Stolen union money paid for plumbing work at property owned by Minneapolis City Councilman Joe Biernat (DFL), according to federal charges against Biernat, a boss of United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 15 in Minneapolis, and the boss' brother. The indictments unsealed Apr. 18 allege that in 1999, Thomas J. Martin, ex-Local 15 business agent used $2,700 in union funds to pay for Biernat's plumbing work at the same time the council member and his colleagues were approving Martin's appointment to the city board that licenses plumbers. The specific charge is conspiracy to extort under color of official right in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (Hobbs Act). Biernat also was charged with making a false statement to the FBI, aiding and abetting union embezzlement, and mail fraud.
Federal agents seized records from the United Ass'n of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Local 15 in Minneapolis as part of a grand jury investigation into aspects of the plumbing trade, including records about property owned by Minneapolis City Council Member Joe Biernat (DFL). A six-hour search of Local 15's during the week of Mar. 4 also sought records pertaining to matters between the local, the Minneapolis City Council, the city's Licenses and Inspections Department, and its plumbers examining board. The warrant also requested information about four area plumbing companies listed as Ventco Appliance, Norblom Plumbing, Jack Seitz Plumbing, and Fignar Plumbing and their owners.