting another check. CW2 asked if he could leave the check in the Company Two mailbox the next day. This time, federal agents were conducting surveillance nearby. They videotaped LoMauro retrieving a white envelope containing the check, which was deposited the next day into the A.C./Lomauro account.
The complaint charges LoMauro with four counts of unlawfully demanding and receiving money from an employer and a person acting in the interest of an employer. He likely was corrupt. Yet it was a corruption aided by New Jersey being a non-Right to Work state; a state in which workers at a unionized firm are forced to decide between joining a union (or at least paying fees in lieu of joining) and losing their job. Virtually all “choose” the former. Both plumbing contractors were vulnerable to LoMauro’s entrees, required as they were to make scheduled benefit contributions on behalf of workers who might not have wanted representation by Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9. Company Two, subject to a PLA, was especially in a bind. Maximizing employee freedom remains the best way to wrest power from union business agents like Peter LoMauro.