New England affiliates of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters looked up to Kenneth Aurecchia as a union man willing to take on any job. They should have looked more closely. On January 24, Aurecchia, who among other things, had been a regional vice president for the international union, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island to acts of wire fraud and tax evasion totaling about $125,000 over a four-year period. He had been charged last December 1. Most of the take came from fraudulent claims for travel and other costs related to union business. He faces up to 23 years in prison and a fine of $350,000 at sentencing this April 26.
Aurecchia, now 63, a resident of Johnston, R.I., was by all appearances a stand-up guy who went the limit. From 2000 onward, he held various positions within the Plumbers union: regional vice president of Plumbers District 1; business manager of the East Providence, R.I.-based Plumbers Local 51; member of the Committee on Political Education of Local 51; co-chairman of the Local 51 Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee Trust Fund; and secretary-treasurer of the New England States Pipe Trades Association. He also served as a union representative in an employer group, the New England Mechanical Contractors Association. But for a large portion of that time he enriched himself illegally. Federal prosecutors alleged that from about February 2004 until March 2008 Aurecchia devised various schemes to falsely obtain money and other things of value.
At his plea hearing, Aurecchia admitted that on numerous occasions he engaged in double-billing for costs incurred for conferences and other union-related events. Often, he would receive advances from one or more of the above-mentioned organizations to cover transportation, lodging, meals and other expenses without informing their officials they were reimbursable. He also would claim reimbursements for expenses he already had paid for with a union-issued credit card. In all, Aurecchia’s unauthorized invoices totaled $107,515. In addition, he evaded $17,886 in federal taxes for the years 2005-07. The reporting inconsistencies eventually prompted a joint Labor Department-IRS investigation which in turn resulted in a Justice Department prosecution.