Longshoremen Business Agent in Virginia Sentenced for Stealing $1M+

Robert Smith III saw his union as a free ATM machine for his personal expenses.  His next few years are going to be costly.  On February 2, Smith, former business agent and financial secretary of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 970, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to 41 months in prison, to be followed by three years of probation for embezzling more than $1 million in funds from the Norfolk-based union.  He had pleaded guilty last October following an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Smith, now 49, a resident of Virginia Beach, ran the finances of ILA Local 970 whose members work the docks and terminals at Port of Virginia.  In addition to representing workers, unfortunately, he also was stealing from them.  According to prosecutors, during March 2006-April 2016 Smith deposited new member initiation fees …

Top Ten Union Corruption Stories of the Year

Benefit scams, especially involving health plans, grabbed the lion’s share of union corruption stories in 2016.  Scammers came from outside as well as from inside the unions, a fact highlighting the need for trustees to exercise greater due diligence in choosing outside parties.  There were also the usual cases of six-figure (or more) embezzlement and fraud against union general funds.  Labor officials, meanwhile, expanded their misguided campaign to enact a $15 an hour minimum wage.  They also tried to undo Right to Work laws in three states, temporarily achieving success in two by way of court action.  And a deadlocked Supreme Court enabled state and local public-sector union bosses to retain their authority to coerce dues payments from unwilling workers.  In other words, there was plenty to write about.  Here were the ten stories that mattered most:

10)  Hawaii contractor pleads guilty; sentenced for scamming Painters union, benefit fund, IRS

Tidewater Virginia ILA Business Agent Pleads Guilty to $1M+ Ripoff

international longshoremen_s association logoFor 10 years, Robert Smith III stole freely from his union.  He now is realizing the meaning of the saying, “Nothing in life is free.”  On Friday, October 14, Smith, former business agent and financial secretary of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 970, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of mail fraud in connection with his theft of more than $1 million from the Norfolk-based union.  He had resigned his post in April following a joint investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.  He faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing this February.

Port of Virginia, located along Hampton Roads in the southeast coastal portion of the state, is home to four marine terminals – two in Portsmouth and one each in Norfolk and Newport News.  The terminals and …

Texas Longshoremen Boss Charged with Records Neglect; Pleads Guilty, Sentenced

international longshoremen_s association logoRoberto Gracia Jr. probably wishes right now that he was more attentive to detail.  On August 29, Gracia, former president of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1544, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas with failing to maintain financial records of the Brownsville-based union.  Several years prior to his tenure at that local, he had headed ILA Local 1395, where he also had failed to maintain financial records.  Gracia’s inaction caused a combined loss of nearly $30,000.  He pleaded guilty immediately thereafter and was sentenced to five years of probation.  He already had paid full restitution.  The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1544 represents clerks and checkers at the Port of Brownsville.  Roberto Gracia, now 63, a resident of Brownsville, headed the union during 2012-13.  According to prosecutors, he was less than attentive to …

Longshoremen Financial Secretary in Texas Sentenced

Longshoremen's logoOn July 1, Elmer Ray Booker, former financial secretary of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1530, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to five years of probation for embezzling $42,018 in funds from the Houston union.  He also was ordered to serve 100 hours of community service and pay $39,517 in restitution plus a $100 special assessment.  Booker had pleaded guilty this February after being indicted in March 2015.  The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.…

ILA Local Financial Secretary in Texas Pleads Guilty

Longshoremen's logo On February 19, Elmer Ray Booker, former financial secretary of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1530, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to one count of embezzlement of funds from the Houston-based union in the amount of $42,018.  Booker had been charged in March 2015.  The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.…

Longshoremen Local Treasurer in Ohio Charged with Theft

On December 1, John Allen, former treasurer of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1982, was charged in the Lucas County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas with one count of theft in the sum of $1,940 from the Toledo union.  The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.…

New Study Tallies Longshoremen Costs; Calls for Bargaining Alternative

Two and a half years ago, the International Longshoremen's Association was digging in for a strike that could have crippled shipping along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.  The strike didn't happen.  Yet the union power that led to the impasse remains.  The Manhattan Institute has some ideas about how to avert future such showdowns.  Last month it published a paper, “Held Hostage:  U.S. Ports, Labor Unrest, and the Threat to National Commerce,” arguing that strikes and slowdowns, or the threat of them, impose high costs.  Written by Institute Senior Fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the report cites federal labor law as the main culprit, concluding Congress should shift responsibility for collective bargaining oversight from the National Labor Relations Board to the National Mediation Board.

The importance of the maritime industry to the U.S. economy hardly can be underestimated.  Seaports and other shipping transfer points accounted for $1.75 trillion worth of …

ILA Financial Secretary in Houston Charged with Theft

international longshoremen_s association logoOn March 18, Elmer Ray Booker, former financial secretary for International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1530, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas with embezzling over $42,000 in funds from the Houston union.  The charge follows an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.…

New Jersey ILA Building Contractor Sentenced for Fraud

Longshoremen at workRaymond Norville was a home renovation contractor. Somehow he took that to mean a right to take client money without necessarily doing renovations. On November 18, Norville, owner of an Essex County, N.J.-based construction firm, RRL Unique Homes Inc., was sentenced in Trenton federal court to 14 months in prison, plus three years of supervised release and full payment of restitution, for defrauding a customer in New York City of nearly $100,000 in connection with a residential remodeling project. As part of a plea agreement in June, prosecutors dismissed charges that Norville defrauded the Newark-based International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1233 of at least $100,000. Norville was lucky. Evidence strongly suggests his union thefts totaled around $370,000.

Union Corruption Update first reported on this story nearly three years ago. Back in February 2012, Norville, now 45, a resident of Orange, N.J., was arrested and charged with embezzling at least $100,000 …

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