Another domino has fallen in the strange, violent saga of Laborers Local 91. For years the local dictated the terms of hiring at construction sites in Niagara County, N.Y. Their targets were nonunion workers and any contractor foolish enough to hire them. Their preferred methods of enforcement were vandalism, assault and extortion. In a predawn raid in 2002 federal agents arrested more than a dozen union members. In recent weeks, two of them, Anthony Cerrone and Andrew Shomers, pleaded guilty to racketeering.
Reading the tea leaves, Salvatore Bertino has become the next to go down. The 53-year-old former local vice president pleaded guilty on Tuesday, June 21 to racketeering conspiracy. At his hearing, Bertino cited five incidents in which Local 91 President Mark Congi directed him and others to engage in extortion. Seven other union officials, including Congi, are set … Read More ➡
Barbara Bullock, president of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) from 1994 to 2002, had very expensive tastes. When it came to silverware, crystal, custom-tailored clothes and other personal items, only the best would do. The problem is that she siphoned off union funds in order to pay for them, using the local’s American Express card to make $1.2 million in illegal purchases. In all, she and top aides ripped off about $5 million in funds until their national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), removed them from office; FBI raids soon would follow. Bullock pleaded guilty to embezzlement in October 2003, and the following January received a nine-year prison sentence.
Though several other conspirators also had pleaded guilty to participating in the scam, three of her partners in crime insisted on fighting charges. Bullock, a cooperating witness, now has come back to haunt … Read More ➡
On May 24 Paul Himmelstein, former secretary-treasurer for Letter Carriers Branch 1977, was indicted in U.S. District Court on one count of embezzlement, following an investigation by the Labor Department. Himmelstein is accused of stealing roughly $20,000 in union funds. (OLMS, 6/9).
Ex-Business Manager in Philadelphia Area Indicted
On May 24 James Jordon, ex-business manager for Local 161 of the Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, was indicted in federal court on two counts of embezzling $21,652.80 in union funds. He also was charged with making a false entry in union records. A former secretary for the Philadelphia-area local, Barbara Wituschek, had been indicted on May 10 on two counts of embezzlement. (OLMS, 6/9).
St. Louis-Area Business Manager Indicted for Embezzlement
On May 18 Duane Raab, formerly the business manager for Iron Workers Local 518, was indicted in federal court on three counts … Read More ➡
These haven’t been the best of months for Philadelphia’s city government, dogged by a string of well-publicized corruption trials. On Tuesday, June 14, a friend of Mayor John F. Street, Shamsud-din Ali, leader of a West Philadelphia mosque and operator of a shell Islamic “school,” was convicted on 22 of 34 counts of racketeering, fraud and other offenses. The U.S. Attorney’s Office had argued, with ample evidence, that Ali had led a criminal enterprise, protected by City Hall, raising large sums of money from public and private sources.
Ali, his wife and their children lived the good life, favoring expensive suits, cars and restaurant meals. That lifestyle was made possible through years of loans, contracts and donations obtained through fraud and extortion. That included a $60,000 pay-for-play commission from the City in return for support of Mayor Street. Unions gave generously, too. In 1999 Ali received a … Read More ➡
Upstate New York’s modern version of Peck’s Bad Boys, Local 91 of the Laborers union – at least as it had operated until three years ago – is one step closer to oblivion. Only recently a local ex-goon, Anthony Cerrone, agreed to testify for the prosecution in the upcoming trial of more than a half-dozen former members. That announcement apparently has made an honest man out of at least one defendant.
Andrew Shomers, 42, of Niagara Falls, admitted on June 10 that he took part in union-orchestrated threats, vandalism and a firebombing to intimidate people in county construction trades. A former boxer and Navy veteran, Shomers pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy. He faces up to 20 years in prison, but by cooperating as a trial witness, he could get that reduced to 51 months.
This latest development is bad news for former … Read More ➡
It may not have been an actual empire over which the Duff family presided in their native Chicago. But it was hardly a Mom-and-Pop operation either. Family patriarch John Duff, Jr., his wife Patricia, and their sons had grown wealthy over the decades, having cultivated ties both to City Hall and the underworld. But the past few years have seen the Duffs fall upon hard times, after lengthy investigations by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) and Office of Inspector General, plus the FBI and the IRS. The most important chapter may have been closed in U.S. District Court this May 18-20, with the sentencing of four persons for fraud, money laundering and racketeering.
The actions were not the first aimed at reining in the Duffs. Back in 2000 a federally-appointed monitor, Kurt Muellenberg, banned John Duff III from the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees for life, … Read More ➡
Did you hear the one about the two-year-old longshoreman? Neither had most people in Massachusetts – until recently. But truth is stranger than fiction. An ongoing investigation into hiring practices on the Boston docks has revealed the existence of a racket that for nearly two decades has hired children as ghost employees. It’s a scheme with union fingerprints all over it. Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly is probing allegations that three locals affiliated with the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) have been inflating their members’ wages. And he’s more than likely to come up with large group of culprits.
The arrangement works like this: The local issues a child, typically the son or daughter of a union member, a union card. That way, the kid qualifies as an employee. All he has to do is “work” a few hours a year. Once he’s old enough to get a real job … Read More ➡
It was the largest case of pension fraud in U.S. history. And it played a major part in how one firm in short order managed to lose $350 million, mostly in the form of union investments. A convicted mastermind of the scheme, Barclay Grayson, now out of prison, is seeking to make amends. He recently provided a Congressional panel with some practical advice on how to prevent repeat performances.
Grayson was president of a now-defunct Portland, Ore.-based investment group, Capital Consultants LLC. In testimony June 9 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he explained how he and several associates had built their company on an edifice of mail fraud, money laundering, bribery and racketeering. That Capital Consultants (CCL) managed to operate in this manner for as long as it did, explained Grayson, was due in part to the Department of … Read More ➡
On May 12, Amanda Kemmer, ex-secretary for Bricklayers Local 3 in the Des Moines area, was given a 24-month prison sentence plus three years probation, and was ordered to pay full restitution for embezzling union funds. Kemmer pleaded guilty last December in federal court to stealing more than $209,000 over the period January 1997-April 2004. She’d pocketed about $175,000 of that by using a rubber stamp to write herself checks, and raked in the rest by altering pay stubs and pilfering cash. (OLMS, 5/27).
Indictment of Pittsburgh-Area Bookkeeper Unsealed
On May 11, an indictment against Patricia Longbon, ex-bookkeeper for the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of Southwestern Pennsylvania, was unsealed after a year-long delay. Longbon had been indicted on 25 counts in connection with embezzlement of $10,157 of union funds, and two counts of creating false financial records. The delay was … Read More ➡
Matthew Guglielmetti’s career as a made man is over. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be cooperating with authorities to end other careers in the New England criminal underworld. That’s what his attorney, at least, is counting on. On May 13, Guglielmetti, standing before U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres, pleaded guilty to attempted cocaine-trafficking charges. His arrest back in January was a classic sting of a union whose top leadership long had worked with organized crime figures. Back in 1995 LIUNA, well documented to be in cahoots with mobsters, had averted a federal RICO suit by agreeing to a supervised internal cleanup.
Providence, in particular, was of interest to the Justice Department. The city and surrounding area was the home turf of then-union president Arthur A. Coia, who, like his father, Arthur E. Coia, himself a ranking union official, had worked with New England’s Patriarca crime family. The younger … Read More ➡