New Jersey UAW President, Insurance Broker Charged in $6.6M Health Plan Scam

Health care fraud these past several years has been a growth industry, especially when union leaders help create it. On January 9, Sergio Acosta and Lawrence Ackerman were charged in Newark, N.J. federal court with defrauding a union-sponsored health care plan out of about $6.6 million. Acosta and Ackerman, respectively, the former president of United Auto Workers Local 2326 and a ranking officer of several insurance companies, allegedly recruited hundreds of ineligible participants from across the U.S. to pose as plan participants. Each defendant was indicted on one count each of conspiring to defraud Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and conspiring to defraud the union health plan. An arraignment date has yet to be set.

Sergio Acosta, now 66, a resident of Passaic, served as president of the Woodbridge, N.J.-based UAW Local 2326 during 2002-08. Following that tenure, he was a representative of the international union and a trustee of … Read More ➡

Electrical Workers Treasurer in South Dakota Indicted for Fraud

On December 6, Salvatore Zagra, former treasurer of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1959, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota on two counts of fraud related to his obtaining bank funds to execute a real estate transaction. He allegedly cashed checks from an account of the Watertown, S.D.-based union and diverted the funds to his own personal use. The charges follow a joint investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, and the Office of Inspector General of both the Department of Energy and General Services Administration.… Read More ➡

AFSCME President in Baltimore Pleads Guilty to Theft

On December 14, Betty Robinson, former president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2751, pleaded guilty in Baltimore City Circuit Court to theft in the amount of $30,150 from the Baltimore union. She had been indicted in September 2015. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

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Security Officers President in Washington, D.C. Pleads Guilty; Sentenced

On December 16, Gregory Tyree, ex-president of the National Association of Special Police and Security Officers of America (NASPSO), was charged in Superior Court for the District of Columbia with theft of $1,219 from the Washington, D.C.-based union. He then pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days of incarceration (suspended) and one year of probation. He also was ordered to pay residual restitution in the amount of $389. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

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Illinois Bricklayers President Sentenced for $300K+ Theft

On December 15, David Fleury, former president of International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 6, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to two years in prison and three years of supervised release for embezzling funds from the Rockford union. He also was ordered to pay $318,036 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. Fleury had pleaded guilty last August after being charged in July. The actions follow an investigation by the U.S. labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Michigan Letter Carriers Officer Sentenced for Embezzlement

On December 12, Brian Cisek, former sergeant-at-arms of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 56, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan to two years of probation, and was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and a $100 special assessment, for embezzling funds from the Grand Rapids-based union. He previously paid restitution in the amount of $9,200. Cisek had pleaded guilty in August after being charged earlier that month. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Electrical Workers Office Manager in Texas Sentenced for Embezzlement

On December 15, Jennifer Cruise, also known as Jenn Studebaker, former office manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 520, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to three years of probation for embezzling funds from the Austin-based union. She also was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $12,344 and a special assessment of $100. Cruise had pleaded guilty in October after being charged in August for stealing $12,750. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

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 Read More ➡

Boilermakers Secretary in SW Virginia Charged; Pleads Guilty

On December 12, William Dixon, former secretary-treasurer of International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 2014, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia with one count of embezzling $4,338 in funds from the Lebanon, Va. union. He then pleaded guilty. The charge and guilty plea follow an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡

Central California Firefighters Treasurer Charged with Theft of Nearly $300K

Oscar Picazo’s colleagues aren’t happy right now – and with good reason. On December 16, Picazo, former captain with the City of Lodi Fire Department and treasurer of the Lodi Professional Firefighters Union, was charged in San Joaquin County Superior Court with embezzling $297,000 from the union, also known as International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 1225. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing at his arraignment on December 22. The actions follow a City investigation. In a prepared statement, the union said: “The Lodi Professional Firefighters has been coping with the damage inflicted by (Picazo) for several months. The LPF was very disappointed to discover that Mr. Picazo violated the trust placed in him by the union.”

According to prosecutors, Picazo fleeced his union during January 2010-August 2016. News of the thefts surfaced after the City of Lodi this summer initiated an investigation at local union request; … Read More ➡

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