More than once, Union Corruption Update has described the workings of a well-organized scam on the Boston docks. Members of the International Longshoremen Association would place young adults and children, typically sons, on union payrolls for part-time work so as to qualify them for “seniority,” and hence a higher starting pay grade, if and when they become full-time workers. They also allegedly submitted bogus unemployment claims. Then-Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly in April 2005 initiated an investigation. The following year a Suffolk County grand jury returned 118 indictments against 20 persons. In Reilly’s words, the probe had uncovered “a system of fraud and corruption on Boston’s waterfront…where a few insiders gamed the system to benefit themselves and their friends and took opportunities and benefits away from other longshoremen who played by the rules.” One of the alleged insiders was Joseph J. Picard, Jr., who’d been head walking boss at the Massachusetts Port Authority-owned Conley Terminal in South Boston. Last month he learned the downside of deception.
Picard, 53, a resident of Melrose, Mass., pleaded guilty on May 19 to charges that he falsely reported work hours and job descriptions in order to procure benefits for family members. He originally had pleaded not guilty. Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle ordered Picard to serve two years probation, the first year of which would be spent wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, and pay a $25,000 fine to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. According to prosecutors, he often would write the name of one of his sons, Joseph M. Picard, now 25, on timesheets in place of his own. The younger Picard in fiscal 2004 alone had accumulated more than 1,000 hours of work time. During the period August 29-September 19, 2004, he received credit as a walking boss. The court this past February imposed a suspended two-year prison sentence on Picard, and required him to pay $11,850 in restitution and a $5,000 fine to the state, and to complete 250 hours of community service.
The family ties went deeper. The father, Joseph J. Picard, Jr., also arranged to have another son, Alex Picard, eight years old at the time, to receive credit for three hours of work as a driver. Another longshoreman, Joseph R. Picard, age 54 (relation unspecified, but most likely a brother of the elder Joseph Picard), already pled guilty in January to charges of submitting false claims for unemployment benefits, and was ordered to pay $108,498 in restitution. He received a two-year sentence, six months of which would have to be served. Officials of the Massachusetts Port Authority (“Massport”) cooperated fully with state investigators, who in turn were assisted by the U.S. Department of Labor. The cases against the 16 other defendants are pending. (States News Service, 5/20/08; other sources).