With the reign of the Duff family now over, Chicago might well have an absence of City Hall patronage scandals were it not for its Hired Truck Program. A reminder that “honest graft” is not a relic of the past, the program thus far has resulted in nearly two dozen guilty pleas. But one of its less heralded repercussions may be confirmation of widespread suspicions that Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and his loyalists have a habitual blind spot when it comes to corruption.
The City of Chicago created the Hired Truck Program to outsource hauling work to private trucking companies and bypass the standard competitive bidding process. In practice, the program has been an open invitation to the greased palm to obtain or retain contracts. Thus far 32 former City workers and trucking officials have been charged in a nearly two-year-old FBI investigation. The latest two trophies are Anthony … Read More ➡
Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, in Queens, N.Y., consulted for years with New York’s Genovese crime family. Unfortunately, it didn’t consult with its own 13,000 members. Now, in the wake of federal prosecutions of the local’s leaders, the union’s national headquarters are getting an earful from local rank and file, which consist of drivers of school buses, private buses, and vans.
On July 28, federal agents and local police arrested 20 alleged mob members and associates, including Local 1181’s president, treasurer and pension director. The latter three persons are, respectively, Salvatore Battaglia, 58, Julius “Spike” Bernstein, 82, and Ann Chiarovano, 64. The indictment leading to the arrests charged, among other things, that Bernstein conspired with top Genovese mobster Matty “the Horse” Ianniello to extort cash payments from a medical center that rented space from the local. Some local members aren’t too happy about this turn of events. “We … Read More ➡
San Diego, of all places, lately has acquired an unwanted image as Sin City. In mid July, Acting Mayor Michael Zucchet was forced out of office – his first day on the job. His predecessor, Dick Murphy, re-elected by a close margin last November, had just resigned over allegations of mismanagement of the deficit-ridden public employees’ pension fund. But these scandals, which appear to be heavily driven by zealotry of political opponents, may be masking a bigger problem: a longstanding old-boy network of local politicians and union bosses.
That would seem to be the case with Ralph Inzunza, recently suspended from his job as a San Diego City Council member. He and Zucchet (who also had been a council member), both 35, were convicted in a federal trial court this July on extortion and fraud charges. The case centered on the pair’s acceptance of $34,500 worth of bribes and illegal … Read More ➡
David Feeback’s sybaritic ways as president of Local 69 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees ended several years ago. This August 23 he got the final bill: a year and a day in federal prison, and mandatory restitution of almost $90,000. Feeback, 43, headed the Secaucus, N.J.-based local during December 1997-September 2001. But his primary duties during that time seemed to be using union funds to support spending sprees at expensive eating and entertainment establishments, and logging them as “business expenses.” The true tally of Feeback’s partying may have been a good deal higher than the restitution. Authorities believe he may have illegally spent as much as $250,000. That’s not an unreasonable claim, considering that the local’s health and welfare fund under his reign managed to rack up $1.5 million in unpaid claims.
Feeback, currently a resident of Charlotte, N.C., had pleaded guilty on May 3 to two counts … Read More ➡
On July 29, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (Southwestern Division), Tawyuna Palmer, ex-financial secretary of Local 11-14228 for the United Steelworkers, was sentenced to five years probation for embezzlement of nearly $21,500 in union funds. She pleaded guilty back in April following an investigation by the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), and since then has made restitution. In addition to probation, Palmer will have to serve six months of home detention and perform 120 hours of community service. (OLMS, 8/17).
Former Philly-Area Manager Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
On July 26, James Jordan, ex-business manager for Local 161 of the Riggers union, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to one count of embezzlement totaling $21,652.80. Additionally, he pleaded guilty to one count of making a false entry in the local’s records. He had been indicted in May. … Read More ➡
This summer hasn’t been the best for the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA). On July 6 the Justice Department slapped the union’s top leadership with a massive civil RICO suit centering on acts of extortion, fraud and other crimes it allegedly tolerated in the Ports of New York-New Jersey and Miami. Now, just two weeks later, on July 19, the department accused leaders of an ILA affiliate in Puerto Rico and several of their associates of ripping off as much as $10 million and underreporting another $1.5 million.
Four officials of UTM Local 1740, along with six businessmen and three companies, were indicted in U.S. District Court on 23 counts of embezzlement, money-laundering and maintaining false records. The union officials were Local 1740 President Jorge L. Aponte-Figueroa; attorney Ada Perez-Alonso, Enrique Sosa-Hernandez and Milagros Pagan-Morales. The businessmen named in the suit were Angel Ramallo-Diaz, Rafael Garcia-Perez, Fernando Sanchez-Bencon, Eduardo Sanchez-Bencon, Francisco … Read More ➡
Labor unions, in theory, are supposed to support higher pay for workers. The idea of a union colluding with an employer to drive down wages doesn’t make sense. Then again, forced card-check agreements have never made sense – at least for workers reluctant to join a union. A case originating in South Carolina on the issue may have major implications for the rights of non-joining employees who may view a particular union as corrupt.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Friday, August 5 announced it would prosecute the United Auto Workers for unlawfully blocking a scheduled wage increase, thereby coercing Freightliner, a Portland, Ore.-based maker of trucks and other commercial vehicles, to support the union during an organizing drive at the firm’s Gaffney, S.C. plant. NLRB’s Regional Office 11, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had responded to a complaint brought forth in 2003 by attorneys with … Read More ➡
The soap opera that is latter-day New Jersey politics has a new episode. This time the central characters are a U.S. Senator who wants to be the state’s next governor, a divorcee who represents the state’s largest collective-bargaining unit for state employees, and, from a distance, her ex-husband. Nobody has broken the law – so far as one knows. And it’s a private matter, involving no union funds. But many observers are worried that a major conflict of interest is in the making unless the candidate is more forthright with the facts.
There’s no disputing that the New Jersey’s governor’s race took a bizarre turn on August 5. The New York Times and the Newark Star-Ledger each revealed, through obtained court documents, that Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., over two and a half years ago had written a large check to a girlfriend to help with her divorce settlement. On the … Read More ➡
On July 18, Bernard Scheller, ex-secretary-treasurer for Communications Workers Local 14448, was sentenced in federal court to six months in a halfway house, to be followed by two years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service, for embezzlement. Scheller in May pleaded guilty to stealing $7,250 in union funds. The plea and sentence resulted from an investigation by the OLMS Cincinnati District Office. (OLMS, 8/6).
Ex-N.H. Business Manager Indicted for Embezzlement
A former business manager for a Laborers International Union of North America local in New Hampshire was indicted on charges of embezzling more than $150,000. The U.S. Attorney’s Office on August 10 announced its prosecution of Thomas Brewster, 54, for stealing from the Portsmouth local during the period May 17, 2003 to December 27, 2004. If convicted, Brewster faces a maximum prison term of five years and a fine of $10,000.… Read More ➡
Is it the truth or is it a whitewash? That’s the question rank-and-file members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ought to be asking in the wake of the release of the public portion of a new report prepared for the union, concluding that the IBT is free of organized crime. Union leadership, beginning with President James P. Hoffa, couldn’t be happier. But there’s an unpleasant reality: The report is in conflict with an earlier one released over a year ago. The extent to which the Teamsters can sway skeptics will determine how soon, if at all, the federal government will lift its more than decade-and-a-half of surveillance.
The new report, released on July 14, was prepared under the supervision of Ed McDonald, a former federal prosecutor and now a partner with the Dechert law firm in New York City. The Teamsters hired McDonald, who previously had led the … Read More ➡