Labor Officials, Lawmakers Warn AFL-CIO on Social Security Politics

Organized labor has made little secret of its opposition to the Bush administration’s proposal to reform the Social Security system.  The Labor Department and certain ranking members of Congress want to make sure that the unions, led by the AFL-CIO, keep their campaign in bounds.  DOL recently issued a reminder; one might not be enough.   

 

In a letter dated May 3, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Alan Lebowitz informed the AFL-CIO that unions may not use financial services firms’ positions on the Social Security issue as a reason to withdraw pensions from those firms.  The letter did not overtly accuse the labor federation or its member unions of breaking any laws.  But it did request the organization to clarify to member unions that their choice of pension fund managers, by law, must be based on fiduciary responsibility toward present and future retirees; the views Read More ➡

New Jersey Local Boss Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

David Feeback enjoyed nights out on the town.  He soaked it all up – fine food, fine champagne, and even a few belly dancers for good measure.  But now the former president of Local 69 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE) may have to get used to prison fare.  That’s because all that fun came out of raids on the union cookie jar. 

 

On May 3 Feeback pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark to two counts of embezzling anywhere from $70,000 to $120,000 from the local’s welfare fund during 1998 to 2001.  His 2,900-member local, based in Secaucus, N.J., represents workers at Meadowlands Giants Stadium and other New Jersey locations.  The local already had been in hot water with the feds.  In 1996 a court-ordered monitor took over the union, removing its president, John Agathos, and vice-president, Read More ➡

Ex-Bookkeeper for Southern California Local Charged with Embezzlement

Leslie Patricia Bell made off like a bandit back when she ran the books for Laborers Local 1184. Now she’s being prosecuted like one. The Justice Department announced on May 4 that they had charged the 39-year-old Palm Desert, Calif. woman with embezzling more than $178,000 from the union. From 1997 until her termination in July 2003, Bell served as full-time bookkeeper for the local, which represents some 3,200 construction, maintenance and grounds keeping workers in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Since she already had pled guilty, the announcement would have seemed anticlimactic. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office believes the case is serious enough to warrant formal charges. 

There’s good reason for this. Bell was responsible for paying Local 1184’s bills as well as receiving and depositing member dues. Evidence from a Labor Department probe revealed she began stealing from the local in May 2001, deriving most of her take Read More ➡

Queens (N.Y.) Union Stewards and Contractor Exposed in Bribery Scandal

Hiring carpenters at below union-scale wages and benefits can be profitable – for union shop stewards as well as contractors.  That’s what a federally-appointed monitor of New York City’s District Council of Carpenters found after an extensive investigation into allegations of bribery at local construction sites. 

 

The monitor, Walter Mack, a former federal prosecutor, issued a report on May 5, concluding that a Queens-based construction firm, Boom Construction Enterprises, had made payoffs to Carpenters’ Union shop stewards at several construction project sites.  In one case, at Bronx’s Jacobi Medical Center, stewards omitted mention of two to six workers from their daily employee reports.  The probe began shortly after a union business agent told Mack’s office about an anonymous tip he’d received.   

 

Boom’s owner, Derek McKenna, paid union stewards $200 to $800 per week, more than $80,000 in all.  A bartender at O’Shea’s Read More ➡

Two Boston-Area Union Members Indicted for Loan Sharking

On Monday, May 16, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston announced the arrests and four-count indictment of Virgil “Duke” Farese, 72, of Framingham, Mass., and James Armstrong, 39, of Boston.  The two men, alleges the indictment, from February 1997 through December 2000, lent money at usurious rates to fellow members of their union, Tunnel Workers Local 88.  Based on a joint federal-local investigation, Farese and Armstrong indicated to borrowers they would have to get violent in the event of a late payment.  The cost of a loan was steep, carrying a weekly interest rate of 10 percent.  If convicted, the two men face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the four loan-sharking charges.   (PR Newswire Association, 5/16).  

 

 

Kansas Truck Drivers’ Union Official Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

On Wednesday, May 11, Daniel Van Becelaere Read More ➡

14 Chicago Mobsters Indicted for Murders and Other Felonies

The Department of Justice has taken a dramatic step to combat Chicago’s most feared gangsters.  In the process, any number of crooked union officials may have a change in career plans.   On Monday, April 25, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois, announced the indictment of 14 top members of the Chicago Mafia, also known as ‘The Chicago Outfit,’ for crimes spanning some four decades.  Three of the defendants already were in federal custody on separate charges.  Another, straight out of a movie, was found dead, apparently of natural causes, when agents came to arrest him.  Of the 11 defendants indicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), seven had committed murders or agreed to commit murder.  Collectively, they accounted for 18 previously unsolved murders and one attempted murder during the period 1970-86.  Other crimes listed in the nine-count indictment include extortion, loan-sharking, bookmaking, witness intimidation, Read More ➡

Probes into Detroit VA Hospital Workers Local Reveals Long Pattern of Corruption

Local 933 of the American Federation of Government Employees for the last few years has been in financial shambles.  The explanation lies at the top.  The local’s leadership operated their union like a personal bank.  A series of investigations, most recently by the Detroit News, reveal a disturbing pattern of embezzlement and other forms of malfeasance. 

 

The problems of the local, which represents nearly 1,200 employees at John Dingell Veterans Hospital in Detroit, became apparent after Chetham Brazill, president of the local, left his position in December 2002.  When first elected to office in 1997, Brazill inherited a union with a surplus of $66,000.  Five years later he and his cronies had left the union in debt.  The local had fallen behind by more than $50,000 in forwarding dues to AFGE national headquarters and more than $40,000 in insurance premiums Read More ➡

Free-Spending Philadelphia Islamic School Head Aided by LIUNA Pals

“An outstanding citizen, an outstanding cleric, and a person to be emulated” –  that was Patrick Gillespie, head of the 35,000-member AFL-CIO Building and Trades Council for the Philadelphia area, describing the director of a local religious school now on trial for fraud, bribery and extortion.  The object of Gillespie’s admiration was Shamsud-din Ali, a Muslim cleric (or “imam”), who ran Philadelphia’s Sister Clara Muhammad School – or perhaps more accurately, ran it into the ground.  But it’s where Ali, a convicted murderer, got his money that may interest prosecutors as much as where the money went.  Last month he was slapped with a superseding indictment in Philadelphia federal court.

 

The imam’s trial is the third resulting from a federal probe into financial mismanagement in Philadelphia.  Investigators discovered that on November 30, 1999 a $15,000 donation from a group called the Friends of Labor was deposited into the Read More ➡

Ex-District Representative Sentenced in North Carolina Court

On April 5, Angelous “Smokey” Lineback, former international representative for the Retail Wholesale District Council of the United Food and Commercial Workers, was sentenced by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to 15 months imprisonment, to be followed by 36 months of supervised probation.  Last May he pled guilty to embezzling funds and falsifying records for two locals he had represented.   In addition to his sentence, Lineback was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $77,441 to UFCW Local 1050 and $13,685 to UFCW Local 1052.  The action follows an investigation by the Nashville District Office of the U.S. Office of Labor-Mgmt. Standards (OLMS, 4/26).

 

Former Secretary Pleas Guilty in Pennsylvania Court

On April 15, Sonya Green, former financial secretary of Steelworkers Local 3657 in Western Pennsylvania, pled guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of embezzlement.  Read More ➡

Miami Bosses Charged with Embezzlement

For a half-decade, leaders of the Miami-Dade County local of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees ran their union like a private slush fund.  But as ex-leaders, they are paying the wages of their crimes.  On April 20 four former officials of AFSCME Local 121 surrendered to the Dade County authorities, the result of a full investigation by county prosecutors and the inspector general into financial irregularities.  A fifth ex-officer accused in the probe died last year.

 

According to the arrest affidavit, during the period 1997-2002 the five had embezzled roughly $350,000 in membership dues, mainly from county water and sewer department employees, and then lied about the missing money.   The officials were supposed to ensure that $726,865 of the more than $1 million in dues collected over this time were sent to the union’s international and state parent organizations.  But Read More ➡

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